James D. Julia: Polish wz.28 BAR Shooting, History, Disassembly

In the aftermath of WWI the newly-united Poland had a military equipped with a mishmash of leftover light machine guns, from Chauchats to MG 08/15s. They wanted to adopt a new standardized weapon, and trials in the 1920s found the FN BAR to be the best option. Unlike the American military BAR, the FN version adopted by the Poles used a light bipod and a pistol grip for better handling. It was chambered in 8mm Mauser, which was the standard Polish cartridge. The gun was adopted as the wz.28, or Model 1938.

The purchase agreement with FN was to buy 10,000 guns outright and also a license for domestic Polish production at F.B. Radom. However, the deal went quite sour when it urned out that FN actually didn’t have the technical package to supply to the Poles, since they had not actually tooled up to make the guns, instead importing them from Colt in the US. The Polish military wound up reverse-engineering the Colt/FN guns to allow domestic production, and the incident put such a rift between FN and the Polish military that they would develop the Vis 35 “Radom” pistol in-house rather than license the FN High Power several years later.

Many thanks to my friend (and regular commenter here) Leszek for background information on the wz.28!

43 Comments

  1. Thanks for another great video Ian!
    What a cool hat you have there.
    Do you know you look EXACTLY like one of those traditional Polish hunters of the old days? Stalking wild bisons in primeval forest of Białowieża with a mandatory wz.28… ;D J/K
    Cheers from Poland 🙂

  2. The shape of the stock is interesting in that it was an early example of a “straight-line recoil” buttstock, i.e. with the stock comb high enough at the heel that it was a continuation of the bore axis. This of course reduces recoil climb in automatic fire.

    It’s worth noting that the standard FN Model 30 BAR stock, and the postwar Type D stock, were basically the same as the U.S. BAR stock. But the FAL rifle stock follows the pattern of the wz.28 buttstock, with the raised comb back at the heel. I’d say FN probably did not credit the Polish designers for this innovation.

    BTW, the Colt/FN version of the BAR is basically Colt’s commercial “Monitor” version, intended mainly for police sales. The safe/single-shot/full-auto selector was characteristic of that version.

    Also, the interchangeable barrel of this version would make it very easy to change calibers in a hurry, as long as the case-heads were roughly the same size and the rounds would feed through a .30-06 BAR magazine. The Swedish version was in 6.5 x 55mm, and some foreign sales were probably in 7.65 x 53 in addition to 7.9 x 57.

    Argentina manufactured a Browning light machine gun in 7.65 x 53 at Rosario, which may have been yet another variant of the wz.28.

    cheers

    eon

    • Well it appears that the concept of a machine rifle was a good one if said weapon was used properly. The wz 28 and the FN Model D certainly are improvements over the original in terms of ergonomic design and magazine capacity. Barrel changing is also better for cleaning purposes, right?

      • “Well it appears that the concept of a machine rifle was a good one if said weapon was used properly.”
        Was is MACHINE RIFLE. It is shoulder-fired full-auto full-power cartridge rifle?
        If so I would say that usefulness of such weapon is restricted. Many tried to craft such weapons, almost all concluded: THIS CAN’T BE CONTROLLED IN FULL-AUTO FIRE.
        Anyway, I will say wz. 28 is LMG (light-machine gun) – so far I know in Polish Army always has more than 1 person assigned to wz. 28

        • Strictly speaking, the basic BAR is a “machine rifle”, in that it does not have a quick-change barrel. The barely-remembered U.S. M15 heavy-barrel version of the M14 (aka M14E2 in development), with that rather odd-looking pistol grip stock, was another such. The RPK variant of the AKM is yet another example.

          A machine rifle is intended to be fired in short bursts (3 to 5 rounds) from the shoulder in prone or standing position. Its job is to provide covering fire during the assault. It was later largely superseded by the general-purpose machine gun (GPMG), which can be fired of the bipod, from the shoulder, etc., and can generate a higher sustained RoF due to being both belt-fed and having a quick-change barrel.

          The assault rifle also helped render the machine rifle obsolete, as it allowed the infantry section to generate a higher RoF in creating the base of fire.

          The wz.28 is a bit of a hybrid in that while it has a quick-change barrel, it is still magazine-fed. The Bren and other ZB26 variants are in the same category, as is the Hotchkiss-based Japanese Nambu Type 99.

          One overlooked attribute of the true machine rifle is that it is selective fire. In addition to generating heavy cover fire, it was also tasked as the long-range “marksman’s rifle”, because in single-shot mode its heavier barrel generally gave it better accuracy beyond 250-300 meters than the individual soldier’s rifle.

