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CETME-L History & Disassembly (Video)

The CETME-L was Spain’s replacement for the CETME Modelo C, which was the 7.62x51mm rifle that was essentially adopted by Germany as the G3 in the 1950s. By the 1980s Spain needed to move to the new NATO standard caliber, 5.56x45mm. A domestic design was preferred, so rather than but HK-93 rifles from Germany the Spanish military opted to bring back a development project that had begun back in 1971.

The CETME Modelo L uses the exact same operating system as the Modelo C and the HK 91/93, but because its design was run independently by Spain it shares few interchangeable parts. Most notably, the cocking handle tube and receiver top have a square profile, rather than round. The magazine well was intended to use STANAG magazines, but was not particularly well designed and has a very steep and abrupt feed angle. This, combined with quality control issues in rifle and magazine manufacture led to substantial reliability problems. The final development was completed between 1982 and 1984, with production beginning in 1986 and the full run or about 100,000 rifles finished in 1991. By 1996 the deficiencies with the rifle were clear, and the Spanish military held replacement trials, which would result in the H&K G36E being adopted in 1999 to replace the Modelo L.

The CETME-L design, if built correctly, is a reasonably good one, although rather old-fahsioned by the late 1980s. It lacked the modularity to allow use of modern optical sights, lasers, attached grenade launchers, and other accessories that were becoming common. This is likely due to the design originating more than a decade earlier – had it been introduced in the early 1970s it would have been much more timely.

In addition to this standard Modelo L, two other versions were also used in smaller numbers. The Modelo LC was a carbine variant with a shorter barrel and collapsing stock, and the Modelo LV was an marksman’s variant with a STANAG optics rail incorporated into its different type of rear sight.

Thanks to Hill & Mac Gunworks for letting me take a look at this rifle!

Vintage Saturday: Life and Death in the Mud

Souain, France, ca. 1915.(Bibliotheque nationale de France Francois-Mitterrand)

French soldier standing over German dead. Souain, France, ca. 1915.(Bibliotheque Nationale de France Francois-Mitterrand)

Pavesi Prototype SVT Copy (Video)

This rifle is pretty much a big mystery – I have virtually no good information on it. Through inspection, we know it is a mechanical copy of the Soviet SVT 38 or 40 – it shares the same exact bolt, locking system, and gas system. Even many aesthetic features like the metal front handguard, muzzle brake, and sights are remarkably similar to those of the SVT. The biggest difference is the magazine, which is a fixed design fed only be stripper clips. The rifle is chambered for the 8x59mm Breda cartridge, and magazine capacity is unknown – probably either 9 or 10 rounds.

The clue that this is a Pavesi rifle comes from the safety lever, which is identical to the safety lever on the Model 1942 Pavesi rifle. The only markings on this piece are two repetitions of the serial number (875), on the receiver and stock. This serial number suggests that a significant number of these rifles may have been made, although I have not seen any other examples, nor any recorded information on when or where they were made, tested, or fielded.

The most interesting diversion from the standard SVT construction is the addition of a leather buffer pad on the back of the receiver. This was clearly added after the rifle was built, as it must be removed before the bolt can be taken out of the action. The details of the receiver cover attachment were also modified from the original SVT, making disassembly and reassembly easier, with the mainspring less prone to kinking as in the SVT.

This example is in the reference collection of the Beretta company in Brescia. Many thanks to them for allowing me to take a look at it!

Pavesi SVT Copy

Book Review: SOE Equipment Air Dropped in Europe 1940-1945

SOE Equipment Air Dropped in Europe 1940-1945A while back I posted a review of a great little paperback account of Winston Churchill’s Toyshop – the development of clandestine warfare gear for use by saboteurs and resistance movements in occupied Europe during WWII. That book did a great job of telling the story of the development of these gadgets, but didn’t really get into their actual distribution and use. Well, we now have access to a wonderful companion book by Anders Thygesen and Michael Sode about the devices themselves.

