Today’s high speed video analysis is the first Browning-style pistol that was at hand when I took out the camera: a Star Model B Super. Manufactured in Spain for many years, this basic pistol was made in both 9mm Luger and 9mm Largo variations as well as full-size and shortened varieties. This particular one is in 9mm Largo, and is a fine example of the tilting-barrel action developed by John Browning that dominates handgun design to this day.
Watch all the way to the end for bonus footage of a hangfire in slow motion!
I recently had the opportunity to examine a very early model 1894 Bergmann pistol, and made an interesting discovery (discovery to me, at any rate). The gun has a rather elegant bird’s-head grip, and a trigger that pulls as much down as it does back – the direction of the trigger pull is basically along the centerline of the grip. Well, when I went to take a sight picture, I put the pistol into a typical modern grip – hand high on the backstrap and arm extended straight. Which totally did not work. The distance to the trigger was too short to be comfortable, and my trigger finger was barely acting on the actual moving part of the trigger at all.
Note how a “correct” high grip on the piece puts the trigger finger very high on the trigger, which results in poor leverage and an uncomfortable hold.
I though about this for a minute, and then recalled the picture postcards I have seen from German pistol shooting competitions around this period. The shooters are not-infrequently show with a quite different grip; one we would consider laughable today. It’s a one-handed stance (of course; all competitive pistol shooting was done one-handed), and the arm is bent at the elbow, with the wrist cocked down to bring the sights in line with the eye. The best example I can find on short notice is this, from Mötz & Schuy’s fantastic book Vom Ursprung Der Selbstladepistole:
Old-fashioned pistol shooting stance (with a Steyr 1907)
That fellow is using a somewhat subtler version of this stance than others I’ve seen, but it’s enough to get the idea across. And here the thing – when I shifted to using that type of grip on the 1894 Bergmann, everything came together. The birdshead grip now works well and makes sense, and my trigger finger comes to rest in the bottom curve of the trigger, in the right alignment to make a nice smooth press. Still a substandard target shooting grip in the overall scheme of things, but it seems clear to me that Bergmann designed the pistol with it specifically in mind. It does at least have the side benefit of bring the rather small sights a bit closer to the eye.
Sometimes there is no substitute to actually putting hands on a gun to understand it.
I will admit, in the aftermath of my video on the “Nazi” belt buckle pistol I have gotten a bit interested in them. Not because of their historical significance (which I am pretty well convinced is non-existent) but because of the variety of phonies that have been created to bamboozle collectors. Call me strange, but I think it would be fun to create a nice online reference source detailing all the different variations. With that in mind, here is an example I recently got photos of:
This one shares the same basic mechanical design as the standard version, with the same firing pin, trigger, and recocking setup. It only has a single lever to open the barrels instead of two, and the cover plate is not spring loaded. It has solid cover plates extending to both sides of the main action to hide the actual belt connections. It has 4 barrels, in .22 caliber (presumably .22LR).
What is also interesting to see, and totally gives this away as a fake (as it the parrot eagle on the front cover plate isn’t enough) is the markings. Whoever made this one decided to cover all their bases, by marking it with both commercial firearms proofs (well, sort of), Waffenamt marks, and RZM marks. The RZM (or Reichszeugmeisterei) was a national material control office, responsible for a lot of soft goods, like armbands, belt buckles, and much more. They were quite specifically exclusive from WaA, though – nothing legit will have both WaA and RZM markings. And, of course, there is also the minor issue of the RZM stamp used here being incorrect – it has no crossbar on the Z. The Waffenamt marking used is WaA358, which was probably just an easy stamp for the faker to procure. It suggests that the belt buckle gun was actually made by Walther, which is definitely not true. The one other mark, an eagle holding a swastika, is clearly a crude reproduction when viewed up close. Here are detailed photos of the various markings:
I don’t know if it is funny or sad that this would probably bring several thousand dollars on the market. These devices have basically built an entire collecting sub-genre, and even the ones unanimously accepted to be totally fake sell for exorbitant amounts. I hope the buyers are simply people with too much money, and not overly gullible collectors who think they are actually genuine WWII artifacts.
The All-American 2000 was Colt’s attempt to break into the polymer high-cap pistol market in the early 1990s, when Glock was dominating that field. Colt took what appears to have been a pretty good pistol designed by Eugene Stoner and Reed Knight and made some pretty terrible decisions when adapting it for mass production – and the result was a huge failure. The pistols were remarkably unreliable and inaccurate, and the debacle nearly ran Colt into bankruptcy.
