Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

A Little More Info on VT Fuzes

Proximity_FuzesIn the comments, someone asked how long it took for the Russians to develop VT Fuzes, after the Rosenbergs gave them plans1. In attempting to answer this question (which we still have not done), we came across an excellent study and engineering text on VT fuze development by Dr VK Arora. Dr Arora’s book is supposedly available from the Defense Research and Development Office in India ($45 in the USA); we can’t figure out how to buy it, though. If we could, we could arbitrage them on Amazon where they’re going for $99!

Fortunately, DRDO has put the first chapter, which includes the historical stuff, on their website. The rest of the book, the real meat of it, is tech and theory that you don’t really need if you’re in it for the history. (If you do want that stuff, even $99 is a good buy).

It took the US only 2-3 years from giving the project priority to the first Aichi Val down in flames alongside USS Helena. Dr VK Arora notes that India was able to develop VT fuzes and field them for its Army’s 75-mm and 105-mm field artillery over the nine years from 1966 to 1975. However, their first successful design was tested six months after the project started.

Of course, development is eased if you, like the Russians and Indians, but unlike the original British researchers or the Americans who took up their task, know for certain that the product is indeed feasible and practical. Russia knew that, and had some plans and documentation, but were far short of the process sheets they’d need to duplicate all the industrial processes that went into the intricate fuzes.

India had more than the Russians did, with samples of British naval fuzes to study and reverse engineer. But the naval fuzes were much too large for India’s compact WWII-vintage field artillery, which included the following:

  • 75mm/L24 pack howitzers, an important mountain gun for India
  • The British Royal Ordnance Quick Firing 25-pounder (3.45″/87.6mm) gun-howitzer. These guns were colonial leftovers, and this fuze appears not to have been fielded. (Pakistan, oddly enough, still fields these geriatric guns in quantity).
  • The 105mm Indian Field Gun (a domestic development optimized for mobility in India’s varied terrain).
  • The Russian D-46 130mm gun

In addition to the Army fuzes, the same Indian labs developed fuzes for the Navy:

  • 76.2mm Naval Gun
  • 4.5″ (actually 4.45″/113 mm, a British caliber) Naval Gun.

The initial 6-month success story in 1966 was substantially simplified and sped by a thorough understanding of how earlier fuzes, including the WWII vacuum-tube fuzes, worked. The Indian effort was organized much like the American one had been, with scientists in government-funded labs working with the support of the military for testing and industry (in India’s case, nationalized industry) for production. But in the 1960s, transistors offered a way to simplify and ruggedize the fuzes further, and the Indian engineers didn’t miss their chance. In March, 1966, Dr Arora himself at the Defense Research and Development Organization…

…with a team of three other young scientists, PC Nagpal, MN Sen, GJ Chaturvedi and two technicians commenced the work on electronics of the fuze. The team developed a prototype of CW proximity fuze in three months. The fuze electronics developed consisted of a Colpitts oscillator at 220 MHz using an epoxy encapsulated RF transistor, Doppler amplifier, a Schmitt threshold circuit and a transistor switch to ignite the detonator. The fuze oscillator detector was tested for its sensitivity by using a horizontally moving aluminium reflector in the vicinity of fuze. The complete electronics was encapsulated. The oscillator was encapsulated in low density polyethylene. The remaining circuit was encapsulated in an epoxy resin. The electronics was embedded in a plastic nose cone with a metal cap on top of the nose cone which in conjunction with shell body would work as a quarter wave monopole antenna.

The first tests were simple and practical, as the American ones had been, and showed room for further ruggedization. A wax-encapsulated battery turned out to be a weak point, as did the plastic nose cone; then-novel materials such as epoxy resins and fiber-reinforced epoxy solved those problems.

As for the Russian developments? Those still need research. But it’s unlikely it took them much longer than the Indians to get up and running.


  1. Rosenberg’s VT information was sourced, we believe, from Emerson Electric, where Julius had worked. Along with the atomic information, Julius gave up all of the classified programs Emerson worked on, including the VT fuze. Julius was always the active spy of the pair, Ethel was his partner and support agent but appears never to have had direct access, although she was able to recruit her brother David Greenglass for the atomic espionage task).

PPShooting Around Corners

Waffen Revue 25 - StG44If you’re the kind of gun and history geek (hey! own it) we generally attract to the blog, you’re already familiar with the Krummlauf (“crooked barrel”) attachment to the German MP.44 series assault rifles.

The Krummlauf  is well-documented in books like Small Arms of the World, surviving period documents, and that sort of thing. It was made in several versions, differing in the degree of “bend” (30, 45, and 60º IIRC) and could be used for firing from cover (down), or the whole weapon could be turned over for firing around corners (sideways). It had its own 1.5x optic, and the extended, curved barrel was both vented for relief, and rifled.

Whether it was intended for urban warfare (firing around corners in the assault), armored warfare (firing from behind cover in a halftrack) or positional warfare (firing from trenches) is a matter of speculation. The problem with this kind of specialized weapon, for the Germans or anybody, is that you only need it once in a while, but you have to carry it all the time. That is, if you’re going to have any hope of having it with you on the rare occasion when you do need it.

There’s a number of surviving Krummlauf attachments and MP44 Krummlauf hosts, at least a half dozen, with at least two on the NFA registry (there are probably more that those numbers). One was auctioned recently by Rock Island and has a very complete description, with an explanatory video by Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons, on its auction page.

grease_gun_around_corners_ps_march_52The US experimented with something similar, but vastly simpler. We deleted the German prismatic sight, and didn’t even make a complete barrel, creating something more like a bullet trough for a spray of 230-grain solids to go off in the general direction of the enemy. This has been widely reported to have been done by the OSS. The historical writeups are thinner than on the Krummlauf, but they’re there. The gun seems to have first come to public attention in the Korean War era. For example, it was featured in Popular Science magazine in March, 1952 (image left). The article suggests that the gun was meant to be used, and hints that there might have been an optic, but, “Sights are secret.” The gun was also featured in LIFE in 1953, and those photos turn up online here and there.

