Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

Antitank Guns for the Man who Has Everything

We had a birthday in the family recently, and gave some thought to presenting one of these to a 16 year old. They’re all WWII vintage AT guns, and most of them are live. We’ve listed them based on asking price, from most expensive to most economical (for some values of the word “economical.”)

#1: M-1 57mm Anti-Tank Rifle 1943 Carriage Buy it Now: $65K

m1-57mm-01The American 57mm AT gun served throughout World War II, and was the main AT gun used in the peak years of the war. Effective against Japanese armor, it struggled to be relevant in Europe against better-armed and more-mobile German tanks. The US could, however, field a lot of them, and at close range they could make life miserable (if short) for Panzer crews.

m1-57mm-02

#2: British Six Pounder (57mm) Buy it Now: $35k

british-six-pounder-57mm-02The six pounder was the kissin’ cousin of the American 57mm AT gun and served throughout World War II. This one has been modified for movie duty, but is legally convertible to a registered destructive device (given ATF approval of manufacturing in advance. Unlike MGs, DDs can still be made by and for private owners). Don’t tell Governor Moonbeam, but it’s in California, and it’s actually CA-legal.

british-six-pounder-57mm-04

 #3: Swedish Bofors AT (37mm) Opening Bid: $33.5k

bofors-37mm-05Thanks to the annoying Swedish habit of neutrality, the next gun lacks the combat cachet of the combatants’ pieces, but it’s, live, intact, and in beautiful condition. Of necessity, you become a reloader with any gun like this — this one comes with 15 cases. For loading data? KMAGYOYO!

bofors-37mm-04

bofors-37mm-03While the mount is unique, and the muzzle brake follows midcentury Swedish practice, the gun itself seems to owe a lot to Krupp design. The Wehrmacht 37mm and the Red Army 45mm were both Krupp designs, and clearly cousins — as were the social systems the two armies fought for.

Same seller also has a carriage (no breech or barrel) available as well.

#4: WWII 25mm SA.L 1937 ANTI-TANK GUN. Opening bid $25k, Buy it now $30k

If a 37mm gun was already trending obsolescent at the outbreak of World War II, and it was, imagine how weak a 25mm gun is. Plus, this one has to wear the stigma of being from a nation defeated rather thoroughly by the Nazis in cut time: France. Still, it works, and it looks cool:

puteaux-25mm-gun

It also has an extremely thorough description, and lots of pictures:

25mmputeaux-5

Museum quality, live-firing, French WWII 25mm SA.L Mle 1937 anti-tank gun, serial number 566. This anti-tank gun was built in 1939 by the French design & manufacturing company, Atelier Puteaux, and is marked accordingly: “A.PX 1939”. These guns were manufactured and used by the French, but they were also captured and used by the Nazis, who gave them the designation: 2,5cm PaK 113(f). A quantity of the captured guns were sold by the Germans to Finland, who gave them the designation: 25 PstK/37. The gun has a muzzle velocity of 3150 feet per second, and is a very accurate weapon. We spent 165 hours performing a complete restoration on this anti-tank gun. The restoration work included: sandblasting, complete disassembly, painting, parkerizing, bluing, polishing, lubricating, new tires, reworking the recoil mechanism, and reassembly. This cannon is live firing, and has been fired several times. The gun performed flawlessly when fired…..please take a look at the video below, where we fired upon, and disabled a Ford F-150’s running engine, at a distance of 340 yards.

The chamber and rifling are in very good condition. Weighing only 618 pounds, this gun can easily be moved and fired by one adult male. The actual weight at the lunette when the gun is picked up is only 84 pounds. The gun is also very compact: 152″ in length (139″ with muzzle brake removed), 40.5″ in width, and 41.5″ in height. The cannon is equipped with iron sights, as well as an optical 3x M69C telescopic sight (very clear optics). All traversing, elevating, and depressing adjustments work completely and smoothly (see photos below).

25mmputeaux-19

For the travel configuration, the cannon’s muzzle brake / flash hider unscrews from the end of the barrel, and stows above the recoil mechanism. The armor also folds up, which is also shown in the photos below. This is an all-matching numbers gun (#566). The gun includes 22 live, arsenal-loaded, rounds of 25mm ammunition. Once fired, the brass cartridge cases can be reloaded several times for additional firings. This weapon is an ATF/NFA registered destructive device, so it will be transferred on a $200 tax paid Form 4, or on a tax-exempt Form 3 to a destructive device dealer in your state. We will crate and ship this gun anywhere in the continental United States. Crating, shipping, insurance, and transfer taxes are all the buyer’s responsibility. Residents within Tennessee will be assessed state sales tax. Please take a look at all 70 photos that are included in the auction description below. This is a great opportunity to get a museum-quality piece of history, that displays as good as it shoots! Would make for a stunning display piece in any museum, gun store, shooting range, or office.

25mmputeaux-6

There’s even pictures of this type of gun in German, Finnish, and what looks like Soviet(!) service at the link (Finns below):

Pst. Tykki miehistöineen

Pst. Tykki miehistöineen

Some less awesomely restored examples of this gun are also available right now, one at $15k Opening, No Reserve, and a deactivated one at $10k Opening, no reserve.

#5 106mm RCL (demilled) with Prime Mover: Opening Bid, $30k

106-w-mule06

This is one of the things that replaced AT guns, a recoilless rifle, a US weapon of the 1950s-70s. Complete with a M-274 Mule, an offroad vehicle used by airborne forces of the period. An unusual feature was the semi-auto spotting rifle using a special .50 marking round (smaller than a .50 BMG casing.

106-w-mule04The spotting rig was a necessity because the firing signature of a 106 is tremendous, which means, a first round hit on the enemy tank is a life-or-death enterprise with this weapon. It was replaced by the TOW AT missile.

This is the most gun you can have and not need heavy truck and trailer, also one of the more fun toys we had in Nam. Comes with: 4 rds in tubes 2 more in displa manuels tripod (rare) breech cover muzzle cover optics battery pack< elec start This runs and drives as it should, not concourse cond. because we use and enjoy it. If you’ve seen one of these at Fl. MVPA events or the Melbourne Vets reunion in the last decade or so it’s this one This is one of the best equipted in the country. I also have a 25′ closed trailer for sale if this sells. will haul this and any Jeep type vehicle.

106-w-mule03

Cool, but not live, alas.

#6 20 mm Lahti w/Spares. Opening bid $15k, Buy it Now $18k

lahti01

Here’e we’re down out of anti-tank guns into the high end of antitank rifles. This, the similar Solothurn, and a Czechoslovak weapon that was OBE and not produced in large numbers were the high-water mark of the infantry antitank rifle.

lahti03

This lot consists of 1 complete M1939 20MM lahti, w ski, 2 registered lahti receivers, 1 coffin 1 box of spare gun parts, 3 boxes of spare springs, 1 amorer box of tools, 6 boxes w 2 each magazines and 60 rounds of live 20 MM ammo. ALL NFA RULES APPLY!! $50% down and the balance upon transfer to your FFL dealer, buyer pays all shipping costs. and the ammunition MUST BE SHIPPED SEPERATLEY!!

This is live, but ammunition is extremely precious any more.

#7 D44 AT Gun 85mm Opening Bid $8,495.

d44-01

This World War II Russian AT gun is a postwar Polish clone. It is rather roughly demilled, but if not for that would be the clear bang-for-the-buck leader. These guns were widely used in Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli wars, among other 20th Century conflicts.

