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RIA: Walther P38 Development

The Walther P38 was adopted by Germany in 1938 as a replacement for the P08 Luger – not really because the Luger was a bad pistol, but because it was an expensive pistol. Walther began development of its replacement in 1932 with two different development tracks – one was a scaled-up Model PP blowback in 9x19mm and the other was the locked-breech design that would become the P38.

The initial prototypes look externally quite similar to the final P38, although the locking system went through several changes and the controls did as well. Several of the early developmental models used shrouded hammers.

In this video I will take a look at both initial “MP” pistols (the blowback and the locked breech), then the Armee Pistole (aka the AP) in its standard configuration and also a long barreled model with a shoulder stock, then the second Model MP, and finally the HP which was the commercial model of the final P38. In addition, I will check out a sheet metal prototype of the locked breech model form the very beginning of the development program.

RIA: Whitmore 4-Barrel Swivel-Breech Rifle

One of the options for having multiple shots available in the age of the muzzleloading rifle was the swivel-breech rifle. Such a rifle would have typically two barrels and one lock – one the first barrel was fired, the whole barrel assembly could be rotated 180 degrees to bring the other barrel into alignment with the lock. These could be two rifle barrels, two shotgun barrels, or one of each.

MJ Whitmore of Potsdam, New York build many such swivel-breech rifles and also build some much less common 4-barrel swivel guns. This particular example has two .40 caliber rifled barrels on one side and a combination of a .40 caliber rifle and a .40 smoothbore barrel on the other side. In a particularly neat touch, it holds a single loading rod hidden in a spring-capped chamber in the center of the barrel cluster.

RIA: Japanese 8mm Hamada Pistol

Just as production of the .32ACP Type Hamada pistols was reaching full scale, Bunji Hamada was asked to redesign his pistol to use the standard 8mm Nambu cartridge. This he did, and after several changes required by the Army (which appear to have had more to do with giving the Army some claim to the design rather than for any practical reasons) it was adopted in 1943.

Production of the .32ACP pistols continued uninterrupted, while a defunct textile factory in Notobe was renovated to become the production plant for the new Type 2 Hamadas in 8mm. Machinery was provided by the Torimatsu factory, and the guns were to be sent to Torimatsu in the white for final finishing operations.

While several thousand were made according to surviving records, the only ones still known in existence today have serial numbers between 2 and 50 and are still in the white. This suggests that aside from a small initial (sample?) batch, all the Type 2 Hamadas were destroyed or lost – possibly by aerial bombing or during transit on the ocean.

RIA: Japanese 7.65mm Hamada Pistol

The Hamada was one of very few Japanese military weapons made by a private commercial firm. Designed and introduced in 1940, the basic Type Hamada pistol was a blowback .32ACP handgun similar in style to the Browning model 1910. About 5000 of them were manufactured during WWII, although most of these were sent to China. All the known examples in Western collections are form a fairly narrow serial number range (~2200-3000), which probably represent a single batch rerouted to the Pacific islands, where they were occasionally captured by US troops.

In 1943, Hamada was asked to develop a pistol in 8mm Nambu to simplify ammunition logistics, and this would become the Type 2 Hamada.

RIA: 11mm Devisme Cartridge Revolver

Devisme of Paris was one of the early manufacturers of a true centerfire cartridge revolver, with production of this model beginning in 1858 or 1859. This is a bottom-break 11mm, 6-shot revolver, made to a very high standard of quality. Devisme also made a variety of other guns, including indoor parlor pistols, percussion guns, and dueling-style pistols.

RIA: Japanese Type 100 Paratrooper

The Type 100 (sometimes called the Type 0) was one of the initial Japanese experiments in paratroop rifles. Manufactured from standard Nagoya Arsenal Type 99 rifles, the Type 100 used a set of interrupted lugs at the chamber to allow the rifle to be broken into two short sections. Only a few hundred of these were manufactured for testing, and ultimately the Type 2 design (with a locking wedge) was adopted instead.

RIA: Walther A115 Prototype Rifle

The Walther A115 was one of the semiauto rifles developed in pre-WWII Germany. Apparently only three were made, and it uses a neat combination of sheet metal construction with a rotating bolt and annular gas pistol like the later G41 rifles. This particular example was examined by Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1955 (you can find their photos of it around) before escaping into the private market.

RIA: Norwegian 1846 Postførerverge Knife-Pistol?

This is one of the more practical knife/pistol combinations I have seen – it actually has a pretty reasonable grip when used in either capacity. It has two muzzleloading smoothbore barrels, with a percussion cap hidden under each top ear of the crossguard and a folding trigger in the body of the grip.

After I had finished filming, it was brought to my attention that while it does not have the proper markings, this piece is very, very similar to an 1846 Postførerverge – a double-barreled blade/gun issued to Norwegian postal employees after a rash of deadly assaults on rural postal workers. Those were made from 1846 until 1854, with a total of 152 being manufactured. Could this be one with the markings worn off or removed? Perhaps. It could also be a commercial copy, or something else entirely.

RIA: Yovanovitch Model 1931 Pistol

Lazar Yovanovitch was a Serbian native of Yugoslavia, born in Belgrade. He left engineering school to design firearms, and developed a couple .22 and .380 caliber pistols. None were adopted by the Yugoslav military, but he did use his .380 in international competition at the 1933 ISSF 25m rapid fire competition and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Yovanovitch participated briefly in WWII as a petty officer in a hydroplane squadron, was captured by Italian forces, and then escaped into Switzerland in the lull between Italian surrender and German re-occpation of his POW camp. After the war he emigrated to Canada, where he made one last example of his Model 1931 .380 pistol, for his own use and enjoyment.

RIA: Japanese Trials Gas-Operated Pedersen Rifle

The Japanese semiauto rifle trials of the early 1930s had a total of four entrants – Kijiro Nambu and his company, Tokyo Gas & Electric, the Tokyo Army Arsenal, and Nippon Special Steel. This rifle is one of the third iteration of the design from Nippon Special Steel. It is a design based originally on the Pedersen, but with substantial changes. It is a toggle-locked and gas-operated action with a gas piston that moves forward upon firing. It feeds from a ten-round detachable box magazine, which is unfortunately missing on this example.

In total, 13 of these rifles were made for trials, with 4 of them actually being tested (and firing over 100,000 rounds between them without any extraction problems, apparently). This rifle did have some accuracy problems, though, which would be fixed by its designer for the fourth and final trials, at which point it and the Tokyo Army Arsenal rifle were determined to be of equal quality – and then the whole program was dropped as the Marco Polo Bridge incident caused the Sino-Japanese War to quickly intensify.