LIFE OSS curved barrel

But we never knew until we stumbled over it on the excellent site, that there were at least two Russian variants of the same thing for the PPSh-41, which was made in staggering quantities. Unlike the common PPSh, these variations are extremely rare, probably for the same reasons of impracticality that limited distribution of the German and American ones. The more sophisticated showed a similar design approach to the Krummlauf, with the added benefit of being easily convertible in direction. This video shows the gun:


The second was a bent-down version, called in one reference the Model 1945, that looks more like a gimmick than a real, working gun.

ppsh-45 curved

It honestly looks like someone heated and bent a regular PPSh. (As we’ve seen from our recent M4 at Wanat series, heating barrels can be A Bad Thing®).


We’d love to have the whole who-shot-John on these, but we don’t. Maybe some commenters can help.

One of the most interesting questions is this: were the American and Russian “corner guns” simply examples of convergent evolution, or did they come about after examining German Krummlauf units?

Ian notes, in his video about the Krummlauf, that the Germans tried doing an open trough like the later American Grease Gun modification, but gave it up and went with a rifled curved bore instead.

The Mauser K98k: a Commando’s View

These days, the venerable 98 Mauser has been elevated to a mythical position among the world’s firearms. It is, many writers say, the ne plus ultra of the military turnbolt repeater. To these fans, this position is demonstrated not only by its decades of service in every corner of the world, but also by its impact on every subsequent turnbolt, from the 03 Springfield and the Arisaka Type 38 (1905), to the Remington 700, Winchester Model 70, and Weatherby Mark V, all of which took something from the German original.

Mauser K98k from world-guns-ru

Yet there is an interesting fact about the Mauser’s history: while many nations were impressed by it and adopted it, the only major one to do so was the United States, who found its Krag-Jorgensen rifles and .30-40 Government rifle cartridge woefully outclassed by the Spaniards’ 1893 Mausers in the Spanish-American War. Superior rifles didn’t save the Spanish cause, but nobody who was on those battlefields had any doubt as to who had the best rifles.

The elevation of one of the volunteer regiments’ colonels, and an avid shooter and hunter, to the Presidency (that promotion itself the product of gunshots) might have had something to do with it. The British had a similar Mauser experience in the Boer War, and were close to the adoption of a rifle with numerous Mauser features (the Pattern 13 and ’14 Enfields) when war intervened and someone in the War Office thought it the wrong time to change. So they entered the Great War wedded to the SMLE Mk. I.

Lee enfield Mk1

After the war ended, though, the British were satisfied with their SMLE. The French also didn’t think the Germans had a better rifle (even though most arms historians are pretty sure they did). Like the Americans and Russians, they were thinking about semi-autos for the future (France would later adopt an odd but serviceable turnbolt, the M1936). None of those nations came out of World War One thinking the Germans had better rifles.

And they didn’t enter — or exit – World War II thinking that, either.

Here’s a opinion worth noting from Peter Young. Who’s that? Well, to lay the whole thing out, it’s Brigadier Peter Young, DSO, MC, MA, FSA, retired. Or it was, when the wartime officer turned historian wrote the Foreword for John Weeks’s World War II Small Arms. In it, Young records being less than impressed with German rifles and riflery, even when it had its very best chance to make an impression on him:

It is interesting to see that the Germans, whose military skill is so much admired, were also capable of making mistakes. The production of the Model 98 Karabiner is a case in point. Having been missed by numerous German riflemen between 1940 and 1945, I have often wondered why the Germans, so skillful with mortar and light machine gun, we’re such rotten shots with the rifle. Well, now I know:

“Unfortunately,” the author writes (without considering my feelings!), “It was a relatively awkward rifle to shoot, and the bolt action was most disappointing. The sight radius was short, which did not make for good shooting.”


In Nº.3 Commando, which I commanded in Italy and Normandy, we were always glad to acquire Lugers or “Schmeissers”, and sometimes used the MG 34. Nobody ever bothered to keep a German rifle. The firepower of the platoon is a decisive factor in infantry combat, and by giving their men a rifle that was so much less effective than the Garand, or even the old Lee Enfield, the Germans were making life unnecessarily difficult for themselves at section level.

Now, that should put the cat among the chickens. Neither Glock nor H&K fanboys can hope to equal the shining, white-hot ardor of German WWII armament fanboys. But this is the word of one who most assuredly Was There™.

Weeks, in the book, does note the German attempts to leapfrog the 19th Century rifle: the G43, which was never built in large numbers, the MP.44, which he’s remarkably (and we think, unfairly) dismissive of, and the daddy of all German techno-fantasies, the FG.42: Weeks loves it as much as any other writer, but recognizes that its production in Wehrmacht-sized quantities was never a possibility. Even the much simpler K.98k with its decades of production engineering could never be built in quantities enough to arm Germany’s mass levies.


To some extent, what Young is describing is simply “the-devil-you-know effect”; not many Germans picked up M1s, either (although photographs indicate that it did happen). His Commandos’ taste for Lugers and MP.38/40 submachine guns may be partly explained by the British practice of being fairly stingy with the issue of the British analogues of these arms, especially the pistols.

The problem with the K.98k is, quite simply, that at the outbreak of of WWII its basic action was 40 years old, and based upon a design that was about a decade older than that. The many German experiments with upping their combat firepower at section level shows that the German Wehrmacht did indeed recognize that the shortened version of their World War I Gewehr 98 was only a stopgap when they introduced it amidst their rearmament program of 1935.

Law-Driven Innovation in NZ

We saw this very cool .22 rifle on Reddit and Imgur — but the story behind the rifle was even more interesting, to us, because it’s a tale of human adaptation to that most inhuman of human adaptations, bureaucracy.

Every jurisdiction — nation, state, province, municipality — has more or less authority to regulate guns, and that means that there’s a lot of variation worldwide. And gun enthusiasts in those countries produce innovations, sometimes, that are driven by the peculiar aspects of their national laws. Take this rimfire bolt-action from the island paradise of New Zealand (these pictures do embiggen greatly if clicked:

NZ Norinco SBR folded


OK, that’s the transport mode, with the stock collapsed. Here’s what it looks like, stock extended.

NZ Norinco SBR3

Pretty cool? Want one? Er, wait, while we digress into international gun law.

Many nations try to ban all but hunting guns, or ban handguns. (Handguns tend to be preferred by criminals, due to their concealability). In nations that ban or highly restrict handguns, there tend to be restrictions on minimum size of rifles and shotguns. The New Zealand restrictions on what is an A-License Category firearm drove the development of the rifle you see here.