An interesting side note to the All-American 2000 story is the lesson one can take on print gun publications. Because most gun magazines are (or were) heavily dependent on a small number of major advertisers, those companies could often coax out reviews of their new products that ranged from disingenuous to outright fraudulent (Mike Irwin has an interesting behind-the-scenes experience of the American Rifleman review of the gun). Print media treatment of the AA2000 is a particularly egregious example of this behavior. Fortunately for gun buyers, the internet has allowed us to bypass print media as the gatekeepers of information, and the truth gets out very quickly now – as with the much more recent example of the Remington R51.
Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Mostly armed with SMLEs, but I see at least one No4 Enfield in there as well (and the AKM, of course – which appears to have a 40-round mag). Interesting assortment of bandoliers, too.
Today I have another issue of Tactical and Technical Trends – this time #50, from September 1944.
Tactical and Technical Trends #50 – September 1944
As usual, most of the material herein will be of interest to folks who like to study WWII, but only a little bit pertains to small arms. Specifically, a brief blurb on new German ammunition – subsonic 8×57 and 9×19, and accurized 8×57 for snipers. As a neat bonus, this issue includes the German phonetic radio alphabet – the equivalent to our Able, Baker, Charlie, etc. Siegfried-Paula-Anton-Schule!
Today’s post is more modern than most of what we usually cover, but it is about a rifle for which very little information is available. It is a Swedish report translated by Arne Bergkvist – thanks again, Arne! Any mistakes in editing are mine – Ian.
This study is a work of FÖRSVARETS MATERIALVERK, Vapenbyrån, Finkalibersektionen Engineer Per Arvidsson
Lano rifle is the subject. Other rifles in the test will be tested on another occasion.
Swedish Lano sniper rifle
Until 1989 the standard Swedish service rifle was the 7.62 mm AK 4 (H&K G3). Each platoon (40 soldiers) was equipped with one Hensoldt 4 power rifle scope. The AK 4 and the 4x scope functioned well together. The problem was that the scope mount was not sufficiently rigid, so the point of impact was different from time to time. The mount was also too high for the cheek and difficult to shoot with. To be able to solve a two man patrol task (sniper and observer) on distance combat range, longer than 300 meters, we urgently needed special selected personal with qualified education, and more advanced material than the AK 4.
In 1983, Sweden began testing sniper rifles from several European rifle makers. Most of them were accurate and shot acceptably tight groups, but were not rigid, unreliable, and were heavy, expensive and hard to shoot with. To be frank: they were not made for “one shot – one kill.” Both semi autos and bolt action rifles were tested. The semi automatic rifles were good shooters, but the function was bad and the weight was too much. The most popular rifle was the Austrian Steyr SSG 69, and 39 of these rifles were purchased for testing.
The study lead us to the required specifications:
“One shot one hit”
Standing man target 800 meter (875 yd)
1/3 man target 600 meter (656 yd)
Head-size target 400 meter (438 yd)
Maximum weight of rifle 6 kilo (13.2 lb)
Rifle scope, with 10x magnification, non-adjustable power and simple cross adjustments.
Scope mount must be 100% rigid
The rifles were tested in troop, technical, tactical and organizational situations. Rifle factories that were interested in participating and developing the future sniper rifle were:
FFV (Carl Gustaf 90/CG 2000)
Lano (Lano S)
Mauser (m/86 SR)
Steyr (SSG Sweden)
Accuracy International (PM)
Parker Hale (m/85)
The suppliers had the opportunity to choose the rifle scope they wanted, within the demanded brands (Swarovski, Leupold, Tasco, Schmidt & Bender and Hensoldt) and specifications for 10 power non adjustable scopes. The test ground was Swedish Army Infantry camp (I 4) in Linköping and Infantry camp ( I 21) in Sollefteå, from September 1986 to May 1987.
All members in the test group had the opportunity to be a part of the testing, in both normal and extreme winter conditions. They would use and shoot with competitors rifle and discuss experiences with officers and snipers. The results from this testing were much appreciated by the involved participants. Even personnel from USMC “Scout Sniper Instruction School” participated during March 1987 and gave valuable feedback.
