By the beginning of 1945, the Nazi government in Germany was looking to find cheaper ways to equip the Volksturm, and solicited bids and designs from several major arms manufacturers. The Steyr company created a crude but effective version of the Mauser 98 which was dubbed the VK-98 or VG-5. Mechanically it is identical to a K98k, but has much less attention paid to aesthetic finish and many simplified parts.
In total, 10,000 of these Steyr rifles were made. Despite commonly held notions of them having totally random parts, there are actually a relatively small number of discreet variations in the production sequence and the rifles have definitely class characteristics – which I will examine in the video.
The Holek Automat was a semiautomatic sporting rifle designed by Emmanuel Holek. Emmanuel was also the designer of the ZH-29 rifle, and brother of Vaclav and Franticek Holek, who developed the ZB-26 and ZB-53 machine guns. Emmanuel left the Brno factory to run his own gun shop, where he offered (among other things) the Holek Automat.
Mostly in 8mm Mauser and 7mm Mauser, the Automat did not prove to be much of a commercial success, although this is certainly due in part to it being manufactured during WWII, when the market for expensive sporting rifles would have been understandably thin. However, the gun is very cleverly designed, and extremely simple to disassemble. This example is in 7x57mm, and in fantastic condition.
I hope everyone had a successful weekend with the Rock Island auction that just ended! For those of you who still have some money left, there is a James D. Julia auction coming up in a couple weeks with a whole bunch more very cool guns. Today marks the first of a series of videos I filmed there, and I figured that some live fire with a Chauchat would be a great way to kick off the series!
The M1915 CSRG, commonly called the Chauchat after its primary designer (Colonel Louis Chauchat), has a reputation as the worst gun ever put into military service. That reputation, however, is not deserved. It was not a great weapon, but it was a very serviceable gun for its day. The French needed a light automatic rifle right now, and needed it in large numbers. The Chauchat answered that call, and was used to great effect by many French soldiers.
The Chauchat’s poor reputation comes from a couple places, some justified and some not. First off, many US troops trained on M1918 Chauchats built in .30-06, which were poorly made and pretty darn bad guns. They were replaced by 8mm Lebel guns before going into combat, but the bad experiences of training stuck with many Americans. The biggest mechanical flaw in the Chauchat was its magazine. All automatic weapons are heavily dependent on good magazines, and the Chauchat used a magazine that was made of thin metal, easily damaged, and open on the sides for dirt and mud to enter. If the magazines were not treated well, the gun would become hopelessly useless.
In addition, many of the Chauchat guns in the United States today were deactivated at one time, and often badly reactivated. This has nothing to do with their original reliability, but it does a lot to perpetuate their reputation. This particular example at James D. Julia is an original gun that does not appear to have ever been deactivated, and it ran flawlessly for me. It will be an excellent example for someone who can appreciate it!
For a long time now, I have had a “Premium Member” program for folks who wanted to help support the site. It has proven to be a bit clumsy for me to manage, and I was not able to secure the shooting industry discounts and special offers that I was hoping would make it a big success and a good investment for you guys. So, as of today I am closing it down and replacing it with a Patreon account. Patreon is a central hub for crowdfunding creative projects like Forgotten Weapons, and it will handle all the administration so I can spend my time on guns.
A little over 6 and a half years ago, I registered the web site ForgottenWeapons.com and created my first online repository of firearms information. It was a pretty small site at that time, with mostly archival photos from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
About 5 years ago, I took the next step and relaunched the site as a regularly-updated blog. This then became a more significant endeavor, posting new content 6 days/week. From the beginning, the focus has been on rare and unusual firearms, the more mechanically diverse the better. I have touched on common guns as well intermittently, as it is essential to have an understanding of the common guns in order to understand the development that went into them and their offshoots.
My private goal from the very beginning of this project has been to create a comprehensive encyclopedia of firearms development. That is such a Quixotic goal that I don’t generally mention it, but the project has grown so far beyond any of my expectations in the past years that my impossible goal looks a bit less impossible these days. It is still a lifetime’s work at least, but I can’t imagine anything I would rather be doing.
DOLLARS, CLAMS, ONIONS, BUCKS, DUBLOONS, AND GREENBACKS
Of course, it takes money to do. From basic things like paying for food and rent and insurance to supplying obscure ammunition for shooting to the much more significant costs of traveling to the museums and private collections where the rare and unique guns are housed. Thus far, I have funded my work with video advertisements on YouTube and Full30, and with the help of a couple sponsoring companies. However, my work is distinct from the vast majority of firearms media in that I rarely look at guns which are actually in production – and that really limits the possibility of finding corporate sponsors.
On the other hand, that limitation is also a blessing in disguise as it prevents me from coming under the editorial control of any corporate overlord. On those occasions when I do discuss modern guns, I can say the truth as I see it without looking over my shoulder and worrying about the consequences of not properly buttering up any company. I cherish that independence, and I will not give it up.
So what is the best way to fund an endeavor like Forgotten Weapons in today’s world? Advertising has been the standard answer for a long time, largely because of simple carryover from places like television and print media. The Internet changes things, however. The Internet allows us to find any information we like without the overhead of printing presses or a finite number of cable channels. The potential audience for any information is unlimited, and that offers the prospect of sustainable micropayments. Having our daily lives flooded with advertisements is not a good thing, it’s just the system we are most acclimated to. I think that a tiny amount of support from a huge number of people is a far better system, and Patreon looks like a way to achieve that model.
From the very first HTML web site, I have had a policy that there will never be a paywall in front of Forgotten Weapons. First and foremost, my goal is to create a public archive of this information, and a paywall is anathema to that.
