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Why We Don’t Use Turkish 8mm Surplus

There is a lot of Turkish surplus 8mm Mauser ammunition on the market here in the US. It used to be super cheap (under 5c/round), but in the last few years I have seen it selling for more like 30c/round. It’s usually the least expensive option for 8mm ammo, and it can be identified by its Arabic headstamps, one-piece brass clips, and crude bandoliers (7 pockets with 2 clips in each). Whenever I am asked, I always urge people to not use it in self-loading rifles. It is safe enough in bolt actions, but that’s IT. One would be better advised to buy it only for the projectiles (or really, just don’t buy it at all).

Why? Because it’s overpressure and has bad primers (lots of hangfires), thanks to poor storage over the decades. I believe the powder granules have deteriorated and the surface area increased, leading to a much faster burn rate than when originally made, and thus excessive pressure.

Now, I have encountered plenty of people who claim to have fired thousands and thousands of rounds of Turk surplus without any problems. I have no doubt that they are telling the truth – but the very next round could well change that streak for them. I have one friend who is missing a couple fingers from an incident in which a round of Turk surplus he thought was a dud detonated while he was ramming it out with a cleaning rod – the rod took off his thumb and the bullet took two more fingers.

I am aware of at least half a dozen machine guns damaged or destroyed by it as well. Too many machine gun owners are penny wise and pound foolish, spending tens of thousands of dollars on historical machine guns and then firing the cheapest ammo they can possibly find (ie, Turkish surplus 8×57). This came to my mind recently when I noticed that a friend had a remnant from a repair job on a caliber-converted (because cheaper!) Browning 1919 that had its sideplates ballooned open by Turk 8mm. Here’s the top cover:

Browning 1919 top cover blown up by Turkish 8mm Browning 1919 top cover blown up by Turkish 8mm Browning 1919 top cover blown up by Turkish 8mm

Yeah, it’s supposed to be flat.

Please, guys, don’t use this ammo. If you absolutely must, then stick to bolt action Mausers, and understand how to handle hangfires safely. But don’t let this be your 1919 or MG34 or MG42 or FN49 or G43 or Hakim. Or your fingers.

Savage Prototype Longslide .380 (Video)

Savage made just a few experimental long-slide versions of their pistols (most of the ones out there are fakes made by modifying existing guns). Personally, I think that this version in .380 would have made an excellent officer’s service sidearm for many European militaries at the time. Most did not see a need for a particularly powerful handgun cartridge, and this extended model of the Savage feels excellent in the hand without being overly large.

Trench Warfare Notes, 1915

I have a really neat document to share today, generously sent to me by a reader named Chris in the United Kingdom. These are the notes from a 1915 course on trench warfare as recorded by his grandfather, one Harold Rayner. Harold was born in 1885 in Surrey, and survived the war to live until 1973 (although his brother died on the Western Front). Corporal Rayner (of the 2/5 Queen’s) attended a training class on trench warfare from January 10th to the 22nd of 1915, to help prepare him for combat, and he took about 60 pages of handwritten notes on a variety of topics including:

  • Fuses
  • Detonators
  • Service Grenades
  • Trench Engines
  • Barricades
  • Trench Fighting
  • Explosives
  • the Stokes Gun
  • Open Warfare

The notebook included several mimeographed diagrams of grenades, mortars, and other pieces of equipment. Several of those have faded quite badly, and I did my best to bring up the images in the scanned copy below. Apparently Chris offered this notebook to several museums, and none were interested. Well, I am happy to be able to scan it and make it public for anyone to see – thanks for thinking of me, Chris!

If you are interested in this aspect of World War One, take a look at the document – I think you will find lots of interesting details. And remember:

Danger signs!

Trench Warfare Notes (English, 1915)

Trench Warfare Notes (English, 1915).pdf

Japanese Type 4 Garand Photos

Towards the end of WWII, in 1944, the Japanese Navy developed a copy of the American M1 Garand rifle, chambered for the 7.7mm cartridge. This followed attempts to simply rebarrel captured US guns, which did not work well because of difficulty getting the en bloc clips to function properly. The newly manufactured Japanese rifles were equipped with a 10-round magazine fed by standard 5-round stripper clips in order to sidestep this problem. The guns were manufactured at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, and only about 125 were completed when the war ended (although parts for 200 were made).

I had an opportunity to handle one of these, and took a selection of photos. I was not able to disassemble the gun, so I don’t have any internal pictures – but the exterior views will hopefully be useful:

Greener MkIII Police in a 2-Gun Shotgun Match (Video)

Every few years, there is a special 2-Gun match at my local club, using shotgun and pistol instead of rifle and pistol. The rules of this match are a bit different than most multigun competition that uses shotgun, in an attempt to make the competition more practical and realistic, and less of simple a speedloading contest. The stages are intended to be shot with buckshot and slugs (although birdshot is allowable on some stages), and the competitors must begin with their shotgun loaded to full capacity. Once the shotgun is run empty, the shooter has the option to either reload it or transition to handgun.

