Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

Rifles: 2nd Half of the 19th Century

We have commented before on how interesting it is that no firearms advance gives any nation a lasting advantage. This takes place both because everybody who is not experiencing success copies others’ successes with alacrity, and because technology tends to advance at about the same rate everywhere, as equally bright people work to develop new ideas on the shoulders of the same body of prior work.

Reasons notwithstanding, you can pick just about any period in history and watch the armies of the nations of the world advance together, as if they were in step. Let’s pick the second half of the 19th Century, which began with everyone more or less on the same sheet of music — call it Movement I, maestoso, with Minié or other displacing balls fired from muzzle-loading rifle-muskets — and at the end of a rapid flurry of advances was playing a livelier gavotte on repeating bolt-action rifles firing fixed centerfire ammunition.

Experimental 45-70 Springfield

In the middle of the 19th Century, the question was: how do we get from rifle-musket to breechloader? Conversions were the answer almost everywhere.

We’ve made rather a dog’s breakfast of too many metaphors there. We promise to stop; we’ll stick to declarative sentences, here on out.  In military service, service long-arms passed through four stages between 1850 and 1900, almost regardless of nation. Here’s a little graphic illustrating what we mean.

rifle_history_1850-1900Germany is an outlier here, in part because we selected Prussia as our representative German state (the German Empire wasn’t unified under the Prussian crown yet at the start of this period. Had we chosen Bavaria it might have looked more like the other nations).

At the end, we just didn’t have room for the definitive bolt-action repeater, the Mauser 98!

If Germany was a leader, looking at the dates, the United States was a bit of a laggard; the 1888 Springfield was fundamentally unimproved from the 1865 Allin conversion. Imperial Russia, often thought of as backward, doesn’t look nearly as bad. (Of course, adopting a rifle is one thing; producing enough of them to arm the Russian Army is a whole other challenge). It would be interesting to add other powers, such as Spain and Sweden, and perhaps some of the more advanced South American lands, to the chart.

Although we like our bright colors, the next step ought to be to make a proper Gantt chart of it, in which you’d see how much variation there was in years of adoption, visually.

By the way, the individual steps are not nearly as neat and clear as the graphic implies. This comprehensive and illustrated analysis of the Enfield P.53s progress to the Snider is representative. Like the Allin conversion in the USA, the Snider won out over many possible alternatives in testing. (And here’s a great page on the Martini-Henry, the Snider’s follow-on). For every repeater, breech-loader, and conversion that was adopted, there were many also-rans.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: All4Shooters.com

all4shooterscomWant to see how the other half lives? For Yanks (and Canucks), a visit to the pan-European website All4Shooters.com will let you know what an international community of shooters is doing. While the site was created by a German firearms-media firm, it’s becoming a trusted source for information about the European market and it’s probably the best place to see Eurozone firms promote their firearms and shooting-sports accessories to their home-continent customers.

You may learn more than you expected about upland hunting in Italy, collecting in Belgium, or products created for sports that are popular in Europe but not here.

In some ways, it reminds us of where the American gun culture was forty or fifty years ago. Looking through old gun magazines, one is struck by the much greater roles played by formal competition, and how some sports have died (quick-draw competitions) and others have been born (practical pistol and 2- and 3-gun). A gun magazine in 1966 was more likely to put a pheasant-hunting scene on the cover than a defense pistol, and was unlikely to have much to say about gun law or gun rights. Indeed, gun rights in 1966 didn’t include the right to carry one, in most States. America in 1966 was a lot like Europe in 2016 that way. What became a rights revolution in America started with the legislative overreach of Tom Dodd’s Nazi-derived Gun Control Act (which passed in 1968, after Dodd had been censured and left the Senate over unrelated corruption) and the botched ATF raid that killed Kenyon Ballew in 1970; these two overreaches triggered a grassroots backlash that has led to today’s very different gun culture: concealed carry is legal in most states, in nine of them with no permit at all; and guns of all kinds have never been more widely distributed to peaceable people, nor more used for lawful ends.

Europe today reminds us of America before that ball got rolling, and we see European guys and gals with levers all around their version of the ball. It rolls slowly at first, friends. But your efforts are worthwhile.

The site is decidedly apolitical, although it reports on gun laws in Europe and on gun rights organizations (which fight just as hard, against much more entrenched officialdom and with much less assistance from the dead hands of Constitution writers, than our champions here in the Western Hemisphere).

European gun, sport-shooting, and hunting culture is both like and unlike ours. They still have hunters, competitors, and collectors like we do, but their hunting is different. In Central Europe it’s very formalized, in part because of hunters’ tradition and in part because of population density. In England, it is the now nearly extinct recreation of a nearly extinct nobility and gentry.

