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The Vault

Walther MPL (Video)

The Walther MP was an all-stamped submachine gun developed in the late 1950s, and available in long (MPL) and short (MPK) versions. It is an open-bolt, blowback design, but uses a somewhat innovative bolt in which most of the mass is located above and in front of the chamber, to reduce bolt travel and receiver length. I found it to be a very pleasant gun to shoot, and I suspect it was largely unsuccessful in large part due to the superior marketing skills of H&K with their MP5 submachine gun.

Papasan Chair as Antiaircraft Mount

German Maxim in antiaircraft mounting

All he’s missing is a cupholder

German MG08 Maxim in antiaircraft mounting, at some point during WWI. Note the spider sights mounted halfway down the jacket, and the belt reel. Those reels allowed the guns to reliably feed at all manner of odd angles – much better than having a long belt hanging down to an ammo can.

Product Review: CETME-L Flat by Prexis

Disclaimers: Apex Gun Parts is a longtime sponsor of this site. Prexis is not; in fact this was my first (and last) business transaction with Prexis. HMG is not a site sponsor, but has provided me with products for review in the past.

A little while back, Apex Gun Parts started selling parts kits for the Spanish CETME-L rifles – these were roller-delayed blowback rifles in 5.56mm designed and manufactured in Spain. They use the same mechanism as the fairly ubiquitous HK rifle series, but the CETME-L is not an HK copy. I was pretty excited about these kits, as the CETME-L is a neat and somewhat unique rifle that had not before been available in the US.

The obstacle, however, was that semiauto H&K parts and receivers will not fit CEMT-L rifles. For example, the receiver profile of the CETME-L is square, where the HK rifles are rounded. The CETME-L also incorporates the trigger housing into the receiver, whereas HK makes the trigger pack a self-contained detachable part. So while having a CETME-L parts kit was a great opportunity, actually building it into a functioning rifle would require waiting for someone to start making CETME-L-specific parts.

The first person/company to offer a receiver solution was Mike Jestis, who does business under the names Prexis and Precision American Rifle. He advertised 80% flats for the CETME-L, and bending jigs to use with them. Prices were (and still are, as of July 10th 2015) $125 for the flat and $120 for the bending jig. After adding on tax (Prexis is located in Arizona as am I, so state sales tax applied) and shipping the total came to $285.60. If you do the numbers, you will see that the shipping was about $30, for what was three bubble wrap bags in a USPS flat rate box. Ouch. In fact, the base prices struck me as pretty steep too, considering the relative simplicity of the parts. However, I figured that was the premium one gets to charge when one is the only option for an item.

I placed my order on April 13th, 2015. A month later, I realized that nothing had yet arrived, and so I emailed Mike to ask what the status was. He replied promptly that he was just finishing a run of the parts, and mine would ship that week. Another month went by with no package arriving, and so I inquired via email a second time. This email got no reply. I couldn’t find a phone number for the company, and my Google attempts to dig one up revealed something I should have found out back in April – Prexis has an absolutely horrible reputation when it comes to customer service, order fulfillment, and product quality. At this point, I figured it would not be useful to try to continue trying to work with Mike Jestis, so instead I called my bank and filed a claim to get my payment back on account of the purchased product not being shipped.

My bank may be a soulless and evil multinational corporation, but they sure made that refund process simple. A few minutes later the process was complete. In the interests of avoiding any potential complications, I then sent another email to Jestis telling him I had gotten my payment refunded by my bank and to consider my order cancelled. He may have ignored my inquiry on the status of the parts, but he sure answered that cancellation email quickly. He said my parts had just been finished that day. What a fortuitous coincidence, after two months! I will abbreviate an otherwise somewhat lengthly tale and just say that after three emails telling him not to ship anything, parts showed up at my home, postmarked 2 days after the email discussion. Mike told me to keep them with no obligation.

