Q&A #10: Collectible Surplus Guns, Dumb US Decisions, and Lots of French Stuff

We have some great questions this time around! Specifically:

0:25 – Gain twist rifling, description and application
5:40 – The 6.5mm Arisaka compared to modern 6.5mm cartridges
7:44 – US abandonment of the M1917 Enfield in favor of the 1903 Springfield after WW1
12:02 – Guns I am hyped to get my hands on
14:00 – Guns I have bid on or won at James Julia and Rock Island
15:14 – Would Stoner still use gas impingement today?
20:10 – Modernization of the BAR
23:43 – How & why of military firearms surplus and US dealers thereof
35:46 – What to look for in collectible firearms
38:36 – Camera operators and other FW assistants
39:57 – What killed the rimmed and/or rimfire cartridge
42:00 – Binary trigger systems
44:08 – Rotating barrel pistols today?
45:20 – My biggest surprise opportunity
46:27 – Cooper’s Scout Rifle concept
49:32 – Shooting matching numbered guns
52:36 – Will I be covering more early firearms?
54:40 – Why French arms got a bad reputation
1:00:19 – The L85A2, and its potential availability in the US
1:04:02 – On-location footage from battlefields and such

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  1. What about the M1922 version of the BAR? It included at least some of the features of the app European improvements, most notably the lighter bipod attached to the gas piston housing.

    • Many good ideas get ignored in the face of socio-political cliques and “anti-outside-source” bias… Or simply put, “if it isn’t invented here, I won’t use it.”

      The usual “US Army infantry combat SOP” called for the rifleman to be a mobile primary source of firepower (make your shots count as you dodge bullets and speed through enemy lines) while heavy (or medium) machineguns provided covering fire to force the enemy to stay down. The M1918 was intended to fire on the attacking advance as a squad automatic weapon. As such, it was designed as a “rifle” and not as a “machinegun.” Had the BAR (or its police counterpart, the Colt Monitor) been developed into a true “battle rifle” it might have given the FG-42 and the G43 a run for their money in terms of reliability and user-friendliness!

      On the other side, the Imperial Japanese Army probably should have chosen to mass-produce and adopt a Holek-action rifle or Nippon Special Steel’s toggle-locked gas-operated rifle. The latter likely needed a means of keeping mud away from the gas piston (as it pulled forward to let gas exit the system), but what fool pulls the trigger with the barrel (and mounted sword bayonet) stuck in the mud anyway?

      Did I mess up? SAY SOMETHING!!

      • They tried two self-loading rifle prototypes that I’m aware of. One was a Pedersen-type toggle action with a rotary magazine rather like a Johnson, and the other was basically a Garand copy with Mauser-type sights and more importantly a Mauser-type magazine. It held ten rounds and was fed by shoving two stripper clips’ worth of 7.7 x 58 Arisaka cartridges into it. Since it could also be loaded with single rounds by hand, I have to rate it as a bit more practical in an actual firefight than the parent M1.

        Like most Japanese weapon developments, it fell into the “too little, too late” category. It was prototyped in late 1944; they should have done it in 1939.



      • “BAR (or its police counterpart, the Colt Monitor) been developed into a true “battle rifle” it might have given (…) G43 a run for their money in terms of reliability and user-friendliness”
        So far I know BAR was too expensive in manufacture to become every soldier weapon, notice that its European derivatives were LMG or LMG-like – probably such price for LMG was acceptable, but not for self-loading rifle

  2. “What killed the rimmed (…) cartridge”
    I wouldn’t say rimmed cartridge are dead. Notice that, for German (and German-influenced) rifle hunting cartridges, most rimless cartridge have rimmed sisters, for examples:
    6×62 Frères (introduced 1984) was followed by 6×62 R Frères (1988)
    Both 6,5×65 RWS and 6,5×65 R RWS were introduced in 1990
    6,5×63 Messner Magnum (2001) was followed by 6,5×63 R Messner Magnum (2003)

    5,6×50 R Magnum (1968) even predates rimless 5,6×50 Magnum (1970)
    [years of introduction are from http://deutsches-jagd-lexikon.de/ ]

    • Put simply, rimmed rounds and box magazines don’t get along well together. As anyone who has ever gotten a rim of a .303 round behind that of the one below it in an SMLE or No. 4 magazine will attest.

