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The Vault

2015 Calendar Preorder!

I am happy to announce that I will be making another Vintage Photo calendar for 2015! Last year’s calendar was a big hit, and I’ve been using one myself to track and plan posts for the web site. Click below to see the full details and place your order!

Continue reading 2015 Calendar Preorder!

2-Gun Action Match: Mosin & Nagant vs Trapdoor & SAA

No vintage photo today – instead I have a vintage rifle match! I’ve had had a bunch of people asking to see a Mosin-Nagant in one of these matches, and decided to oblige – but with a twist. I coupled a Westinghouse M91 with an 1895 Nagant revolver, and went up against Karl, who was armed with a Single Action Army and a Trapdoor Springfield carbine. Why? Because these two sets of guns actually had their active service lives overlap briefly. The Mosin and Nagant were both adopted as the US was slowly transitioning to the Krag and 1892 DA Colt. I figured it would be interesting to see how well Karl could keep up using a single-shot rifle, and also how much of a disadvantage the Nagant revolver would be for me compared to the SAA, which is superior in almost every way.

The video, including expectations and ending conclusions, is posted on Full30 – check it out, and create an account there to subscribe to the channel to receive notifications when we post new videos!


Maryland Council of Safety Revolutionary Flintlock at RIA

In the buildup to the US War of Independence, “Committees of Safety” were organized in the colonial state to form shadow governments for the independence movement. These committees (our councils, as a few were named) had, among other tasks, the responsibility of sourcing arms for the local militia forces. This was done both by purchasing arms available at the time from gunsmiths, commercial dealers, and private individuals and also by contracting with gunsmiths to manufacture guns specifically for the council or committee. Typically these guns were not specially marked – there was no particular reason to do so – and as a result they are very difficult to authenticate today. A Revolutionary War weapon could have been anything available at the time.

One notable exception is an order placed by the Maryland Council of Safety. They ordered quite a lot of guns from area manufacturers, including a batch of 500 pistols. In addition, they hired an inspector to verify the quality of the finished guns, and mark them. The inspector was named Thomas Ewing, and his marking looked rather like a tulip. Records about the guns he oversaw and marked remain in existence, and allow them to be identified – including this one, a single-shot flintlock pistol with Ewing’s mark.

Walther KPK Pistol at RIA

The Walther KPK was a modified version of the PPK automatic pistol made in very small numbers by Walther in hopes of winning a new military contract. Mechanically identical to the PPK, the KPK has a lengthened slide to effectively shroud the hammer, preventing it from catching or snagging on clothing or obstacles in the confines of an aircraft or armored vehicle.

Not very much is written about these pistols, and they never went into production (it appears they were made in hopes of spurring a military interest, rather than in response to a military RFP).

M3 Infrared Sniper Carbine at RIA

The first US military night vision system used in active combat was the T3 Carbine system – an infrared light-amplifying scope and IR floodlight mounted on an M1 Carbine. About 150 of these were used on Okinawa, and were quite effective. The system was refined over time, and by the Korean War this version was in service – an improved M3 scope on an M1 Carbine.

The M3 scope here has a longer effective range (125 yards), and still required the user to carry a heavy backpack-mounted battery pack to power the scope and light. They were used primarily in static defensive positions in Korea to locate troops attempting to infiltrate in darkness. In total, about 20,000 sets were made before they became obsolete, and were surplussed to the public.


Bethlehem Steel 37mm Cannon – Looking for Data

I recently got an email from a young man named Paul who is working on restoring a Bethlehem Steel 37mm cannon as an Eagle Scout project. The gun is sitting outside an American Legion post, where I expect it has been for many, many decades. It appears to be mostly complete with the major exception of the wheels, which have disappeared one way or another.

Paul and the cannon

Paul and the cannon

Paul wrote to ask me if I have any dimensions on the wheels – which unfortunately I do not. I did a video on one of these guns a little while back, but I managed to misplace the owner’s contact information. If anyone has access to one of these guns or dimensional data on them and would be willing to help out with this project, please let me know and I will but you in touch with Paul.


Pedersen Selfloading Rifle at RIA

When the US military decided to seriously look at replacing the 1903 Springfield with a semiautomatic service rifle, two designers showed themselves to have the potential to design an effective and practical rifle. One was John Garand, and the other was John Pedersen. Pedersen was an experienced and well-respected gun designer, with previous work including the WWI “Pedersen Device” that converted a 1903 into a pistol-caliber semiauto carbine and the Remington Model 51 pistol, among others.