The US NFA as an Example

The US has an equivalent law, and it, too, originated as an attempt to ban or highly restrict handguns. The original intent of the sponsors of the National Firearms Act of 1934 was to ban (or technically, restrict, but de facto ban with a Pigovian Tax) pistols and revolvers, as well as machine guns, silencers, and cannons. Their lawyers told them they could not structure a ban as a ban, but could slide it through as a tax measure. But their vote-counters told the New York, Chicago and Boston liberals behind the law that they’d never sell a pistol ban to representatives and senators from the West or South.

So the law passed with the machine-gun and silencer restrictions, and restrictions on short-barrel rifles and short-barrel shotguns which were originally meant to prevent outflanking the pistol ban that was deleted from the bill. (The secondary purpose of the law was to ensure that the agents of the famously corrupt Prohibition Bureau didn’t lose their government jobs, as numbers of them had some connection to a politician).

Most every American gunnie can quote you the barrel length restrictions in the NFA. Rifles must have barrels of 16″; shotguns, 18″. But there are also overall length restrictions of 26″ for both weapons. This technical distinction means it is possible to have a weapon with a perfectly legal barrel length, but given a pistol-grip or other short stock, or a bullpup configuration, the weapon is illegal. (What does ATF call a weapon like that, that cannot be a “short-barreled rifle” or “short-barreled shotgun” because, well, the barrel isn’t legally “short”? The term of art is “weapon made from a rifle”



…or “weapon made from a shotgun.”



Legally, the difference between SBR or SBS and “weapon made from” in the USA is not that great. Both a short-barreled long-gun, and a “weapon made from” a long gun, require a registration under NFA and approval and tax paid ($200) prior to manufacture. Possession of one without your legal and tax ducks in a row en avant is a major Federal felony with a decade in prison as the “prize.”

Of course, that’s US law, and New Zealand has its own.

The New Zealand Law and Its Variance from the US NFA

New Zealand is a different country, and her representatives have written, not surprisingly, entirely different laws. By and large, Kiwi laws are restrictive, comparable not to the USA in general but perhaps to the USA’s more restrictive jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts or Illinois.  Firearms of non-sporting types must be registered, and owners must be approved by the police as having a “good reason” to own that type of weapon. Self-defense is explicitly excluded as a reason.

Like there used to be in Massachusetts, there are “classes” of license, although in NZ they get quite complex:

  • Class A or “standard” license: sporting shotguns and rifles, and air guns.
  • Endorsement B: pistols for target shooting, which may be used at police-approved target shooting clubs, only
  • Endorsement C: collect pistols or “restricted” weapons, but not necessarily to shoot them
  • Endorsement E: to own and fire the dreaded “assault weapons,” which are called “Military Standard Semi Automatic (MSSA)” in Kiwi law.

An interesting peculiarity of New Zealand law is that you must be licensed to shoot these weapons even if you do not own them. Apart from some provisions for rentals by professionals, an unlicensed person may fire only Class A, sporting, arms, under the direct supervision of a licensee

Gun licenses are managed by the police. Their website says:

Someone will arrange to visit you. They will interview you and check your firearms security arrangements. They will arrange to interview your referees.

You will have difficulty being deemed ‘fit and proper’ to possess or use firearms if you have:

– a history of violence
– repeated involvement with drugs
– been irresponsible with alcohol
– a personal or social relationship with people deemed to be unsuitable to be given access to firearms
– indicated an intent to use a firearm for self-defence.

There are some bizarre requirements. For instance, if you don’t keep your firearms at home, it doesn’t matter– you still have to install a security system. (Maybe some top NZ rozzer is getting a kickback from the alarm manufacturer). But it’s their country, they set their own rules.

What the Kiwi Inventor Did and Why it’s Cool

So, our New Zealander wanted to update and improve a fairly conventional Norinco .22 sporting rifle, whilst keeping it legal on a standard “A” license. He envisioned this:

NZ Norinco SBR2



With a sliding stock to make it even more compact. (The suppressor is legal and unregulated, as near as we can tell, in his island nation. Other country, other rules). But the NZ equivalent of the US SBR law means a gun ceases to be sporting (which makes it, what? “Not cricket?”) if it’s shorter than 762 mm.

No matter how inept you are with the metric system, if you’re a gun guy who knows that .30 caliber is 7.62 mm, you ought to be able to figure out that the customizer of this gun, who goes by the Reddit handle CPT Tooks, needed to keep his gun 30 inches long (gee, even longer than our silly SBR law). But the New Zealand law has one marked superiority over the US equivalent — if the weapon can’t be fired in its retracted mode, it is only measured in the mode it can be shot in. As you can see, Tooks’s stock guards the trigger when forward. He says:

I have been working on this one for a while now. Its a suppressed .22lr with a collapsible stock. It started life as a full length Norinco JW15. My goal was to create a stock that could be as compact as possible that would not infringe the New Zealand A-Cat. rifle length law when it is folded down. As you can see when the rifle is less than legal length for a rifle in NZ (762mm) you can no longer engage the trigger. length collapsed = 470mm

That’s 18.5 inches, for all of us bitter clingers to the measurement standards of the Laws of Aethelberht.

NZ Norinco SBR

Here are some more of Tooks’s comments, edited out of the relevant Reddit thread:

I modeled the stock in CAD (Solidworks) and printed it on my 3D Printer. So I just made the stock to fit the Norinco’s action. Cut the barrel down to 7 inches, re-crowned it and made the suppressor for it. Done.

My 3D printer is an Up 2 plus, its print area is 200x200x200mm. the stock is printed in 8 parts and joined together.

The trigger slides inside the stock.

I made the suppressor as well. I printed it.

NZ has no limitations on short rifle barrels, or suppressors. He does not seem to have made the suppressor on the 3D printer, but if you look closely at the pictures of the stock, the telltale lines of additive manufacturing are given away.

I print suppressors on .22lr, .17hmr and .22mag- they are pretty big like the one on this gun but they do work great!. (ABS- If done right its easily strong enough for rim fire). I have put 500+ rounds through my mk1 model with no failure. I live in New Zealand so its not illegal to make suppressors.

He is still responding in the thread.

In the USA it’s not illegal to make suppressors, but it’s restricted. Tooks is not averse to releasing  his designs, but wants to do it in a manner that will get him paid, rather than just dumping them on the net.

