Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

Everybody Loves a Baby… 1911.

Michael Bane's shot of a "real" 1911 and the Baby Rock.

Michael Bane’s shot of a “real” 1911 and the Baby Rock. This picture seems to understate the size difference.

Micro-1911s are all the rage now, as compact carry guns, and Michael Bane has got a great post on ’em on his blog. He compares in depth three .380 ACP micro-1911s, the Rock Island “Baby Rock”, the Colt “Government Model,” and the Browning 1911, and mentions at least in passing everything from the old Colt Pocket Hammerless .380 and the late lamented Llamas to the SIG Sauer P238. The post is good enough to Read The Whole Thing™… keep going or you’ll miss the zinger in the specs.

But before there was even the first Colt Mustang, before there was a Llama (the Spanish/Basque guns, not the Andean camelid), Colt made a completely different gun that has been called the Baby 1911… because it is, exactly, a scaled down 1911, in a smaller caliber. It was the Colt Model 1910 in 9.8 mm.

Colt 1910 98 RIA 01

The 1910 was Colt’s name for the pistol that the Army would adopt as the 1911. In hopes of landing European contracts, Colt made 7/8 scale 1910s in a 7/8 scale round, a proprietary 9.8 mm cartridge (also called a .38, it measured .380 across the bullet, not the .357 of typical American “.38s”). While a quantity (perhaps as few as a thousand rounds) of ammo was made, only a few guns were hand-crafted. At least two of the firearms were left in the white at Colt; one was in the Springfield Armory collection (and may still be), and one, Serial Number 4, later passed into the collection of Edward S. “Scott” Meadows, who had it professionally refinished (!). Curiously, Meadows’s book, US Military Automatic Pistols, says that only Serial Numbers 1-3 and one unnumbered piece are known. Colt 1910 98 SN 4 icollector

Colt 1910 98 RIA 02

In any event, Serial Number 4, whatever its provenance, is generally accepted as authentic, and was sold by Rock Island Auctions in September, 2012. This is the RIA description (noting that RIA later corrected the description, noting that the finish was a reblue).

The experimental Colt Model 1910 pistol was developed by Colt as a possible replacement for the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer Pistol and to compete against Fabrique Nationale in Eastern European markets. Although Winchester manufactured several thousand rounds of 9.8 MM ammunition for the experimental pistol, it did not enter production and only five examples of this pistol were manufactured by Colt circa 1911. Four of these ultra-rare handguns are in museums and private collections. An example of a Colt Model 1910 9.8 MM Pistol is illustrated and described on pages 472-473 of “U.S. MILITARY AUTOMATIC PISTOLS 1894-1920” by Edward S. Meadows. The 9.8 MM Experimental Pistol is a scaled down copy of the very rare Colt Model 1910 .45 ACP Pistol. The slide is shorter and narrower and the 4 1/2 inch barrel has four concentric locking rings. The hammer has flat sides and a checkered spur. The slide has the early rounded rear sight. The slide stop and safety lock appear to be Colt Model 1911 Special Army components. The magazine is a modified Model 1902 Military magazine with un-marked floor plate and a full blue finish. The checkered walnut grips have small diamonds surrounding the screws and are similar to those on the Model 1911 Special Army. The pistol has the high polish Colt commercial blue finish on major components and the bright niter blue finish on the rear sight, hammer, slide lock, trigger and other small components.

As noted, RIA was contacted by a smith who noted that he had blued the gun (not “reblued” because it had never been blued. Because the slide stop and safety of the pistol-in-white shown in US Martial Handguns were also 1911 Special Army parts, this may be the same gun.

The right side of the slide is marked “AUTOMATIC COLT/CALIBRE 38 RIMLESS SMOKELESS” in two unequal lines. The left side of the slide is marked “PATENTED/APR.20.1897.SEPT.9.1902.DEC.19.1905” in a two-line block followed by “COLT’S PT. F.A.MFG. CO./HARTFORD.CT. U.S.A.” in two lines. The left side of the frame is hand-stamped with the serial number, “4” above the trigger guard. “40 CAL/MODEL” are stamped in two vertical lines beneath the slide stop; “40 CAL” is hand-stamped and “MODEL” is stamped with a single die. “RAD 40” (Research and Development) is hand-stamped vertically above the magazine release. “98” is stamped on the lower left side of the barrel chamber above the lug. The pistol is complete with two cartridges with the head-stamp “W.R.A. CO. 9.8 m/m A.C.” and a “U.MC. .38 A..C.P.” cartridge. Included with the pistol are a First Place Award from the 2007 Colt Collectors Association (CCA) Show at Reno, Nevada, a CCA 2007 Display Award, a Texas Gun Collectors Association Spring 2008 Most Historical Award, a Texas Gun Collectors Association Display Award and a notebook entitled “LOST BABY FOUND/COLT’S 9.8 m/m AUTOMATIC PISTOL” which contains the specifications of the pistol and copies of articles written about the pistol’s development.

The nice color pictures are from the Rock Island Auction and illustrate how one might never tell this pistol from a 1911, without having them side by side.

