Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

Bleg: World War II Suppressors

Business end of typical Maxim silencer.

Business end of typical Maxim silencer.

We’re working on a technical post on the suppressors of World War II. We know of the following:

Germany: Pistole 27(t) late war suppressor, MP 40 suppressor (limited production) K.98k suppressor (ditto).

Great Britain: Welrod, High Standard .22, Luger, Maxim suppressors (SOE was disappointed), Mk IIS Sten. De Lisle carbine.

United States: M1911A1 .45, integral M3/M3A1 SMG, Colt .380, High-standard .22 (entirely different from the British development).

OSS_M3A1_grease_silenced

USSR: none (this does not seem right, given the Soviets’ extensive use of “diversionary” and special operations elements, and their broad conception of intelligence and reconnaissance operations).

Italy: none

Japan: none

Minor powers: none

Help a brother out here. What else is unknown out there? I expect the bulk of the article is going to be on the P.27(t), which is known from several surviving samples, and the British stuff, which is very well documented.

Sniping and Satisficing

Russians are smart, good shooters, and brilliant engineers. They could have built an M-24 equivalent. Instead, in the early 1960s, they built the SVD. What were they thinking?

Russians are smart, good shooters, and brilliant engineers. They could have built an M-24 equivalent. Instead, in the early 1960s, they built the SVD. What were they thinking?

We had an epiphany while at a foreign weapons course, zeroing in on a target with a Romanian FPK with a badly maladjusted scope. Fortunately, the instructor was an ace spotter, so he was able to talk us on to heart shots by using Kentucky windage — aiming, in fact, at the silhouette’s hand in his pocket to pop him just (our) right (his left) of the sternum.

It wasn’t the optimum way to fire the gun, but it worked. It was satisficing, not optimizing.

A McMillan .338 LM with a Nightforce or Schmit & Bender scope might well be an optimum sniper weapon, but the organizations that spring for weapons like that are few and small. A small, poor country like Communist Romania could put an FPK in every  or every other rifle squad. The USSR did something similar with the similar-looking (but better designed and made) SVD (Dragunov Sniper Rifle, in its Russian acronym). What were they thinking?

These weapons would not impress M24-equipped SOF snipers, or M40-wielding Marine Scout Snipers. But they were adequate for their task. They gave every rifle unit a few precision riflemen that could engage point targets out beyond the effective range of assault rifles. They got all the other benefits of snipers, too: ISR through direct observation being, perhaps, the most important.

The Soviet and Warsaw Pact (now Russian and CIS) program was a success even though it was not up to SF or Marine standards. But, thing is, it didn’t have to be. For the Russian architects of Soviet sniping doctrine, which drove the development of the SVD rifle, “good enough” was, well, good enough. They chose to satisfice, not optimize, a decision that met all their needs while working within their constraints.

Satisficing is often a more satisfying process than optimizing. If something is optimized for particular requirements, it may be less adaptable than something that was just good enough. And it’s entirely at the mercy of the wisdom and foresight of the guys who write those requirements. (Six years after adoption, for instance, even Army Ordnance figured out that the nifty-neat magazine disconnector that let you use a Krag like a Trapdoor really wasn’t enough of a killer feature to pick it over the Mauser, after all).

The US has many riches in Small Arms Development, but consistency is not one of them. Consider two development programs that brought contracts to H&K over the years: the Offensive Pistol and the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System. Both of these contracts were successful, in that the US military procured (or in the case of the CSASS, is procuring) at least some of the systems. But both might have gone better, had a satisficing approach been taken instead of a maximizing one.

The Offensive Pistol was a special operations project mostly driven by a SEAL wish-list. It produced a pistol that checked every box, but that was nearly as bulky and heavy (with its suppressor) as a carbine. Despite the weight, though, the Mk 23 pistol was handicapped by being a pistol that fired a pistol cartridge. That meant it could never be a sole weapon, the guy using the Mk 23 (presumably in clearing a linear or confined target) needed to have a carbine too.

Mk 23. This one from Cranston Gun and Coin in Rhode Island.

