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The Vault

Slow Motion: lMG 08/15 Maxim

Today we’re looking at a luftgekühlt maschinengewehr 08/15 in slow motion – a lightened and mair-cooled version of the Maxim used on German WWI aircraft. This particular example is set up as a Zeppelin gun, with a buttstock and pistol grip (guns mounted on fixed-wing aircraft had different fire-control mechanisms). It is also missing the original AA spider sights, and instead has a regular MG08/15 top cover and rear sight. Lastly, it is firing with an inverted MG34 belt – a workaround that was actually used during WWII when proper Maxim belts were not available.

Anyway, I am indebted to Mark D. for firing the gun on camera, and his father for making it available. Thanks, guys!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9oq5FbvXPQ

Eibar “Spanish Model 92” Revolver

Today’s post is a guest article written by Mike Burns, taking a look at one of the S&W revolver copies made in Eibar for the French military. He compares it to a WWI .455-caliber S&W Hand Ejector and a WWII .38-caliber S&W Military & Police revolver. Thanks, Mike!

Short Background

This is intended to be a technical article, however a brief potted history to set the stage is appropriate.

Once it was clear that the first world war would go on for some time, the French government needed to find alternative sources of handguns to supplement the “modern” Model 1892 Saint-Etienne revolvers, often mis-named “Lebel” revolvers, and the older Model 1873 revolvers still in service. To avoid supply issues, the French insisted that revolvers offered must chamber their 8mm M92 revolver cartridge. This cartridge propelled a 120gn .330” jacketed bullet at about 740fps, which by British and American standards is anaemic.

To respond to this need, many gunmakers in the Eibar valley in the Basque Country, started producing revolvers for the French. Since Smith & Wesson and Colt’s patent protection did not extend to Spain in that period, these makers had long been producing local versions of American revolvers, including the Smith & Wesson topbreaks, the solid-frame M&P, Colt New Model Army & Navy, and the Colt Police Positive.

The French government chose local versions of the Smith & Wesson M&P, of which the firms of Trocaola Aranzabal Y Cia, Garate y Anitua & Cia, Orbea Hermanos and others already had experience. In French service these were referred to as “Modèle 92 espagnols” – “Spanish Model 92s”, presumably making reference to the calibre designation, or indicating that they were a substitute standard to the “real” Model 92’s. Interestingly enough, the British government also purchased numbers of topbreak S&W clones in .455 Webley at the same time, although these appear to have been relegated to a training role.

The Revolver

This particular revolver is from Trocaola, and is in about 80% exterior condition with holster wear. However, the barrel and cylinder interiors look like it has hardly been fired.

To compare with a Smith and Wesson of the period, we shall look at how this revolver differs mechanically and in its construction from a Smith and Wesson Hand Ejector in .455 Webley of WW1 manufacture. For a general external appreciation, we’ll also compare with a late-WW2 commercial M&P in British configuration in .38 S&W calibre with a 5” barrel. This particular M&P is a whole story in and of itself, but that’s for another time.

Are these revolvers junk, as many claim? Let’s have a look at them from an engineering, design and practical perspective.

So, to start off, here’s the three revolvers:

Top to bottom: .455 Hand Ejector, Trocaola, WW2 M&P

Top to bottom: .455 Hand Ejector, Trocaola, WW2 M&P

The relationship between the designs is obvious, right down to the end of the ejector rod, which is very much of the period and was later changed as you can see from the M&P. Barrel length is 11cm (4 1/3 inches), a practical length for a military revolver which makes the 16.5cm (6 1/2 inches) of the Hand Ejector look frankly ridiculous.

The finish is somewhat thin, although there are some dings on the surface which have not removed the bluing. The first difference for economy is that the frame behind the trigger guard is not as rounded as the S&W, eliminating some machining here.