Everywhere the laws are different, and different from those in the USA. But that is because the local culture and history is different. The biggest threat to the European sportsman is, these days, the rise of the European bureaucrat, where deracinated and rootless commissars in Brussels are closet Caesars, dreaming of completing the interrupted unification that eluded Napoleon and Hitler. (These are the cretins who are pushing to rename World War II — we are not making this up — the European Civil War — in effect, conceding Hitler’s point).

But while Europe may still be in the Dark Ages as far as the rights of man are concerned, it’s still a hotbed of firearms development and innovation, not to mention the cradle of a great deal of firearms history. This gets covered extensively at all4shooters.com, which is trying to be the portal for Euro gunnies. An example of new development is the Schmeisser SLP-9, which turns out to be a rebranding of a Montenegrin Glock-off called the TARA TM-9 at home; an example of history coverage is the fascinating story of the founder of the German Rottweil ammunition plant, Max von Duttenhofer. (Rottweil is most famous, of course, for its native dog; but it is also the future home of the world’s highest elevator-testing tower, and perhaps a pedestrian suspension bridge a half-mile long). (The ammo plant in Rottweil is now closed and repurposed for many, mostly cultural, purposes; and Rottweil ammuntion is made in Fürth in Franconia (a region in the state of Bavaria).

A good series of basic technical articles by Max Popenker (still an ongoing series) introduces operating systems: blowback, delayed blowback, and recoil are the ones produced to date (can “gas” be next? Probably). A4S collects all technical articles in a single category.

The English translations of other languages’ articles occasionally have one or two small things that let you know that they were not developed by a native speaker, but if you’re not looking for them, you may miss them. Sometimes All4Shooters has articles in some languages but not others, so if you’re multilingual don’t restrict yourself to the English (or your native language) articles.

Let’s Make CZs!

Thanks to Army-Recognition.com for putting this CZ plant video on YouTube. The guy leading the tour sometimes comes up short an English word, but he gets across what they’re doing.

CZ’s guns begin as parts, and the parts begin as wax patterns cast in a metal (looks aluminum) mold. Many identical patterns — the number depends on the size of the part — are attached to an armature, which is then coated with a sand/plaster material, which then is let to dry, has its wax melted out,and then the cavity where the wax was is filled with molten steel.

The same way a jeweler casts earrings or charms — just larger and higher temperatures.

Some other great stuff in the video, includimg a glimpse of the metrology lab.

Update

It was late, late, late when we drafted this and so there are a couple more points we should have made.

One of the silly debates that gun guys get into is “cast vs. forged”? While ceteris paribus a forging is a stronger part than a casting, in the real world ceteris isn’t paribus, and a gun doesn’t need to be stronger than every other gun in the world, like one of Colin Chapman’s cars it just needs to be strong enough. For a gun, that’s obviously more durable than a Chapman racer (if it didn’t just-barely-not-break by the finish line, he would grumble that he overbuilt it). Intelligent engineering doesn’t select materials based solely on what material has the best properties, it also takes into account the purpose of the part.

CZ is far from the only company using castings this heavily. Ruger not only makes most of its own receivers from castings, but has spun its casting shop off as a subsidiary that takes on work for other firms, including gun industry competitors as well as automotive and aerospace firms. In fact, it 3D prints some of its wax patterns (it may just be testing the technology as it has only bought a couple of industrial wax printers; that would certainly speed prototyping).

Investment casting can produce near net-shape parts at a much lower cost than machining. You can even use it to produce a machining blank for a part that gives you less machine time, tool wear, and scrap than starting from a rectangular billet. The same pattern can sometimes be used for steel and aluminum parts (you have to take account for the shrinkage of cast metal parts, depending on the alloy <1% to about 3%).

It’s an interesting combination, in the CZ version, of automation and of hand work. Note that two very critical jobs (building the armatures of part patterns, and pouring the steel) are done entirely by hand.

ArmyRecognition.com also has a related page with some explanatory language. Some of it appears to be quoting CZ press releases about the guns, not the manufacturing process, but there is this:

The excellence of Ceská zbrojovka’s products have created an image of high quality over the span of its existence both on the domestic and world markets; for this reason, the company considers its responsibility to be to ensure that the parameters of its products will be the best possible at all times.

The company’s technical development and production of military weapons, pistols, rifles, rimfire rifles, shotguns, and air guns constantly create a wide assortment of products Ceská zbrojovka invests considerable financial assets into the purchase of state – of – the art technology each year, especially in the fields of computer numerically controlled machining centers and computing techniques so as to improve their arms’ qualities and properties.