The shield on this cannon has been cut and re-welded (at Arsenal in Europe), a 12″ metal shaft is missing off of the breech block (replacement easy to create) and we recently repainted it so it looks good. We have discounted this cannon $500 in consideration. Otherwise in good condition. No obvious damage, little evidence of any major use. Working T & E, solid tires. Dem-illed to ATF specs, breech cut [easy weld], 85mm hole in bottom of chamber [donut whole included], hole is NOT visible from exterior of cannon.

d44-02

All demilled pieces [uncut breech block and cut ring] are included, a good ATF form 1 project, subcal to 30-50 BMG [no ATF reg needed], or oxy-propane conversion. We converted ours to a combination 30 cal, diesel fuel, and oxy-propane, sounds better than a real field piece, at a fraction of the price.

We will have INERT 85mm TRAINING rounds here in [about] 3 months.

Light enough to tow behind a jeep or a deuce.

d44-03

When you absolutely, positively have to get those damned kids off your lawn.

That’s about it for cannon right now. But if you’re feeling mortarous, other sellers can hook you up,

An Interesting P.38 — and What’s Different About Collectors?

This interesting Walther P.38 up for auction is interesting both due to the quality of the listing — there are over 100 pictures with it (also available here, which may require you to accept a certificate mismatch) — and the degree to which small details drive the collector market (or try to). This particular pistol presents as an ordinary, Walther-made, 1943-production P.38.

p38-ac-43

What makes it unique, and a bestower of bragging rights on the owner, is that it is the highest known pistol of Walther’s 1943 production. In that year the pistols were marked, “ac 43” and serial number, and Walther serial numbers were one to four digits and a letter suffix (all running in numeric and alphabetic succession, with Teutonic precision). Previous reference sources have documented ac 43 “Third Variation” production from serial numbers 218m to 7932n. This pistol is 9248n, and records suggest it was made in December, 1943, after which month Walther transitioned to marking pistols ac 44.

p38-9248n-ac-43

It may have been the last one made that year; it’s definitely the last one to turn up so far. 

p38-9248n-ac-43-front

It’s a nice condition, all matching example, but the buy-it-now is set at $1,700, which suggests that the reserve (unmet at press time) is also high.

p38-9248n-ac-43-right

(For the record, “First Variation ac43” production ran from ac 43 1 to ac 43 8xxxg from Jan 43-Jun 43, and “Second Variation ac 43” from approximately ac 43 9000g and ends in the -l or -m range, made from June to October. Third variation was produced from about Oct 43 to Dec 43. If you were fuzzy on the three variations of 1943 Walther-built P.38s, you’re not alone, but as in all things Nazi, they’ve been exhaustively researched. The auction says this of the differences:

The Second Variation differs from the First Variation by the following: 1) the lightening hole in the frame, located in the front of the partition between the take down lever well and trigger well, was omitted; 2) elimination of the narrow secondary extractor spring plunger relief slow on the slide; 3) the left side of the slide’s cavity now included the extractor spring relief cut, which became standard on all subsequent models; and 4) increasing the thickness of the area between the trigger axel hole and the trigger guard to eliminate a weak spot in the frame.

The Third Variation ac43 P.38 differs from the Second Variation in several key respects. First, the previously used stacked code was eliminated and, in its place, the new line code was first introduced. This resulted in a new slide marking configuration: P.38 on the far left on the slide center line, the serial number, which is now just above the center line and beginning at the point of the slide parallel with the breech face, followed by the company code “ac 43.” The second principal difference is that, beginning with the Third Variation, the barrel was now left with the milling marks on the outer surface. Prior to this, the barrel had been polished smooth prior to bluing. This change was undoubtedly implemented to speed production.

With what we know of industrial production, this certainly sounds like collectors are sperging out and trying to bundle normal running production changes, something that happens on every production line for everything, into sets that they call “Variations,” a distinction that would have been quite meaningless to any of the production planners in Wehrmacht ordnance offices or in Walther’s production-engineering spaces.

All these serial number calculations assume, of course, that Walther retired the ac 43 stamp with a ceremony on 31 Dec 43 and opened the new year stamping guns ac 44 — firearms factories don’t often work with such military precision, but maybe all these Germans did. In the real world, stampings and serial numbers often get out of sequence and overlap.

This all matching gun has been bid up only to a low price for an all matching generic P.38, with a few hours to go in the auction (we think it’s very likely to be relisted). But that’s the sort of thing that collectors dig deep into, and one reason many people with quite a few guns don’t think of themselves as capital-C Collectors.

One last note — the collection of well-lit and well-shot pictures is a good look at the internal workings of this very interesting, world’s first DA/SA service pistol, if you’re not already familiar with its many innovations (for its era).

Update

With three hours remaining in the auction, the bid is now $855, and the reserve price remains unmet. The $855 strikes us a low to average price for a superior condition P.38 like this (collectors also prize condition), but we are not experts in the Nazi pistol market. The question is, does the rare nature of this very-late-1943 gun justify its price?  After all, it might be the last known ’43 Walther gun forever, or just until some higher number n-suffix ac 43 firearm turns up. It’s a very nice high-condition wartime P.38, though, and clearly one that hasn’t been buried in a bunker in Belarus for the last seventy years.

Want a Project? Here’s a Half-Track that Needs Everything

Every so often, we find something at auction that cries out for just the right buyer. This early World War II halftrack is just such a case.

m2-overview

m2-6120As you can see, this M2 (serial number 6120 of about 13,500 M2s made from 1940 to 1943) is lacking all its armor aft of the A pillar, plus the windshield assembly, plus all the stuff that was attached there. It does have an intact driveline that needs maintenance but does work — pretty amazing after at least 73 years.

One of the most interesting things is the original 6-cylinder flathead motor, still trucking after all these years. If you look closely right of center, you can see the “White” script trademark cast into the engine block.

m2-motor

This picture shows the other side of the motor in its native habitat:

m2-original-motor

Reproduction and restoration parts for halftracks are available, but you see what we mean when we say this vehicle needs the right buyer. (Welding and riveting skills a plus!)

While the body is mostly missing (lets you pick your own variant, perhaps), the office looks pretty much untouched since GI Joe last turned it in.

m2-office

The M2 was used as an artillery tractor, mechanized MG squad bus, and reconnaissance track, whilst the more common M3 (~45k built) and less common International Harvester M5 and M9 (~11,000 built) were mostly used as infantry carriers. All variants of halftrack were made into specialized AA, field artillery / tank destroyer, and other special-purpose vehicles, and many of them were supplied to American allies both under Lend-Lease and postwar.

They soldiered on with Israel through the Yom Kippur War, and served in South America into the 21st Century. Bolivia still may operate some ex-Argentine models (or they may have run out of spares, always a problem for the poorest nation on the continent).

How this one wound up at a US Government auction this month, with a minimum bid of $7,000, is anybody’s guess, but there’s a hell of a story in there.

Minimum bid is $7k, and you’ll have to pay a 10% kicker and Illinois state taxes, and remove it within eight days of the auction close (which is 28 September).

