Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

Silenced Enfield Obrez…? Uh, no.

Hey, what’s this? We found it on a Russian forum, and it almost looks like a suppressed version of one of those cut-down Mosin “Obrez” sawn-offs used by various  Russian mischief makers. But that can’t be what it really is. Where would Russians get a Lee Enfield (well, apart from any left behind by the Allied intervention in Archangelsk 1918-19)?

Enfield GL

A pre-World War I vintage “Sht. L.E. III” which breaks out to “Short Lee Enfield Mk III,” it says here:

Enfield GL 3

It has a King’s Crown and the cartouche ER, of Edward VII, who was King and Emperor in the first decade of the 20th Century. (He was succeeded by George V, King during the First World War).

It even looks a little like a suppressor if you take it down:

Enfield GL 4

But we’ll let you in on a secret — the muzzle end is wide open, like the X Products “Can Cannon.” That’s a clue. Know what it is yet?

Here it is in place, wrapped up:

Enfield GL 5

…and unwrapped. Got it yet?Enfield GL 6

It’s a grenade launcher for the light Universal Carrier, aka Bren-Gun Carrier, a tiny armored vehicle much used by British and Commonwealth forces and descended from the flimsy Carden-Lloyd light tanks of the 1920s. The launchers were meant to be used with blanks only to fire (as far as we know, only smoke) grenades. Depending on the Mark of the Carrier and where it was built, this launcher might have been built on any available .303 action — Enfield, Ross, or even Martini. Here’s a Martini one in context:

Carrier 010

Yes, the Bren gunner or TC served this launcher from the left seat, whilst the driver jockeyed the vehicle from the right (even in the Canadian models, made in vast quantities by Ford of Canada and still occasionally turning up rusty in a Saskatchewan wheatfield). This sketch shows you where it all goes in the Mark II carrier (this one set up for a Boys 0.55″ Anti-Tank Rifle crew).

carrier mk 2

It was a tight fit for several men and all their kit in this tiny armored fighting vehicle, and it was at the mercy of nearly anything the Germans or Italians chose to fire at it. But you go to war with the Army you have.

Puts British and Commonwealth nerve in a bit of perspective, to think of calling this “armor.” It’s at the very bottom of the mechanized war food chain.

Here are a couple of pictures of restored carriers. The firearms and helmets should give you some idea of the scale of these toy poodles of the tank world:

Enfield GL 7 enfield GL 8

After the jump, two videos of running carriers: one enthusiastically driven (he actually drifts a curve), and the New Zealanders Motor Vehicles Collectors Club in 2015, breaking an Aussie record for most running carriers at a display!

Continue reading

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Partisan Rifles

partisanriflesThis is a site that deserves a lengthy write-up, but for now we’ll just hit the high points. We do promise you that, if you are interested in obscure European 20th-Century history, or in Mittel- and Eastern European firearms, spending time at Partisan Rifles will reward you handsomely.

The author of the site, who goes by the nickname — we are not making this up! — “Hairy Greek,”  expresses clearly what his site is all about:

This site is dedicated to rifles from the Balkans region – the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia), Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and also Italy, Austria, Hungary, Russia, and Turkey – especially those rifles with soldier graffiti on them.  I cover anything I can get my hands on, which is mainly WWI to WWII, though there are many examples from the earlier Balkan Wars, and recent Croatian and Bosnian Wars.  While not technically in the Balkans, I have found some fascinating rifles from the Spanish Civil War, and will include those also.

Balkans-region rifles from the 1800’s and earlier have shown me that decorating rifles was a common practice, possibly stemming from Turkish or Middle Eastern decorations.  This tradition has been carried on well into the 1990’s.  A number of the region’s rifles bear initials, names, cities, dates, kill counts, and political symbols on them.  Most of these markings were made by non-government irregular forces, or militia members.  These markings create a historical journey by showing who used the rifle, where and when.  For example, the above rifle was most likely captured from the Italians by Tito Partisans in WWII.

Every old firearm has a story to tell, and on some of these the story is carved right into the wood of the stock. Fascinating site.

PS — he’s got some really flashy Montenegrin Gassers, a revolver we discussed recently.

