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The Vault

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

 

MG-34 December Sale

FYI, one of our long-time sponsors, Allegheny Arsenal, is offering 10% off everything they have until December 12th. Use the coupon code “ALLEGHENYHOLIDAY” at checkout, and you’ll get the discount. In addition to a variety of military gun parts, they also have things like repair parts for Lafette (MG34/MG42) tripods, a whole slew of printed manuals, and parkerizing solutions.

Roth-Sauer Automatic Pistol at RIA

The Roth-Sauer is a rare early automatic pistol designed by Karel Krnka, financed by Georg Roth, and manufactured by J.P. Sauer & Sohn in Germany. It is mechanically quite complex – much moreso than strictly necessary. The action is a long-recoil type, in which the bolt and barrel remain locked together through the full rearward travel of the bolt. The bolt then stays to the rear while the barrel recoils forward, clears the empty case, and ejects it. Once the barrel is fully forward, the bolt is released to strip a new cartridge from the magazine and chamber it. The bolt has a single locking lug, which rotates into a recess in the barrel extension to lock.

The firing mechanism on the Roth-Sauer is very similar to the later Roth-Steyr 1907 pistol – and to the modern style of the Glock and others. It uses a striker to fire, which is tensioned to half-cock by the bolt and barrel recoiling with each shot. Full tension on the striker is delivered by the trigger pull, resulting in a approximation of a double-action system. Very much ahead of its day. The Roth-Sauer is chambered for the 7.65mm Roth-Sauer cartridge, which uses a 13mm-long case and it practically identical to the short 7.65mm Frommer (the pistol also shares characteristics with Frommer pistols, as Roth was involved with both designers). It is a quite light cartridge, propelling a 71 grain bullet at 820 fps.

 

Vintage Calendars & Jim Sullivan Interview

I recently got in touch with a very interesting fellow with an extremely impressive resume of firearms design experience: L. James “Jim” Sullivan. He started working for Armalite in the mid 1950s as a draftsman, and began his career by redesigning the gas tube on the AR-10 to move it from the side to the top of the barrel. Building from there, he went on to b one of the primary designers of the scaled-down AR-15, the Mini-14, the Ultimax LMG, the Ruger MP-9, and many other guns. My friend Karl and I had the chance to interview him at some length, and also to try out his new set of modifications to the M4 carbine (which he has reworked around his “constant recoil” concept, in addition to other changes to improve is controllability and capacity for sustained fire). We have the shooting and the first part of our interview put together into a very cool video for InRange TV, which you can see for free over at Full30.com.

If you like this and the other material on InRange TV, I would recommend creating an account at Full30.com (it’s free) and subscribing to the InRange TV and Forgotten Weapons channels – you can then get automatic email notification when we post new videos.

On a different note, do you need an idea for a holiday gift for yourself, or a gun nut in your life? Well, there are just two days left to order one of my 2015 Vintage Calendars!

2015calendar

In addition to cool gun photos, you get some other elements as well. Since we have a zillion different things reminding us of holidays (and you folks in Europe really don’t care about US-specific ones like Thanksgiving or Father’s Day), I once again left them off the calendar. Instead, I have marked the birthdates of more than 60 famous and not-so-famous gun designers from all over the world. That’s a lot more interesting, right? Hopefully, including these birthdays will also help to spur interest in some of the lesser-known names as well – like the Federle brothers or Ludwig Vorgrimler.

In addition, this year’s calendar also has captions describing each photo – that was an element that was not on last year’s and I had several requests to add it. All of this is printed on a nice glossy 100# paper, with a thick backing sheet, clear plastic cover, and spiral binding. I’m very happy with how nice the initial printings look, and I’m really excited to make them available. I may be a bit biased, but I believe this is the best calendar available for firearms enthusiasts – it’s a great way to indulge an interest in how these guns were actually used. So get one for your own desk or office, and give a second one to a friend!

The price for the calendar is $15 plus shipping ($5 in the US; $15 internationally; no extra charge for shipping more than one to the same address). Forgotten Weapons Premium Members will receive the discounted price of $10 plus shipping (include your email address in the box when ordering, and I will refund the price difference to you).
I will be taking orders until November 30, and the calendars will ship out the first or second week of December. All orders will be taken in advance, so I know how many to print.

Ordering is now closed. Thanks!

LeMat Centerfire Pistol and Carbine at RIA

Colonel LeMat is best known for his 9-shot muzzleloading .42 caliber revolver with its 20 gauge shot barrel acting as cylinder axis pin – several thousand of these revolvers were imported and used in the field by Confederate officers during the US Civil War (and modern reproductions are available as well). What are less well-known are the .44-caliber pinfire and centerfire versions of LeMat’s revolver, and the carbine variants as well.

In this video I’m taking a look at a centerfire LeMat revolver and a centerfire LeMat carbine, both extremely rare guns. They use the same basic principles as the early muzzleloading guns, but look quite different. In these guns, the shotgun remains 20 gauge but uses a self-contained shell loaded form the rear, and the 9 rifles shots are designed for an 11mm (.44 caliber) cartridge very similar to that used in the French 1873 service revolver.