The evaluation of the test rifle produced three winners: Accuracy International, Lano and Mauser. Price requests and delivery procedure and time schedule from the factories were requested, and showed that Accuracy International and Lano were the best choices. The testing also showed that only Hensoldt and Schmidt & Bender scopes were able to stand the testing. The other rifle scopes did not withstand the severe weather conditions and were rejected. Accuracy International and Lano together with Hensoldt and Schmidt & Bender scopes were ordered for the final trials in 1988/89. The material was to be modified at a number of places, to make all attendants happy.
To this “grand finale,” the following companies were invited:
Rifles: Accuracy International, Lano
Rifle scopes: Hensoldt, Schmidt & Bender
Bipod: Parker Hale
Ammunition: Norma, Lapua, Sako
Silencers had been tested by the Swedish government since 1983. The reduction of the firing sound will make it harder to find the sniper after “one shoot-one hit.” In addition, silencers reduce recoil and muzzle flash. The Vaime silencer was tested earlier by the army and especially the model that mounts far back on the barrel is interesting because it keeps the total length down, and also reduce the noise well. Accuracy is not affected by the silencer as long at the bullet not touching the inside of the tube. A small change in point of impact can be seen, but is easy to adjust on the rifle scope.
The rifle factories still in the test were very enthusiastic on the task, and spent time perfecting their entries, after finding things that could be improved. There was a positive feeling from both the rifle factories and the troops involved, and a positive exchange of information took place. The project started in 1985 with the initial specifications and ran for four years. The chosen rifles were purchased in 1990, with Lano being the winner.
The idea behind the Lano invention is that “If the bolt always is in the same position at absolute center of the chamber, steering the cartridge, when fire the rifle, it will be best for the accuracy!”
System: Lano bolt-action repeating mechanism
Caliber: 7.62×51 mm NATO
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds, detachable
Overall length: 1150 mm (45.25 in)
Barrel length: 660 mm (26 in)
Barrel twist: 1 revolution in 12” (1 rev. in 305 mm)
Weight: 6 kg (13.2 lb) with magazine and scope
Stock: Fiberglass, with adjustable length and cheekpiece
Bipod: Detachable (Parker Hale m/85 type)
Optic: Schmidt & Bender 10x42mm mildot type tritium scope with adjustable center bore
Weight of scope: 580g (20.4 oz)
Accuracy: 5 shots within 20 mm /100 meter (0.8″ @ 109 yd)
One area I have very little coverage of here on Forgotten Weapons is that of black powder muzzleloading firearms. I would like to get more into these at some point, but right now I am more interested in smokeless cartridge guns. Well, if you would like to see more on the older guns, I would definitely recommend a YouTube channel that a friend recently pointed me to: CapAndBall.eu. The channel, and its associated web site, are run by a Hungarian gentleman named Balázs Németh, who operates a gun and reloading shop in Budapest (it’s important for us Americans to realize that while we have some of the best gun laws in the world, that doesn’t mean there are no shooters anywhere else).
What I really enjoy about Balázs’ videos is that he discusses all aspects of the gun he is looking at – historical, mechanical, and practical. A great example is this video on the Savage Navy revolver:
Did you know that there is a toggle link hiding inside the action of that design? I didn’t. Another interesting one that just published last week was this comparison of an original Colt 1851 Navy with a Uberti reproduction of the same design:
The biggest surprise in there for me was the fact that Colt revolvers originally used gain-twist (aka progressive twist) rifling. I had no idea. Want one more example? How about a Whitworth rifle?
If you have any interest in black powder shooting and technology, this is definitely a channel to watch. Native English speakers may find Balázs’ accent a bit distracting at first, but he is by no means difficult to understand. As an aside, he does have a standalone web site (capandball.eu, which redirects to kapszli.hu), but it does not appear to have been updated for about a year, and has some technical issues, at least when I try to use it. But that also does not detract from the quality of the information in the videos.
This month I chose to shoot the 2-Gun Action Challenge Match with a French MAS 49/56, in the original 7.5×54 caliber. I really like the handling of the rifle, and I was curious to see how the sights (rear aperture and a large front post) would work in a practical setting like this competition. As it turned out, I rather like the sights, Not great for target work, but they are pretty effective for making shots like this match is designed around. I do want to see if I can improve the trigger, though, and I may look into making myself a couple extended mags from 24/29 Chatellerault mags.
As usual, my pistol was a late 1940s Argentine Ballester-Molina in .45ACP (which served me well on stage 3, compared to the folks using 9mm). Overall, I placed 28th of 47 shooters.