Q&A 56: Travel, Elbonian Snipers, and Contradictions

It’s Q&A time again! The last one for 2021…here’s to hoping 2022 is a better year for everyone.

0:00:00 – Introduction
0:00:21 – My passport, and customs
0:01:54 – What countries would I like to visit?
0:04:46 – How much FR-F2 practice did I have before Desert Brutality?
0:06:07 – Why not half-brass rifle or pistol ammo, like in shotguns?
0:07:46 – Why aren’t there more closed bolt SMGs?
0:09:40 – Why no more hexagonal barrels?
0:10:53 – Forgotten Weapons videos on Amazon
0:12:27 – “Economical” machine guns
0:17:28 – FN49 in different calibers
0:19:07 – Sniper rifles for Elbonia
0:21:25 – Was there an 8mm Lebel Maxim gun?
0:23:59 – Details on Ethiopian Oddities
0:26:54 – Some WWSD complaints mirroring original M16 complaints
0:29:36 – What rifle *should* France have made for new smokeless powder?
0:31:13 – Choice for a 2-Gun match: Carcano, Enfield, Arisaka
0:33:25 – Why wasn’t the CETME AMELI more common?
0:34:31 – A gun I have been searching for unsuccessfully
0:37:32 – Why not smaller cartridges with more powerful powder?
0:40:02 – Seemingly contradictory good guns (M3 vs PPSh-41)
0:44:11 – How does stamping allow cheaper metals?
0:47:03 – Match for revolvers and single shot rifles
0:50:04 – Pedersen vs Johnson if there was no Garand
0:52:40 – “Not real” actions like Blish…and API
0:54:57 – Printed magazines for very rare guns?
0:57:14 – Which will be dropped first, 9mm or 5.56mm?
0:59:27 – Biggest military lesson form World War One?
1:02:06 – Did Simonov see an RSC rifle?
1:03:13 – Unlimited ammo from Santa: what caliber and for what guns?


  1. I value your work and would like to regularly donate one-off amounts to Forgotten Weapons but not commit to a regular payment. Is there a method to donate on this basis, please?

  2. The 8mm Lebel is an excellent cartridge design for single shot falling block or rolling block type rifles. Not well thought out for repeaters. Ballistically middle of the pack for military cartridges of the same era. The French seem to have learned a lot about cartridge design when they developed the 7.5mm cartridge to replace the Lebel. Any thoughts?

  3. Remember the 8mm Lebel was the gras cartrige necked down and loaded with smokeless powder. A stop gap project to get a high velocity repeating rifle into the troops hands and keep the germans on the far side of the Rhine

    • At the cost of hobbling French small arms design for decades to come…

      There’s cost, and then there is “opportunity cost”. The French paid a truly massive price for that “first to field” achievement, and arguably could be said to have actually crippled their small arms development until after WWI.

      Colonel Rubin wasn’t that far behind them, with the 7.5 Swiss, which remained on issue until the 1970s. Had the French not gone for the “fast and cheap”, how much better armed would they have been for WWI? How many lives would have been saved, with better arms, and (perhaps…?) better tactics developed to go with them? I think one has to at least consider that the French tactics were driven by what their weapons were capable of, and if you’ve got a “not-so-good” basic infantry rifle, then maybe you kinda-sorta have to rely on “elan” and the bayonet?

      It would be interesting to run a counter-factual historical test, were such a thing possible, to compare the outcome of the French patiently developing a good smokeless powder cartridge with what actually transpired, historically. We can’t answer that question, except speculatively, but… I suspect that at least some of the charnel-house effect of WWI would have turned out differently.

      Consider just the developmental costs accrued to trying to make magazines work with the 8mm Lebel; were they developing for something like the 7.5 Swiss, then those issues would have evaporated, and they could have spent more time on making the mechanisms work more reliably on all their machine guns and semi-auto rifles. It’s possible that they might have gotten the semi-auto rifle out into general service before WWI, even. Not necessarily likely, but a hell of a lot more possible

        • If they hadn’t had to screw around with deciding what cartridge to use…?

