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The Vault

2-Gun Action Challenge: The M44/92 Zorka Special!

Bet you’ve never heard of the M44/92 Zorka Special…well, sit back and relax with today’s 2-gun match video and find out why!

(happy April Fool’s Day!)

Pedersen GY at RIA: A Copy of the M1 Garand

Two of the scarcest and least known of John Pedersen’s designs are the Model GY and GX rifles, which are basically copies of the production model of the M1 Garand. After losing out in the Army rifle trials with his toggle-locked rifle design, Pedersen made one last attempt to garner a US military contract by building his own slightly modified version of the M1. It function the same way as the Garand, with a long-stroke piston, gas port right by the muzzle, and rotating bolt. However, Pedersen put some of his own touches on the rifle, including spiral barrel fluting, drain/cooling slots on the underside of the stock, and a rotating drum to adjust elevation on the rear sight.

Less than 10 of the GY and GX rifles were ever made, and they (obviously) failed to make a significant impression on the US Army – they never went into any type of serial production. This one at Rock Island (#5 GY) is in magnificent condition, and still full of cosmoline from when it was put in storage.

One interesting question I have been unable to answer is, what is the difference between the GX and GY? The folks I have spoken to who have owned or handled one or both have been unable to point to any significant difference. The two designs do have separate serial number ranges (#3 GY and #3 GX are both documented), so it wasn’t just a change in nomenclature after a few were made. One possibility that does not seem to have been tested by anyone is that the two designation use different types of en bloc clip. Perhaps one uses the standard M1 clip and the other uses a clip design Pedersen thought to be better?

I do have this one diagram of a GX (not a GY), which Rock Island dug up. It doesn’t prove anything, but if you look at the clip drawn in the action, it is a Pedersen type, not a Garand clip:

Pedersen GX diagram

Pedersen GX diagram

Elgin Cutlass Pistol at RIA

In an effort to take advantage of Jim Bowie’s popularity, George Elgin patented a huge knife attached to a single shot percussion pistol in 1837. The idea was simply to offer a dual-purpose weapon, and it proves that human nature never does change much. I suspect that in actual use the weapon would have been pretty awkward – bulky to carry, heavy for a pistol, and clumsy for a knife. However, that didn’t stop two different manufacturers from making them on license, and several hundred willing buyers from shelling out money. In fact, the US Navy even purchased 150 of them for use in the South Seas, making the Elgin the first percussion handgun formally used by the US military. This particular one for sale at RIA is a commercial model made by Morrill, Mosman, and Blair.

Elgin’s 1837 patent was one of the briefest I have yet seen, too. Have a look:

US Patent 254 (G. Elgin, “Pistol Sword”, July 5, 1837)

KrauseWerke .45ACP Luger at RIA

The story of the .45ACP Lugers is a bit complex, and widely misunderstood. What most people believe is that two such guns were made for US military testing, one was lost, and the other is worth a million dollars. Well, that’s virtually all incorrect. In actuality, probably about a half dozen were made in a couple different forms by DWM. That does include two for US trials, but neither of those guns is known to still exist. What is interesting is that it is actually pretty easy to know that. We have a photo of one of the original trials Lugers in the 1907 trial report, and when compared to the “million dollar Luger” (which actually went for just under $500,000 when it was last sold in 2010), it clearly has a slightly different grip angle. Fact is, the US insisted on a 60 degree grip angle instead of the standard 55.5 degrees for the Luger. The two trials guns were made with 60 degree grips, but the handful of other experimental and prototype .45ACP Lugers – including both of the ones currently known in the US – have the standard 55.5 degree grips. In addition, both of the ones in the US are chambered for standard .45ACP, where the trials guns used a 1906 version of the .45ACP cartridge which was a millimeter longer. The two guns in the US today are authentic DWM Lugers made by the factory in .45ACP, but they were made for purposes other than US military trials. There would have been potential for commercial sales, and other countries interested in a .45 version besides the US, and that was the reason those two guns (and probably a couple others since lost) were built.

