Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

Thing From the Vault: Pinfire 9mm Double Pistol; Worst Trigger Ever

In this Thing From the Vault, we have a double pistol gifted to us recently by a friend. It is a 9mm  pinfire of uncertain European (Belgian, perhaps?) make. It’s an oddity with a number of screwball design features; maybe it was French, because it has some of the sorts of quirks our long-departed Citroën had. Wait… it is Spanish, we just figured that out, and we’ll tell you why. First, a picture. (All pictures here do embiggen).


The pistol is furnished with a carved walnut grip and is finished in the white. We’ll give you a quick walk-around, starting from the hammers and proceeding clockwise. There are two single-action hammers, each with a full cock and a half-cock position. The hammers are serrated at the top of the spurs. The retractable triggers only extend at full cock; with the hammers at half-cock or at rest, they are approximately flush with the bottom of the pistol.


pinfire_pistol_3Forward of the hammers, atop the barrels, is the sight, a simple notch; there s no front sight. The sight slides and forms the safety (we’ll show you later how this works). The barrels are octagonal in section and 9mm in caliber. Beneath the barrel, the pivot screw, pivot spring and locking block are evident.

pinfire_pistol_6The main lock of the pistol shows trigger and hammer pins, and is curiously cross-hatched.

The grip is rather crudely formed to fit the decorative shape of a steel grip cap with lanyard ring.

The right barrel bears black-powder proofs from Eibar, Spain in the 19th Century.


The markings on the right side are Xº1 9,9 [an Eibar proof crest with antlers] [an Ebar black powder proof with three non-interlocking rings] and the strength of the proof, 700 Kgs (Kilograms/square centimeter pressure). The markings on the left side of the barrels are a serial number, 05435; what may be 2.2 in a lozenge shape; and CAL. 9.



The pistol must be half-cocked to be opened. With the hammers on half-cock, pushing the locking bolt from right towards left allows the barrels to be opened. No extraction is provided; the pins in the cartridges can be used for that.

Pinfire  was an early cartridge system that was quickly made obsolete by the rim- and later center-fire cartridges. There’s actually a lot to say about early cartridges (including a great three-volume work by George A. Hoyem). Pinfire allowed self-contained, more or less hermetically sealed, metallic cartridges, but they had to be inserted so that the pins fit into the slots in the barrel. The pin was like a little firing pin built into the cartridge, and activating an internal priming compound set against the inside of the cartridge case. It sure beat muzzleloading and paper and linen cartridges, but the popularity of the rimfire after 1850 consigned pinfire to the history books — and the Vault. By 1900, pinfire was a dead concept, but cartridges were made for existing firearms as late as World War II. A few die-hard enthusiasts remanufacture and reload pinfire cartridges today.

For more, including a look at the primitive safety, click on the link below.

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When You Don’t Bubba a Mosin…

…You can actually hit stuff with it… if it’s a right one.

Bog standard 91/30. Good iron sights, approved by ordnance officers of late Tsar and Lenin and Stalin (who were, not to put too fine a point on it, the same ordnance officers). Field rest. The original poster of the video writes (we have only added paragraph breaks):

The M91/30 Mosin Nagant with 7N1 ammo is a formidable long range rifle system. In this video (made available to you by popular demand) Rex Reviews demonstrates just how effective an unmodified military rifle can be in experienced hands.

This rifle is in 100% original military configuration and had NOT been equipped with any optical sights, yet it slams steel at 944 yards as easy as anything else on the shelf.

Many assume these rifle like this (purchased for under $100) must need modification to shoot well… but what many fail to realize is that these rifles were not designed by sporting companies for recreational activities, they were designed by teams of engineers with massive government resources for life-and-death purposes.

These rifles were designed to be harmonically balanced and were inspected to meet serious military manufacturing and design specifications. In a nutshell, they are ready to roll off of the shelf! Ask Simo Häyhä (the White Death) if I’m telling the truth…

It rings the bell at more meters than you’d give it credit for (and more meters that lots of people can see a man-sized target without optical aids). Lots and lots of meters. (944 yd. is 893 meters).