          That was the point I meant to make–The opportunity cost slowed them down, because they had to recapitulate the cartridge design/selection process along with the rifle design. If they’d simply had to design a semi-auto rifle to an existing standard-issue cartridge, it would have sped things up considerably, and reduced the risk at the same time–No worries about having to change out cartridges -and- rifles; if the semi-auto rifle didn’t work out, or was hard to produce, the existing bolt-action (or, whatever they’d chosen back in the late 1880s…) would have continued to work just fine, for the mass of the infantry.

          No matter how you cut it, the 8mm Lebel was a really premature thing, and a poor design to boot. As someone said, it a was a decent cartridge for something like a single-shot trapdoor design, but… Not for anything modern, with a magazine.

          • The British made the same fundamental mistake with the .303 Enfield cartridge. Followed by the Russians with the “Three Line” Nagant aka 7.62 x 54R.

            The United States wasn’t far behind, adopting the .30 Krag based on the Danish 8 x 58Rmm.

            What makes it all that much more idiotic is that by 1888, the 8 x 57 Patrone 88 and 7.65 x 53 Mauser rounds were ready for service as well as being marketed commercially. They could simply have looked at what DWM was doing and figured it out.

            In the 1920s the British came very close to finally getting it right, with the .303 Magnum developed by W.J. Jefferey & Co. in 1919. They simply took the .276 round for the Pattern 14 and necked it up to .303, using standard .303 bullets. The result was basically similar to the .30-06, although with somewhat higher velocity with each bullet weight.

            Looking at the specifications in Cartridges of the World (6th ed), I would say that simply rechambering and changing the extractor would be all that was required to convert a 0.303in weapon to the new rimless round. It would certainly have improved matters for the RAF along about June to September 1940.

            Having eight 0.303in Brownings firing 1,100 R/M each on your Hurricane or Spitfire sounds great. Until you learn that at least three of them are going to jam due to the rimmed cartridges. Every single sortie.



      • At this point, my question would be concerned with out of touch bureaucrats getting involved and saying “Use whatever is available as cheap as possible.” Said Bureaucrats have always handicapped the best interests of National defense and military procurement and have provided very uninformed reasons for their decisions. Interesting that the 7.5×54 has a strong resemblance to the 7.5×55 Swiss and the 8×57 Mauser rounds in the final accepted form and really finally gave France a decent service cartridge.

      • I think you’re being too generous, for two reasons.

        First, considering whether “French tactics were driven by what their weapons were capable of,” I think that overcompensation would have required acknowledging the problem. On the contrary, history seems to indicate that the Lebel (like the superb 75 and Hotchkiss, but also the Chauchat, etc.) was a point of national pride rather than an accepted shortcoming.

        Second, while either extreme makes it difficult to rearm – coming off a total war with huge sunk costs; or a pacifist period with emphasis on domestic (or reduced) spending – the turn of the century was the optimum opportunity had they been so inclined. Decades without a peer conflict, but with the ever-present threat (and desire, given the loss of territory and prestige) keeping budgets up, not to mention the opportunity for testing on the fringes of empire.

      • French military development in smallarms is truly hydra-headed. First to rush in and develop a smokeless powder propellant, but then use it in, as stated here and elsewhere, on a crazy reworked Gras cartridge case tied to a Kropatschek rifle mechanism… Then task designers with some impossible criteria: if anything is to replace the 1886/93 rifle, it has to be orders of magnitude “better” in one or another regard… Like a self-loading rifle mechanism, for instance… So unbeknownst to most, small arms designers knock out a raft of innovative small-caliber cartridges, direct gas-impingement, etc. But anything actually issued is based on über-conservative tried-and-true criteria: The CSRG Mle. 1915 must use the 8x50mmR cartridge, which is a huge handicap and hurdle, and it has to use the long-recoil principle because the only commercially successful self-loading rifles are either long-recoil or blowback operated… Even though there’s a lot of promising research out there, much of it by French technicians and engineers!