M2 Half Track Truck
ITEM NUMBER 766646
LOCATION
Maywood, Illinois, United States. 60153
AUCTION DATE
Sep 28, time TBD

METER READING 41 Hours
SERIAL # M2 6120
White 6 Cylinder Engine, Manual Transmission, Stake Sides, Bench Seating, Tool Box, Additional Undercarriage Components

via Surplus M2 Half Track Truck in Maywood, Illinois, United States (GovPlanet Item #766646).

It does seem to have a second flatbed-load of bogie and idler wheels and other gear, all of which look like they could use overhaul. At that link there are over 100 photos and a video of the motor running (it’s image number 55 if you want to skip ahead in the gallery).

If you buy it, we’ll come out to Illinois and help you load it!

Bohemian Mysteries

In the course of reviewing reference works for the upcoming Firearms of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic 1918-2018. Volume I: Handguns, we came across The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns by Alexander B. Zhuk, a work that was published in 1983 (revised 1990) in Russian as Pistolet i Revolver, and published in English in 1995, as translated by Nikolai N. Bobrov. The English edition was edited by the well-known British firearms historian John Walter.

Zhuk, drawing on reference collections in the former Soviet Union, makes a game attempt at an encyclopedic (i.e., complete) description of all the cartridge handguns of the world, with an emphasis on centerfire and service pistols from 1870 to the date of publication (the English edition says, “to 1995.”) As a result he describes pistols in this volume that are not listed in other books. Our particular study interest at this time is Czech and Czechoslovak pistols, and Zhuk documents several of these Bohemian mysteries that go unreported even in the Czech-language sources. Each of the Zhuk entries has a number and

Unfortunately, Zhuk did not illustrate his book with photographs, but with sketches. Our guess is that this was a consequence of its 1980s genesis, and the historical fact that the Soviet printing industry of 1983 was not up to the US, UK, German, etc. standard of 1883. (Nowadays Russian printers can produce beautiful books, and Russians can get books printed well in China also. But 1983 was a long time ago). The good news is that the sketches do reproduce clearly and are simple to scan. So we will show Zhuk’s sketches with each of these rare firearms. (If you see a photograph in this blog post, it is only for comparison to the sketched firearm).

There are also some small errors in the descriptions and the keying. Whether these errors were made by Zhuk, by Bobrov in translation, or by Walter in the process of editing is unclear but they are small and easily corrected here. So with no further ado, here’s how Zhuk describes the Czechoslovak arms industry:

The first automatic pistols were made almost as soon as the country was created in the aftermath of the First World War. This was partly due to the efforts of Alois Tomiška and Josef Nickl, who had experienced success prior to 1918 with the Little Tom and Nickl-pistole respectively. Nickl, indeed, had worked for Waffenfabrik Mauser for some years. The first locked breech pistol adopted by the Czechoslovak army– The “Pistole N”– was a Nickl design. It was succeeded by a simplified version, known as vz. 24, whilst a blowback derivative (vz. 27) was adopted by the state police force. Large quantities of 6.35 mm pocket pistols we’re also made prior to the Second World War.

That’s generally accurate, although there’s a dozen quibbling points there for the expert. (The “Nickl-pistole” pre-WWI was arguably the Mauser 1910/14 and various Mauser experimentals, although other Mauser engineers like the Feederle brothers contributed — whether more or less than Nickl is lost, but the Mauser-werke design shop seems to have been focused on teamwork and collaboration, not individual credit. And to be truly pedantic, the Pistole N, which was closely based on wartime Mauser prototypes designed by Nickl, was actually the vz 22, and the “vz. 27” was never adopted by the ČS military and therefore the correct nomenclature is CZ 27).

We’re going to list the unique Zhuk-only pistols in order by Zhuk’s entry number (and match the correct image to the description). The order Zhuk used is not entirely clear to us, as it’s neither chronological, nor alphabetical, nor by caliber… so what’s left? Maybe examination of the Russian-language volume will help.

409: ZKR-590 or Grand; Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka, Brno.

 

zhuk_409_zkr_590_grandZhuk says:

ZKR-590 or Grand; Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka, Brno. .22 LR rimfire, •357 Magnum or .38 Special; 50mm, 100mm or 125mm barrels (.357 and •38), or 125mm and 150mm barrels (.22). A copy of the Colt swinging- cylinder system. The Mayor (or ‘Major’) is virtually identical with the long-barrelled .22 Grand but has adjustable target- pattern sights. Production apparently ceased in the 1970s.

We knew of this target revolver, as it’s mentioned proudly in all Czech sources (it was used by many national and world champions in Olympic and other bullseye target shooting events in the 1960s and 70s). But we didn’t know about the .22 version (note that his illustration represents a .38 Special example). In retrospect, an Olympic target revolver would be expected to have had a .22 version

1573. Automatická Pistole; Česka Zbrojovka, Prague. .22 Short rimfire.

Zhuk actually has no description of this pistol beyond the single title line, but looking at the picture (which is labeled 1574, but the slide markings can be seen to correspond to # 1573), this little-known pistol clearly is a derivative of the Z Pistol, the former Dušek Duo, the manufacture of which was transferred to ZB after Dušek’s plant in Opočno was nationalized and closed after World War II. Some Duos were then made and marked as the “ČZ Automat. Pistole” and then the “Z Automat. Pistole” marking was used with the ZB Z-in-a-rifled-bore trademark on the grips.

zhuk_1573_22_short_z

This pistol has the Z grips. The slide has two reliefs behind the breechface, presumably to lighten it for the limited recoil of the .22 short. Otherwise, it’s a ringer for any Z or Duo. The curiously extended truncated-conical muzzle makes us wonder if it is a blank-firing or starter pistol. We’re not aware of this oddball Duo variation in any Czech-language source, but we don’t have 100% of Czech sources.

1574, 1575. CSZ; Ceskoslovenske Statni Zbrojovka A.S., Brno (later Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka).

Zhuk has just the barest facts about this early firearm, one version of which has an illustration misnumbered 1573.

zhuk_1574_zb_25

CSZ; Ceskoslovenske Statni Zbrojovka A.S., Brno (later Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka). 6.35mm Auto; 113mm overall, 55mm barrel, 330gm. Six rounds. This small blowback was made in two differing patterns.

zhuk_1575_zb_25We believe that these pistols may have been mentioned (but not illustrated) by Jaromír Lugs (1950) but our copy of Lugs Vol. II is in the book scanner at the moment. (Things To Figure Out Before Publishing the Book Nº. 32767).

1604. Perla; Frantisek Dusek, Opocno.

 

Again, Zhuk’s entry about the previously-unknown (to us) Dušek pistol is the soul of brevity:

Perla; Frantisek Dusek, Opocno. 6.35mm Auto; 103mm overall, 50mm barrel, 277gm. Six rounds.

zhuk_1604_perlaWhereas the original Ydeal/JAGA/Singer/Duo/Z is a conceptual copy of a 1906 Browning (minus the grip safety), and possibly a direct copy of an unknown Spanish intercedent, the Perla shows a great deal of Walther Model 9 DNA in its makeup. It reflects the same interwar trend to smaller vest-pocket rather than pocket .25s, as seen in the Model 9, the Mauser WTP I and II, and the Baby Browning, and that suggests that it is at least as late a development. However, the safety appears to hinge too far back for it to be a direct copy. Zhuk’s example seems to have a three-digit serial number (312). Prototype or production?

