Q&A #22: Travel and More

Whew – this was a long one! As usual, I had far more questions submitted by you awesome Patrons than I could answer, so if yours didn’t get in this time please submit it again next time.

0:00:52 – What have been my favorite or most enlightening trips abroad?
0:02:55 – Systems like Blish that work despite being based on faulty physics
0:05:30 – Gun stands and display blocks
0:08:18 – Window or aisle? Airline preferences?
0:11:54 – Specific future improvements in guns and ammunition
0:14:10 – 6mm Unified and the lack of modern SCHV military cartridges
0:16:06 – What is a “parts kit”, anyway?
0:20:52 – Plans to cover the Savage 99?
0:21:42 – Plans to re-film any of the older videos?
0:23:25 – 1930s French plans for a 9×66 machine gun

Recommended: Huon & Barreliers’ book on French machine guns

0:25:12 – Which are the most interesting combloc surplus pistols?
0:27:36 – Modernized SKS, yea or nay?
0:29:17 – War or battle where difference in small arms was decisive?
0:30:24 – Makeup of my gun collection
0:32:06 – Best TSA/Customs story from my traveling
0:34:35 – Ideas for a pre-1898 collection?
0:37:48 – Why have European nations abandoned small arms manufacture?
0:40:38 – Why metallic feed strips instead of belts?
0:43:21 – Thoughts on writing firearms reference books today
0:48:41 – What can the American firearms community learn from our international colleagues?
0:50:15 – Market for modernized historical firearms?
0:52:48 – Thoughts on the Ohio Ordnance HCAR
0:54:47 – Quad-stack or drum?
0:56:45 – What modern military rifle feature is unnecessary but still used?
0:58:19 – Should the US have retained the 1903 Springfield or switched to the 1917 Enfield?
0:59:42 – How often do I have trips get cancelled?
1:00:52 – Why 9×19 in all the Rhodesian guns?
1:02:21 – Why is the Browning High Power not modernized like the 1911?
1:04:18 – Did the British consider the m/31 Suomi?
1:05:42 – Guns I am content to not own?
1:07:28 – Mauser 1945 Volkspistole and HK VP70 similarities
1:08:56 – Channel demographics (age, gender, geography)
1:11:19 – Favorite and least favorite belt-fed semiautos?
1:14:30 – Folding guns for CCW
1:14:50 – Why semi-rimmed pistol cartridges?

I recommend this video on the subject.

1:15:18 – Gaseous propellents in place of gunpowder
1:15:52 – Collection military uniforms?
1:16:48 – Why the trend away from bullpup rifles?


    • After some search, I found that Breda Meccanica Bresciana have close ties with Mussolini (which was formally boss of ministry of aviation in 1930s) so they get a lot of orders. Interestingly, Breda first bought license from Hotchkiss for 13,2 mm and create own version (Breda Modello 31) which was magazine-fed, later they created 20 mm and 8 mm weapons which used metallic feed strips and also 37 mm if I understand this article correctly:

      • Also, after the Fiat Mod. 28 light machine gun was rejected by the Italian Royal Army, Fiat chose to leave small arms manufacturing completely. After that Breda and its subsidiary Breda-SAFAT were only manufacturers of rifle and larger caliber machine guns left in Italy. As to why the Mod. 28 was rejected may have had something to do with the Mussolini connection, but there were other reasons as well.

        • “After that Breda and its subsidiary Breda-SAFAT were only manufacturers of rifle and larger caliber machine guns left in Italy.”
          Not entirely or at least not for long, as there were Scotti-system machine guns and later auto-cannons made by Isotta Fraschini (firm mostly known for production of luxury cars in 1920s), Alfredo Scotti created operation system which was scale-flexible, initially creating 20 mm aviation auto-cannon, but then Mussolini (as head of ministry of aviation) said: no aviation auto-cannon, so Scotti developed smaller weapons, namely 7,7 mm machine gun and 12,7 mm machine gun (12,7x81SR cartridge).
          Later he would create 20 mm gun for AA gun, firing 20x138B Long Solothurn cartridge which would supplement 20 mm Breda Modello 35, English wikipedia has query:

    • Belt pull and lift were always important issues with belt fed MGs. And quite a few early ones didn’t have enough power in the mechanism to deal with the weight of 100-or-more round belts, hence the attraction of the lightweight 20-to-30-round feed strip.