Carry Handle My Wayward Son

There’s been a rash of “carry handle” posting on Reddit’s /r/guns subreddit lately. Apparently some people think carry handles on firearms, which Stoner et. al. thought absolutely brilliant in 1955 or so, are old-fashioned enough to be quaint, or entertaining.

Some of the posts are clearly childish humor, but we guess someone had to compare our AR iron sight history with our CZ history. (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle cz

OK, this guy is coming in broken and stupid. On the other hand, that, and snarking at the bot, got the poster banned by one of r/guns’s mods, who are known to have itchy trigger fingers.

And then, there’s this A3, posted with the claim that carry-handle mounted iron sights handle mud better than optics.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle a2

He was trying to clone his service gun (USMC), but would do it differently now:

This is my carry handle, there are many like it but this one is mine. Unfortunately the rifle shoots like dog shit and the vertical stringing is legendary. Getting about 4″ groups with match 77gr and 69gr ammo. Wanted a semi-accurate service rifle clone for USMC nostalgia, went with PSA base tier. Was disappoint, gonna do it right next time and just pick up an RRA national match gun.

Some of them are highly personalized, like this custom-finished, wood-stocked A2.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source). On A1s and A2s, the carry handle is a forged part of the upper receiver.

carry handle A2-ish

The owner says:

Picked it up from my gunsmith buddy who had it laying around for a few years. LOVE this gun. No name upper, Anderson lower, Rock river barrel, internals/pieces, plus lots of stainless Ceracoat.

Just goes to show you can build a very attractive gun with popular-priced pieces. The only thing premium here is the walnut stock: find this set with the cheekpiece (and laminated options) at Brownells. (The Brownells product is made by Lucid, and on their own website they offer a greater variety of woods and figuring — also unfinished for custom fitting). A slightly more A1-ish and less custom set is here, and if you a real OG carry handle user, you’ll like the even more A1-friendly Ironwood Designs set.

Here’s a 9mm pistol with the Original Gangsta fixed carry handle. (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle 9mm

Poster describes it:

[M]y 9mm Colt-ish pistol (soon to be SBR I hope)…. built on a Black Creek Precision EF-9 lower, Colt upper, and RRA barrel.

And then there’s the guy who’s right in our wheelhouse with a retro collection.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle retro

He rather he’pfully defines them:

Thanks to the invention of the Carry handle i was able to bring all of these rifles outside for a pic in one trip.
From top to bottom: Colt 603 AKA M16a1
Colt 604
XM177e1
Colt 733
On the Side Colt 607, my XM177 is borrowing the 607’s lower until the XM177’s stamp is approved.

 

Asked for a parts breakdown on his XM177E1, the user, Admiral Ackbar, opbliged:

AdmiralAckbar86[S] 2 points 3 days ago
Upper: Nodak
Lower: Nodak
Barrel: Brownells 1:12 chopped to 10 inches by Retro Arm works
BCG: Colt
LPK: Colt
Pistol Grip, Handguards: Colt
Stock: Essential Arms
Buffer Tube: Nodak 2 Position
XM177 Moderator: Brick

Hey, whatever is fun for you. For most users a carry handle (and even iron sights) are a waste, all you need is a flat-top and a red dot for a defensive or plinking or training carbine. Of course, if you’re chasing meat, and that meat’s a Colorado elk, a red dot’s not going to do it for you (and neither is 5.56).

SVT-Inspired Italian Rifle: It’s Strange

Ian at Forgotten Weapons spent some time last month  touring sunny Italy, and turning up unusual weapons everywhere he went. This is one we found most interesting, and it resides in the Beretta collection:

Copy of Russian Semi Rifle 01

It looks like a Russian semi-auto rifle, but it doesn’t look exactly like any of them. The muzzle brake resembles that of a Simonov AVS, for example, while the metal forward handguard looks like it fell off a Tokarev SVT. The gun overall has a certain elegance to it. SVTs tend to be well-machined and -blued, but this Italian prototype puts them to shame.

From this angle it’s a near ringer for an SVT. One wonders if the chamber is fluted as the SVT’s is. (Tokarev found it necessary to assist extraction).