Mk 23. This one from Cranston Gun and Coin in Rhode Island. Without something for scale, the size of it isn’t obvious…

Here we see how the Mk 23 dwarfs even the pretty big .45 ACP USP Tactical (from this thread on HKPro).

Here we see how the Mk 23 dwarfs even the pretty big .45 ACP USP Tactical (from this thread on HKPro).

The Mk 23s are out there, but I’ve never heard of anybody using them for anything but playing on the range, or stylin’ and profilin’. It was optimized for its set of specifications, but nobody ever said, “Wait a minute, we say we want it to do X and handle Y, but did we ever do X and Y with a pistol before? Why not?”

In the case of the CSASS, the Army (in particular) had another firearm that was developed from a telephone-book-sized stack of requirements and specifications, the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System. The M110 SASS had the same thyroid problem as the Mk 23: it was unweildy for the ways the soldiers wanted to use it.

The M110 SASS came with lots of cool gear, but few of the end users were well trained on the system.

The M110 SASS came with lots of cool gear, but few of the end users were well trained on the system. And it was too long and unwieldy, hence, the compact semi-auto sniper system competition started to find a less unwieldy

The maker of the original M110, Knight’s Armament Corp., offered to modify the existing M110s to meet the new spec for short money but the Army wasn’t having any of that. They wanted all new guns, and hang the expense.

The CSASS, a cousin of the German G 28 (HK calls this variant the G28E), is basically a piston .308 AR, but it’s optimized for the new specification.

das-hk-g28e-im-cal-7-62mmx51What happens when the users of that rifle make contact with the enemy and suggest some changes? Or, somewhat more cynically, what happens when some new action officer replaces the old and brings a new set of prejudices to bear on the problem? Will the CSASS have as short a run as the M110 did? And be replaced, as it was, by what’s essentially the same gun?

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Partisan Rifles

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

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

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

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

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

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

SVT-Inspired Italian Rifle: It’s Strange

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

Copy of Russian Semi Rifle 01

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

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

Copy of Russian Semi Rifle 02

Here’s what Ian says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Misleading-at-a-glance Krag

If you were to just see this Krag sporting rifle in a gun dealer’s rack, you might be forgiven for concluding it was one of the many Krag rifles sporterized in the 1940-75 or so heyday of the converted military bolt action.

Norsk Elgrifle 28414-01

You’d probably note it was well worn, as the stock marks show, but carefully cared for, and that the sporterization job had been done by someone other than Bubba — it was thoroughly professional. (look at the checkering on the stock, the rich dark blue, and the bright checkered bolt handle).

Norsk Elgrifle 28414-02It’s a craftsman’s piece:

Norsk Elgrifle 28414-05

If you looked at it closely, you’d note that it was a Norwegian  Krag, a Model 1912 originally produced at Kongsberg Arsenal in 1918. (We read the date in Joe’s photo as 1915, not 1918, but it’s a century old, near as dammit, either way).

Norsk Elgrifle 28414-10

Maybe you’d be bemused by its one-off rear sight, never seen on any other rifle to our knowledge. It looks strong and simple to use and manufacture, but as far as we know, it’s unique.

And you’d miss what it was. That’s where a knowledgable and connected dealer like Joe Salter comes in. Joe serves both the American and Canadian markets; while we found this rare Krag on his American website, he would know if (and how) it is available to Canuckistani collectors.

It is a Norsk Elgrifle, a Norwegian Moose Rifle, a Krag that was sporterized by the original factory 30 years after its original manufacture, one of a few hundred returned to the civilian market to support Norway’s robust hunting culture. After the success of this project Kongsberg simplified the rear sight and produced more rifles.

Here’s Salter’s description:

This 1918 dated rifle is one of only 500 of these sporting arms made at Kongsberg Arsenal by converting Model 1912 Krag carbines into “Elgrifle” (Moose Rifle) configuration just prior to 1950.

As you saw, this Krag is well used, and well cared for.

