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.
Want to see more Danish machine guns (mostly Madsen LMGs, but also a couple Madsen-Saetters) in one place than you’ve ever seen before? Well, try the 1961 Danish monster flick “Reptilicus”. It’ a pretty terrible piece of cinema, but hey, where else will you find video of that many Madsens?
Note the use of the bipod as a front grip…
Madsen-Saetter mounted on a Jeep
Happily, someone on YouTube has posted a version edited down to just under ten minutes in length – still more than you really need to see, but lots of footage of the Danish Army on exercise as the monster rampages (well, something like that) through Copenhagen.
An assortment of machine guns from the Russian civil war. Pretty much one of everything in there – a Russian 1905 Maxim, German MG08, Austrian Schwarzlose 07/12, Colt 1895 “Potato Digger”, M1915 Chauchat, Madsen LMG, and a Lewis gun way in the back. Thanks to Paul Scarlata for sending the photo!
A little while back, I got my hands on a number of copies of Tactical and Technical Trends booklets – this was a bulletin published by the US Military Intelligence Service during WWII to keep soldiers apprised of new developments in equipment and tactics among the different combatants. A quick Google search will reveal that these documents are not difficult to find in electronic form, but I am going to post them anyway. Why? First off, because I suspect a lot of people are not aware of them. More importantly, because I think it is worth looking at them one at a time to actually take a close look at the information they contain. Takes as a whole batch, one tends to just skim over and miss a lot. And lastly, because my color scans are much nicer looking than the other copies available.
The first one I have is #49, from August 1944 (they were initially published biweekly, and later went to monthly).
Tactical and Technical Trends #49 – August 1944
Much of the information in these booklets covers armored vehicle, artillery, mines, and other war material not typically in line with this site (although certainly of interest to many people who would read this site). When we look at small arms content in this edition, we find a couple interesting articles:
US Army testing on Japanese cartridges found on Bougainville with wooden bullets, and with normal projectiles loaded backwards into cartridges (the wooden bullets were found impractical for antipersonnel use, and concluded to be grenade launching rounds, while the backwards bullets were thought to be attempts to increase lethality).
US Army testing of the protection afforded by Japanese armored shields for machine gun and pillbox use (they are proof against M2 ball, but could be perforated by AP out to 200 yards).
The Frommer/Femaru 37M was the last in the line of handguns designed by Rudolf Frommer. The 37M was a single-action blowback pistol chambered for .380, although it was also purchased by Germany in .32 ACP caliber (and with the addition of a manual thumb safety). It was adopted by the Hungarian military in 1937, replacing the 29M – which was mechanically basically identical but more expensive to produce. The 29M, in turn, was basically a scaled-up Frommer Lilliput.
At the end of the American Civil War, the Union had well over a million surplus muzzle-loading rifle-muskets, all of which were obsolete since it was clear that in the future all military rifles would be breech-loaders and most likely use metal cartridges. The U.S. was not alone in this predicament; most European nations were in the same boat. Prior to the end of the American Civil war, only Prussia had standardized on breech-loading bolt-action rifles, albeit with paper cartridges and needle-fire ignition. France was committed to an arms race with Prussia, and having seen Prussia overcome Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, France also introduced their own bolt-action needle-fire Chassepot rifles in 1866.
The U.S., England, and Austria found an economically effective solution out of their firearm crisis. They adopted methods to convert muzzle-loaders to breech-loaders, allowing the reuse of existing stocks of muskets and associated spare or surplus parts. The English used the Snider conversion system on their pattern 1853 Enfields, and the Austrians produced Wanzl conversions for their Lorenz rifles. However, both the Snider and Wanzls were stop-gap solutions, soon to be replaced by new models, Martini-Henrys in Great Britain and Werndls in Austria. Only in the U.S. did the conversion models lead to the long-term production of similar new rifles.
Muzzle-loading rifle-muskets like this Pattern 1853 Enfield were the donors for hundreds of thousands of cartridge conversions in the late 1860s.
The loading gate on a Snider conversion opened to the side.
Snider conversion installed in the breech of a Pattern 1853 Enfield.
The “trapdoor” on the 1866 Springfield opened forward for loading.
Conversion system designed by Springfield Master Armorer Erskin S. Allin installed in a Model 1861 Springfield rifle musket donor. This is a Model 1866 “Trapdoor”, which used the original barrel from the donor musket but was sleeved down to .50 caliber with renewed rifling.