Copy of Russian Semi Rifle 02

Here’s what Ian says:

Through inspection, we know it is a mechanical copy of the Soviet SVT 38 or 40 – it shares the same exact bolt, locking system, and gas system. Even many aesthetic features like the metal front handguard, muzzle brake, and sights are remarkably similar to those of the SVT. The biggest difference is the magazine, which is a fixed design fed only be stripper clips. The rifle is chambered for the 8x59mm Breda cartridge, and magazine capacity is unknown – probably either 9 or 10 rounds.

The clue that this is a Pavesi rifle comes from the safety lever, which is identical to the safety lever on the Model 1942 Pavesi rifle. The only markings on this piece are two repetitions of the serial number (875), on the receiver and stock. This serial number suggests that a significant number of these rifles may have been made, although I have not seen any other examples, nor any recorded information on when or where they were made, tested, or fielded.

We do disagree with him about the muzzle brake; at least on our SVT-40, the thing on the end of the muzzle is more like a Cutts Compensator than this brake, which resembles the AVS-36 brake more.

It’s not that unusual that Western copies of early Russian semi-auto weapons would exist. One suspects that the early Simonov and Tokarev rifles were instrumental not only in the design of this rifle, but in Dieudonné Saive’s SAFN (Semi Automatic FN) rifle, which would become the SAFN 49 when development, interrupted by the German occupation of Belgium, was resumed after the war.

We don’t know all that much about Italian ordnance in World War II. Certainly Italian surplus was little respected here fifty and sixty years ago, but the idea that Italian ordnance officers weren’t capable of delivering quality weapons to their troops doesn’t really hold water. Ian is one of the few Anglophone researchers online who has delved into Italian MGs and it’s great to see him unearthing information about these unknown (to us) Italian semi-auto trials.

More information, a video, and many more photos, of this rare (unique?) probably-Pavesi at the link.

Doc Takes Wing!

Yesterday morning, the number of flying B-29s in the world doubled when “Doc” lifted off from McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas. It was the culmination of a project that lasted 16 years in Wichita alone, led by former Spirit Aerosystems (the former Boeing Wichita plant, where 1,644 B-29s were built) and 13 years before that, led by former B-29 flight engineer Tony Mazzolini, who found the B-29 as an abandoned target on a bombing range at China Lake in the Mojave Desert. Over three hundred fifty thousand hours of volunteer labor rebuilt the historic bomber from the ground up.

Pilot Charlie Tilghman, CP David Oliver, a flight engineer (we think it was  TJ Norman) and two scanners  (whose mission is to watch the famously incendiary engines, which are hard for the pilots to keep an eye on from their position well ahead), and a small army of ground crew, started the big plane, overcame an unlatched bomb bay door that they had to shut the bird down to correct, and finally took it into the sky for a brief, seven-minute run around the pattern, in front of a throng of invited well-wishers and aviation buffs.

The planned flight was cut short by a powerplant warning light; the crew returned to the runway out of an abundance of caution. Initial information seems to be that it was not a serious problem but a sensor failure.

In an excellent report, the Wichita Eagle quoted Tilghman, the pilot:

It flew like a good B-29.

The airplane is going to be great. The engines are strong and smooth. Just the darn warning light.

He would know, as he’s the Designated Examiner who checks airmen out in Fifi.

The Eagle also quoted volunteer Connie Palacioz, who worked on the plane twice: as an 18-year-old riveter in 1943, and as a volunteer when the plane returned to Wichita as a pile of weatherbeaten parts in 2000.

They told me it would be seven years (to restore Doc), but it was 16 years. When it came from the desert it looked terrible. I never thought I could see it like this, you know. It was just pieces, but lucky that we could do it. We did it.

The Eagle report is really good; do Read The Whole Thing™.

And if that video’s not enough for you, check out the webcast still avilable (although obviously not live any more) at the B-29doc.com website:

First Flight – Live Webcast

You can use the timeline to skip around, because that’s the whole morning on there — engine start, taxi out, taxi back, bomb bay door check, engine start again, taxi out, flight, and all the way back around to the speeches at the end.

Now we’re all set if we ever need to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki again!