Colt 1910 and 1911 RIA

Serial Number 3 showed up in a June, 1988 American Rifleman article by William H.D. Goddard, who noted at that time only two complete guns, counting one held by Springfield that was made of parts. He did use several A-B comparison pictures.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.09.40 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.09.27 AM

Goddard took an interesting view of the Colt project. In his view, it was never that serious a product for the Hartford firm; instead, it was a bargaining chip to be use to pose a credible threat to what Fabrique Nationale saw as their home market for Browning designs, Europe. Colt representative Eugene Reising (later of H&R and the Marines’ least loved weapon, ever) was  a distinguished marksman and demonstrated the pistol at Bucharest, Romania, outperforming entries from Luger, Mauser and Dreyse, as well as a hapless Steyr entry that failed immediately.

Whether the 9.8 and Reising’s trip (“nothing looked so good to him… as when the Statue of Liberty flashed into view” on his return) was a bargaining chip or not, FN executives, who’d been dragging their feet, quickly cut a new non-compete deal with Colt dividing up the world into two spheres of influence again.

The Romanians? They bought Model 1910s…FN Browning Model 1910s, a simple, sweet blowback pistol. Later, they bought Model 1922s, the same basic gun with a longer barrel and grip.

FN took a similar path to make a gun that they called the Grand Browning in a different proprietary caliber, 9.65 mm. The sources disagree about how many of them were made, but they were made in 1914 just before Herstal and Liège were overrun by the Kaiser’s merry men, which put paid to the idea of production. It is possible that the Grand Browning was another entry in the Colt vs. FN cartel wars, as the five-year agreement concluded after the Romanian competition was signed on 1 July 1912, and would have been up on 30 June 1917. As it happened, the war intervened and made a mess of all orderly arrangements to divide up arms sales.

Still, you can’t look at the 1910 and not want one, although perhaps in a more popular caliber. “We can lament that this design was not produced in quantity, as it is a most appealing size and weight,” Goddard wrote. Indeed. If anyone made them, we bet Michael Bane would race us to be first in line for one.

Sources

Not in the office at the moment, so we’ll give you .pdfs of the relevant pages of US Military Pistols and American Rifleman, June 1988. If we get to the office we’ll replace these The original .pdfs have bee replaced with OCR’d versions.

When You’re Offered a Cross-Dressed Pistol, Part 2 of 2

Yesterday, we looked at a deliberately faked Ithaca M1911A1 being offered by a probably unwitting consignor. Now we have an apparently witting seller misrepresenting a clone as a genuine Browning Hi Power. Buckle up, ’cause it’s going to get ugly here.

Item II: The Phony Browning

Here you have a Hungarian FÉG 9HP Browning Hi-Power Clone, extensively gunsmithed, misrepresented on GunBroker by a Texas seller (M118LRShooter) who is not an FFL  as a genuine Browning and sold for a genuine Browning price of about $1400.

Fake BHP from Texas 1It was only on arrival in Connecticut that Mike, the buyer, realized that he had a mismatched parts gun on an FÉG frame, a disclosure the initial sale did not make. The initial auction was not billed as a Browning clone or an FÉG, but, as you can see, Custom Browning Hi Power 9mm Pistol! Mike began to get a sinking feeling that he’d been had. 

fake_browning_auction_screenshotNot only was this breathed-on clone called a Browning Hi Power in the title of the auction, “Browning” appeared four times and “Hi Power” seven in the description (count them yourself, below). “FÉG,” “Hungary,” “clone” and “copy” are  conspicuous by their absence. We’ll make it easy for the 90% of you that are not red-green color blind with a little color highlighting.

This Browning Hi Power has a custom carry package…all the sharp edges are rounded and smooth…the pistol has been tuned for total reliability and function, as well as accuracy. The sights are a combination of tritium Novak rear night sight, and XS Sight Systems tritium express front night sight…this Browning was meant to be carried and used. Special slim line grips are fitted to this pistol. A Cylinder and Slide trigger kit has been professionally installed resulting in an unbelievably smooth combat trigger. The magazine disconnect has been removed so this pistol will fire with the magazine removed. Browning Hi Power specialists, and defensive shooters will immediately note the custom beavertail on this frame. There is no Hi Power out there that will feel as good as this one in your hand. It is so well done it looks like it came from the factory this way. A commander hammer has been professionally fitted as part of the defensive carry package. Your hand will never get chewed up again….Hi Power shooters will know what I mean…. This pistol has a custom satin black Cerakote finish that will not wear off, or chip. This pistol will come with two original Hi Power 13 round magazines. Add the features up and see what a value this pistol is. If you’re considering buying a Hi Power and having all this custom work done….get ready to write a big check….or win the auction on this one and go to the range…. This is the Custom Browning Hi Power you are searching for.

Mike contacted the seller of the misrepresented pistol, thinking it might have been an inadvertent error.The response he got made him realize that there was no error involved at all, except maybe his. The seller insulted him, standing behind his “as is” boilerplate, and refused to take a telephone call to sort the matter out. “Finders keepers, losers weepers” as gun-sale code of conduct?

