Reader Blake sent me a couple very interesting photos recently, and they show a pretty unusual item – a Nambu Type 11 tripod. Blake is an American living with his Japanese wife in Japan, and these photos are of her grandfather, Katsuji Aritsue, who served in the Imperial Japanese Army in China, where he was wounded. It would appear that he was a squad machine gunner with a Type 11.
The first photo shows the man (Blake didn’t mention his name) in full formal kit with his Type 11, on its tripod. Those tripods are very scarce items to find, with some people speculating that they may have only been experimental. This would suggest otherwise, as this photo was taken in the Chinese theater. Note that while not an officer, he does appear to be wearing a sidearm in a clamshell holster.
IJA soldier in Chine with a Nambu Type 11 LMG and its tripod
Next up is a photo apparently from basic training, with the tripod being used in its anti-aircraft configuration. This was a common feature on early tripods, but again, it is very unusual to see a Type 11 tripod at all, much less set op for AA use.
Antiaircraft practice with a Nambu Type 11 LMG during basic training
Lastly, a picture from maintenance instruction during basic training.
Maintenance instruction on the Nambu Type 11 during basic training
Type 11 Nambu gunners on the training range
More antiaircraft practice with Type 11 Nambu machine guns – note the camo netting over the soldiers’ packs
It’s fairly common today to see .22 caliber versions of larger firearms, marketed to folks who don’t want to spend as much for either the gun or its ammunition. For example, the ATI Sturmgewehrs, the Beretta ARX-160, and the GSG AK and MP5 lookalikes in .22 rimfire. Well, it’s not a new trend – very few trends are actually new.
While I was at the James D Julia auction house a few months back, one of the guns I saw but didn’t have time to publish a video about was a .22 rimfire target pistol made by Francotte which was pretty clearly made to mimic the design of the C93 Borchardt.
Long-time reader and commenter Eon took a closer look at yesterday’s photo and recognized what I had not – it isn’t a line-throwing rifle, it’s a light mounted under the barrel. His comment in full:
The “can” definitely has an electrical connection at its bottom rear. The double-stranded line from it leads to a switch on the right side of the forearm just where the fingers of the shooter’s left hand would be placed.
The wire continues back from there, past the trigger guard. Note the “loops” hanging down, which can be mistaken for a lever-action loop (which the Lebel doesn’t have). The line goes on from there, my SWAG is to a 6V battery “off-camera”, as they would say in Hollywood.
The “can” is most likely from either a French or British Aldis lamp. It’s a light, not a line canister. Note the “bolts” top and bottom; they’re the pivot trunnions for its usual mount. It’s turned 90 degrees from its usual “up and down” orientation (like cannon trunnions).
The switch on the forearm would normally be on the lamp’s mount, behind it. A message would be “tapped out” in Morse, as on a telegraph.
This rig is intended for two jobs, I suspect;
1. “Jacklighting” German soldiers trying to creep up on the position after dark. An anti trench-raid weapon.
2. “Jacklighting” rats in the trench itself.
The light going on in the target’s face would blind them, and probably “freeze” them, for a split second, just long enough for a shot.
In each case, the procedure would literally be “Flash!- BANG!”
French officer with a Lebel rifle with the WWI version of a tactical light
We have looked at one of Adolf Furrer’s M1919 submachine guns before, but this one is a much different implementation. The model 1919 Furrer designed was basically a chassis for converting a Luger pistol into a carbine. He lengthened the barrel, added a booster to help it cycle, and replace the gripframe with a magazine well for a subgun-type magazine. The one previously featured here was fitted to a wood stock to use as a shoulder weapon, but this one is a double-barrel design intended to be fired from a mount.
Furrer M1919 double barrel subgun (Photo courtesy National Firearms Centre, Leeds UK)
This example (bearing serial number 1, incidentally) has a very solid mounting point located between the barrels just ahead of the chambers and a pistol grip with detachable shoulder stock. It does not have much in the way of a convenient place to hold the front of the weapon, further suggesting that it was intended to be fired mounted. This type of application in 1919 could have been useful as an observer’s gun on an aircraft or mounted to a ground vehicle.
Double barrel M1919 Furrer, rear view with stock removed (Photo courtesy National Firearms Centre, Leeds UK)
It uses two curved magazines of unknown capacity (probably 40 rounds, I would guess), and is chambered for the 7.65mm Parabellum cartridge. Where the single-barrel shoulder rifle Furrer mounted the Luger action with the toggle to one side, this design has the toggle actions mounted facing downwards. This would probably be a fairly convenient arrangement for controlling ejecting brass, and it also makes the magazines easy accessible atop the weapon.
I have not found much other information about this design – it was not adopted, and probably not manufactured in any significant quantity. Furrer would go on to develop the Swiss LMG-25 a few years later, which was more successful (and also a toggle locking system).
The 32-round snail drum (or as it was properly known, the trommelmagazin 08) was developed in 1916 to give increased firepower to units armed with the LangePistole 08, or artillery Luger. These pistols were also used by stormtroopers prior to the introduction of the first submachine guns (which, incidentally, were also developed to use these drum magazines).