Origins of the BAR, Part III: The BAR in WWI Combat

Val Browning with a BAR "Somewhere in France."

Val Browning with a BAR “Somewhere in France.”

The BAR was desperately sought by the AEF, and the officers of the Ordnance Corps recognized its brilliance immediately: while the equally brilliant M1917 water-cooled machine gun was subject to a degree of jiggery-pokery prior to adoption, the BAR was adopted, as is, at its very first demonstration.

But as we have seen, manufacturing took time to get started. There were drawings, and process sheets, and tools, and jigs and fixtures to prepare. John M. Browning typically worked in steel, and provided working prototypes: he never drew a set of production drawings in his life, and indeed, he is not noted for involving himself in questions of production, only of design. Therefore, the process of turning the BAR from his hand-tooled prototypes to a mass-producible arm for a citizen army took effort, which took time: about three months from contract kickoff with the outbreak of the war to first BARs with the AEF in France. Let’s go back to our expert, George Chinn:

In July 1918 the B.A.R’s arrived in France in the hands of the United States 79th Division, which was the first organization to be equipped with them and took them into action on 13 September 1918. The 80th Division was the first American Division already in France to be issued the weapons. It is an interesting fact that First Lt. Val Browning, son of the inventor, personally demonstrated the weapon against the enemy.

The B. A. R. was more enthusiastically received in Europe than the heavy water-cooled gun, and requests for purchase by all the Allied Governments were made immediately after it arrived overseas. The French Government alone asked for 15,000 to take the place of the inferior machine rifle, then being used by both French and American troops. The latter weapon was found so unreliable that many were actually thrown away by troops during action.

However, the War ended so soon after this that the bulk of the American forces were still equipped with machine guns supplied by the British and French.

While there exist some AARs praising the performance of the M1917, which went into combat about ten days later than the BAR, we’re not aware of primary source documents about the BAR’s performance. But while the contribution of a handful of BARs to the war effort might have been de minimis, the gun would embed itself in the American military postwar.

There is an interesting sidebar to the story of the BAR in France, as Tom Laemlein wrote in American Rifleman in 2012:

American divisions deployed to France after July 1, 1918 (including the 6th, 7th, 8th, 29th, 36th and 79th) carried the BAR with them. Incredibly, upon their arrival in France, most of these divisions had their BARs replaced with .30-cal. M1918 Chauchats, by order of Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing. The first recorded use of the BAR was with the 79th Infantry Division, and that was not until Sept. 22, 1918, during the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Just three other divisions would carry the BAR before the end of World War I.

General Pershing determined the best course of action would be to wait until most of the U.S. divisions could be fully equipped with BARs (and with a ready supply of the rifles and spare parts available) to gain the full advantage of deploying the new rifle. General Pershing also feared that if the BAR were deployed too quickly that the Germans would inevitably capture one, and seeing its great capability would reverse-engineer the weapon and make it their own.

Records of the Automatic Arms Section of the AEF present the status of automatic rifles in France as of Sept. 8, 1918: “At the present time 18 U.S. divisions have been equipped with the Chauchat. No more divisions will receive this weapon in the future. At the present time there are nine U.S. divisions equipped with the caliber .30 Chauchat. However this gun has proved to be not at all satisfactory, the cartridges sticking in the chamber after the gun becomes slightly hot. For this reason the gun has been issued as an emergency weapon and will be withdrawn as soon as the Browning Automatic Rifles are available. At the present time 27 U.S. divisions have been equipped with the Chauchat Auto Rifle, and two divisions with the British are using the British .303 Lewis machine guns. All divisions over and above this number have been equipped with the Browning Automatic Rifle.”

There’s even another interesting sidebar in there, relative to the Lewis gun, the British counterpart of the BAR at this time (1918). Lewis was not a Briton; he was, in fact, an American ordnance officer whose gun, due to branch politics, was never considered seriously by the US Army.

Finally, another American Rifleman story reproduces the text of a 17 September 1918 report b the Automatic Arms section of the AEF’s Engineering Division about what the report calls the “Browning Machine Rifle” or BMR, a name which apparenly didn’t stick. While the rifle had been in combat by the time, that’s not reflected in the report. A couple of interesting points:

The similarity in appearance between a B.M.R. and our service rifle is so great that when the guns are in the field that they cannot be distinguished from each other at a distance greater than 50 yds.