Since we’re still dealing with the outside aspects, let’s have a look at the sight pictures:

Sight pictures. Top to bottom: Hand Ejector; Trocaola, M&P

Sight pictures. Top to bottom: Hand Ejector; Trocaola, M&P

For the period, the Trocaola’s sights are excellent: well-proportioned for combat shooting, unlike the impractically-fine sights on the Hand Ejector. My only complaint is that the notch could be deeper and possibly squarer, like the M&P.

Another external aspect that is interesting is the shape of the cylinder latch, which is deeply curved and very heavily chequered.

Trocaola hammer and cylinder latch

Trocaola hammer and cylinder latch

Interestingly, Trocaola chose to keep the pivoting firing pin nose of the S&W, which they could quite easily have done away with as a manufacturing shortcut. Surprisingly, they used a flush-ground solid pin rather than the rollpin of the original, which is so well-fitted that you can hardly see it in the photograph.

Viewed now from above, we have an ergonomic feature that is clearly better than the original S&W:

Hammers - Trocaola left and Hand Ejector right

Hammers – Trocaola left and Hand Ejector right

The S&W hammer of the era, which is the same even on the WW2 M&P in the first picture, is made of a single slab of steel, and has the same thickness everywhere. The hammer spur on the Trocaola (left) is broader than the body of the hammer, making manipulation rather easier – even though this is a manufacturing complication! Like the S&W, the hammer is colour case hardened. You can also see from this photo that the sideplate fit is pretty good. Although you can tell that the S&W is made to higher tolerances than the Trocaola when you put it back on, since the Trocaola is quite tight.

Sideplates - Hand Ejector top and Trocaola below

Sideplates – Hand Ejector top and Trocaola below

Here we can see a major manufacturing shortcut – the cutouts on the inside of the sideplate on the Trocaola (bottom) have clearly been made with worn tooling, cut as fast as possible. But since they don’t come in contact with any moving parts, it doesn’t matter. Interestingly, the three digit number stamped on the sideplate is not part of the serial number, but appears also on the front face of the cylinder and under the barrel. The crane and the bottom of the grip frame carry the real serial number.

Another change is the ratchets:

Ratchets -  Trocaola left and Hand Ejector right

Ratchets – Trocaola left and Hand Ejector right

The Trocaola ratchet (left) is much simpler, and much more rugged. It is also quite a lot thicker, to compensate for the comparatively soft metal used in the revolver’s construction. And the rumours about soft metal are true – the screws in particular are made of monkey metal, and the sideplate has a slight dent where someone (not me!) hit it too hard with something too pointed when putting it back on!

To go with this chunkier ratchet, the hand is also much thicker and more rugged:

Hands - Trocaola left and Hand Ejector right

Hands – Trocaola left and Hand Ejector right

From a military standpoint, the S&W hand is quite fine and relatively fragile – the British Textbook of Smallarms makes reference to the S&W having the finest and most fragile lockwork of the three main British service revolvers of the period (Webley, Colt, S&W). From this perspective, the Trocaola hand is much stronger, much more rugged, and can thus apply more force to the ratchet in case the revolver is full of mud. You can also see the deep cutout in the recoil shield to allow the thicker ratchet to pass.

At the other end of the cylinder we have another bit of ruggedisation. The forcing cone is long, and gently tapered. Bearing in mind that the bore is .327”, here’s a .361” bullet inserted base-first into the forcing cone:

Trocaola forcing cone

Trocaola forcing cone

This will tolerate enormous amounts of mud and fouling, as well as an incredible misalignment of the cylinder. The flash gap is .017”, about the same as the Hand Ejector (.015”), but much less than the later commercial M&P (.007”). Again, we’re going for reliability and tolerance of dirt here.

Let’s take a look at the lockwork now:

Lockwork: classic S&W (left) and Trocaola (right)

Lockwork: classic S&W (left) and Trocaola (right)

This is where it gets really interesting. On the left we have the classic S&W lockwork of the period, and on the right we have the extremely well-rationalised Trocaola lockwork.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the Trocaola is much simpler – there are only three major moving components: the trigger, the hand and the hammer. The trigger return slide has been deleted, reducing also the need to finely machine and finish the surfaces on which it runs. This removes quite a lot of parts and machining, since the trigger return slide also needs a post, a coil spring, and a connecting rod linking it with the trigger.

