Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

Six Millimeter Shorter Casing = $1,000 in Collector Value

This Czech vz. 52/57 rifle just sold last night on GunBroker for $1,375.00, or roughly $1,000 more than a typical vz. 52 in similar condition goes for. Where did the extra grand come from? We’ll tell you, which will require a short trip down the Warsaw Pact memory lane, and a little bit of supply and demand economics. There’s going to be some numbers, perhaps, but we will not tax anybody’s rusty math skills.

(By the way, we didn’t bid on this rifle, even though we’ve bought from this seller and were watching the auction. No reason but the sleep-intensive weekend; as a normal practice we never bid until the last minutes of the auction, and we were racked out with Small Dog Mk II when the vz. 52/57 found its new home).

Where a vz. 52/57 comes from

The Czechoslovak model 52 semiautomatic rifle is an interesting gun that borrows many manufacturing processes from the German weapons that had been made in the same factories just before. It was part of an immediate postwar reimagining of Czechoslovak small arms that produced new rifles, pistols, submachine guns, and light machine guns over a period of four years from 1948 to 1952. The firearms were initially intended to be chambered for a new 7.62 x 45 mm intermediate cartridge (rifle and MG) and the old European standard pistol round, 9 x 19 mm  (pistol and SMG).

As it happened, though, something else happened in 1948 — the Soviet-controlled Czech Communist Party overthrew the republic in a nearly bloodless coup (there were only a couple of murders and disappearances).

Within a year or two, the Czechoslovak Army was renamed the ČS People’s Army, and directed to conform to Soviet calibers. Or else! (But a resistant Czech or Slovak didn’t get shipped to Siberia… someone who didn’t suck up to the Fraternal Soviet Big Brother sufficiently went to the mines at Jachymov, to mine radioactive pitchblende with hand tools. For ten years or death, whichever comes first). Needless to say, everyone disinclined to a career-change towards uranium mining thought changing calibers was a brilliant idea.

The pistol was easily redesigned before it shipped to use the 7.62 x 25mm Russian round instead of the 9mm Parabellum, and so there were no production Model 52 pistols made (at least, initially) for the Western round. Even though the prototypes had been developed with the 9 mm, the pistol’s roller locking system was, like most such, adaptable to a wide range of loads and only a barrel swap was required. Likewise, conversion of the Sa. vz. 48 submachine gun was fairly straightforward, although with the magazine in the grip, a new, awkward grip angle was required to make the necked 7.62 feed properly.

This is one tell of a 52/57 — they wrote the nomenclature right on it.

Converting the vz. 52 rifle and the light machine gun vz. 52 to the Soviet caliber was not as easily done; some of the engineering talent in the Czechoslovak arsenals was tied up doing this until the converted rifle and companion MG rolled out in 1957, as the vz. 52/57. New production immediately converted, and sufficient existing guns were converted to arm active-duty ČSLA units, with the knowledge that a new assault rifle (the vz. 58, which was developed from the start for the Soviet M43 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge) was coming.

Another tell is the forward handguard, painted black.

Excess stocks of the old vz. 52s and their 7.62 x 45 ammunition were stored and many were exported to “fraternal socialist states” and “national liberation movements,” which is to say, guerrilla and terrorist movements worldwide. Vz. 52s turned up in Laos, Vietnam, the Congo, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and a decade later in Africa and Central America. The global diaspora of vz. 52s and 52/57s took on a new direction with importation of surplus guns to the United States. Prior to 1990s importation, the only vz. 52s in the country were GI bringbacks from Vietnam or Grenada.

The Collector Consequences

As we mentioned, a 52/57 is worth three to four times the value of a “slick” vz. 52. We believe that this is a function of supply and demand — some factors lower the supply, and others increase the demand.

Supply Factors: We don’t have numbers at our fingertips yet, but we believe raw numbers are one factor in the higher value of the the vz. 52/57. We believe fewer were made. The vz. 52 was made in plants in Považska Bystrica (coded aym) and Uherský Brod (she); the vast majority were coded “she.”  But the vz. 52 was in production from 1952 (late; it’s a rare date code to find) through 1957. Peak production seems to have been 1955/56. The vz. 52/57 was introduced in 1957, but that’s a rare date code on that version; most are coded 58 and 59. We’ve never seen one coded 60 or later.

In addition, the vz. 52 was widely exported, especially to Cuba which demanded 100,000 of them, 400,000 spare magazines, and 4 million rounds of ammunition. The Cubans in turn re-exported the Czech weaponry to every hippie with a cause and dictator wannabe worldwide in the ’60s and ’70s; this ensured that lots of surplus vz. 52s were here and there for importers to find and pounce on in the 90s and oughts. But by the time the Czechoslovaks replaced their 52/57s with vz 58s in the early 60s, they’d been cut out of the supply chain to Cuba by their Soviet masters. The Soviets had initially approved them supplying the Cubans to provide plausible deniability of Soviet arming of the island nation; once the cat was out of the bag, there was no more need for indirection in weapons supply. Ergo, the Cubans got few if any vz. 52/57s and the smaller numbers of this model were also less available for export to the USA.

Demand Factors: One of the obvious ones is that, with the vz. 52/57 being rarer, people trying to complete a collection of Czech weapons, or semiauto service rifles, or 7.62 x 39 service rifles, need to find one and people pursuing these collector themes are competing with one another to an extent that doesn’t happen with the vz. 52. But there is also competition for the 52/57s from shooters, because 7.62 x 39 ammunition is available everywhere and relatively inexpensive, but 7.62 x 45 is unavailable, after an initial brief splash of surplus that came in with the rifles.