Some overall observations

One thing Zhuk doesn’t mention, because it was such a weird one-time artifact of the interwar Czechoslovak gun laws, is that any of these little .25s may turn up with a weirdly extended barrel. That’s because a handgun license was a hassle to get, but you only needed it for a gun with a barrel < 180 mm. The manufacturers responded with “Buntline Special” .25s and .32s! So did firms that imported French, German and Spanish guns into the Czechoslovak Republic.

In addition to these complete oddballs, and all the common Czechoslovak pistols, Zhuk also illustrates some rare firearms that are often described, but seldom illustrated. These are, again, mostly pocket pistols of the interwar period, and include the following:

  • The Tomiška-designed folding-trigger Fox pistol of 1919;
  • The Mars pistols of Pošumavská Zbrojovka;
  • Rare Duo precursors JAGA, Singer and Ydeal
  • The PZK (same company as the Mars, different design);
  • The Slavia.

He also illustrates the post-1970 grips of the Z Pistol (née Duo) and CZ 70 (ex CZ 45). If there’s enough interest in these oddities and entities, we’ll do another post with the images. Otherwise we’ll just roll what we learn into the book.

Armalite Images at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Via the former Fairchild, FAEC, Fairchild Republic, etc., archives, the National Air and Space Museum has acquired a number of original Armalite publicity and industrial photographs. Thanks to armeiro on this thread in the ARFCOM Retro Forum, we’ve had a look at ’em.

NASM Caption: Exterior of an Armalite company building, possibly the firm's initial headquarters at 6567 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The sign bears the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation's flying horse insignia; Armalite was a division of the Fairchild Corporation.

NASM Caption: Exterior of an Armalite company building, possibly the firm’s initial headquarters at 6567 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The sign bears the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation’s flying horse insignia; Armalite was a division of the Fairchild Corporation.

We can confirm that that does appear to be the door of 6567 Santa Monica, still standing today, according to this Real Estate listing, and this Google Map image. The building is so subdivided that that unit is now a single 700 square foot shop or office. The now somewhat threadbare brick building has been whitewashed, and has grown a layer of ornamental stone near the (now single) door, and the parking lot’s been rearranged for more spaces, but it’s clearly the same place.

So if you live in LA, you can go and stand on the steps where Stoner, L. James Sullivan, and all the Armalite innovators went to work.

Technically, we’re violating NASM’s copyright restrictions by rehosting these images, but we’re (1) doing it as Fair Use and (2) feeding them some corrections and updates. Like this one:

Here’s a guy the Museum calls “an unidentified man” demonstrating “an Armalite AR-10 battle rifle equipped with an ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenade.” The ENERGA grenade was a Belgian design in worldwide use at the time. We’re pretty sure most of you can identify the gentleman in question.

armalite-ar-10-nasm-nasm-9a12080

He is Eugene Stoner! NASM also dates this photo “circa 1960,” but by 1960 AR-10 production was underway at AI (based, of course, on earlier engineering of the production rifle), and Armeiro identifies this specific prototype:

This particular unit was a one off prototype from the second U.S. AR-10 model,it has a early design bipod and a reinforced barrel end section in order to fire ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenades,as seen in the photo.

This specific prototype is in the Reed Knight collection. We would guess the photo to be nearer to 1956 or 1957, assuming a prototype was still being used for publicity photos that late. Note that the rifle Stoner holds does not appear to have the canonical AR-10 top mounted gas tube; in early prototypes it came off the right side of the barrel. (This may have been due to an Army Ordnance objection to top mounted gas tubes as risky to shooters; in reality, Army Ordnance of the day was hostile to anything competitive with in-house designs, and the AR-10 was a potential M14 slayer).

Here’s an AR-5 prototype (survival rifle, bolt-action centerfire ancestor of the .22 semi AR-7), taking a ducking with a bathing beauty:

armalite-ar-5-nasm-nasm-9a12091

Born about 1940, this pretty lady is probably somebody’s great-grandmother now! But she can’t match that floating AR-5 for progeny.

In another error, the NASM refers to the “AR-5 Parasniper Rifle.” The Parasniper was the first Armalite product, before that name was even formalized, a bolt-action rifle that used aluminum forgings and fiberglass stocks to achieve lowest-in-class weight. It was retroactively numbered the AR-1.

 

From Czechoslovakia with Double Action

(Note: we’re going live without some of the photos. We’ll be inserting the photos Real Soon Now™. Trust us! Pictures are now “live.” Thanks for your patience. -Ed.)

Hey, this is a Czech bag, and it has a lot of pockets. Wonder what's inside?

Hey, this is a Czech bag, and it has a lot of pockets. Wonder what’s inside?

The Czechlands were the birthplace of the double-action autopistol, and have arguably produced such pistols for longer than any other nation in the world.

Many of these were, prior to 1975, small pocket pistols, but the small pocket pistols were not only important for the companies that made them and the general export strength of interwar Czechoslovakia, but also to the modernization and mechanization of the Czech manufacturers, including not only the major arsenals but also such firms as the Poldi steelworks at Kladno, the Škoda foundries at Pilsen, and many smaller parts manufacturers.1

Yay! Pocket pistols. From top down: Little Tom 6.35; Little Tom 7.65; 1946 CZ 45; 1939 CZ 36; Intratec Protec-25 n Box.

Yay! Pocket pistols. From top down: Little Tom 6.35; Little Tom 7.65; 1946 CZ 45; 1939 CZ 36; Intratec Protec-25 n Box. Now, let’s dig into the details, a little bit.

The Little Tom — ca. 1908-1926

The first DA autopistol is illustrated by this 6.25 mm (.25 ACP) Alois Tomiška “Little Tom” pistol we’ve featured before. This was the first successful DA/SA pistol. Its original name in Czech was Tomašek, which is at once a play on the designer’s name, and also means “Little Tom.” Tomiška, who lived from 1867-1946, patented the Little Tom in 1909 (some sources say 1908) and produced a few in a Pilsen workshop before mass production began at the Wiener Waffenfabrik in Vienna (both Vienna and Pilsen were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to late 1918).2

This example was made in Vienna and proofed there in 1922. Note the safety (up is safe, down - here - is fire). No sights; brass mag loads through the top!

This example was made in Vienna and proofed there in 1922. Note the safety (up is safe, down – here – is fire). No sights; brass mag loads through the top! The faint MADE IN AUSTRIA supplemental rollmark suggests it was exported, but to where?

This example was made in Vienna and proofed there in 1922. Note the safety (up is safe, down - here - is fire). No sights; brass mag loads through the top!

According to the Vienna proof house records as reported by Mötz & Schuy, #26,854 may have been proofed on 22 Nov 1922. It was one of 8,426 6.35 mm Little Toms proofed that year (which also saw the first proof of 7.65 models). Vienna proofed over 26,000 6.35 mm Little Toms.

Some sources call it DAO, because, even though the slide leaves the hammer cocked, the trigger spring (which is also the recoil spring) returns the trigger all the way forward. The first pistol to have the DA/SA trigger of an autopistol behave like then-familiar DA/SA revolvers’ triggers was the Walther PP of 1929; by then, production of the Little Tom, which had taken place in Tomiška’s small shop in Pilsen but mostly at the Wiener Waffenfabrik in Vienna, was wound up.