There are two mental exercises that will steer you to understanding the integrity level of the seller, M118LRShooter. Put yourself in his position,

  1. If you made an honest error, and inadvertently misrepresented a gun, and the buyer was unhappy he did not get what you falsely advertised, would you take it back?
  2. If you set out to be dishonest, and deliberately and knowingly misrepresented a gun, and the buyer was unhappy he did not get what you falsely advertised, would you then take it back?

Now, we have no way of knowing what was in the mind of Texan seller, M118LRShooter. We only know that he acted as he would if he were operating in Case 2 above.

Then when Mike entered negative feedback — a fair response to a seller misrepresenting a gun about a dozen times in a single listing, the seller — previously quite happy, presumably, to have gotten nearly $1400 for a $400 gun — changed his feedback for the buyer. His initial feedback was:

A+: Excellent buyer! Payment and communication were fast and correct…would do business with this man again…no hesitation…

But that was before the Connecticut buyer found out that he had been defrauded, and left negative feedback for the scamming seller:

Item was clearly described as a Browning Hi Power. Received a FEG PJK-9HP with a Browning slide. Contacted seller w/no resolution. Seller stated that I should’ve asked more questions about its origin.

Then, the seller responded with the same message, essentially, “it was as-is, FU” and changed his earlier feedback to punish the buyer for exposing the fraud:

F: If a buyer has specific questions about things that are important to him…he should ask them, not blame a seller for his mistake. This guy is a 10% buyer…watch out. I will always block this bidder!

Well, yeah, scammers tend not to respect or like their marks.

The story may not be over yet, although it seems to be at an impasse at this time. The whole sad tale is here on the 1911 Forum.

In practical terms, the seller buyer (duh) has no recourse. It’s too hard to prove criminal intent. It doesn’t yet seem to be a pattern of behavior from the seller. No sane lawyer would take an interstate civil case for such a small amount in dispute.

The Factory Frauds

As it happens, a lot of FÉGs are inadvertently misrepresented as actual Hi-Powers, because they are very close copies (the parts interchangeability of these reverse-engineered Iron Curtain clones is practically 100%), and because FÉG themselves mislabeled entire runs of these pistols during the Iron Curtain era. Here are two images of different FÉG clones bearing spurious FN rollmarks:

feg fake browningMost of these clones that are found in US and European collector circles are not in good condition; many of them came from Israeli stocks, and seem to comprise both weapons Israel bought and issued to police (which are heavily holster worn) and weapons Israel recovered from Arab nations and guerrilla movements, which tend to signs of Arab (i.e., no) maintenance.

feg fake browning IISome of these guns were imported directly into the USA like that (by Kassnar), and Browning and FN apparently let them get away with it, back in the 1980s.

Why these guns were made is uncertain, but it seems probable that large numbers of them were intended to be used as “deniable” weapons by Warsaw Pact clandestine services and by Soviet and Satellite supported terrorist groups in the 1980s. Some may also have been sold directly (or indirectly) to Israel in contravention of the bloc’s pro-Arab policies, for the private profit of those doing the deal. FÉG did cut a deal later with Israel to support Israeli production of the BHP, and that deal was almost certainly done under the table.

Others may have been injected in international commerce at a premium price over the FÉG clones, with the delta between what FÉG earned and what the middleman got from the end user nation probably going to some secret policeman’s or Politburo member’s offshore bank account.

A great many of these clones are going to get sold as Brownings sooner or later, and a great many of them already have. Note that the misrepresented FÉG parts gun in the first part of this story was not one of these guns, it appears to have a genuine Browning slide on a FÉG frame.

When You’re Offered a Cross-Dressed Pistol, Part 1 of 2

The current fascination with trannies has, if nothing else, alerted people to the idea that all is not as it seems. That is true, too, in the world of collector pistols. We’re going to look at two cases — one, where a buyer almost got burned, and one, where a buyer did get burned. Today, we’ll display a 1911 that the buyer got alarmed by, and that the gunshop handling returned to its consignor. (It was priced low for a genuine gun in this condition, suggesting that the consignor and shop were no part of the fraud, which may have taken place years ago). Tomorrow, we’ll show you a “Browning Hi Power” that wasn’t, and unfortunately left a GunBroker buyer stuck with a fake gun and little recourse. To add insult to injury, the bad-faith seller has given the buyer he ripped off bad feedback on the auction site!

ITEM: The Minty 1911 that was a hair “off.”

You seldom see a GI 1911 in such high condition any more. Most of them are locked away in private collections and museums, despite all the millions of them that were made. (Hundreds of thousands still in US possession were destroyed during the 1990s). Most of this comes from a two-page thread at a single collectors’ forum — and not even one that specializes in guns or 1911s.

Ithaca 1911-FAKE03There are five things that are very subtle, but suspect, in that picture, but they point to a gun that was deliberately modified or remanufactured as a fake, and a gun that is as it sits there is likely to be a serious violation of Federal criminal law.