Here in the USA, someone would have to convert his stock design to a weapon which is available here, as Norinco imports have been banned since 1989. The ATF interprets the SBR law differently, depending on whether the stock is folding or detachable. If a rifle has a folding stock, it is measured in the extended position, on the presumption that it is meant to be fired that way, even if it can be fired folded. That’s why an Uzi carbine with a metal stock and a 16″ barrel is a Title I firearm, and an Uzi with the same barrel and a detachable wood stock is not. (It is a Weapon Made From a Rifle). Both are about 24 ½” long. Likewise, if you rig the Uzi’s metal stock to be removable, it is no longer a Title I firearm but a Title II NFA arm.

Some states are weird about this, also. Michigan considers rifles that are operable when folded to be SBRs banned under state law if under 26″ (which includes all those Uzis). Folding stock rifles that fold to between 26″ and 30″ and are operable folded, like the AK or most folding M1 Carbines, are classed as “pistols” in that state, and must be registered if you are a resident… but in an unintended consequence of the attorney-general ruling that created this law, are legal to carry loaded, concealed, or in a car, with a pistol license from any recognized jurisdiction! Yes, in Michigan, you can’t carry a fixed-stock AR or AK loaded in your car, but if you can fold it to between 26″ and 30″ you can call it a pistol and be armed to survive in Detroit.

The Cuban Winchester

These days, with Cuba in the news and our President bowing and scraping to los hermanos pollos Castros, is a good time to reflect on the arms of the Cuban Revolution. A recent biography of one of the many tragic figures of the war, Comandante Americano William Morgan, contained a few brief paragraphs about a homemade gun, the “Cuban Winchester.”

One night, [former Second Front training officer Regino] Camacho came over to Morgan, and the two began talking. The other rebels watched as the two huddled over an old Winchester, piecing together the parts to put it back together. They had patched up their differences.

By the morning, the two had devised a homemade assault rifle. Using the frame of a 1907 Winchester and combining it with other parts, they created a base so the gun could fire with interchangeable barrels, depending on what ammo was available. They called it the Cuban Winchester.

This book (The Yankee Comandante by Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss) does have different details from other sources, but the authors have made scant attempt to document their sourcing, and no source at all is given for this. On top of that, Sallah and Weiss clearly have no interest in or understanding of firearms; a picture showing Comandante Morgan posing with his rebel girlfriend describes their arms, an M1 Thompson and an M1 Carbine, as “assault rifles.” But it interested us enough to track down other references to the Cuban Winchester, such as they are, and to tentatively conclude that the gun was a one-off for propaganda purposes.

We were able to find a video online from which we’ve taken some stills of the actual weapon. The actual video is embedded near the end of this post. (The images do embiggen but they’re originally pretty grainy scans from halftone, from Guns magazine in October, 1959[.pdf]).


Remembering something about this, we hit the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library, and in its needs-better-organized 3,000+ volume stacks, we found the following in Robert K. Brown’s Merc: American Soldiers of Fortune from the 1980s:

As Morgan later related in an interview with author Brown: “The Cuban Army periodically sent out two thousand to three thousand troops in offensive thrusts into the mountains to hunt us down and destroy our small bands. We were always outnumbered at least thirty to one. Some twenty or thirty of us would stay on the soldiers’ backs; we wouldn’t let them alone. As soon as one group would break off another would take up the attack. That was how we had to fight. Why? We needed the guns.”

Weapons were indeed a problem. The 26 July Movement was getting most of the foreign support going to the Cuban revolutionaries. Their public-relations personnel and contacts in the United States were better than any other group at the time. Even when weapons were shipped to the Second Front, Castro’s men frequently managed to intercept them.

Morgan found an experienced gunsmith who had seen action in the Spanish Civil War and in a number of South American revolutions and intrigues. Captain Camacho, as he was called, scrounged up welding equipment, lathes, and a forge, to set up the revolution’s army. He invented unique, effective weapons to compensate for the guerrillas’ shortfall, making them out of parts available or captured locally. An inventive genius, one of his more widely known items was called the “Cuban-Winchester” by those who used it. He used the frame of a .44 lever action Winchester rifle produced in the 1890s and combined it with parts from Winchester semi-automatic rifles, M-1 Garand rifles, and a few handmade parts. He reamed out his own barrels and, depending on what ammo was available locally, the user could select .45 ACP, U.S. .30 carbine, or 9mm caliber by switching barrels. The weapon could utilize many different types of pistol magazines, including the efficient Luger 32-round “snail drum.”

Morgan reported that this gun bad limited accuracy, but was highly regarded due to its firepower. He himself preferred British 9mm submachine guns, due to their light weight and the light weight of the 9mm ammo. During the guerrilla experiences, he noted the difference a heavier gun and ammo made when trying to move fast and far.

Morgan’s interview with Brown was previously used in a brief Guns Magazine report in October, 1959 (p. 17); Guns has put the entire issue online (.pdf), and here is the story:



PRODUCT OF CUBAN ingenuity and Yankee drive is the “Cuban Winchester,” emergency weapon of the revolution. Commandante William Morgan, an American fighting with the Revolutionary Army, thought up the idea in searching for greater firepower. Together with Captain Camacho, grizzled old gunsmith who had fought in the Spanish Civil War, the recent Venezuelan fracas and other South American scrapes, they put together 10 of the conglomerate arms pictured — prize creation of Camacho’s machine shop in the hills which also turned out grenades, machine guns, home-made cannon and anti-tank mines. It took three or four men about two weeks to complete one gun. In this little gem, the slide. recoil and trigger mechanism are a blending of M-l Carbine and handmade parts inside a Winchester .351 Self-Loading frame. The stock is whittled out by hand. Rebored interchangeable barrels allowed Morgan’s men to fire .45, 9mm, or .30 Carbine ammo, depending on what was for supper that night. Ammo capacity depended on the type of magazine used: either altered Star pistol clips or a drum.

According to Morgan, the short barrel length limited accuracy to “about 25 yards. However, it threw enough lead to allow us to even up the odds a little, as well as give confidence to the men,” the 30-year old ex-paratrooper told me. “Morgan’s combat experience included a world wide assortment of weapons, but he prefers the British Sten or improved Sterling submachine guns. He described the British weapons as having less recoil and weight yet a greater effective range than the American Thompson or M3 grease gun. “Furthermore,” he emphasized, “weight difference between 9 mm ammo and .45 makes a hell of a difference in favor of the 9mm when you’re off on a 40 mile hike in the Cuban backwoods.”