The mainspring is a single V-spring, which replaces three separate springs in the S&W: mainspring, trigger return spring and hand spring. One end of the V-spring is hooked onto a stirrup on the hammer, the same as the S&W. The other end terminates in a long finger which bears on an angled slot cut into the left face of the hand, pushing down on it. Since the slot is angled, this simultaneously pushes the hand down and cams it forward, and also pivots the trigger forward.

The parts are case-hardened where necessary, and the finish is every bit as good as the S&W where it matters. For ease of production, this rationalisation of the lock is very well thought-out.

Unfortunately, I can’t disassemble the lockwork further. That V-spring is a beast, and I suspect you need a clamp to un-tension it and take the lock parts out. But in any case, we can have a look at the lockworks in the resting and single-action positions (apologies for the camera glare):

Lock positions - S&W top, Trocaola bottom

Lock positions – S&W top, Trocaola bottom

The Trocaola lockwork thus functionally does everything the S&W’s does, but with far fewer components and far less precision machining and function-critical finishing. The hammer even withdraws properly when the trigger comes forward, without the benefit of the lug on the trigger return slide. The revolver is thus equally as safe to carry with the hammer down on a loaded chamber as the S&W.

You’ll also notice a rollpin on the grip frame. This doesn’t go all the way through the mainspring, but simply serves to keep the fold of the spring in position.

Something else they could have scrimped on but didn’t is the cylinder stop spring, which is still inserted down an angled bore from the outside and closed with a screw. Later S&W’s did away with this.

However, all this ruggedisation and simplicity comes at a cost:

Trigger pull. S&W are not stupid, and they put all that complexity and fine metalwork into their triggers to give an excellent pull.

With the Trocaola, the double-action is smooth, predictable and somewhat heavy. In fact, it is even a bit lighter than the 455 Hand Ejector with its original spring which is quite stiff. One improvement though is that there’s less “trigger stack” towards the end of the pull than the S&W.

Single-action – they’ve gone for a bit of safety, and the single action is quite long and creepy, and heavier than the S&W. They’ve cut a clear notch in the hammer, and you feel the hammer moving back during sear release. For a mass conscript army, this is probably not a bad thing. There apparently used to be a prejudice in the British army of the period that handguns were of more danger to their users than to the enemy, and there is probably more than a grain of truth to that assertion.

Both trigger modes are heavier and longer than my war finish Webley 38 Mk.IV. But if we compare them to contemporary Continental revolvers, are they bad at all? I’ve never handled a French Model 92, but compared to a Swiss M1882, the pulls on this Trocaola are lighter, although the M82 single action is crisper – it’s just extremely heavy. Unfortunately, as a modern shooter there’s not a lot you can do about the trigger pull. If I could find a replacement spring, I might try filing it a bit thinner across its width, but I suspect that the way the spring interracts with the hand to cam it forward needs it to be fairly fierce.

Compared to a tuned S&W, it’s clearly an inferior product in handling. But this is somewhat unfair, since it was designed as a cheap, mass-produced combat arm that had to be reliable in the hands of a muddy conscript. As for interchangeability with a real M&P, there is none. Not even the grip panels – the half-moon cutouts are a different size, the alignment pin is in a different place, and the grip needs a hole for the mainspring pin.

Overall, it appears that the revolver is a very serviceable military handgun, certainly in comparison with its continental contemporaries. It is certainly more practical than the side-gate loaded Swiss M1882, even if the quality of the materials and the finish is understandably poorer. However, the materials and finish are good where they need to be.

If anybody wants any detail photos of any specific aspects, let me know – I’ll be happy to oblige (if it can be seen without taking the mainspring out!)