Here’s the other side of the suspect firearm:

Ithaca 1911-FAKE02Why, it’s a rare Ithaca Gun Co. 1911, in really superior condition! (Or is it?). Can we see the whole thing? Why, sure:

Ithaca 1911-FAKE01

Everything looks right, even the color change in the parkerizing reflecting the heat treating of the slide. So this is one of the 335,466 1911s Ithaca made during the Big One, right?

Wrong. Here’s the left and right sides of a real Ithaca, close to this gun’s putative production date. (Source of information, this great gathering of Ithacas on Model1911A1.com).

Ithaca 2075739R Ithaca 2075739LOK, here are the reasons the first gun is bogus:

  1. Look at the grips, specifically, how much of the frame is showing in front of and behind the grips. This is not normal variation: most GI 1911s look like the last two pictures. How did this happen? When the receiver was shaved or planed narrower, the curve of the front- and back-straps made the “margins” around the grip “grow.” (The frame was shaved to allow it to be remarked with new and different markings).
  2. Look in front of the trigger guard, at the side of the receiver there towards where the slide enters the frame. (This area is called the “dust cover,” by the way). Compare the height (top-to-bottom) of that flat surface in the known good gun and in the suspect gun (red background). Shaving the sides of the frame, due to the curve of its very bottom, means that the flat gets broader (or, oriented to three dimensions, “higher.”)
  3. Look at the M1911A1 finger cutouts. They’re very distinct on the factory gun, and you can imagine how thinning the frame would reshape these — and require the forger to recut them. The cutouts on the suspect gun have not only been recut, they’ve been smoothed in and don’t show the distinct edge of the factory gun.
  4. We’re holding one back. Don’t need to overeducate the forgers, eh?
  5. The serial number is a outside the known Ithaca serial number range, and that range is known to be complete.

Legal Issues with This Gun, and the Moral(s) of the Story

The gun was made by shaving a frame (possibly a more common GI frame, possibly a no-name commercial frame) to remove the rollmarks and serial number in entirety before engraving new information on here. The legality of that is not in doubt: it is stone cold illegal to alter the serial number on any firearm, period, full stop.

Moral of story: beware, beware, beware. If you just want a .45 for a shooter this “Ithaca” one is OK, except for the presumably altered serial number, which makes it contraband. (It may be legal if it was made not from a factory lower but from a blank or incomplete lower. But if that was how it was done, why would it have been shaved?)

Second moral of story: this gun was exposed for two reasons: 1, because the maker took the short cut of using some existing 1911 frame. If somebody started with a frame blank he wouldn’t need to shave (and alter the appearance) of a 1911 frame. And 2, because he used a fictitious serial number. The first thing that exposed this firearm was that its serial number was outside the known Ithaca range, which is known by historians to be completely and correctly documented. Bottom line: you can’t know too much about a gun you’re thinking of buying. Heck, you can’t know too much about the guns you own already.

White-Filled Serial Numbers etc.

Incidentally, there are two reasons at least that serial numbers and other markings may be filled with paint or chalk in auction pictures:

  1. The seller wants to bring out the markings for the benefit of the seller (99% of the time); or,
  2. The seller wants to conceal the fact that the markings were made by engraving or individual character stamps, not factory rollmarks.

And an exit laugh…

The phony Ithaca situation would be funny, if people hadn’t been taken by products like this. But not all fakes are that well executed. There’s this one, for instance.

uniteted_states_property

Lord love a duck!

What Does this Rock have in Common with These Guns?

It’s poll time! What does this funny looking rock have in common with these guns?

Cabot Rock Guns

What do the rock and the gun parts have in common?

 
pollcode.com free polls

Answer? You know it: after the jump!

Continue reading

Small News Items on Army Small Arms

There’s a bunch of little news bits going around the Army about maintenance issues and problems. We’ll cover them from most to least serious:

Item: Somebody Blew It

Beretta_M9_FAIL

File photo of failed M9 slide. Not the mishap firearm.

In late 2015, a very high (but unknown) round count M9 pistol had a catastrophic failure of the slide. With the Army scrimping on O&M money, especially on the ripe-for-replacement Beretta handgun, failures are not unusual and usually turn out to be fatigue failures from parts that have been carelessly used long past their service life. So was this one. The pistol was older than the soldier shooting it, and, as it turned out, someone, somewhere had pencil-whipped the maintenance records.

Slides fail every week, somewhere in an Army with hundreds of thousands of pistols that were almost all bought 30 years ago. But what happened next wasn’t supposed to happen. When the pistol slide failed at the slide’s weakest point, the locking-block cuts, the rear half of the slide kept on motoring, striking the GI in the cheek and upper jaw area and causing non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation determined that a mandatory maintenance work order, MWO 9-1005-317–30-10-1, issued twenty-seven years ago in March, 1989, had never been complied with. They couldn’t track where the pistol was at the time it was not repaired; Army units and activities with M9s had until June, 1993 to comply.

Somebody reported that his M9s were in compliance, when they weren’t. This is what you get when a zero-defects, up-or-out culture undermines integrity while at the same time penny-pinching undermines maintenance. The soldier who drew that defective M9, and every soldier that’s been drawing and shooting it since 1989, is damned lucky to be alive. (Fortunately, when a slide fails on most pistols (or a bolt on a Mauser C96, etc.), gravity usually  ensures that the part hits below the eye, on cheek, jaw, chest or shoulder).