If you enjoy what I am creating and curating here at Forgotten Weapons, this is a way you can contribute a buck a month to ensure that it keeps happening. If you want to contribute more that’s wonderful – but a buck a month is all I am asking for. If there are enough people who find value in the work, that will be plenty sufficient to keep it alive and vibrant.
Most Patreon creators offer a handful of different perks to entice people to donate more. I am not doing that, for two main reasons. First, I don’t want to make special content accessible only to people who have paid – that goes against the “free and public” foundation of the endeavor. Second, I want to focus my time on the guns and history which are the whole point of Forgotten Weapons, rather than devote time to what are basically marketing gimmicks. You came here (presumably) because you like what I am doing already, so more (and better!) of that is what I am offering you. If the broad-based support is there, it will allow me to start traveling more, and visit some of the really unique collections in factories, museums, and private hands in Europe and beyond.
I am grateful to the cadre of folks who joined the Premium Member’s group – thank you all! If you would like to continue to support my work, please consider going over to Patreon and signing up for a $1/month contribution. I am not sure what I will be doing with the Members’ forum; I will post in there in a day or two and chat with you guys about what we should do.
The Pancor Jackhammer was a select-fire combat shotgun designed by John Andersen in the 1980s. He was a Korean War veteran who had used a pump shotgun in combat, and while he liked the shotgun concept, he felt there must be a more efficient way to make a shotgun than a single-loading pump action. The tinkered with ideas and designs, and ultimately devised the Jackhammer. It is a remarkably clever and interesting mechanism, combining mechanical elements from the Mannlicher 1894, 1895 Nagant revolver, and the Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver.
After making several dozen mockups out of wood and clay to get the mechanics just right, Andersen built a fully functional prototype, which is the gun you see here. It used a lot of large cast parts (and weighed a fully 17.5 pounds), and had a very slow reloading process. However, it proved that the concept was valid and it worked reliably. Andersen then made two more with much lighter materials and a much improved reloading mechanism. These two guns were submitted to the US military for testing, and both were ultimately destroyed by HP White Labs in destructive tests. The testing proved very positive (the guns survived a 50,000 round endurance test), but were ultimately rejected by the military.
The first prototype was kept personally by Andersen, and is now the sole existing Jackhammer. It was owned for several years by Movie Gun Services, which rented it to a number of film, video game, and comic book companies. Because of this and its very distinctive appearance, the Jackhammer has made appearances in a vast number of comics and video games.
Thanks to the folks who kicked in to my IndieGoGo fundraiser to help me make the cross-country trip to film this gun! I was not able to shoot it for liability reasons (the owner was not present and the gun most recently sold for $135,000), but I hope you will enjoy getting an in-depth tour of how it works.
Before 1934, there was no legal restriction on short-barreled shotguns, and several companies offered pistol-style shotguns for personal protection. One of the best of these was the Ithaca Auto & Burglar. These were made mostly in 20ga, but could also be ordered in .410, 16ga, or even 12ga. They were basically a short version (typically 10″ barrels) of Ithaca’s standard SxS shotgun action with a special stock intended to be held like a pistol.
The stock changed style in 1925, when Ithaca made some changes to the shotgun action as well. The early stocks had a small wooden spur that was reportedly fragile and prone to breaking. This replaced with a more squared-off looking design for the remainder of production.
Production and sale of the Auto & Burglar (and the other guns like it) ended abruptly in 1934, when passage of the National Firearms Act placed a massive tax on their sale or transfer. The guns had already been expensive at $40, and the NFA tax added on an addition $200 to that (this would be changed to $5 for AOWs in 1968). Obviously, nobody was going to legally purchase one of these with a 500% federal tax, so Ithaca stopped making them. Today I am looking at examples of both an early A&B and also a later style A&B.
Tomorrow is the first day of Rock Island’s current Premier auction, so this will be our last video in this series. Hope you’ve enjoyed them!
We have done a number of videos recently on various different Pedersen long guns (the PA rifle, the Japanese copy, shooting the PB rifle, etc), but there was one version that I have not covered yet (aside from the US trials rifles). That’s the Vickers factory PA carbine. Only a small number of these were made, at the end of the Vickers-Pedersen production run.
The mechanism of the Pedersen carbine is identical to that of the rifle, the carbine simply has a barrel about 2 inches shorter and a cut down stock. These would have been used by cavalry units or by sportsmen wanting a slightly lighter and handier rifle. It certainly does look like a sporterized rifle, but this is the correct original factory configuration.
The Warner carbine was another of the weapons used in small numbers by the Union cavalry during the Civil War. It is a pivoting breechblock action built on a brass frame. These carbines were made in two batches, known as the Greene and Springfield. The first guns were chambered for a proprietary .50 Warner cartridge, which was replaced with .56 Spencer in the later versions (for compatibility with other cavalry arms).
This particular Warner shows some interesting modification to its breechblock, which has been converted to use either rimfire or centerfire ammunition. This was not an uncommon modification for .56 Spencer weapons, as the centerfire type of Spencer ammunition could be reloaded (unlike the rimfire cartridges). With this modification, the firing pin can be switched from rimfire to centerfire position fairly easily.
Bergmann was one of the reasonably successful yet relatively unknown manufacturers of early automatic pistols. Originally a delayed blowback patent purchased by Bergmann, the design was refined and simplified by none other than Louis Schmeisser into the 1896 Bergmann, in three different calibers (5mm No.2, 6.5mm No.3, and 8mm No.4). Its evolutuion would continue into a locked-breech design using the more powerful 9x23mm cartridge and the later variations would see use as late as WWII.
If you would like more information on the No.3 Bergmann, have a look at my more extensive article on it.