Thanks to the CAD designing of products, the company can quickly respond to the demands of the market with the development of new products with perfect qualities. For this reason comes to the market with new products every year.

We’d be astonished if they were not 3D prototyping their new products, and that explains how they can come up with such rapid model changes and some short-run versions and variants for different world markets.

It strikes us that investment casting could also be used to produce a near net shape injection mold for the polymer parts. Mold production is the tough nut to crack, in technical and financial terms, to get to the place where you can get the rates of returns manufacturers get on poly-framed pistols. A slightly undersized cast mold, with CNC touch-up, could be a real money and time saver for an injection-molding shop, and it could make previously uneconomic short-run injection molding a real possibility.

Jeff Cooper on Small Caliber Guns

Jeff Cooper and 45Col. Jeff Cooper was known as someone who believed that there was no point in a handgun whose caliber did not begin with .4. (Had he lived to see it, he’d probably warm up to the .500 S&W). He was very influential in the late-century police adoption of 10mm and .40 caliber pistols, and had nothing good to say about smaller rounds.

Of course, Cooper is an interesting cat. He was an entertaining gunwriter, an excellent shot and competitor, and an instructor with a massive and sometimes slavish following. He insisted on the title Colonel, and made broad hints about being some kind of secret squirrel, but as far as we know he was a reserve ordnance officer without combat service, let alone command. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; somebody had better be running the depots and making sure the gunplumbers stay organized and get paid.

While working up the book on Czech and Czechoslovak guns, it seemed like an amusing idea, given the European penchant for .25 (6.35 mm) or .32 (7.65 x 17SR) pistols as military and police sidearms, to contrast European, particularly Czechoslovakian, midcentury practice with Cooper’s preferences. We hit several varieties of pay dirt, in an excerpt below from an early draft of the book. And then, in this post, we move on to another famous fictional secret squirrel! But first, Cooper:

American pistolero and writer Jeff Cooper, Col., USMC (Ret.), once had occasion to meet Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a famous German Stuka pilot, best known for destroying over 500 Soviet tanks with a version of the  dive-bomber armed with two Rheinmettal-Borsig . Naturally, Cooper, a strong proponent of .45 and 10mm pistols, wanted to know what sort of pistol Rudel, a man facing a high risk of capture by what would certainly have been a furious enemy, carried on his combat flights. Cooper remembers:

I asked Rudel about this and he told me personally that he packed one of those miniature 25 caliber automatics on his antitank missions. When asked why, he replied, “Because I have never been a pessimist.”[1]

What Cooper said to Rudel on this occasion, he did not bother to record; but he’s on record at other times as referring to, the “25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses,”[2] and this aphorism in-the-round:

[C]arry a 25 if it makes you feel good, but do not ever load it. If you load it you may shoot it. If you shoot it you may hit somebody, and if you hit somebody – and he finds out about it – he may be very angry with you.[3]

Bear in mind that the “anemic” .38 special of Cooper’s day was once the “hot” round, replacing even lighter loads such as the .32 Colt and .32 S&W (interchangeable cartridges, the different names were marketing eyewash) and the .38 S&W, a round the Brits happily issued to soldiers as the .38/200 in World War II! He lived in a period of great firepower expansion, even before he gave it a push, but the old, small-caliber guns died hard, both in police agencies — NYPD stuck to the .38 special until they finally went to automatics, far behind other departments — and in the popular culture.

Ian Fleming wrote without irony, in Dr. No in 1956, and after consulting with a Scots expert in firearms, that the .32 ACP PPK with which Major Boothroyd — named after the expert — replaced James Bond’s preferred .25 Beretta, had “a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window.” Geoffrey Boothroyd had written to Ian Fleming:

I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that.[4]

Boothroyd (as has been recorded elsewhere in these pages) suggested several upgrades for Bond, including a Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special, but the book, Dr. No, and the film, set him up with the .32 PPK instead. Boothroyd’s lines:

Walther PPK. 7.65mm, with a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window. Takes a Brausch silencer with very little reduction in muzzle velocity. The American CIA swears by them.[5]

Bond and BoothroydIn the movie, Dr. No, Hollywood quotes the scene verbatim, but the producers and property master/armorer botch it by using a .380 Beretta 1934 — a more powerful pistol than the .32 PPK — as a stand-in for the .25 Beretta of the novel.

In both versions of Dr. No, at the end of the discussion, Bond attempts to leave with both pistols. But as Jeff Cooper might have told him, .32 + .25 does not equal .45.