Why did Russia and its Soviet successor empire stick with this 19th-Century bangstick for so very long? Because it was good, in all that word means in reference to a military arm: it was simple, dependable, low-maintenance, hard-hitting, and more accurate than any but a tiny percentage of the men who carried it.

Nothing that Bubba can do to a Mosin (except, we’ll grant, scope it, where the common Soviet solution was sub-optimal) will do anything much to improve the work of those long-dead Russian designers, engineers, and craftsmen.

The Danish Navy, 1962

Even if you can’t follow the Danish narration, there is some very cool stuff in this 1962 promotional film, Det Er Nodvendig… which means, This is Necessary. The point of the film is to introduce Danes to their Navy.

One of the first cool things you will see is a flotilla of ex-Deutsche Kriegsmarine S-Boats. The boats don’t show their age at all — they were probably never this clean in their wartime existence.

Other scenes include the S-Boat crewmen introducing themselves by name and hometown, destroyer operations, coastal defense with artillery and AA, and Denmark’s famous frogmen. (The nation was once a leader in scout swimming and undersea war, but ceased operating submarines about a decade ago after nearly a century of successful sub ops).

On the other hand, the Danes maintain a robust coast defense capability, but these days it’s with missiles, not last century’s cannon.

One of these Guns is Not Like the Others

Sing along with us, kids:

One of these guns is not like the others;
One of these guns just doesn’t belong.
Can you guess which gun is not like the others,
Before I finish my song?

(Puzzled international readers, that’s from a long-running and hell-for-saccharine TV kids’ “educational” show which everybody’s mother made him watch at least a few times). Now that we’ve had our sing-along, here’s the photo. Which one doesn’t belong?


The photo ran a couple months ago in the always entertaining Impro Guns website, with this heading:

Locally produced firearms seized in Ghana

And all of the pistol-things on the table are, indeed, the sort of thing you’d expect from Ghanaian village blacksmiths — except the Luger P.08 that’s the second one back on the right.

Wonder what its story is? Unfortunately, some Ghanaian copper has probably already either thrown it into a smelter, or sold it back onto the black market.

The constant panoply of odd creations that turn up on Impro Guns illustrate many things, but one of the major ones is, “What a simple machine a gun is to build,” and another, “How universal the desire for firearms is,” Most of these improvised guns are made where strict gun control reigns, or tries to. A great many of them are made by criminals and terrorists. Others, however, seem to be the product of hobbyists, and still others, made by or for people who simply feel a need for self-defense, a need that is never met perfectly by The State.

Indeed, in most strict gun control jurisdictions, the state makes nearly no effort to step in and defend its disarmed populace. Look at LA or Chicago, with hundreds and thousands of murders respectively, most of which go unsolved even though none of them seem to be committed by criminal masterminds. So at some point, the peaceable and formerly law-abiding person breaks out and builds himself, or has built for himself, a tool of self defense.

The criminal element, meanwhile, skips simple defensive handguns and long guns, and goes right to making suppressed automatic weapons, as the police in Australia have discovered. The Australian gun ban (semi-autos and pump and lever shotguns) has not seriously inconvenienced the criminal element, which is well armed with auto weapons on the conceptual level of the Sten or Mac-10. Criminals used to avoid these weapons because of the disparity in consequences for getting caught with one, vis-a-vis a revolver. Now, a criminal is as well hung for a sheep as a lamb, and goes direct to St. Valentine’s Massacre capability.

The only consequences you can always count on are unintended consequences.

Note: we’re still running late here, over 12 hours behind schedule, for which we beg your forbearance. Your Humble Blogger has been a bit under the weather, and dealing with it by drinking plenty of fluids, skipping PT (unfortunately) and spending plenty of time snoring in the recliner with Small Dog Mk II. These are wondrous and joyful activities indeed, but they don’t get the blog written on schedule. Bear with us — Ed.

Meet Erika

Erika’s a mere slip of a girl, skinny as a rail…


Even from behind, she’s a skinny one. Baby don’t got back, as some singer never sang.


She’s also got an odd profile, hasn’t she?


She fires the inconsequential 4.25 mm Liliput cartridge, a fraction the size of the 6.35 (.25 ACP) you see above it.