      Rimless cartridges will pretty much feed in any reapeating action. Rimmed rounds tend to be biased in favor of tubular magazines (which generally requires a bullet with enough meplat to avoid indenting the primer of the round ahead of it in the tube), belt fed systems (which require pulling the round backward before feeding int forward), or strip feed systems (which often have the same problem).

      The one place rimmed rounds are pretty much indispensable are in single shots, especially break-open actions like side-by-side double shotguns or rifles, drillings, vierlings, and etc. Also in revolvers. In those cases, there is really no other practical way to properly control headspace, as anyone who ever tried to fire a Colt M1917 .45 ACP without the half-moon clips will tell you. Not to mention reliable extraction.

      The rimmed round is 19th Century technology, and works very well in 19th Century gun designs. 20th Century repeating and automatic feed systems aren’t too fond of it.



      • “The rimmed round is 19th Century technology, and works very well in 19th Century gun designs. 20th Century repeating and automatic feed systems aren’t too fond of it.”
        Anyway, it seems that adapting fed for rimmed for self-loading box-magazine shotgun is more popular than making rimless shot-shell (BTW: is shot-shells subset of cartridges XOR shot-shells and cartridges are disjoint?), see for example Saiga 20: http://modernfirearms.net/shotgun/rus/saiga-20-e.html

        • There’s a very nice source of rimless brass 12 guage, should anyone ever want such cases – .50 Browning MG was derived from 12 guage.

          Apart from rebated rims which were patented by Leslie Taylor, the manager of Westley Richards in the first decade of the twentieth century, and used in double rifles! And belts which again appeared in the first decade of the twentieth century.

          All of the head designs were nineteenth century

          That in itself does not and should not be taken as necessarily condemning them.

          Rimmed has a number of advantages in some systems of belt feed. It is only with box magazines that it can have problems.

      • Granted, rimmed cartridges are not the best choice for magazines. But as Bloke on the Range had shown recently, rim jams are not a real problem in Lee-Enfield actions.

        For belt and strip feed, rimmed rounds make rearward pulling nearly mandatory (although there are a few MG designs using forward striping with rimmed cases), which required 2 actions on the charging handle to load (and clear the gun). But this is not often seen as a noted disadvantage for some MG use reward pulling with rimless cases (like the Browning 1917, 1919 and M2)

        For single shot and break actions, I never understood why US makers designed complex extractors to cope with rimless rounds instead of simply using rimmed rounds as in Europe.

      • eon wrote:
        “Also in revolvers. In those cases, there is really no other practical way to properly control headspace, as anyone who ever tried to fire a Colt M1917 .45 ACP without the half-moon clips will tell you. Not to mention reliable extraction.”

        Only the earliest M1917s are bored straight through. Most will headspace on the case mouth, just like an auto. Extraction is still an issue, however, if you don’t want to poke individual empties out with a stick…

  3. Before you my only source of forgotten weapons is my best friend (who also lives in Tucson) and he was a huge fan french rifles. Basically he was my Forgotten weapons channel before there was an internet. I got to handle quite a few somewhat obscure stuff and his interests parallel yours. So what I learned about french firearms was that they were pretty good. Seeing your wall (which dwarfs my friends collection) but brought me back.
    I’ll be very interested in reading your book when you get around to completing it. Videos are one thing but written research is another thing completely.

  4. Re. L85 A2.
    I think I’m correct in saying that most cadet used bolt action L98A1 rifles have been converted into semi automatic L98A2 rifles. These rifles appear to have an auto sear hole which if I understand US firearms correctly means they would be illegal as considered automatic weapons.

    However as you say, a moot point as government policy is to destroy all small arms not passed on to other government organisations. http://tinyurl.com/lvwb9e9

  5. I am going to go ahead and put in an order for a copy of your book, so when you get it done, I want to be first in line!! I also have a large collection of French rifles (among a lot of others), and you and I have bid on many of the same auction rifles. When you do the video on the VZ-52, if you need ammo, let me know. I convert Bxn original brass cases for 7.62×45 to take large rifle primers so you can have sure fire reloadable Czech ammo. Keep up the good work Ian!!

  6. Nice display Ian – is that the Matrix Armory wall display system you featured not long ago?

  7. I’d read about possible import of ROK or Philippines surplus Garands through CMP now that we have a different president. Anyone heard anything more about this possibility?