The gun is also mentioned, briefly, in Aran Shetterly’s The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom, another bio of Morgan. Shetterly describes Morgan (pp. 160-161) as

[P]osing with a “Cuban Winchester” (a regular bolt-and-lever Winchester rifle that the weapons doctor, Regino Camacho, had turned into a semiautomatic).

Previously, Shetterly introduced Camacho (p. 56):

 Like young baseball players being handed their first uniforms, bats, and gloves, Menoyo’s men thrilled at the sight of the shipment of arms. It was an odd assortment of weapons from shady dealers and pawnshops from Miami to New Jersey. There were 50 Italian carbines, a Thompson submachine gun and two English Stens that could fire 550 rounds per minute, two Springfield rifles, a Garand, five Remington semi-automatic rifles, one M1 and two M3’s, carbines, and thousands of rounds of munition [sic]. Menoyo handled the Sten to Morgan, knowing that he was one of the few men in the group who could handle a submachine gun.

In addition to the weapons, there were tents, uniforms, knapsacks, lanterns, and other essential tools and supplies, including a few old military helmets. One of these was a big, heavy Nazi helmet that a pawnshop proprietor had tossed in with the guns. Only one young man, a country boy named Publio, had a head big enough to wear it – and he did.

Every piece of hand-me-down war refuse would find a home. The weapons that didn’t work would be investigated and retooled by a bespectacled Spanish machinist named Regino Camacho. Camacho could turn a rifle into a submachine gun, or fit the clip of an American repeating rifle into the equivalent Italian firearm.

The single “Cuban Winchester” ever seen in photos appears to have been made from a .351 Winchester 1907 semiauto, based on the photos, not a lever action. This was a simple blowback design, meant to be a less expensive competitor to Remington’s expensive Browning-designed Model 8. It is fitted with a new stock including a pistol grip, a new forearm with the operating handle relocated to the right side, a cut-down barrel, and a strange drum magazine made from the drum of a 1st Model Luger TM.08 “snail” drum, and the body of a straight magazine of some kind.

The weapon is claimed to have been made in a quantity of 10, but Morgan’s Second Front were excellent propagandists and poor narrators, so all we know for sure is that one was made. No image shows more than a single firearm.

Moreover, no picture we have shows more than one single firearm or any variation that suggests more than one existed. In addition, no photo shows anything that might be the interchangeable barrel mechanism, and all pictures appear to show the same 1st Model TM.08 snail drum, a unit that was designed for the 9mm cartridge and would not adapt well to some of the rounds claimed for the “Cuban Winchester.”

Is this, perhaps, a propaganda weapon designed to promote the 2nd Front? Or, perhaps, even, to conceal the 2nd Front’s actual weapons sources? Did it even function? In some details it resembles the gangster specials of the 1930s, like the Hyman Lebman guns made for the Dillinger gang, as recounted here in 2013.

Replica of the Hyman Lebman Dillinger Gun, which may have inspired Camacho.

Replica of the Hyman Lebman Dillinger Gun, the original of which may have inspired Camacho.

A tragic figure, Morgan was a subordinate leader to Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo in something called the Second Front of the Escambray, a revolutionary group whose opposition to Batista was grounded in Enlightenment republican thought and values, as opposed to the Movimiento 26º de Julio whose values were those of Marxism-Leninism. They quickly came into opposition with the dominant Communists after the Revolution, and tried to play double-agents between the Communist Castro brothers and Che on the one hand, and the staunchly anticommunist Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Morgan and Menoyo had been betrayed by the US Ambassador, who at the time was operating under the sway of Castro’s and Che’s ostensible charisma. Not knowing whether or not they could trust Morgan, Castro and Che solved the problem their usual way, having Morgan shot after their victory. His wife was allowed to emigrate to the United States in the Mariel boatlift. Menoyo escaped to the USA, but would be betrayed on a later mission to Cuba and spend decades in prison.

Despite Morgan’s boast to Brown of being an “ex-paratrooper,” he was no such thing. Morgan was an Army veteran, but as if often the case among would-be mercenaries, he was a failure as a soldier, earning only a dishonorable discharge. The state of Cuban guerrilla training in the late 1950s was such that even such an undistinguished and brief career made him a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

None of these books is entirely trustworthy about Morgan. The Brown book lapses into mercenary fandom, and the new biography, written by two Toledo Blade journalists, commits the usual journalistic sins; true to newsroom culture, they don’t let themselves be distracted from good storytelling by a meaningless quest for accuracy. For example, while there are multiple legends of such things as Morgan’s death, the narrative-happy journos pick the one that most serves their narrative arc, and don’t even inform their readers that there are others.

Here is the video, from JMantime, whose channel has a lot of weapons-related content. We’re not aware of any photos of the Cuban Winchester other than the handful in this video, which were all in Brown’s Guns magazine article.



Brown, Robert K., and Mallin, Jay. Merc: American Soldiers of Fortune. New York: McMillan, 1979.

Sallah, Michael, and Weiss, Mitch. The Yankee Comandante: The Untold Story of Courage, Passion, and One American’s Fight to Liberate Cuba. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2015.

Shetterly, Aran. The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2007.

Apart from the sources listed above and linked in the article, there’s a trove of Morgan-related material at, including a good bit of primary source material, and many of the Toledo Blade stories that were fleshed out into Sallah and Weiss’s book. Retrieve from:

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week:

Page for one of the reenactor units

Page for one of the reenactor units

Even on Christmas Eve, we don’t want to miss giving you all a W4. So go and check out

First, the bad news: it’s all in Russian. (Somewhere in Russia, Max Popenker shrugs. “What’s the big deal about that?”).

And he’s not the only one. The officers of the 54th Minsk Infantry Regiment are cool with that. Here they are, in one of the pictures on the site. The Polkovnik and his senior officers appear to be front and center. Apparently, you needed whiskers to be an Imperial Russian officer:


Now, the good news: is a treasure trove of primary documents we haven’t found elsewhere, including reproductions of Russian equivalents of what in the US Army are technical manuals (about stuff, like rifles and cannons) and field manuals (about how to do stuff, like fight with bayonets or employ an infantry unit in combat).

