Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch… was a Thing?

One of the more entertaining scenes, at least for a WeaponsMan, in the old cult film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, involves the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

For decades we’ve believed it to be a fiction, but it turns out that it might have been a real thing. Fox News reports on donations to an Israeli museum from a powerplant worker who collected artifacts that washed up on the beach,for his hobby. He passed away, and his survivors donated the items — which turned out to be older than anyone expected:

A centuries-old hand grenade that may date back to the time of the crusaders is among a host of treasures retrieved from the sea in Israel.

Some of the artifacts. The 'nade is the heart-shaped object at center.

Some of the artifacts. The ‘nade is the heart-shaped object at center. The needle and knife blade at bottom center date to the Bronze Age.

The metal artifacts, some of which are more than 3,500 years old, were found over a period of years by the late Marcel Mazliah, a worker at the Hadera power plant in northern Israel.

Mazliah’s family recently presented the treasures to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Experts, who were surprised by the haul, think that the objects probably fell overboard from a medieval metal merchant’s ship.

The hand grenade was a common weapon in Israel during the Crusader era, which began in the 11th century and lasted until the 13thcentury, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Grenades were also used 12th and 13th century Ayyubid period and the Mamluk era, which ran from the 13th to the 16thcentury, experts say.

Haaretz reports that early grenades were often used to disperse burning flammable liquid. However, some experts believe that so-called ancient grenades were actually used to contain perfume.

The Haaretz story that Fox links is unfortunately off limits to goys and other nonsubscribers.

Sam Bostrom at Ancient-Origins.net tried to provide some technical background on the little bundle of joy illustrated here.

Close up of the 'nade.

Close up of the ‘nade.

One of the most striking gems the family had hung onto is a beautifully decorated hand grenade, of a type commonly used during the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods.

Hand grenades filled with Greek fire (burning naphta) was a Byzantine invention that spread to the Muslim armies in the Near East.

They were filled with Greek fire and sealed so that all a soldier needed to do was throw the grenade toward the enemy to eliminate him. Characteristics that made it singular include its ability to burn on water and stick onto surfaces, extinguishable with sand, vinegar, or–bizarrely–old urine. Some historians believe it could be ignited using water.

Although the technology has changed over the centuries, the concept remains that all the soldier need to do was to hurl the grenade toward the enemy and it´s disseminate burning naphtha at impact. The hand grenades we have now are a direct descendent of these contraptions; we’ve just updated the concept by using explosives instead.

Here’s a worker with the Israeli antiquities office, holding the milennium-old weapon.

Grenade-Authority-employee

Bottom line: Three is the number you shalt count. Five is right out. And perhaps your enemies will snuff it.

Infantry Weapons, 498,000 BC: Stone-tipped Spears

OK, this article from The Grauniad is a good three years old. But we seem to have missed it then, so there’s a good chance you missed it then, too. Let’s not miss it now! Here’s why stone-tipped spears were important: the first known spears date from 600,000 years ago, but they were just sharpened sticks. They could have been made by several arguably pre-human, protohuman or early human species, before the emergence of modern Homo sapiens or even our most recent extinct cousin, Homo neanderthalensis. Until recently, all evidence for stone-tipped spears came from the last 300,000 years and were arguably attributable to H. sapiens or to Neanderthals.

Stone-tipped-spears-008

A research dig in South Africa led then-Toronto (now Arizona State) archaeologist Jayne Wilkins to a surprising conclusion: our ancestors were making stone-tipped spears before they were even exactly “human.” First, the importance of the technology:

The invention of stone-tipped spears was a significant point in human evolution, allowing our ancestors to kill animals more efficiently and have more regular access to meat, which they would have needed to feed ever-growing brains. “It’s a more effective strategy which would have allowed early humans to have more regular access to meat and high-quality foods, which is related to increases in brain size, which we do see in the archaeological record of this time,” said Jayne Wilkins, an archaeologist at the University of Toronto who took part in the latest research.

The technique needed to make stone-tipped spears, called hafting, would also have required humans to think and plan ahead: hafting is a multi-step manufacturing process that requires many different materials and skill to put them together in the right way. “It’s telling us they’re able to collect the appropriate raw materials, they’re able to manufacture the right type of stone weapons, they’re able to collect wooden shafts, they’re able to haft the stone tools to the wooden shaft as a composite technology,” said Michael Petraglia, a professor of human evolution and prehistory at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the research. “This is telling us that we’re dealing with an ancestor who is very bright.”

It may not take a genius to make spears, but it probably took a genius to invent one.

Dating the stone tips to 500,000 years ago means that they were used on spears by the last common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals, Homo heidelbergensis. The idea that Homo heidelbergensis developed stone-tipped tools made a lot of sense, said Petraglia, because Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, which descended and split from Homo heidelbergensis around 300,000-400,000 years ago, used similar stone-tipped spear weapons.