The magazine is also a “tell.” Only the 52/57 has this about 25º angled base. Rifles were issued with two magazines, but troops were expected to load with stripper clips. Spare magazines for either vz. 52 are rare and expensive.

Given that shooters have many 7.62 x 39 options for far less than the $1,400 of a vz. 52/57, it seems probable that the main thing driving the price difference between the 52 and the 52/57 is collector demand vs. short supply; a secondary factor is that collectors who also desire to shoot the arms in their collection will have a preference for the version that shoots common ammo.

Are these Factors Generally Applicable?

Supply and Demand is not only an important economic concept, it’s as good as a natural law. If you see a price for what seems to be a common arm, your first reaction may be that the buyer or bidders is/are on crack. But when you look closely, most of the time you will see the hidden supply and demand factors that conspire to set that price point at which the market clears. If you don’t see them, then you will be tempted to conclude that someone in the transaction is using mind-altering chemicals. However, before you commit to that as your final answer, reconsider the possibility that there are supply and demand factors that you may have overlooked.

In our case, we know from experience that we make errors in understanding firearms valuations more often that we actually encounter drug-addled collectors. After all, what collector needs a drug? You’ve got all the serotonin and endorphin jolt you can imagine when you score something rare. Like, say, a vz. 52/57.

Powder Pioneer: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier was a reformed lawyer, whose curiosity made him, in some ways, the modern founder of the science of chemistry; and whose patriotism and scientific acumen led him to the leadership of King Louis’ XVI’s powder works in the very peak days of the Bourbon monarchy in France.

In other words, his timing could have been better.

The son of well-to-do, educated parents, he took the law degree as his father wished, but appointment to the privatized firm that collected Louis’s taxes gave him an income of his own and the freedom to pursue chemistry. He is revered today as one of the founding fathers of the science; his book, Traité élémentaire de chimie, was published in 1789 and was the first textbook of the science of chemistry — arguably the first textbook of science, period.

In 1775, the King appointed him as one of France’s Gunpowder Commissioners. Chem Heritage:

In 1775 Lavoisier was appointed a commissioner of the Royal Gunpowder and Saltpeter Administration and took up residence in the Paris Arsenal. There he equipped a fine laboratory, which attracted young chemists from all over Europe to learn about the “Chemical Revolution” then in progress. He meanwhile succeeded in producing more and better gunpowder by increasing the supply and ensuring the purity of the constituents—saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal—as well as by improving the methods of granulating the powder.

Thus, chemistry was bound up with armaments even in its creation. As Michael Freemantle puts it in Gas, Gas, Quick, Boys!:

Gunpowder provides another example of the application of chemistry to warfare. The powder consists of a mixture of charcoal, the chemical element sulfur and one chemical compound – potassium nitrate. Its use in warfare dates back to the introduction of the gun as a weapon in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In fact, gunpowder chemistry also played a role in the birth of modern chemistry as we now know it.

His contributions to chemistry include such fundamentals as the naming of oxygen and hydrogen, and the understanding of how they could be combined to synthesize water, or water split to produce them. And someone had to be the first one to understand and report that the mass of reaction ingredients must equal the mass of reaction products — that someone was Lavoisier.

M Lavoisier and his wife, by French master Henry-Louis David. The scientific apparatus in the portrait is described here.

Putting a state arsenal on a scientific basis using these principles gave France a technological advantage in its longstanding conflicts with its neighbors, especially its cross-Channel nemesis. As mentioned above, improving the purity of the ingredients in the mixture, and adjusting the granulation of the powder, went a long way to improve the power, consistency, and reliability of gunpowder in the later 18th Century. This superior powder, made in the royal arsenals, using Lavoisier’s scientifically improved methods, was shipped in quantity from France to their allies in the endless wars with England, the American revolutionaries.

Unfortunately for Lavoisier, revolution didn’t stay on the far side of the Atlantic. Being in the good graces of the King had just hit its sell-by date, and hit it hard.

The American Chemical Society, as part of an in-depth exploration of the man and his impact, closed with this description of the end of Lavoisier:

Ironically, Lavoisier, the ardent and zealous chemical revolutionary, was caught in the web of intrigue of a political revolution. The TraitÉ was published in 1789, the same year as the storming of the Bastille. A year later, Lavoisier complained that “the state of public affairs in France…has temporarily retarded the progress of science and distracted scientists from the work that is most precious to them.”

Lavoisier, however, could not escape the wrath of Jean-Paul Marat, the adamant revolutionary who began publicly denouncing him in January 1791. During the Reign of Terror, arrest orders were issued for all of the Ferme Générale, including Lavoisier. On the morning of May 8, 1794, he was tried and convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal as a principal in the “conspiracy against the people of France.” He was sent to the guillotine that afternoon. The next day, his friend, the French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, remarked that “it took them only an instant to cut off that head, and a hundred years may not produce another like it.”

Lavoisier experimenting, draw by his wife (who drew herself into the pictue!)

His wife, who had been a key collaborator,  and many of his friends and fellow scientists would make it through the Terror; the unpleasant Marat, the Heydrich of his time, would not. But that’s another story!

Indian Intel on Pakistani Nukes

While we’re talking about Pakistan lately, there’s an interesting article at The Diplomat about the history of Indian analysis of the Pakistani nuke program. As we seldom get insights into Indian intelligence, it’s worth reading in depth. A taste:

India, for instance, has taken a keen interest in Pakistan’s pursuit of a nuclear device going back to the 1970s and even earlier. Based on newly declassified Indian documentation I was able to access, what follows is an account of what Indian external intelligence knew about Pakistan’s intentions between the 1970s leading up to the 1990s – the decade that would end with both countries coming out as the world’s sixth and seventh declared nuclear powers.