Anyway, the point of this is to set the backdrop for a .45ACP Luger being sold by RIA in their April Premiere auction. It is a gorgeous museum-quality reproduction made by Mike Krause in California, serial number 5. It is unfired and immaculate, so far as I can tell. However, I did have a chance to put a few rounds through Krause gun #4, which was a very cool opportunity. I included some slow motion footage of it in today’s video. I suspect whoever buys it will leave it unfired, but they will be missing out on a lot of fun if they do.

Book Review: Great Britain – The Tommy Gun Story

I recently got a copy of Tom Davis Jr’s brand new book on the history of British use of the Thompson SMG. This is very much a history book rather than a technical book, and it is based on meticulously researched documents from the British national archives, right down to the hand-written notes scribbled on telegrams and tally books. If you are interested in the United Kingdom’s effort to supply arms during the first half of WWII or in the history of the Thompson in general, it is definitely a work to add to your reference library.

Copies can be purchased direct from the author or through Amazon:

Maxim 08/15 Bipod Positions

I got an email from a reader named Philip who is a fan and collector of Maxim guns, who put together an interesting video on the use of the bipod on the MG08/15.

From his email:

The MG08/15 is often considered the blacksheep of the Maxim world. It does tend to rock a bit while shooting because of the standard mid gun rigid bipod mount. Even the Germans were not really happy about this as it does affect accuracy.

Well around 1936, the Germans upgraded their stock of MG08/15s in the Nazi rearmament program. One of things upgraded was the addition of a front bipod mount held on by a loop that is secured around the booster. This moves the bipod from the mid gun position to the front of the firearm. Since most Maxims in the US were brought home after WWI, these WWII upgrade parts are very rare in the US. This is not to say they are common in Europe either. For several years now I have been in search of one of these front bipod mount adapters. I felt that it would be a really interesting option for the MG and hopefully help increase accuracy. Well after half a decade searching, I was able to obtain one of these adapters. It needed a little work and paint as it had none.

After completing this work, it was time to take it out and see how well it worked. In the video you can see 4 different bipod positions. Bipod facing forward and backwards at the front and middle of the MG08/15. I have to report that I did not care that much for the new positions which was actually pretty disappointing after so long of a search for the part. However very few people in the US have ever had a chance to use on of these as there can’t be more than one handful in the country. It certainly falls into that forgotten category since those with them in Europe don’t get to shoot their guns! From what my German friends tell me the Germans consider the bipod rearward cant to be the correct position. I find the cant forward to be better in both bipod positions when I fire and I think you can see why in the slow motion part of the video.

Thanks, Philip! Definitely interesting to see the difference between the type of mounting.

AFTE Presentation: Firearms and High Speed Photography

I have been using an Edgertronic high speed camera for about 8 months now (thanks to the support of all you folks who helped fund it!), and have been able to get some pretty cool shots with it. A couple weeks back, I took an opportunity to put together a short presentation on the uses of high speed photography as they relate to forensic examiners, for my local group of AFTE (Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners) members. I recorded the presentation to post online, for anyone else who is interested. The whole thing is spattered with high speed footage, including a bunch I have not yet published anywhere else. This will be a pretty dry presentation for many people, but if it’s your cup of tea, then sit back and enjoy!

Schwarzlose 1898 Preview

Yesterday turned into a rather hectic afternoon, as a friend dropped off half a dozen fantastic guns that we will be out shooting tomorrow. Yesterday was my opportunity to become acquainted with how they work and prepare for shooting videos today. So instead of writing an insightful and interesting post for you, I was up to my elbows in parts. Like this:

Schwarzlose 1898 disassembled

Schwarzlose 1898 disassembled (click to enlarge)

I should say, I have not yet figured out why this pistol did not become very popular – as far as I can tell from handling, it is outstanding. It fits my hand better than most modern pistols, and the sight are almost perfectly in line with my eye when I bring it up on target. The controls are simple and modern (manual safety accessible from a firing grip, manual holdopen and slide release integrated into a single lever), the mechanism is simple (the mainspring does triple duty as recoil spring, striker spring, and extractor spring, for example), and it fires a cartridge that is adequate even by modern standards (7.63mm Mauser). And yet it seems that fewer than a thousand were ever made, and most of those were wholesaled off to Russian revolutionaries in 1905.

1898 schwarzlose

It ever looks reasonably modern today…

Biography: Henri & Nicolas Pieper

Today’s biography is a guest post by our friend Robert White – thanks, Robert!

Henri and Nicolas Pieper

Henri Pieper (left) and Nicolas Pieper (right)

Henri Pieper was born and raised in modest German home in Soest (Westphalia) Germany on Oct 30, 1840. He received his technical training in Soest and then in Warstein. Then emigrated to Belgium at the end of 1859. Moving around from Herstal and a short period in the wool industry of Verviers, he finally settled in Liege after marriage. He established his firearm manufacturing business “Anciens Etablissements Pieper” in Liege in 1866. The rapid growth and success of his business was partly due to an excellent decision he made early on in the purchase of a barrel factory in Nessonvaux. Some of Remington’s finest double shotguns of the time have the maker’s mark of ‘HP’ on them from this factory. It didn’t take long for him to become famous for quality and moderate prices.

In 1870 his 6,000 square meter workshop on the street of Bayard and along with his barrel factory in Nessonvaux in the valley of Vesdre was primarily manufacturing shotguns for export.

Forest & Stream, 1882

Forest & Stream, 1882

In 1887, Henri Pieper joined the “Manufacturers of Weapons” association of Liege. Along with the factories Jules Ancion, Dumoulin brothers, Joseph Janssen, Pirlot-Frésart, Draws up-Laloux & Co, Albert Simonis and the brothers Emile and Leon Nagant with an aim of obtaining large government and military contracts.

Montgomery Ward, 1885

Montgomery Ward, 1885

The following year, he took part in the Belgian army tests to replace the outdated Comblain rifles with a modern repeating rifle. He submited two Mannlicher style rifles. One with a rectilinear action and another with a rotary Schulhof action. Both lost to Mauser which was adopted as the model 1889.

He was then contracted to help with the creation of the Belgian National Factory which would manufacture the model 1889 where he remained as a major shareholder and administrator.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1907

Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1907

After this, he assisted in the development of a “gas seal revolver”. His design lost the competition for the new Russian revolver contract to the Nagant brothers’ design. But model 1893 revolver was very popular in Mexico along with a revolving rifle of the same type. Very few of these remain and command a high price. Most found by today’s collectors are worn and heavily used.

About 1897, the Pieper workshops launched into the manufacture of bicycles and cars. Amoung other designs he develops and patents a gas-electric hybrid automobile. The same basic concept of the Toyota Prius 100 years later:

“Be it known that I, Henri Pieper, a subject of the King of Belgium, residing at 18 Rue des Bayards, in Liege, Belgium, have invented new and useful Improvements in Mixed Drives for Autovehicles…The invention…comprises an internal combustion or similar engine, a dynamo motor direct connected therewith, and a storage battery or accumulator in circuit with the dynamo motor, these elements being cooperatively related so that the dynamo motor may be run as a motor by the electrical energy stored in the accumulator to start the engine or to furnish a portion of the power delivered by the set, or may be run as a generator by the engine, when the power of the latter is in excess of that demanded of the set, and caused to store energy in the accumulator.”

Pieper automobile patent

Pieper automobile patent

But while Henri Pieper may have been a great inventor, his timing was horrible. The year before his patent was granted, Henry Ford built the first assembly lines in Detroit to produce the Ford Model T, the first affordable, mass-production car. It would cement the primacy of the gasoline engine to power road vehicles.

Nicolas Pieper was born in Liege on October 31, 1870. The second son of Henri Pieper and Catherine Elisabeth Leroy. At the early age of 13 he was training with his father. Before his fathers premature death at the age of 57, he took the helm of the firearms factory in Liege while his brother Edouard Herman took over the barrel factory in Nessonvaux.