Petraglia added that there were several other implications to the discovery thatHomo heidelbergensis had used hafting to make spears. Adding stones would not only have given our ancestors an easier way to kill prey, but also to do it from a distance. “There is a big difference between thrusting and throwing,” he said. “You can kill from a distance, maybe 10 to 30 metres away. The previous ancestors did not have that technology, so it means you are now occupying a new ecological niche, you can now take animals down more efficiently.”

Meanwhile, while the archaeologists seem to think only of the spears as hunting weapons, not as warfare tools, they theorize that hunting meat with these spears was not just an effect of rising intelligence, but a cause as well:

He added that the discovery also shed light on the development of modern human cognition. “Hominins – both Homo erectus and earlier humans – were into this meat-eating niche and meat-eating is something that is thought to be very important in terms of fuelling a bigger brain,” said Petraglia. “In terms of our evolutionary history, that’s been going on for millions of years. You have selection for a bigger brain and that’s an expensive tissue and that protein from meat is a very important fuel, essentially. If you become a killing machine, using spears, you’ve come up with a technological solution where you can be reliant on meat-eating constantly. Homo heidelbergensis is known as a big-brained hominid, so having reliable access to meat-eating is important.”

It’s a fascinating article, and deep for a newspaper (and the Grauniad of all things!). For more depth, the Science article is available to subscribers and members of the AAAS. The free teaser:

Ancient Weaponry

Hafting, which allowed projectile points to be attached to a staff, was an important technological advance that greatly increased the functionality of weapons of early humans. This technology was used by both Neandertals and early Homo sapiens and is readily seen after about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, but whether it was used by a common ancestor or was separately acquired by each species is unclear. Supporting use by a common ancestor, Wilkins et al. (p. 942) report that stone points in a site in central South Africa were hafted to form spears around 500,000 years ago. The evidence includes damaged edges consistent with this use and marks at the base that are suggestive of hafting.

Abstract

Hafting stone points to spears was an important advance in weaponry for early humans. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that ~500,000-year-old stone points from the archaeological site of Kathu Pan 1 (KP1), South Africa, functioned as spear tips. KP1 points exhibit fracture types diagnostic of impact. Modification near the base of some points is consistent with hafting. Experimental and metric data indicate that the points could function well as spear tips. Shape analysis demonstrates that the smaller retouched points are as symmetrical as larger retouched points, which fits expectations for spear tips. The distribution of edge damage is similar to that in an experimental sample of spear tips and is inconsistent with expectations for cutting or scraping tools. Thus, early humans were manufacturing hafted multicomponent tools ~200,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Nietzsche said, “That what does not kill you, makes you stronger.” WeaponsMan.com says, “That with which you kill, makes you smarter.” If our H. erectus and heidelbergensis forbears had been vegans, we might still be apes.

Technically-minded readers will enjoy a follow-on paper from 2014 (from PLOS ONE, freely available) which explores the relative performance of hafted-stone and solid-wood spears “thrown” by a calibrated crossbow into ballistic gelatin. (This article has several fascinating aspects and deserves exploration in depth).

spear_tip_testing_equipment

Since its publication, Wilkins’s original article has been criticized as, in the words of one critical article, an “abuse of the use-wear method.” Wilkins and three co-authors defended their findings in a further follow-on paper last year, and accused their critics of “using our paper as a straw-man example of the abuse of use-wear.” As archaeology disputes go, it’s a bit heated, but they haven’t resorted to spears. Yet.

The First Czechoslovak Service Pistols. Nº1: the Praga

The earliest Czechoslovak service pistols are relative rarities that are enjoyed by advanced Czechoslovak pistol collectors. While they are rare, they were still factory produced, and enough exist that they come up from time to time. At the same time, their relative obscurity has meant that a really rare pistol can sometimes be scored for less money than you might think.

This Praga in the Springfield Armory Collection, SN 7300, shows off its lines.

This Praga in the Springfield Armory Collection, SN 7300, shows off its lines. Note the divergent angle of the front and rear grip, which makes the pistol feel awkward and point low, relative to the Browning M1910.

These two pistols are the Praga, a 7.65mm (.32) stopgap, and the Czechoslovak vz. 22, the first Czech official military service pistol. Today, we’re talking about the Praga.

Other side of Springfield's Praga, showing that this is the later model.

Other side of Springfield’s Praga, showing that this is the later model.