For Indian intelligence in the 1970s, the focus in Pakistan was about its reprocessing capacity and centrifuges. This shifted in the 1980s to focus on the capability to produce an explosive device, and, finally, in the 1990s, focused on the nascent Pakistani missile program routed through China, which was eventually outsourced by China to North Korea.

Soon after the 1998 tests by both countries, Indian intelligence was looking at supply chains for Pakistan’s Shaheen-II ballistic missile, almost four years ahead of its first test in 2004.There was already specific knowledge available with India on Shaheen-I, including on the hardware that was involved in steering the missile. Additionally, New Delhi was not entirely convinced that Pakistan would not use choose to use non-nuclear chemical warheads for its missiles

The author of the post, Vivek Prahladan, has a book-length exploration of these declassified Indian documents coming out. In his post, he also reveals discussions he had with Indian government officials that hinted at the degree to which India had eyes on the Pakistani weapons program. Further, it’s interesting to see how US officialdom at the highest levels (President Reagan and advisor Thomas Eagleburger) dismissed Indian concerns.

And then there’s the whole “Abdul Qadeer Khan ran a rogue operation” cover story, which most of the world pretends to believe.

Pakistan May be Adopting a CZ Bren Variant

There is much more certainty expressed about this in the gun press in the USA than in the Pakistani or Czech media, but it looks like Pakistan may have reached an understanding with CZ-UB for a next generation military rifle.

The Paki competition has been no secret, nor has their desire (1) to make the gun locally and (2) to be free to export it. Some manufacturers have hung up on the first condition, but the second has been more problematical: who wants to compete with his own design, manufactured by well-educated and skilled, but much less expensive, Pakistani labor? In addition, Pakistan, burned before by on-again, off-again American sanctions, doesn’t trust American suppliers. Still, there have been a number of entries (alphabetically by manufacturer):

  1. Beretta ARX-200 — Beretta is hungry for a high-profile sale of its decent rifle, which has not been able to break out of the pack on the international market.  This was always considered a longshot entrant.

  2. CZ-806 Bren2 — CZ-UB has also provided a previously unseen variant, the CZ 807 in 7.62 x 39 mm, for the Type 56-2 part of the contract, and is offering the 806 in 5.56 plus a variant in 7.62 NATO with 14″ or 16″ barrel. CZ’s production costs are low enough to make the Bren very competitive. 

  3. FN-SCAR-H  — adopting this rifle would be popular with the troops, but there may be cost issues. US SOF have used it  for some years and opinions are split. FN could really use a major sale of this excellent weapon. The NATO 7.62 caliber is widely used by today’s Pakistan Army and this could directly replace the elderly G3s, whose design dates to the early 1950s (although HK roller-lock guns are still in production by POF).

  4. Kalashnikov AK-103 — Kalashnikov Concern too could use a high-profile export sale, but having been burned in the past by global copying of Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons without bourgeois capitalist royalties, they’re reluctant to bless a lower-cost producer to export their designs. (It may come down to royalty rates — and the degree to which the famously trusting Russians trust the famously upright Pakistanis). Another plus would be that most extant accessories like magazines and pouches work fine with the updated AK. The 7.62 x 39 Bren, on the other hand, requires a new, proprietary polymer magazine (although it should fit fine in most AK mag pouches).

  5.  Zastava M21 — The Croatian bullpup, another longshot, was eliminated early, but expect the Croats to keep showing up at competitions, and tweaking their firearm based on feedback. They also submitted a conventional layout carbine in 7.62 NATO, based on the former Yugoslav M76 sniper rifle (for which they did produce 7.62 versions for export, even though the native gun was in 7.92 x 57 mm).

POF and CZ-UB have, according to Pakistani and Czech media, reached a memorandum of understanding about co-production and ultimately Pakistani production of the CZ-UB design, which has been interpreted as a signal of a CZ win in the competition, but might not be that at all, but an earlier milestone — i.e., a co-production agreement if CZ wins.

The Nature of the Competition is Unclear

While the Pakistan Army wants to replace both its G3s and its Chinese Type 56-2 AKs, what isn’t clear is whether this is one competition for one rifle, or two competitions for two rifles, in two calibers. Both of the current rifles have their fans in the South Asian nation’s forces, the AK for its compactness and doglike reliability, and the G3 for its range and ability to digest less-than-perfect ammunition. But the last matters less as POF ammo QC has improved, and the Pakistan Army is professional enough to train with whatever it gets from its lords and betters, rifle-wise.

Some sources have already reported that the CZ 807 in 7.62 x 39 has won the nod to replace the AK, and that this gives the CZ 806 in 5.56 or the future 7.62 x 51 variant the inside track to  replace the G3.

Having weapons chambered or both NATO and former ComBloc calibers has logistic consequences, but given that Pakistan can produce indigenous weapons and ammo in both calibers, it also has operational benefits. For example, Pakistani troops can interoperate with any conceivable ally (and they often do, as UN peacekeepers) without fretting about ammo supply.

The Threat Pakistan’s Generals See

While Pakistan has been engaged in bitter antiterrorist operations (and Pakistani politics is sufficiently complex that sometimes Pakistani officials find themselves on both sides of a fight), the Army’s focus is and has been since inception on war with India. Pakistan has fought major wars with India in 1947, 1965, and 1971, and limited wars in 1985 and 1999. Pakistan has also made an ally of China, with India allying with Russia, but Pakistani generals now fear a two-front war in the case of Chinese-Indian rapprochement, something made possible by Russian weakness and US abdication in the region. Thus, Pakistan weapons procurement is driven largely by the need to match India and exploit asymmetries to offset India’s demographic and economic superiority. The Pakistani service also knows its forces have come a long way since the US invaded Afghanistan next door, and would like to see their equipment improved to match — hence the timing of this planned move up from 1940s and 50s weapons designs.