Bergmann/Pieper Model 1910

Bergmann/Pieper Model 1908

Theodor Bergmann of Bergmanns Industriewerke had won a small 3,000 gun contract with the Spain but failed to find funding to manufacture them and sold his Spanish contract to Anciens Établissements Pieper. Nicolas Pieper had been seeking new business since he had lost his Belgian army contracts to Fabrique Nationale. Nicolas Pieper also bought the rights to manufacture and sell a commercial version of the Bergman Mars.

The Spanish contract and commercial productions of the Pieper Bergman Bayard 1908 are marked:


In a few short years, the over diversification of the company put him in bankruptcy. Nicolas, with the help of his brother-in-law, Auguste Lambrecht, rebuilt the business, and named it “Factory of automatic weapons Nicolas Pieper”.

Nicholas Pieper's factory

“Factory of Automatic Weapons Nicolas Pieper”

Nicolas would also purchase the rights to several automatic pistols patents from another arms manufacturer in Liège, including Jean Warnant. After making his own refinements and improvements, he would market them under the trade names Démontant and Basculant automatic pistols (both tipping-barrel types without extractors).

Pieper 1909 pistol

Pieper Démontant 1909 pistol

The Basculant, also called model 1909 was manufactured under license by Waffenfabrik Steyr in Austria, until the 1930s. Pieper made an attempt to market the pistol in the United States as well, with a prototype version in .45 ACP. Also, inspired by the patents of his father, continues to manufacture shotguns of various types.



Pieper Factory Flyer from the Exposition of Paris 1900

With the outbreak of World War 1 factory production mostly stopped because of the occupation of Belgium. After the war, in 1918 he acquired the patent of an arms manufacturer named Hippolyte Thonon – a copy of the FN Browning model 1906. Pieper marketed this under the name Légia, and produced it in Paris until 1922.

Nicolas Pieper died in his family home in Liege ten years later in 1933.

Ezell, Edward C. Handguns of the World. Stackpole Books, New York, 1981.
Wilson, R.K. Textbook of Automatic Pistols. Samworth, 1934 (reprinted by Wolfe Publishing, Prescott AZ, 1990).

U.S. Patents
Henri Pieper

Nicolas Pieper

2-Gun Action Match: Gewehr 41

I recently picked up a Walther G41 rifle (1943 production) and have been excited to have a chance to put it through a 2-Gun match. This particular rifle has clearly led an interesting life – it came all matching, but missing the magazine and bayonet lug, and with a stock that had been strangely modified (the sling cutout had been filled in with wood putty or something similar, and the wrist was cracked on both sides). In addition, while it had a G41 type mounting rail for a ZF41 optic on the rear sight,  some field armorer welded on a mounting rail from a K98k. My understanding is that the G41 scope mounts never actually made it into the field, and so rigging up a K98k mount would have been the only way to actually mount a ZF41 on one of these rifles. At any rate, I find that welded-on rail to be a very interesting feature (I have a reproduction scope on order for it, but it hasn’t arrived yet).

One other issue we discovered at the match was that the stripper clip guides on this rifle have been milled out just slightly wider than they were originally made. This meant that using Romanian stripper clips was very difficult – the whole clip would slip into the magazine instead of being held in place and having the cartridges stripped off. Fortunately, Karl brought his G43 as a backup rifle, and it has a G41 bolt housing mounted in it. So we swapped housings, and that allowed us to use regular 8mm clips for the remainder of the match. When I got home I tried out some Swedish clips in my clip guides (Swedish clips are significantly wider than almost all others), and lo and behold, they work fantastically. Did someone decide to modify the rifle because the Swedish clips run more smoothly? Or because that was all they had access to? Or were they trying to disable the rifle? I have no idea.

Overall, I found the G41 to be the softest-shooting and most pleasant 8mm semiauto I’ve yet had the chance to shoot. The gas system is clearly a hindrance in the longer run, as it will eventually get dirty enough to stop working reliably. For a few hundred rounds, though, is seems to be just fine. I can absolutely see why the Wehrmacht opted to keep the basic design for the G43, with the improvements to the gas system and detachable magazines. Anyway, here’s our match footage:

For a detailed breakdown of the G41, see my previous G41 disassembly video.