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The Vault

Vintage Saturday: Why They Make Tripods Like That

Waffen-SS soldier manning a Czech ZB-37 machine gun on its tripod

He’s exhausted from carrying that gun. It’s just about the heaviest MMG ever conceived, and the tripod’s no lightweight either.

Waffen-SS soldier manning a Czech ZB-37 machine gun on its tripod. Note that the articulated tripod legs have been put to good use mounting the gun up on a large rock that offers some cover to the crew.

Chinese Pistols Coming Soon!

I just recently spent some time at RIA doing video for their upcoming Regional auction, and happened to notice a batch of guns they were in the process of sorting and writing descriptions of for the April Premier auction: a whole slew of Chinese Mystery Pistols.

I really need to come up with a better name for these things, but I’m not sure what that would be at his point. They are pistols manufactured by a large number of small Chinese shops in the 1920s and 30s, and generally fall into three categories. Mechanical copies of the Mauser 1914, Mauser C96 “Broomhandle”, and Browning 1900 pistols – but their external form varies wildly. They generally have nonsensical markings; sometimes gibberish text and sometimes copies of many different European proofs marks and trademarks. I took photos of a small sampling of the batch at RIA (click on any photo to enlarge it a lot):

I will definitely be spending some time with these when I next go to RIA, and I am particularly looking forward to being able to use the high-res photos they take for the auction catalog. I would love to be able to put together a reference book or ebook on this topic. Maybe it makes me strange, but I find these designs very interesting. :)

Slow Motion: M1912 Steyr Hahn

The Steyr M1912, or Steyr Hahn (meaning “hammer”, to distinguish it from the striker-fired Steyr 1907) has a number of features that make it unusual among pistols today. It uses a fixed internal magazine fed via stripper clips, and a short recoil, rotating barrel locking system. Only a handful of other pistols have been made with rotating barrel systems, like the Steyr 1907, Beretta PX4, Savage 1907/1915, Mexican Obregon, GSh-18, Colt All-American 2000, MAB P-15, Boberg, and CZ-24. Rotating barrel pistols are often touted as being more accurate than others (generally the comparison is made against Browning-type tilting barrel designs), but this appears to be entirely theoretical. Any true advantage is small enough to be overridden by other factors.

Between 1912 and 1919 about 300,000 of these pistols were made for the Austrian military, which used them alongside Rast & Gasser M1898 revolvers. The 9mm Steyr cartridge they fire is roughly equivalent to 9mm Parabellum, despite having a longer case. Some 60,000 of the pistols were later converted to 9×19 after the Anschluss and used by the German military in WWII.

Mud testing: M1A, MAS 49/56, AR

I’m at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas today (and the rest of the week), and when you read this I will probably be desperately trying to wade through the sea of AR15s in search of something interesting. :) At any rate, I figured you might get a kick out of the most recent video Karl and I have published on InRange TV: mud testing a couple rifles. This was initially going to be just M1A vs MAS 49/56 to see how the much-underappreciated MAS performed compared to the oft-deified M1A. At the last minute Karl brough along an AR, though, so we put it through the wringer too, and I’m glad we did.

Some of the results were what I expected, but some elements did surprise me. Have a look for yourself:

mud test thumb

A few details, for those who are interested:

The MAS was in the original 7.5 caliber, and I was using new Prvi ammo in it.

The M1A was using Wolf .308. We dumped a mag through it with no problems prior to the test.

The AR was using XM-193 ammo.

Happily, my romp in the mud did not result in any parasites, rashes, or other health problems. Likewise, all three guns cleaned up just fine, although it took several hours to get them un-muddied.

We also did sand testing with all three guns, which will be publishing in 2 weeks. A Part II to the testing using AKs is planned for filming in the coming months.


