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The Vault

Suomi m/31 and Underbarrel Flamethrower

A Finnish reader named Ossi sent us a photo and some information on a rather outlandish Finnish weapon developed at the tail end of the Continuation War with the USSR. It was a standard m/31 Suomi submachine gun, but with the addition of an underbarrel flamethrower(!). It is not particularly uncommon historically for flamethrowers to be more or less disguised to look like regular rifles from a distance, to prevent the enemy from being able to easily spot the men with flamethrowers and concentrate fire on them. This one, however, is the only one I’m aware of where the flamethrower is attached to a fully functional firearm.

Apparently this was field tested in the summer of 1944, but never went into production. Apparently the only remaining example is on display at the Finnish Military Museum (Sotamuseo) in Helsinki.

Thanks for the cool information, Ossi!

Suomi m/31 SMF with underbarrel flamethrower

The Finns don’t mess around…

Swiss K31 Snipers (Video)

The Swiss experimented with scoped sniper rifles during World War II, and the results were the K31/42 and the K31/43. Only a couple thousand were made between the two models, and they were not considered particularly successful. Ultimately they were replaced by the ZfK-55 (a much better rifle for the purpose) a decade after the war. The two earlier versions are pretty interesting to see though – I had the chance to look at examples of both types at Simpson Ltd in Galesburg, Illinois. Here’s the video I put together on them:

Rast & Gasser M1898 for sale

After I posted my recent video on the M1898 Rast & Gasser revolver, I had a reader named Emery write me offering one he has for sale. I would love to take him up on the offer, but the gun budget just doesn’t allow it right now – so I’m passing it on to anyone in the audience who is interested. I don’t have any personal connection to the gun or seller, but I think it’s a pretty decent deal for someone who would like one of these revolvers. The story I got about it was this:

I purchased it from a local pawn shop in June 2008. The story I was told by the pawn clerk is as follows:

The person who sold it to the pawn shop got it from his Father who brought it back from “the war” (presumably WW2). He inscribed his name on both sides of the frame to identify it as his. I think his name was Anderson. The seller (the son) was leaving for Europe with the military and did not want to take it with him for fear he might be accused of stealing it from a museum. The chambers are all bright and shiny, no pitting. The bore has some pitting in the grooves but the lands are sharp and clean. The lanyard ring and nut are missing.

If you are interested, Emery is asking $350 plus shipping costs. This is a C&R gun, and must ship to a C&R licensee or regular FFL. You can reach Emery at max.headspace@yahoo.com to ask any further questions. When he tells me it is spoken for, I will take down this post.


Vintage Saturday: Captured Carbine

German soldier with R35 Lebel

German soldier with R35 Lebel Mle 1892 Berthier carbine – these were still being issued to support-type troops when WWII broke out. As you see here, some of them found their way into German service in occupied France.

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol

Today’s post was written by a Swedish reader named Arne Bergkvist, about a very early Swedish automatic pistol I had not been aware of. It is particularly interesting as one of relatively few examples of self-loading firearms designed before the advent of smokeless powder. It never went into serial production, but shows plenty of ingenuity for its time. So without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Arne…

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol

by Arne Bergkvist

Carl Peter Swanström, born on 11 September, 1854 in Älvbacka parish just outside Karlskoga, the city where the BOFORS factory is located. Swanström was an employee from the early 1880s, first as a smith but later as foreman at the gun factory. An accident in the test department took his left arm, but the work with his automatic pistol was finished. Swanström had a grandson who immigrated to United States in the late 1920s and brought both a pistol and shotgun with him. In 1968 his widow got in contact with a well known gun collector and Luger-book author, Harry E. Jones from Torrance California. He purchased the pistol (as well as a shotgun made on the same principles), and the guns have been in the Jones family for 30-40 years now.

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol, right side

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol, left side

In 1999, when I for the first time could see and touch, both the pistol and the shotgun was Harry E. Jones not with us anymore. His son Mike Jones, at that time owned and maintained the collection. Harry E. Jones had under the time he owned the pistol, contacted the Army museum in Stockholm and done investigations about Swanström to get the proper information.

The Pistol
Extremely well done, handmade, with a short glance looking like a sawed of Winchester 92. The loading gate is similar as on Winchesters. The finish at the internal parts looks like a Swiss watch. By removing two screws you can divide the pistol in two parts, mechanism and grip.

Swanström broken into two main parts

Swanström broken into two main parts

After divided in two parts you can continue the dismounting by taking out the magazine unit by pulling the magazine tube forward. Now the system is open for inspection and cleaning.

Swanström with magazine tube removed

Swanström with magazine tube and grips removed. Note the lug under the muzzle to allow the barrel to recoil backwards guided by the magazine tube.

Instead of a hammer, the use of a striker take less space, and makes the mechanism behind the feeding elevator less bulky. The barrel-receiver unit will move backwards about 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) every time you pull the trigger. The bolt and barrel are locked together during this recoil by a pair of lever arms, which have square ends locking into the barrel assembly (the recesses in the bolt to fit them are located in the enlarged “bulbs” behind the chamber; see photo below) and round ends that lock into the bolt. Under the bolt on the picture below, you will see one of the locking levers. These levers are pushed open to release the bolt after recoil pushes the whole assembly back far enough. The striker is the “key” for opening the bolt. When striker passes the back part of the locking levers, they press out in the back and the hooks will fall deeper in to the bolt, unlocking from the barrel. After the front part of the levers open up the unit, the bolt continue backwards , throwing out the empty shell, picking up a new round from the elevator and is back in action again.