So, that is how I ended up with this flat and bending jig (which I have since given to my friend Chuck at GunLab, who will be posting a more detailed comparison between it and an original cut CETME-L receiver shortly). Normally I would probably not bother to do anything more at this point, but in this case I feel obligated to post a review of the parts for several reasons:

  • The quality is very poor – without very substantial repair/reworking, this is not something that could be used to make an acceptable rifle.
  • The price is quite high considering what is being received.
  • I have not seen photos or a firsthand description of these flats anywhere else.
  • Mike Jestis’ customer service and communication was extremely poor.

In short, I consider myself fortunate to have escaped from this bad decision with my money intact, and I don’t want anyone else to make the mistake of ordering one of these flats or jigs. When small companies like Prexis make good parts, I love to be able to help them out and I am willing to cut some slack for good folks who are doing their best. This is not one of those situations. This stuff is junk, and nobody should buy it.

The Flat

I have a bit of experience with pressings myself:

In that video, you see a pressing done the proper way, if I may be so bold. The press is a pretty massive affair, capable of delivering enough pressure over a large area to smoothly form the entire piece on one operation. You can’t see it on the footage, but the corners and edges on both die halves are rounded to prevent tearing of the metal. This is not how Prexis CETME-L flats are made.

Judging from the results, the Prexis flats are made on a small shop press, probably something hand-powered. It begins with a laser or water-jet cut outline, and then each feature is pressed independently. This would be done because the press is not powerful enough to make all the features simultaneously (and probably does not have a working area large enough to fit the whole flat anyway). We can tell this, because most of the features are not square to any other features. I added a couple straight reference lines to this photo to illustrate the point:

Prexis CETME-L flat

Prexis CETME-L flat, with lines to show the lack of parallel (click to enlarge)

Some other issues to note:

  • The main lengthwise stamps in the center section are too shallow (most likely because the press was too weak to make them the proper depth).
  • The ejection port is cut into the profile of one of those long features.
  • The material is blatantly cut open at the back of the front trunnion feature. This was likely done because it is likely impossible to properly stamp this area with a small press.
  • The bolt guide rails appear to have been made by hand, with a hammer and metal block (see detailed photos below).

The Jig

The bending jig I received is even more half-hearted than the flat. All of the machining done on it is rough, with lots of burrs left over. The male portion was left with sharp square corners, just waiting to tear or stress the inside of the main bends in the flat. The “locator pins” included are quite literally half the diameter of the pin hols in the flat and jig – there is nor way they can actually hold the parts in precise alignment. That seems such a simple thing to get right – or at least closer to right – that it leaves me really wondering what on earth Jestis is thinking.

Conclusions

Don’t buy from Prexis. He lists a bunch of items that look really cool and can’t be found elsewhere, but don’t fall for it. At the very least, do some Google searching first and see what other paying customers are saying about the products first. I hate to give such a negative review to a small one-man shop, but this one deserves it and I hope none of my readers end up putting their own money into products like these.

If you want a CETME-L receiver flat, I think GunLab will be making them at some point. If you want a complete CETME-L rifle, Hill & Mac Gunworks are planning to have them on the market around the end of the year.

Slow Motion: Mauser Schnellfeuer (Video)

Today’s slow motion video is a Mauser Schnellfeuer; the full-auto version of the C96 pistol made in the 1930s. Just over 100,000 of these were made, with the great majority being sold in China. It is chambered for 7.63mm Mauser, firing at 1120rpm (using Prvi Partisan ammo) from 10- and 20-round detachable magazines.

MAS 62 Testing Results

Thanks to reader Thibaud, we have a translation of some of the testing results from the French military trial of the FN FAL and MAS Model 62. Thanks, Thibaud!