For more information

Steyr / Rheinmetall Enters the G36 Replacement Competition

At least three manufacturers are competing in the evolving process of selecting the Bundeswehr’s replacement for the unsatisfactory G36 individual rifle. The participants include H&K, SIG-Sauer, and Steyr, which is partnering with Rheinmetall. (Gun history buffs, Rheinmetall is huge now, but evolved from an ancient gunmaking firm… Dreyse, of Prussian needle-gun fame). Dreyse was based in Sommerda, but Rheimetall calls Düsseldorf home today.

G36: Los! (Out with it. Here a G36E clone).

The story is told at the indispensable German defense blog, Thomas Wiegold’s Augen Geradeaus! (“Eyes front!”). Our meatball translation:

On the standing theme of the G36 and future assault-rifle of the Bundeswehr, at year’s end we’ve got a new data point: Three German enterprises will compete for the provision of the new standard weapon for German armed forces. Along with Heckler & Koch, which already supplies the G36 and has had success with the HK416 in France, and the Eckernforde-based business SIG-Sauer, the German defense concern Rheinetall is stepping in — with a weapon from the Austrian manufacturer Steyr Mannlicher. The Austrians were defeated by Heckler & Koch in the competition for the new Bundeswehr rifle in the early 1990s.

(Thomas, if you read this, you’re welcome to use any part of our translation on your site, should you want to put up an English post. We know your English is good but your time is limited, and there’s great interest in the non-German-speaking world in the Bundeswehr’s decision process).

In any event, he goes on from there to quote from a story in the Vienna newspaper Kurier, which says that Steyr is developing an AUG successor called the Gewehr bei Fuß or Foot-Soldier’s Rifle. The model being offered to the Germans is called the RS556.

The Austrian journos think that Steyr lost back in 1994 because of politics — EU Brüderschaft be damned, German officials wanted German soldiers carrying German guns. With 60% of the value added in the manufacture of the proposed Bundeswehr RS556 version being Made In Germany, they think the away team has a better shot. Our translation of part of the Kurier report:

The Austrian weapons manufacturer already had a shot in Germany in 1994, when its legendary Steyr Universal Rifle AUG (Sturmgewehr 77) had the best result in tests, according to reporting at that time. Yet the German manufacturer, Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf, received the contract for 176,544 military rifles for its Sturmgewehr G36.

So what is the RS556? Essentially, it’s a reformation of the AUG’s technology into an AR-15 form factor. Indeed, at a distance, it’s hard to tell it from a SIG or a 416. So however this shakes out, the AR is going to notch up another win. From the same Kurier report:

The new RS556 indeed looks like an American weapon, but it is the further development of the Steyr Sturmgewehr 77. With just a handgrip and no tools the barrel can be changed. Ther eare three barrel lengths available, and the rifle can be employed as assault rifle, submachine gun or light machine gun according to length.

You may recall this was a selling feature of the AUG, although not one that seemed to be prized by end users. It looks like the Steyr RS556 is also fully ambidextrous.

Due to a special surface coating, the rifle also works without gun oil, which is an especially large advantage in desert operations. The gas system and the rotary-locking bolt are inherited from the earlier StG 77 (AUG).

The AUG had some success, arming Austria, Australia (in a local version; bad news for ill-educated Yanks who always confuse those entirely different countries), some of the UAE forces and (briefly, because nobody paid to maintain them) the US Immigrations & Customs Enforcement agency. (ICE now uses M4s in either semi or surplus configuration, which have mostly replaced the late lamented AUGs and the not-as-lamented MP5s).

What’s a Duffle Bag Cut?

It never occurred to us until recently that there were people in the gun culture unfamiliar with the Duffle Bag Cut, until a knowledgeable young gun guy asked us, “What’s a Duffle Bag Cut?” as we described such a cut on a Mauser that Santa brought us this year.

Some of the WeaponsMan related Christmas stuff, posing at the tree. The cut doesn’t show with the rifle at rest.

Thing is, if you grew up in collecting in the 50s, 60s or 70s, many WWI and WWII vintage long guns had this cut, and everybody knew why.

Rear side of the cut, which was done with the stock off the gun. The dual sling swivels (left side for cavalry, bottom for infantry) was often seen on Czech long arms like this early 7.92 mm vz.24.

But circumstances have changed, a lot. The military, especially the military police and the judge advocates, have fallen under the sway of gun control activists, and the guys are no longer permitted to take and keep war trophies.

Taking an enemy firearm as a trophy was widespread (and even encouraged, or at least permitted) in World War I and II and the Korean War. It came under some restrictions in Vietnam, and by the GWOT was totally and utterly banned.

Here’s the nose end of the cut. It looks like it was ineffectually (WECSOG?) glued in the past.

But during its heyday in the 20th Century, war trophy taking was a norm. The weapons were brought back by the frontline troops who took them, the rear-echelon troops who traded for them, and the MPs who confiscated them for their own personal benefit, which was definitely a thing, if you listened to the WWII guys when they were still around to talk.

There was a problem, though. A Mauser or Arisaka didn’t fit in a GI duffel bag (and often, all a troop had for luggage was a duffle bag and a field pack). Enter the Duffle Bag Cut. Someone would cut the stock where the cut would be hidden by the barrel band.

This WWII bringback in a genuine WWII duffle bag (late Great Uncle Ovide’s) shows how the cut made it possible to close the bag on a disassembled Mauser, where even the bare stock would have been several inches too long. .