When Czechoslovakia was established as a result of the post-WWI collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the subsequent treaties, it had little indegenous small-arms production capability. Czech and Slovak units had fought under Russian and French command, as well as in the Austro-Hungarian Army, and so a mix of surplus European weaponry was available. Austrian rifles (Mannlicher M.95 straight-pull) and pistols (Rast & Gasser revolvers and Steyr autoloaders) were the most common, and a small subset of collecting seeks out these guns as overmarked with Czechoslovak military markings. But the Czechoslovaks continued wartime Austrian plans to establish more production facilities in the Czech lands, especially Bohemia, and private firms’ production was also exploited.

Zbrojovka Praga was the first armory established in the optimism of the new Republic, but its life was short, from 1918 to 1926, and its production consisted of a few thousands of two models of pistol.

Still, the first pistol the nascent Czechoslovak military adopted, if not entirely officially, was the Praga. It is a 7.65mm (,32 ACP) handgun of conventional blowback design, resembling the FN Browning Model 1910 in styling but quite different in manufacture, and comparatively poor in ergonomics. Some sources, including Dolínek et al., say that it was designed by Czech designer Vaclav Holek, who is definitely credited with Praga’s oddball .25; Holek would go on to greatness, but the Praga is concrete proof that in 1919, he wasn’t there yet, if indeed the design was his. Novotny also employed, at one time or another, František Myška, who would go on to design other pistols, and Karel Krnka, who already had. What role each of these took in the design is unknown. Some Pragas are marked with a patent legend, but not the patent number.

Some of these Pragas would be used by the police, and some would be purchased by the Ministry of Defense. It’s unclear now whether it was intended for them to be standard issue firearms, or whether they were bought with a view to being an interim service pistol, but they did wind up being an interim pistol, as the Czechoslovak military retained neither the pistol itself or the 7.65mm caliber.

(A previous Praga pocket pistol in 6.35mm had a folding trigger and some other highly unusual features. It was never, and was never intended to be, a service pistol; it was obviously a defensive pocket pistol. We’ll discuss that at some other time; we’re only interested in the service pistol today).

Two versions of the service Praga exist; as far as we can tell the principal difference is in the markings. The rarer first model, sometimes called the vz. 19 or Model 1919 by collectors, is marked Zbrojovka Praga on the slide in ornate cursive script; the later model has the same legend, but in block capitals. The safety on the earlier model tends to be crudely checkered and the later model machined with lines, but the parts do interchange. That said, parts including the receiver, slide, breechblock, barrel, grips, trigger and sometimes the magazine are usually numbered. Matching numbers are common.

Hogg & Weeks say this (via Springfield, with some typos corrected):

7.65mm Praga Model 1921 – The first pistol produced was the vz/21 (vz: vzor, ‘model’), a 7.65mm blowback credited to Vaclav Holek but little more than an adaptation of the 1910-type Browning. Some small changes were made; the breech block was a separate unit, inserted in the slide, while the return spring was retained by the nose of the slide instead of a barrel bush.1

We don’t have a 1910 at present, but used to, and in our opinion based on the physical manipulation of both firearms, the Praga borrows mostly styling and (we think) the 7-round .32 ACP magazine from its Belgian forbear. Even the magazine, though, is altered; it has a catch to allow you to cycle the slide with a loaded mag, without picking up a round; and the gun is hammer, not striker, fired. It lacks the Browning’s grip safety. Internally, it is more different from than similar to a 1910.

The pistol was initially touted for military or police use, 5,000 being ordered by the Czech forces when Škoda declined to co-operate. They had plain wooden grips and cursive Zbrojovka Praga on the slide; this later changed to block and specimens with the Prague police badge can be found. A commercial version appeared with block-lettered slides and moulded plastic ‘Praga’ grips. Some specimens have elongated barrels which protrude about 30mm ahead of the slide.2

Springfield thinks that the marking on the left nose of the slide of their example is a Prague police badge. Their gun is also marked with 12.4.21 on the slide which is probably an acceptance date (12 April, 1921).  Most Pragas were intended for police and military markets and thus do not have Czechoslovak proof marks. (On those that are proofed, the Prague proof house retained its Austrian-era practice of marking with proof year and sequential proof number).

While Springfield’s archivists are professionals and seldom err, they aren’t perfect; they refer to the pistol as “Manufactured by Ceska Zbrojovka, Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1921.” CZ did not yet exist in 1921, and while it would mark many pistols as made in Prague, it never made pistols there, only in Strakonice and (post-1936) Uhersky Brod. (Some pistols were made by Škoda in Pilsen, and by the Czechoslovak State Armory in Brno, but they weren’t made by CZ, either. CZ is a specific firm, not a catch-all for Czech manufacture). 