Norsk Elgrifle 28414-06 Norsk Elgrifle 28414-03

Serial #5743, 8 x 57mm “Moderat”, 23” barrel with a fine, bright bore that has traces of freckling within the grooves. The rifle 85-90% of the armory blue finish blending with a mellow plum-brown patina on the balance, and having fading and silvering at the muzzle and on the other high edges and projections. The bolt retains its correct armory bright finish with knurling on the flattened knob, and is nubered to the gun. The correct checkered pistol grip sporting length stock and handguard are in very good condition with some minor handling marks in the original armory oil finish and some mild flattening of the points. The rifle has its original front sight blade with white metal insert and the distinctive dial adjustable rear sight peculiar to these rifles (adjustable for 100 and 300 meters).t

Apart from one-off Kyhber workshop stuff, how many of us own a firearm that was made in only 500 copies, most of the survivors of which remain in their native land?

This model was quickly superseded by the M.51 variant that used a simpler two leaf rear sight instead. These are exceedingly rare rifles and are seldom seen in the U.S., and this example rates fine-near excellent condition overall.

One caution comes with the gun, one which requires (these days) hand-loaded ammunition).

Please Note: Although these rifles are chambered for the 8 x 57mm cartridge, the Krag action is not strong enough to handle full power loads. Because of this, a special low power loading was developed specifically for these rifles: the 8mm “Moderat” round which developed about 10% less pressure than standard 8mm sporting rounds. Consequently, full power 8mm Mauser cartridges should NEVER be fired in this rifle.

via Rare Norwegian Krag M.48 Moose Rifle by Kongsberg.

Krags are a love-’em-or-hate-’em kind of firearm. Nobody’s “meh” about the Krag in its military guise, ether its American or Scandinavian versions: they either thrill to its steampunk character, or find its form-follows-function aesthetic of-putting; it’s more asymmetrical than, and devoid of the clean lines of, a Mauser of most of its derivatives. (But hey, the Pattern 14 Enfield and its US 1917 offspring aren’t up for beauty prizes, either).

This is a Krag for the advanced Krag collector or the lover of beautiful and rare firearms. It is priced accordingly: $2,200. With numerous Czech pistols to examine to finish the book, we won’t be buying this Krag, but perhaps one of you will find it a new home.

Or, perhaps, you’ll find one in a gunshop in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where a Norwegian immigrant traded his for a Winchester 70 in a factory-load caliber. Stranger things have happened!

By Popular Demand: More BAR vs. BREN Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Machine Gun Drill Times — Warsaw Pact Czechoslovakia

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

ukl_vz._59L

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

assuming_the_prone

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWII Base of Fire: BAR vs MG.34

Here’s Art Alphin, then at West Point, presenting a video for the cadets (and for all of us) comparing the weapon the US Army and Marine rifle squad used as a base of fire, the M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle, to its Wehrmacht counterpart, the MG34 general purpose machine gun.

The two weapons are technically different, of course, with the BAR more akin to the ZB 26 / ZB 30 LMGs that the German forces used as substitute standard. But they’re also tactically different, and Alphin covers that.

The MG34 barrel swap in the range-test in the video was triggered by the extractor ripping apart a casing. A failure like that in the BAR would down the gun until the residue of the case could be removed by other means. In the MG34, it simply means you have to do the barrel swap sooner (and your assistant gunner needs to get the ruptured case out before the other barrel gets too hot.

Which was better? As an infantry officer or NCO, it didn’t matter. Because your side only had one, and that was the one you had. And it was up to you to deploy it tactically in a way that best exploited its characteristics.

A great deal of discussion in the gun world is tribal/fanboy posturing, reminiscent of the hot-rodder t-shirts that were popular with grade school boys in the 1960s: “Chevies Eat Fords” or vice versa. An infantryman does not have the luxury of preference. He gets the bayonet handle the Republic/King/Commissar has provided for him, and he might as well like it because the decision is out of his hands just as much as the rifle is in them.

But even if he doesn’t like it, he has to use it. Sometimes his really will be better. Sometimes it won’t. And either way, it doesn’t matter. Good leadership with crap weapons beats good weapons with crap leadership.

Looking at the guns from a logistician’s point of view, the BAR wins. It burns less ammo, requires a smaller fire team, get by without belted ammunition. And, as complicated as it is (soldiers of a certain vintage, or who cycled through Light Weapons or 18B school,  will remember “cups and cones!”), it’s still much simpler to machine and assemble than the fiendishly complicated parts of the MG34.

