Q&A 43 (feat. Jonathan Ferguson): Military Wing of the Campaign for Beautiful Rifles

Thanks to Jonathan Ferguson for joining me today to answer our second-to-last question! You can still preorder his upcoming book, Thorneycroft to SA80: British Bullpup Firearms 1901-2020 at Headstamp Publishing.

00:20 – My most unfortunate haircut
00:46 – Why do modern rifle cartridges still have a slight taper?
01:38 – What do I say to critics who say I’m wrong or a jerk?
04:04 – Rimfire .22 rifles that are both bolt action and semiauto
06:00 – If WW1 continued into 1919, how would the Pedersen device have been adapted to field conditions?
07:48 – Backlog of Zastava videos?
08:39 – Is the FG-42 more like a rifle or an LMG?
10:45 – Carcano, Ross, or Steyr?
13:37 – Favorite pistol-caliber lever action rifle?
14:41 – Filming my own guns that I have bought or had built
17:57 – Rifle-caliber blowback designs
20:26 – Rechambering historical rifles for which original ammo is unavailable
22:32 – Concealing serial numbers when filming guns
24:50 – European military surplus in the Old West?
27:13 – Post-production audio editing
27:44 – Three-gun choices to place last but have fun (Bren semiautoGreener Martini)
30:17 – The Campaign for Beautiful Rifles has taken mom family hostage… (Pedersen rifle)
32:40 – Most interesting provenance of a gun I have filmed (Ferguson rifle)
33:59 – How do I know when the literature on a subject is wrong?
35:32 – When does a belt fed become more effective than a magazine fed LMG?
36:58 – What are the three threaded holes on the M1919 rear sight bracket for?
38:45 – How was .300 Savage involved in development of 7.62x51mm NATO?
41:15 – British semiauto rifle development before WW2 (answered by Jonathan Ferguson of the Royal Armouries)
48:36 – Have I ever “rage quit” a competition or event?


  1. What do you say to critics who have nothing but insults for you? “Thanks and have a nice day.” Don’t start a flame war. But I could be wrong.

  2. How many rounds would have to be fired with a M16 to have a cherry red barrel? How long could it be effectively fired after that point. Did wet rags change its accuracy when used to cool it down? Would the barrel become misshaped witn the extreme change in temperature making the gun inoperable? How many soldiers burned their hands on cherry red barrels in the heat of battle?

    • Thank you for that info, I have never heard of that firearm before. I have been fascinated by straight blowback firearms in rifle calibers for a long time but I have not seen many successful designs and even the unsuccessful ones have limited info like the Teterycz, m20 (George Ingram design) and the shpagin automatic rifle. When info is available it has conflicting data like in the bolt mass of the Gustloff Volksturmgewher that Ian references. I have seen bolt masses ranging 1.5kg (3.3lbs. http://www.kalashnikov.ru/medialibrary/44a/020_026.pdf) from russian sources to over 5 pounds like from Ian. I am sure it can be both, as both are plausible bolt velocities for a blowback firearm, but does anyone know the actual bolt mass from the production guns?

    • Mind blowing… With 50 centimeters barrel and 8 grammes of bullet through one half base to neck diameter ratio, 7.62 x57 cartridge needs at least 2700 grammes of bolt weight for an ensured 2 milimeters free blowback… This Teterycz closed firing smg should have some additional features over pure blowback… It might have no extractor and deeper chamber than usual… Or some other… IMHO…

        • Gun Wiki Daewo references, states, Teterycz depended upon heavy recoil springs…

          Recoil springs under inertia, as shrinking instantly alongside, should not demostrate their support to the recoiling bolt at least within a couple of milimeters through initial blowback… They might pick their compression at backgoing distances and soften the recoil impact according to their elasticy… This second phase might occur before or after a possible empty case ruining…

          • I think this Teterycz mg should be first and foremost observed as a prototype from desperate people that did not have means and knowledge to produce different working design, and not as a viable example of blowback mg, if that is even possible.

            Ians knowledge is kinda vague, as he mentions VG 1-5 and then mixes it with rebated rim delayed automatic cannons like Oerlikon, Becker, mk108 etc.
            but he is not an expert on every possible thing and often replys these questions he is not very well versed into in not 100% satisfactory way.