      Also, Hotchkiss had already used the strip feed on their light and heavy MGs, and it was a proven technology. Breda may simply have gone for the low-risk approach. See the Italian Perino heavy machine gun of 1908/10 for an example of taking strip feed to the next level in terms of sustained-fire capability;


      Among other things, pouches of feed strips were a lot easier for the No. 2 and No. 3 in the gun team to lug around than belts;


      Then of course, at the time, most European armies were leery of belt fed MGs in their tanks (which were more machine gun carriers than anything else back then), because of the problems of dealing with belts in the close confines of a fighting compartment that probably wasn’t big enough to begin with.

      In this context, the strip feed, especially one like the Breda’s that stuck the empties back in the strip instead of just letting them fly, had some obvious attractions.



      • “leery of belt fed MGs in their tanks (…) like the Breda’s that stuck the empties back in the strip instead of just letting them fly, had some obvious attractions.”
        Yes, but Royal Army tank used another machine gun – Breda Modello 38, which was fed from box magazines.

        • Which with a shell catcher is another way of avoiding belt-feed problems. Although putting the box magazine on the ground gun and the strip feed on the tank gun would actually have made more sense.



          • No, it wouldn’t. The Mod. 37 strips take a lot more space horizontally than the magazines of the Mod. 38 take vertically. Tanks are cramped in both directions, but for example the L3/35 (CV-35) tankette was particularly cramped in width of the fighting compartment. It was positively tiny. Magazines are also easier to handle and change by a single man in cramped spaces. The Italian medium tanks also had a fairly unique double barrel hull machine guns, which would have been much more difficult to arrange ammo feeds from strips.

          • “Tanks are cramped in both directions, but for example the L3/35 (CV-35) tankette was particularly cramped in width of the fighting compartment. It was positively tiny.”
            Limited internal space also apply to many 1930s French tanks, like for example Renault R 35 (at least inside turret), French forces also opted for magazine-feed tank machine gun: http://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/france-machineguns/mac-m1931-eng/
            though of bigger capacity (150), different type (pan, multilevel) and sticking from side rather from top

    • It seems to me that the French 9mm machine gun was conceptually similar to the Italian and Swedish 8mm machine gun cartridges, but went even further by having a significantly larger caliber. The Breda Mod. 37 in 8×59mm was noted for having a greater effective range in the desert than the British .303 machine guns.

      • Municion is aware of three variants of 9×66 MAS experimental cartridge:
        and there is one photo with cartridge and one link, which suggest that there was some development of belt-fed 9×66 weapon in addition to mentioned infantry which used box magazine (sticking upwards) and aviation (which as I wrote was scaled up MAC 1934 up to pan magazine – as 9×66 version has capacity of 250 it was very big).
        Linked article airwar names following 9×66 cartridges:
        AP – 16 g bullet at 900 m/s
        TRACER – 21 g bullet at 780 m/s

  1. “6mm Unified”
    This cartridge was supposed to replace 7,62×54 R, it has more flat trajectory. Development of this cartridge started due to problems with development of “arrow-firing” cartridge, see 3rd photo from top, left half here: https://www.kalashnikov.ru/tulskij-karabiner/
    It was in development in 1960s, basically it is dwarf version of tank main gun ammunition (with sabot), due to problems with it in 1970 works started at “high ballistic classic construction cartridge 6 mm caliber” which will result in cartridge now known as 6 mm Unified. In early 1980s ГРАУ will decide in favor of that classic cartridge, rather than “arrow-thrower” despite successes in development of seconds.

  2. “Gaseous propellents in place of gunpowder”
    As side note: during development of XF-108 Rapier high-speed long-loitering jet-powered aeroplane, there was plan to utilize fact of high energy carried by hydrogenium (Element No. 1), however using pure hydrogenium was not feasible and thus compounds containing it were to be used, for more data see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zip_fuel
    (XF-108 project was canceled, as it was found too expensive)

    • When I was researching railguns and electrothermal guns for military applications, I became aware of an alternative research track in the field of liquid propellant guns. Although lots of effort has been put into investigating alternative propellant technologies, it is hard to compete with the high refined option of modern solid propellants.