That may explain why, despite the recognized high quality of the MG34, nobody really used it after 1945, and why the most successful post-war GPMG was based on its arch-rival, the BAR.

When Every Man Was in the Militia and Had to Buy a Gun

Collectors Firearms Montenegrin GasserIt actually happened, but we’re not thinking about the Colonial American militia.

It happened in 20th-Century Europe. And it was made to happen in an obscure country by an even more obscure King who was, in Conan the Barbarian fashion, king by his own hand.

The interesting character in question was one Nikola Petrović, who had become Prince (Knjaz, pronounced KNEE-ahs)  of the Ruritanian postage-stamp principality of Montenegro (in Montenegrin, Crna Gora) at age 19 in 1860, when his uncle, Knjaz Danilo I, fell to assassins (a drearily typical occupational hazard for Balkan princes).

The Montenegrin flag carried at the battle of Vučji Do in 1877.

The Montenegrin flag carried at the battle of Vučji Do in 1877. If the Turks had fired all those shots at the Montenegrins instead of at the flag, might they have won?

Danilo himself was a fascinating character who, after a power struggle, became bishop-prince of what was then an ecclesiastical state, and then essentially defrocked himself and secularized Montenegro, becoming the first secular Knjaz. Danilo was a warrior prince who spent much of his life engaged in combat with the former colonial power, the Ottoman empire. He was also a tyrant, if a benevolent one, who centralized power in a state that had been feudal almost to the point of tribal in its internal structure.

For whatever reason — online sources and old encyclopedias have the facts, not the reasons — a young noble named Todor Kadić of the Bjelopavlići shot Danilo dead in 1860. (Possible reasons include internal politics, a family dispute, political intrigue — Austria-Hungary may have procured the murder — and a persistent rumor that Danilo had cuckolded Kadić. Danilo is like that guy in a murder mystery, where every other character has a motive).  Danilo’s only child, a daughter named Olga, had recently died, so succession fell to his young nephew. To the surprise of everyone, young Nikola had a talent for leadership. .

Battle of Vučji Do, one of Nikola's many fights wih the Ottomans.

Battle of Vučji Do, one of Nikola’s many fights wih the Ottomans.

Knjaz Nikola, who was called in English Prince Nicholas, was an educated, westernized youth who wished to modernize and westernize his all-but-tribal people. But first he had to fight several wars of national survival with the former colonial power, the Ottoman empire.

He also had to keep the Bjelopavlići, who didn’t like him much more than they had his uncle, and many other independent-minded mountain tribesmen, in line. Bjelopavlići conspirators carried out a series of terrorist bombings, and then their noses were out of joint when Nikola’s government found, tried, and convicted the bombers.

Nicholas I of MontenegroHaving secured the survival of his nation, in 1910, Nikola made it a Kingdom, and himself the first (and, as it turns out, only) King. By now he was’t a kid anymore — he was a man of full years, fifty years of them as ruler.

The essential problem of Montenegro’s leaders was always how to encourage nationalism over clan loyalty, while retaining nationalism on the Montenegrin level, without seeing it subsumed in pan-Slavic identification.

At that time, the new King declared that, much as in other nations with militia laws, like Switzerland or the USA, every able-bodied man was a member of the militia. That was not a controversial or unusual idea, especially in a country that faced a hostile frontier.

Collectors Firearms Montenegrin GasserAnd then he went a step further: as a militia member, every man needed to own and carry a service pistol, namely, a Montenegrin 11.75mm 1870/74 revolver as made by the firm of L. Gasser in Vienna.

This idea was, you might imagine, popular among the young men of the nation and many of the revolvers were sold; yet they did seem to damp down some of the tribal friction that always occurs when young men in groups encounter one another. Long before Robert Heinlein, Montenegrins discovered that an armed society is a polite society.

The firearm is a period-typical large-caliber double-action, gate-loaded (and manually-ejected) revolver, with a somewhat anachronistic open-top frame, and the rear sight mounted forward of the cylinder. It is the forerunner of the improved solid-frame Rast & Gasser which became the Austro-Hungarian service revolver. Ammunition hasn’t been available anywhere since 1945, but it could be handcrafted.