And the tactical employment envisioned was not the “walking fire” about which so much has been written. Instead:

The gun will be used for the most part as a rapid firing single shot weapon. It can be fired from the shoulder, kneeling or prone, the greatest accuracy, of course, being obtained in the latter position with the front of the forearm resting on some rigid body. In cases of emergency where the ammunition can be supplied, and where a large volume of fire is necessary, this gun will be fired automatically. Five hundred rounds were fired in 3½ minutes under field conditions, but this figure is a maximum for fire volume. Under ordinary conditions 300 rounds should be placed as a limit for continuous automatic fire except in cases of emergency.

Do Read the Whole Thing™. Automatic fire was envisioned as something to be used “In cases of emergency where the ammunition can be supplied, and where a large volume of fire is necessary.” That just goes to show that doctrine was evolving dynamically in 1917-18, and that it would evolve further in later years. By World War II, not only was the M1918A2 version not used “as a rapid firing single shot, weapon,” it couldn’t be: it had no semi-auto setting, and offered a low cyclic rate option in its place.

In the end, it’s impossible to avoid the thought that the BAR did achieve one very important result in World War I: it showed what was possible in wartime production.

Origins of the BAR, Part II: WWI Manufacturing

Where we left you yesterday, Colt had delivered to the Government the gages, tools and drawings for BAR (and M1917 machine gun) production. We’ll continue with Chinn’s story:

During July and August 1917, more than 2 months after our entry into the war, a survey was made of facilities and plants thought capable of turning out the water-cooled version in quantity.

Several different plants began M1917 production. Then it was the BAR’s turn.

The production of the B.A.R. followed a similar pattern. Browning carried on most of his early development on the machine rifle at the Colt’s Patent FireArmsCo. Later, Winchester gave valuable assistance in connection with the preparation and correction of the drawings, adding many refinements to the gun. Winchester was the first to start manufacture on this model. Since the work did not begin until February 1918, it was so rushed that the component part of the first 1,800 to be put out were found to be not strictly interchangeable. Production had to be temporarily halted until the required manufacturing procedures were altered to bring the weapon up to specifications. At the end of the war the Winchester Co. was producing 1300 B.A.R.’s a day. A total of 63,000 items were canceled at the time of the Armistice.

Chinn just leaves this hanging here, and doesn’t answer the obvious question: how many BARs did Winchester produce prior to the end-of-war contract cancellation? For that we have to go to a Winchester source. R.L. Wilson’s Winchester: An American Legend, which is at once a beautiful coffee-table book and a fact-packed Winchester source, says “about 47,000” in its brief paragraph on BAR manufacture (p. 171), which is worth reproducing in full:

In September, 1917, Winchester was instructed to commence tooling up for the manufacture of the Browning automatic rifle (BAR). Edwin Pugsley, then manufacturing engineer, went to the Colt factory see the only existing model. Since the BAR was needed at Colt’s during the work week, it was borrowed for a weekend, and in that time drawings were made and the project begun. By the end of December the first Winchester BAR at been completed. Production was well along by March, and by Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Winchester had made approximately 47,000. Winchester also had begun construction of the Browning .50-caliber machine gun and had a working model completed within about two months. That gun, however, never entered into production, because of the end of hostilities.

Winchester found wartime contracting not to be the lucrative profit center it was imagined to be: the company took in vast amounts of money from Britain (for whom it made the P14 Enfield), Russia (Mosin-Nagant M1891) and US (1917 Enfield, BAR) but it sank it all into plant expansion to fulfill the contracts, and was fortunate to escape bankruptcy. It did, however, end up with greatly expanded facilities and an immeasurable increase in manufacturing know-how. Back to Chinn (p. 180-181):

The Marlin-Rockwell Corp. intended originally to use the Hopkins and Allen Co. plant for the construction of this weapon, but found that a contract for making rifles for the Belgian Government fully occupied its facilities. The corporation then acquired the Mayo Radiator Co.’s factory for use in its contract to produce the B.A.R. The first run from this source was made on 11 June 1918, and by 11 November 1918 the company was turning out 200 automatic rifles a day. The postwar cancellation was 93,000 weapons.