Where Stuart Macrae’s book is nearly all text, Thygesen and Sode have produced a volume in which virtually every page includes a nice glossy photo – some period black and white and many full color, taken in collections of this gear today.

This book is organized rather like a museum of SOE gear, with each section cataloging a number of items, with a brief description, development history, and production total for each. They are accompanied by clear and close-up photos of each item. The contents include:

– Initiating and Delay Mechanisms
– Explosives
– Incendiaries
– Weapons
– Containers & parachutes
– Communications equipment
– and more

The book is particularly strong in the areas of explosive initiators and timers, of which there were a surprising variety. Pull switches, pressure switches, time pencils, release switches, fog signals (for detonating railway bombs) and more. All manner of limpet mines and some pretty slick disguised explosives, like magnetic fake bolt heads and dead rats stuffed with explosive. When it comes to firearms, the book’s strength is definitely the Welrod. The authors had excellent access to disassemble and fire at least one Welrod, and the history and explanation of this very cool covert weapon is excellent. The other firearms that were used are pretty much just listed with photographs, as they are commonly available and well documented guns. Oh, except the Colt 1903 converted to be strapped to one’s waist and fired by remote activator, an example of which was captured by the Danish police and is well documented here.

There is much more in this book than I can describe in a short review like this, but hopefully this will give you the gist of the content. It runs to 255 pages, including about 50 pages of reproduced English-language original sabotage instruction manual. The printing quality is excellent, unlike some home-printed niche subject books – this is very definitely a professional hard-cover book and not just a pamphlet.

This is another of those works written to fulfill a personal passion, which will never be widely printed. The English run is just 300 copies, although if those sell out apparently a second volume will be done in a few years. So if you are interested in the subject, act now before they are gone. The price is a rather high, at 65 Euros shipped to the US (that’s about $73 at the time of this writing) or Europe (air dropped, you might say). But that’s the price we pay for well-printed books on very niche subjects. It is not available on Amazon or elsewhere, just direct from the authors via PayPal.

Semiauto RPD Light Machine Gun (Video)

The RPD was the first belt-fed light machine gun (or squad automatic weapon) developed by the Soviet Union. It was designed in 1944 for the then-new M43 cartridge (7.62x39mm), although wartime exigencies followed by post-war rebuilding prevented it from being issued until the 1950s. It is a fairly light (16b) and quite compact weapon, firing from an open bolt and feeding from a belt carrier that can hold 100 rounds of linked ammunition on two 50-round non-disintegrating metal belts.

The RPD was standard issue for the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations only for a short time – by the mid 1960s it was replaced by the RPK (essentially a heavy-barreled AKM). The RPK was lighter and almost entirely parts-compatible with the AKM rifles, and used the same magazines, thus simplifying logistics and supply. This was considered a worthwhile trade for the belt-fed firepower of the RPD. However, the RPD would continue to serve in conflict zones worldwide up to the present day, including Vietnam and many African and Asian small wars.

The RPD I am using in this video is a semiauto conversion made by DSA, with a barrel cut down to 16 inches to replicate a few field-shortened guns used by MAC-SOG commandos in Vietnam. While it looks very cool, I do rather regret not getting the full-length version instead, as the bipod is an important element on the RPD and the shortened bipod is really not practical (so I removed it for the video). DSA will be discontinuing their RPD semiautos at the end of 2016, so if this is the sort of thing you would like to have, I would recommend acting sooner rather than later.

Bernardon-Martin 1909 Pistol in a Chinese Museum

Note: I’m slipping! I initially identified this as one of the mystery Chinese pistols, having not recognized it as a Bernardon-Martin. A bunch of folks in the comments did, though, and I have corrected the post.

A reader named Liliang sent me these photos of a pistol from a Chinese museum (the specific museum or its location was not mentioned). It is a Bernardon-Martin model 1909, although the exact details don’t quite fit any of the variation I can find documented.

Chinese pistol

Originally, there would have been markings on the side of the slide, but these have worn off on this example.


Chinese pistol

Opposite side. The lever at the front of the trigger guard is to lock the slide open.