      • The simplest way to use liquid monopropellants is to use a conventional metal or plastic cartridge case with electric ignition; think of it as a “bottle” full of liquid, rather than a granulated solid. Liquid monopropellants generally have higher energies per equivalent mass than smokeless powders, so a straight one-for-one replacement in a cartridge case should yield higher velocities.

        The major problems are related to storability. Hydrazine-based propellants, for instance, tend to corrode copper-based alloys, like cartridge brass. Also, some of the more powerful LMPs, such as tetranitromethane (TNM) are exquisitely shock, spark and everything-else-sensitive. Hint; if someone offers you 98% high-strength hydrogen peroxide (HTP) as a propellant, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit; it reacts with anything organic in spontaneous combustion. The peroxide in your medicine cabinet (disinfectant, hair bleach, etc.) is perfectly safe; it’s a 2% solution in H2O.

        Since caseless ammunition seems to be a dead issue (after seventy-five years of trying), the next actual practical step in “conventional” ammunition technology will probably be some form of plastic-cased round, either regular or “telescoped” (see “Plastic-Cased Telescoped Ammunition”, or PCTA).

        The latter design concept would seem to be a good fit for liquid propellant. With judicious selection of casing material, a Combustible PCTA might be feasible; use a casing that burns just enough slower than the propellant (in terms of nanoseconds) that it maintains breech seal until the propellant burn is almost over, and breech pressure is within safe limits for the next loading cycle.

        This might be applicable to very high fire rate weapons, by essentially eliminating the extraction/ejection phase of the firing cycle except for dealing with duds, plus unloading of course. Imagine a 20mm Vulcan cannon that fired 12,000 R/M instead of 6,000; a very practical idea for a naval CIWS.



  3. Another thing to consider regarding the question of British use of the Suomi SMG, is the fact Britain declared war on Finland on December 5th 1941!

  4. On the question of the usefulness of the collapsing stock. Having fought in Iraq in 2003-2004 carrying an M-16A2 with M203, I can tell you two places where the collapsing stock has a decided advantage over the regular stock. One is in use by armor and vehicle crewman. I was a Combat Hooker (Military Wrecker Drivers)(Army Tow Trucks) And the full sized rifle with M203 is a real issue in the smallish cab of the M987 Wrecker, especially when needing to keep it at the ready while driving in a convoy. The smaller M4 with the stock collapsed was a much more useful rifle in this role. The second place is in clearing buildings, where making the rifle shorter by collapsing the stock is very useful, and at indoor distances does not really have a downside on using the rifle.

    • You may not have realized it, but you just described perfectly why bullpup rifles were so popular during the Cold War. Would a bullpup rifle be better than an M4A1 with a collapsing stock? Probably not, at least in general sense, but both came about from the same set of practical requirements.

  5. The audience demographics that you reported were really interesting -skewed much younger and more international than I expected. My wife was surprised that so few women watched. She loves the show!

  6. on the Springfield 1903 verse the Enfield 1917 you over look one major point. The government already had to arsenals making Springfield 1903’s the tooling and gages and machines were already in place and the workforce knew how to make 1903’s. The government owed the 1903 design and would have had to pay royalties on the Enfield 1917’s. So all that cost had to be factored in to the decision on the rifles

  7. The British trialed the Suomi twice – once in September 1936 and again in October 1938. The first was the original Finnish M/31 and the Small Arms Committee gave it a very positive write-up, considering it to be the best weapon of its type. Details were forwarded to the General Staff of the Army, who were not in 1936 interested in adopting a submachine gun.

    The second time was the Estonian Suomi with a 50-round casket magazine. Once again the gun was praised but the casket mag received the most interest. The SAC asked RSAF Enfield to design a similar magazine for the Bren gun, although to my knowledge this was never actually done. Once again any proposals to adopt the Suomi or a weapon similar to it were shot down by the Army General Staff.