        • Strongarm, a bolt mass of 4500 grams is pretty close to the 4 to 5kg that Max Popenker once quoted on his sight for a blowback full power round. Also that is around what I get with the conservation of momentum equation. Using those inputs (220/7000*.72*2600)/(12*.5)=9.8 lbs or approximately 4.4 kg. This assumes a 198 grain bullet, 44 gr. powder charge (probably too low but this is off of memory), an average velocity that is roughly .72 x the max velocity of 2600 fps, an average bolt velocity of 12 fps and an internal case diameter twice that of the bore. Storm, a bolt of around 5lbs. is possible if you use the same equation that I did above. (135/7000*.72*2250)/(12*.5)=5.2 lbs, it could be 6 or more if 12 fps of average bolt velocity is too much. So technically both figures, 3.3 and 6 could be correct. That is probably why reproduction volksturmgewhers weigh 1 kg or more than the original, more bolt mass to slow the opening. Also thanks Daweo, I have another blowback lmg to research. Finally Dave, while I agree that the wsl cartridges are straight walled I do not know if they are sedate per say, 200 gr at almost 2150 fps is nothing to sneeze at. That isn’t to far behind a 200gr. .308. Anyway this is why I love this sight, so much knowledge.

          • Thanks for your interest Dan… Easiest way computing bolt weight for an ensured two milimeters unsupported free case blowback is to use the Newton’s third formula as replacing velocity with its equality of distance divided time… Since time for both sides should be equal as the bullet travelling time from rifled section to muzzle, it should be deleted for both sides and distance remains as the value for rifled bore for right and two milimeters for the left side… It should be necessary to multiply the case base to neck areas ratio with generated recoil momentum as resulting the unknown necessary bolt weight… I hope my statement being needed clearity…

          • @Dan,
            Iirc, Ian commented on original VG 1-5 firing video (or some other, but original gun) that bolt is 6 pounds, that was not a repro. This is not a case of different computations.

            It is true that german company that makes repro guns like Stg has this, also VG 1-5 in its catalogue called BD 1-5 and it is 1kg heavier (however Ive not seen any youtube video or forum post that reviews it so I dont know if was sold to anyone actually).
            But we do not have data on gunlabs repro and if it is also heavier.

            Bear in mind what I’ve said, that steel tubing of given size has limits in theoretical weight.

          • VG 1-5 rifle, with original 38 centimeters barrel, using 7,9×33 kurz cartridge having 8 grams of bullet and 1,72 base / neck areas ratio, needs a bolt weight of 2410 grams for ensured two milimeters unsupported initial blowback… The gas ram system it has, considerably should reduce the bolt recoiling speed and this value would fall in half, approximately to 1200 grams… IMHO.

          • “(…)if they are sedate per say, 200 gr at almost 2150 fps is nothing to sneeze at. That isn’t to far behind a 200gr. .308.(…)”
            So lets compare it with then used rifle cartridge: namely for U.S. Krag rifles i.e. .30 Army, https://naboje.org/node/3564 states that it launched 14,08 g at 600 m/s. After conversion to your units it gives 217.2876 at 1968.50393700787. This mean .401 cartridge has both bigger muzzle momentum and muzzle energy.
            More importantly existence of Winchester 1910 is evidence that using such blow-back action, cartridge like .401 could be harnessed, not that heavier cartridge could not be harnessed with it.

          • Sorry, I had to reply to myself as I could not reply to the comments after mine. Thanks Strongarm for the information and yeah your comment makes sense. I have always used bolt velocity instead of recoil distance as that is what the books I have used. Its intriguing to be getting similar results. Also Storm, undoubtably the Teterycz should be considered just a one off designed, much like those blowback rifles https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/09/15/drug-cartel-diy-open-bolt-automatic-rifles/, by someone that did not have all the tooling or knowledge available, still nonetheless fascinating and useful if one wants to understand physics better. Anyway as I said, both 3.1lbs and about 6 pounds can both be correct as http://www.kalashnikov.ru/medialibrary/44a/020_026.pdf says 1.4kg (3.1lbs) while the ones that Ian has access to could of been 6. I fully trust Ian with what he says, just that the source I linked gives another answer. I am trying to find out why. Of course the discrepancy in mass that I am noting could just be a translation issue. Maybe the bolt proper weighs 3.1 lbs. while the rest of the extension with the plug which helps contain the gas adds the 3 lbs to make it 6? A lot of questions for me at least. I wish I had more access to Russian (USSR at the time) documents on the VG1-5. As for API, the Oerlikon is still a blowback weapon, it just uses momentum and inertia to its advantage. I get why he mentioned it, the question was about production firearms, and besides oerlikon cannons are awesome. I wish he would do another video on an oerlikon instead of the short four facts video he did awhile ago. Once again thank you for the information everyone and I hope that I am not coming across as nitpicky. I am just trying to understand the physics of it all and the easiest way of doing that is by looking at real world examples.