And yes, the magazine is in front of the grip, for reasons known but to the designer. Of course, that makes it difficult to change magazines while holding the firearm, but then, when have you ever seen any interwar pocket pistol with a spare magazine?


The 4.25 has a muzzle energy of 17 foot-pounds — more than a sneeze, and less than a CB cap.  While the frame is unique in its form, the slide is a little reminiscent of the 1900 Browning, with the barrel below the recoil spring, but the slide is only the rear part (like a Woodsman or Hi Standard target pistol’s), because Browning’s slide patent was still in force.


Erika was an interwar Austrian pocket pistol that was as a small as a .25, but with less than half the power: astounding no one, she was a commercial failure, making these oddball pistols rare today. This one showed up at Gun Broker at an initial bid asked of $1,800, which produced from us a snort slightly more powerful than the 4.25 Lilliput round.

Rare Austrian Erika pistol in 4.25mm. Gun is missing safety lever, otherwise in excellent condition. Original bluing about 95+%. Very hard gun to found especially in high condition.

As mentioned, this example is not perfect, missing the safety which would have ridden below the slide on the left half of the pistol:


About a year ago, Ian had a video on one of these pistols that was, then, up for auction at Rock Island. It’s typically a very informative video, with lots of details on the ingenious and tiny mechanism inside. Highly recommended! And there are some interesting images and some roughly robo-translated text at a Russian website.

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

This anti-drone device is going viral. They’ve clickbaited it well by calling it the Skynet anti-drone rifle, and it can directionally jam the GPS signals a drone needs to navigate, and the wireless video downlink.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-3The two white and black “barrels” are directional antennae in two separate GHz ranges. The backpack is the necessary power source. Anyone who’s got Electronic Warfare experience will tell you jamming is a power-intensive activity.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-1If you look at all the pictures available on the company’s website, and watch the video (below), the whole thing appears to be built on a (partial? modified?) AR-15 receiver, with a standard M4 receiver extension and stock. A bit overkill for just something to hang an arduino, a transmitter, and some highly directional (< 10º) antennae on, but it kind of makes sense to give people a familiar interface, and the AR-15 is the point and click interface for the 21st Century.

Along with this video, there’s a new one showing a live test. They claim a “suppression ratio” (difference between the range from the Skynet operator to the drone and the drone controller to the drone) of 8:1, which means (thinking of power squares here) that this jammer has vastly more power than the controller.

The two signal rangess it can jam are 1.450 GHz – 1.650 GHz and 2.380 GHz – 2.483 GHz, but it can only jam one at a time. Available hacks for, for example, the DJI Phantom drone (the one in the video) can take the drone control out of the target range, and could practically be developed for the video range.

There are a few other problems with it, to wit:

  1. As a jammer, it is almost certainly illegal to use in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission takes a dim view of jamming, and has considerable technical and legal resources it deploys to punish violators.
  2. It’s only effective against some common commercial drones and is unlikely to have any impact on a more sophisticated government or military system, which is likely to use robust, high-availability communications, and have backup onboard navigation (usually inertial) that’s immune to jamming or meaconing.
  3. It requires clear line-of-sight to the drone, ergo, it’s only useful as a point-defense weapon.
  4. It requires a human operator and visibility of the target. (How would it work in the dark, against a drone deploying LLLTV? We suppose there’s a Picatinny rail upon which you can mount an image intensifier or thermal sight).
  5. It has the scent of early prototype all over it, and is a long way from a commercial product or (alternatively) a flexible R&D platform. But even experimenting with this thing brings you back around into the sights of the FCC.

Finally, this is, we think, the firm’s first video, from May.

All in all, it smells to us like a gimmick. And within the range of this thing, there are other ways to take out a drone (one lady pestered by paparazzi drones seeking spy shots of a celebrity neighbor demonstrated her wingshooting skills and blew the drone to Kingdom Come. The paparazzi boarded their Range Rover — apparently invading privacy pays well — and were last seen heading back for Gawker HQ or whatever glutinous sump whence they emerged).