Hogg and Weeks also said this about the company:

The Praga Zbrojovka in Vršovice, in which Vaclav Holek worked on the design of pistols, offered its first pistols to the Army already in the spring of 1919. This was a 7.65 caliber pistol that was more suitable for civilian or police use, but which nevertheless was more acceptable than the 6.35mm side pistol which this firm also manufactured and later sold in the market using the designation ‘automatic Praga pistol, cal. 6.35mm, M1921.’ The ministry of National Defense ordered 5,000 Praga 7.65mm pistols as early as June 1919, even though at that time it was only testing this type and had some serious objections to the workmanship.3

Vrsovice is a neighborhood or district of Prague, so these are rare Czech guns marked “Praha” (or Prague or Prag) that were actually made in the city.

Berger made a strenuous effort to get to the bottom of these exotics, and illustrates several and describes them, but he’s cautious in his conclusions. He illustrates Nº 552, then in the collection of O. Matyska. This example is an early version proofed in 1919 with the cursive Zbrojovka Praga legend, but with the striated wooden grips he suggests may be the mark of a military pistol, and a striated, not crudely cross-checkered, safety. His example of a “late” Praga is Nº 10828, dated 1923, then in the collection of E. Macaulay. This example has the block-capital marking ZBROJOVKA PRAGA PRAHA PATENT CAL. 7.65.

Some decent photos of another example are found here

Rock Island auctioned an interesting example, Nº 8950, slathered in markings revealing its history, in 2015. It was marked with a Czech military acceptance date, plus a partial commercial proof, hinting that it had been retired and sold off, plus it bore the markings of two Czechoslovak units, the 14th Infantry Regiment, gun 216 (on the right side of the frame, crossed out…) (RIA photos used with permission).

Praga SN 8950 right

…and the 5th Artillery Regiment, gun 153 (on the left side).

Praga SN 8950 left

…and close up, you can see the artllery unit’s mark, and the military acceptance date of 5 July 1921 under the rampant lion of the Czechoslovak Republic. Unit marks are often found on the grip strap of Czechoslovak Republic firearms, and are in the format: Unit Number / Letter for Type of Unit / Sequential Firearm or Rack Number. The most common letters are “P” for Pechotny, infantry, and “D” for Delostrelecky, artillery.

Praga SN 8950 L slide

Our example is Nº 10024, and in the near future, we’ll post a more complete set of photos of it, including a field stripping. It doesn’t have the interesting unit history of Nº 8950, but it does have a military acceptance mark and apparently matching numbers. In one that’s in pretty decent shape like this, the original rust blue really shines.

praga_10024-02 praga_10024-01

One thing that only some (mostly later) examples have is the world’s most impressive lanyard lug.

praga_10024-07

We’ve literally never seen anything like it.

praga_10024-06

The Praga has some other unusual features like its elegant and manufacturing-friendly removable breechblock, and a notch in the magazine, allowing you to lock it into place, but below the level where it would actually feed rounds. (Why? Our guess is for training purposes, but it seems like an invitation to Murphy)

Dolinek et al. refer to the Praga and, later in their book, to the Praga M, which may have been a Czech designation for the later version of the pistol. But their discussion of the pistol is very brief. They have a little more to say about the company:

 The private Zbrojovka Praga s.s.r.o (Arms works Praga, a limited liability company) had a competitive lead over Zbrojovka Brno. It was founded by Česka Prumyslová Banka (the Czech Industrial Bank) before the end of World War I in Prague’s Vršovice quarter with the participation of J. Novotny, the owner of the largest gunmaking company in Prague. The factory was originally designed to manufacture hunting guns and civil pistols. However, after 1918, it specialized in military arms. The company employed many gifted designers (Holek brothers, Ing. Karel Krnka, etc.) and a skilled labor force, partly emanating from the Austrian arms works, and it was well-equipped with machinery. They principally supplied automatic pistols but they were not very widely used within the army. The financial difficulties of the company were not even resolved by its incorporation into the industrial concern of the Česka Prumyslová Banka. In the MOD’s opinion, the collapse of the firm was mainly due to an incompetent management team that was not able to introduce the rational organization of production machinery within the plant. The firm was not even saved by the sale of the license for the light machine gun Praga designed by Vaclav Holek that, in Zbrojovka Brno, was to become an ever most successful Czech weapon in the years to come. Zbrojova Praga was wound up in 1926. 4

Hogg and Weeks dismissed the company rather abruptly, suggesting that they had not personally examined Praga firearms:

Zbrojovka Praga (Prague Small Arms Company) was founded in Vrsovice in 1918 by A. Novotny, a gunmaker. He is said to have employed talented designers such as the Holek brothers, Krnka and Myška, but Praga products showed little evidence of this. Two pistol were produced, one a copy of the Browning M1910 and the other an original design of odd appearance and poor quality. Not surprisingly, the company failed to prosper and in 1926 was foreclosed by the National Bank.5

While the Praga is generally thought of as a police and commercial pistol, they were used by Czechoslovak soldiers, and unit-marked examples are not unknown. One is for sale right now on GunBroker (and probably in-shop) by Historic Firearms.