Chinese pistol

The rear portion of the frame is screwed to the grip – not something often seen. The button at the base of the grip is the magazine release.


Chinese pistol

These were chambered for the ubiquitous .32ACP cartridge, along with a smaller pocket model made in .25ACP.


Chinese pistol

The lever here at the front of the trigger guard is to lock the slide open.

Chinese pistol

Another odd lever just behind the trigger. The safety is at the back of the grip, but I don’t know what that front one is. Possibly a manual slide release?


Chinese pistol

It has clearly been underground on underwater for a while…note the extractor held in place with a screw here.



Interview: Ashley Hlebinsky, Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum

Sorry about the sound quality! I did my best to clean it up, but the air conditioning system in the museum had a more significant impact on the video that I had anticipated.

Ashley Hlebinsky is the Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, and today we are taking some time to discuss the museum and her job as Curator. Her path to the job began with an interest in battlefield medicine and a series of museum internships while studying American History and Museum Studies at the University of Delaware. A stint at the Smithsonian led her to a position at the Cody Museum, where she was groomed for the Curator’s office, taking over that job in early 2015.

In addition to curating the museum’s extensive collection, she speaks and writes regularly in mainstream academic circles about issues like the public perception of firearms, and acts as n excellent bridge between the ivory towers of academia and the knuckle-dragging ranks of gun owners (if I may make mostly-unfair stereotypes of both groups).

Under Ashley’s guidance, the Museum is in the process of undergoing a major expansion, to increase the number of firearms on display and improve the interpretive information provided about them.

CETME-L Flats: HMG vs Prexis

You may recall a while back I picked up a CETME-L flat from Prexis, because it was the only option available for building a CETME-L rifle. Well, there is now another option available.

Hill & Mac Gunworks made a run of completed CETME-L rifles, and is also now offering builders’ kits, with barrels, weldment blocks, semauto and 922(r) conversion parts, receiver flats, and bending jigs, along with CETME-L parts kits – everything needed to build one of the guns (as of the time of this posting, flats and weldment blocks are available to order, with complete kits coming soon). I spent the last couple days building one with my friend and InRange TV co-host Karl, and we will be posting a series of tutorial videos to walk folks through the build process shortly.

However, before that publishes I thought it would be worth a quick post to point out the differences between the Prexis and HMG receiver flats. It is true that a handful of people have actually received flats from Prexis and managed to build them into working guns, but that is an excruciating process. The HMG flat and jig, on the other hand, actually work fantastically well. Let’s take a look at why…

(Note: All of the photos here use a Gen 1 Prexis flat, because those are the ones I have been able to get my hands on. The Gen 2 flat is reportedly better, but as far as I can see one would have to be crazy to actually pay money for a Prexis product)

Left: HMG Right: Prexis

Left: HMG; Right: Prexis

Left: HMG Right: Prexis

Left: HMG; Right: Prexis


Ejection ports - the Prexis ejection port is actually so undersized that a live rounds is too long to fit through it. The Eject a live round, one would have to drop the magazine and get it out through the magazine well.

Ejection ports (HMG on top, Prexis below) – the Prexis ejection port is actually so undersized that a live rounds is too long to fit through it. To eject a live round, one would have to drop the magazine and get it out through the magazine well.


Proxies left, HMG right. The Prexis locating hole is inside the receiver material, while HMG's is an extensions trimmer off after bending, which does not leave a hole in the finished product.

Proxies left, HMG right. The Prexis locating hole is inside the receiver material, while HMG’s is an extensions trimmer off after bending, which does not leave a hole in the finished product. Als0, note the significant difference in depth and definition of the reinforcing features.



The magazine well area really highlights the quality differences between the two flat (Prexis top, HMG below)



Selector switch area. It is relevant to note that disassembly on the CETME-L involves the fire control group and safety moving a short distance forward and backward. The HMG flat allows this; the Prexis flat was made without an understanding of this feature, and that feature must be substantially modified to make a functioning gun.