A permanent alteration to a firearm usually gets collectors all wound up, but this cut now a 70-year-old marker, an authentic part of the gun’s history and the tale it would tell if it could talk. Under the barrel band, it doesn’t hurt the utility of the gun for display, and so few collectors would consider repairing the cut (although any gunsmith not of the Wile E. Coyote School of Gunsmithing could). Those WWII soldiers who brought back Mausers and Arisakas, etc., were looking to keep them as trophies, or have them sporterized as deer guns, and the last few inches of the wood was not of any use on a sporting rifle.

A Duffle Bag Cut should not be seen on a gun with import marks. Instead, it’s the second-best indicator (after military capture or bringback papers) of a GI bringback. And it’s just one more interesting little thing about our Christmas VZ.24 Mauser.

(Note: We were expecting to put the 3rd Part of our M16A2 paper analysis up at this point, but have delayed and delayed and fiddled, waiting for a resource that has been unavailable; should we get our mitts on it again, we’ll have the post Monday morning. We regret the delay. -Ed.)

The 1885 Assault Rifle

Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher, who deserves to be better known, was born a bit too early to challenge John M. Browning for the firearms design crown of the 20th Century, but he was fully the American’s equal in ingenuity and productivity in the 19th Century. Mannlicher, an Austrian, who armed Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and briefly Switzerland with rifles or carbines. He produced an array of interesting early semi-auto experiments on long-recoil, short-recoil, and gas principles; and he made contributions to the design of the German Model 1888 “Commission” rifle (principally a modified version of the magazine; unlike all other Mannlicher en-bloc or packet-loading clips, and like the M1 Garand clip, the Gew. 88 clip can go in either way up). Mannlicher passed away in 1903, while automatic weapons were still in their infancy, but the designs he worked on show an agile mind with a keen grasp of the engineering problems and possibilities.

Today, we’re looking at his Model 85 Automatic Rifle, which was so far ahead of its time it took ammunition about 30 years to catch up. At that, it had some one-off interesting features. At a glance, it looks a bit like a 1941 Johnson, which is not too shabby for 1885. Writing in 1946, WHB Smith had this to say:

In 1885 we find von Mannlicher producing the first of his automatic weapons a light machine gun which, considered in connection with present-day military arms, is a marvel of original design. This arm has been given very little attention by writers on firearms, but within its crude form it houses the origins of many of the basic principles which brought fame and fortune to later designers. Perhaps those designers never saw this Mannlicher of 1885, perhaps they pioneered for themselves the paths the great Austrian inventor trod long before those later men incorporated the principles in their weapons. In any event, von Mannlichees designs show the need for complete and continuing research in the field of all arms developments. Truly there is “nothing new under the sun;” and the inventor of the future may save years of time and work, and fortunes in money, by familiarizing himself with what has been done in his field by the great ones who preceded him.

Consider for a moment this light machine gun of 1885, an arm which was not successful because it was ahead of its time; because psychologically the military was not ready for it, and the metallurgist had not yet perfected the necessary steels for the arm nor the correct brass for the cartridge cases which would give the gun complete field reliability.

We would also say that it was ahead of its ammunition. It was chambered for the big fat (11 mm). blackpowder round of the Werndl rifle. (The rifle was an analog of our Allin-conversion trapdoor Springfield, and the Model 77 cartridge was a near analog of our .45-70 round, firing a .433-inch 370-grain bullet about 1,400 feet per second with 77 grains of black powder). Mannlicher had designed two rifles for this cartridge already, one with a tubular magazine, and one fed by a seven-round detachable gravity-fed magazine.

But the praise above wasn’t all Smith had to say about this gun. Next, he compared it the Browning machine guns. Bear in mind, he is writing all this circa 1945-46, and primarily for an audience that would have had a professional familiarity with the Browning 1917/1919/M2/M3 family of machine guns. .

Comparing the principles found in this arm with corresponding ones embodied in the latest U. S. Browning Machine Gun designs shows some remarkable similarities.

First, both use a short-recoil operating system. Barrel and breechblock recoil locked together until chamber pressure has dropped to safe limits; then the barrel is halted and the breech mechanism continues back to extract, eject and reload.

Second, both employ accelerators. When the barrel is halted, the accelerator is struck a sharp blow to transmit added impetus to the breech mechanism to assure proper functioning.

Third, the essential locking systems are similar. While the locks differ radically in shape and mounting, each arm nevertheless is locked by a wedge cammed up and down from below into a recess cut in the underside of the breechblock, the wedge in each case resting on an abutment in the floor of the receiver when locked.

Fourth, in principle, both use similar cocking systems. In each a pivoted finger lever has one end passing through a cut in the bolt into engagement with the striker pin acting to cock the firing mechanism by leverage during recoil.

Fifth, the positions of the operating (or recoil) springs which are mounted in the receiver to the rear of the breechlock (or bolt), are similar.

There are other resemblances; but these, as indicated in the drawings, serve to establish Mannlicher’s astonishing grasp of fundamental principles quite graphically. Several of the basic principles found in the most modern light machine guns of American and German design—notably the operating system, the action working in an extension of the barrel, mounting and positioning of parts—were originally used in this arm; while the top-mounted magazine which became a favorite in British, Japanese and Czech design in World War II was employed by Mannlicher in 1885 and even earlier.

It is believed that two prototypes of the 1885 rifle were made, one called “repeating rifle” (Repetier-Gewehr) and one “light machine gun” (Handmitrailleuse) and that neither survives today. Indeed, we were unable to find any unretouched photograph of this rifle. These drawings, from Smith, were drawn by the Steyr arsenal’s Konrad von Kromar, probably directly from Mannlicher’s original and since-lost prototypes, and were used in connection with a 1900 World’s Fair display.

Here is Smith’s detail description of the Model 85.