This is not the only anti-drone product out there. As well as other jammers, there are counter-drone drones that ram them or drop nets or cables onto their rotors. All of them are similarly immature at present, and no one knows if they represent a real market segment or just hobbyists tinkering.

When Your Friends Call You a Bond Villain…

…You might as well get the props you need to play the part.


Here’s the story behind these striking grips:

My roommates have joked for a while that with my choices in guns, cars (German), decor (maps, minimalism), and high tech gadgetry, I clearly aspire to be a Bond Villain.

To further that image, they bought me these grips for my birthday. Hand made in Turkey, they were a couple months delayed due to the geopolitical unrest… But man, was the wait worth it!

The logo is Stirling silver sheet that’s been inlet into the wood, then hammered to shape and glued in place, it’s flush with the surrounding wood.

[M]y roommate is the one who did all the ordering and correspondence, but he got them from

From what he said, they were super professional, and really good at communicating through the whole process (even when a coup was going on).

We never had roommates like that… they bought stuff for their own jeezly Lugers.

And here’s the tale behind the Luger:

This was shot before the grips were fully fitted, so they are just lying on it. I thought going a bit artsy to cover up the gaps would be alright, but I guess there’s no pleasing you [censored]s, lol.

The other side is the same pattern. Sadly, this is not a great example of a Luger, it’s got plenty of spots where there was surface rust, and was re-blued cheaply, so there are discoloration spots on the muzzle.

Good news is, because it’s not a museum piece, I have no qualms about taking it to the range and shooting it all the time!

I actually happened across it in my local gun shop. There was a Webley .455 in really good shape that I’d been debating for a while, and I’d finally decided to go for it, went to the bank to grab cash for it, came back, and the Luger was there, right next to the webley, for $645. There was about 3 seconds of thought that went into that purchase!

Both from this thread in Reddit’s /r/guns. (Well, the picture is from Reddituploads, but it’s linked at the Reddit comment thread).

Bohemian Mysteries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


zhuk_409_zkr_590_grandZhuk says:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

1604. Perla; Frantisek Dusek, Opocno.


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

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

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

Some overall observations

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

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

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

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

The FN 49, the Rifle that Didn’t Change the World


A couple of SAFNS enjoy retirement. (All images embiggen with a click).

If the FN Model 1949, also called the SAFN (Semi-Automatic FN), had been, as intended, the FN 36, or at least the FN 38, it might have changed the world. But its development took longer than planned and was interrupted by war — its designer exiled, its plans hidden, and then, its manufacturer in ruins and needing to rebuild.

During his exile, Dieudonné Saive supervised the construction of over 50 prototypes of versions of the rifle that later would become the SAFN, for his British hosts at Enfield. Some of these prototypes still exist today, but the British Army was never serious about a semi-auto during the war; British soldiers and leaders were happy with the old reliable Enfield bolt action.

Saive returned to an FN whose only boast was that it was less destroyed that most other Continental gun factories, despite the consequences of Allied bombing and German looting. But even as clean-up and restoration continued, he worked to bring his long-delayed semi-auto rifle design to life.

One benefit of this long gestation was that the SAFN was rather thoroughly debugged when it shipped, and it suffered fewer of the teething problems that other rifles that had had a more direct path to production, like the Tokarev, the M1 Garand, or even the AK, did.


But, it launched into a market saturated with high-quality arms that were surplus to the needs of downsizing military victors (and entirely-disarmed vanquished). An FN salesman could, were he worthy of the name at all, make a case that the SAFN was a better rifle than an M1, or the Mausers still used around the world at the time. But that case, assuming arguendo that it was strong when the cost of an M1 equaled the cost of an FN 49, was appreciably weaker and harder to make when the M1s were flowing at one-half, one-quarter, one-tenth of the cost of new production. Or free. The United States had literally millions of surplus M1s, and they rearmed many of the nations of Europe, giving guns in hopes of gaining influence — or as a reward for wartime alliances.

Some nations, like France, developed their own rifles in pursuit of national independence. “Thanks for your M1s, but we need a French rifle as soon as possible/” Indeed, in the fifteen years after World War II, many more nations than are in the business today developed their own firearms, even small nations like Indonesia, Egypt, and the Dominican Republic. It was a far cry from today’s consolidated market, where much of the world is content buying ARs and AKs from distant lands. (Indeed, the four former gun-making nations mentioned in this paragraph are using or going to imported ARs, AKs, or a combination thereof).

