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The Vault

Want to buy a Jeep with a Browning 1919 on it?

I have a 1946 CJ-2A Jeep with a semiauto Browning 1919A4 mounted on the rollbar, and it’s for sale. Continue reading to see all the details…

Continue reading Want to buy a Jeep with a Browning 1919 on it?

Maxim 08/15 Bipod Positions

I got an email from a reader named Philip who is a fan and collector of Maxim guns, who put together an interesting video on the use of the bipod on the MG08/15.

From his email:

The MG08/15 is often considered the blacksheep of the Maxim world. It does tend to rock a bit while shooting because of the standard mid gun rigid bipod mount. Even the Germans were not really happy about this as it does affect accuracy.

Well around 1936, the Germans upgraded their stock of MG08/15s in the Nazi rearmament program. One of things upgraded was the addition of a front bipod mount held on by a loop that is secured around the booster. This moves the bipod from the mid gun position to the front of the firearm. Since most Maxims in the US were brought home after WWI, these WWII upgrade parts are very rare in the US. This is not to say they are common in Europe either. For several years now I have been in search of one of these front bipod mount adapters. I felt that it would be a really interesting option for the MG and hopefully help increase accuracy. Well after half a decade searching, I was able to obtain one of these adapters. It needed a little work and paint as it had none.

After completing this work, it was time to take it out and see how well it worked. In the video you can see 4 different bipod positions. Bipod facing forward and backwards at the front and middle of the MG08/15. I have to report that I did not care that much for the new positions which was actually pretty disappointing after so long of a search for the part. However very few people in the US have ever had a chance to use on of these as there can’t be more than one handful in the country. It certainly falls into that forgotten category since those with them in Europe don’t get to shoot their guns! From what my German friends tell me the Germans consider the bipod rearward cant to be the correct position. I find the cant forward to be better in both bipod positions when I fire and I think you can see why in the slow motion part of the video.

Thanks, Philip! Definitely interesting to see the difference between the type of mounting.

AFTE Presentation: Firearms and High Speed Photography

I have been using an Edgertronic high speed camera for about 8 months now (thanks to the support of all you folks who helped fund it!), and have been able to get some pretty cool shots with it. A couple weeks back, I took an opportunity to put together a short presentation on the uses of high speed photography as they relate to forensic examiners, for my local group of AFTE (Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners) members. I recorded the presentation to post online, for anyone else who is interested. The whole thing is spattered with high speed footage, including a bunch I have not yet published anywhere else. This will be a pretty dry presentation for many people, but if it’s your cup of tea, then sit back and enjoy!

Schwarzlose 1898 Preview

Yesterday turned into a rather hectic afternoon, as a friend dropped off half a dozen fantastic guns that we will be out shooting tomorrow. Yesterday was my opportunity to become acquainted with how they work and prepare for shooting videos today. So instead of writing an insightful and interesting post for you, I was up to my elbows in parts. Like this:

Schwarzlose 1898 disassembled

Schwarzlose 1898 disassembled (click to enlarge)

I should say, I have not yet figured out why this pistol did not become very popular – as far as I can tell from handling, it is outstanding. It fits my hand better than most modern pistols, and the sight are almost perfectly in line with my eye when I bring it up on target. The controls are simple and modern (manual safety accessible from a firing grip, manual holdopen and slide release integrated into a single lever), the mechanism is simple (the mainspring does triple duty as recoil spring, striker spring, and extractor spring, for example), and it fires a cartridge that is adequate even by modern standards (7.63mm Mauser). And yet it seems that fewer than a thousand were ever made, and most of those were wholesaled off to Russian revolutionaries in 1905.

1898 schwarzlose

It ever looks reasonably modern today…

Biography: Henri & Nicolas Pieper

Today’s biography is a guest post by our friend Robert White – thanks, Robert!

Henri and Nicolas Pieper

Henri Pieper (left) and Nicolas Pieper (right)

Henri Pieper was born and raised in modest German home in Soest (Westphalia) Germany on Oct 30, 1840. He received his technical training in Soest and then in Warstein. Then emigrated to Belgium at the end of 1859. Moving around from Herstal and a short period in the wool industry of Verviers, he finally settled in Liege after marriage. He established his firearm manufacturing business “Anciens Etablissements Pieper” in Liege in 1866. The rapid growth and success of his business was partly due to an excellent decision he made early on in the purchase of a barrel factory in Nessonvaux. Some of Remington’s finest double shotguns of the time have the maker’s mark of ‘HP’ on them from this factory. It didn’t take long for him to become famous for quality and moderate prices.