Swanström bolt mechanism

Swanström bolt mechanism – note the locking lever

The receiver turned up-side-down. Here you can see the square opening for the recoil hooks next to the chamber. At the front of the bolt you can see the recoil hook mounted at the bolt.

Swanström bolt mechanism

Swanström bolt mechanism

At the top of the receiver you can see the bulbs on each side of the bolt, just before the rear sight groove. The barrel is tapered with a steel front sight.

Swanström top view

Swanström top view

Technical Specs

Caliber: 7,5 mm Swiss ordnance 1882
Operating system: Short recoil
Locking system: Delayed blowback
Total length: 298 mm (11.75 in)
Total height 115 mm (4.5 in)
Barrel length 135 mm (5.3 in)
Magazine capacity:5 cartridges
Grips: Wood
Finnish: None; “in the white”
All pictures taken by Mike Jones, Torrance California USA

Slow Motion: MAS 49/56

The MAS 49/56 is a much under-rated rifle here in the US – it is extremely simple, durable, and reliable, while being shorter and lighter than it’s US contemporary, the M14.


M1942 Sosso Pistol

The Sosso was an interesting design produced experimentally by FNA Bescia in Italy in very small numbers during World War II. It was a short-recoil operated design chambered for 9x19mm, and featured a particularly unusual magazine design. Instead of using a convention spring and follow, the magazine contained what is best described as a belt-feed. A loop of chain in the magazine held 21 cartridges, and rotated one position each time the pistol was fired. This doesn’t seem to have had any particular benefit over a typical magazine (it certainly cost more to make), but it an interesting idea:

M1942 Sosso pistol magazine disassembled

M1942 Sosso pistol magazine disassembled

An example of a Sosso form the collection of Geoffrey Sturgess was sold by James Julia at auction, which gave us the opportunity to see some outstanding photos. This particular example (serial number 8A) included a holster-stock; a concept which was on its way out of popularity by the time these were being made. In addition, Julia also published an Italian-language copy of a Sosso manual, which I have not yet have the chance to translate:


M1942 Sosso pistol manual (Italian)

M1942 Sosso pistol manual (Italian)


SIG KE-7 Photos

The KE-7 was a short-recoil, open-bolt light machine gun developed by SIG Neuhausen between the World Wars. It was offered for sale in basically any cartridge a nation might request, and were sold primarily to China and Latin America. I have a full Vault page on the KE-7 with a number of manuals, and today I also have these photos, from the collection of Reed Knight:

Note that the standard magazines held 25 rounds, and this gun has an extended magazine fitted. I don’t know exactly how large it is, but I would guess 40 rounds. I have not been able to find reference to these magazines in any literature.

Arisaka With Nambu Bipod

I recently had a chance to take a look at a rifle that has been floating around the Japanese collector’s community causing grief since for at least 25 years. It is a Type 99 Arisaka, specifically a first-series Nagoya production gun, serial number 84664. What makes it unusual is that it had a Type 96 or Type 99 Nambu light machine gun bipod attached to the muzzle.

In theory, this is supposed to be an experimental rifle from Nagoya during the period when they were about to stop mounting bayonets on new-production Type 99 rifles. It is supposed to be one of several different test models made to evaluate different bipod/monopod options, which does fit the time period when this rifle was originally made. The rifle’s monopod lug was ground off of its barrel band, and the stock and handguard were cut back several inches to make space to mount the bipod. The bayonet lug on the bipod is correctly positioned, so a standard Type 30 bayonet will still fit and latch securely. The bipod and bayonet lug are numbered to match the rest of the rifle, and the dust cover and stock have been marked with characters suggesting that it is test rifle #22 from Nagoya.

Problem is, the bipod was added by a US collector in the late 70s or early 80s, not by Nagoya Arsenal. It was produced as a practical joke on another collector, and later found its way into circulation, being advertised as a real Japanese prototype. I learned this backstory from a noted collector who was offered the rifle back in the 80s, and spoke to its original creator. Unfortunately, prior to the internet it was difficult to make this sort of thing widely known, and each time someone went to sell it they had already invested in it as if it was legit, and thus wanted to recoup their money or make a nice profit on it.

Here is the rifle back in the 80s (you can tell from the couch), back when my correspondent was offered it:

Arisaka with a Nambu bipod

Note the markings in the buttstock.

Arisaka with a Nambu bipod

Bipod detail (the rifle has a muzzle cover as well – click to enlarge)

Having handled the gun, I have to say that I really liked the way it handled. The Nambu bipod is lighter than you might expect, and I think it works pretty well in this application. If I could buy this piece for the price of a well-sporterized Type 99, I would absolutely do so. But as a collector, one has to be careful to view novelties with some skepticism – just because we like something doesn’t mean it is historically legitimate. Caveat emptor, as always.



PTRD in Ukraine

Sviatoslav sent us this photo of a 1941 PTRD in recent use in Ukraine…

1941 PTRD in use in Ukraine

Note the empty 14.5mm cartridge case under the gun.