A few Little Toms were made in .32. This rough-condition example is innocent of most marks and was sold (by Rock Island Auctions) as a possible Pilsen example.

Pretty rough condition (note the pitting on the frame forward of the trigger guard. Probably why it was filed down). Serial Nº 30941 no longer bears its proofs, but is probably is one of only 1,686 7.65 mm Little Toms proofed in Vienna.

Pretty rough condition (note the pitting on the frame forward of the trigger guard. Probably why it was filed down). Serial Nº 30941 no longer bears its proofs, but is probably one of only 1,686 7.65 mm Little Toms made and proofed in Vienna.

After close examination, we believe it to be a Wiener Waffenfabrik example, and the relative lack of markings is a consequence of the slide and frame being filed or stoned because of rust and pitting. It retains collector value only because of the extreme rarity of Little Tom .32 pistols. Note the condition of the slide serrations, which suggests someone’s been sanding or draw-filing away at this firearm. We haven’t tried hard to bring the proof marks back up.

Unlike the 6.35 model, this 7.65 Little Tom's safety is labeled (down - here - is fire, and exposes an F for Feuer).

Unlike the 6.35 model, this 7.65 Little Tom’s safety is labeled (down – here – is fire, and exposes an F for Feuer).

The trigger mechanism on this Little Tom is not working properly — a common condition on these pioneering guns.

The CZ 36

The next Czechoslovak DA .25 was a true DAO pistol, the CZ 36. A contemporary of the simple single-action striker-fired Dušek “Duo” pistol (and its variants) made in Opočno, the CZ 36 was rather more advanced with double-action lockwork. It was designed by the prolific Czech engineer, František Myška, starting in 1934. Here it is compared to the Little Tom:

cz_pocket_pistols10

The CZ 36 was made with an external safety on the left side of the frame forward of the grip, marked with a Z. A safety is somewhat redundant on a DAO gun, but the whole idea was new. On the pistol’s right side, the round axis pin integral to the safety is visible.

cz_pocket_pistols16

cz_pocket_pistols28At some point in production, the safety was deleted. No one has explained why some pistols have the safety and some do not; earliest pistols all tend to have it, and with-safety is more common than without-safety on a CZ 36.

Production numbers are all over the place, with Berger guessing (and Buffaloe seconding him) at about 12,000. Most of these pistols were exported, but they were used by some police agencies (Czechoslovak and later, German), such as the Railway Police. This example, Nº 18615, was proofed with the Czech twin-tailed lion in 1939.

The European flap holster shown with our CZ 36 came with it, but without specific provenance as far as we know.

Most sources agree that the CZ 36 was discontinued after the German occupation, except for some assembly from pre-war parts, but the existence of small numbers of CZ 36 pistols with Nazi-era German proof marks and German wholesaler (Akah or Geco) markings challenges that conventional wisdom.

The CZ 45 and its Successors

After the war, Myška (according to some sources) and/or Jan Kratochvil (per Dolínek et al.) reworked the CZ 36 for manufacturing ease, producing the CZ 45.

cz_pocket_pistols17

The CZ 45. This is an early model, proofed in 1946, and it retains some CZ 36 features.

cz_pocket_pistols19

Flip side of the CZ 45, showing the absence of the safety pivot pin.

(In parallel to the CZ 36 and 45, the simple Duo — later the “Z” — continued to be manufactured; but prior to 1946 that is because it was made by a different firm. The firms were nationalized and merged postwar).

All CZ 45s that we have observed were made without the safety of the early CZ 36, but it is reported that some were made with it. Modifications include a different barrel lug arrangement, and a different trigger mechanism. The original CZ 36 mechanism bears some traces of the Tomiška design, and the trigger bar only rides along one side of the magazine; the CZ 45 uses a yoke à la John Browning’s 1911. (This particular CZ 45, made in 1946, retains the CZ 36 style barrel lug and trigger bar). In both pistols, a magazine safety, activated by that same trigger bar, is incorporated.

The pistol was made by Česká Zbrojovka at the original Strakonice pistol factory originally set up for the vz. 24 contract. Later, production shifted to Uhersky Brod. (The UB plant was originally established in 1936 because Czechoslovak strategists considered the Strakonice plant too close to the threat of Nazi Germany).

The CZ 36 and CZ 45 were imported to the USA in small (36) and medium (45) quantities prior to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which both required import marks and banned further importation of compact pistols.

Cosmetic and production redesigns since have been named CZ 70 and CZ 92 for their years of introduction (not all sources mention the CZ 70; to add to confusion, a later version of the Duo/Z was called vz. 70, and so was the common CZ police pistol in .32/7.65 mm). These later pistols have never been legal for commercial importation to the United States.

The ZVI Kevin

The Kevin was the only pistol ever produced by the Czech firm Zbrojovka Všetin Indet (mercifully, for English speakers, abbreviated to ZVI). ZVI was primarily a producer of large caliber ammunition, and arms such as machine guns, automatic cannon, and AT rocket launchers, and so forth. It is (in its most common iteration) a .25-sized DAO .380 with an internal hammer and (standard) six-round magazine.

kevin-704-right

We have no idea why it is named Kevin. In Germany, the name Kevin has a connotation of roughneck thuggery! But we do not believe that connotation extends to Czech.

The pistol was introduced at the European trade show IWA 2007, and came to be made in many models, distinguished by chambering, grips and finish options — they were all the same basic gun. The standard chambering was .380 ACP (9 mm Browning Short, 9 x 17), but it was also available in 9 mm Makarov (9 x 18), and was made for export (we believe, to CIS nations) in “9mm PA,” a cartridge that fired a non-lethal rubber projectile.

There is no external safety. It is not necessary, as the Kevin has a revolver-like long and heavy (~10 lbs. new, may lose a pound after hundreds of rounds) trigger pull. Takedown is like many early Browning pistols, and the Little Tom and CZ’s mentioned above: after ensuring the pistol is clear, align the slide appropriately (unlike the older pistols, the Kevin has helpful witness marks), rotate the barrel out of engagement with the frame, and slide the slide off.

Barrel turned for disassembly (here on the CZ 45, but all these pistols save the Little Toms work like this).

Barrel turned for disassembly (here on the CZ 45, but all these pistols save the Little Toms work like this).

The receiver is aluminum alloy and the barrel and slide steel. In some ways, Alois Tomiška would recognize it as a descendant of his own Little Tom, but it has a modern push-button mag release behind the trigger guard, and much better sights — fixed, to be sure — than any of the other pocket pistols mentioned here. It has several interesting features.

Unlike most .380s, it is not a straight blowback pistol, but a gas-retarded blowback. A pair of ports in the barrel forward of the chamber — in other words, where the pressure is max — vent forward against the surface of the slide, and into a sort of temporary gas chamber forward of the ejection port. The force against the breech face moving the slide rearward must overome this gas pressure as well as the simple inertia of the slide. This does make for a messy gun, especially when firing a lot of ammunition. (Like any powerful pocket pistol, it tends to enforce limits to shooting sessions. It’s just not fun to open that second box of ammo).

To keep the gas chamber and recoil spring from interfering with one another, the Kevin dispenses with the usual around-the-barrel recoil spring and uses instead two small-diameter recoil springs and guide-rod assemblies set into grooves in the frame, inside the slide — an arrangement reminiscent of the dual springs in the Walther P.38 and its immediate derivatives like the P4 and P5. Plastic recoil buffers distribute the impact of the slide on the frame.