In 1870 his 6,000 square meter workshop on the street of Bayard and along with his barrel factory in Nessonvaux in the valley of Vesdre was primarily manufacturing shotguns for export.

Forest & Stream, 1882

Forest & Stream, 1882

In 1887, Henri Pieper joined the “Manufacturers of Weapons” association of Liege. Along with the factories Jules Ancion, Dumoulin brothers, Joseph Janssen, Pirlot-Frésart, Draws up-Laloux & Co, Albert Simonis and the brothers Emile and Leon Nagant with an aim of obtaining large government and military contracts.

Montgomery Ward, 1885

Montgomery Ward, 1885

The following year, he took part in the Belgian army tests to replace the outdated Comblain rifles with a modern repeating rifle. He submited two Mannlicher style rifles. One with a rectilinear action and another with a rotary Schulhof action. Both lost to Mauser which was adopted as the model 1889.

He was then contracted to help with the creation of the Belgian National Factory which would manufacture the model 1889 where he remained as a major shareholder and administrator.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1907

Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1907

After this, he assisted in the development of a “gas seal revolver”. His design lost the competition for the new Russian revolver contract to the Nagant brothers’ design. But model 1893 revolver was very popular in Mexico along with a revolving rifle of the same type. Very few of these remain and command a high price. Most found by today’s collectors are worn and heavily used.

About 1897, the Pieper workshops launched into the manufacture of bicycles and cars. Amoung other designs he develops and patents a gas-electric hybrid automobile. The same basic concept of the Toyota Prius 100 years later:

“Be it known that I, Henri Pieper, a subject of the King of Belgium, residing at 18 Rue des Bayards, in Liege, Belgium, have invented new and useful Improvements in Mixed Drives for Autovehicles…The invention…comprises an internal combustion or similar engine, a dynamo motor direct connected therewith, and a storage battery or accumulator in circuit with the dynamo motor, these elements being cooperatively related so that the dynamo motor may be run as a motor by the electrical energy stored in the accumulator to start the engine or to furnish a portion of the power delivered by the set, or may be run as a generator by the engine, when the power of the latter is in excess of that demanded of the set, and caused to store energy in the accumulator.”

Pieper automobile patent

Pieper automobile patent

But while Henri Pieper may have been a great inventor, his timing was horrible. The year before his patent was granted, Henry Ford built the first assembly lines in Detroit to produce the Ford Model T, the first affordable, mass-production car. It would cement the primacy of the gasoline engine to power road vehicles.

Nicolas Pieper was born in Liege on October 31, 1870. The second son of Henri Pieper and Catherine Elisabeth Leroy. At the early age of 13 he was training with his father. Before his fathers premature death at the age of 57, he took the helm of the firearms factory in Liege while his brother Edouard Herman took over the barrel factory in Nessonvaux.

Bergmann/Pieper Model 1910

Bergmann/Pieper Model 1908

Theodor Bergmann of Bergmanns Industriewerke had won a small 3,000 gun contract with the Spain but failed to find funding to manufacture them and sold his Spanish contract to Anciens Établissements Pieper. Nicolas Pieper had been seeking new business since he had lost his Belgian army contracts to Fabrique Nationale. Nicolas Pieper also bought the rights to manufacture and sell a commercial version of the Bergman Mars.

The Spanish contract and commercial productions of the Pieper Bergman Bayard 1908 are marked:


In a few short years, the over diversification of the company put him in bankruptcy. Nicolas, with the help of his brother-in-law, Auguste Lambrecht, rebuilt the business, and named it “Factory of automatic weapons Nicolas Pieper”.

Nicholas Pieper's factory

“Factory of Automatic Weapons Nicolas Pieper”

Nicolas would also purchase the rights to several automatic pistols patents from another arms manufacturer in Liège, including Jean Warnant. After making his own refinements and improvements, he would market them under the trade names Démontant and Basculant automatic pistols (both tipping-barrel types without extractors).

Pieper 1909 pistol

Pieper Démontant 1909 pistol

The Basculant, also called model 1909 was manufactured under license by Waffenfabrik Steyr in Austria, until the 1930s. Pieper made an attempt to market the pistol in the United States as well, with a prototype version in .45 ACP. Also, inspired by the patents of his father, continues to manufacture shotguns of various types.