        As far as I can tell, the M1907/15 rifle is selected bause, a) it uses the by-now very dated 8x50mmR cartridge and b) is far cheaper to build in vast quantities… Even here, why decide to build the Tirailleur Senegalais variant as the new standard rifle? Why not a handy “short rifle” based on the Indochinois variant? Lighter and better balanced rifle, far handier for trench warfare, possibility to be used by infantry and cavalry and what-have-you, follows the U.S. and British “short rifle” concept, which they surely were aware of, and saves some materials and resources.

        I think that victory in WWI convinced the French army that ad-hoc improvisations were “good enough” and that they didn’t need to have the “best” or even necessarily “better” gear and weapons. Arguably they had the most sophisticated artillery arm by the late war era, and all-crew-served-all-the-time seemed to have crept into their mindset. Small arms seem to have very much taken a secondary or even tertiary importance as far as development and funding went…

        If I was blessed with fluency in the French language, an imposing placement from St. Cyr, and a raft of excellent references and transported through time to offer recommendations to the French military on the eve of the horrors of WWI, I’d have twisted arms and done ample bureaucratic infighting to ensure that some reasonably simple and robust repeating rifle, a manually-operated bolt action, a straight-pull bolt action, or even a self-loading repeater, even if it was not as “reliable” as the Gras rifle, in 7.65x53mm “Argentine/Belgium” caliber. If they powers-that-were could not countenance or stomach the thought of a Mauser bolt-action, then by god, pick the Louis D’Audetau Indochine short-rifle in 6.5mm Daudetau and by jove and by jingo spend the money on Hotchkiss now, not later, and start producing those things with wild abandon… Oh. And lose the bright red hammer pants now…! But, of course, history is littered with “20-20 hindsight” and “shoulda, woulda, might-have, could-have,” possibilites and “paths not taken…”

    • The shape of the Lebel cartridge brass was dictated by the desire to obtain easy extraction and to reduce the risk of brass breakage with new powder, which gives a rapid jump in pressure.
      Along the way (along with the design of the bullet), this made it possible to create one of the most accurate (if not the most) gross service ammunition in history.

      And as for the “shortsightedness” of the French in hasty acceptance, this is understandable.
      The military always wants the best, and immediately. But politicians never want to allocate funding for these “games.”
      Therefore, if funding has already been “knocked out”, then it should be used immediately and in full. Because “anything that is not done immediately will never be done.”
      After all, a new ammunition, it also means a new weapon for it. And this is long and expensive.
      Any military innovation gives an advantage only as long as it is not copied by the enemy.

  4. Couple of issues I’d like to address…

    One, about the AMELI: I think that the issues that weapon had come down to one thing, which is that the 5.56X45 NATO isn’t a cartridge whose pressure characteristics lend it to working well with recoil-operated weapons, particularly roller-delayed or -locked recoil weapons. HK has historically been the only company to manage it, and those weapons did not do well in the international market, for varying reasons. Everyone else has experienced “issues” with that type of action with that cartridge–The Swiss/Italian effort that predated the AR-70 and the SIG 540 were roller-delayed actions, and even SIG working with Beretta couldn’t make that work.

    I would call that a “clue”.

    I loved the idea of the AMELI, I still love the looks of the thing, but… Man, is that the wrong action to try to convert to 5.56mm, just based on the historical record. If I remember what I read about it, they tried basically downsizing the MG42 action, then had to go from that to more of an HK-style lock system because the downsized MG42 action wasn’t working well with the cartridge. So, call it “cursed by design”, because that’s essentially what it is. I think the pressure curves and other characteristics of the 5.56mm round basically require a rotary-bolt mechanism, and apparently, a gas-operated one. Everything else seems to be either too unreliable in that caliber, or too expensive to produce.

    The other thought I have is that answering the real “What Would Stoner Do” question would likely result in a 7.62X51 NATO rifle like the AR-10. Stoner was not particularly fond of 5.56X45, and from what reading I’ve done, it was Sullivan and other Armalite employees who actually turned the AR-10 design into the AR-15. Sooooo… I’m not really sure we ought to be crediting Stoner with all that we do, regarding the AR-15.