    So there you have it. The Small Arms Committee were genuinely quite interested in submachine guns and tested a lot of them before 1939, but any attempt to investigate them further was blocked by the General Staff. Trials actually were arranged in March 1938 to compare the Suomi to various other European designs but these trials were ultimately cancelled.

    • The GS reacted the same way to the American Thompson, the Erma MP, the Beretta M1938, and really any SMG that SAC trialed. Why? The GS was adamant that the British army would not use “gangster weapons”. Never mind that at the time, the IRA was using any SMGs they could acquire very effectively vs. the R.I.C.

      The GS was apparently overly influenced by American Warner Bros. and RKO gangster movies, just as in the 1990s American politicians were overly influenced by TV shows like “Miami Vice” in drafting “assault weapon” bans.

      The moral of course is that you should never let Hollywood determine your policies.



      • To be fair, nearly every Army underestimated the usefulness of SMGs prior to WW2. For example the Germans manufactured only one MP 38 or MP 40 for each Kar98k and never issued more than one SMG per squad for regular infantry. Motorized infantry and paratroopers eventually got a little more, but only when also the MP 43 / StG 44 was already entering service.

        The Italian Royal Army, which was another early adopter of the SMG in WW1, didn’t adopt the Beretta Mod. 38A until December 1941 for regular infantry and paratroopers. Before that only the Carabinieri and the PAI (The Italian paramilitary police force in North Africa) had SMGs.

        The Soviets issued more SMGs during WW2 than any other nation, but in 1939 they had only a few thousand SMGs and the formations send to invade Finland had none.

        • “Soviets issued more SMGs during WW2 than any other nation, but in 1939 they had only a few thousand SMGs and the formations send to invade Finland had none.”
          One note, particularly regarding PPD, but also other 1920s-1930s sub-machine guns: they were not cheap.
          Prices for RKKA weapons and equipment can be found here:
          for 1938 and 1939 years, in terms of 1939 years pieces for some items:
          sub-machine gun PPD pattern 1934/38 years with spare parts kit 900
          machine gun 7,62 mm “DP” with spare parts kit 1150
          7,62 mm rifle pattern 1891/30 years with spare parts kit 166
          self-loading rifle “SV”[T – possibly missing] 2000
          automatic rifle “Simonov” with spare parts kit 900
          machine gun “Maxim”, without mount, with spare parts kit 1760
          Now you can compare prices, also notice difference between Tokarev and Simonov rifles.

      • The whole “gangster weapons” thing is overblown a bit, I feel.

        First, it’s worth noting that the first use of the term “gangster gun” in this context was in the SAC’s report on the Suomi in September 1936, which was largely positive. Quote: “This (the Suomi) is probably one of the best ‘gangster’ weapons we have ever seen”. The term never appeared in British reports before that date. It was the SAC, who were proactive in investigating submachine guns, that coined the term, not the General Staff of the Army.

        The context in which the term was used was not really derogatory, it was more to do with the fact that the term “submachine gun” had not caught on in Europe. Before the term “gangster gun” was used, the Army previously referred to guns of this type as “machine gun pistols”, which obviously doesn’t roll of the tongue. “Machine carbine” came into parlance in the late 30s.

        The General Staff’s opposition to the use of submachine guns wasn’t really influenced by movies and criminals so much as it was to do with the caliber that they were chambered in. This attitude stems back to World War I, when in September 1918 the SAC tested the Bergmann MP18 and asked the GS whether they would be interested in a similar, British-made weapon. The GS were, quite simply, put off by the ballistic performance of the MP18. They thought that the use of body armor could easily negate 9mm rounds. They were also unsure of how such a weapon would be issued, as it had no place in a rifle company. You have to remember that British infantry doctrine, up to 1940, largely centered around precise volleys of rifle fire. This was explicitly stated in the GS’s response to the SAC’s MP18 inquiry.

        Quote: “No ‘pistol gun’ resembling this particular German weapon is required in the British Army since it is apparently designed as a substitute for rifles and auto rifles and this violates the principles already stated in this minute”.

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