Pieper Factory Flyer from the Exposition of Paris 1900

With the outbreak of World War 1 factory production mostly stopped because of the occupation of Belgium. After the war, in 1918 he acquired the patent of an arms manufacturer named Hippolyte Thonon – a copy of the FN Browning model 1906. Pieper marketed this under the name Légia, and produced it in Paris until 1922.

Nicolas Pieper died in his family home in Liege ten years later in 1933.

Ezell, Edward C. Handguns of the World. Stackpole Books, New York, 1981.
Wilson, R.K. Textbook of Automatic Pistols. Samworth, 1934 (reprinted by Wolfe Publishing, Prescott AZ, 1990).

U.S. Patents
Henri Pieper

Nicolas Pieper

2-Gun Action Match: Gewehr 41

I recently picked up a Walther G41 rifle (1943 production) and have been excited to have a chance to put it through a 2-Gun match. This particular rifle has clearly led an interesting life – it came all matching, but missing the magazine and bayonet lug, and with a stock that had been strangely modified (the sling cutout had been filled in with wood putty or something similar, and the wrist was cracked on both sides). In addition, while it had a G41 type mounting rail for a ZF41 optic on the rear sight,  some field armorer welded on a mounting rail from a K98k. My understanding is that the G41 scope mounts never actually made it into the field, and so rigging up a K98k mount would have been the only way to actually mount a ZF41 on one of these rifles. At any rate, I find that welded-on rail to be a very interesting feature (I have a reproduction scope on order for it, but it hasn’t arrived yet).

One other issue we discovered at the match was that the stripper clip guides on this rifle have been milled out just slightly wider than they were originally made. This meant that using Romanian stripper clips was very difficult – the whole clip would slip into the magazine instead of being held in place and having the cartridges stripped off. Fortunately, Karl brought his G43 as a backup rifle, and it has a G41 bolt housing mounted in it. So we swapped housings, and that allowed us to use regular 8mm clips for the remainder of the match. When I got home I tried out some Swedish clips in my clip guides (Swedish clips are significantly wider than almost all others), and lo and behold, they work fantastically. Did someone decide to modify the rifle because the Swedish clips run more smoothly? Or because that was all they had access to? Or were they trying to disable the rifle? I have no idea.

Overall, I found the G41 to be the softest-shooting and most pleasant 8mm semiauto I’ve yet had the chance to shoot. The gas system is clearly a hindrance in the longer run, as it will eventually get dirty enough to stop working reliably. For a few hundred rounds, though, is seems to be just fine. I can absolutely see why the Wehrmacht opted to keep the basic design for the G43, with the improvements to the gas system and detachable magazines. Anyway, here’s our match footage:

For a detailed breakdown of the G41, see my previous G41 disassembly video.

Vintage Saturday: More Anti-Aircraft

Soviet snipers train at ranging aircraft

Mass recoil sensitivity!

Soviet snipers train at ranging aircraft with 91/30 PU rifles.

T124E2 76mm Anti-Tank Gun

The T124E2 was the last US antitank gun, and was discontinued after only about 100 had been made – before it was put into service. It was a high velocity 76mm piece, and was replaced by the much smaller 75mm recoilless rifle.

Book Review: Unique Pistols by Robert Adair

Unique Pistols by Robert Adair I recently became aware of a new book published by Robert L. Adair Jr. on the subject of the “Unique” brand pistols, made by Manufacturer d’Armes des Pyrénées Françaises.

Today, the most commonly recognized Unique is the Model 17, which was underwent an interesting evolution through its production lifetime. The Model 17 was initially a commercial pistol much like the typical Eibar/Ruby handguns made in Spain. It failed to win French military trials, but when war became imminent in 1939 a contract for them was issued by the French Army. When the Germans occupied France production continued for German use, and the Unique factory in Hendaye became an important inspection center for the German inspectorate to process pistols from Astra and Star as well as those made by Unique. By 1943, the Germans had an improved design for the Model 17 – the Kriegsmodell. It had a deeper backstrap to improve the grip, and an exposed hammer. These pistols were made for the German Army until France was liberated, at which point they stayed in production for French use. After the war, the Kriegsmodell (now renamed the Model Rr) was used by both French police and military units, and a major shipment went to the Kingdom of Morocco as well.Kriegsmodell Unique

At any rate, Adar’s book covers this extended evolution in detail, with serial number ranges, production dates, and design details along with photos of each iteration of the pistol – and he does this for a slew of other designs made by MAPF (Manufacturer d’Armes des Pyrénées Françaises) as well. The firm began as the Spanish shop of Barrenechea, Gallastegui, y Arenas – with the Arenas brothers later moving to France where they would found MAPF. Adair covers the models of pistol made by this initial Spanish company before moving on to the Models 10 through 21 made in France as well as the Mikros brand also made by MAPF. He also includes reference photos of two dozen addition trade name brands to show their subtle differences.