    • 1, Agreed, The Swedish weapon you are probably thinking of is the 40mm L56 Bofors
      2, Yes, the WW2 gun was chambered in 20 X 110 mm

  3. Some (many? all?) of the first production Pedersens weren’t serviceable. They would have been withdrawn (or discarded in the field) until a fix came through. But even then, they were just further evidence that John Pedersen was maybe a tad too ingenious for his own good. A .45 cal MP18 would have worked better.

    • Okay, so the Pedersen device may not have been a great idea, but I’m pretty sure NOBODY in the US Army would want to copy the MP18. It was a matter of national PRIDE that American soldiers would be issued EXCLUSIVELY American gear (the only shameful exception to this was the issue of the Chauchat, owing to the Army’s rejection of procuring Lewis guns or refusal to buy another batch of Benet-Mercie machine rifles). More likely, the top brass in the US Army Ordnance Corps would rather issue the Thompson Annihilator than admit that a foreign product was better than the Pedersen device. “Inferior to some Hun’s overly pampered broomstick that could go off if you smacked it with a frying pan? Nonsense! We’re just reevaluating our options.”

        • I didn’t include pilots. You can blame the lack of war plane development for this problem. Especially when pacifist parties demanded “no weapons of terror” and the use of airplanes to “grenade innocent people” supposedly counted as unforgivable terrorism… yes, this is an exaggeration.

          • Okay, you got me. Maybe I should have specified that American INFANTRY would carry MOSTLY American gear. If you were an American general, would you authorize the reverse-engineering of an enemy sub-machine gun (which could be rather tricky if one were to force it to fire .45 ACP as opposed to the original 9×19 Parabellum) or would you spur similar weapons development to counter it while making the product DEFINITELY American? I can’t imagine any unit commander specifically ordering his soldiers to loot German corpses for intact examples of the MP18, just to get back to the original argument.

          • “(…)American INFANTRY would carry MOSTLY American gear(…)”
            Doubtful. https://modernfirearms.net/en/military-rifles/bolt-action-rifles/u-s-a-bolt-action-rifles/p14-m1917-us-enfield-eng/ states that most of the American troops in Europe were actually armed with M1917 rifles. which itself was British development. Also usage of F1 hand grenade should not be ignored. Also it is worth noting that U.S. forces tried to use own hand grenades https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mk_1_grenade but they blatantly failed to work as intended, so this might actually cool-down advocates of “product DEFINITELY American”. Finally keep in mind that not so long ago people responsible for armaments undertook actions which resulted US Rifle, .30 caliber, M1903, whose similarity to Mauser design was not coincidental.

          • Well, okay, but if we consider Ed’s original post, which involves tossing the Pedersen Device out as a concept and issuing MP18 knock-offs chambered for .45 ACP to American troops, would it not be better to take a different approach altogether? After all, capturing a gun does not automatically mean that you have also magically obtained the process knowledge of how to manufacture the gun! It was already suggested that combat shotguns (like the Winchester and Remington “Trench Guns”) were just about as effective as sub machine guns in cramped trench conditions, assuming they were fed brass-hull shot-shells. I could be wrong.

          • “(…)tossing the Pedersen Device out as a concept(…)”
            Anyway, you will stay with still lot of .30-18 cartridges ready.

            “(…)would it not be better to take a different approach altogether?(…)”
            J.M.Browning was working at weapon firing cartridge developed from .30-18, though exact date of development start remain unknown. See 1st image from top here: https://www.historicalfirearms.info/post/174159467554/the-30-18-browning-autoloading-rifle-the-first

            “(…)combat shotguns (like the Winchester and Remington “Trench Guns”)(…)”
            Which were simple adaptations of existing hunting weapons – like bayonet lug added, shield added, but no cardinal changes inside. Acting accordingly with cartridge of pistol power level, would probably result in issuing Winchester Model 1905 with bigger magazine and other improvements deemed useful at that time. Note around 1919 Winchester was examining feasibility of reworking said weapon to fire .45 Auto, which resulted in crafting at least 1 prototype, see: https://armourersbench.com/2019/09/29/winchester-model-1905-45acp-conversion/

  4. Re bolt action .22s and new shooters, it’s a lot easier to load one round into a bolt action than a semi-auto. If the shooter is the same height as the rifle, they’ll be excited just to push a single round into the chamber.