Pragas are seldom found in the USA with import marks, suggesting that they were wartime bringbacks or pre-1968 surplus.

Finally, way back near the beginning of this post, we noted that “They can sometimes be scored for less money than you think.”

pix113354542

This one, Nº 3786, recently sold on GunBroker for $501! The typical going price is well over $1,000 in 2016.

Notes

  1. Hogg & Weeks, via Springfield.
  2. Hogg & Weeks, via Springfield.
  3. Hogg & Weeks, via Springfield.
  4. Dolínek, et. al., p. 40.
  5. Hogg & Weeks, via Springfield.

Sources

Berger, R.J. Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols. Chino Valley, AZ: Blacksmith Corporation, 1989. pp. 83-85.

Dolínek, Vladimír, Karlický, Vladimír, & Vácha, Pavel. Czech Firearms and Ammunition: History and Present. Prague: Radix, 1995.

Hogg, Ian & Weeks, John. Pistols of the World. DBI Books, Inc. Northbrook, Il. 1992. Quoted vis Springfield Armory National Historic Site: retrieved from: http://ww2.rediscov.com/spring/VFPCGI.exe?IDCFile=/spring/DETAILS.IDC,SPECIFIC=10600,DATABASE=objects,

 

How Guns Caused Mideast Wars (per Amnesty)

Arms are loaded into a cargo Il-76 in Belgrade in January, bound somewhere south and east. BIRN photo.

Arms are loaded into a cargo Il-76 in Belgrade in January, bound somewhere south and east. BIRN photo.

How do the rebels and the governments in Libya, Syria, and Iraq (not to mention Iran’s pawns in Lebanon) manage to continue arming themselves with modern weapons, mostly of Russian or older Soviet design, when most of them are under embargo?

Would you believe, systematic cheating on UN embargos and laughably gauzy international “control” regimes? We knew you could! Just like Iraq kept arming up during a decade of sanctions, thanks in part to the corruption of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and every other UN official or soi-disant “diplomat,” nowadays anyone who says he’s Sunni Moslem can get the Saudis to stand him an End User Certificate or three for the mayhem-makers of his choice; the UN is anybody’s for a few bribes; and the national intelligence services who might know enough about this traffic to disrupt it, would rather not do so. They’d rather exploit it.

The Soros-funded (-controlled?) Balkan Investigative Reporting Network is claiming that the arms in these post-“Arab Spring” conflicts are being provided by the USA and its allies. And they do have some evidence for it: Saudi EUCs, contracts let by American commands for “weapons to be employed outside the USA” (those contracts are probably for arms for Iraqi or Afghan military, actually).

Amnesty International, another NGO that seems to find error only in Western Democracies, is always good for some high dudgeon:

“The evidence points towards systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations. If this is the case, the transfers are illegal under the ATT (United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty) and other international law and should cease immediately,” said Patrick Wilcken, an arms-control researcher at Amnesty International who reviewed the evidence collected by reporters.

And how many divisions has Amnesty?

But with hundreds of millions of euros at stake and weapons factories working overtime, countries have a strong incentive to let the business flourish. Arms export licences, which are supposed to guarantee the final destination of the goods, have been granted despite ample evidence that weapons are being diverted to Syrian and other armed groups accused of widespread human rights abuses and atrocities.

Naturally, they can find a political-appointee AMEMB who fingers the USA as the bad guy. Nobody’s as post-American as the zeroes in charge of American diplomacy.

Robert Stephen Ford, US ambassador to Syria between 2011 and 2014, told BIRN and the OCCRP that the trade is coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, Turkey and Gulf states through centres in Jordan and Turkey, although in practice weapon supplies often bypass this process.

Why, if someone were to send arms to the Middle East, those peace-lovers there might just be corrupted by them!

BIRN and the OCCRP examined arms export data, UN reports, flight records, and weapons contracts during a year-long investigation that reveals how thousands of assault rifles, mortar shells, rocket launchers, anti-tank weapons, and heavy machine guns are pouring into the troubled region, originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania,  Serbia and Slovakia.

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Since the escalation of the Syrian conflict in 2012, these eight countries have approved the shipment of weapons and ammunition worth at least 1.2 billion euros to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.

Planes_Map_ENGLISH_hires_1106

While the number is scary-sounding, you don’t know what it means. A billion euros could be trillions of rounds of small arms ammunition… or it could be a few ships and aircraft.

According to a New York Times report from February 2013, a senior Croatian official offered the country’s stockpiles of old weapons for Syria during a visit to Washington in the summer of 2012. Zagreb was later put in touch with the Saudis, who bankrolled the purchases, while the CIA helped with logistics for an airlift that began late that year.