Meanwhile, the Army sent an urgent Safety-of-Use message mandating an Army-wide inspection of all M9s for completion of the MWO. Since the resources for completing the MWO no longer exist, the remedial action is to immediately deadline and turn in the offending M9 and draw a replacement.

How many units pencil-whipped their response to that ALARACT message?

Item: Safety? Sometimes it’s Evolution in Action

FOOM!Word is, some genius removed himself from the breeding population of Homo sapiens in 2014 by “improvising” M203 ammo (may have been 320) by cutting the links off of (higher-pressure) Mk19 belted ammo. The links were actually designed so they couldn’t snap off by hand, to prevent that.

Can we get a “FOOM!” from the assembled multitudes?

And oh, yeah, trying to belt up 203 ammo and fire it in an Mk 19 leads to FOOM also, of a different variety — out of battery ignition. Another opportunity for poka-yoke missed.

Item: Ambi Selectors Reaching Troops.. slowly

The Army has finally woken up to two facts:

  1. About 10% of the troops are left-handed, and
  2. There are lots of good ambi selectors available.

So the Army chose one and put it into the pipeline. So far so good, right? Not entirely. The selectors are only being replaced when the weapons are overhauled. And they don’t fit in the M12 racks many units still have. Work around is to cut a notch in the rack with a torch, or with a file and plenty of time, or to bend the part of the rack that hits the right-side selector out of shape so that the selector clears the rack.

Also, the slow migration of the ambi selectors means not all M4/M16 weapons in any given unit have them. Why don’t they just push the parts down to the unit armorers? Three reasons:

  1. The big one: they’re afraid of armorers stealing parts if they take rifles apart
  2. It doesn’t fit the concept of echeloned maintenance, even though that’s being streamlined;
  3. They don’t trust the armorers let alone the Joes, not to botch the installation.

On top of that, of course, it’s not penny wise and pound foolish in the great Army tradition.

Item: New Stuff Coming in, Old Stuff Going Out

A number of new arms are reaching the troops, and old arms are going away.  We’ll have more about that in the future, especially the M2A1 and the coming “rationalization” of an explosion of shotguns and sniper rifles. We just broke it out of this post to keep the length manageable.

ITEM: MG Maintenance Problems = Operator Headspace & Timing

m249-PIPThe biggest single problem the Army has with the current pair of machine guns (M240 and M249) is burned out barrels. That’s caused by not changing barrels, either in combat, or especially on the range. Often, units go out without the spare barrel so it’s not like they gave themselves any option.  (The M2 version of this is going out with only one set of gages for the M2s. The gages are not required for the M2A1). The Army is falling back into the peacetime mindset of “leave it in the arms room and we can’t lose it.” True enough, we’ll just destroy the one we take out instead.

The fact is, and it’s a fact widely unknown to GIs, MGs have rate-of-sustained-fire limitations that are lower than they think. (Remember the MGs that failed at Wanat? They were being operated well outside their designed, tested envelope).

The M249 should never be fired more than 200 rounds rapid fire from a cold barrel. Then, change to a cold barrel, repeat. The Army being the Army, there are geniuses who think that they can burn a couple belts in a few seconds, change barrels, burn a couple belts in a couple more seconds, then put the original honkin’ hot barrel back in and burn — you get the idea. If you have a situation where you’re going to fire a lot of rounds from a single position, like a predeployment MG familiarization for support troops or a defensive position, you might want to lay in some extra barrels (and yes, Army supply makes that all but impossible, so you have to cannibalize your other MGs).

The M240 is a little more tolerant but should still be changed every 2 to 10 minutes of firing, and even more frequently if the firing tends towards real sustained fire. (The deets are in the FM, which is mostly only available on .pdf these days).

One last thought, your defensive MG positions need to have alternate, displace positions, and you need to displace after sustained fire from one position — unless you want to share your hole with an exploding RPG, ATGM or mortar round. “Where’s your secondary position?” or “-fallback position?” should not produce the Polish Salute.

As ordnance experts have observed ever since World War II, a barrel can be burnt out due to overheat and still mic and even air-gauge good. You only know it’s hosed when it can’t shoot straight.

Well-maintained MGs are more accurate than people seem to give them credit for. Some SOF elements have selective fire M240s and really, really like them. (The standard M240 has no semi setting). They’re capable of surprising accuracy from the tripod.

ITEM: For Want of a Cord, a Career was Lost

GIs frequently lose or throw away the idiot cord on the PVS-14 night vision monocular. If these sights were being properly inspected, which they usually aren’t until a team comes in just before deployment, they’d be tagged NMC (non mission capable) for missing  that stupid cord. You don’t want to be in the bursting radius of a unit CO who’s just been told 85% of his night vision is NMC… especially when that news is delivered in earshot of his rater and senior rater. It’s a bull$#!+ requirement but it’s in the book, and if the Army ever has to choose between following the book or winning the war, the book comes up trumps every time.