Pedersen’s rifle concept used a toggle locking mechanism similar in concept to the Borchardt and Luger pistols, but designed to handle the much higher pressure of a rifle cartridge. Specifically, the .276 Pedersen cartridge, which pushed a 125 grain bullet at about 2700 fps. Both Pedersen’s rifle and the contemporary prototypes of the Garand rifle used 10-round en bloc clips of this ammunition. Ultimately, Pedersen lost out to Garand. Among the major reasons why was that his toggle action was really a delayed blowback mechanism, and required lubricated cartridges to operate reliably. Pedersen developed a hard, thin wax coating process for his cartridge cases which worked well and was not prone to the problems of other oil-based cartridge lubricating systems, but Ordnance officers still disliked the requirement. This combined with other factors led to the adoption of the Garand rifle. After losing out in US military trials, Pedersen still had significant world-wide interest in his rifle, and the Vickers company in England tooled up to produce them in hopes of garnering contracts with one or more other military forces. About 250 rifles were made by Vickers, but they failed to win any contracts and production ceased – making them extremely rare weapons today.


Pedersen lived until 1951, and was well regarded for his sporting arms development with Remington – none other than John Moses Browning described him as “the greatest gun designer in the world”.

“My Friend” Knuckle-Duster Revolver at RIA

The “My Friend” knuckle-duster revolver was a defensive weapon sold on the civilian market from the late 1860s until the early 1880s. It functioned both as a revolver (this one is in .22 caliber, with a 7-shot capacity) and a blunt weapon for striking. These were made in upstate New York (in the Catskills, specifically) by a man named James Reid and his company.

Shanghai Municipal Police Colt 1908 at RIA

The Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless was a very popular pistol for civilians – it was compact, comfortable, reliable, and exceptionally modern for its day. The initial production was all in .32ACP, but 5 years after it was introduced a variant in .380 caliber was introduced – the model 1908 Pocket Hammerless. By the end of World War II, more than 570,000 1903s and 138,000 1908s had been manufactured.

More than a few corporate and government organizations adopted the Colt Pocket Hammerless, among them the Shanghai Municipal Police. This department was led at the time by an Englishman named William Fairbairn, who was an extremely influential developer of combat tactics. His work would prove to be a fundamental foundation for modern police organizations and military Special Forces (he was one of the men primarily responsibly for training WWII Allied special units, including the OSS). He had some particular ideas about how best to employ handguns in combat, and these are reflected in the modifications he had made to the Colt 1908 automatics purchased by the Shanghai Municipal Police Department back in the 1920s.

Want to see more about Fairbairn? You can check out his WWII “Get Tough” book on hand-to-hand combat online, or order one of his many books – which form the intellectual foundation for much of the tactical training right up to this day:

Several Items…

No Vintage Saturday today – I’ve had a number of items stack up that I’d like to post in between the RIA videos this month. First up, I found a very neat Nova documentary on WWI aircraft, done in conjunction with New Zealand’s The Vintage Aviator Ltd. I think it’s neat to take old guns to 2-gun matches to get some glimpse at how they handled in real use, but TVAL goes way, way, WAY further, actually building exact functioning reproductions of all sorts of WWI aircraft (and engines). Their guns are dummies because of NZ law, alas, but the documentary (free to watch on Nova’s web site through the link above) is a lot of fun to watch regardless.

Second, I recently had a chance to attend a demo of a new brand of precision .308 and .223 ammo, called Eagle Eye. It’s not something that really applies directly to what we do here at Forgotten Weapons, but I expect a decent fraction of you guys may find it interesting – they guarantee 1/2 MOA performance from every lot. You can see my full article on it over at TheFirearmBlog. Also, it was a fun opportunity to make some 800-yard rifle shots with coaching from Glenn Dubis and Kelly Bachand. :)

Third, I had the opportunity to help out with a paper ARES is publishing Monday on the arms being used in the current Ukraine conflict. It goes beyond small arm into vehicles, artillery, explosives, and more. Interesting reading for any weapons nerds out there (you know who you are!) and anyone interested in keeping tabs on the events.

Last – but certainly not least – we finally have the next installment of InRange TV published! I’m very happy to say that it is now free to watch, and hosted by a new site devoted specifically to gun-related video called Full30. InRange will be appearing there weekly, and the first piece is a very impressive (if I may say so myself) series of experiments with Russian and German WWII explosive ammunition. How effective was that stuff? Check out the video and see for yourself!

Spanish Miquelet Flintlock at RIA

The miquelet lock is generally considered the first true, mature flintlock action in the progression of firearms technology. It combined the pan cover and frizzen (the plate against which the flint strikes) into a single multi-purpose part. This particular pistol is a good example of the characteristics of a miquelet, despite its rather rough condition.