If Marlin’s contract was, like Winchester’s, 100,000 rifles, then Marlin turned out 7,000 BARs before the cancellation telegram arrived. (As we’ll see, this assumption is far from certain).

The Colt Co., because of the heavy demands of previous orders, produced only 9,000 B.A.R.’s. The combined daily production by all companies was 706 and a total of approximately 52,000 rifles was delivered by all sources.

Here’s where the lack of a BAR-specific book on our shelves shows. Obviously Winchester’s 47,000, Marlin’s 7,000 and Colt’s 9,000 doesn’t add up to 52,000 (more like 63,000), plus we’re doubtful that the production actually came down to round numbers like this. Somebody smarter than us has already done this research and resolved, or at least explained, these discrepancies. (Both Chinn and Wilson are well-regarded for accuracy, for what it’s worth).

Apart from the errors on the first 1,800 BARs made at Winchester, BAR production was relatively trouble-free; a more serious error in M1917 machine gun production required a doubler to be attached to the receiver, and this hand rework cost more than the actual production of the guns in the first place, a reminder of the risks inherent in modern mass production in wartime.

Tomorrow we’ll conclude this mini-series with Origins of the BAR, Part III: The BAR in WWI Combat, again quoting from Chinn.

(Note: we do have a picture for this article, but lacked time to prepare and insert it before press time. We will catch up and insert it later, if we can).

Unique Attempt to recover WWII Airman from Crash Site

From the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) came to us the story of fallen P-47 pilot Loren Hintz (pronounced like “hints”), and the search for his crash site and remains — a search not conducted by a government bureaucracy, but by a grandson who never knew his grandfather, a team of Italian wreck hunters, and a whole bunch of people who just thought it was a good idea.

Volunteers worlds away, chance circumstances, and years of research have lead Hans Wronka, the grandson of WWII pilot 1st Lt. Loren Hintz, and his family to locate the site, remains, and aircraft where his grandfather was killed in action.

AirCorps Aviation of Bemidji, Minnesota, has announced that they are honored to help relay the poignant life story and service of Loren who was killed in action flying a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter over Italy on April 21, 1945.

Loren Hintz (from the Wronka family).

Loren Hintz (from the Wronka family).

He wasn’t a fighter ace — by 1945 there weren’t many enemy planes to hunt, and instead his was the duel with antiaircraft guns.

Finding Loren is the story of a common man, compelled to serve his country, who gave the ultimate sacrifice just days from the victory in Europe celebrations (V-E Day). Loren wasn’t a fighter ace, but his life and devotion to his country deserve the same recognition; AirCorps Aviation will honor him by preserving his legacy.

The team will also bring to light the experiences of Loren’s wife, Gert, who was raising a young daughter (while pregnant with the couple’s second child) upon learning of Loren’s death. Gert never remarried, but spent her life building a strong family, working hard in service to her community, and honoring Loren’s legacy. Finding Loren will also extend beyond Loren’s journal and writings to delve into the firsthand testimony and accounts of extended family, friends, and fellow service members whom Loren touched throughout his life.

Hans, Loren’s grandson and a resident of Duluth, Minnesota, has embarked on an epic 12-year journey with his family, as well as a team of Italian WWII aviation enthusiasts and archeologists, to decipher military records, maps, and statements, in relation to the current landscape, to confidently identify Loren’s crash site. Community members and landowners are prepared for the excavation planned for late July 2016. To evaluate the site and confirm the location, geophysics has been employed and has positively identified the presence of a large metallic object several meters below the surface.

via Finding Loren | EAA.

There’s a website at findingloren.com and one at Air Corps Aviation, a well-known and well-regarded restorer of World War II vintage aircraft. One of Air Corps’ current restorations is a war-veteran P-47D, albeit one that served in the Pacific Theater. (Another is a trainer confirmed as having been flown by then-Naval Air Cadet George H.W. Bush during his pilot training). It would be kind of neat if some part of Loren’s wrecked P-47 could be restored to fly again as a memory to the many fallen who were not famous, but who fell in service to their various nations.