You’re not going to stop GIs from losing cords, but replacement cords are in the supply catalog.

Why Your Professor Doesn’t Let You Cite Wikipedia, and Other Misfacts

What was the first Double-Action/Single-Action self-loading pistol? We think we know the answer, but let’s check with Wikipedia. In the article on “Trigger (firearms)” they tell us several times what it is:

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame, safety with 90º of rotation, and the fragile wraparound grip. The circular marking above the magazine release (all PPKs were made with the Browning-style release used on all but the earliest PPs) is the logo of RZM, the Reichszeugsmeisterei — literally “Imperial Thing Master” but really the Nazi Party’s quartermaster store. (It later was part of the now defunct McGraw Kaserne in Munich). 

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Walther introduced the first “double-action” semi-automatics, the PPK and P.38 models, which featured a revolver-style “double-action” trigger, which allowed the weapon to be carried with a round chambered and the hammer lowered.

Umm… conventional wisdom is that it was the PP, in 1929 (although as we’ll see, the conventional wisdom is almost as wrong as Wikipedia on this).

Very Early Walther PP. This one has a heel magazine release like its forerunner, the internal-hammer SA-only Model 8. (It's for sale in Pennsylvania).

Very Early Walther PP. This one has a heel magazine release like its forerunner, the internal-hammer SA-only Model 8. (It’s for sale in Pennsylvania). PP stood for Polizei Pistole, and the shortened (in both grip/mag and barrel) was the PP “Kriminal” or “Detective Police Pistol.” (Plainclothes detectives were and are called the Kriminalpolizei). 

The PPK didn’t come along until 1931, and design of the P.38 didn’t even get rolling until the mid-thirties. But they repeat this “fact” that isn’t a fact, in the same article:

There are thousands of examples of DA/SA semi-automatics, the Walther PPK being the first, followed up by the Walther P-38.

Again, the PPK wasn’t even the first Walther. Wikipedia has no PPK article, (the PPK links above go to the Walther PP article), but the PP article is a dog’s breakfast of random and contradictory claims. It does note that the PP began to be manufactured in 1929 but elsewhere (on the same page!) claims it wasn’t used as a German service pistol until 1935, was produced in France from 1945 to 1986, was produced in the USA from 1945 for Interarms (Interarms didn’t exist yet, and there was no need for a US-made PPK before the Gun Control Act of 1968), and a few paragraphs from the French production from 1945 claim, they date the onset of French (Manurhin) production to 1952, and that the PPK is much more popular than the PP. (Not if you count German police sales).

See, this is why your professor goes ape if you cite Wikipedia on a term paper. Because if you use it to look up something you already know about, you see how crummy it really is. There are literally dozens of mistakes on the two pages we cited and linked.

Starting with, “What was the first double-action semi-automatic pistol?”

However, Wikipedia is not alone in crediting it to Walther. Some other outfits that do include:

In 1929, the company revolutionized the world of semi-auto pistols with the introduction of the first double-action (DA) model, the Walther PP. This was followed in 1930 by the slightly more compact Walther PPK.

Why this little bit of Walther historical trivia?

Uh, cause it’s wrong? That’s probably not why he included it, eh. He probably didn’t know. Who else didn’t know?

The Walther PP, introduced in 1929, was the first commercially successful double action (DA) pistol.

Well, to his credit, he didn’t say PPK and he included “commercially successful.” But even given this weasel-wording, he’s wrong, as at least one DA/SA auto pistol was made in quantities of tens of thousands before the Walther PP saw the light of day.

Jeez. Did anyone get this right? At least, that the PP wasn’t the original DA/SA automatic?

Well, yeah. Garry James at the American Rifleman, come on down:

Introduced in 1929, Carl Walther’s PP (Polizei Pistole) was by no means the first double-action semi-automatic ever designed—several had appeared since 1905—but unlike most of the earlier attempts it worked, and worked well.

James is right. Who else? How about no less an authority than Edward C. Ezell?

Walther was not the first company to introduce a double-action, self-loading pistol, but they were the first to create a commercially attractive and economically practical double-action self-loader. ….

Although the PP can be viewed as a simple evolution of design– it has the same disassembly system as the Model 8 –it was really a revolutionary product at the time.NOTE

We do think even Ezell overstates the case for the uniqueness of the PP.

And next week (after we’ve sorted the gunsmith special on our bench) we hope to have some info on the real first mass-produced SA/DA autopistol:  the Little Tom of Alois Tomiška, which we mentioned last month in a post that featured images of two .32 ACP versions.

A .32 Little Tom produced by Wiener Waffenfabrik in Wien (Vienna), Austria in the 1920s.

A .32 Little Tom produced by Wiener Waffenfabrik in Wien (Vienna), Austria in the 1920s.

Oh, and the Little Tom? The most unique thing about it is not its DA/SA lockwork, because other designers went on to copy that.

In Praise of the Single Shot Firearm

We have never had the patience for single shot firearms. That is exactly why we like them.

Here's a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn't get simpler than this.