New Sponsor: James D. Julia Auction Company

I’d like to take a moment today to introduce our most recent new sponsor of Forgotten Weapons: the James D. Julia auction company. They are one of the premier firearms auctions houses in the US, and I have been using photos from their auctions in posts for a while. I’m very happy to have them on board as a site sponsor, and you can expect to see some pretty cool guns from their auctions a couple times per year. In addition, they have a search function that covers all their firearms auction lots back to 2002, called their Research Library. It’s still being refined, but they have had a whole ton of rare and interesting firearms (including a lot of historic machine guns) go through their business in the last 12 years, and the Research Library allows you to easily look up their descriptions and (top-notch) photographs of all those guns. If you create an account with them, you can also see the sale prices on all the guns…it’s an excellent source of information on guns that are difficult to find anywhere else.

Definitely a resource to check out! I’ve added it to my Research Links on the right sidebar, but figured I should point it out more directly.

Danish Madsen-Ljungman Rifle

Thanks to reader John D, we have a chance today to look at a very scarce Danish-made copy of the AG-42B Ljungman rifle. The Madsen company in Denmark made about 50 of these rifles for military trials, in several different calibers. This one, and a few others, were imported with a batch of other guns into the US and quickly snapped up by collectors who recognized what they were. Mechanically  they are identical to the Ljungman, but differ in many ancillary details like the sights, bayonet lug, magazine, handguard, and charging knobs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSGDEHpX_GQ

Thanks to John and Chuck for bringing us this video! You can follow Chuck’s ongoing work at GunLab.net.

Savage is Looking for Design Engineers, and an InRange Old West Vignette

Are you a firearms design engineer looking for a new gig? Savage Arms contacted me to say that they are looking for an experienced designer for their Westfield, Massachusetts team. You can see their full details here, but the gist appears to be a person with at least a couple years experience who will develop new products, including everything from initial specs to tolerances to QC inspections standards. They want an bachelor’s degree in engineering and 5 years of experience in a manufacturing environment, and familiarity with SolidWorks.  So if you’re looking for a new opportunity, and don’t mind living in Massachusetts (shudder…), polish up that resume and apply!

All I ask is that if you get the job, you give me a heads-up if Savage decides to reintroduce the .45-caliber model 1907.

On an unrelated note, Karl and I have a new episode of InRange TV published – this one is the first of a series we will be doing on Old West vignettes. There are a huge number of very interesting little stories from the days of western expansion, and many of the sites where they took place are still accessible today. So we will be visiting them from time to time to investigate the stories and share them with you. These aren’t all specifically gun-related, but the history is fascinating (to Karl and I, at least). So check out this first one, about the Battle of Dragoon Springs, and let us know what you think!

Reproduction Nordenfelt Gun

A few days ago I was at a small machine gun shoot (which wound up being a bit larger than I’d expected), and was happily surprised to discover that one of the attendees had brought along a prototype of a reproduction Nordenfelt Gun. The Swedish-designed Nordenfelt, of course, was one of the major contenders in rapid-fire military arms during the day of the manually-operated machine gun (see also, Union Repeating Gun, Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon, Gatling, Gardner, Lowell, etc). The Nordenfelt system used a series of barrels (each with its own dedicated bolt) fixed in a horizontal line, with a feed hopper holding a stack of cartridges for each barrel. A long-throw lever was used to operate the gun, pulled backwards to open the action and eject the cases, and pushed forward to chamber and fire new cartridges. The guns could be purchased in a massive number of permutations, from one barrel to twelve, and chambered for a variety of cartridges from service rifle sizes up to 2.45 inch shells. The Nordenfelt was primarily successful in the naval market, as it could be easily mounted aboard a ship and was also light enough for use high up on a mast or on a carriage with a small landing party. What ultimately took over the market for this sort of gun was the Maxim – and the Nordenfelt company merged with Maxim in 1888.