Venezuela was one of the nations that bought the SAFN. Notice the fine figure of the stock.

Venezuela was one of the nations that bought the SAFN. Notice the fine figure of the stock.

Other nations were on the outs with, or at least cautious about becoming dependent on, the US or USSR; between the World Wars they had bought from the neutrals, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, and with CS no longer neutral, the Belgians had a look in. And in this market context, FN designer Dieudonné Saive launched what may have been the finest World War II generation semi-auto rifle. Just in time for the world to have absorbed and fallen for the German intermediate cartridge assault rifle concept.

Technical Information

The SAFN is an old-school combat rifle, with wood (usually French Walnut, often highly figured) stocks, and the balance of the components being steel, often machined from forgings. It is heavy, compared to the modern standard, but it’s about equivalent to its contemporaries, the M1 Garand or the French MAS Mle. 1949 (the Tokarev SVT is noticeably lighter). The most common finish on original guns is paint over parkerizing, which makes for an ugly, chip-prone, but corrosion-resistant coating. These guns are all human retirement age (production was from 1949-1956), and barrel conditions of existing samples vary widely (they survived the heyday of corrosive ammunition, and the barrels were not chrome-lined).

The bolt and gas system of the SAFN strongly resembles that of its Soviet contemporaries, the Simonov and Tokarev semi-auto rifles; it is unlikely that copying was going on, rather than parallel, convergent evolution. A version of the tipping bolt had been used on several FN products, including the Browning Automatic Rifle. A solid benefit of the SAFN over its competitors was its toolless-adjustable gas system, which was not only good for adjusting to different lots, makers or types of ammunition, but enabled the rifle to fire rifle grenades (with special blanks). The rifle grenade launcher was a common SAFN accessory, as was a bayonet. (Bayonets are common, but many Mauser bayonets fit, too).

FN 49 muzzles. Top: the cutts-compensator like Flash Hider of the Venezuelan. Below: typical muzzle, in this case Egyptian.

FN 49 muzzles. Top: the cutts-compensator like Flash Hider of the Venezuelan. Below: typical muzzle, in this case Egyptian. Both show the adjustable gas port off well.

The biggest limitation the SAFN faced in the postwar environment was its prewar magazine concept. The magazine was not user-detachable, but was filled from above, using ordinary Mauser stripper clips, or a new FN-developed 10-round stripper. With this magazine, the provision of automatic fire capability on Belgian and some export SAFNs was truly puzzling: why? The rationale for this decision is lost in time, but it seems probable that the customers asked FN to do it.


FN 49 (here Venezuelan, Ser. Nº. 4955), shows off its stripper clip guide and magazine follower. The bolt is held back by the magazine follower until rounds are loaded — or it can be held back with the bolt catch visible opposite the operating handle.

This view from the left shows the bolt hold-open catch on the side of the receiver.

This view from the left shows the bolt hold-open catch on the side of the receiver.

As a semiauto rifle, the SAFN was, in its day, a good equivalent of the M1. Some people recommend it as a practical rifle, but in 2016, that’s just silly. If you must have steel, walnut, and a fixed magazine, the M1 has plentiful spare parts and knowledgable gunsmiths and accuracy specialists. The SAFN belongs in the safes and gun-rooms of collectors, and can certainly go to the range as much as you like.