These revolvers, like early European cartridge revolvers in general, have a weak and shallow market in North America, rather like other European avocations, say Märklin trains or professional soccer. But, as is the case with many firearms, the history is interesting, both the history of the gun and the history of the nation that spawned it.

Collectors Montenegrin Engraving

The revolver in this article is for sale by Collectors Firearms at this link. Montenegrin Gassers are found in a wide range of conditions and decorations; Montenegrins seem to have liked to bling-up their sidearms, and lavishly decorated and even bejeweled Gassers (the last perhaps Ottoman influence?) turn up. Almost all of them have some engraving.

Collectors Montenegrin N! CartoucheAuthentic Montenegrin Gassers are marked with the cartouche of King Nicholas, a crown over N1. In this pistol, it’s just forward of the rear sight on top of the frame where the barrel screws in (see above).

This pistol is in excellent condition for a Montenegrin Gasser. The stories it could tell, if only it could talk!

And could you ever pick it up without thinking of King Nikola, who thought he would keep his little country safe by encouraging revolver ownership?

Oh, yeah — what happened to King Nicholas? He fought alongside Serbia in 1914, and was defeated by Austria-Hungary, signing a peace treaty in 1916. His throne was lost in 1918 when Montenegro merged into the new state of the South Slavs, Yugoslavia. He himself died of natural causes, in comfortable exile on the Côte d’Azur.

And Montenegro? After an eventful period as one of the constituent Republics of Yugoslavia, it’s independent again, although it aligns closely with Serbia. But, no king, and alas, no mandatory revolvers.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Hungarian Police (Archive)

During the years of the Hungarian quisling regime, 1948-56 and 1956-90, the highly militarized Hungarian Police (Magyar Rendor) published a small magazine, containing photos of cops just doing their thing, marching up and down the square, demanding to see the peasants’ papers, and suppressing dissent.

hungarian police 50The magazine Hungarian Police had some teething problems, of the sort that go with writing and publishing anything in a police state. The first editor was, after a few months, taken out and walked through a show trial before being shot. But a new editor was found… in time, personnel actions came to be made without recourse to a firing squad.

The magazine’s photo archive has been posted online, with minimal (and Hungarian-language) captions.

Hungarian sources pose particular linguistic challenges. While we can read most European languages, the Baltic States, Finland… and Hungary, have jawbreaker tongues that are not as closely related to one another as the Romance, Germanic, and Slavic languages of the rest of the Old World. Even the Google Translate of Hungarian sources is rough, and, to make matters worse, the archive page is not one in which Google Translate can follow the links.

Still, we can figure parts of it out. Here are policemen recovering a cache of Mauser rifles.

hungarian police 87

And these images show a “rural identity check.” This is the dreaded moment when the regime’s facilitator demands, “Papers, please!” or just plain, “Papers!” The guys with armbands are a civilian police auxiliary — dependable Communists playing goon-for-the-day.

hungarian police volunteers paper checks 2 hungarian police volunteers paper checks hungarian police volunteersOther pictures reveal details about the activities and dress and equipment of the uniformed police (if the secret police had a house magazine, its photo archive has not surfaced. But if they had a house magazine, they’d probably have been a bust as a secret police).

From the same story on identity checks in a rural area, have a look at the policeman’s holster in the next two pictures.

hungarian police note holster hungarian police note holster 2

It’s hard to tell what sort of pistol he has in there, but it seems probable that it’s a Hungarian-made Tokarev, because the holster resembles other Tokarev holsters (including the cleaning rod storage, etc.).

What is interesting is what the armament says about the expectations of the Hungarian Police. The lack of long arms, and the classically European flap holsters, as much as the cop’s body language, suggests that these cops are not expecting trouble. The pistol is not there because they’re expecting to shoot people, or compel people at gunpoint; it’s a badge of office, no more.

That’s very interesting, because these photographs ran, and probably were taken, short months before Hungary convulsed in the Revolution of October 1956.

In any event, you’ll probably find something interesting in the Magyar Rendor archives — this week’s Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.