          This, BTW, was the reason for the seemingly overcomplicated Lyman rear sight on the M1918 and later U.S. BARs. Having used the weapon, I can state that in single fire, off a rest, the M1918A1 version can consistently put the M2 ball round into a 12-inch circle at 500 yards. Not quite MOA, but close enough for dealing with a sniper, artillery spotter, or senior enemy officer at that range.

          Having that capability in the squad automatic weapon meant that you didn’t necessarily need a specially-tasked sharpshooter in the section. Which definitely helps manning “issues”.

          It’s interesting to note that the modern-day Ohio Ordnance Works semi-auto version of the BAR, the HCAR (Heavy Counter Assault Rifle) is designed and tasked specifically for the DMR/countersniping mission;

          http://www.ohioordnanceworks.com/hcar

          So, maybe the “machine rifle” isn’t entirely obsolete after all.

          cheers

          eon

    • I own a Swedish Kg m/37 BAR and can tell you that the receiver is not identical to the US made guns since I have the military drawings for the 1918 and have modeled it in Solidworks. The 6.5 also required a different magazine though it is the same length front to back as the standard 30.06 magazine. I am not sure why the Swedes changed the receiver machining slightly or if it is required to be reliable with the 6.5 round. I do know that several Swede guns in the US have been rebarreled to run in 30.06 so the changes do not seem to be a detriment to using 30.06. What is interesting is the Swedes were the first non US country to adopt the BAR in 1921 and their changes were ahead of many countries that adopted after as well as the US that seemed to be rooted in not making any real changes in the BAR.

    • What do you mean by “postwar Type D stock”? Was there a difference between pre-war and post-war Model D stocks? The Model D, by the way, had the two rates of fire system and no semi-auto mode.

      • The Model 30 and Type D stocks are largely the same as the U.S. BAR stock, except that they lack the semi-pistol-grip “bulge” on the underside, because of course both have the separate full pistol grip as on the wz.28.

        Also, the Model D stock has a slightly more curved buttplate, probably to help keep the buttstock centered on the shoulder in automatic fire.

        As you state, the Model D has dual-rate automatic fire as on the U.S. M1918A2.

        cheers

        eon

  3. “The gun was adopted as the wz.28, or Model 1938.”

    I think you have a slight typo here Ian. Thanks for a great video. It looked like there was a slight amount of gas coming out at the gas port in the video. Not familiar with BAR never having fired one. Is this standard?

  4. Does anybody on this forum have any problems with watching these otherwise great videos? I use Pale Moon (a Firefox clone without the Leftist influence) and half of the videos will crash my browser within a few seconds of watching the intro promo before Ian ever gets started.

    Please don’t tell me to to to Chrome, Edge, et al.

    Steve in Arizona

    • No problems with the regular Firefox. Pale Moon probably does not have its HTML5 video code working properly with every site. If you don’t want to try another browser, you can wait a few days until Ian posts them on Youtube and use Flash to watch them there. Full30.com does not offer HD streams, so I watch some videos again on Youtube in any case.

    • FF has some problems with videos, too. My usual method is to right-click on the video once it starts playing, scroll down to “View Video”, and left-click. This takes it to full-frame in the browser window and seems to alleviate most of the problems.

      cheers

      eon

      • Strange, I have zero problems with Full30 and FF. Everything just works. Perhaps a GPU driver issue on your PC? I always use the latest stable version of FF that automatic updates installs, but I haven’t had any problems with Full30 for a long time.

      • Hello Eon,

        Thank you for the suggestion! The damndest thing happened; when I right-clicked I got a drop-down menu but “view video” wasn’t on it. Before I could react, I realized that the video was playing perfectly normally and that my browser hadn’t crashed! I was able to watch the entire video with no problems. So, whatever bug there was got worked out after several crashes. Go figure!

        Cheers,
        Steve in Arizona

  5. Little correction (typo):
    is: The gun was adopted as the wz.28, or Model 1938.
    should be: The gun was adopted as the wz.28, or Model 1928.

    • To my knowledge, yes. The post-WW2 FN Modèle DA1 chambered for 7.62mm NATO used FN FAL magazines, so it should have been compatible with 30 round FAL magazines. However, it was used only by the Belgian Army, which to my knowledge did not have 30 round mags for the FAL.

    • The U.S. produced a small number of 40-round magazines, for anti-aircraft use. They are rare.

      Ohio Ordnance currently produces 30-round magazines, but I’m not sure how good they are.

  6. Ian,

    Very good review.

