While I was visiting the Simpson Ltd shop in Galesburg, I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Wiley. She is working on organizing a massive reference book on German .22 training rifles (like the Sportmodell and KKW), and was kind enough to give me a tour of Robert Simpson’s collection of these guns. Between his collection (roughly 1200 guns, plus documents and accessories) and several others, all the material is there for a doozy of a book, and Nicole is the one sorting and organizing it all for publication. It’s a huge job, but she has the passion and interest to make it happen, and I’m excited to get a look at the finished product when it’s ready!
I am very happy to announce that we have a new sponsor of Forgotten Weapons: Fiocchi. Founded in Italy in 1876, the company has been making cartridge ammunition for basically as long as cartridges have existed, with only a brief interruption when Allied bombers leveled the factory late in WWII (it was rebuilt immediately after the war).
Today, Fiocchi manufactures several lines of ammunition that cover virtually every application, including hunting and competition with rifles, pistols, and shotguns. They have a specific line of unjacketed ammo for Cowboy Action shooting, and also lead-free and frangible lines for indoor ranges and other situations requiring clean ammunition. And best of all for my purposes, they have a specific line of Classic Pistol ammo focusing on obsolete cartridges that are particularly difficult to find. These include:
.44 S&W Russian (for the S&W No.3 revolver, and others)
.455 Webley (for the Mk VI Webley revolver, and others)
This line offers a great opportunity for folks into these older guns to shoot clean and new factory-quality ammunition instead of having to deal with marginal surplus military ammo, commercial reloaders of unknown quality, or hand-making brass and reloading at home. I have used Fiocchi .45 ACP in competition for many years, and look forward to the opportunity to showcase some of their other products in some otherwise-unshootable classic pistols. If your local shop doesn’t carry the calibers you need, tell them to get in touch with a Fiocchi dealer!
One of the photos that didn’t make the cut for the 2015 Forgotten Weapons Calendar: US troops demonstrating use of an M1916 37mm gun. Note how the ammo is supplied on a cloth belt – it was made for use in 37mm Vickers Pompoms.
I am happy to announce that I will be making another Vintage Photo calendar for 2015! Last year’s calendar was a big hit, and I’ve been using one myself to track and plan posts for the web site. Click below to see the full details and place your order!
Today’s high speed video analysis is the first Browning-style pistol that was at hand when I took out the camera: a Star Model B Super. Manufactured in Spain for many years, this basic pistol was made in both 9mm Luger and 9mm Largo variations as well as full-size and shortened varieties. This particular one is in 9mm Largo, and is a fine example of the tilting-barrel action developed by John Browning that dominates handgun design to this day.
Watch all the way to the end for bonus footage of a hangfire in slow motion!
I recently had the opportunity to examine a very early model 1894 Bergmann pistol, and made an interesting discovery (discovery to me, at any rate). The gun has a rather elegant bird’s-head grip, and a trigger that pulls as much down as it does back – the direction of the trigger pull is basically along the centerline of the grip. Well, when I went to take a sight picture, I put the pistol into a typical modern grip – hand high on the backstrap and arm extended straight. Which totally did not work. The distance to the trigger was too short to be comfortable, and my trigger finger was barely acting on the actual moving part of the trigger at all.
Note how a “correct” high grip on the piece puts the trigger finger very high on the trigger, which results in poor leverage and an uncomfortable hold.
I though about this for a minute, and then recalled the picture postcards I have seen from German pistol shooting competitions around this period. The shooters are not-infrequently show with a quite different grip; one we would consider laughable today. It’s a one-handed stance (of course; all competitive pistol shooting was done one-handed), and the arm is bent at the elbow, with the wrist cocked down to bring the sights in line with the eye. The best example I can find on short notice is this, from Mötz & Schuy’s fantastic book Vom Ursprung Der Selbstladepistole:
Old-fashioned pistol shooting stance (with a Steyr 1907)
That fellow is using a somewhat subtler version of this stance than others I’ve seen, but it’s enough to get the idea across. And here the thing – when I shifted to using that type of grip on the 1894 Bergmann, everything came together. The birdshead grip now works well and makes sense, and my trigger finger comes to rest in the bottom curve of the trigger, in the right alignment to make a nice smooth press. Still a substandard target shooting grip in the overall scheme of things, but it seems clear to me that Bergmann designed the pistol with it specifically in mind. It does at least have the side benefit of bring the rather small sights a bit closer to the eye.
Sometimes there is no substitute to actually putting hands on a gun to understand it.
I will admit, in the aftermath of my video on the “Nazi” belt buckle pistol I have gotten a bit interested in them. Not because of their historical significance (which I am pretty well convinced is non-existent) but because of the variety of phonies that have been created to bamboozle collectors. Call me strange, but I think it would be fun to create a nice online reference source detailing all the different variations. With that in mind, here is an example I recently got photos of:
This one shares the same basic mechanical design as the standard version, with the same firing pin, trigger, and recocking setup. It only has a single lever to open the barrels instead of two, and the cover plate is not spring loaded. It has solid cover plates extending to both sides of the main action to hide the actual belt connections. It has 4 barrels, in .22 caliber (presumably .22LR).
What is also interesting to see, and totally gives this away as a fake (as it the parrot eagle on the front cover plate isn’t enough) is the markings. Whoever made this one decided to cover all their bases, by marking it with both commercial firearms proofs (well, sort of), Waffenamt marks, and RZM marks. The RZM (or Reichszeugmeisterei) was a national material control office, responsible for a lot of soft goods, like armbands, belt buckles, and much more. They were quite specifically exclusive from WaA, though – nothing legit will have both WaA and RZM markings. And, of course, there is also the minor issue of the RZM stamp used here being incorrect – it has no crossbar on the Z. The Waffenamt marking used is WaA358, which was probably just an easy stamp for the faker to procure. It suggests that the belt buckle gun was actually made by Walther, which is definitely not true. The one other mark, an eagle holding a swastika, is clearly a crude reproduction when viewed up close. Here are detailed photos of the various markings:
I don’t know if it is funny or sad that this would probably bring several thousand dollars on the market. These devices have basically built an entire collecting sub-genre, and even the ones unanimously accepted to be totally fake sell for exorbitant amounts. I hope the buyers are simply people with too much money, and not overly gullible collectors who think they are actually genuine WWII artifacts.
The All-American 2000 was Colt’s attempt to break into the polymer high-cap pistol market in the early 1990s, when Glock was dominating that field. Colt took what appears to have been a pretty good pistol designed by Eugene Stoner and Reed Knight and made some pretty terrible decisions when adapting it for mass production – and the result was a huge failure. The pistols were remarkably unreliable and inaccurate, and the debacle nearly ran Colt into bankruptcy.
An interesting side note to the All-American 2000 story is the lesson one can take on print gun publications. Because most gun magazines are (or were) heavily dependent on a small number of major advertisers, those companies could often coax out reviews of their new products that ranged from disingenuous to outright fraudulent (Mike Irwin has an interesting behind-the-scenes experience of the American Rifleman review of the gun). Print media treatment of the AA2000 is a particularly egregious example of this behavior. Fortunately for gun buyers, the internet has allowed us to bypass print media as the gatekeepers of information, and the truth gets out very quickly now – as with the much more recent example of the Remington R51.
Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Mostly armed with SMLEs, but I see at least one No4 Enfield in there as well (and the AKM, of course – which appears to have a 40-round mag). Interesting assortment of bandoliers, too.
Today I have another issue of Tactical and Technical Trends – this time #50, from September 1944.
Tactical and Technical Trends #50 – September 1944
As usual, most of the material herein will be of interest to folks who like to study WWII, but only a little bit pertains to small arms. Specifically, a brief blurb on new German ammunition – subsonic 8×57 and 9×19, and accurized 8×57 for snipers. As a neat bonus, this issue includes the German phonetic radio alphabet – the equivalent to our Able, Baker, Charlie, etc. Siegfried-Paula-Anton-Schule!