  8. Re.: 42:00 Binary trigger systems – Does anybody make a version where the second shot does not happen “by itself” but where the trigger has to be pushed forward intentionally?
    That would alleviate the safety issues a bit…

    The closest I found was the “ULTIMATE Trigger Actuator” for the 10/22, but I was thinking of something a little more elegant, maybe with a ring trigger…

  9. One of the earliest condemnations that I have seen of French (and Italian) guns was in a gunsmithing book by McFarland.

    “When poor guns were made it was generally the French and Italians who made them”. Or words to that effect, I put the book on the second hand shelf at the local shoot a few years ago.

    I think that McFarland’s context was probably that the French rifles usually made an aesthetically poor basis for Bubba’s sporterising project, even though, correctly loaded, French Balle D and Balle M had far better ballistics than .30-06 and.30-06 M2.

    I still haven’t worked out the story of how Italian Carcano rifles came to get such an undeservedly low reputation.

    Part of the story may be the unscrupulous tactics of the dealers like Bannerman and Eton, selling guns as “Axis mausers” bending the bolt handles of full length rifles down in a vise, re- barrelling with cut off rifle barrels a using a dodgy threaded bush as a reinforce…

    The remainder I can only put down to propaganda, assumed American superiority, and projection.

    Springfield had had a major problem with metallurgy (a cursory look at the manufacture dates given in Hatcher, and of materials, shows that the problem was not as Hatcher suggests, one of war time, but extends back, probably well into the Krag & Jorgensen production, which used the same materials, heat treatment schedule and personnel)

    The logic appears to go something along the lines that if there were problems with what propaganda taught, was the bestest riflez in the bestest state evah, then it necessarily followed that inferior peoples must have had much worse problems..

    Just repeat endlessly, and it somehow becomes established as a received truth, in The absence of any better supporting evidence than say a Bubba suffering a kb when he tried to fire the wrong cartridge in the rifle.

    • “how Italian Carcano rifles came to get such an undeservedly low reputation”
      I also don’t know, but source for disdain against Arisaka system might be:
      which states that:
      The M1 rifle costs about $80 to build. It is semiautomatic. It has 8-shot clip. It has adjustable sights. It can shoot straighter and faster than standard rifles issued to the Japs and Germans.
      The M1903 (Springfield) proved itself against the Germans in the last war, and is still a masterpiece of rifle construction today. It is a high-precision weapon, with adjustable sights and an effective range of 600 yards
      The Jap has an Arisaka rifle. It has a shorter range than the M1 and M1903. It fires a lighter bullet. It has no windage scale. It is only fairly accurate beyond 500 yards.
      The Germans are equipped with the Karabiner 98. Like our Springfield it is bolt-operated, with a 5-shot clip. But it has no windage or elevation. It hasn’t the accuracy of American rifle.
      Your rifle should give you an advantage over the enemy. But actually, your rifle is no better than the man who shoots it. If you can’t shoot your rifle accurately, you might just as well meet the Axis with your bare fists.

      • If I recall, the usual Allied opinion of Imperial Japan was this: “Japan? You mean that island country of backwards-thinking yellow illiterate monkeys who can’t even do anything without STEALING our glorious technology? They’re just thieves, copycats, and medieval morons. I bet they can’t build a tank that ISN’T made of wood and paper.”

        Even the “awful” Type 94 Tankette was useful against colonial troops lacking anti-armor weapons (like quick-firing artillery and other tanks). In fact, the 56th Infantry Group Tankette Unit, which was a group of 8 Type 94’s, managed to curb-stomp over 1000 Dutch colonial troops in Java in a matter of one night and one morning without losing a single vehicle… or am I wrong?

        • “56th Infantry Group Tankette Unit, which was a group of 8 Type 94’s, managed to curb-stomp over 1000 Dutch colonial troops in Java in a matter of one night and one morning without losing a single vehicle”
          Alone or with help from infantry and/or artillery?

          • Apparently the underpowered and woefully under-gunned vehicles went on with very little infantry support and practically no artillery support (large caliber friendly fire is not appreciated by armored vehicles unless they are calling it to kill swarming tank hunters).

  10. There are a number of reasons for gain twist,
    It tends to be the other way around with projectiles that have very little bearing area; gain twist might be needed to prevent the driving band from stripping as it’s shear strength is exceeded.

