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Q&A #7 Video

Another set of questions from my awesome Patreon contributors!

0:43 – Guns flexing in slow motion
3:41 – Destructives Devices – the guns vs the ammo
9:54 – What makes some stocked pistols exempt from the NFA?
14:41 – Unusual things build into rifle stocks
17:36 – Best rifle/pistol that never was (sort of)
19:33 – Pronouncing the word “Walther”
20:55 – Submachine guns and Advance Primer Ignition (API)
23:53 – Are we at a firearms development plateau?
26:04 – Why don’t we see higher velocity bullets?
29:12 – How do I do my research?
33:53 – Are submachine guns obsolete?
36:58 – Most obsolete gun at the time of its introduction
38:50 – Intermediate rounds as alternatives to 5.56 NATO

Weapons of the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War is a relatively un-remembered conflict here in the US, but it is a fascinating event for firearms enthusiasts because of the huge variety of arms used. Both sides were supplied by a variety of other sympathetic nations, including Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, and Poland. The military aid supplies included both cutting edge material used to test new arms and tactics in a proxy war (such as German Stuka dive bombers and Soviet PE and PEM sniper rifles) as well as obsolete or obsolescent material sold to desperate groups who would accept anything they could find. The Soviet Union in particular used the Spain as a dumping-ground for all the miscellaneous small arms they had accumulated during and after WWI, sold to Spain for hard gold bullion.

Well, a reader named Leonard Heinz wrote up an extensive analysis of these small arms, you can read in PDF format via that link. His work is footnoted extensively, and he also created a sortable Excel spreadsheet of the different types of arms, their recipients, shipment dates, and ships used to deliver them. It’s excellent work, and great reading for anyone interested in the topic. Thanks, Leonard!

If you are interested in further research, the books Leonard references in his paper are:

Arms For Spain, by Gerald Howson
Mauser Military Rifles of the World , by Robert Ball
The Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, by Phillip Peterson
The Battle For Spain, by Antony Beevor
Between the Bullet and the Lie: American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, by Cecil Eby
The Republic Besieged, by Paul Preston and Ann Mackenzie
The Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War, by Michael Alpert

Johnson Model 1941 Rifle

Designed in 1936 by Melvin Johnson, the M1941 Johnson Automatic Rifle was a competitor to the M1 Garand, but not introduced in time to actually be adopted din place of the Garand. Instead, Johnson hoped to have his rifle accepted as a parallel second option for the US military in case something went wrong with the rollout of the Garand, or production simply couldn’t meet the required levels.

However, Johnson was not able to make his case to the military successfully. A small number of Johnson Light Machine Guns were acquired by the US Paramarines and the First Special Service Force, and a large order (30,000 rifles) was placed by the Dutch government for shipment to the colonies in southeast Asia (it is from this order that the M1941 designation comes). However, those colonies fell to the Japanese before a significant number of rifles were able to be shipped out. This left a substantial number of rifles orphaned in the US, and a small number of these were unofficially put in service by acquisitive Marines, mostly in the Pacific theater.

Mechanically, the Johnson is a short recoil system with a rotating bolt (very similar to the later AR-15 bolt, which Johnson would influence). It is chambered for the standard .30-06 cartridge, and feeds from a 10-round rotary fixed magazine which can be fed by stripper clips or with individual cartridges.

Pusan Jin Iron Works 1911

Note: I mistakenly referred to North Korea in the video, when this was actually made in South Korea. Sorry!

During (and probably for a short time after) the Korean War, a Korean facility called the Pusan Iron Works did fabrication and repair of 1911-style pistols. This particular example is serial number 247, a gun almost completely fabricated by Pusan. Interestingly, these pistols often include a small number of US-made parts (barrels seem to be the most common). It appears that the factory was able to secure a small number of parts from captured damaged US 1911 pistols, and made use of them when possible. This pistol has a firing pin and recoil spring guide that are American-made. In addition, I am aware of at least one pistol with an American complete frame but Pusan slide – likely a gun that was captured in unserviceable condition and repaired with Korean parts.

Pusan Iron Works is an example of the blurry zone between truly crude handmade guns and proper factories. Unlike some Chinese or Vietnamese gun copies, the Pusan pistols are fully functional mechanical copies of the 1911 – no dummy elements like non-functional safeties. However,r the production quality of the Pusan parts is low; made to the right basic shapes, but apparently without the benefit of jigs and fixtures to make parts identical and interchangeable. The Pusan guns also exhibit uniform markings, and several hundred were definitely made – unlike the one-off production of individual craft shops. They are a really interesting example of domestic Korean wartime production arms.

Confederate Baby LeMat

One of the rarest models of LeMat grapeshot revolver is this, the “Baby” LeMat. This is a substantially smaller gun than the normal LeMat, although it retains a 9-shot cylinder and a central barrel. In the Baby, however, the cylinder is in .32 caliber (rather than the standard .42) and the central barrel is .41 caliber instead of .63 (and in this specific pistol, the central barrel is rifled, where they are normally smoothbore).

These Baby LeMat revolvers were made under contract for the Confederate Navy, although production was very slow, and the contract was cancelled when even the first shipment of guns have not been receiver many months after it was scheduled. In total, only 100 of the guns were manufactured, and these were inspected and delivered to a Confederate representative in London shortly after the contract was revoked (the CSA agreed to take those guns which had been finished at that point).

Interestingly, I found that the Baby LeMat handles quite well. The standard LeMat is a very heavy and poorly balanced handgun (in my opinion), but the reduced size and weigh of the Baby has an effect on its handling out of proportion to the measurable difference. Perhaps if this had been the standard model for the gun, they would have been substantially more popular on the open market…

Remington Model 81 Special Police

The Remington Model 8 was one of the first successful self-loading rifles introduced to the commercial market, and it was designed by none other than John Browning. It was an expensive rifle, but popular for its power and reliability. In the 1920s, an entrepreneur founded the Peace Officer Equipment Company to sell police gear in St Joseph, Missouri. He would design a conversion to the Remington Model 8 to replace its fixed 5-round magazine with larger detachable magazines (5-, 10-, and 15-round, with 15-round being the most common by far).

POEC made and sold the conversion until about 1936, when Remington replaced the Model 8 with the slightly improved Model 81. At that point, Remington licensed the magazine conversion themselves, and offered it as a factory option, under the Special Police name. Remington had big hopes for the rifle, but only a few hundred were sold, with the LA County Sheriff being the single largest customer, ordering 200 of them. This rifle is one of the LA guns, number 40 of their order.

Gas Trap M1 Garand

The original design of the M1 Garand as adopted in 1936 used a “gas trap” system instead of a gas port drilled in the barrel. This system used a type of muzzle cap and false muzzle to redirect gas into the gas cylinder in the short distance between the end of the rifled barrel and when the bullet left the muzzle. The system worked, but was not ideal.

Several problems were found with the gas trap system as the guns went into production. These included cleaning complexity, an unstable front sight, and a potentially weak bayonet mounting point. Most significantly, however, one rifle in testing had a screw work loose in the muzzle cap, which allowed parts to shift out of alignment and resulted in a bullet striking the gas plug and blowing the entire assembly off the gun. This led to a decision to redesign the gas system of the M1 to use a simpler gas port drilled in the barrel.

When this design change was made, 18,000 rifles had been completed and parts were made for an additional 33,000. Those guns were completed with the available parts, and the new gas system was used for all further production. Gas trap M1s are very rare today because the guns were updated to the new system when they were overhauled during WWII, and in 1947 the Army ordered all remaining gas trap rifles destroyed.

Astra Model 900

The Astra 900 was a pistol developed to take advantage of a large Chinese demand for semiauto pistols with shoulder stocks, following on the massive sales of the Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” in that country. In the 1920s and 30s, civil war in China drove a huge market in arms, but international treaty had prohibited the importation of military arms. One loophole in the accords, however, was that stocked pistols (including fully automatic stocked pistols) were not considered military arms.

Mauser led the sales to China, but several Spanish companies jumped into the market as well, and the Astra 900 was a well made and reasonably popular gun.The semiauto 900 was chambered for 7.63mm Mauser (like the C96), and about 21,000 were made from 1928 into the 1930s. A series of improved designs followed, with the 901 (select-fire), 902 (select-fire with a fixed 20-round magazine), 903 (select-fire with detachable magazines), and 904/Model F (select-fire with detachable magazines and a rate-reducing mechanism).

MP-44 – The German Sturmgewehr

The MP-43 (which is mechanically identical to the MP-44 and StG-44; the differences are the subject for another video later) is a tilting bolt rifle with a long stroke gas piston. It was manufactured primarily from complex sheet steel stampings, as a way to minimize the amount of high-quality and thus difficult to acquire steels needed for its construction. The rifle is heavy by today’s standards, but remarkably ergonomic (except for the metal handguard, when heats up quickly). Its sights come right up to the eye when shouldering the rifle, and it disassembles quickly and easily.

It really is one of the best small arms developed during World War II.

The Sturmgewehr was the result of a German intermediate cartridge development program that began in the mid-1930s. It was sidelined for a period as the focus of German Ordnance shifted to full-power rifles in 8x57mm with telescopic sights, but as the German fighting in Russia became more desperate, many Ordnance officers realized that the greater firepower offered by the Sturmgewehr concept was one of the few options that might be able to allow depleted German units to effectively hold ground against Russian attacks.

To this end, the guns were issued primarily in the East, with whole companies being equipped in order to focus a maximum amount of firepower, rather than spreading the new rifles piecemeal across all units. Ultimately, of course, this was insufficient to prevent the growing Soviet advance – but for the individual German soldier, an MP-43/44/StG-44 would have been a much more comforting weapon than a Kar98k Mauser!

Scoped C96 Conehammer Carbine

This scoped C96 carbine is serial number 12 of the original run of just 30 large-ring C96 carbines. It has the long barrel and detachable stock (in place of the standard pistol grip) of the C96 carbine. The most obvious feature, however, is the telescopic sight mounted on the piece. This was not installed by the Mauser factory, but was added around the time the carbine was originally purchase. The scope and mounts are of the same vintage as the gun (right around 1900).

The scope mount is a quick-detachable claw style typical of German sporting arms, and it fits the C96 carbine quite well. The eye relief and scope height both fit nicely with the stock position, and I expect this would be a very nice and comfortable piece to shoot.

In many ways, this reflects the same type of use we see today with pistol-caliber carbines and low-power compact optics. People assume that tactical is a new thing, but it really isn;t – they just did it more stylishly a hundred years ago.