The book has several valuable additional resources, including more than 20 pages of tables detailing hundreds of individual pistols by serial number and specific features. There is also a photographic reference of magazines, holsters, grip panel styles, and more. One quibble I do have on the technical side is that some of the reproduced images from manuals and original sales documents seem to have been printed badly, and appear in very pale yellow. This only affected a few images, though, and does not strike me as a significant issue (it is a byproduct of the self-publishing that is the only way for books like this to make it to market).

This book is certainly not for everyone – only a few people are particularly interested in such a specific and unappreciated niche of firearms collecting. If you are interested in Eibar pistols, French military pistols, German occupation pistol production, or Spanish pistols this is definitely a book you should own. If you are building a reference library, it will be a valuable addition covering a subject with almost nothing else published. And if you are one of these people who will find the book interesting, you should order it now rather than putting it off. This is one of those books that was a labor of love for the author, and not a viable commercial endeavor. If Adair is lucky, he will break even on this work – it is virtually guaranteed that the first printing of 500 copies will be the only printing. Once they all sell, they will be gone. So do what I did – dig out the $62 and order a copy:

More Stoner Documents

Thanks to reader Steven B, I have a couple additional documents on the Stoner 63 to post, and also a cleaner copy of the Stoner LMG manual. Thanks, Steven!

Stoner: Armament of the Post 70's Soldier (English)

Stoner: Armament of the Post 70′s Soldier (English)

Stoner Bayonet Manual (English)

Stoner Bayonet Manual (English)

Stoner 63 LMG Manual (English)

Stoner 63 LMG Manual (English)

US Patent 3,198,076 (Stoner LMG)

US Patent 3,198,076 (Stoner LMG)

Stoner 63 Weapons System Brochure (English)

Stoner 63 Weapons System Brochure (English)


Film Review: Generation War (Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter)

Generation War originally came out two years ago as a three-part German television miniseries, and I only found out about it recently. It has been described as a German Band of Brothers, but that misses some of the nuance. The story follows a group of five childhood friends from 1941 until the defeat of Germany in 1945. The five represent a cross-section of German experiences, and include two soldiers (brothers), a singer, a nursing student, and a Jewish tailor.

My Take

Having watched the series nearly straight through, watched the BBC’s short program on the controversy it created, and read a wide variety of other reviews of the series, I will be pretty unapologetic in saying that it is one of the best pieces of war film I think I’ve ever seen. As best as I can tell from my vantage point having never been in the military or personally experienced war, it does a tragically good job of portraying what war does to people. It neither glamorizes nor judges the characters for their actions, it simply shows them going through what actually happens on a personal level. The acting is magnificent, and we see the changes to the characters as happening naturally without being beaten over the head. Between the writing, directing, and acting the characters manage to play roles as archetypes without becoming cliches – no easy task for a film!

On a technical level, Generation War is magnificent. I’m sure there are some mistakes (like the appearance of an MG42 before they should have existed), but they are so minor in context as to be unnoticeable. The set design, lighting, uniforms, and equipment are correct and engrossing down to miniscule levels of detail. The mix of action with dialogue and other character interaction is well balanced and I never found myself drifting despite the series’ 4.5 hour length. Here’s the official trailer:

In short, just go watch it. It’s not a happy story, so plan accordingly. I should also note that the original German title was “Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter” – “Our Mothers, Our Fathers” in reflection of the director’s goal of stimulating conversation between young Germans today and the disappearing generation who lived this story themselves (and he was very successful in sparking that conversation). It is available both as DVD and as streaming video, in three 1.5-hour episodes:

Other Reviewers

I wanted to start this review with my own take because I think a lot of the other reviews out there are, frankly, wrong and miss the point – and I don’t want to take away form the impact of the series by debating them. So once you’ve seen the series, then click to read more and we’ll look at why the reviewers who disliked this are wrong (sploilers).

Continue reading Film Review: Generation War (Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter)