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The Vault

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)

Prototype Pieper .45ACP Pistol at James D Julia

Nicholas Pieper designed a blowback pocket pistol which was manufactured under license by Steyr in 1908. It was a reasonably successful pistol, and can be found today in .25ACP and .32ACP calibers. This particular one is an experimental version scaled up to .45ACP, with the intention of making military or commercial sales in the US. One unusual trait it shares with the smaller versions is its lack of extractor – as a blowback design it will function without one, but the shooter must break the action open to manually remove an unfired cartridge.

Schouboe Prototype .45 Pistols at James D Julia

The Schouboe is best known in the US as one of the pistols that competed in the 1907 Army pistol trials, unsuccessfully. It was designed in Demark by Jens Schouboe, whose much more notable accomplishment was the Madsen light machine gun. The Schouboe pistol was a simple blowback design chambered in .45 caliber, but used a special cartridge with a lightweight bullet (63 grains; an aluminum-jacketed wooden core) at a high velocity (about 1600fps). This is the reason is was dismissed form the US Army trials, as they wanted a pistol using the .new .45 ACP cartridge (230 grains at 800 fps). I was particularly impressed by the very simple disassembly procedure, which is faster than any modern pistol I can think of. This Julia auction includes two different Schouboe pistols; one is a standard example with metal grips (and missing its magazine), and the other is a fancy gold-inlaid example made for the President of Uruguay.


Walther Volkspistole at James D Julia

As the Second World War started to really take a toll on German industrial production, several companies started to work on alternatives to the P38 handgun in an effort to reduce production cost and time. This is one such example made by Walther, with a normal type of milled slide and an experimental frame made from stamped sheet steel. It uses a rotating barrel mechanism taken from Nickl (and the Steyr-Hahn before him), and uses standard P38 magazines. None of these designs actually made it into production before the end of the war.

Nickl Prototype M1916/22 Pistol at James D Julia

Josef Nickl was one of the chief R&D designers at Mauser after the Federle brothers, and one of his pet projects was a rotating barrel military pistol developed from the Steyr-Hahn M1912 pistol. He built a number of prototypes of it while at Mauser, but the company never put it into production because of a combination of patent concerns and wartime contracts for other weapons. Eventually Nickl was able to arrange a contract for it to be produced at Brno, where it would become the CZ24 and then CZ27 pistol. This particular one is a larger example, in 9x19mm.

Type 92 Japanese HMG at James D Julia

The Type 92 was the final iteration of a machine gun that began as the Model 1897 Hotchkiss HMG made in France. The Japanese army purchased many of these guns, and then produced their own slightly refined version. These in turn were replaced by the updated Type 3 (1914) heavy machine gun, and finally the Type 92 (1932). A lightened upgrade to the Type 92 was prototyped (the Type 1, 1941), but never went into production. Mechanically, the Type 92 is very much like a scaled-up Type 11 light machine gun, using 30-round strips to feed. Despite being generally derided today, these machine guns were very reliable, accurate, and effective. This particular one happens to have a 7mm Mauser barrel in it, from a South American contract.