The reproduction that found its way to the shoot was a three-barrel type chambered for .45-70. I had never had the opportunity to fire a Nordenfelt before, and it was a very cool experience. The gun was very simple to use – fill the feed hopper with cartridges (this one held 12 rounds per barrel, but was not a finalized version), aim at your target (brass “iron” sights are on the right edge of the gun’s frame), and just rack the firing lever back and forth. It took a significant effort to actually fire the cartridges – this is not a gun you can dial in with the sights and then carefully pop off shots without disturbing the aim – you really have to slam the lever forward to actuate the mechanical bits. Upon pulling the lever back, three empty .45-70 cases would tinkle out to the ground below.

The Nordenfelt, like the Gatling and other guns of this type, is not considered a machine gun under US law because it actually fires its three round sequentially. A skilled and deft operator could theoretically push the lever just the right distance to fire single shots. I gave that a try on my third volley on the video below, and was thoroughly unable to get the timing right – all of my shooting sounded like single reports.

I don’t know when these guns will be available for sale (or who will be distributing them, or what they will cost), but I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity (if I can!) to do a much more extensive shooting session with one, and take a good look at the internals. It would be particularly interesting to get one of them on the line along with a reproduction Gatling, and evaluate their respective strengths and weaknesses – Americans tend not to know about any of the manual machine guns beyond the Gatling, but the Gatling was really a fairly small part of that market worldwide, outside the US and Russia.

With all that said, here is some footage of my fairly uneventful firing:

For a more in-depth look at an original Nordenfelt, I would refer you to this video I did a while back with Joe from GardnerGuns.com:

Touring the Iraqi Tariq Pistol Factory

Nick Crawford contacted me after seeing my recent video on the Tariq pistol RIA is selling this weekend, to mention that he’d had the opportunity to poke around the factory where those pistols had been made. I asked Nick for details, and he generously obliged with the following writeup of his experiences:

I watched Ian’s recent video on the Tariq pistol with great interest as it brought back memories of my experiences with the Tariq. My personal experiences with the Tariq pistol were during my 2003 deployment to Iraq. I served as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 1 and participated in the invasion and initial occupation of Baghdad. After two weeks in Baghdad my unit began our retrograde to the city of Al Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. It was at Al Hillah that I first examined the Tariq.

Once in Al Hillah, our company was quartered at a factory complex that manufactured the Tariq pistol. This complex included bulk fuel storage, warehouses and vehicle storage areas. The actual pistol factory was about 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in size and part of the larger overall industrial complex. Prior to the invasion the complex was under the control of the Iraqi Army. The factory was looted by civilians during period the Iraqi Army left and U.S. forces arrived. This was a common occurrence with other sites we had encountered previously. While in Baghdad we were quartered briefly at the UN Assistance Mission and it had also been looted prior to our arrival.

After being at the industrial complex a day or two a fellow Marine approached asking if I wanted to see something interesting. The Marine then handed me four pieces of metal and asked if I could identify them. The first ones I examined were not a complete pistol but two slides and two frame assemblies in various stages of completion. Of the two slides I examined, both had Arabic characters and the word “Tariq” in English on the slide. The state of completion was approximately 60-80% for both slides and frames. The frames were not identical as one was larger than the other. The “Tariq” marked slides seemed to fit the larger frame. As a long time collector the overall design looked very similar to the Beretta 1951/Helwan pistol. The smaller frame was not recognizable to me at the time. The overall completion of the smaller frame led to an educated guess on my part. I told the Marine the larger pistol was most likely a Helwan copy and the smaller frame was most likely chambered in .32 ACP or .380 ACP with the possibility of 9mm Makarov. Only after returning to the United States did I learn the smaller frame was a copy of the Beretta M70 model.

When I asked the Marine where he had gotten them he pointed to the building behind us. It seems that for the last 2 days I had been sleeping beside a firearms factory and I wasn’t even aware. A group of us walked over to the building and looked through the windows. The windows were mostly broken out and allowed for a good view of the interior. The scene reminded me of photos taken of the Walther factory by US troops during World War Two. The factory had work benches arraigned along the outer walls with various machine tools in the center. The benches had pistols on them ranging from raw blanks to assemblies in 60-80% completion.