This is an attempt to reflect the practical reality that in a gunfight, one would not abandon a very effective weapon like a shotgun for a much less effective one like a handgun without good reason. In fact, there is no strict requirement to even use a handgun in this match – as you will see below, Karl shot the whole thing with just his shotgun, and I only used my pistol (an Inglis High Power) once.

Because it seemed like a fun and interesting thing to do, I opted to use a MkIII Greener Police Gun for this competition. This a single-shot weapon based on the Martini falling block action. It was introduced in 1921, well after the Martini-Henry rifles were obsolete, primarily for use by colonial police forces. It was a very robust and durable gun, equally useful as a hand-to-hand weapon as a firearm. The ammunition was designed to make the guns useless is taken from the police; a three-pringed firing pin require the cartridge case to have a recessed ring in the case head or else the center prong of the pin would be held up away form the shell’s primer. In addition, the case itself was a non-standard 14 1/2 ga size, too small to fit a 12ga shell. However, a revised and improved version (the Mark III) was introduced shortly afterwards chambered for either this specialty ammunition or for standard 12ga. The example I am using in the match is a standard 12ga.

For this match, we decided to film each of the four stages separately, so that we could take more time to discuss the intent of each stage design, and how they went for us. Let me know what you think of that format in the comments below!

Introduction and Stage 1:

Stage 2:

Stage 3:

Stage 4:

The StG-44 in Africa

A while back, a video made the rounds of a cache of StG-44 rifles being found in (allegedly) Syria – I commented on it here, in fact. It was pretty much without any context, though. Where did they come from? How did they get to Africa, considering that the German Afrika Corps was never equipped with StGs? Well, here’s an excellent post from the very cool blog WWII After WWII discussing the how and why of Sturmgewehrs in Africa:

StG-44 in Africa After WWII

To quote a small section:

Contrary to some more romanticized accounts, the Algerians did not discover long-lost caches from Rommel’s WWII Afrika Korps, as no StG-44 had ever served in any German unit in Africa during the war. Rather, these guns had arrived to Algeria via Czechoslovakia. When WWII ended in 1945, the Soviet army retained and stored every StG-44 it found. By best estimate, in 1948 there were about 102,000 StG-44s in Soviet custody. As the SKS and AK-47 were already entering Soviet use, the captured StG-44s were not issued to Soviet units but rather made available for transfer abroad, with Czechoslovakia being the first and main recipient, followed by East Germany. Hungary also received a small (about 4,000) batch, and Yugoslavia also received some prior to it’s split with the east bloc. These joined StG-44s captured by the Yugoslavs themselves. Finally the Soviets transferred a few to North Vietnam; these in turn were joined by more transferred from Czechoslovakia and East Germany (which themselves had come from the USSR) as those two countries phased the type out.

Good stuff! The whole blog is equally interesting – definitely something you should check out.

Vintage Saturday: Royal Finance Police


Four Italian WWI soldiers of the Regia Guardia di Finanza (Royal Finance Police)

These four Italian soldiers, all of them wearing the Model 1909 uniform, belong to the Regia Guardia di Finanza ( Royal Finance Police) and they have three different types of badges on their hats.

From left to right: The soldier without a hat is a sergeant holding a Beretta Model 1915 pistol chambered in 9mm Glisenti. He is resting his shooting arm on a folded coat with a lamb wool liner and the spike of an ice-ax is visible. He has a Carcano 91 TS across his back. The other three soldiers all hold the same type of rifle at the ready in a staged pose.

The soldier to the immediate right of the sergeant has the Badge Model 1892 embroidered in yellow rayon or wool, which was not officially allowed at the front. The soldier at the far right has the “alpino-hat” issued after 1910 and still in use. The soldier at top is wearing the correct subdued version of the Badge Model 1892 embroidered in black.

Photo and caption from GunBoards.com.

US Uniforms of WWI: Interesting Details

I had another post planned for today, but found this video pretty interesting. It’s a look at what the US troops were actually wearing in WWI – when they shipped over to Europe, in the actual combat period, and in the post-war occupation. Mike Burch (the guy presenting) has clearly spent a while researching this subject and does a good job of conveying information. I suppose it’s not surprising he should be this interested in it, given that he makes reproduction uniforms himself (when I ran a 2-Gun match with an M1917 rifle recently, it was in one of his uniforms).