  5. 30:17 – The Campaign for Beautiful Rifles has taken mom family hostage…

    I guess I’m a fan of ugly guns…

    MAS Mle. 1936
    M1 Garand
    Mosin-Nagant M1891-30
    General Liu?

    M1895 Lee Navy?
    M1893 Mannlicher Carbine?
    Chilean Mauser Model 1895?
    M1904 Portuguese Mauser-Vergeiro?
    M1911 Schmidt-Rubin straight pull?
    Krag Jørgensen?
    Steyr 1912 Mauser 7x57mm?
    M1 carbine?
    Type 39/Model 1905 Arisaka?
    Siamese Mauser?
    Mauser improved Model of 1918–only a sporter?

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    A “beautiful rifle” to me is the Remington rolling block single shot…

    If by “beautiful” we have to have a wood-stocked, blued steel self-loading rifle, then make mine the 1922 Søren Hansen Bang 6.5x55mm seven-shooter, with a bolt that is not broke… Or Julian Hatcher’s brother James’ variant made up for the self-loading rifle trials… Or Garand’s primer-actuated self-loader with the right kind of ammunition, not the crimped primer stuff…

    Define terms please! Personally, I think the M1 carbine is attractive, but not the Garand or the SVT-40…Ugly, ponderous guns. But any of those three would be fine with me, as would the MAS Mle. 1936!
    Swedish Mauser
    Pelo self-loading rifle?
    Armaguerra M39?
    Scotti Mod.X?

  6. The shirt is the wrong color …
    Hairstyle in the wrong format …
    Whiskey of the wrong brand …

    It is unlikely that too much attention should be paid to all sorts of idiots who receive 99% of all their knowledge on the net.
    And a large part from this on Forgotten Weapons. LOL

    Only the one who does nothing is not mistaken.
    I come here for information about interesting rarities.
    And I am quite satisfied.
    And all the little things are just little things.

    Yen is the best!

  7. Oh, so you own Vg 1-5 repro !
    Can you put its bolt on a scale and post a pic ?
    I’m finding it hard to believe in 6 pounds.

    Whats with gunlab, (and repros) why is that project turning almost into HMG Stg, judging by timeframe ?

    • The bolt weight of an original specimen of so-called VG1-5 is 1.418 kg, including the gas cylinder that moves with it. Complete weight with empty magazine is 4.7 kg. Bundeswehr has one in its technology collection at Koblenz.
      To avoid confusion: its blowback with gas delay, not simple blowback.

          • You did ?
            Sorry I’m asking, its because I became so sceptic from all the conflicting data posted online

        • Storm, it was taken apart and weighed by someone I know.
          I thought writing “Bundeswehr has one in its technology collection at Koblenz.” would have sufficed to indicate where the figures came from.

          • There is a russian article with similar numbers, so I thought maybe it came from there, as after same bs repeating over and over again I was starting to not believe one could have access to some other verified data.

      • Thanks for this information JPeelen! I should of scrolled further down in the comments section before I made my last reply. Very true that it does have a gas delay mechanism though until the bullet reaches those ports it is blowback which means the entire bolt has to heavy enough to delay case head failure until those ports are reached. So it is nearly 80% blowback.

  8. I was under the impression the Schwarzlose heavy machine gun was a blowback design, albeit requiring the use of a cartridge oiler. Being an HMG, a heavy bolt was no problem.

    • My link works, but as a second test the window sticks worse than an EM-2 with bad ammo. I have an ancient MacBook, but even I should be able to watch old stuff on here.

  9. Not a blowback but not having a locked breech either is the M39 (and Brit/French versions) 20mm revolver cannon.

    The Oerlikon 20mm system is a balanced jewel.

  10. I have seen a reference to a Japanese WWII last-ditch LMG in rifle caliber, with illustration. The book was “Small Arms of the World” 6th ed 1946. From memory, the guns were quite functional and less than 200 were made.

  11. With the 1853 Enfield’s use on both sides of the Civil War, I’d be surprised if it didn’t see use in the west…

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