Selector switch area from the other side (Prexis top, HMG bottom)

Selector switch area from the other side (Prexis top, HMG bottom). Also note that the HMG holes for the fire control group and buttstock pins are properly sized, where the Prexis holes and just locators that need to be drilled out.



Magazine well and catch. The HMG flat has holes properly spaced for both the trigger pack pin and the magazine catch pin, as well as the proper full cutout for the magazine latch itself. The Prexis flat has a misquote magazine catch hole, not FCG pin hole, and an undersized mag catch pin hole.


Looking down the length of the Prexis flat. Compare this to the photo below...

Looking down the length of the Prexis flat. Compare this to the photo below…


Looking down the HMG flat. Notice how much crisper the stiffening features are.

Looking down the HMG flat. Notice how much crisper the stiffening features are, and how the bolt guide rails are straight, flat, and how it actually has a bolt hold open cutout. Also, the HMG flat is thicker than the Prexis, matching proper original specification for the CETME-L.

If you’ve been waiting to do a CETME-L build, now there is finally a usable flat available. If you have already gotten a barrel somewhere and are a skilled builder, the HMG flat and weldments will get you going. Otherwise, I would suggest waiting until HMG’s full builder’s kits are available, so you can get all the necessary components in one package. Having just finished building one myself, I know they are a good product.


Pavesi Model 1942 Prototype Semiauto (Video)

The Pavesi Model 1942 is a prototype Italian semiauto rifle chambered for the 8×59 Breda cartridge. It is a short recoil action with a 4-lug rotating bolt, and appears to use a Mannlicher type en bloc clip like a Carcano (no sample clip was available for me to look at). It is marked on the chamber “ARMA PAVESI-FNA BREVETTO N.365273”, although I have not been able to find a patent bearing that number. The top of the rear bolt cover is marked “Semiautomatico cal.8 – mod. 1942 -xx – Brescia”. It has no serial number that I could find.

I have not been able to find any substantive information on exactly who made the rifle, if or when it was tested, or what the results of any testing may have been. The 1942 date puts this well after the main Italian self-loading rifle trials, which concluded in the adoption (although not the mass production) of the Armaguerra Model 1939, in 1939.

This Pavesi example is held in the Beretta reference collection in Brescia. Many thanks to Beretta for allowing me to take a look at it!

Pavesi Model 1942

A 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt Cannon and the Type 30 Arisaka

First up, a 75mm Maxim-Nordenfelt cannon that was on display at the Carabinieri Museum in Rome. Guns like this one  were pretty widely used by countries all over the world, with a wide variety of details in the carriages. This particular example is (according to its display tag) an 1886 model gun. The action is marked Maxim Nordenfelt 1.65 Mark E I, which tells us a few things. The Maxim-Nordenfelt company only existed from 1888 until 1897 (when it was bought up by Vickers to become Vickers, Sons, and Maxim), so assuming the tag is correct about this being an 1886 model gun it would be a Nordenfelt design that remained in production after the Maxim and Nordenfelt companies merged.

The 1.65 and Mark E I notations also have a meaning, although I have been unable to definitively identify them. The 1.65 number seems most likely to be a powder charge (in pounds), as it is too small to represent the bore in inches or the projectile weight in pounds. I don’t have any good print resources on the quick-firing guns of this era above 37mm, so I can’t point to exactly what a Mark E I designates.

At any rate, the gun was apparently captured by Carabinieri soldiers in June of 1936 at the Battle of Dessie, in Ethiopia. A few other details on the gun from its tag:

  • Bore: 75mm
  • Barrel length: 1000mm
  • Rifling: 12 groove
  • Wheel diameter: 710mm
  • Carriage weight: 150kg
  • Total weight: 250kg

Perhaps someone with more knowledge of antique artillery can provide some details on the gun in the comments?

Second, Othais and Mae at C&Rsenal have a video up on the Type 30 Arisaka, which is excellent and well worth watching. The video work they are doing has been getting better and better, and if you aren’t watching them, you should be!