Anyway, I learned a bunch here, including interesting details on trench knife usage, US use of handguns, and the general mishmash of stuff used by American troops. If you are interested in identifying things like rank, service time, and unit in period photos, there is a lot to be gleaned here as well.

Mauser “Schnellfeuer”, or Model 712 Machine Pistol

The Schnellfeuer, or Model 712, was Mauser’s answer to the Spanish production of selective fire C96 lookalikes. Just over 100,000 of these pistols were made by Mauser in the 1930s, mostly going to China (although some did see use in other countries, and also with the SS). They use 10- and 20-round detachable magazines, and are almost all chambered for the 7.63mm Mauser cartridge. Rate of fire is about 900-1000 rounds per minute.

One of the urban legends that has grown up around these guns is that Chinese soldiers would hold them sideways, and use the recoil to fire in a horizontal arc. This does work, but is a pretty crude way to use the gun. Without the attached shoulder stock, it is much better left on semiauto. With the stock, it makes a surprisingly effective and controllable submachine gun.

Thanks to TFBTV for the opportunity to shoot and film this very cool gun!

Book Review: M91/30 Rifles and M38/M44 Carbines in 1941-1945

M91/30 Rifles and M38/M44 Carbines in 1941-1945The full title is actually (deep breath) M91/30 Rifles and M38/M44 Carbines in 1941-1945: Accessories and Devices – History of Production, Development, and Maintenance, by Alexander Yuschenko and translated into English by Ryan Elliot. I saw this book mentioned a few weeks ago on a firearms discussion board, and figured I ought to get a copy, simply because there isn’t all that much English-language published information on the Mosin Nagant in any real depth. I didn’t really know what to expect, and what I got really blew me away.

Collecting Mosins in the US has long been rather like having a group of people exploring in the dark – where original production records on guns like the 1903 Springfield or M1 Garand are readily available to us, such data on the Mosin has been completely lacking thanks to minor political issues like the Cold War. We can only make inferences based on what we can see imported into this country, and those inferences are easily skewed by all sorts of factors. What Alexander Yuschenko has done is actually take original wartime archival documentation and distill it down into a compact and strikingly information-dense account of Mosin-Nagant development and production.

This is not just a series of tables, it is information put into context. For example, Yuschenko explains the process of Mosin production being replaced by semiauto rifle production (the AVS-36, SVT-38, and SVT-40), and then the about-face required when the SVT-40 failed to meet expectations. Not just that, but great juicy details on why the SVT-40 failed, and how troops felt about it and the Mosin comparatively. What were the causes behind inoperative rifles of both types? What were the costs of each to the Soviet government, compared to each other and the other weapons being produced? What was the distribution of the different weapons within typical Red Army units?

The main section book is organized chronologically, looking at events one year at a time. This really shows the reader how the Soviet Union’s situation changed over time, from its optimistic leap to self-loading rifles in 1940 to its desperate relocation of factory infrastructure in 1941 and 42 to its turn toward submachine guns in 1944 and 45. The development of the folding bayonet for the M44 carbine is discussed, including experimental models of M1945 Carbine. The short-lived use of socket blade bayonets is covered. Suppressors and rifle grenades launchers are covered. The entire second chapter is about accessories, like slings, ammunition pouches, and cleaning gear – this allows us to actually see such items in their full context instead of trying to guess at the provenance of random examples that happen to have been imported at one time or another.

Here are just a couple facts that I had not known:

  • In 1941 alone, the Soviet Union lose a staggering 5.5 million rifles and carbines destroyed, captured and otherwise unusable. That is 59% of all they had in inventory as of June of 1941.
  • The standard PU scope mount can actually also be used to mount a PE/PEM optic.
  • A mine detector was developed and used which mounted to the muzzle of a 91/30 rifle, using it as the handle.
  • What all those many little arsenal refurbishment marks actually indicate!

I really cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in WWII. Whether you are actual a Mosin collector yourself or just want to see a fuller picture of Soviet military history in the Great Patriotic War, Yuschenko’s work is a gold mine of information previously unknown in the English-speaking world.

Unfortunately, it appears that only one printing will be done, and at the time I am writing this the author’s web site indicates that the book is already 75% sold out. It is not available on Amazon, and must be ordered directly through the author’s website, Mosin.info. If you want a copy, I urge you to order one ASAP as I can guarantee they will not last much longer. The price is $30 plus $12 shipping for one copy of $19 shipping for two copies – and expect them to take 3 weeks or so to arrive, as they ship from Ukraine.

I hope that the author will run a second printing when this inevitably sells out, and that he will consider writing more on the subject of Soviet WWII armaments. I would love to see a similar work for any of the other weapons of the USSR!