So what? We can hear you thinking. That Soviet doctrinal stuff is all over the net, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that this isn’t Soviet stuff. In fact, it’s older: it’s Tsarist doctrinal material from the era of the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, mostly. We were able to negotiate it with our thready and weak Russian language skills, but you could also attack the site through Google Translate, always bearing in mind the Monty Python Hungarian Dictionary Sketch. “Your hovercraft is full of eels!”

Now, as you might expect, Tsarist doctrine went a long way to form early Soviet doctrine; entire units changed sides in the Revolution and Civil War, and they brought their way of doing things with them. The Soviets talked a good game about “a new way of war,” but that’s mostly what it was, talk. (One thing they did do is decrease the hereditary and increased the meritocratic input to officer selection, which brought Russia into line with other modern nations).

Whether you’re interested in this period or the later, Soviet, period, this next document should be especially delightful to you Mosin-Nagant fans who wonder how Ivan really intended to use that bayonet:

Both include the original plates illustrating the fighting positions and moves. Unfortunately there’s no whole-document .pdf download.

The site \ belongs to a group of historian-reenactors who call themselves “Mountain Shield,” and they are as fascinated and obsessed by the technology and culture of the pre-revolutionary Imperial Russian Army as any reenactors anywhere are fascinated by their  chosen period. Compared to even the Russian Civil War or the Russo-Polish War (let alone the Great Patriotic War, as Russian historiography styles their fight for survival in World War II), the military culture of Tsar Nicholas II is a historical black hole.

And some of it is just… mysterious. This 1905-dated photo, which appears to have been scanned from halftone in a book, shows Russian troops lounging in an unidentified port, possibly Port Arthur, on top of a Jules Verne vision, which the caption defines as an “underwater boat”. Russian, or Japanese? Ya neznayu.

1905 submarine with Russian soldiers. Anyone know more?

1905 submarine with Russian soldiers. Anyone know more?

It looks like a stouter CSS Hunley, actually. It’s part of a gallery that begins on a page described: Equipment of the Russo-Japanese War (“Niva,” 1905). Another picture from that page shows a soldier in a plowed field, about to handle an unexploded 11-inch battleship shell, with a smaller Japanese shrapnel dud next to his leg.



As anybody from EOD can tell you, after the first couple ounces, all the rest of the explosives are “free.”

The following is captioned, “In position. Mounted machine gun before an enemy attack,” and is credited to “Special Correspondent V. Taburin” of “Niva” (presumably a news magazine of the period).   (Link).

niva01_29_1905The mount of the Maxim is very interesting, as is the gun itself which may be a bought British-made gun, not a Russian-produced M1905. The mount looks like it may have had a matching limber for ammunition, and been drawn by draught horses or by men. It’s also interesting that the crewmen do not have fixed bayonets. The casual stances of the officers on the right suggest that this photo was taken nowhere near the threat of enemy fire, caption notwithstanding.

In another photo taken behind the same gun, you can see that the rifles are definitely Mosin-Nagants. And in yet another photo, from a different gallery of Russo-Japanese War pictures, you can see a marksman taking aim (“at the enemy,” the caption assures us). His Mosin clearly has the bayonet mounted. If you blow up the picture you see that other soldiers formed a human ladder to assist him and the binocs-using officer up the tree.


Treasures like this are why we like Perhaps you will, too!


Dae-who? (answer overleaf)

Here’s a rare assault rifle, one you don’t see often in its standard select-fire iteration out in the world, and one you see even less often in its semi auto US import version, the importation of which ceased in the 1990s and has never been resumed.

We’ll have the answers for you after the jump. Tell us in the comments if you knew it on sight!

Continue reading

US Rifle Co-Production in the Cold War

During the Cold War, one of the many types of leverage exploited by the “belligerents,” the USA and the USSR, was armament sales. But as the nations in each power’s camp got more sophisticated, they wanted to develop or at least manufacture their own weapons.

The problem with that was that interests in the superpowers’ own nations wanted to export weapons, not export weapons-making technology. We know now that the USSR’s command economy allowed the export of AK-making technology to literally dozens of countries, some of which had no business building a plywood outhouse, let alone modern 20th Century weaponry.

The US was much more diffident about exporting rifle-making technology and rifle designs to our allies, or entering into co-production agreements. In the case of the M16, this was complicated by the government’s lack of ownership of the key intellectual property, making an M16 agreement necessarily a three-way negotiation with the rights holder, Colt.

Finally, towards the end of the period, US salesmen were handicapped by US laws that criminalized the quaint foreign custom of bribe-taking, and more to the point, criminalized the American who paid the bribe. This ensured that a number of contracts went to H&K and FN, whose salesmen — and whose cops — were not so, shall we say, rigid in their thinking.

Only three nations received the rights to manufacture US rifles from the US government, although others may have negotiated those rights for the M16 and M4 with Colt directly (subject to export licensing, of course).

There are US political and economic interests that strongly favor selling completed rifles instead of committing to coproduction, even as coproduction becomes the norm for many other defense articles from the F35 on down. US government contracts are often perceived by contractors and  their workforces as producing feast-or-famine instability. And in the height of the Cold War during the 1950s-70s, the US defense contractor workforce was largely unionized, and the unions were a force in American politics at the time. The unions had zero interest in production happening in a non-union, or even in some other union, shop in some FISH1 country in Asia or Africa, and used their influence to torpedo what deals they could.

Taiwan ROC: The M14 Rifle

On 23 January 1967, Taiwan’s Nationalist Chinese government (still recognized by the USA as the legitimate government of all China at that date) inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the USA for rifle, machine gun, and ammunition production. It provided a very rare authorization for unlimited quantities of M14 rifles and M60 general-purpose machine guns. (Why “unlimited”? Perhaps they were thinking the Taiwan government might get all China back).