The basic finishes were shiny “plating” or black, both of which were high-tech nickel-teflon paint, with grips of plastic or walnut. Fancier versions included gold-finished barrel, trigger, extractor and gold-color fill in the rollmarks; there was also a version with etched decoration that imitated engraving.

Several magazine capacities have been available, including a 9-round mag with a large plastic grip extension, which not only added firepower but also addressed the gun’s biggest strength and weakness, it’s extremely compact size. The 9-round mag was introduced in June, 2012.

9rnd-for-kevin

Production of this pistol seemed to have ended with the 2013 bankruptcy of ZVI, which had nothing to do with the Kevin and everything to do with the Czech Republic rejecting the idea of renewing ammo contracts with ZVI, when it could get the rounds cheaper by importing them. However, there is some life on the Czech language side of the ZVI website this year, including an offering of a new magazine extension for the little Kevin, in February 2016. The pistol is small and smooth (there is no checkering or grooving on front or rear strap) and so anything that helps you hold it is welcome.

kevin_zasobnik_600

No ZVI Kevin has ever passed through normal ATF import channels as it cannot pass the Nazi-derived “sporting” test of  the Gun Control Act of 1968. A copy was available in the US (see below).

What’s Missing Here?

We’ve listed all Czechoslovak and Czech double-action pocket pistols known to us at present, and welcome any word of omissions. While some would call the Walther-PP sized CZ 50 / 70 in .32 and even the very large CZ 82/83 pistols “pocket pistols,” these were, in the Czechoslovak context, police pistols normally carried openly in flap holsters, and in shoulder holsters when carried undercover. There are quite a few small Czechoslovak single-action pocket pistols, most of them made between the wars. Indeed, the Russian writer A.B. Zhuk, chronicles some models that are missing from most Czech-language sources!4 But he mentions no other double-action pistols than we do.

The American Cousins

Two of these pistols have “American cousins” — US-made auto pistols that are clones, or at least close or modified copies of their Czech forebears. The CZ 45 was cloned, more or less, as the Intratec Protec-25 and the ZVI Kevin appeared in the US as the Magnum Research Micro Desert Eagle.

 

The Micro Desert Eagle was a US-produced clone of the ZVI Kevin, legally licensed by ZVI or by the designer. It is no longer cataloged by Magnum Research. It was available in nickel, blued, or two-tone (nickel frame, blue slide and barrel) versions. The nickel version is most common. As in the Czech original, this finish is actually a form of high-tech paint and is extremely durable.

This image of the Micro Desert Eagle and Baby Browning is from the blog Gun Tales.

This image of the Micro Desert Eagle and Baby Browning is from the blog Gun Tales, where the pistol is reviewed. As you can see, it really is a .25-sized .380! It is also really a ringer for the ZVI version — parts do interchange.

Like the Kevin, the MDE is made of investment castings. In our opinion, the finish on the Czech gun is superior, but the same process is supposed to be used.

Again, like the Kevin, the MDE has a reputation for reliability and near-indifference to ammunition, although there are some defensive rounds with which it does not work reliably, and the would-be carrier is well-advised to check out the rounds he plans to carry for social work well in advance. Like the Kevin, it gets very dirty if fired a lot, but thanks to that modern finish, cleans up very nicely.

 

The Intratec Protec-25, conversely, was inexpensively made with a die-cast receiver, steel slide, and painted exterior. Many users have reported reliability problems, which are rare in a simple .25; but a ready solution is at hand. The pistol will usually function reliably if you replace the Intratec magazine with an original CZ 36/45 mag or a Mec-Gar replacement. As our present example is is new, in box, we haven’t fired it. (They’re only new once).

cz_pocket_pistols26As you might have guessed, the “Protec” was both a play on the company name Intratec, and the word protection; it was intended to be part of a what they called the Pro “Tec” tor Series of small handguns, but the company didn’t survive to achieve those now-lost ambitions.

The Intratec had slightly different frame contours from the CZ 45. This modernized the styling, but may have been required by the manufacturing process. The similarities in the firearms are evident in this triple field-stripped view, but, the parts do not interchange.

cz_pocket_pistols23

Both the slide/receiver grooves and the barrel bed and lugs don’t mate properly. (In fact, the barrels do interchange between these CZs, but the slides don’t; each one is fitted to its own frame).

The original Intratec manual — if “manual” is the word for a single-sheet-of-paper fold out — suggests that the gun was available in three finishes, and also refers to a Protec-22 whose magazine held 10 .22 LR rounds. If such a variant was made, we’ve never seen one, but it was developed at least as far as parts numbers, SKUs, and manual entries. The gun — and the company that launched it — seems to have come and gone in the span of about three years. Today, it’s nothing but a sidebar to the Czech double-action pocket pistol story. We suppose someone could carry a Protec-25 or CZ-45 as a defensive gun, but why would you, when you can find a Desert Eagle or Kevin (depending on where you are in the world) for about the same money?

Notes

  1. Dolínek et al., p. 60.
  2. Dolínek et al., p. 32.
  3. Dolínek et al., pp. 102-103, 107.
  4. Zhuk, A.B. pp. 194-199.

Sources

Personal examination of examples of the named pistols.

“Angus”. Micro Desert Eagle .380acp. Gun Tales. Retrieved from: https://guntales.blogspot.com/2011/03/micro-desert-eagle-380acp.html (unfortunately this promising blog has not been updated in five years. Pity).

Berger, R.J.Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols. Northridge, IL: Blacksmith Publications,1989.

Buffaloe, Ed. Two Czech 6.35mm Pistols. The Unblinking Eye, n.d.. Retrieved from: http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/2CZ25s/2cz25s.html

Brown, James D. Cold War Pistols of Czechoslovakia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2009.

Dolínek, Vladímir, Karlicky, Vladímir, and Vácha, Pavel. Czech Firearms and Ammunition: History & Present. Prague: Radix, spol. sro., 1995.

“Lloyd in Vegas.” Poster at Jan V. Still Luger Bulletin Board, 24 Nov 2007. Retrieved from: http://luger.gunboards.com/showthread.php?12714-CZ-36-E-N-Geco-Trademark

Uncredited. ZVI Kevin Catalog. Prague: ZVI, Inc., 6 Jun 2008. Retrieved from: http://www.zvi.cz/download/KEVIN.pdf

Uncredited. Micro Desert Eagle, Nickel. Magnum Research, Kahr Firearms Group. Retrieved from:  https://www.magnumresearch.com/Firearms/Magnum-Research-Micro-Desert-Eagle-Nickel.asp (The pistol is discontinued and this page is not discoverable through the website menus, but it comes up in a search as of press time).

Uncredited. Products – 9 mm pistol Kevin. Prague: ZVI, Inc., n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.zvi.cz/en/products/9-mm-pistol-kevin.html (The company is apparently defunct, but the website is undead at this writing).

Zhuk, A.B., Bobrov, N.N. (trans.), Walter, John (Ed.). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns: Pistols and Revolvers of the World, 1870 to 1995. London: Greeenhill Books, 1995.