French MAS 62 trials rifle

The documents tell us that the FA MAS 62 was tested along with the FN FAL, which was considered a benchmark. Here is the result of the testings :

  • Sights: The sighting equipment of the FAL was prefered by French soldiers during testing because of its similarity to the ones of the FSA 49-56, more familiar to French soldiers.
  • Sight adjustment: Satisfactory on both weapons. Some FAL rear sights were not enough tight to stay in place when shooting full auto.
  • Trigger and fire selector: Trigger was satisfactory on both weapons. All testers prefered the fire selector on the FAL.
  • Accuracy: Accuracy of the FAL was superior. Odd vertical dispersion with the 62.
  • Handling during firing: Satisfactory with both weapons. Handling of the FAL was considered better. The adjustable stock on the 62 was apppreciated.
  • Handling during scoped shooting: Satisfactory with both weapons. The adaptor to mount the scope on the 62, which is not needed to mount a scope on the FAL, was considered too fragile and complex. Possibility to use iron sights even when the scope was mounted on the 62 was appreciated over the FAL, which cannot be shot through the iron sights when a scope is in place.
  • Handling and transport: Both weapons were considered light, easy to handle and not cumbersome. The FAL was prefered for its lighter weight (about 400 grams / 0.9 pounds less).
  • Toughness and functioning: Satisfactory on both weapons.
  • Notes during testing: advantage to the FAL for its ease to disassemble and clean. The 62 was considered overly complicated, with numerous parts, some of which were easy to lose.

4 units (of testing soldiers) out of 5 prefered the FAL for its “technical maturity, its practical solutions and its better results during shooting tests”. The FA MAS 62 was nevertheless the better when firing grenades, even if its mechanical construction is less robust.

The test results did not end in adoption of any rifle, the FA MAS 62 returning to the manufacturer and the FAL not adopted either. Some French unit were isued FN FAL in small numbers, as it seems there was a “FAL lobby” in the French army of that time. When the Defense Minister of that time, Michel Debré, was told this, he said in anger that “the weapon of the French soldier will be a French weapon!” (why does that not surprise me?). The FAL rifles in the French army were disposed of and never came back.

BSW Prototype Gas-Operated Pistol (Video)

In 1936 or 1937, the BSW company (Berlin-Suhler Waffenwerk) produced a small number of prototype pistols for German Army trials. These trials were eventually won by the Walther P38, and for good reason in this case. The pistol BSW submitted was a gas-accellerated blowback design, with an aluminum frame, stamped slide, 13-round magazine (in 9×19), and double-action-only shrouded-hammer firing mechanism.

I had the opportunity to try shooting one of the 3 surviving examples of this pistol thanks to the generosity of a reader named Steve (thanks, Steve!). This is one of those cases where it seems that the trials board evaluating guns made the right conclusion – this pistol was finicky to disassemble, quite large, and had harsher than normal recoil because of its light weight, high bore axis, and blowback mechanism. Its 13-round magazine was a nice touch, but one of very few positive elements in the gun.

Vintage Saturday: The Mustache is Mightier than the Machine Gun

Polish soldier on the line near Gazala, Libya - February 1942

Anyone who has watched Clint Eastwood movies knows what’s coming with a squint like that.

Polish soldier on the line near Gazala, Libya – February 1942. Armed with a Browning M1919A4 and a Boys AT rifle in the truck as well.

Canada’s WWII Self-Loading Rifle Experiments

(The material for this post came primarily from a post made by Roger V. Lucy at the MilArt blog, which also has information on a couple other WWII Canadian experimental projects)

When we see rifles, typically No4 Lee Enfield rifles, marked with the name “Long Branch“, we are actually seeing the production of Small Arms Ltd. (SAL), the government-owned company which encompassed the Long Branch arsenal outside of Toronto, Canada. The arsenal is best known for its productions of rifles, but among other projects it also experimented with a series of self-loading rifle designs during World War II. None of them made it into series production, but they are interesting to see.

The 1944 SLR

These experiments began late in the war; April 1944 was when SAL started work on the first of the line. The British government was apparently interested in a self-loading rifle chambered for the 8mm Mauser cartridge (note that they were using the Czech vz37 machine gun, aka Besa, in 8mm). In response, SAL designed a rifle with a tilting bolt action along the lines of a Bren. It was ready for trials in June of 1944 – a very impressive (or perhaps hopelessly rushed) development time of just 3 months. I have no details of the trials, except a suggestion that the gun was either too heavy or had sacrificed reliability in pursuit of a lighter weight.

Prototype Canadian SLR in 8mm, 1944

Prototype Canadian SLR in 8mm, 1944.  Note that the magazine appears to be a ZB-26 type. Source: MilArt photo archives

Specs:

Caliber: 7.92mm
Action: Tilting bolt
Length: 45 inches (115 cm)
Magazine capacity: 10 or 20 rounds
Bayonet: British standard No.5
Sights: Aperture

Long Branch experimental SLR testing in 1944

Testing the first SLR design. Source: MilArt photo archives

The 1945 SLR (EX-1)

After the rejection of the 1944 model of rifle and a nearly year-long delay, the rifle was redesigned in March of 1945, with this second model ready for trials in May 1945 (another remarkable 3-month development period). This model used a bolt with locking lugs at the front (as opposed to the Bren-style with a locking surface at the rear of the bolt) and apparently was significantly lightened as a result – but was also deemed overly complex and fragile when tested in August 1945. Improvements were made, and by December of 1945 the test rifle had run 800 rounds successfully.

Canadian EX1 self-loading rifle in 7.92mm

Canadian EX1 self-loading rifle in 7.92mm. Source: MilArt photo archives

At this point, the Canadian military began to express interest in the rifle, and the Director of Artillery pushed for further funding of the project. Continuing work reduced the rifle’s weight from 10 pounds to 9 (4.5 to 4 kg) and simplified its mechanism. Another trial prototype was scheduled to be ready for testing in April of 1946, but at this point the program began to be overtaken by the competition elsewhere to develop self-loading rifles.

The 1946 SLR (EX-2)

Canadian EX-2 rifle, .30 caliber.

Canadian EX-2 rifle, .30 caliber. Not sure if this is chambered for the T65 cartridge, as the magazine appears to still be of the ZB-26 pattern, longer than necessary for the T65. Source: MilArt photo archives (click to enlarge)

Another view of the EX-2 in .30 caliber, with a long action magazine. Not the similarity of the rear receiver cover to the FN-49 rifle. Source: MilArt photo archives

Another view of the EX-2 in .30 caliber, with a long action magazine. Note the similarity of the rear receiver cover to the FN-49 rifle. Source: MilArt photo archives

EX-1 rifle with 10-round long-action magazine. Source: MilArt photo archive (click to enlarge)

EX-1 rifle with 10-round long-action magazine. Source: MilArt photo archive (click to enlarge)

The Long Branch Arsenal and Small Arms Ltd. were dramatically reduced in size shortly after the war ended, and this would have led to the end of theSLR development program. It was decided to continue the work through Canadian Arsenals Ltd., which had taken over operation of the operations at Long Branch. The goal was to rechamber the rifle for the T65 cartridge being pushed by the US, and reduce the rifle’s weight to just 7 pounds (3.2kg). A select-fire option was also to be investigated. This would have conformed to the general NATO rifle program, which would focus on the EM-2, T44 (M14), and T48/FAL rifles.

Select-fire EX-2 rifle, now using a short magazine - most likely chambered for the T65 cartridge. Source: MilArt photo archive (click to enlarge)

Select-fire EX-2 rifle, now using a short magazine – most likely chambered for the T65 cartridge. Source: MilArt photo archive (click to enlarge)

Lightened version of the EX-2, using short-action magazine (probably T65 chambering). Source: MilArt photo archives (click to enlarge)

Lightened version of the EX-2, using short-action magazine and T65 cartridge. Source: MilArt photo archives (click to enlarge)

Ultimately the Canadian rifle experiments here would be overtaken by the FN-FAL and would not see any production beyond the prototype stage. Unfortunately, I do not have any more detailed information on the internals of the various iterations, nor on their trials results.

Slow Motion: Swiss LMG-25

I had a cool Swiss viewer named Bjoern kindly send me this footage of a Swiss LMG25 machine gun firing – thanks, Bjoern! These guns are very rare in the US, and the only one I’ve been able to handle was in Europe. If I can ever get my hands on one myself, I will make some video with my Edgertronic high speed camera, but this footage is a great look at the gun until that is possible.

If you are not familiar with the LMG-25, you should check out my overview video of the gun from a couple years ago:

The Lee Enfield Finally Leaves Canadian Ranger Service

As far as I have been able to tell, the Canadian Rangers are the last formal, first-world military organization still using a WWII-era bolt action rifle as a standard-issue weapon (correction – the Danish Slædepatruljen Sirius, a similar type of unit in Greenland, still uses the M1917 Enfield in .30-06). Well, until now anyway.

Who are the Canadian Rangers? They are an element of Canada’s military Reserves, tasked basically with patrolling the uninhabited areas of northern Canada (some 4 million square kilometers), providing eyes and ears to the military. The Rangers number about 5,000 men and women (many of them ethnic aborigines), and while they are not really combat forces, they are working in some extremely harsh environments, often alone, and are issued rifles for self defense while carrying out their duties. Since the force was founded in 1947, those rifles have been No4 MkI Lee Enfields – Canada’s standard service rifle at the time. Well, back in 2011 those Enfields really became a problem as spare parts inventories began to run out.

Ranger Leo McKay with his Lee Enfield (not the non-standard belt with extra mags).

Ranger Leo McKay with his Lee Enfield (not the non-standard belt with extra mags). Photo source: Torstar News Service

You may be thinking to yourself that Enfield parts are not difficult to come by, right? Lots of that stuff still out there. Well, the Rangers were maintaining a stock of 5,000+ of these rifles, and they were not being coddled. These rifles spend a lot of time being dragged around the arctic ice, muddy spring forest bogs, in lakes and rivers and streams in kayaks, canoes, and motor boats, on horseback, surrounded by ocean salt water off the coasts, and contending with the occasional angry polar bear or moose. “Spare parts” for that sort of maintenance job is a very different thing from needing to order a new extractor from Numrich or replace a cracked handguard. It really was only a matter of time before the available NOS parts supply ran out.

Not an environment for sissy people or sissy rifles!

Not an environment for sissy people or sissy rifles! (photo from the 4th Patrol’s Facebook page)

The question then became what would replace the No4 Lee-Enfield. That was a truly excellent rifle which could contend with the abuse it was subjected to by Canadian Ranger activities. After several years of looking, it appears that a tentative replacement has now been chosen: the Sako T3 CTR (Compact Tactical Rifle), with a few custom features.

Sako T3CTR as designed for the Canadian Rangers

Sako T3CTR as designed for the Canadian Rangers

The rifle is a .308 bolt action which uses detachable box magazines – it will be able to deliver basically the same amount of firepower as the Enfields. It differs form the stock Sako T3 CRT in a couple of ways – a bright laminate stock, an enlarged bolt handle and trigger guard (for use with gloves), and robust protected iron sights in addition to a scope rail. I haven’t been able to determine for sure, but it appears that scopes will not be standard issue, just iron sights.

While the design is being licensed from Sako, actual production will be done by Colt Canada. The first 125 prototype rifles have been delivered (they were made by Sako directly), and will undergo field trials with the Rangers. If all goes well, production is scheduled to begin in mid to late 2016, with an expected 6500 rifles to be made. Of course, one does have to wonder what impact Colt’s bankruptcy in the US will have on their ability to fulfill that contract, so I reached out to a spokesman at Colt Canada. They informed me that Colt Canada is wholly owned by Colt Defense, but is a self-sustaining operation in Canada. That may be PR whitewashing (if anyone has firsthand understanding of Colt Canada’s business status, please let us know in the comments below!), but if it’s true then the new owners of Colt (whoever that ends up being) will hopefully allow the Canadian division to remain healthy and produce these rifles for the Canadian Rangers.

Alas, it appears that the Canadian government will be destroying the remaining Enfields when they are replaced. Very unfortunate to lose that group of historically very cool rifles. On the other hand, it does sound like Stoeger Canada (the Canadian importer for Sako) is at least considering offering the T3 CTR with the same custom features (less the Ranger logo and possibly the exact stock color) on the civilian market. That’s not official, and I am waiting to hear back from them on the question – I will post an update when I have a firm answer from them. It would be neat to have an example of the new Rangers’ rifle…