Rexim-Favor SMG

The Rexim-Favor was a Spanish-made, Swiss-marketed, and allegedly French-designed submachine gun produced during the 1950s. Only about 5000 were made in total, as the gun failed to procure any significant military or police contracts. Mechanically, it was a pretty typical submachine gun, using a simple blowback mechanism chambered for 9mm Parabellum ammunition. It had a quick-detachable buttstock, and of some interest an easily removeable barrel as well. The barrel was secured by a large external nut which allowed quick removal for transport or changing of barrels. It also fired from a closed bolt, which is a bit atypical for guns of this type. That allowed better practical accuracy, but was also much more expensive to manufacture.

Rexim-Favor "Sniper"

Rexim-Favor “Sniper”

It was striker-fired, with a selector switch allow semiauto and fullauto modes. It was available in three different barrel lengths: the “Police” (19cm/7.5in), the “Commando” (34cm/13.4in), and the “Sniper” (46cm/18.1in). All versions included a integral muzzle brake. The rate of fire in fully automatic was 600 rpm, and the guns fed from MP-40 magazines (a thoughtful use of readily available magazines).

Rexim-Favor "Police"

Rexim-Favor “Police”

The guns were sold and marketed by the Swiss company Rexim S.A. of Geneva, which subcontracted the production out to the La Coruña factory in Spain. They were made from 1952 until 1957, at which point lack of sales put Rexim S.A. out of business. Advertised price of the guns was $58 for the short or medium barrel, and $63 for the long barrel (in US dollars, FOB from a Spanish port). That would be equivalent to roughly $500-$550 today.

Rexim-Favor "Commando"

Rexim-Favor “Commando” (examples with wood stock and skeletonized metal stock)

The manual (or sales brochure; it serves both functions) is interesting to read for a couple reasons. It makes clear the company’s eager and somewhat questionable claims for the gun, and it is written in an odd poorly-translated English. For example, the gun is described as being ideal for police, commandos, infantry, paratroops, armored vehicle crews, and (with the optional bipod) for use as a light machine gun. To quote The Outlaw Josie Wales, “it can do most anything!”. The literature makes it clear that Rexim would happily accommodate any reasonable special request as well, and one such version not mentioned in the manual included a bayonet clearly copied from the MAS-36 and FG-42 rifle, stowed under the barrel.

Most of the text is a bit awkwardly worded but understandable. Some bits, however, are almost hopelessly muddled. For example:

The breech-case is composed of a steel tube with cuttings for the mechanism, the support of the bridge-shelf, the shutting-bushes, and the half-rotative impermeability-shutter.

Wow…sounds like some German terms got translated into Spanish and the on to English, all by barely-fluent speakers.

Anyway, you can see the whole document for yourself here:

Rexim-Favor SMG manual (English)

Rexim-Favor SMG manual (English)


Enfield No5 “Jungle Carbine” Video

The No.5 MkI Enfield, commonly called the “jungle carbine” is nearly the shortest-lived rifle in British military service (second to the Rifle No.9, aka EM-2). Introduced in 1944, they were declared obsolete in 1947 as the result of insoluble accuracy problems. The guns were originally developed from regular No4 Enfield rifles with the goal of producing a shorter and lighter variant for paratroops. This was done by shortening the barrel, adding a flash hider, and making lightening cuts in several places on the barrel and receiver (which were the cause of the problems that doomed the gun).

Not all No.5 rifles produced developed problems, and they were certainly handier than the regular Enfield rifles. They are noted for kicking harder, of course, and this is not really helped by the narrow rubber buttpad they came with (most of which are nice and hard today).

Want to Win $100 Credit at International Military Antiques?

International Military Antiques has generously offered to sponsor a contest we’re running to encourage folks to create an account (it’s free) at Full30.com and subscribe to InRange TV there. On January 29th, we will pick one subscriber at random and they will get $100 of credit to spend on anything they like out of IMA’s massive warehouse of awesome stuff. So, if you enjoy the content on InRange TV and like the idea of getting some free goodies, subscribe to the channel today!


Vintage Saturday: War Photographer

Waffen-SS soldier with a camera, hand grenade, and captured Russian PPSh submachine gun

The parka is probably his most valuable possession.

Waffen-SS soldier in Russia with a camera, hand grenade, and captured Russian PPSh submachine gun.