Notes

[1] Cooper, John Dean “Jeff”. Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 14, No. 5, June-September 2006. Retrieved from: http://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff14_5.html

[2] Cooper, John Dean “Jeff”. Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 2, No. 2, 31 January 1994. Retrieved from: https://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff2_2.html The whole comment is brief and is worth reproducing here:

We hear of an unfortunate woman who, during an nighttime asthma attack, confused the small handgun she kept under her pillow with an asthma inhaler and proceeded to relieve her symptoms. It was not a fatal mistake, partly because she used a 25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses.

[3] Cooper, John Dean “Jeff”. Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 4, No. 14, December 1996. Retrieved from: https://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff4_14.html Again, the whole exchange is worth reproducing, although a bit longer than the last:

Our old buddy Gene Harshbarger from Guatemala reports a recent episode with the 25 ACP pistol cartridge. It seems that Gene’s cousin was set upon by a trio of car thieves who shot him once almost dead center with that dinky little pistol. The bullet entered at a very flat angle, however, proceeded laterally just inside the pectoral muscle, and exited after about 5 inches of traverse, continuing on into the target’s left arm.

The cousin hit the deck and started shooting back, whereupon the assailants split. When he stood up the bullet slid out of his left sleeve and bounced on the pavement. It penetrated the jacket, but not the skin of his left arm.

As we used to teach in the spook business, carry a 25 if it makes you feel good, but do not ever load it. If you load it you may shoot it. If you shoot it you may hit somebody, and if you hit somebody – and he finds out about it – he may be very angry with you.

[4] Packard, Scott. Inside Bond’s Weapon of Choice, the Walther PPK. Gear Patrol, 9 November 2012. Retrieved from: http://gearpatrol.com/2012/11/09/defense-journal-bonds-gun/

[5] ibid.

A New Pistol Caliber Carbine?

Have a look at this teaser picture, from Grand Power in Slovakia. It’ll embiggen a wee bit, but not much, if you click on it. We found it on their website at GrandPower.eu.

Grand Power Stribor

In the foreground, four of Grand Power’s ingenious patented roller-locked pistols. Background… well, here are all the facts that we know GP has said about it on its website:

  1. It is called the “Stribog,” a very cool name (He was the pagan Old Slavic god of the wind and sky).
  2. It is coming in August (presumably, for EU customers). Remember, it takes GP about a year to work their way through both Slovak and United States red tape with any new product.

We’ve learned that a full-auto version has been manufactured.

Stribog Typu U

However, the S9 semi-auto 9mm variant of the Stribog is trickling out to Slovak domestic reviewers, if not to the market just yet. This Slovak-language video reveals some more details, some by giving the firearm itself the beady eyeball, and some by applying an understanding of Czech to the Slovak speaker. Mostly, the gun just sits there and you can look at it.

There’s some firing of an automatic version at the end, Significant facts here are the use of standard AR trigger internals; the weapon is as modular as possible. Also, there is expected to be availability of an adapter to use AR stocks instead of Grand Power’s own folding stock, reversibility of those controls not ambidextrous, and use of GP proprietary magazine or, with an adapter that slips into the magwell, Uzi mags.

…and it turns out there’s more on the Slovak-language version of the Grand Power page, including some specs:

Caliber: 9mm Luger
Method of Operation: Semi-Automatic
Overall Length: 484.5 mm folded (19″)/ 747 mm extended (29.4″)
Height without Magazine: 200 mm (7.87″)
Overall Width: 46.5/57 mm (1.83″ stock extended/2.24 ” folded)
Barrel Length: 254 mm (10″)
Weight w/o Magzine: 2800 g (6.16 lb).
Standard Magazine Capacity: 10/20/32

(Written Slovak is a lot easier for a Czech speaker than the spoken language).

What we find curious about Grand Power is that, as a domestic producer that makes high-quality firearms, they haven’t been tagged by the Slovak Army for them. The SK military uses Czech pistols, for instance.

What GI Joe Knew about Landser Fritz’s Small Arms

Here’s a once-classified (if mildly so) World War II training film that teaches American GIs how to recognize, operate, field-strip and reassemble four basic German infantry weapons: the Kar.98k rifle, the MP.40 submachine gun, and the MG-34 and -42 general purpose machine guns.

If you ever wondered how the three different feed arrangements for the MG-34 worked, or what that big washer on a Kar.98 stock was for, this movie has your answer. If you knew all that, enjoy learning what was thought to be important, sensitive information to pass to American GIs.

There are a few errors in the film. They even correct one with a title card: no, don’t disassemble the MP.40 (or anything else!) with the magazine in place. Another is referring to the MP.40 as the Schmeisser, which came about, as we understand it, because some early MP.38 magazines noted that the dual-column, single-feed magazine was made according to a Schmeisser patent. 

