One of the great things about collecting old guns is that there is such a huge variety out there – there’s always something new around the corner that you didn’t know about before. Scores of countries have been making and using and modifying small arms for hundreds of years, and the result is such a variety of configurations and stories that we will never know or see them all.
The most recent example for me was that of the Turkish “Orman” Forestry carbine. I know many of you folks will be familiar with these, but I’m sure they will new new to some people like they were for me. I stumbled across one while looking at various models of the French Berthier rifle, and immediately fell for both the looks and the history.
During WWII, the Turkish government wound up in possession of several thousand (between 5k and 10k) French Berthier rifles, mostly 1907/15 models, but also some Mle 1916s. There is some question as to exactly how, but the most likely explanation appears to be a shipment of arms from Syria to Iraq sent by the Vichy French at the request of Germany. After the war, Turkey found itself having problems with illegal logging of its rather valuable Circassian walnut forests, and decided that it was necessary to arm its forest ranger service. Again, details are a bit sketchy, but it appears that a decision was made to deliberately use a non-standard caliber of ammunition for these rangers, so that if their rifles were stolen they would be of limited value (like the British Enfields converted to riot police shotguns in India). Since a big pile of Berthier rifles in 8x50R Lebel were available, they were chosen for the purpose.
The rifles were cut down to a medium length, and the front band and nosecap were replaced with leftover spares from 1905 Mauser carbines (with no provision for bayonets). They were restamped with new 4-digit serial numbers, and the receivers marked “TC Orman” (“Turkish Republic Forestry”) with a 1948 date. Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 guns were converted this way. They are still pretty inexpensive ($250-$300), because there is not much demand for Turkish arms in general. I found a nice one on GunBroker, and it should be here in a week or so, and I’m very much looking forward to shooting it. I think the length looks ideal for a rifle with good balance but not too long to conveniently carry around.
Have you had an experience finding a neat gun with a cool story? Tell us about it in the comments! (I take no responsibility for people spending too much money of neat guns they didn’t know existed before.)