The excavation of Loren’s crash site will take place on 23 July 16. Who knows what they will find?

By Popular Demand: More BAR vs. BREN Video

R. Lee Ermey compares the BREN and the BAR in live fire, and comes to a surprising (to him) conclusion.

And here’s another BAR vs. BREN test — an accuracy competition, using vintage ammo, against B-27 silhouettes, at 100 yards.

That’s it for straight BAR-BREN comparisons. Now, there are some comparisons to other guns. First, the BAR vs. BREN vs. 1919. It’s a little slower that some of the other videos, but there’s more information in it, too.

Part II. He appears to be incorrect in attributing BREN design to simplifying the BAR, but some of his points about manipulation of the weapons are very good. One thing he is missing is that the BREN and the BAR were not deployed identically. (In fact, the BREN was employed, by doctrine, more like the Germans employed their MGs: don’t take our word for it, read our friends at Think Defence, who have dived into British wartime and prewar primary sources).

Now we go a little further afield. Here’s Ian and Karl of Forgotten Weapons and Full30 running a match with FG42 and BAR.

And Here’s a lively British guy we haven’t encountered before comparing the  Bren to what he calls the “Spandau,” the MG42.

(At least American GIs were referring to the old MG08 and 08/15, which were still turning up in Europe in 1944-45, as the Spandau. Period documents call the MG34 and 42 … the MG34 and -42).

What he calls “German kit fanboys” really didn’t like that video, and he made a rebuttal of their various rebuttals (which he answered in the long description of the first video). There’s some good information in these videos but the guy’s style is not for everybody.

Personally, we think he needs to amp up the humor a little, as he’s already got a bit of a Monty Python vibe to his channel.

Our conclusion: every combatant in World War II provided his grunts with some kind of light, portable weapon (and this evolved as the war continued). The weapons designs show differences in national preferences and approaches, but are more alike than different in their performance and tactical value. And we’re never going to get tired of arguing about the pros and cons of each.

Have at it in the comments, but please check your guns at the door.

Machine Gun Drill Times — Warsaw Pact Czechoslovakia

How quickly can you get your MG into operation? These were the standards of the Czechoslovak People’s Army for bringing the Universal MG vz. 59 into operation, as published in the Handbook for NCOs in 1975 (p. 175).

ukl_vz._59L

This is in the LMG mode — prone, with gunner and AG, ready to fire from the march. Here’s what “assuming the prone position for firing the MG” looks like in a scan from the handbook:

assuming_the_prone

The Czechoslovaks clearly believed that having a year’s experience on the gun shaved a couple seconds, and that having use of an AG versus doing it yourself was worth four seconds.

Time Norms for Preparing the Universal Machine Gun vz. 59-L for firing (times in seconds)
Prone Firing Position 1st Year* 2nd year
Outstanding Good Satisfactory Outstanding Good Satisfactory
Collective effort of gunner and loader 10 12 14 8 10 12
Either gunner or loader solo 14 16 18 12 14 16
Taking cartridges or belts from a closed box 22 24 26 20 22 24
* (after completing initial period of training) Translation © WeaponsMan.com 2016

Why no “3rd year”? Like all Warsaw Pact (and most Continental European NATO) Armies in this period, it was a draft army. For an infantry gun bunny, there was no third year!

Having to crack the box was considered an eight-second penalty.

The manual also includes  table of times for breakdown and reassembly, and similar tables for the vz. 58 rifle. There’s considerable information on exterior ballistics, plunging fire, etc. The Czechoslovak People’s Army placed great store in mastering weapons. Firing was initially at bull’s-eye targets, but by the time the gunner or crew had been introduced to tactical employment of their weapons, silhouettes were used. These roughly resembled the US E-type “full” and F-type “head and shoulders” silhouettes, plus “group” targets comprising a pair of full-silhouettes, or a full-silhouette next to a head-and-shoulders job.

Because it’s an NCO’s handbook, there’s a little bit of information on how to conduct fire control of crews, elements, and squads, also.