    I did find it interesting that you did not complain about the weight! You did a long video on how the semi BAR was way to heavy. Well this is heavier with the larger barrel, pistol grip…etc. Did you find that it was unnecessarily heavy? Or did you see that when shooting it FA, the extra weight started to make more sense? I do not mean to ridicule but I found the Semi BAR review naive in not taking Full Auto fire into account. Sure for a semi its way to heavy. However in Full Auto the weight starts to makes sense. I am guessing you did not do any Mag dumps, however I have on FA BARs and find that without the weight this would not be possible. I can do a whole mag in a BAR in the half the impact area that I can get about 5 shots with a FA M14 or about 6-7 with a FAL. I would think its fair to say these rifles are semis with FA options, where the BAR is a FA gun with semi option. When understood that way, the BAR starts looking a lot better.

    Also I find it interesting that like Browning, the Polish considered this an Automatic rifle, not a squad level LMG. I personal see a huge difference there. Automatic rifles are individual weapons, not crew serve weapons. If you view the evolution of the Assault rifle, I consider the Thompson and BAR both being part of that but from opposite ends. The BAR gave the individual USGI effective FA fire using a full size cartridge. The Thompson give him effective FA fire from a pistol cartridge. When you start seeing the BAR on the tree to the Assualt rifle and not as a limb off the LMG tree, the gun starts to look better and better and was many years ahead of its time. Besides the FG42, I think its hard to beat the gun for what it is and what it was designed to do.

    • @IMBLITZVT
      “Also I find it interesting that like Browning, the Polish considered this an Automatic rifle, not a squad level LMG.”

      Nope, they did not. The wz.28 was treated exactly as a squad level LMG, the difference was only it was not CALLED the LMG, because in Polish nomenclature it was a different category, a belt-fed weapon. We had a special name for the category, just like French and Americans did – but tactically it was EMPLOYED exactly like eg. a Bren or FM 24/29. Polish infantry squad was 19 people, quite a bunch, of which four formed a designated MG section: a crew of two – gunner plus “assistant gunner” (actually, as BAR was served by one person, he was a machine gun crew leader) plus two ammo carriers/escort, permanently attached to the LMG crew (and fully trained to take up any MG section member’s job in case of casualty). You could ID the LMG crew in any photo without a problem: the gunner carried the wz.28 and wore special magazine pouches, the “assistant gunner” (actually MG section leader) had a carbine plus magazine pouches and a binocular case, while the ammo carriers had carbines and wore magazine pouches, plus when extra ammo was neded, heaved the special 5-magazine ammo carry bags with a sling, one of which Ian demonstrated with the gun, as a “magazine pouch” – which it was not. The pouches were worn by the section members on their belts and were different: in asymmetrical sections (left and right) of two pockets each, with one pocket (facing buckle, or inner, as witnessed from the front) holding one magazine, while the other (outer) pockets held 2 magazines each, so a total of 6 magazines were worn by each crew member. Actually the MG section had 25 magazines, of which 23 in pouches (as one of the gunner’s pouch pockets was occupied by a cleaning/spares wallet) plus one in the gun and one in gunner’s bread bag (the one evicted there by the spare parts wallet). That makes the ready ammunition complement of only 500 rounds, not much for a firefight – but still the BAR barrel was not rated for continuous magazine dumps. The full kit contained 52 magazines (or two complements of 25 magazines with 2 spares). Two spare magazines filled with AP rounds were held on the squad’s ammo wagon, and only issued at an explicit order of the squad leader, when enemy armor was reported. The actual ammunition complement for the MG section was larger than needed to fill the magazines: 2000 rounds, so that the empty magazines were gradually filled by the ammo carriers, whose responsibility was to keep the ammo supply going. The first ammo fired, were the ammo carriers’ magazines. When assistant gunner run out of theirs, and had to take the first magazine out of his pouches – it was time for the first carrier to pay a visit to the squad ammo wagon for the magazine bags, five of which (with the spare 25 magazines) were held there. The ammo in gunners’ pouches was “iron reserve” only used when ordered to by the squad leader. The other 1000 rounds in cartons (loaded on strippers to expedite loading) were divided between squad (300) and platoon (700) ammo wagons. The sights were calibrated for the S light ball, black primer annulus ammo (not SC which was a Polish equivalent of the sS heavy ball with green annulus) which was the regular LMG fodder. The P (SmK, red PA) armor piercing ammo was strictly reglamented and divided at the platoon level: the P ammo complement was 120 rounds (8 boxes of 15 rds each) per 3 squads, 40 rounds (or two magazines) for each wz.28 LMG.
      Hope that would explain the tactical role of the wz.28 BAR in the Polish Army of 1939. It was just a typical LMG – in all but the name 🙂

  7. Any theories on why US ordnance never adopted something like the Colt Monitor? It seems like a no brainer, but all the “improvements” they made during the interwar years seemed to do nothing but add weight for no gain in utility.

    • Thanks for pointing out the obvious reason. The improvements were marginal and did little to make the Monitor easy to use and maintain. The pistol grip may have been easy to handle but the compensator seems a bit too heavy at first glance, which implies that the gun became muzzle heavy, not a good thing for engaging multiple gangsters spread across a field… Or am I wrong?

      • AS I understand it, the Monitor had an 18 inch barrel, versus the 24 in. So unless the Cutts compensator is made of pig iron or something I wouldn’t think it would make the gun any more muzzle heavy than it already was. The main things to me are that the pistol grip should have been more effective than the “deer rifle” grip, and I’ve never seen anyone say a good word about the bipod.

  8. Actually the hat you use in the Maine winter is an Italian one – whatta-mistakah-to-makah…
    With the MG classification in Poland: pre-war they were going from the bottom up with:
    1. the “rkm” (ręczny karabin maszynowy), or literally a hand-held machine gun, a direct equivalent of French Fusil Mitrailleur or US Machine Rifle – a magazine-fed bipod-fired SAW. Then there were
    2. lkm (lekki karabin maszynowy) or Light Machine Guns which were considered lightened version of belf-fed MGs with bipod: like 08/15, 08/18 or M1919A6. Then there came
    3. the ckm or Ciężki karabin maszynowy, literally a Heavy Machine Gun, which was an equivalent of what English call just Machine Gun, and American add “medium” to it: a tripod (or wheel) mounted rifle-caliber belt-fed machine gun, preferably water-cooled, or air-cooled ones like ZB-53 as well. Then it was topped with
    4. the nkm, “najcięższy karabin maszynowy”, which is literally the “most heavy MG” – a literal translationo of the German term “Ueberschweres Maschinengewehr” or what the English and Americans call the HMG – the .50 to 20 mm (inclusive) heavy mounted anti-materiel weapon. After the WW2 these were re-classified as “wielkokalibrowy karabin maszynowy” (wkm, literally a “large-caliber MG) and reduced to under 20 mm (20 and 20+ mm calibers are now considered atillery and the designation for e.g. Oerlikon MG FF changed from nkm to automatic cannon).

    • Both the British and Americans called their water-cooled rifle-caliber machine guns (Vickers and M1917, respectively) heavy machine guns at some point… The British later reclassified the Vickers as medium, but I don’t know if the US Army ever did the same to the M1917, even though it was used concurrently with the .50″ M2HB.

  9. I have “some” experience with the BAR and personally LOVE the Ugly Bast… you get the meaning. They are heavy as an anvil and the ammo’s weight makes it feel like pack-muling for a 16″ naval. But if it has a good barrel you can double-tap a whole mag into an 8″ spotter at 500 yards or dump a whole mag and when the ’06 gets there it still has enough energy to do its job. I carried a 1919A6 LMG for a while running ambushes and the BAR was WAY better for the job eventhough the A6 was a better long range weapon in actual use. The one thing that most people miss is that “back in their day” the M-1, 1919 and BAR all used the same round so if anyone had spare ammo it was of use to any squad-level element unlike the M-16/M-60 combo. With a BAR you had a better chance of taking out a sniper at range and I always wanted to try one with a scope as a long-range sniper weapon but could never convince anyone to let me try. If you had a spotter and two ammo humpers it would have worked great … think of taking on a small patrol at range with one instead of an M-40 Remington! Considering what they were, they were great weapons for that time.

  10. I’ll give it my all to try and create a weapon of choice scenario for this subject…

    Setting: village near a local “evil overlord” army base. Okay, everyone seems to have gotten to the rendezvous point intact. Tonight’s objective is to eliminate (or kidnap) the base commander when he leaves the base for a meeting with his boss. Per the instructions I gave the local resistance, weapons previously airdropped were secured and hidden in a barn. The problem isn’t that the weapons were stolen or anything, but rather somebody in the logistics branch got things wrong and sent mostly “machine rifles,” civilian pistols, and Fulton Recovery Devices rather than the H&K G3’s, FN MAG’s, and the 84mm Recoilless Rifles I had requested for this mission! What will you get, and what will you do? Oh, by the way, since your team is likely outnumbered 10 to 1 behind enemy lines, try not to start a ruckus too quickly.