Writing: How Details Made Monday into Mañana.

manana_anejo_tequilaFor two weeks now, a post about some early Czech and Czechoslovak double action pistols has been hanging fire. The weather hasn’t cooperated, when we’ve wanted natural light for photos. The Firearms Library and Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library haven’t cooperated, with key books that are supposed to be at our fingertips going Lord alone knows where. And our understanding of the guns has been challenged, over and over again, by new (and often contradictory) information.

That post was going to go up today at 0600… then it was going in the 0600 slot. Finally, we face the facts that it’s not going up today… like our Andean Ridge counterparts, we can only promise you mañana, and while the conventional meaning of mañana is held to be tomorrow, anyone with experience in the region can tell you that it really means, not exactly tomorrow, but definitely not today. 

Instead, we’ll tell you a few more general things that working with these early pistols has taught us.

  1. There is no substitute for physically examining specimens, including disassembling them and comparing variations. Yes, it’s tough to pull that off when you don’t own the item in question. But two of the best books about Czechoslovak pistols (Berger’s unfortunately out-of-print Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols and Brown’s fortunately still available Cold War Pistols of Czechoslovakia) are silent on the differences between the CZ 36 and CZ 45, for example. And no English-language source we’re aware of accurately describes the lockwork of the Czech/Austrian Little Tom pistols.
  2. That said, a single specimen is just that — it’s a snapshot of one day’s production (and the firearm’s subsequent travels and service). This is especially true on things like hunting weapons and pistols, where some degree of personalization or customization is hardly rare. (Some day, collectors and reenactors will try to figure out what was “the camouflage pattern” early 2000s SF guys used on their carbines. Know what? We just rattle-canned ’em at random — and some guys didn’t).
  3. Manufacturers never cared a whit about things like serial number sequences into which collectors read great significance. No more than the chicken cared about the entrails the augur would examine, in ancient times. Collectors tend to be far more anal-retentive or OCD about things like “when the slide serrations changed” than the manufacturer ever was. If 100 slides were out for bluing or some other operation, you might have 100 “old” slides on “newer” serial numbered frames.
  4. Manufacturers’ statements must be taken with a grain of salt, whether they appear in press releases, catalogs, or listings like Gun Digest that get their information from the manufacturer or importer. One (unlicensed) copy of a Czech pistol appeared in the United States with the tagline, “Genuinely American” on the box. Well… in a manner of speaking, it was: a genuinely American act of banditry.
  5. It’s probably impossible to write a book without errors, although we writers sure do try. In some cases, we rely on generally trustworthy information from others, only to propagate a mistake. In others, we read too much into unrepresentative samples.
  6. If the specimen conflicts with the authoritative source, in a way that does not tend to inflate the collector value of the specimen, believe the specimen. (If the conflict would raise the collector value of the specimen, give more credence to the book).

Them’s the generalities. Maybe we’ll get down to specifics… mañana. 

Czechoslovak vz. 22 Picture Post

We recently discussed the Czechoslovak Model (vzor) 22 semi-automatic pistol, the first handgun produced by the state arsenal at Brno, and showed a couple of pictures of an example in our collection. Fine and good, but let’s do like we did with the Praga of similar vintage and look in some depth at the vz. 22.

cz_22-06

The look of this series of guns, which begins with some Mauser experimentals in 1903 and runs through many prototypes and the production M1910 and 1910/14 to the Czech vz. 22, 24 and 27 is a matter of taste; some people like them, and some think they look “blocky” and awkward. Of the series, the vz. 22 probably has the best lines.

cz_22-01

This pistol is a very good condition, late example of the type. As all were, it is chambered for the Czechoslovak Naboj vz. 22, which is functionally the Browning 9 x 17 aka .380 ACP. This particular pistol was accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1923, and seems to have lived a mostly indoor life. The external finish is generally smooth, deep and beautiful, as befits a gun made in an arsenal created in the image of the Mauser-Werke, but internally there are signs of extensive handwork.

cz_22-12

The parts all fit extremely well — too well for machine production only, circa 1920 — and all seem to be marked with full or partial serial numbers, which reminds us of the reports in the literature that these guns were hand-fitted and that the Czechoslovak authorities found the parts not to be interchangeable. (Without more vz. 22s on hand, unlikely considering what we paid Rock Island got for this one, we haven’t yet confirmed that the parts are not interchangeable).

The stocks are made of walnut and have shallow checkering (this is a good first-glance discriminator between the rare vz. 22 and the merely uncommon vz. 24). The finish is deep blue with some parts finished in a heat-straw finish, as was common on Mitteleuropäische pistols of the period. As on Lugers, probably the pistol that is most familiar to collectors and uses such a straw finish on trigger, safety, etc, the straw generally fades long before the blue goes. Our impression, which is subject to change as we see more examples, is that the CZ-Strakonice factory that took the project over (for vz. 24 production) later used fire blue instead. Both are beautiful but not well-wearing finishes.

More pictures after the jump!

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One Man’s Trap is Another Man’s Treasure

This image, which does embiggen, shows a variety of trap guns that are among the many treasures in James D. Julia’s October Auction. Trap guns (which are also called “spring guns,” and other names) were common means of poacher and burglar control from the fifteenth through the 19th centuries. Basically, it’s a firearm arranged to be set up unattended and fired by a tripwire. Such a booby trap could easily be rigged with any firearm and a basic understanding of pulleys, of course, but purpose-made trap guns were cheap and low-maintenance.

JuliaOct16AlarmandTrapGuns

A 1983 American Society of Arms Collectors article[.pdf] by Melvin Flanagan runs through some of the historic trap guns and helps make a tentative identification of some of these… at least, that is, until Julia publishes a final catalog. Numbered from top to bottom:

  1. Sure-Shot trap gun, in which the same tripwire swung the gun on target and then fired it. Designed by Charles D. Lovelace and made in several varieties by several firms from 1913;
  2. Unknown;
  3. W. Cameron trap gun, patented 1891;
  4. Unknown;
  5. Reuthe Trap Gun, fourth model. Frederick Reuthe earned the first US patent for a trap gun in 1857;
  6. Unknown;
  7. A probable 20th-Century fake, probably made in the vicinity of Omaha, Nebraska;
  8. Unknown.

Trap guns were used by the British Army to secure armories during the Colonial gunpowder-raids period in 1773-1775, and, according to Colonial Williamsburg’s history of the powder magazine, was instrumental in the initial overthrow of King George III’s governor in Virginia, Governor Lord John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore (a Scots title). Dunmore had been a career soldier, and later Governor of New York before being named to the wealthier Southern colony. He was a gun-control believer, and sought to confiscate, disable (for instance, by having the locks of the militia’s muskets removed), and to the extent possible, spirit away onto HM’s ships, the arms and ammunition that might feed a rebellion. He set stringent security measures on the magazine at Williamsburg. But on the night of 3-4 June, 1775, a spring gun that was one of those security measures set history in motion:

[A] spring-gun trap set at the Magazine wounded two young men who had broken in. A furious mob stormed the building June 5. Rumors that the royal marines were returning brought out the militia. June 8, Dunmore fled to H.M.S. Fowey. British rule in Virginia was at an end.

SM-70 illustration as a poster: "Wanted: East Germany. The World's Last Headhunter Reservation."

SM-70 illustration as a poster: “Wanted:  Visit East Germany. The World’s Last Headhunter Reservation.” (Thanks to an anonymous reader for the correction — Ed.)