    In present day small arms, gain twist is used with some of the specialist extremely high ballistic coefficient bullets, for example the Lutz Moeller .338 bullets that are around 100mm / 4″ long, and have very limited bearing surfaces.

    In the case of the Carcano, the reasoning seems to run, that because of the very hot burning ballistite type propellant, the small calibre and the fast twist necessary to stabilise the bullet,
    Gain twist would lessen the stresses experienced by the first few inches of rifling, which would otherwise be experiencing higher stresses and surface loading, due to the rapid acceleration due to that being the area where gas pressures and temperatures were highest.

    By using a gain twist, it was reasoned that bore wear could be spread more evenly along the bore, and result in a longer barrel life.

    In revolving breech, single barrelled canon, for example the ADEN, gain twist, starting at zero twist was used, as the projectile had already gained significant forward speed by the time it got into the forcing cone of the barrel.

    Gain twist could possibly provide longer barrel life where a freebore is used, for example with wetherby loadings.

    In each case, it is the rotational inertia of the bullet, rather than difficulty with engraving a long bearing surface, which is the reason.

  11. The Civilian Marksmanship Program in the U.S. MAY be authorized to receive (and thus to sell) sell surplus U.S. Military 1911 pistols. Legislation was passed in 2016 that allows this but the Secretary of the Army needs to approve it first.

  12. progressive rifling was worked on by the Germans in WW2 so that the barrels heated up uniformally over the entire length and resulted in 50% more life. They were made by hammering and tried on the MG34/42 barrels as well as the K43 so the cost was no more than a standard barrel

  13. My opinion of French most everything is that there is a lot of going out of their way to be different for the sake of being different. Delta wing fighters long past the point when the delta wing’s deficiencies were well-known; the language academy inventing faux-French words instead of borrowing from other languages (le weekend, le hot dog); heck, even the Japanese have no shame in borrowing from other languages. Yes, Germans and British and Russians had their own rifles, why not the French? I don’t say they shouldn’t, but it always seemed as if they would avoid using anything invented elsewhere, no matter how good: an extreme case of Not Invented Here.

    • The French worship of the French state…

      Unfortunately it goes back a long way and is deeply ingrained in not all, but still far too many French people.

      Louis quatorze, and his equally detestable first minister, Colbert, put the French language within the French state, under the academie francaise.
      The full extent of the French state’s control and cartelization of all aspects of life at that time is absolutely breathtaking; Rothbard gives a good flavour of it (its a chapter from an audio book​) https://mises.org/library/8-french-mercantilist-thought-17th-century

      The slowness, unresponsiveness and general malaise of anything state sector is well enough known. I may get my figures back to front here; it took the 56 members of Academie Francaise 40 years to compile and publish the French dictionary.*

      It took one man, Dr Johnson​, 8 years to compile the English dictionary, and there are about twice as many words in English as there are in French.

      The French faith in state sector solutions continued through and after the revolution. To the extent that revolution is probably the wrong word, coup d’etat would better describe what happened with first Robespierre’s crowd, then Napoleon’s, taking control of the levers of state coercion. The state wasn’t overthrown (they seldom are) it was taken over.

      Herbert Spencer relates that the differences between European trades unionists at the first European Congress of trades unionists in the nineteenth century, came down to the French delegates always assuming that a solution had to be a top down, state sector solution.

      My ability with languages is abysmal, I’m told by a tri+lingual Swiss friend, that Swiss French language is a lot more flexible and useable than society Francaise hobbled French

      And the same for all other emergent orders as well, science, technology, culture…

      * Ref: Herbert Spencer, the man against the state, over legislation.

      • You’re right: the “nanny state” is a problem in econnomy. It had led to some disaster in weapon manufacture in France.

        On the other hand, don’t be too harsh on french language.
        It would be very difficult to talk about firearms without words comming from “nanny state France”:
        Pistol / revolver / bullet /ammunition / arms / barrel / tube / receiver / front (as in front sight) / guard (as in handguard) / direct (as in direct impingement) / piston / carrier (as in bolt carrier)/ range……..



        P.S. same with science / technology /cilture / war ( 4 french origin words)

        • No disrespect at all intended to the French language.

          But complete and total disrespect towards Academie Francaise’ three centuries long attempt to impose coercive, top down, central planning on an inherently bottom up, distributed and emergent order.


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