Here’s a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn’t get simpler than this. All images from GunBroker.

We probably should explain that. Patience, you see, is a virtue, but it’s one that is unevenly distributed. (It can be developed, to a degree, but like any other talent you can only build on the foundation you already have). And like any young guy with limited patience, we always sought ways of firing MOAR BULLETZ MOAR FASTLY.

Here's a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1

Here’s a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1. Available in calibers for squirrel to dangerous African game.

It took a while to dawn on us that time spent practicing speedloads so that you could burn another mag (or belt) in the general direction of the berm, while fun, wasn’t necessarily productive.

You see, whether you are shooting in a competition (and in SF, shooting was always a competition, even if only with your teammates for who’d buy the beers), or shooting for real (which is the ultimate competition), only hits count. 

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There’s something about the necessary discipline of loading a single round, aiming it, firing it, extracting and repeating as needed. It seems to settle the mind and encourage attention to the fundamentals of shooting.

In these days of .22 ammo shortages, it’s nice to have a natural rhythm, and get an hour of shooting out of a box or two of ammo.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot .22 is a sporter on a target action.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot bolt action .22 is a sporter on a target action.

The funny thing is this: any repeater, semi-auto or revolver can be a single shot if you want it to be. Simply single-load the rounds. This can get fiddly with some auto actions where the follower activates the bolt hold-open, and it doesn’t work with some tightly-enclosed actions, like many lever actions. But while it really does work with most guns, it doesn’t force on you a deliberate rhythm, the way a single shot firearm does.

There’s something about a single-shot firearm. The guy shooting a single shot is serious… he’s like the guy that rides his bicycle to work, or the guy who disdains a guitar collection for one simple Telecaster because he hasn’t found all its tones yet in the forty years he’s owned it.

Shooting single-shot is doing things the hard way, not because there’s no alternative, but simply to rise to the challenge of it.

What Should the Army Do About Pistols?

On the way out? Beretta M9

On the way out? Beretta M9.

The Army is dissatisfied with the M9 9mm pistol. Many of the existing guns are badly worn. A complex, expensive Joint Modular Handgun Program is underway, trying to use a 367-page specification to select a complete system to replace the M9 and the M11 undercover pistol. Recently, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley poured scorn on the Modular solicitation. (It’s almost as if he reads WeaponsMan.com1).

What should the Army do? What do you think? Here’s a chance to make your voice heard! Maybe Mark Milley is listening.2

What Should the Army Do about the Pistol Problem?

 
pollcode.com free polls

 

That’s about all the options we could think of.

Notes

  1. We’re pretty sure he isn’t. He has flunkies to do his reading for him.
  2. See Note 1.

The Engineering History of the M9’s Pivoting Locking Block

M9_DA-SN-91-11017As most of you know, the US 9mm Pistol M9 uses a pivoting block design, originally developed and patented in 1950 by engineer Tullio Marengoni of Beretta of Gardone, Val Trompia, Italy. But he drew, of course, on the 1936 design by engineers at Carl Walther Waffefabrik, then in Zella-Mehlis in the state of Thuringia, Germany, that would become the P-38 locking system. However, Walther’s designers, Fritz Walther himself and Fritz Barthelmnes, drew in turn upon earlier work by the Mauser-Werke’s Josef Nickl and Nickl’s own mentors, the three Feederle brothers. Thus does one feature of one famous firearm bear the stamp of not just one, but seven brilliant designers, each one of whom has passed on and each of whom is better known for other firearms!

There are actually more designers involved than that, because the Beretta M92/M9 has undergone quite a bit of engineering work in recent years, after production engineering “improvements” over the original M1951 materials and methods turned out to reliability engineering disasters; but the original M92/M9 locking block was very little altered from its M1951 forebear.

To tell the whole story, we must go back to the beginning of automatic pistols and the Feederle brothers, Friedrich, Fidel, and Josef, the developers of the Mauser 1896 pistol, the famous “broomhandle,” the first commercially successful self-loading automatic pistol. By 1907 they were working on a new design that involved a large pivoting block as shown in German Imperial Parent (D.R.P.) Nº. 209513. (The patent is in Paul Mauser’s name, as was normal in the Mauser-werke, but it was the Feederles’ work). The locking block of the experimental 1907 Mauser is large and located behind the breech face in the rear of a slide, but the way it pivots to lock the slide to the barrel during the short recoil is the first invention on the way to the M9’s locking system. But the Feederle brothers are certainly best-known for the C96, which used a different locking method entirely.

mauser_locking_block_patentA Feederle protégé brought the next innovation into the design when Bavarian engineer Josef Nickl began experimenting with breech locking. Nickl’s goal was to update the Mauser 1910/1914 pocket pistol to a more powerful cartridge like the 9mm Parabellum, and he tried many different kinds of locked-breech mechanism to make this work. At one time or another, he experimented with flap-locking ike a Degtyaryev machine gun, a rotating barrel like the Mexican Obregon, and the mechanism in which we’re interested in — a pivoting locking block that moves much like a Beretta locking block, but is mounted below the barrel. This patent — credited, as usual, to Paul Mauser — was DRP Nº. 250493 of February 5, 1911.