If you ever caught yourself wondering why everybody used to call an MP.38 or .40 a “Schmeisser,” showing this video to 12 million or so GIs may have been a factor.

The classification with which this video is marked, “Restricted,” is long defunct. (In some postwar documents, it is labeled “Restricted — Security Information.”) It is not to be confused with the sensitive “Restricted Data” marking used for nuclear weapons information, much of what is still not classified, and is marked “Formerly Restricted Data.” RD/FRD was not an Army/Navy or DOD clearance, but an Atomic Energy Agency, later Department of Energy, clearance.

Regular Army/Navy “Restricted,” on the other hand, was a notch below the first true stage of classification, “Confidential.” It was often used on things like this that discussed enemy and/or threat weapons, tactics, or operational art.

A civilian might suspect that classifying such things is a classically military example of blockheadedness, but the reason for the secrecy is not because some cretin in the Pentagon thinks it would be dangerous to show the  Germans how to field-strip their own machine guns, but because we’d rather not have had the Germans knowing what we know about their guns.

And this video, in Wehrmacht hands, would have told them something about our understanding of their weapons policy. By this point, the Wehrmacht had been combat testing the intermediate-round assault rifle for months if not a year, and this film makes no mention of the Mkb.42 (H) and )(W) or the MP.43. Our best guess is that the Germans were testing these new weapons primarily on the Eastern Front, not in the Western Desert or Italy where they were engaging American or British forces. But in the end that is only speculation.

The movie itself is a fact, a primary source for all of you, from World War II. Source here if you’d like to download an MP4 copy or grab embed code for your own blog.

The Problem of Busting Bombers

This B-17 made it home to England with pilot Allen Lewis still aboard. He had his crew bail out.. they all made it back to friendly lines.

This B-17G made it home to England with pilot Allyn Lewis still aboard. He had his crew bail out.. they all made it back to friendly lines. Source.

In World War II, the Giulio Douhet-inspired saying, “The bomber will always get through,” was on every set of lips in the command structure of the British and American bomber elements. What they didn’t say out loud was, “If you start off with enough bombers to saturate the defenses, and steel yourself to some staggering losses.”

Quite a few B-17s lost their noses (usually to flak, sometimes to fighters or bombs from another bomber overhead) and kept flying.

Quite a few B-17s lost their noses (usually to flak, sometimes to fighters or bombs from another bomber overhead) and kept flying.

RAF Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force did indeed take some staggering losses. The 8th had it relatively easy compared to their British cousins — and there were more killed in the 8th than in the whole United States Marine Corps in World War II. Yeah, all those bloodbaths on all those islands? The 8th got creamed worse than that. But just about always, they got through, and bombed, if not the intended target, something belonging to Jerry.

But losing the tail meant losing control. The crew had seconds only to abandon ship. None of the ten men on this B-17 did.

But losing the tail meant losing control. The crew had seconds only to abandon ship. None of the ten men on this B-17 were able to, and they joined the 8ths long honor roll.

The Germans threw everything they had at the bomber offensive, although it took them a while to get serious about it. By “everything” we mean:

  • single-engine and heavily-armed twin-engine day and night fighters, armed with a range of guns, cannons and rockets;
  • the most saturated gun air defenses the world has ever seen, with guns from light machine cannon of 20mm up to big bruisers of 105 and 128 mm (or as the German nomenclature ran, 10,5 and 12,8 cm), fighters and guns alike; all controlled by,
  • a radar and radio control network of a sophistication unequaled until the development of NORAD and SAGE in the 1950s; and finally,
  • jet and rocket planes, and developmental air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, too late to do the Germans any good but in plenty of time to give Russian and American aeronautical engineers (and even British aeronautical engineers, which were still a world-class thing in 1945) lots of good ideas for the next arms race.

For an 8,8 cm or 10,5 cm Flakanone, or a battery, battalion or great veritable screaming forest of the guns, destroying the plane was relatively assured — hitting it, that was the hard part. The fighter drivers had the opposite problem — they could hit Lancasters, B-24s or B-17s, but more often than not they’d blow all their ammo into (or at least in the direction of) their targets, and watch the stately bombers fly on to rain death and destruction on German industries and cities. A plane couldn’t carry a bomber-busting 88, or even a 75 (they tried, with a recoilless 75. It was more trouble than it was worth). So they decided to try to teach the fighter pilot to kill, not just hit, the enemy.

"If a Fortress begins to suffer, don't yet dream of victory palms. Keep shooting! Many have come to regret celebrating too soon."

“If a Fortress begins to suffer, don’t yet dream of victory palms. Keep shooting! Many have come to regret celebrating too soon.”

horrido_schiessfibelThe mechanism for this instruction: a mock-grade-school primer, like the ones we’ve already seen for German tanks. Horrido, the Fighter’s Shooting Primer, had a cover graced with a cartoon of a smiling German FW-190 jock zeroing in on a doomed Russian in a Lavochkin. The cartoonist signed “Trautloft,” which makes us wonder if it was Luftwaffe ace Johannes Trautloft. (The internal illustrations and cartoons were done by Berlin commercial artist Thomas Abeking, a second-generation first-call illustrator for German industry at the time). The Fibel, published 23 June 1944 as Dienstvorschrift (Luft) 5001, was a tactical guide, complete with a warning: “Do Not Bring on Combat Flights!” lest the tactics, techniques and procedures inside be captured by the enemy.

Sight picture drill, using a woman.. "get closer"... then in the last image, she's homely: "Break away!" Lower, a B17. Using the wingspan to estimate distance..600m "closer in!".. 300m "open fire, still closer in"... 150m "keep shooting!"

Sight picture drill, using a woman.. “get closer”… then in the last image, she’s homely: “Break away!”
Lower, a B17. Using the wingspan to estimate distance..600m “closer in!”.. 300m “open fire, still closer in”… 150m “keep shooting!”

Written in a familiar tone with lots of cartoons, the principal parts of the book were a general discussion of air combat ballistics and marksmanship; a specific overview of the fire control systems and switchology of the two most numerous day fighters, the Me109G-6 and the Fw190A-6; and hortatory, motivational content.

Instead of a lot of instruction in air combat maneuvering, this is all about how to get hits, and enough hits to justify risking your neck approaching a formation of day bombers. The biggest “secret,” something every fighter ace had stressed since Boelcke’s Dicta of 1916: get close, don’t miss.

Closer in is 9 times more effective. "At this distance, don't shoot! Save ammo, it's very expensive." "And it's also embarrasing when one gets there" (200m) "and would really like to, but can't any more." The pilot's looking at an empty round-counter at right.

Closer in is 9 times more effective. “At this distance, don’t shoot! Save ammo, it’s very expensive.” “And it’s also embarrasing when one gets there” (200m) “and would really like to, but can’t any more.” The pilot’s looking at an empty round-counter at right.

The problem with any manual, even one as informal as this, is that tactics constantly evolve in an environment of enemy contact. This had happened with fighter tactics with, for example, the frontal attack, not discussed in the booklet, proving devastating against the F-model and earlier B-17s, which could only bring two to three guns to bear forward. The advent of the G-model with its remote-controlled chin turret , and the B-24J equipped with a full, manned gun turret in the nose, raised the risk of the frontal attack. German fighters quickly adapted to the new risk profile, changing to a preferential use of multidirectional attacks.

Note also that the mini-manual is aimed only at the individual junior pilot. There is absolutely nothing here about organizing or leading fighter combat, or operational unit tactics, something to which squadron leaders and higher officers gave much thought and discussion. It’s beyond the scope of this small attempt to increase the efficiency of the air defense of the Reich.

"What good is all the bullet spraying, if they're only hitting the general area?"

“What good is all the bullet spraying, if they’re only hitting the general area?”

As the Schießfibel was not published into a vacuum, but into a constantly changing tactical and operational environment, the historian’s question, borrowed from Mark Rylance’s character Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies, “Did it help?” can’t be quantified, or even, really, answered. So we have to answer the question of its effectiveness with an unsatisfying, inconclusive shrug. We don’t know if it did any good. We know it didn’t win the war for Nazi Germany, but by the Summer of 1944 nothing would have done Nazi Germany any good, with the possible exception of overthrowing Hitler.

Here’s a .pdf version of the Fibel for your enjoyment. We are hosting it here to spare them the bandwidth, but we found it on this Czech war-history site.

Horrido Jagers Schiessfibel.pdf

 

“One Last Word!” — For German Fighter Pilots, 1944

In 1944, the Germans published a breezy, cartoon-filled booklet for fighter pilots flying against hard-to-kill four-engined bombers in defense of the Reich, attempting to get the word out to that most un-bookish type. Even the title was calculated to appeal to the devil-may-care fighter jock: “Horrido! Jaegers Schießfibel” used the Luftwaffe victory exclamation, “Horrido!” (adopted from German’s remarkable 5,000-word “hunter’s language”; supposedly a prayer to the apocryphal St. Horridus, patron of hunters, and therefore the fighter arm), and presented itself as a “Fighter pilot’s” (which in German is the same word as “Hunter’s”) “primer.”

horrido_schiessfibel

It began, and ended, on a marksmanship theme, and with a card-players’s analogy:

Hits are Trumps!