SN 1949 SAFN Production & Sales

SAFN 1949 Variants
Nation Caliber Distinguishing Marks Production Quantity Notes
Venezuela 7 x 57 mm Venezuelan Crest 8,003 First sale (4,000 in 1948) Unique compensator/flash suppressor
7.5 x 57 mm No sales known
Argentina (Navy) 7.65 x 57 mm “ARA” for Armada Republica Argentina, and Argentine Crest 5,541 Some sources say 5,537
Belgium 7.62 x 63 mm “ABL” for Armee Belgique 88,173 .30-06, convertible to select fire, not US importable
Belgian Congo 7.62 x 63 mm Crest w/lion 2,795 .30-06, all select fire, not US importable
Brazil (Navy) 7.62 x 63 mm Brazilian crest & Anchor 11,001 .30-06
Colombia 7.62 x 63 mm Colombian crest 1,000 .30-06
Indonesia 7.62 x 63 mm “ADRI” and Eagle 16,100
Luxemburg 7.62 x 63 mm “AL” for Armee Luxembourgois 6,003
Argentina (Navy) 7.62 x 51 mm NATO, detachable mag No new guns, converted from 7.65mm. Mag is NOT an FAL mag.
Egypt 7.92 x 57 mm Eagle or Crown, Arabic numbers 37,641 Some sources say 37,602. Century imports may have replaced stocks
total 176,257
Venezuelan crest on a 7mm FN M1949.

Venezuelan crest on a 7mm FN M1949.

Crown of King Farouk and crest of the Kingdom of Egypt (Kingdom 1922-1952, Farouk's sovereignty  1936-52)

Crown of King Farouk and crest of the Kingdom of Egypt (Kingdom 1922-1952, Farouk’s sovereignty 1936-52)

Why the Short Run?

FN produced Mauser rifles (for military purposes, anyway) for over 60 years; in fact, the company was founded to build Mausers for the Belgian Army, and for export. But the SAFN lasted just seven years in production (and after the Belgian & Egyptian contracts were filled, by 1952-3, production was desultory. As you can see in the table above, those two contracts were the bulk of the rifles produced: roughly 126,000 out of 176,000, leaving only 50,000 for all other variants).

What happened?

Our pair of FNs. Venezuelan Nº 4955, not import marked; and Egyptian Nº 11507 (mismatched, refinished, imported by Century Arms).

Our pair of FNs. Venezuelan Nº 4955, not import marked; and Egyptian Nº 11507 (mismatched, refinished, imported by Century Arms). Note that the Egyptian rifle bears its serial numbers in Western and Arabian numbers. The receiver cover of the Nº 11507 is from a different rifle, Nº 12979. (Possibly 13979, as the Arabian numeral is hard to read).

What happened is that technology moved on, and the SAFN was obsolete even as Belgian craftsmen inspected the rifles on the line. No one knew that more than M. Saive, who was already at work on the Next Big Thing — and it would really be that. The FN-FAL (Fusil Automatique Leger, Light Automatic Rifle) would build on the SAFN’s reliable bolt and gas system, and add the sought-after features of select-fire (fairly useless in a 7,62 x 51 light rifle) and a detachable 20-round magazine (no soldier ever said “no” to more ammo). The FAL’s success was much greater, both technically and commercially, vindicating Saive’s vision and arming scores of nations from the 1950s through the 1990s — including many former SAFN and FN Mauser customers.

More Pictures Coming Soon?

Our photo models today are a relatively common 8mm (7.92 x 57 mm) Egyptian rifle, as imported, modified and sold by Century Arms, and a relatively rare Venezuelan model. While Venezuelans are often found in excellent condition, making them prized by collectors, this one is an exception: it’s fairly beaten-up, and was clearly stored in a pile with many other FN-49s: it’s got dings in the annular shape of the end of an FN-49 operating handle (part of the bolt carrier) all over its stock!

Behold, some dings.

Behold, some dings.Note the telltale mark of another FN 49, just under the “D’Armes” in the rollmark. 

More photos may be added after the jump, time permitting (if there isn’t a more link below this, we haven’t added the images yet).


Cammack, Mark. FN 49 Rifle – A Brief Overview. AmmoLand, 13 Jan 2016. Retrieved from:

Peterson, Phillip. Collectors Love The FN-49 Rifle. Gun Digest, 24 May 2011. Retrieved from:

Poyer, Joe. The SAFN-49 Battle Rifle (A Shooter’s and Collector’s Guide). Tustin, CA: North Cape, 1998. 

Stevens, R. Blake. The FN49 – the Rifle That Ran out of Time. Toronto: Collector Grade, 2011.

Stevens, R. Blake. The Metric FAL. Toronto: Collector Grade, 1989.