With the Saudis in it, you see why the islamist parties are the ones getting the arms. The same thing happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when we channeled aid through ISI and the guys who wound up with arms were ISI’s preferences — mostly, the hardcore islamists.

While Croatia’s government has consistently denied any role in shipping weapons to Syria, former US ambassador to Syria Ford confirmed to BIRN and the OCCRP the New York Times account from an anonymous source of how the deal was hatched. He said he was not at liberty to discuss it further.

Well, we guess that tells us who the confidential source of the Times article was.

And naturally, to the Amnesty drone for example, the weapons are the cause of the conflict:

“Proliferation of arms to the region has caused untold human suffering; huge numbers of people have been displaced and parties to the conflict have committed serious human rights violations including abductions, executions, enforced disappearances, torture and rape,” said Amnesty’s Wilcken.

Lord love a duck.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Soviet Armorer

We won’t go deep into the weeds on what you can find here. Notes of a Soviet Armorer is an occasionally-updated (last in March) detailed review of aspects of historical Soviet weapons, especially the weapons of the Great Patriotic War. He takes information from Soviet-era archival sources, and Russian-language firearms forums, and posts rare but in-depth examinations of Soviet small arms questions.

SVT sniper

We could go into greater depth, but we’ll just refer you to his post on Tokarev SVT sniper rifles, which includes serial number lists and production counts. Most “SVT snipers” in the USA or here in the West in general are fakes and forgeries, so it’s worthwhile to see what Russian sources say about these rare firearms. (The rifle and scope are relatively common. The mount? Vast majority out there are fake). He also has a post with entire photo galleries of real period photos of snipers armed with these elegant sniper rifles.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a comprehensive examination of Soviet-era ammo pouches as used with the SVT and Mosin-Nagant rifles.

Good stuff. If you collect Russian stuff, maybe priceless.

Another Melior

Note: we are having technical difficulties. We’ve held up this post waiting for our images to come through the cloud, and we’re just going to go with wall-o-text until we get it sorted out. You can follow the link to Ed Buffaloe’s Unblinking Eye page on the Melior to see what one of these (in general) looks like. -Ed.

Here’s another Melior pistol.

melior_-_1

You may remember some time ago we showed a Melior .32 that was a cosmetic copy of the FN Browning Model 1900 that worked quite differently, in order to get around Browning’s patent on the slide. That Melior looked like it had a slide, but only the breechblock moved.

melior_browning_1900_copy_-_3

In time, the Browning patent expired, and the Melior pistol was redesigned on a clean sheet of paper. The new design was made in both 6.35mm and 7.65 mm (.25 and .32 ACP), and shared little but the factory and the name with the early-1900s Melior.

melior_-_2

This one is a .25. It came in a flap holster, suggesting that it may have been a wartime bringback that was formerly an officer’s or cop’s token pistol.

melior_-_10

It has no import marks, but they weren’t required until the Gun Control Act of 1968 took effect in 1969 — and the same act banned the import of small pistols like this.

This jargon in the Act was sold to the public as an attempt to ban “Saturday Night Specials,” one of the first terms coined by gun-ban groups to play on public emotion: the term has never has a consensus definition, but generally means small and cheap handguns, useful perhaps for defense but not for “sporting purposes”. (The GCA ’68, in terminology copied directly from Nazi gun laws by Nazi gun-law admirer Sen. Thomas Dodd (D-CT), posits that the only legitimate reason to own a gun is for “sporting purposes,” which the ATF has further defined as hunting and bullseye target shooting only). But the legislative history of the Act tells a different story. Dodd wanted to get the manufacturers on board for his re-election (and, judging from the way his re-election funds would get him in trouble, to line his pockets). So he proposed to them that, if they could get their trade groups and the NRA not to oppose his legislation, he’d structure it so as to ban their foreign competitors. History tells us he was crooked — not stupid. (His son, who would follow him into the Senate, was crooked and stupid, but that’s another story).

The Melior is lavishly marked with a legend, proofmarks, and "Safe" and "Fire" in French (Sur and Feu).

The Melior is lavishly marked with a legend, proofmarks, and “Safe” and “Fire” in French (Sur and Feu).

Unlike the image of the classic “Saturday Night Special,” the Melior is well-made and solid.

There’s nothing remarkable about it; it’s just a typical European .25 of the inter-war period, better made than most.  There  are some toolmarks (look at the receiver and trigger guard, above) but it was a gun built with a price in mind. (We’ll look at some of the guns more deserving of the “Saturday Night Special” title, some day soon).

Interesting feature: when cocked, an extended pin  provides a visual and tactile cocked-gun signal.