Government-furnished machinery, tooling and process information that had been provided to Harrington & Richardson of Worcester, Mass. for the M14 contract was part of the deal. H&R had produced M14s according to Springfield Armory’s processes, not according to the more economical processes developed by TRW from automotive experience. Lee Emerson, who admits that information on the Taiwan program is hard to come by, writes:

The Memorandum of Understanding grants license to the Government of Taiwan to produce M14 rifles known as the Type 57. The January 23, 1967 memorandum states that Taiwan will purchase tools, components, material, documentation, technical assistance and assemblies from Fiscal Year 1967 through Fiscal Year 1969. As agreed to in the Memorandum of Understanding, the U. S. government sold some of the M14 rifle production machinery used by Harrington & Richardson to Taiwan in 1968. One complete set of fixtures and inspection gages was supplied to the Government of Taiwan by Springfield Armory. By November 1968, nineteen machine tools had been accepted by the Government of Taiwan out of 150 offered by the U. S. government. This assistance effort was coordinated by MAAG China. The Memorandum of Understanding also required that the Taiwanese T57 items produced would be interchangeable logistically with USGI M14 items.

The project wound up in 1979. By then the Taiwan government had produced 149,596 M14 rifles (Emerson says over a million, which seems unreasonable until you realize the 300,000 man ROC armed forces have reserves of nearly four million), 10,725 M60 machine guns, and more than 250 million rounds of 7.62 NATO ammunition. In Taiwan ROC service, the rifle is referred to as the T57. We have struck out on finding authentic images of the T57, this receiver is from a Taiwanese toymaker’s airsoft toy and is therefore somewhat suspect:

Taiwan M14 markings

The latest Taiwanese version of the M14 is the XT98 sniper, a crudely welded prototype of which was caught at a trade show in Taiwan in 2011 by Steve Johnson of the Firearm Blog. This is one of Steve’s photos (more at the link).


According to Johnson, the rifle was displayed by the Taiwanese Military Combined Logistics Command, Arsenal 205, which is their national armory. It appears to be a steel or aluminum chassis into which a legacy M14 is dropped; there has been no reported M14 production since the coproduction project went inactive in 1979.

While the US has had more success in recent years giving M14s away than it had when the weapon was still in significant US military use, no other nation ever bought the M14 as a service weapon, or developed a coproduction agreement.

Taiwan’s next rifle, the T65, was a kissing cousin of a Colt M16 improvement, the gas-piston Model 703, produced without recourse to any Colt license nor any government-to-government coproduction agreement. The Colt 703 was never manufactured, apart from toolroom prototypes.

Republic of the Philippines: M16A1 Rifle

Lots of nations bought M16s, but they bought them either through US Military Assistance Plan dollars. (Or they just ripped off the design, as noted above about Taiwan). Only a few nations sought coproduction. One of these was the Republic of the Philippines.

On 17 May 1974, the US and the Philippines, a close US ally since independence (actually, since 5 years before independence, as many Filipinos fought valiantly against Japanese invasion and occupation alongside Americans) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for rifle coproduction. It had no expiration date, but in place of the “unlimited” restriction in the Taiwan M14 contract, it authorized 150,000 rifles. The serial numbers have “RP” prefixes.

Elisco Filipino M16


Elisco Filipino M16A1b

The project concluded in January, 1982. By then Filipino arsenals had produced 166,314 M16A1 rifles. US documents do not account for the discrepancy between authorization and production. Subsequently, the Filipino firm Elisco Tool seems to have concluded a license with Colt directly for additional M16A1 rifles and carbines.

Singapore: M16A1 rifle

Chartered Industries of Singapore negotiated a deal, not with the US Army Security Assistance Command or some other branch of the US government, but directly with Colt Industries. Unlike the government-to-government exchanges, terms of this B2B deal have not been made public.

The rifles were marked with the following rollmarks (left side of magwell):

SER 000000

The serial numbers have no national prefix, unlike their Filipino and Korean counterparts. The right side had a CIS logo engraved on the magazine well.

CIS is known to have chafed under the terms of the deal. When it was sold to them, they were encouraged to plan to amortize machinery and plant under a production quantity supported by exports, but the deal they finally signed allowed them no export sales.

South Korea: M16A1 rifle

On 31 March 1971, The ROK concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the USA for rifle coproduction. It authorized 1,166,000 M16A1 rifles, which were duly built by 1984 at the latest, when the program was wound up.

According to Retro Black Rifle, the Korean rifles’ markings included (right side):


…and (left side):

Made by Daewoo
Colt 603-K

But it makes little sense for a rifle intended to be used by Korean draftees to be marked in English (RBR does note that the selector switch is marked in Korean Hangul script). An archived thread in ARFcom’s Retro Forum provides photos purporting to be one of these contract M16A1s (so-so pics, but they do embiggen):

Korean Retro M16A1 right Korean Retro M16A1


Like the Singaporeans with their Colt contract, the Koreans found the terms of their coproduction agreement with the USA uncongenial. They interrupted payments to Colt when certain Colt patents expired, triggering a lawsuit (it appears to have settled on neutral terms).

South Korea benefited by the technology transfer, perhaps, but they couldn’t use it to sell friendly Asian nations further quantities of M16A1 rifles. (It is a standard clause in coproduction agreements that no third country sales are authorized. This is presumably for political as well as economic reasons). In the end, Korean engineers at Daewoo Precision Industries (now ST-Motiv) used some concepts from the M16 and some from other firearms (including the AK and the FAL) to develop the K2 rifle and K1A1 submachine gun. Colt sued them for infringement on Colt’s patents but was not successful.


1. FISH country: an acronym indicating the nation in question is a Fly Infested $#!+ Hole, pronounced as “fish country”


Army Security Assistance Command. Security Assistance Coproduction Status Report and The Status Report Of Coproduction Programs. Washington: US Army, 31 December 1993. Retrieved from:

Emerson, Lee. M14 Rifle History and Development.  Available in four volumes at: This is the most comprehensive M14 book (and yes, we do have them all). Volume 1 is the most critical to military-weapons buffs; the full set of four volumes is a bracing ~$170; A text-only version from 2013 is available as a free download here: If you’re seriously interested, we firmly recommend buying all four volumes, which almost pay Lee back for his research. (Indeed, we just bought a fresh set to replace an outdated and incomplete set). With reference to the Taiwan guns, Lee has posted an excerpt: 

Retro Black Rifle (various pages, notably: the Foreign Model Guide at: )

Improvised Weapons in Africa

“While expertise is high and growing in the art of weapons manufacture, the know-how in the production of cartridge [sic] and other ammunition is still lacking.” — Abdel-Fatau Musah, pull quote from the report in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Spring 2002.