mauser_locking_block_patent_sketch

A prototype, serial number 4, survives and has passed through several top-flight collections, including Dr. Geoffrey Sturgess’s. The following Nickl prototype pistol will be in the RIA April auction. It’s in .45 caliber (one of several such Mauser-werke prototypes) and may be flap or pivoting-block locked (it’s not clear). It is marked with the serial number “2”.

mauser bretherton tipping block locked 2

The following is  9mm pistol, serial # 129, showing the “chipmunk cheeks” of the Nickl pistol using Degtyaryev locking-flaps. It too is in the RIA April auction.  mauser bretherton flap locked 2

Nickl, though, is not famous at all for his locking block, which is a footnote to Mauser’s efforts at best. He is best known today as the father of the first “native” Czechoslovak firearm, the Vzor (Model) 24 pistol, a barely-modified, badge-engineered version of one of his Mauser prototypes. Nickl offered it to the Czechoslovaks while installing a Mauser-built production line for rifles at the Zbrojovka Brno plant.

walther_locking_block_patentWhen the Walther firm developed a 9mm pistol bringing their double-action, single-action / safety-decocker concept to the service pistol, their design had three new patented features: the dual recoil springs, the hammer design, and — germane to our subject here — the locking block. While Fritz Walther, son of Carl whose name was on the letterhead, was involved in the design, the principal design seems to have been that of engineer Fritz Barthelmnes, then a Walther employee. According to Bruce’s excellent book, Walther’s name alone appears on the relevant German patent, DRP 721702, applied for 21 October 1936 and issued 15 June 1942, but Barthelmnes is actually also credited on the patent and on derivative foreign patents.

walther_locking_block_patent_sketch_1

The key feature of the Walther block, missing from earlier versions, is the unlocking or disengaging pin that ensures positive unlocking of the block (#12 in the illustration above).

Barthelmnes is known, of course, for the P.38, but he’s arguably better known for his own postwar FB-Record blank and air pistols.

Which brings us to Italy and Tullio Marengoni. At a glance, Marengoni’s 1950 patent (Italian Patent Nº 467871) appears almost identical to the Walther patent. In fact, we were unable to get our hands on the Italian patent and see just what Marengoni is claiming that Walther and Barthelmnes didn’t in their 1936 patent — but it’s interesting that Marengoni does not cite the two Fritzes’ patent at all, according to the patent citation records at the German patent office. (This may be caused by the German database not seeing foreign patents). If we can get a hand on Marengoni’s patent, we’ll see if we can determine where his design differs from Walther’s (a diagram in Bruce’s book does show that one of the claims was the Beretta disconnector, quite different from a P.38’s).

So next time you check an M9 out of the arms room, take a good look at that block! You’re handling the best efforts of many of the world’s greatest firearms inventors, all the way back to the first auto pistols in the 19th Century.

Sources

Bruce, Gordon. The Evolution of Military Automatic Pistols: Self-Loading Pistol Designs of Two World Wars and the Men who Invented Them. Woonsocket, RI: Mowbray Publishing, 2012.

German Patent Information System Network (DEPATISNET). Various historical patent documents. Searched at and Retrieved from https://depatisnet.dpma.de/

Dynamis ZEV: This is Not Bubba’s Glock

Yesterday affternoon we promised you more information on the Dynamis Alliance / ZEV Glock pistol. We have a couple of pictures and a little more information at this time. Let’s start with the pictures!

Dom Raso ZEV limited production glock01

Trainer and former SEAL Dom Raso says he has put 5,000 rounds through the first pistol, and that he’s thoroughly satisfied with it. As these pictures show, those rounds went through in a wide range of conditions. These pictures also show some of the mods than make these guns special:

Dom Raso ZEV limited production glock

There’s a unique ZEV-Dynamis slide with broad serrations (that appear to be neither unusually deep nor snaggily sharp) over the whole side of the slide; it’s marked with the Dynamis and ZEV logos. The frame has a fine-grained stipple job and one of ZEV’s custom triggers. And the barrel is dimpled, and the Surefire light is part of the package.

We’re told there are going to be exactly 50 of these made. The work, is, throughout, well done and well integrated. It might not be to your taste, and if that’s the case, you might be just as well served by a stock Glock. The defensive pistolero (or pistolera) for whom this pistol is just right will probably know it right away.

UPDATE: After we went live with this post, OTR sent us some more information that he picked up during his Situational Combatives post.

  • It’s on a G3 frame because that’s what they could get for this run of 50. They wanted a fourth generation frame, but there’s no stripped G4 new frames in the supply chain yet.
  • There may be subsequent runs of the gun, but they’re not sure when. Subsequent runs will have the G4 frame if possible.
  • Price is … drumroll… $3k! Leading to this discussion:

Nose: Eeek. But probably in the ballpark for a ZEV built gun.
OTR: OK. I exaggerated. It is only $2,995.00.

  • Even at that price (it’s a Glock for the love of Mike, not a Rolex) demand is high.