… And closed with “One Last Word!” — like an Apple keynote address, in the Steve Jobs era. (Not suggesting Jobs was a Nazi fighter pilot; just that showmanship and the arts of persuasion are eternal). Our translation of that last word, from page 34 of Horrido, is:

When you, with your combat ready machine roar through the sky, you are the lord of over 1200 hp and over the destructive effect of 60 to 80 shots per second. What sole combatant in the world has ever had at his disposal such concentrated combat power?

–None! Be proud of that!

But the Homeland has expended many thousands of hours of work, and exhausting overtime hours, in order to put such an outstanding weapon in your hands. She trusts you to employ it courageously and effectively!

Your machine has only a few seconds to be effective in aerial combat. In these seconds you have to get everything – everything, without exception – out of it. If you don’t fire accurately then, all the labor, effort and sweat of the homeland is in vain — and the enemy triumphs.

For that reason, recognize the errors you make, and drill them out by diligent practice. Hits are Trumps!

That was followed by this cartoon on p. 35, the last printed page in the document.

horrido_exit_cartoon

Translation:

No one else feels like the hunter does;
Battle and victory so concentrated;
That makes us happy, proud, and glad;
Hunting, to… Horrido!

The meaning of Horrido! in this case, Victory or a Trophy.

 

 

Mr Bond, Kindly Drop the Vz.58 at Enfield…

OK, maybe they didn’t get it from Bond, even if the Czech Vz. 58P and Vz. 58V  (which we believe stand for Pechotni [Infantry] and Vysadkovy [Paratroop] fixed- and folding-stock versions) did show up in a lot of Bond movies (Roger Moore slides down a banister blasting away with one in Octopussy).

Octopussy_(090)_Vz._58 But somehow British Intelligence got hold of a couple of Vz.58s and delivered them unto the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock by mid-1966. The Small Arms Branch Testing Section received, first, a folding-stock rifle (they didn’t know its proper nomenclature) and began to prepare a report for it; for reasons they don’t share with us, it “was withdrawn and replaced with one with a fixed butt, before the Weapon Description Form had been completed…” but they continued and produced a descriptive report about the weapon by January of 1967.

Small Arms Trial Report Vz 58 RSAF Enfield Lock 1966Our best guess is that the Vzs were loaners from some third-world country that maintained good relations with the Czech export agency, and with Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But there could be some tale of derring-do to be declassified in 2066 or so.

It is almost as big a mystery, where the report went after that, although bureaucratic headers indicate that it was initiated by the Principal Inspector of Small Arms on behalf of the Director General of Artillery.

In those days, before Xerox was ubiquitous, an original was typed and a very few copies were made using mimeographs of a carbon copy of the original, and photographic prints of the photos. It was an expensive way to put a document together and naturally limited its distribution (the document was not ever classified). Per copy, Xerox was cheaper even in 1966, but RSAF Enfield probably didn’t have the capital budget (much less the foreign currency) for one, even in those days of 95% marginal taxation.

How it got in our hands is a little less mysterious: thinking we were buying a fairly rare period Xerox or offset-printed document, we bought it off eBay. To our surprise, we received this absolutely remarkable original, hand-prepared vintage document in the mail.

Unfortunately, our letter carrier rolled the stiff cardboard document into a tight tube to deliver it to Hog Manor, which did it little good. The lignin in the cheap government paper has turned the pages yellow, and somewhere over the decades the pages might have gotten wet, as they have a wavy appearance. The scanner software strives mightily to correct for that.

Vz 58 photographed from overhead

We debated what we would do with this, and ultimately decided that the very best thing to do, while we’re waiting to finish Volume I of Czech and Czechoslovak Firearms so we can start Volume II where this fits, is to share it with you. We will do a proper scan later, but an initial, nondestructive (and non-optimized) scan and OCR, accomplished with our Fujitsu SV600, is attached: RSAF SATB Small Arms Trial Report Vz58 1966.pdf

The report was, as we’ve already said, a descriptive analysis of the rifle and its associated equipment, like bayonet, cleaning equipment, and magazine.

VZ 58 left side with magazine detached

This is a crude, preliminary scan, and will have considerable distortion, as you can see in the attached images. The OCR is likely to be dodgy as well. Later, we will carefully remove the brass staples and rescan under a nonreflective glass platen, and make a new version, but for now, here’s a document we bet you haven’t seen before.

