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Franchi SPAS-12 at RIA

The Franchi SPAS-12 (Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun) is a dual-action police shotgun produced in Italy between 1979 and 2000, and imported into the US until 1994. It can be operated either as a semiautomatic or a manual pump action, as a way to allow rapid semiautomatic fire with buckshot or similar ammunition but also function manually with lower pressure less-lethal types of ammunition (rubber slugs, beanbags, tear gas, etc). The gun was purchased by a decent number of law enforcement agencies, but it is far better known for its use in movies and video games, where its distinctive military styling makes it very popular with designers and prop masters.

Still, there are a couple interesting elements worth looking at on the SPAS-12. For one thing, they were subject to a safety recall for a safety selector which could sometimes cause the gun to fire when being switched from safe to fire. And, of course, there is that hook thing on the stock. What’s that for, anyway? I’ll show you…

Sunngård 1909 Pistol

Just a photo – of probably the nicest Sunngård pistol in existence today, along with its holster. Thanks to Lars for sending it!

Sunngard automatic pistol

(click to enlarge)

Vintage Saturday: Seeds of an Idea

Ilya Amelin with Panzerfaust, 15th Guards Rifle Division, Germany, 1945

Ilya Amelin with Panzerfaust, 15th Guards Rifle Division, Germany, 1945

Point at Panzer, press button…

Q&A Video, November 2015

Thanks to the awesome people supporting Forgotten Weapons through Patreon for sending in more questions that I could get to for another month!

This month the subjects include:

  • Browning lock vs others in handguns
  • Best modern weapon for WWI
  • Turret revolvers
  • Affordable “forgotten weapons”
  • Welrod pistol
  • C&R rifle parts sources WWII souvenir?
  • Finnish firearms
  • Garage-built firearms that hit it big
  • What guns ought to be reproduced today?
  • My own background
  • Early striker-fired pistols

And more!

M1 Thumb in Slow Motion (Ouch!)

(Note: not for the mildly squeamish)

A blog reader on Reddit named Oelund sent me this footage, of him deliberately inflicting M1 Thumb on himself at 1200 fps (twice!). I figured that ought to be reposted…I certainly have no intention of redoing the footage with my Edgertronic!

2-Gun WWI Extravaganza: BEF vs German Landser (Video)

This is the second of our two videos from the most recent 2-Gun match, which was designed with an explicit World War One theme. This one is a head to head match between me, kitted out as a BEF rifleman, and Karl, portraying a rear-line German reservist with a Gewehr 88.

The fact that we finished the match within literally one second of each other really says something about the British gear being superior the the Gew88/C96 combination. In any contest with equivalent hardware, Karl’s better shooting skills give him the win. The only reason I was able to win was by having better gear (this especially shows through at the last half of the second stage, where the SMLE allows me to make up a significant deficit from the pistol shooting). That said, every one of the guns we used had some type of problem…

My SMLE had an unusual malfunction on the long range stage, with the bolt head jumping its track. This turned out to be fairly easy to fix by finding the right point in the guide rail where I was able to snap it back into place, but it is something that should not have been able to occur in the first place (and I’m not sure what I did to cause it). This is the second time I have had an odd problem with an Enfield in competition (with different guns), and it really does lead me to believe that the action is simply not as foolproof and robust as the Mauser.

My Webley was a borrowed pistol which has been converted to .45 ACP. I handloaded the ammunition for it (as standard .45ACP is significantly overpressure for a Webley), and actually got the load a bit too light. That caused me a few issues with plates on the second round not falling. On the other hand, I was also using moon clips to reload, which gave me a historical advantage. A British officer would have most likely loaded with individual rounds one at a time (Prideaux speed loaders were around, but not common).

Karl’s Gewehr 88 ran well, but he was hindered a bit by its 547 yard (!) zero, and found that he had to aim at the base of the target stands to make hits on the first stage. Ouch!

His C96 also proved a bit problematic, with he bolt usually not quite going fully into battery. That was the result of a weakening mainspring, which has since been replaced. Even without that problem, though, the C96 is an awkward handgun at best.

Landstad 1900 Autorevolver Disassembly

You may recall seeing my post about the Landstad model 1900 semiauto revolver a while back…

Well, the gun (only one was ever made) was in a British collections for a hundred years, but recently was purchased by a Norwegian collector, and has now returned to its homeland. Thanks to Lars, a reader who happens to be a Norwegian gunsmith, we have a series of photos showing disassembly of this unique firearm. Thanks, Lars!

Union Pistol w/35-Round Horseshoe Magazine (Video)

“Union” was a trade name used by French and Spanish arms manufacturers (as well as American, actually) – but this particular Union is a French example. Among their many variations of pistols available (25, 32, long, short, extended barrels, etc) was a fully automatic version. For that pistol, they also developed a 35-round “horseshoe” magazine to provide maximum capacity without overly hampering the gun’s handling. These are extremely rare today, as not many were initially manufactured.

Vintage Saturday: Serious Riot Control

German Freikorps arraying with flamethrowers during the 1919 Spartacist revolt in Berlin

German Freikorps arraying with flamethrowers and hand grenades during the 1919 Spartacist revolt in Berlin

Nothing says “Disperse!” like flamethrowers and grenades…

Refresher: US 1907 Pistol Trials Report

I have a couple videos coming up on pistols from the trials that eventually led to the adoption of the 1911, so today is a refresher from a couple years back when I posted a copy of the official trials report from the 1907 testing…

When the US began its engagement in the Philippines at the close of the 19th century, the standard service sidearm was a .38 caliber double-action revolver. This was found to be insufficient for serious combat use, and a program was instituted to find a .45 caliber replacement handgun.

.45 caliber Luger automatic pistol

A small group of officers convened in January and March of 1907 to conduct trials on the pistol designs that had been submitted to the Army, including several guns that would become iconic. The automatic pistols tested included the .45-caliber Luger, Colt, Savage, Bergmann, Knoble, and Merill-White. There were also three revolvers present, Colt and Smith & Wesson double actions and a Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver.

The guns were put through firing tests including dust exposure and rusting. And as a side note, I should point out that the took the rust test pretty seriously:

17. Rust. The mechanism will be thoroughly cleansed of grease
by boiling in a solution of soda, the ends of the barrel tightly corked,
and the pistol then placed in a saturated solution of sal-ammoniac
for five minutes.

The Colt and Savage designs performed well, as did both American revolvers. The Luger proved to have reliability issues with commercial ammunition, and the testing commission was concerned that the powder required by Luger was not available in the US. My pet favorite the Bergmann was unfortunately dropped from testing when its hammer mechanism produced consistent light hits and failed to fire. The Knoble was deemed a crude piece of junk and not tested, and the Merill-White was too unreliable to warrant further consideration. The Webley-Fosbery was judged to be unnecessarily complicated without any significant advantages.

The outcome of the tests was twofold. The officers understood that the automatic pistol was clearly going to become the standard sidearm in the future, but they also believed that proper development and selection of an automatic would take several more years. So they recommended that the Army purchase enough Savage and Colt automatics to equip several units and continue testing them. In the meantime, they also recommended replacing the current .38 with the Colt .45 revolver as a stopgap if any significant further combat was anticipated in the Philippines (in a show of frugality not seen by recent government agencies, they noted that the $40,000 expense of such a replacement was only worthwhile if significant further conflict was expected in the short term). The ultimate winner, of course, would prove to be the Colt automatic.

1907 Colt Trials pistolYou can download a copy of the trials report (including photos of each gun tested) here:

(1907) US Army Automatic Pistol Trials report (English)