Interesting feature: when cocked, an extended pin provides a visual and tactile cocked-gun signal.

The .25 ACP is very low-powered, with less muzzle energy than the .22 LR. But the intended customer here wasn’t someone who was expecting to get into firefights. (Those guys carry long guns). And the .25 has one very great advantage, in that its rimless design usually makes for trouble-free function in a small pistol. The rim of the .22 causes feeding complications, and the fact that the rim is the primer tends to complicate extractor and ejector design, as well.

This kind of Melior .25 was made in at least three versions, as described by Ed Buffaloe on a very informative web page, and a fourth completely different design was also made by the manufacturer, Robar et. Cie., and sold under Robar’s usual trademarks Melior and Jieffeco.

While the end of the Browning patent meant that Melior could make a conventional slide, and the slide works like a conventional slide, Melior’s designer went about it unconventionally. The slide contains a breech block that is fixed to, and reciprocates with, the slide. To disassemble the pistol, you remove the wedge that locks block to slide, and then it’s possible to remove the slide forward.

melior_-_3

It’s a fascinating, ingenious little gun. While it’s unique, that also suggests that it may not have been very influential. Some variant of it seems to have been made from a 1920s introduction up to the liquidation of Robar et Cie. in 1958, almost 60 years ago. But it does not seem to have been copied, within Belgium or without.

A Little More Owen Info

Here’s a 1942 British Pathé Newsreel clip on the Owen Machine Carbine in testing:

And if you need more information, a thorough Owen source document was distributed to libraries (we think, in Australia) but the post of its contents at Machine Gun Boards stands as an excellent bibliography and list of what we suppose ought to be called Owenalia.

http://www.machinegunboards.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12765

Roland might have been a warrior from the land of the midnight sun who carried a Thompson into musical memory, but the Owen gave its name to one of the most interesting fictional characters of the new century. For that alone, we’s love the beast, but it has a lot of other qualities that inspire affection, too.

Here’s a Guy’s UZI SBR Build in Progress

An Uzi build is one of the easier ones you can do, thanks to the gun’s simplicity. This builder lucked into a bag-o-parts containing an already-modified semi-auto bolt and striker assembly. He chose to build a carbine and then submit for registration as a Short Barreled Rifle. He described his build on Imgur and in Reddit.

I found a seller with a Ziploc bag containing an Uzi parts kit with all the semi-auto components (sear, top cover, bolt assembly + buffer) needed for a complete semi-auto build for just $300. After verifying that I’d only need a receiver and barrel to complete it, I couldn’t resist buying it.

bag o uzi parts

He chose to use an already assembled, Title 1 semi receiver from McKay Enterprises ($239). McKay also sells flats, non-FFL bent but not welded receiver shells, long barrels and other Uzi parts. With the supply of parts kits drying up, they may be tapering off this business.

With only a barrel and receiver to add, he was able to quickly build the gun up. An Uzi is a really simple, blowback operated, low-parts-count weapon even with the added complexity of the semi system.

uzi first assembly

It worked right out of the box, a testament to the simplicity of the design and the quality of the McKay receiver. He then finished the in-the-white receiver with Alumahyde, and redid the stock.

Uzi after refinishing

IMI Uzis may have been blued — he says his was — but FN Uzis we’ve handled were semi- or glossy paint over parkerizing.

On the factory Uzi, the wood stock is detachable This is not legal on a 16″ barreled Title 1 Uzi in the USA, because with the stock removed the whole thing is under 26″, making it an unregistered SBR. Therefore, he permanently fashioned the stock. (The semi version can’t be fired without the stock, but the law is the law).

With the alternative folding stock, the carbine with 16″ barrel just breaks 26″ and is Title 1 legal. Here it is with a dummy barrel in it, showing what it’ll look like when his SBR application comes back.

Uzi with folder

The detachable wood stock was used on early Uzis, but by the time of the Six Day War, the folder was more common.

He’s got, assuming he buys a short barrel and doesn’t turn down his 16-incher, about a grand into the firearm. That’s because he got lucky on the parts kit including the semi parts.

A 9mm carbine like this has no real tactical place or purpose any more, but it’s a great range toy, evocative of the submachine gun era. And the Uzi is great for a first build or first-but-AR build. You need no special tools, just the skills to assemble the parts.

Need a Centerpiece for your German WWII Collection?

How about an authentic, combat-deployed, Normandy-captured 88? Yep, the 8.8 CM Flak 36, lovingly and freshly restored by the now defunct Normandy Tank Museum, whose former displays — all of them, apparently — are hitting the auction block next month.

flak_36_8.8_cm_02

The good news: this is probably the best 88 in the world. The bad news? While it’s offered at no reserve, they expect it to go for €70,000-130,000. There are also a number of tanks and armored, amphibious and soft-skinned vehicles representative of the armies that met in Normandy in 1944, as well as small lots with mannequins and artifacts.