Modern Take on the Sturmgewehr, and a Mile Long Shot to Kill

Two things today…

First up, I recently had a chance to tinker with a rifle made by Brethren Arms, which is in many ways the modern evolution of the StG-45 that we looked at in slow motion yesterday. They call it the BA-300, and it’s a basically an MP5 or HK53 in .300 Blackout. A very compact rifle using the roller-delayed blowback system pioneered in Mauser’s StG-45, coupled with a cartridge that is a ballistic virtual twin of the 8mm Kurz (both cartridges fire a 125 grain bullet at 2200-2250 fps). With a 9-inch barrel and suppressor, the BA300 was an absolute buttercup to shoot, even in full auto. Brethren does a great job making them, and includes some nice updates like a welded-on rail for optics and a properly-placed ambidextrous magazine release.

One of the best parts of the range trip for me was listening to Quinn talk about his guns. He is a rare combination of whip-smart engineer and experienced military veteran, and he has no illusions about the shortcomings of the H&K design (unreachable safety and mag release, awkward charging handle, heavy trigger, etc). Rather than try to defend those elements with some huffing and puffing about Teutonic infallibility, he looks at the shortcomings as opportunities to improve the guns. I think Lossnitzer and Maier would be thrilled to see their rifle still being the subject of improvements 70 years after they built the first versions of it. Anyway, you can see the full video that Karl and I did with him over at Full30:

Brethren Arms BA300 review video

Changing gears completely, the other gun I would like to touch on today is a super-heavy target rifle dating back to the Civil War. Weighing in at 37 pounds, it is a .68 caliber progressive-twist-rifled muzzleloader with an interestingly storied history. It is referenced in Charles Winthrop Taylor’s book Our Rifles on page 91. The story is that a Captain Metcalf in the Union Army used it in the Battle of Pleasant Hill in the Red River campaign of 1864 to snipe a Confederate general while he was shaving in the morning, as a range of 1 mile, 187 feet (1794 meters). This story came to the public notice when it was made into an episode of Jack Webb’s TV show “TRUE” in 1962.

Metcalf's .68 caliber Civil War sniper rifle

A still frame from TRUE showing the rifle

The rifle allegedly has a 25x telescopic sight, and Metcalf used a surveyor’s transit to precisely measure the distance to the target, and calculate the bullet drop and flight time he would have to account for.

Well, it turns out that the whole story is bogus (this article does a good job of explaining the details). Neither Metcalf (allegedly a West Point graduate) not the Confederate General he allegedly shot actually existed, and the numbers quoted by Sawyer for bullet flight time and drop are wildly implausible. HOWEVER – the rifle itself is real and has been connected to the story since at least 1944 (when Sawyer’s book was published). Its most recent known location was hanging in a bar in rural Texas, complete with plaque commemorating the Metcalf story. The bar owner died, though, and the rifle disappeared into someone else’s hands.

A friend of mine is a very highly renowned forensic ballistics expert (you may have seen him in the video I published on an original Girandoni air rifle), and he has been very interested in this rifle ever since he saw the episode of TRUE about it. He would really love to have a chance to fire it and get an idea of it’s actual capabilities. He has a doppler radar unit for tracking bullets, which allows him to track velocity and calculate exact ballistic coefficients, and this rifle would be a fantastic experiment with that equipment.

So…if anyone happens to recognize this rifle and know it’s whereabouts, could you let me know? We would really like to speak to its owner!

Slow Motion: StG-45(M)

The StG-45(M) was developed by engineers at Mauser right at the end of WWII, and its designers went on to form Heckler & Koch and this rifle was their basis for the H&K roller-delayed blowback series of weapons (HK91, HK33, HK53, HK21, MP5, etc). Twenty sets of parts for the StG-45(M) were produced at Mauser, although the war ended before any were made into complete guns (a few were finished by Allied intelligence units after the war for testing). The rifle is chambered for 8×33 Kurz, and handles extremely well.

For more information on these rifles and their development into the H&K series, check out my video “Last Ditch Innovation”: