I occasionally do work for Armament Research Service, and they recently published one of my pieces as Research Note #8, on the subject of self-loading rifle durability. Rifles, in general, are pretty durable items, with only a few elements subject to potentially incapacitating damage when in normal use. You can see my complete article on the subject in PDF format at the ARES site.
So a friend of mine handed my this Remington 870 Competition, and asked me if I would like to do a video on it…and my immediate thought was, why would I? The 870 is one of the most iconic and mass-produced shotguns of all time, and there really isn’t anything about them that isn’t fairly well known, right? Well, I was wrong because this wasn’t just any 870. It was an 870 Competition:
As a followup, I should say that the 870 Competition was introduced in 1981 and about 5500 were made, but I have gotten conflicting information on whether they were discontinued in 1982 or 1986, or perhaps they were all made in 1981 but it took until 1986 for them all to sell. I have a question in with Remington on that subject, but as of the time of this writing I have not gotten an answer.
Father (grandfather?) and son in Afghanistan with a Martini and an SMLE. Photo from Modern Wars Old Guns
One day the boy will inherit the SMLE, and probably go on fighting whichever country has decided to occupy Afghanistan by that time. Maybe it will be China? They haven’t taken a turn yet. Having the will and strength to fight invaders is a good thing; having to actually do it for a hundred years straight is not conducive to a healthy and prosperous society.
That said, I wouldn’t mind having one of those bandoliers myself. And who knows if the Martini is British or locally made.
I have a couple of rifles that I no longer need in the collection and might interest folks here. All prices include shipping, and the guns are all C&R eligible. No international sales – sorry. If you’d like one of them, just drop me an email at email@example.com. Thanks!
Even the legendary Elmer Keith started out as a total newbie to shooting and reloading, and blew up a gun with wildly dangerous handloads in 1923. I got my hands on the remnants of the cylinder from that gun, and I think we can learn a couple important things from it…
Thanks to James D. Julia for giving me the chance to have a look at this cool artifact!
Note: Today’s post was written by our friend and occasional contributor Robert White. Thanks, Robert!
Léon Nagant (left) and Emile Nagant (right)
One of the oldest pistols still in service is the Russian M1895 Nagant, designed by Léon and Émile Nagant. Léon Nagant along with Colonel Sergei Ivanovitch Mosin designed one of the oldest rifles still in service, the Mosin Nagant M1891. Let’s take a look at the gunsmiths behind these long lived and robust weapons.
When it comes to revolvers, Colt won the West and the Webley ruled an empire. That still leaves a lot of the world out there. The brothers Léon and Émile Nagant filled it with the many variations of their Nagant revolver. Their work with Remington alone was enough to put them in the gunsmithing history books, but that wasn’t all they did. They designed and built arms for more than 6 counties and even the Pope.
Léon and Émile Nagant didn’t start off in the firearms business. In 1859 Emile (born in 1830) suggested to Léon (born in 1833) to be a partner in a metal fabracation and repair business. They repaired mostly industrial equipment. Liège being one of the major centers of the world for the development and production of firearms, they often found themselves repairing damaged firearms.
Advertisement for the Nagant brothers’ arms company in Belgium
In 1867, the Nagant brothers met Samuel and Eliphalet Remington as they were going through Europe selling their Rolling Block rifles and finding local subcontractors to produce them under license. The Remingtons were so impressed by the production quality and the training of the employees that they proposed to hire the Nagant borthers as one of their subcontractors. The Nagant brothers took the deal and first produced the Rolling Block rifles for the “Pontifical Zouaves of the guard of the Vatican”. These 5,000 rifles have the marks of two crossed St. Peter’s keys on the barrel chamber.
M1868 Remington Rolling Block made by Nagant for the Vatican Guard. Source: TFB
The Nagant brothers didn’t just reproduce the Remington design; they also improved it. One of the improvements was the adaptation of the Rolling Block lock to a double-barrelled shotgun. First, fitted with a double trigger (one for each hammer), then with a single trigger which operated the two hammers in turn. These are the Remington-Nagant.
Until 1900, the Nagant’s produced rifles inspired by the Rolling Block principle. But in 1876 they also produced an 11mm caliber rifle for Greece, based on a locking system developed by a Greek Artillery officer, named Enstathios Mylonas. It was very similar to the Belgian Comblain rifle.
In 1877 a double-barrelled handgun, including a Rolling Block lock was produced. This handgun was to become the first metallic cartridge handgun to be accepted by the Belgian Government to equip its Gendarmerie. This handgun was in service until 1901 when it was replaced by the FN Browning 1900 auto pistol. It was sold on the commercial market until 1910.
There are two types of the model 1877 pistol. The first series (until serial number 1050) was built with a two-part receiver. After the first series, a one part receiver was used. When replaced by the Belgian Government they were sold off as military surplus. Many were bought by the American company Bannerman.
The Nagants also helped with the design of the Dutch revolver model 1873. This handgun, produced by the Dutch Hembrug arsenal and the firm Beaumont of Maastricht, was partially conceived by the Nagants even if it is known as a Chamelot-Delvigne design. Two models are known to exist. The “Old Model” with an octagonal barrel, produced until 1912 before being replaced by a “New Model” with a round and slightly shorter barrel.
The model 1878 Nagant revolver was the first major success with its adoption by several countries. It was available in single or double action and was adapted following the specific design recommendations of the countries that bought it. Following on this they then went on to produce the models 1883, 1878/86 and 1886.
In 1887, the Nagant firm produced a Mannlicher rifle in 8mm and 7.65mm. But due to the complexity of the model, it was quickly replaced by a Mauser system in 1888.
In 1888 the Russian authorities wanted to upgrade their old single shot Berdan rifles. They contacted the Nagant firm and ask them to develop a new rifle with the help of Colonel Sergie Ivanovich Mosin. The rifle known as Mosin-Nagant (aka the three-line rifle) was produced and adopted in 1891.
In 1892 the Nagant brothers produced Comblain rifles to be exported to Brazil and Argentina. The model 1893 revolver in 7.5mm was bought by Sweden, Norway, and Serbia and in .44 by Brazil and Argentina.
Léon Nagant and his brother Emile were well known in the Russian Tsar’s court and military because of the part they had in the design of the new Russian service rifle. So they were called upon again when the time had come to replace the Smith & Wesson revolvers in use in the Russian Army.
The qualifications for acceptance of the new Russian revolver were:
It had to take down a horse with a single shot at 25-35 meters.
It had to be light weight – less than 922g (2.03 lb), preferably around 825g (1.82lb).
It had to hold seven cartridges.
It had to use the same bore dimensions as the Mosin Nagant rifle so that rejected barrels could be used to make revolvers.
It had to be single action – double action was thought to impede accuracy.
It had to be single loading as opposed to using a star extraction system. This was to reduce manufacturing costs, not make it stronger.
It had to be able to use smokeless powder as well as black powder.
1895 Nagant revolver
The brothers proposed a new model whose innovative technical characteristics obviated to the usual gas escape between the cylinder and the barrel. This model was adopted by the Russians in 1895.
Russian 1895 Nagant revolver
By April 1896, Emile Nagant had become sick, and the two brothers dissolved the company. Immediately, Léon recreated a new company under his own name “Fabrique d’Armes Léon Nagant”. By 1896, Léon and his two sons entered into a new industrial activity, making motor cars.
Sons of Leon Nagant – Charles (left) and Maurice (right) Nagant
Léon died on February 23, 1900 and on December 23, 1902 Emile Nagant also passed away. The company was then solely managed by Léon’s two sons, Charles (born in 1863) and Maurice (born in 1866). The company’s name was changed to Fabrique d’Armes et Automobiles Nagant Frères.
Nagant Phaeton automobile
In Russia, the name Nagant carries the same weight Colt does when talking about revolvers of the Old West. The complete Nagant revolver line is yet to be known by many collectors that starts with the model 1878 and ends with the model 1910.
No 25924 – July 13, 1869 (invention) : striker lever and striker stop for Remington rolling-block system.
No 26970 – January 26, 1870 (invention) : with Mr. Bachmann, a in-houseshooting appliance.
No 27667 – May 31, 1870 (invention) : adaptation of the rolling-block system to double-barrelled shotguns.
No 29046 – July 17, 1871 (improvement) : new improved extractor for the rolling- block system.
No 31225 – September 19, 1872 (improvement) : fitting of the new extractor and striker lever to double-barrelled shotguns.
No 33765 – December 19, 1873 (invention) : fitting of the Remington-Nagantsystem to firearms of all calibers.
No 39340 – April 14, 1876 (invention) : single trigger for double-barrelledshotguns.
No 39512 – May 9, 1876 (invention) : fast loading for a rolling-block rifle.
No 41590 – February 27, 1877 (invention) : modification relating to the fast loading design.
No 42456 – June 15, 1877 (improvement) : modification relating to the single trigger design for double-barrelled shotguns.
No 42907 – August 25, 1877 (invention) : revolver model 1878.
No 44563 – March 14, 1878 (improvement) : modification regarding the model 1878.
No 44954 – April 24, 1878 (improvement) : new ejector rod for the model 1878.
No 46620 – November 14, 1878 (improvement) :removable trigger guard for rifles.
No 50871 – March 17, 1880 (improvement) : adaptation of the revolver model 1878 for the single-action mode.
No 51269 – April 24, 1880 (improvement) : bayonet holder.
No 59517 – November 8, 1882 (improvement) : modification about the fast loading rifle.
No 61151 – April 19, 1883 (improvement) : another modification for the fast loading rifle.
No 61794 – June 23, 1883 (invention) : Comblain rifle accessories.
No 63999 – January 30, 1884 (improvement) : another modification for the fast loading rifle.
No 79324 – October 26, 1887 (invention) : Nagant rifle fitted with an horizontaly moving bolt.
No 83431 – September 29, 1888 (improvement) : modification regarding the Nagant rifle.
No 84016 – November 21, 1888 (improvement) : modification regarding the Comblain rifle.
No 84225 – December 10, 1888 (improvement) : new loading clip for the Nagant rifle.
No 84779 – January 26, 1889 (invention) : new steel hardening process.
No 87203 – July 30, 1889 (invention) : Nagant rifle with a Mauser type bolt (Mosin-Nagant).
No 87874 – September 28, 1889 (improvement) : New safety for the Nagant rifles.
No 93345 – January 6, 1891 (improvement) : modification regarding the Mosin- Nagant rifle.
No 95370 – June 22, 1891 (improvement) : modification regarding the Mosin-Nagant rifle.
No 98446 – February 18, 1892 (invention) : Comblain rifle accessories.
No 99113 – April 5, 1892 (invention) : Details about the “gas seal” revolver.
No 99346 – April 14, 1892 (invention) : transformation of the Berdan rifle.
No 107902 – December 20, 1893 (improvement) : new loading clip for the Mosin- Nagant rifle.
No 116198 – June 17, 1895 (improvement) : final drawing of the “gas seal” revolver.
In all the time I have been able to look at MP-43/MP-44/StG-44 rifles, one of the comments that comes up over and over is the desire for someone to make a semiauto reproduction of the gun using a caliber other than 8×33. For those of us deep into shooting these sorts of guns, 8×33 isn’t really all that difficult to get – but for the average enthusiast it really is an obstacle. Prvi makes the stuff new, but only sporadically, and it spends a lot more time out of stock than available.
Anyway, a small company down in Georgia has decided to take that desire and make it a reality. HMG (Hill & Mac Gunworks) is making a reproduction Sturmgewehr that will be available in several different configurations of varying originality and tacticality, and at a price point that should be more achievable for lots of people than the other options out there. I spent a few minutes prodding them with questions recently, and here’s what they had to say…
Forgotten Weapons: One of the really interesting aspects of your StG-44 rifles is that they will be in several different calibers. What are the options going to be?
Hill & Mac Gunworks: The primary version of the rifle will have a STANAG magazine well, meaning that it will use AR-15 type magazines. We will be offering the guns in 5.56mm, 7.62x39mm, .300 Blackout, and 8×33 Kurz.
FW: The 5.56mm and .300 Blackout are pretty clear, but how are you doing 7.62×39 and 8×33 out of a STANAG magwell?
HMG: The 7.62×39 will use the AR-style 7.62 magazines that have been made for a variety of other guns, like the Daewoo DR300 and the AR conversions to 7.62×39. Using AK magazines would have required a different receiver for that caliber, which would significantly increase the price. It would also prevent the 7.62×39 guns from being converted into other calibers.
The 8×33 is still something we are working on. The complex answer is that we plan to have a magazine that feeds 8×33 but fits in the STANAG magazine well. We would like to also offer a version using the original German magazines, but our priority is the multi-caliber version.
FW: Well, that would be the much more popular version – maybe not amongst the folks reading here, but definitely in the general market. Now, unless I misunderstood, you said these can be converted between calibers?
HMG: Yes. Our system is intended to be end user convert-able with minimal skills (ie, are you able to use a wrench?).
FW: Well, that would explain the importance of using the same magwell for all the different calibers. Now, when you initially posted renderings of the gun, you caught some flak for having replaced the rear sight with a short piece of Picatinny rail. What’s up with that? No love for the iron sights?
HMG: Heh…the Rear-Sight Debacle of 2015. That was a blunder on my part, had the wrong assembly loaded when I made the renderings. In our design, the rear sight riser block has a threaded section instead of a riveted on rear sight. That block can accept any number of sight systems including traditional rear sight(s), rail section, etc. So folks can choose whether they would like to have original-style iron sights or a rail for mounting a modern optic.
FW: These were all renderings, I noticed, and not photographs of completed prototypes. Seems a bit of a premature announcement, or at least something that will strike many people that way. Why not wait until you had something more concrete in hand to show people?
HMG: We were working on our table reservations for SHOT Show 2016, and we needed to get higher in the priority queue for getting a booth. Right now we sell targets, and that sort of accessory has a lower priority for the show organizers than firearms. In order to get a booth, we needed to make the rifle project public to be listed as a gun manufacturer rather than just an accessory company. Otherwise we would not have made the rifles public for a few more months.
FW: Alright, how about the questions everyone is really wanting to hear. How much will it cost, and when will it be available? I suspect a lot of people are writing this off as another $5k+ rifle that they won’t be able to consider.
HMG: I will say that $5000 is a good bit higher than the intended MSRP of the rifles. Past that? we’re trying to nail down the price over the next 3 months. We’re to a +/-20% number at the moment and we aren’t comfortable setting the MSRP until we have a more concrete number. But…the goal was to make the rifle affordable (well, one of the goals).
FW: Better to make us wait for a definite number than over-promise early, I suppose. How about sales dates?
HMG: We will announce presales in the coming months, with some extra goodies for the early adopters that we all think will be attractive and unique. With rifles available early next year.
FW: Extra goodies, eh?
HMG: Can’t give away all the secrets at once…
[editor's note: he wouldn't tell me what the secret goodies are going to be, even off the record...grumble]
FW: Ok, just a couple more questions and I’ll let you go. Since you are using HK fire control parts, will they be able to use registered HK auto sears or trigger packs?
HMG: We are designing it to accept semi auto packs for compliance with all ATF regulations regarding NFA devices. But for those with registered trigger packs, give me a call – we might have something in the mix.
FW: Will the rifles have side rails to mount original ZF-4 optics?
HMG: We are talking about making a few options like that available through HMG directly. That specific example has come up.
FW: Thanks for taking the time! I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on one of these to try out in a 2-Gun match…
The Walther MP was an all-stamped submachine gun developed in the late 1950s, and available in long (MPL) and short (MPK) versions. It is an open-bolt, blowback design, but uses a somewhat innovative bolt in which most of the mass is located above and in front of the chamber, to reduce bolt travel and receiver length. I found it to be a very pleasant gun to shoot, and I suspect it was largely unsuccessful in large part due to the superior marketing skills of H&K with their MP5 submachine gun.
German MG08 Maxim in antiaircraft mounting, at some point during WWI. Note the spider sights mounted halfway down the jacket, and the belt reel. Those reels allowed the guns to reliably feed at all manner of odd angles – much better than having a long belt hanging down to an ammo can.
Disclaimers: Apex Gun Parts is a longtime sponsor of this site. Prexis is not; in fact this was my first (and last) business transaction with Prexis. HMG is not a site sponsor, but has provided me with products for review in the past.
A little while back, Apex Gun Parts started selling parts kits for the Spanish CETME-L rifles – these were roller-delayed blowback rifles in 5.56mm designed and manufactured in Spain. They use the same mechanism as the fairly ubiquitous HK rifle series, but the CETME-L is not an HK copy. I was pretty excited about these kits, as the CETME-L is a neat and somewhat unique rifle that had not before been available in the US.
The obstacle, however, was that semiauto H&K parts and receivers will not fit CEMT-L rifles. For example, the receiver profile of the CETME-L is square, where the HK rifles are rounded. The CETME-L also incorporates the trigger housing into the receiver, whereas HK makes the trigger pack a self-contained detachable part. So while having a CETME-L parts kit was a great opportunity, actually building it into a functioning rifle would require waiting for someone to start making CETME-L-specific parts.
The first person/company to offer a receiver solution was Mike Jestis, who does business under the names Prexis and Precision American Rifle. He advertised 80% flats for the CETME-L, and bending jigs to use with them. Prices were (and still are, as of July 10th 2015) $125 for the flat and $120 for the bending jig. After adding on tax (Prexis is located in Arizona as am I, so state sales tax applied) and shipping the total came to $285.60. If you do the numbers, you will see that the shipping was about $30, for what was three bubble wrap bags in a USPS flat rate box. Ouch. In fact, the base prices struck me as pretty steep too, considering the relative simplicity of the parts. However, I figured that was the premium one gets to charge when one is the only option for an item.
I placed my order on April 13th, 2015. A month later, I realized that nothing had yet arrived, and so I emailed Mike to ask what the status was. He replied promptly that he was just finishing a run of the parts, and mine would ship that week. Another month went by with no package arriving, and so I inquired via email a second time. This email got no reply. I couldn’t find a phone number for the company, and my Google attempts to dig one up revealed something I should have found out back in April – Prexis has an absolutely horrible reputation when it comes to customer service, order fulfillment, and product quality. At this point, I figured it would not be useful to try to continue trying to work with Mike Jestis, so instead I called my bank and filed a claim to get my payment back on account of the purchased product not being shipped.
My bank may be a soulless and evil multinational corporation, but they sure made that refund process simple. A few minutes later the process was complete. In the interests of avoiding any potential complications, I then sent another email to Jestis telling him I had gotten my payment refunded by my bank and to consider my order cancelled. He may have ignored my inquiry on the status of the parts, but he sure answered that cancellation email quickly. He said my parts had just been finished that day. What a fortuitous coincidence, after two months! I will abbreviate an otherwise somewhat lengthly tale and just say that after three emails telling him not to ship anything, parts showed up at my home, postmarked 2 days after the email discussion. Mike told me to keep them with no obligation.
So, that is how I ended up with this flat and bending jig (which I have since given to my friend Chuck at GunLab, who will be posting a more detailed comparison between it and an original cut CETME-L receiver shortly). Normally I would probably not bother to do anything more at this point, but in this case I feel obligated to post a review of the parts for several reasons:
The quality is very poor – without very substantial repair/reworking, this is not something that could be used to make an acceptable rifle.
The price is quite high considering what is being received.
I have not seen photos or a firsthand description of these flats anywhere else.
Mike Jestis’ customer service and communication was extremely poor.
In short, I consider myself fortunate to have escaped from this bad decision with my money intact, and I don’t want anyone else to make the mistake of ordering one of these flats or jigs. When small companies like Prexis make good parts, I love to be able to help them out and I am willing to cut some slack for good folks who are doing their best. This is not one of those situations. This stuff is junk, and nobody should buy it.
I have a bit of experience with pressings myself:
In that video, you see a pressing done the proper way, if I may be so bold. The press is a pretty massive affair, capable of delivering enough pressure over a large area to smoothly form the entire piece on one operation. You can’t see it on the footage, but the corners and edges on both die halves are rounded to prevent tearing of the metal. This is not how Prexis CETME-L flats are made.
Judging from the results, the Prexis flats are made on a small shop press, probably something hand-powered. It begins with a laser or water-jet cut outline, and then each feature is pressed independently. This would be done because the press is not powerful enough to make all the features simultaneously (and probably does not have a working area large enough to fit the whole flat anyway). We can tell this, because most of the features are not square to any other features. I added a couple straight reference lines to this photo to illustrate the point:
Prexis CETME-L flat, with lines to show the lack of parallel (click to enlarge)
Some other issues to note:
The main lengthwise stamps in the center section are too shallow (most likely because the press was too weak to make them the proper depth).
The ejection port is cut into the profile of one of those long features.
The material is blatantly cut open at the back of the front trunnion feature. This was likely done because it is likely impossible to properly stamp this area with a small press.
The bolt guide rails appear to have been made by hand, with a hammer and metal block (see detailed photos below).
Complete flat, outside
Complete flat, inside
Cut behind the front trunnion area
Evidence of production with a hammer and flat chisel, basically
Detail of the bolt guide rails, as formed by hammer and hand tool
Big ol’ hole behind the front trunnion
Rear trunnion mounting holes
These guide rails clearly finished with a hand-held tool and hammer
Inside of magwell
Outside of the selector detents
Selector switch detents
The bending jig I received is even more half-hearted than the flat. All of the machining done on it is rough, with lots of burrs left over. The male portion was left with sharp square corners, just waiting to tear or stress the inside of the main bends in the flat. The “locator pins” included are quite literally half the diameter of the pin hols in the flat and jig – there is nor way they can actually hold the parts in precise alignment. That seems such a simple thing to get right – or at least closer to right – that it leaves me really wondering what on earth Jestis is thinking.
Check out the excellent fit of the locator pin to the jig!
This end at least got a couple swipes with a file…
Corners not rounded
Inside of the female part of the jig
Note the burrs here
Both jig parts, separate
Don’t buy from Prexis. He lists a bunch of items that look really cool and can’t be found elsewhere, but don’t fall for it. At the very least, do some Google searching first and see what other paying customers are saying about the products first. I hate to give such a negative review to a small one-man shop, but this one deserves it and I hope none of my readers end up putting their own money into products like these.
If you want a CETME-L receiver flat, I think GunLab will be making them at some point. If you want a complete CETME-L rifle, Hill & Mac Gunworks are planning to have them on the market around the end of the year.