    1. SIG KE-7
    2. wz.28
    3. Lahti-Saloranta M/26
    4. Breda 1935 PG
    5. Smith & Wesson 29
    6. Tranquilizer-dart-firing MK.22 Hush-Puppy (what were they thinking?)
    7. 9×23 Largo variant of the JO.LO.AR (oddly somebody put a suppressor on this)
    8. Fulton Surface-to-Air-Recovery device (kidnap someone like in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain?)
    9. Lahti L-39 and Ordnance QF 17-pounder (why the support team airdropped this stuff I will never know)
    10. CQC an enemy soldier and steal his STG-44
    11. stolen BMW R75 with MG-34
    12. Request a supply drop of your favorite toys and then wait an hour

    This mission, if you are here, is totally voluntary. You aren’t required to kidnap anyone if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

    • Since you have the option of capture of kill the targeted commander, this would be a no brainer for me. I would use the L-39 as a long range sniper weapon and pop the commander, since it is accurate enough to hit ground hogs at 3 miles using the original solid tungsten bullet. It is also very handy in that it can immobilize the target by taking out his transportation prior to the assassination. Any weapon that could take out light tanks like this one did in the Russo-Finnish war is easily the match for even armored cars such as a bad guy “Evil Overlord” general would use. The only better thing that I would want for this weapon is a glass pack muffler to fire the round through to muffle the report of the weapon and provide psychological loss of moral when the commander suddenly is torn apart and there is no sound of gunfire in the local area.

      • Lahti ATR had only iron sights, which limited the effective range. The rear sight was graduated to 1,400 meters, but at such ranges you would need to have a pretty big target to see it. Even something as big as a tank could be difficult to see unless it was moving against a high contrast background. Most of the really long range sniping with it was done at stationary targets at known locations, such as bunkers.

        The L-39 saw only experimental use during the Winter War, since only two prototypes existed. They managed to destroy four Soviet tanks. The AP-T projectile was a conventional one with a hardened steel core, no tungsten. The Germans did manufacture PzGr.40 APCR tungsten core ammunition in the same caliber (20x138mmB “Long Solothurn”), but it was reserved strictly to their armored vehicles such as the Panzer II tanks and was never exported in any significant numbers.

        • Wrong! If I’m not mistaken, over 1900 L-39s were made and used against the Soviets through the Continuation War.

          • That’s true, but Russo-Finnish War without a year or other qualifiers usually refers only to the Winter War of 1939-1940, during which the L-39 was still in prototype stage.

          • My bad guys, I always lump the entire conflict between the Finnish Nation and the USSR as one continuous battle, possibly with a short intermission. As for the Tungsten round, that is the round that I learned about when I first learned about the L-39. But seeing that the Nazi regime supplied the Finnish people against the USSR, I am pretty sure that they would have supplied rounds that would take out light Soviet armor, if for no other reason to keep them off their own troops.
            Sniping with one would be difficult, but not impossible with iron sights, but adding a scope would not be all that difficult in the field. Either way, that was one awesome weapon and I would have loved to have been able to purchase one back when they had yet to be deemed a destructive device, due to the solid round that they fired. A shame the BATF bozos had to ruin it for collectors. I always wondered what the results would have been if someone had made a .50 BMG accelerator type round for it. That would have been an unreal flat shooter

          • It’s okay. I was thinking about whether or not one would rather let the base commander get a 17 pounder APCR round right in the [unmentionables]. Or if stealing an enemy tank was a good option. Anyway, that history issue is resolved.

    • “Oh, by the way, since your team is likely outnumbered 10 to 1 behind enemy lines, try not to start a ruckus too quickly.”
      Then plant mines on road, so you can go away earlier.

      “12. Request a supply drop of your favorite toys and then wait an hour”
      ASU-57 self-propelled gun
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASU-57

  11. Beautiful machining. Listening to the parts slid and click, I can positively FEEL how they match! Aren’t you glad the war went the way it did, and nobody on the Allied side had to bring out a stamped-and-welded debasement of the BAR?

  12. Does anyone know if production of these continued after Poland surrendered, as did the production of the vis 35’s? I know BAR’s don’t necessarily lend them selves to German squad tactics of the great patriotic war (especially over the mg34 and 42) but I’m curious if since most likely all the tooling and manufacturing infrastructure was captured during the invasion if any of it was used by Germany to supplement theirs or any of their allies armaments.

  13. Any other reports on the Polish bipod? With just one example, I wonder about defects, damage, misassembly etc. etc.

    In the demonstration, it appears so flimsy that its hard to believe it could have been accepted.

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