Weapons recovered by South African police in 2010.

Weapons recovered by South African police in 2010.

Abdel-Fatau Musah is an anti-gun activist sponsored by Holocaust collaborator George Soros’s Open Society Initiative for West Africa, and while much of what he wrote in a 2002 article in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Small Arms: A Time Bomb Under West Africa’s Democratization Process, was tendentious nonsense, he made some comments on improvised weapons that illustrate a point we keep hammering on: you can’t really ban guns, because you can’t uninvent the technology. From the thatched secret armories of Mindanao to the Tribal Trust Lands of Pakistan, humans who believe they need to arm themselves find entrepreneurs that arm them.

Improvised firearms are not new; they were once a reaction to colonialists' disarmament schemes. Smoothbore gun used by Mau-Mau terrorists in the 1950s.

Improvised firearms are not new; they were once a reaction to colonialists’ disarmament schemes. This smoothbore was built and used by Mau-Mau terrorists in the 1950s.

These third world armories have yet to produce a John M Browning, but it just might happen. As Musah notes, after deploring the existence of massive war stockpiles and ill-protected government armories, and blaming the great powers for the fact that the end of colonialism could be mistaken for the end of civilization in much of Africa, if there’s no handy stockpile a gunsmith will invent himself and start building one.

And the more he does it, the better he gets.

If one looked up the Small Arms Survey of 2001 for the list of arms producers, one would find that only Nigeria and Guinea possess the capacity to produce limited quantities of light weapons and ammunition in West Africa. Throughout the sub-region, however, cottage industries with the capacity to produce sophisticated firearms and imitation assault rifles dot the countryside. Originally established to meet local demands for hunting, these secret factories have grown in expertise and capacity to satisfy ever-growing demands brought about by general insecurity.

He also notes that the unauthorized gunsmiths react rationally to government pressure.

To avoid detection and repression, producers in Ghana have established networks of parts manufacturers, with each cell specializing in the production of specific components of the rifle. The components so produced separately—barrels, triggers, butts—are later assembled at a secret location for distribution. While expertise is high and growing in the art of weapons manufacture, the know-how in the production of cartridge [sic] and other ammunition is still lacking. The high rate of inward smuggling of ammunition is a consequence of this fact; this dependence offers options to control the overall trade.

He writes the conclusion to that paragraph as if he didn’t understand what he just said in the preceding lines.

If you try to restrict ammunition, yes, they’ll just make that, too. It’s not rocket surgery.

FIR 11307

Here’s another Mau-Mau blaster from the IWM. We struck out on images of the recent Ghanaian weaponry. Even the Impro Guns blog doesn’t have any.

Ghana, for instance, banned the local manufacture of firearms in 1962. Ten years later, they amended the Arms and Ammunition Act to allow manufacture with a license — and no license has ever been granted, or, for that matter, applied for. Yet guns are widely made.

Ghana, under the ECOWAS treaty and with the help of the EU and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation named after a Weimar era politician. The foundation’s politics are best understood by its veneration of the Karl Marx Haus in Trier, Germany, where it maintains a library of the “scientific socialism” it supports, and a hagiographic museum of the man who inspired the world’s greatest mass murders. It even says the baroque setting of Marx’s birthplace will “take you captive with its charms.” Well, if there’s one thing Marx’s ideology produced, it’s plenty of prisoners!

The Polish officers of 1939 were not available for comment, neither were the Old Bolsheviks of 1936-38, the 18 million who went into the Gulag, the millions that never came out, etc., etc.,

In Germany, the FES seems to overlap politically with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which is descended from the East German quisling government and which has an anti-semitic tilt (ironic, as Luxemburg was Jewish. But many of the founding “Communists” of East Germany were resprayed Nazis, and by 1945 the original Communists, many of them Jewish, had been exterminated under red star as well as swastika, so maybe not so ironic).

ECOWAS, the EU and the FES consider minimum small arms regulations to be national and international registration, extremely restrictive may-issue permitting, and confiscations “as needed”.

His ultimate conclusion is even further afield — that SALW (the international ban seekers’ term for “Small Arms and Light Weapons”) — need to be controlled internationally, like nuclear weapons. 

At least two problems with that conclusion arise:

  1. the nuclear nonproliferation regime is extremely costly, which has only been justified by a strong international consensus for it at most times; and,
  2. the nuclear nonproliferation regime has failed repeatedly, and is failing again with respect to Iran.

No one is likely to sanction homegrown revolver development like they do, say, homegrown enriched-uranium manufacture. And as he noted with respect to the Ghanian bush gunsmiths, bans have consequences, but never the intended ones.

This is just one more attempt by Africans and their enablers in international organizations to try to shift the blame for misconduct by African individuals and governments onto other powers.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week – Think Defence

think_defence_screenshotThe spelling “Defence” gives the game away — we’re talking about British defense issues here. Here’s what Think Defence says about itself:

Think Defence is a blog that covers UK (mostly) defence issues; images, videos, news items and in depth studies. It is not a campaign site and is funded wholly from donations and Google advert revenue, the objective is a simple one, to get people talking about UK defence and security.

Blog posts are short. Journal posts more detailed and sometimes part of a multi part series. Open threads are freeform discussion posts, one per month. The subject space contains consolidated multi part series posts and information centred on a single theme.

Come and join the discussion…

via Home – Think Defence.

We discovered it because the blogger there has commented here. Usually, we’ll take a look at a commenter’s home site. (Pro tip: if it could be mistaken for Stormfront you will not be a commenter here for long). Most of the time we find one more cool blog we’re not going to have the time to read every day, unfortunately.

Think Defence is in a somewhat different category. It covers the whole panoply of British defence issues — deployments, naval, air, ground forces and SOF, procurement and doctrine. Britain is a small country that for most of her history has fought like a much, much bigger place, and that provided the USA with its founding and many of its traditions that we think of as home-grown. (Rogers’s Rangers, for instance, was a British unit, and in the later Revolution Richard Rogers raised Rangers for King George III against the rebellious Colonials). Britain has been a key ally, and one of the few NATO countries that spends enough for its general purpose forces to be fully interoperable with the others, at the highest level of potential performance.

There’s always something worth reading, well presented, over there. So, if you want to know what’s going on where the Union Jack flies, well, Think Defence.