Model 85 Automatic Magazine rifle (and Light Machine Gun) with Recoiling Barrel and Detachable Gravity Magazine

(Automatisches Repetier-Gewehr (Handmitrailleuse) mit rückgehenden Lauf u. aufsteckbaren Magazin M. 85)

Original Caption – 
I. Right side view with gravity magazine loaded and in place.
2. Top view with action closed. This early recoil-operated, locked breech weapon was a forerunner of many of the most successful designs of light machine guns used in World War II; and first utilized basic principles later employed in many medium and heavy machine guns also

This truly remarkable weapon was introduced decades ahead of its time. Originally developed in 1883 by Mannlicher and introduced two years later as the Model 85, it was developed at a time when ammunition did not have the necessary reliability to permit of really fine automatic weapon performance. This arm was designed to handle the original Austrian Model 77 Werndl cartridge of 11-mm (.433) caliber whose characteristics have already been discussed.

This arm however anticipated many of the essential details of the successful recoil operated weapons of today.

Like the later Browning semi-automatic sporting rifles (which we know in the U.S. as the Remington Autoloading Rifle), the German light machine-guns of 1934 and 1942, and the American Johnson rifle and light machine-gun, this arm operated on the principle of a recoiling barrel floating within a barrel casing and being locked securely to the action during the moment of firing and high breech pressure.

A barrel return spring mounted around the barrel within the casing ahead of the firing chamber, and a straight-line action return spring mounted in prolongation of the bore directly behind the bolt, provided the motive power for returning the recoiling parts to firing position after they had been thrust rearward and unlocked by the recoil of the arm when fired.

The striker shaft-collar provided a front compression point for the striker spring.

The rear of the striker head was cut away from below to permit an arm of a pivoted cocking lever to rise inside the striker head much on the basic principle used in current Browning machine-guns.

The lower arm of this pivoted cocking lever rested on a slope in the receiver where it was in contact with the pivoted sear lever.

Original Caption — 1. Right side view cut away to show all details of weapon with firing chamber loaded and arm cocked ready to fire.
Pressure on the trigger will cause the trigger lever to pull down on the sear and withdraw it from the hammer-like cocking-piece within the bolt and striker. The compressed striker spring (or mainspring) will thrust the striker forward within the locked bolt to fire the cartridge. Note that the locking tongs are mounted on top of their block and lock faces on the tong are securely engaged in the corresponding under fates of the bolt. The member directly below the head of the cartridge case is the accelerator.
2. Receiver top view showing action cocked. Note that the feeding is done to the left of the line of sight. Leading finger Is gripping cartridge in feeder ready to pull it into line of forward travel of the bolt as the bolt passes to the rear to eject the cartridge case now in the chamber. This straight line system of recoil locking and operation has many points of similarity with the very latest American and European designs.

The recoil action did prove quite similar to the later Browning designs.

The Recoil Action

When the arm is ready to fire, the barrel and action are securely locked through a special “coupling tong” arrangement located below the breech. Locking recesses on the underside of the bolt are specially shaped to be engaged by the locking tongs and also to permit camming action during forward and rearward movement to unlock and lock.

At the moment of firing, the bottom tong rests on a ledge mounted in the receiver bottom plate, while the upper tong rests in a special lock cut in the underside of the breech block. The forward end of the moveable and slideable tong rests against a pivoted lever below the firing chamber as indicated in the drawings.

As the cartridge in the chamber is fired, the recoil transmitted through the head of the cartridge case to the face of the breech block starts the action to the rear. Since the units are firmly locked together, the barrel starts back against the action of its spring simultaneously with the rearward action of the breech parts.

As the rear of the tongs reaches the cam face on the supporting block, the cam surface in the bolt forces the tongs down out of engagement with the bolt locking recess.

A cam face on the front projection works against the curved lower arm of the accelerator. This pivots the upper end of the accelerator to speed up bolt travel, while the lower arm acts as a barrel stop.

The accelerator passes on its thrust to the bolt in the same general manner as the accelerator later developed by Browning for his famous U.S. .30 and 30 caliber machine-guns.

The rearward motion of the bolt forces the head of the cocking lever within it back and down (the Browning reverses this principle) so that the upper arm may guide the striker back until the sear lever drops into the cocking notch to hold it ready for the next pressure of the trigger. The rearward pull on the striker compresses the striker spring, since the front end of the spring rests on a collar midway along the striker pin. Meanwhile, the lower arm of the sear bar, which is attached to the trigger, has been drawn completely away from sear contact. The extractor in the bolt face draws the empty cartridge case back until the case hits against the ejector and is tossed out of the rifle. Meanwhile the powerful recoil spring mounted directly behind the bolt in prolongation of the bore is compressed against the rear end cap buffer.

Original caption-
1. Right side view at end of recoil stroke. The barrel mounted within its recoil easing is locked to the breech until it travels far enough to permit the locking tong to be cammed down off its block and out of engagement with the
underside of the bolt. At that time the barrel hits its stop and rearward travel Is halted. The bolt continues to the rear carrying the empty cartridge case in its face to strike against the ejector. Impetus transmitted through the pivoting accelerator hurls the bolt to the rear with added force as the barrel travel halts. The cocking fork of the cocking-piece is thrust up as it travels up its cam face; and its upper lever end seated in a notch in the striker draws the striker back to full cock much as in the present U. S. Browning machine gun. The recoil spring directly behind the bolt is compressed. Cartridges feed down the magazine by gravity, but the bolt acts on the feeder to pull a cartridge in line for feeding. Note that the sear under influence of its spring is holding the striker cocking-piece back.
2. Feeding details. The bolt is in full rear position and is pivoting the feeder with a cartridge into the feedway. The cartridge will be picked up and chambered on a forward bolt motion.