Why Your Professor Doesn’t Let You Cite Wikipedia, and Other Misfacts

What was the first Double-Action/Single-Action self-loading pistol? We think we know the answer, but let’s check with Wikipedia. In the article on “Trigger (firearms)” they tell us several times what it is:

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame, safety with 90º of rotation, and the fragile wraparound grip. The circular marking above the magazine release (all PPKs were made with the Browning-style release used on all but the earliest PPs) is the logo of RZM, the Reichszeugsmeisterei — literally “Imperial Thing Master” but really the Nazi Party’s quartermaster store. (It later was part of the now defunct McGraw Kaserne in Munich). 

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Walther introduced the first “double-action” semi-automatics, the PPK and P.38 models, which featured a revolver-style “double-action” trigger, which allowed the weapon to be carried with a round chambered and the hammer lowered.

Umm… conventional wisdom is that it was the PP, in 1929 (although as we’ll see, the conventional wisdom is almost as wrong as Wikipedia on this).

Very Early Walther PP. This one has a heel magazine release like its forerunner, the internal-hammer SA-only Model 8. (It's for sale in Pennsylvania).

Very Early Walther PP. This one has a heel magazine release like its forerunner, the internal-hammer SA-only Model 8. (It’s for sale in Pennsylvania). PP stood for Polizei Pistole, and the shortened (in both grip/mag and barrel) was the PP “Kriminal” or “Detective Police Pistol.” (Plainclothes detectives were and are called the Kriminalpolizei). 

The PPK didn’t come along until 1931, and design of the P.38 didn’t even get rolling until the mid-thirties. But they repeat this “fact” that isn’t a fact, in the same article:

There are thousands of examples of DA/SA semi-automatics, the Walther PPK being the first, followed up by the Walther P-38.

Again, the PPK wasn’t even the first Walther. Wikipedia has no PPK article, (the PPK links above go to the Walther PP article), but the PP article is a dog’s breakfast of random and contradictory claims. It does note that the PP began to be manufactured in 1929 but elsewhere (on the same page!) claims it wasn’t used as a German service pistol until 1935, was produced in France from 1945 to 1986, was produced in the USA from 1945 for Interarms (Interarms didn’t exist yet, and there was no need for a US-made PPK before the Gun Control Act of 1968), and a few paragraphs from the French production from 1945 claim, they date the onset of French (Manurhin) production to 1952, and that the PPK is much more popular than the PP. (Not if you count German police sales).

See, this is why your professor goes ape if you cite Wikipedia on a term paper. Because if you use it to look up something you already know about, you see how crummy it really is. There are literally dozens of mistakes on the two pages we cited and linked.

Starting with, “What was the first double-action semi-automatic pistol?”

However, Wikipedia is not alone in crediting it to Walther. Some other outfits that do include:

In 1929, the company revolutionized the world of semi-auto pistols with the introduction of the first double-action (DA) model, the Walther PP. This was followed in 1930 by the slightly more compact Walther PPK.

Why this little bit of Walther historical trivia?

Uh, cause it’s wrong? That’s probably not why he included it, eh. He probably didn’t know. Who else didn’t know?

The Walther PP, introduced in 1929, was the first commercially successful double action (DA) pistol.

Well, to his credit, he didn’t say PPK and he included “commercially successful.” But even given this weasel-wording, he’s wrong, as at least one DA/SA auto pistol was made in quantities of tens of thousands before the Walther PP saw the light of day.

Jeez. Did anyone get this right? At least, that the PP wasn’t the original DA/SA automatic?

Well, yeah. Garry James at the American Rifleman, come on down:

Introduced in 1929, Carl Walther’s PP (Polizei Pistole) was by no means the first double-action semi-automatic ever designed—several had appeared since 1905—but unlike most of the earlier attempts it worked, and worked well.

James is right. Who else? How about no less an authority than Edward C. Ezell?

Walther was not the first company to introduce a double-action, self-loading pistol, but they were the first to create a commercially attractive and economically practical double-action self-loader. ….

Although the PP can be viewed as a simple evolution of design– it has the same disassembly system as the Model 8 –it was really a revolutionary product at the time.NOTE

We do think even Ezell overstates the case for the uniqueness of the PP.

And next week (after we’ve sorted the gunsmith special on our bench) we hope to have some info on the real first mass-produced SA/DA autopistol:  the Little Tom of Alois Tomiška, which we mentioned last month in a post that featured images of two .32 ACP versions.

A .32 Little Tom produced by Wiener Waffenfabrik in Wien (Vienna), Austria in the 1920s.

A .32 Little Tom produced by Wiener Waffenfabrik in Wien (Vienna), Austria in the 1920s.

Oh, and the Little Tom? The most unique thing about it is not its DA/SA lockwork, because other designers went on to copy that.