The Belgian Army held rifle trials in the late 1880s to choose a new infantry rifle, and the winner was the Model 1889 Belgian Mauser. Quite a few different guns were involved in the competition though, including this Engh-patent rifle made by Manufacture Liegeois D’Armes. It’s a pretty unusual bolt action that is definitely worth taking a closer look at!
When the German military started looking for a self-loading rifle in the late 1930s, they had a pretty strict set of requirements. Most significantly, the rifles could not have gas ports or recoiling barrels, could not have moving parts on top of the action, and had to be capable of being operated manually with a bolt handle like a bolt action Mauser. Four companies tried to get into the resulting rifle trials, but only two were able to build good enough guns to get contracts for field trials. These were Walther and Mauser. Walther ended up winning the competition (largely because they ignored several of the RFP requirements) and their rifle became the Gewehr 43. Mauser stuck to the requirements with their Gewehr 41(M), and it cost them the competition.
By request of more than a few readers, I am doing a post on this – although there really isn’t much information I can contribute on the subject. These things got a lot of attention a few days ago when TFB ran a piece about them (which is where I snagged all the photos, BTW). The gun below is a machine pistol of a somewhat interesting type. What makes it unusual is that is was not actually made by the “R9 Arms Corp”, as there is no such company in the US. Instead, those slide markings are a decoy. Where this gun actually was made is anyone’s guess (I have heard Croatia and South Africa suggested, but nobody in public appears to have any evidence; just guesses).
“R9 Arms” machine pistol
One of these guns was recovered from a truck driver smuggling drugs into the Netherlands (back in 2012), and a bunch more have been recovered by police in Croatia. They appear to be an interesting hybrid – apparently pretty well made, and yet also entirely underground. Usually the black market guns of this type really look like they were cobbled together from gas pipe and caulking gun parts, but these things were definitely made in a machine shop. Apparently someone, somewhere has decided to make an entrepreneurial leap into high-end illegal gun manufacture. The “US” markings would seem to be a nice attempt to grab credibility, just like Spanish and Chinese pistols have often done with counterfeit or closely-duplicated markings.
Mechanically, the gun does seem to be of a reasonably clever design, too – and not a copy of anything else that I’m aware of. It’s chambered for 9x19mm, feeding from Uzi magazines, and is a simple blowback action. Rather than being striker fired like most modern pistols, it uses a shrouded hammer, and the hammer looks to have been deliberately made quite massive. This would add a bit of delay to the opening of the slide, as it would have to push back the mass of the hammer first before opening, thus adding inertia to the system. Here are some internal photos (swiped from TFB, as I mentioned above):
Looking down at the top of the frame, slide removed
Slide by itself. Note the half-round lug on the barrel – that locks around the takedown pin, keeping the barrel fixed in place. This is what tells us it is a blowback action.
Hammer, big and heavy. The sear surfaces appear to have been hand-filed…perhaps these are not fully interchangeable, or are being made on manual machines rather than CNCs?
Hammer and rear of the frame, seen from directly above. The wedge extending from the middle of the hammer is probably the ejector.
Pretty simple gun, really, and seems to be well thought out. And apparently, someone is able to make them cheaper than stolen or otherwise acquired existing guns can be purchased, somewhere. Interesting.
I have been really enjoying The Great War series on YouTube (a rolling weekly account of what happened in WWI this week 100 years ago), so I figured I ought to take advantage of an opportunity to look at several WWI heavy machine guns side by side. This is a video to give some historical context to the guns, and not a technical breakdown of exactly how they work (that will come later). These really were the epitome of industrialized warfare, and they wrought horrendous destruction on armies of the Great War.
The guns covered here are the German MG08, British Vickers, and French Hotchkiss 1914. If you would like to own one of these yourself, they are coming up for auction at RIA on the weekend of September 11th, 2015 and you can see the specific catalog pages for these three guns here:
Other heavies used in the war include the Austrian Schwarzlose 1907/12, the Russian 1905 and 1910 Maxims, the Italian Fiat-Revelli, and the American Browning 1895. The book I was quoting from towards the end was Dolf Goldsmith’s unmatched work on the Maxim, The Devil’s Paintbrush.
I recently did some horse trading with Chuck at GunLab, and he ended up with a couple of my Chinese Mystery Pistols. Today, he pulls one apart to look at the insides…and it’s not a pretty sight. Have a look:
From the Soviet Gun Archives blog, some photos of an experimental DPM-36 light machine gun (an improvement of the DP-28). Unfortunately, SGA does not list any source documents and my copy of Bolotin’s book doesn’t make any mention of these models, so I don’t have any additional information available beyond what can be deduced from the pictures.
Standard version w/ tripod
This would be the standard version of the gun, with the obvious improvement of using box magazines instead of the more cumbersome to carry DP-28 pan mags. It also has a carry handle and finned barrel for improved cooling – and that barrel might well be detachable. Also, a pistol grip has been added (as was done on the formally adopted DPM). All things are tradeoffs, though, and while the box magazines are more convenient to carry they do also present a much larger target to the enemy, extending well above the gunner and gun (I have read accounts of Japanese LMGs in the Pacific being spotted by their magazines sticking up above the foliage).
Belt-fed version (using Maxim belts)
This picture does not appear to be quite the same gun, although that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also a 1935 experimental idea. It seems to be very similar to the later RP-46 conversion, except probably made as a complete gun rather than a conversion that could lock in place of a pan magazine (there is no hook visible to operate off the bolt handle like the RP-46, suggesting that it runs internally). The belts in use here are also Maxim belts instead of the WWII-era metallic SG-43 belts. Other than that, the gun appears to be very similar to the standard DP-28.
Lastly, a purported paratroop version. It does have a shorter barrel and a bayonet lug, as well as a handgrip of some type affixed to the gas tube. The pistol grip of the first version above has reverted back to the more traditional stock design, albeit without the distinctive DP round hump on the bottom.
If anyone has more detail on these experimental variants, please let me know in the comments!
The Czech Samopal vz. 26 was one of a family of submachine guns (the vz 23-26) that pioneered the use of bolts telescoped out forward over the barrel, allowing guns to have much better ratios of barrel to receiver length than before. The guns actually have quite a few interesting mechanical details, although in my opinion they fail to make it a particularly desirable gun for actual shooting.
Reader Larry sent me this video, which was produced by the US Army Ordnance Corp just recently. It’s a one-off experimental submachine gun built in 1918, and is definitely not something like you have seen before. In order to maintain commonality of ammunition and magazines, the gun uses standard M1911 7-round mags and ammo. You might wonder, how can one have a practical SMG with a 7-round magazine? Well, by making a turret of 10 magazines held together, of course!
I think we can all understand why it wasn’t put into production and service, but it sure is interesting. I would love to get some more information about it, like whether the turret automatically indexed or had to be manually repositioned after every 7 rounds fired.