Trap guns have little military application, except as generic booby traps by unlawful combatants. They were used, along with several types of antipersonnel mines, along the inter-German border by the quisling regime in East Germany. Some East German trap guns were converted cartridge-firing firearms, but from 1970 a special purpose directional mine called the Splittermine Modell 1970 was set up at intervals to booby-trap the expanded-metal fence that was one of the many security layers of the Berlin Wall.

Trap guns gradually fell out of favor, especially after World War II as courts came around to the idea that criminals’ rights were more important than victims’. In the USA, the key rulings were Katko v. Briney (1971) and McComb v. Connaghan (1990) in which career criminals (Katko and McComb) were held to be unlawfully killed. At least one other booby-trap dead burglar case was resolved with the acquittal of the booby-trapper, but he used electricity, not a trap gun.

Despite these rulings, trap guns and booby-traps are not banned, per se, in many jurisdictions. But it’s hard to imagine a situation in which an attorney would advise a property owner to deploy such devices. They’re a use of deadly force that is not being used to protect life and limb; they seem to fail several prongs of the use of deadly force test.

Consequently, the trap gun is an artifact of a lost period in history, and a collector’s item… some of which are coming available at auction.

The First Czechoslovak Service Pistols. Nº2: the vz. 22

The first Czechoslovak service pistol, the Praga, was developed by private industry. The first Czech-developed service pistol from the national arsenals, on the other hand, wasn’t really all that Czech-developed. It was designed by Josef Nickl of Mauser-Werke, and, in his honor, was often called the “N” pistol during its long and fraught development. A version very similar to the one that would become a Czech service pistol was put forward in Oberndorf in 1916 as a single-action 9mm Parabellum auto pistol.

Nickl Mauser 9mm Prototype, auctioned by RIA in 2016.

Nickl Mauser 9mm Prototype Serial Nº 26, auctioned by RIA in 2016. (Rock Island Auctions photo, used by permission).

This hand-crafted, tool-room prototype is, apart from its 9 mm chambering and size, a ringer for the Czechoslovak vz. 22 in many details, as we’ll see. In 1916 and subsequently, Mauser never put his pistol into production, but they let him pitch it to the Czechoslovak military while he was helping set up a production line for Mauser 98 rifles (which would be, confusingly, the vz. 22 and vz. 24 also!). The Czechoslovak Army tested both 9mm and, at their own insistence, scaled-down 9 mm Short (.380) versions. (This development was taking place, according to Col. Dr. Milan Šada, contemporaneously with the procurement of the Praga pistol in 7.65 mm).

The initial accepted version was the vz. (vzor, model) 22 for the cartridge vz. 22 (the 9mm Browning Short or .380 ACP, for all intents and purposes), and from the very beginning, the Czechoslovak Army had trouble with it. In time, they developed an improved version as the vz. 24. That in turn was developed into a 7.65mm pistol for police and export, the straight-blowback vz. 27. (We’ll use the Czech and Slovak word vzor, the official abbreviation vz., and the English word “model” interchangeably in this article. They all mean exactly the same thing and identify the model by year of adoption. Note that, unlike many nations where, say, Model 24s start appearing in 1925 or 26, Czechoslovak practice often had the guns in production before the year of adoption marked on them!)

CZ 22. This is a late one accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1925.

CZ 22. This is a late one accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1925.

One nice thing about Czech and Czechoslovak firearms (inherited from their Austro-Hungarian imperial masters) is that most of the firearms are dated with a proof date (civil weapons) or MOD acceptance date (military ones). Some weapons bear multiple dates, if they were (for instance) accepted by the military, and later proofed for surplus sale.

Model 24s are relatively uncommon, compared to the Model 27 which the Germans kept in high production after the occupation, but the Model 22 is more uncommon yet. Production numbers are estimated at: vz, 27 (and German Pistole Mod. 27), 590,000 (all but about 30,000 of them under the Nazis); vz. 24, 190,000 from 1923-37, possibly -39; vz. 22, about 19,000.

Several common strains in Nickl’s Mauser designs were united in this firearm: a single-action auto pistol with a breech locked by rotating barrel, like an Obregon or some Steyr pistols; and the unusual safety arrangement from the Mauser Model 1910, 1914 and (later) 1934 “pocket” pistols in 6.35 and 7.65mm. The safety has two buttons: One is activated with a sweep of the thumb to put the weapon on safe; the other instantly releases it with a press. Described like that, it sounds awkward, but is quickly learned and intuitive to use.

Left side of the same CZ 22. Note marking "9 mm N" and the second line, which translates to "Czechoslovak State Factory for Arms, Brno."

Left side of the same CZ 22. Note marking “9 mm N” and the second line, which translates to “Czechoslovak State Factory for Arms, Brno.” Is the N for Nickl (some of his Mauser prototypes are so marked), or does in just mean “Cartridge,” abbreviated? The Czech word for “cartridge” is “naboj,” pronounced NA-boy.

The overall size, shape and form of the vz. 22 and later CZ 24 and 27 pistols is very reminiscent of the 7.65mm Mausers, also. The side plate is similar. The frame rails are similar; the slide is similarly offset to the right, from the shooter’s perspective (although the barrel is centered on the frame), which is a peculiarity of the Mausers as well. The grips are similar.

Where the Nickl pistol departs from the earlier Mausers (in which the relative contributions of Nickl, the Feederle brothers, and other Mauser engineers are not entirely clear) is that the Mausers are striker-fired, and the CZs are hammer guns.

Prototypes of the Pistole N (for Nickl) were made in 9×19 mm as well as 9×17. The Czechoslovaks preferred the smaller cartridge (also adopted by other European nations, including but not limited to Italy and Hungary) and that was adopted as Naboj vz. 22. 

The vz. 22 was manufactured at the Czechoslovak State Arsenal, Brno, and it is a rare Czech pistol to bear Brno markings on its slide. (Production of subsequent models would take place in a satellite factory in Strakonice, and after 1936 in Uhersky Brod, and many later pistols, regardless of where they were made, would be marked as if they had been produced in Prague, the corporate seat).

Changes from the Model 22 to the Model 24 were aimed at increasing reliability, increasing interchangeability of parts, and increasing production speed and lowering production costs. The Czechoslovak Army was bedeviled with reliability issues, and the extensive hand-fitting that makes them fit together beautifully makes them hard to replace parts in.

As mentioned above, the Model 22 is a rare pistol that is actually marked as having been made in Brno. Interwar Czechoslovak leaders had a touching faith in the power of central planning, and tried to run their arms industry on such a basis, reorganizing it several times during the short life of the Republic. They decided that Zbrojovjka Brno specialize in rifles (and, when it picked up Vaclav Holek’s MG design from Praga, light MGs); pistols would be made by Česká Zbrojovka’s factory in Strakonice (although they would often be marked “Praha” or Prague, the locaction of ČZ HQ), and over the years other plants would specialize in other weapons. After World War II some pistols would be marked with ZB trademarks (notably the ex-Dušek Duo pistol, the “Aut. Pistole ‘Z’,” but none of them would actually be made by Zbrojovka Brno.

The vz. 22 wasn’t the greatest pistol ever, but it was an important building block in the nascent Czech arms industry. Survivors, fairly plentiful, are prized today. It’s interesting to speculate what its position in auto pistol history might have been, had it been produced as Nickl originally intended, in the 9×19 mm service cartridge.

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