A cartridge feeds down through the gravity magazine into the feeding chamber to the left of the line of sight in tht receiver; and the final opening movement of the bolt hits against a rear section of the mechanical feed to lever a cartridge into line with the bolt ready to be picked up by the bolt for chambering as the action closes.

The recoil spring now reacts and drives the bolt assembly forward. The bolt picks up and chambers a cartridge. The cam surface on the underside of the bolt picks up the corresponding surface on the upper locking tong, and the tongs are pushed ahead and thrust up their ramp on to their locking support. The proper bolt surface hitting the accelerator on its upper face drives it forward and pivots the lower end in ready for action on the next recoil movement. The barrel return spring meanwhile has returned the barrel to full forward position. The tongs now resting on their ledge, their locking surfaces are engaged in the underside of the bolt. When the trigger is momentarily released, during semiautomatic fire, the trigger spring moves the trigger and sear lever up into position so the lever can hook into the front of the sear ready to draw it out of contact with the cocking piece to allow the firing pin to go forward for its next firing motion.

In its anticipation of the essential mechanical principles later utilized in practically every successful recoil operated weapon, this arm was a marvel of ingenuity unsurpassed in the field of automatic development. Had suitable ammunition been available and springs rather than gravity depended upon for feed, this arm might have revolutionized warfare long before World War II, at which time arms of this design were first really appreciated,

This arm was also made with a change lever permitting full automatic fire by automatically releasing the sear lever when the trigger was held back.

In this early design, von Mannlicher had solved most of the problems of light automatic weapons design before others had even begun to wrestle with these problems. But he’d invented himself out far ahead of the ammunition of his era. The coming small-caliber smokeless ammunition, more powerful and more reliable than the old Werndl rounds of the original Model 1885, would catalyze a new generation of firearms that would more than fulfill the 1885’s promise.

Two Collector Firearms: One You Can’t Buy, and One You Probably Can’t

Let’s start with the one you probably can’t buy. It’s an amnesty-registered World War II STG44 or MP44, with the usual late-war blend of blued, phosphated and in-the-white parts.

Here’s a couple of overviews of it.

You will not find a more historical 20th Century firearm, apart from one associated with a particular individual. For this is the creation that spawned the name and the category “assault rifle.”

The description reads:

STG-44 MP44 WWII bring back w/amnesty paperwork copy included in sale. this is a true unmolested survivor!! Everything origial, mint bore. Stock was serialized to gun receiver. Bolt and op-rod do not show any numbers. Also included is the original take down tool and magazine loader. We test fired this gun and it ran flawless!!!! We own it, it is in our inventory/hands.

The reason for the last sentence is simple: a lot of Class III dealers are “selling” stuff they’re merely brokering. So these guys (Recon Ordnance of Wisconsin) want serious buyers to know that they can get started on transfer paperwork straightaway once money changes hands.

So, if it’s for sale on GunBroker, why can’t you buy it? Probably, because you’re not in the market for a $32,000 gun. Yep, it’s a no-reserve auction, but that’s the minimum bid. You’d think they’d at least throw in a couple of spare magazines.

Even the hand-scratched serial number adds to this StG’s vintage appeal. But… well… $32k.

Then, there’s the one you definitely can’t buy. This is a Roth-Steyr Repetierpistole M.07, a major arm of the Austro-Hungarian forces in World War I. Partially designed by Karel Krnka, this had the distinction of being the first automatic pistol adopted by a major power, a year before Prussia and Germany followed suit with the Pistole 08 Parabellum.

This particular example is not in the best condition that collectors love, but it’s still a collector piece, still wearing its original unit disc which identifies it as Pistol 73 of (we believe the 2nd, not 11th) Landwehr Regiment. The Landwehr was an organized reserve much like today’s American National Guard.

So why can’t you buy it? Because it was taken in a gun “buyback” in Cleveland last year and destroyed as follows:

… placed into the No. 1 Basic Oxygen Furnace iron ladle and … melted by approximately 200 tons of molten iron, at temperatures of about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten iron, along with the scraps, were charged in the basic oxygen furnace to make steel which will eventually be used to manufacture cars, household appliances and other goods.

Cleveland’s Police Chief, Calvin Williams, blames guns like this and the collectors that normally trade them — ammunition for this firearm hasn’t been a mass-production item since 1944 — for crime in his city. Meanwhile, he didn’t have the back of his own cops in a 2015 incident, leading beleaguered and unsupported Cleveland cops to “go fetal” as cops in so many other cities have done, and has led to exploding homicide statistics over the last two years.

Cleveland homicides took off when Chief Williams and other leaders embraced the Black Criminals’ Lives Matter movement in 2015. 2016 isn’t over yet, but had tied 2015’s bag limit of 120 before Thanksgiving. Not one of them was shot with an 8mm Steyr round, oddly enough.

Hat tip, the irreplaceable Dean Weingarten, who wrote:

Gems like the Roth Steyr are routinely found at gun “buy backs”. They are not found in quantity, but they are found. All the more reason for private buyers to monitor these gun turn-ins, and to rescue the valuable items from the smelter.

Williams and his senior managers studiously avoid addressing the real problem in Cleveland — urban gang violence, which occasionally spills over to claim truly innocent victims — and the weak, soft prosecutors and judges that condemn good people to death annually because they’re so solicitous of the feelings of bad people. Cleveland’s homicide detectives do a great job of finding these guys, once they kill. And in almost every case, the guy has a previous violent or gun offense that ought to have had him locked up.

But why address the crime problem when you can melt down an evil deodand from the Hapsburg Empire?