The drums were generally discarded after the war, as submachinegun development with more typical stick magazines made them obsolete. Today they are fairly rare and valuable, and quite interesting to use. The mechanism inside the snail drum actually uses two discreet mainsprings – one a typical coil spring in the stick portion and the other a flat clock spring in the drum. The lever on the back is used to tension and un-tension the clock spring, and as a result it moves as the drum is fired, until the cartridges stored in the drum portion itself are used up. At that point the coil spring takes over, feeding the remaining rounds in the box portion of the magazine.
In this month’s 2-Gun Action Challenge Match, we decided to both run World War I rifles – Karl with a 1914/1920 Kar 98AZ and I had a 1918 no1 MkIII* SMLE. In the previous enfield/Mauser matchup the outcome was a bit indistinct, because the match did not involve much repeat fire and the Enfield had a few reliability issues. In this match, the stage layouts give the Enfield more room to exploit its faster action and larger magazine – assuming the rifle runs reliably and I can do my part.
This match was also done as a practice run for the big 2-day Tiger Valley team match coming in September, which we plan to shoot with WWI gear. Want to see more about the German Stormtroopers that Karl is studying? Check out Ricardo Cardona’s book, Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918).
A few conclusions from the match…
The Enfield really does have a definitive speed advantage over the Mauser because of its smooth cock-on-opening action. Karl was running the Mauser about as fast as he thinks is feasible, and he just couldn’t keep up with me. The Mauser requires a series of discreet and definite steps to cycle (grasp bolt, rotate up, pull back, push forward, rotate down) while the Enfield can be cycled in two much more fluid motions (hand back, hand forward). While Karl has to positively hold the Mauser bolt handle to operate it, I can use the flat palm of my hand to both open and close the Enfield bolt.
The magazine capacity also made a significant difference. In stage 2, for example, I scored 9 to Karl’s 7 almost entirely because he had to reload twice and I had no reload required. These may seem like obvious elements when handling the rifles in a static environment, but it is still necessary to prove them out in more field-like conditions, because those sorts of things do not always translate into real-world advantages.
We do still suspect that the Mauser probably has the advantage in running in dirty conditions – and something like rimlock poking up its ugly head can completely ruin the Enfield’s advantages.
Lastly, just for the record, I have a Webley Mk VI and a set of reproduction Pattern 1908 British web gear coming to use for the Tiger Valley match.
As someone who is very interested in the practical handling of old firearms, the idea of gun museums leaves me a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I am absolutely in favor of guns being preserved for posterity, and there is no better environment for that than a museum. On the other hand, once guns go into a museum they tend to be locked permanently behind glass (or worse, packed in crates in a reserve attic or basement) under institutional policies that make it impossible to fire or disassemble them. Museums tend to put guns into stasis – they continue to exist and can be seen, but one can learn little more from them at that point.
When rare and interesting guns are in private collections, they are accessible to far, far fewer people – but the people owners are often much more open to the idea of handling and firing them – and one can learn far more about a gun by actually using it than by simply looking at an example hanging on a wall. It’s a tradeoff, and there are good reasons to look to either option.
Of course, the best possible option would be for a public museum that IS actually willing to shoot parts of its collection. Believe it or not, the best example of that is the British Royal Armouries, which includes the old Pattern Room collection. They have an indoor range facility, and do fire guns from their collections from time to time. In fact, they appear to have recently gotten access to a seriously high-end slow motion camera and put it to use on some interesting guns. Very cool! Have a look:
Lewis (including use of paper confetti to show the ventilation system functioning):
Switzerland was an early adopter of the Luger pistol as a standard military sidearm, but by WWII that design was becoming obsolete and the Swiss began looking for a newer sidearm. Several lines of development were pursued, and we have examples of two of them here: the W+F Bern P43 and the SIG P44/8 (the /8 designates the single stack 8-round magazine; there was also a double stack P44/16 made).
These are both mechanically Browning short-recoil tilting barrel pistols, but they do show some significant differences, particularly in the trigger mechanisms. The P44 was developed from Charles Petter’s MAS 35A pistol adopted by the French, and it would go on to become the P47 (aka SIG P210) and the winner of the Swiss handgun trials. As the P210, it is arguably the best quality service pistol ever adopted by any military.
Edit to add: Well, I missed the boat big-time on this one! I don’t have much hands-on experience with the Browning P35 (aka GP, aka Hi-Power) and missed the clear fact that the P43 is in almost all ways a copy of that late Browning design (including the firing mechanism). Whoops!
I’m those helmets wouldn’t ever have become friendly fire magnets…
The Republic of Ireland opted to copy the German WWI Stahlhelm design rather than use British Brodie-style helmets. Until 1940, anyway, and I think it’s pretty clear why they changed. The rifle here, of course, is a MkI Boys Anti-Tank Rifle, which would prove to be passably effective only for about the first 18 months of the war in Europe.