After seeing the factory I wanted to see what else was inside and looked for a way into the factory. I located a side door and proceeded to look around and examine what was being manufactured. The operation was very basic and not at all advanced. The operation relied on standard machine tools such as lathes, milling machines and drill presses. The floor of the factory was littered with production jigs, gages and small parts. The factory had been looted and nothing of value remained inside. As I examined the factory I realized I had not seen a single magazine or magazine assembly. Maybe the magazines were manufactured offsite or another location in the complex. This was my sole visit to the factory as it was under guard afterwards and remains one of the best memories I have of my time in Iraq.

Overall I encountered a variety of weapons during my time in Iraq, everything from 1886/93 Lebel rifles to Colt Diamondback revolvers with German proofmarks. While I had a background as a small arms repairman/armorer, I always sought out weapons and militaria as a collector first and foremost. What some saw as a worn out old rifle or curiosity, I viewed them as unique historical artifacts with interesting stories. In some ways I went to war not as a United States Marine but as a hardcore Cruffler/collector and my experiences reflected my interest in historic arms.

Nick Crawford inspecting arms in Iraq

The author inspecting arms in Iraq (not at the Tariq factory)

Biography
Robert “Nick” Crawford

Military Experience
U.S. Marine Corps (1998-2004)
B Company 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion
MOS 2111 Small Arms Repairman/Armorer

Civilian Experience
Curio Relic FFL Holder 1994 to Present
Firearms collector for 22 years
Specializing in pre 1950 military weapons
Handloader

Education
Texas State University-San Marcos
Master of Arts History Program
Currently enrolled

Texas State University-San Marcos
B.A. Anthropology/History Double Major
Graduated 2014

Honor Graduate of U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School

Clever Double Barrel Sporting Rifle at RIA

This double-barreled sporting rifle made by Christoph Funk in Germany is not much like the typical over-under double-barreled rifle. It began as a fairly standard Mauser bolt action, chambered in 7×57 Mauser with a 5-round magazine and a nice double-claw scope mount. What Funk added to this was a .22 caliber rimfire action and barrel inside the front handguard of the Mauser action.

The .22 action is simple, and its barrel is very light – their addition does little to disturb the balance or handling of the gun. A striker cocking lever was added behind the Mauser bolt to actuate the .22 firing mechanism, and what appears to be a double set trigger is actually a trigger for the Mauser action and a trigger for the .22 action. A very clever way to allow a sportsman to have a round of proper rifle ammunition ready for medium game while simultaneously having a round of .22 rimfire ready for a shot at a small game animal.

American Eagle Lugers at RIA

Many people are aware of the .45 caliber Lugers made for US military field trials – but far fewer people realize that Lugers were both tested by the US military and sold commercially several years prior to the .45 tests.

In 1900, the US military put several hundred 7.65mm Luger pistols into field trials with both infantry and cavalry units. These pistols were marked with a large and elaborate American eagle crest, in an attempt by DWM to enhance the gun’s appeal to Americans. A similar tactic was used in production of Lugers for Swiss sale, with a large Swiss cross (and it worked well). After complaints about the small caliber of the early 1900 Lugers, DWM developed the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, and attempted to sell them commercially in the US (and elsewhere). A small batch were also purchased for further military testing. Rock Island has a bunch of Lugers in their upcoming auction, including the two in this video – a fat barrel 9mm American Eagle commercial gun and a 7.65mm American Eagle test trials gun, complete with holster.

Development of the Model 1911 Pistol (Video)

When I was looking through the catalog for this upcoming Rock Island auction, I noticed that there were a lot of early-type Colt automatic pistols listed. I looked a bit closer, and noticed that there was, in fact, one of almost every major developmental variety. Well, that sounded like a recipe for a big overview video! So here I present the developmental history of the 1911:

The guns included in this video are:

Model 1900 Sight Safety
Model 1900 converted to 1902 Sporting
Model 1902 Sporting
Model 1902 Military
Model 1903 Pocket Hammer
Model 1905
Savage 1907
Model 1911
Model 1911/1924 Transitional
Model 1911A1