Two ex-Yugoslavian Pistol Families

While most people associated CZ with the Česká Zbrojovka, specifically, these days, with CZ-UB (as the original CZ trademarks have traveled around a little), occasionally you’ll see a CZ that is not a CZ. One of these is the CZ-99 (and its successor, the CZ-999). These pistols were not produced by a Czech firm at all, but by the former Yugoslav firm Zastava Arms (formerly Cervena Zastava) in Kragujevac, Serbia.

The CZ-99 was intended to be the Model 1989 of the Yugoslav Army. Instead, soon after production began, the country went out of business. According to legend, the gun got the CZ-99 moniker in the United States because of a typo on an ATF form (99 for 89) and hopes of exploiting the public’s goodwill towards the CZ-75 and its successors.

Only a handful were imported before a 2003 embargo on Serbian goods, but the Serbian sanctions have since been lifted and exportation to the USA resumed.

It has a modified SIG manual of arms. Modified in that it has no manual safety, and the slide stop and decocker functions are combines. A single catch works as slide stop and (when the slide is forward) decocker.

The CZ-99 has been replaced, and its successor, available now, is the CZ-999. It retains the CZ-99’s modified SIG manual of arms.

The pistol is available in 9mm and .40 S&W calibers, and (internationally, at least) in several different sizes. The latest variant is the EZ, in EZ9 and EZ40 models for those two calibers and in three sizes from concealment to service pistol. It appears to be the same as the C999, with the addition of a light rail.

Zastava in Kragujevac was long Yugoslavia’s and then Serbia’s state armory, and makes all calibers and types of small arms. According to Zastava’s website, its products are imported by Century to the United States, but none of Zastava’s pistols are listed in Century’s 2016 catalog.

Slovenia != Serbia, Rex != Zastava

A pistol that is sometimes identified as a CZ-99 derivative, but seems to be a closer copy of the SIG P22x series, is the Rex Zero One. The Rex is made by Arex, a Slovenian defense company that is, as far as we know, unrelated to Zastava’s pistol. Here, the imitation of the SIG operating system is more exact. There is a slide-mounted safety which is the one ambi control (the mag release is reportedly reversible). Instead of the ambidextrous slide stop/decocker lever, used on the CZ-99 and its derivatives, the Rex has this lever on the left side only.

While it looks like a SIG, it isn’t. It’s its own thing. To the best of our knowledge, no SIG parts interchange. The Rex appears to be well-made. It sells at a similar price point to other alloy-framed SA/DA pistols from Europe, although availability of spares is nil at this time.

These are all fairly unusual pistols in the USA at this time. Despite their rarity, collector interest is just about nil. These are potential carry guns if priced reasonably, you can get sufficient magazines, and you can make yours fit a SIG holster or have a custom holster made. These things are enough of a pain in the neck that you start to see why someone might throw in the odd-gun towel and get a Glock, when you can get spare mags and holsters seemingly everywhere.

HK Gives Up on non-NATO Exports

HK LogoReuters has picked up a DPA report that HK is out of the export business, except to NATO nations, and very close NATO allies. And not all NATO nations: Turkey is off the list.

The company, one of the world’s best-known gunmakers, will in future only sell to countries that are democratic and free from corruption and that are members of NATO or NATO members’ partners, DPA said, citing company sources.

It said this change in strategy would rule out deals with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, India or even NATO member Turkey.

Reason for the change? Due to a policy change by the Bundesregierung, the company can’t export anyway.

German restrictions on arms exports to the Middle East have weighed on its business, contributing to a 90 percent collapse in operating earnings last year.

The company sued the German government last year for failing to approve a deal to supply Saudi Arabia with parts needed to make its G36 assault rifle.

The deal had been approved in 2008 despite concerns about human rights abuses in the Gulf kingdom, but the German government changed its approach on arms exports two years ago.

G36 and G36K

Oh, silly business, you thought you had a deal.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has sought to curb sales of tanks and small arms in particular since taking office late in 2013, arguing that guns such as assault rifles were the weapons of choice in civil wars all over the world.

Gabriel’s an interesting cat. His father was an unrepentant, unreconstructed National Socialist, but Sigmar is just a socialist. He did inherit his father’s anti-Semitism, and calls Israel “the apartheid state.” He is an enthusiast for trade with Iran (German businesses such as Siemens have long supplied technology for the Iranian nuclear program). He is enthusiastic about Mohammedan migration into Germany and supports dual citizenship, and his first wife was a Turkish woman with dual citizenship, Munise Demirel.

Gabriel opposes the German mission in Afghanistan, but supports the Russian mission in Ukraine.

Selling weapons is highly sensitive in Germany due to the country’s World War Two history.

Somehow we don’t think a politician who cheers the ayatollahs and flies his hatred of Jews like a flag is “highly sensitive… to the country’s WWII history.”

It is the world’s fifth- biggest exporter of major arms, according to the SIPRI research institute, and the industry employs about 80,000 people.

Heckler & Koch, which listed some of its shares on Euronext via a private placement last year, also came under pressure last year when some of its former employees were charged with breaching laws on trade and weapons of war by selling arms destined for four Mexican states.

Right now, Thomas Wiegold has nothing on this at Augen Geradeaus, but that’s where definitive information will appear if he chooses to write it (in German).

Spiegel has an article. (German language). We thought these lines stood out (our translation):

In a good dozen cases, Heckler & Koch is presently waiting for the permission of German officials for the export of weapons. So Saudi Arabia needs components, that it requires to use a long-finished rifle factory. Should the export not be permitted, high (sums of) financial insurance will be lost, which have been guaranteed in Saudi Arabia, according to Heckler & Koch.

Hey, because what’s more important, the tens of thousands of Germans who work in this industry, and the continuing defense technical base that weapons exports support, or virtue-signaling to ones international socialist peers? You’ve got Sigmar Gabriel’s answer to that one.