Reportedly, several conversion systems were considered by the U.S. Army, including Rolling Block and Peabody mechanisms. However, I suspect that the “trapdoor” system designed by Springfield Master Armorer Erskine S. Allin always had the inside track on the U.S. trials. One alternative conversion system, which apparently was given only passing consideration, was designed by two brothers, Joseph and George Henry Needham of London, England. The rifle shown is a Needham converted rifle.
With the hammer back the gate could be swung open. You can see that the striker was pinned to the original hammer.
The loading gate of a Needham conversion was locked in the closed position by the hammer.
This early Needham conversion was installed in a rifle-musket originally made in 1863 in Norwich Connecticut.
The Needham conversions were probably pretty cost effective, but the early models in particular had problems which I discovered after I obtained this example. As with any conversion the first step would have been to cut into the original sealed chamber, opening up a breech. A new chamber would have to be milled into the end of the barrel to accept a metal cartridge of the type pictured. Then a hinged breech block would be installed with a firing pin and transfer bar that could be hit with the hammer which had been modified to reach into a recess in the block. A spring was installed to pull back the pin before and after the moment when the transfer bar extension of the firing pin was struck by the hammer. On the early models, the firing pin transfer bar casting was liable to break, as occurred with this rifle. Loosening a set screw allowed the remnant of firing pin to be removed, revealing that it had broken at the point where the transfer bar once connected.
I was delighted (and frankly amazed), to discover that The Rifle Shoppe in Jones Oklahoma had listed in their catalog both “old style” and “new style” firing pins for Needham conversions! However these were not items that they had on the shelf but rather an ability to cast upon order. The waiting list was considerable, but after about 10 months I received the two casting shown in the picture with the broken original. I ordered both because at that time I did know not which was the right part for my gun. I had been in touch with Jim Burgess who had co-authored a report on Needham conversions with Marc Gorelick which was presented to the Virginia Gun Collectors Association and available on-line*. Jim had sent me a sketch of the firing pin from his gun, and it was clearly unlike mine, so I knew different versions existed.
The remnants of the original firing pin above two replacements obtained from the Rifle Shop. The original is a better match to the “old style” pin.
The original pin and the replacement after machining required to make it fit and function.
As can be seen in the picture, when I compared the broken pin to the two castings, it was apparent which was a match for mine; however, it was also apparent that the new piece was a rough casting with much more metal than would ever fit in the housing on my rifle. My blacksmith friend Steve Bloom (Iron Flower Forge) did the hand fitting to produce the finished replacement shown. There are several differences between the two styles of firing pins, and clearly they were never intended to be interchangeable. The most important difference is the new style pin is reinforced at the stop where my pin broke. The old style pin is one factor that suggests that this rifle is a very early sample of a Needham conversion, perhaps an example that led to its failure in U.S. government tests. The other factor is that the conversion was built into a rifle made by the Norwich Arms Co., one of the smaller contractors to the Union during the Civil War. The large majority of Needham conversions were built into rifles made by the Alfred Jenks & Sons firm in Bridesburg, Pennsylvania, and so are marked “Bridesburg” on the lock plate.
Needham conversions, like the very first generation 1865 Springfield conversions, used the original barrels which were bored for .58 caliber. They were chambered for the short large diameter cartridges shown. The upper cartridge in the photo is a .45-70 government cartridge used on the later Model 1873 Springfield, which were not “conversions” but new-made rifles in the pattern of the older conversions.
Bridesburg Needham conversions and the Fenian invasions of Canada
The Fenians were an Irish-American group who wanted to put pressure on Great Britain to free Ireland. They conspired to mount an invasion of Canada and occupy some territory in order to force concessions. The Fenians purchased surplus Bridesburg rifle-muskets and sent 600 armed men across the Canadian border from New York in June 1866. The small force briefly captured Fort Erie, but was readily overcome, and the men were sent back to the U.S.. Surprisingly, the Fenians were sufficiently well connected politically that they were able to recover their guns along with their freedom to try again.
However, by the time the Fenians were considering a second foray across the border in 1867, the British troops in Canada were equipped with Snider conversions of the P1853 Enfield rifle, and the Fenians knew they would be seriously outmatched with their original muzzle-loading Bridesburg muskets. Reportedly, supporters of the Fenians rented space in a Trenton, New Jersey shop, where hired English gunsmiths performed the Needham conversions on about 5,000 rifle-muskets. The Fenians launched a second invasion in May of 1870 across the Vermont border. The Canadians were forewarned and the Fenians soundly defeated. This time, the guns used in the attack were confiscated by the U.S. Army, along with additional guns that had been stored in Trenton. The army subsequently auctioned off the guns, a large number of which were purchased by the surplus dealer Schuyler, Hartley & Graham. These guns account for the majority of the Needham convertion rifles which occasionally show up for sale.