The auction is being conducted by French auctioneer Artcurial; the catalog website is bilingual French-English, there’s a .pdf press release and the catalog (.pdf of course) is downloadable.

The catalog has an excellent précis of this individual artillery piece’s history:

History:

This fine example of a German “Flak 88” was assembled in 1942 by the Bischof-Werke in Sud Recklinghausen using components supplied by a multitude of manufacturers in both Germany and her Occupied Countries.

Here is just a small list of the many diverse companies who sent their output to Recklinghausen for incorporation into this deadly cannon:

  1. Gunsight optics by Steinheil Sohn of Munich;
  2. Electrictal system by Merten Gebruder of Gummersbach;
  3. Gun breech and heavy castings by Schoeller-Blecknaan of Niederdonau and Maschinenfabrik Andritz of Graz, Austria;
  4. Gun barrel and collar by Skodawerke in Dubinca, Slovakia;
  5. Electro-mechanical instruments by Siemens Schuckert of Budapest;
  6. Cable drum holders by Biederman & Czarnikow of Berlin;
  7. Cable drum reels by Franz Kuhlman of Wilhelmshaven;
  8. Major steel castings by Ruhrstahl AŽG of Witten-Annen;
  9. Bogie winches by VDM Luftfahrtwerke AŽG of Metz;
  10. Winch gearboxes by Gasparry & Co of Leipzig;
  11. Air brakes and fittings by Knorr Bremse, etc.

flak_36_8.8_cm_01

And of its provenance:

Origin and condition

This weapon has a true Battle of Normandy provenance. It was painted in the standard “Dunkel Gelb” or dark and finish [sic] and supplied in 1942 to a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft division where it found its way to Normandy in early 1943. By June 44, it was positioned in defense of a German Command Center located in an occupied chateau near to Cherbourg.When the Cherbourg pensinsula was over-run by the Allies in July/August, our weapon was captured intact by the Americans who, deciding it might be of some use, painted it olive drab green and presumably had some intention of using it.

As the Liberation of Europe continued, this 88 was left behind and was eventually destined to become a hard target on a firing  range. To this end, it was daubed with great splashes of bright orange paint but, thankfully, was rescued after the war by the French Army who repainted it in their own color and who most probably used it for training and educational purposes. After all, it was a very advanced weapon for its day and possessed many innovative technical features.

Finally, our weapon left French military service and passed through the hands of scrap dealers until nally being shut away in a huge barn by an eccentric collector – it has to be remembered that back in the 1970’s there was not a great deal of interest in German WW2 hardware.

And so it languished, becoming covered in grime and dirt until 2014 – all the time the multiple layers of paint ©aking and peeling and ending up a bizarre variegated hue. The Normandy Tank Museum rescued the weapon  and placed it in the hands of their highly experienced German restoration expert who, over a period of 8 months, brought the sad relic back to the amazing condition one sees today.

Missing or badly damaged parts have been replaced with locally sourced original replacements – an example of which was a set of the 3 part “Trilex” wheel rims and locking ring which our restorer found amidst a load of farmer’s scrap dumped in a forest when walking his dog.

The 4 brand new wheels and cartridge cases came from the Finnish Army who used them as practice rounds up till the 1980’s. They are obviously empty but, interestingly, are dated June 1944. The fuse nosecones are 3 anti-aircraft and one anti-tank. So a weapon with true Normandy provenance and a major rarity these days as many of the surviving and displayed “88’s” are of Spanish origin. This cannon is one of true German manufacture- a fact which adds significantly to its value.

The 88 was a revolutionary gun and its carriage, in particular, was copied not only by larger German AA guns used for homeland defense against the Allied bomber offensive (in 10.5 and 12.8 cm flavors), but also by American and Soviet AA gun designers.

Bubba’s Own Luger

Yeah, let’s make sure everyone knows it’s a Nazi Luger…

bubbas luger

… by embedding a Hitler Youth pin in the grips.

It’s only original once, Bubba, you pathetic mong.

It gets worse: somebody posted this to Reddit, and the amount of idiocy in the comments was staggering. Yeah, even for Reddit. Here are some examples:

  • It is possible it was a Party official and he had those put on, but I’ve always heard the Party members were gifted PPs, not Lugers.
  • Lugers tended to be had by Wehrmacht officers, and P38s by lower officers and NCOs.
  • That emblem is too pristine to be original.

As someone else pointed out  (accurately) amid all that imbecility, this is a fantasy piece. Although… whose fantasy involves a swastika?

OK, Maura Healey, we’ll give you. Heil Healey! Who else’s fantasy…?