    There’s a whole swathe of “lost knowledge” about the ergonomic design and who should get responsibility for it, with both the AR-10 and the AR-15. There’s really very little to criticize, from a human engineering standpoint, for either weapon. About the only real criticism I’ve got would be the lack of ambidextrous controls from the start, and that the bolt hold-open ought to have been a stirrup-shaped affair accessible from either side of the receiver, along with the mag release. Magazine could have been designed a bit more robustly, as well, along with being made a 30-round design from the start. Might also have been wiser to design the magazine well in such a way that you could use drum magazines effectively or more easily adapt it to belt feed, but that’d just be gravy. Overall, the human engineering on the Stoner weapons just puts the vast majority of the Cold War-era weapons in the shade, and the irony is, I don’t really know who to credit for that. I’ve been through the sources, and the entire issue is just opaque as hell–There aren’t any preliminary engineering studies or models that we have which show the evolutionary sourcing for how they decided to do what they did, and from the looks of the literature, the whole of the design sprang forth from someone’s head, as Athena did from Zeus’s forehead. Which I find rather hard to believe.

    And, if it did? The guy who did it, whatever his name might be, was a fscking genius.

  5. Ian,
    regarding the hybrid polymer cased rifle ammo:
    there actually ARE hybrid polymer-cased rifle, and even machine gun rounds, and they are used by regular military and SOF units all over the world. I have shot these in 7,62×51 (OOW M240, M60E6) and .50 cal (single and twin M2s, vehicle-borne) and they were really impressive. There’s even a polymere variation of the M9 link for the .50-cal, and using those the hybrid-cased ammo is one-third lighter, enabling more bang for the pound of weight.
    Read here: https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2020/01/20/usmc-selects-polymer-cased-50-cal-ammo/
    Yes, the Corps selected .50-cal HMG ammo in polymer cases. How’s that for high pressure issues?

  6. Closed bolt SMGs being rare – oh, is that so? IMHO it’s more that the SMGs themselves are getting rare these days, as the short-barreled 5.56 mm carbines are taking over their role. But pray tell me, has there ever been a 1st World (I’m not not talking about Brazilian favelas or Chechnia) power that adopted a classic open-bolt formate SMG after 1990? I don’t think so – all the “Last Mohicans”, i.e. new Russian, Polish (PM-84P/PM-98), Czech (CZ Skorpion Evo), German (HK UMP), US (SIG Sauer MPX, and all AR-15/9mm), Italian (Beretta PMX), Austrian (Steyr TMP) or Swiss (B+T ACP9) designs are closed-bolt (CB), even the Mini Uzi turned to CB, not to mention the new wave of the PDW-style “SMGs” chambered in micro-calibers like FN P90 or HK MP7. So, answering the question poised – there are much less CB SMGs, because the majority of SMGs still present in the field are old WW2/Cold War stuff, manufactured prior to 1990, and in these days the SMGs we open-bolt (OB). Simple as that. No more need for military SMGs other than silenced, thus no more millions of SMGs manufactured. All the new ones happen to be CB. And that’s the reason, not the economy of OB or lack thereof.

    • I honestly think the bigger “difference” here isn’t closed- or open-bolt operation, but locked and unlocked breach mechanisms. I think that was the question that the person asking it meant to be asking, but maybe didn’t express the terminology quite right…?

      There are reasons that the MP5 reigns supreme in the SF and police field, and that has an awful lot to do with the benefits of locked-breach operations with silencers. Also, first-round accuracy.

      Although, TBH, the MP5 may be a poor example to use there, given that what everyone terms “roller-locked” is more “roller-delayed” than it is actually “locked”. Still, there are benefits to be accrued from locked-breach operation, and I think that that is what the questioner was trying to get at, rather than open-bolt vs. closed-bolt operation. If there isn’t a locked-breach mechanism there, what real difference is there between a pure mass-based recoil system when it fires via a fixed firing pin or a hammer-actuated one? Other than first-round accuracy and cook-off issues later down the line?

      Oh, and the issue of whether or not you can easily convert the design to legal semi-auto fire, here in the US…

      • Not to be crazy or anything, but I have heard a rumor that while the US Army sucks at designing guns, it is also terrible at keeping them out of criminal hands. Over 2000 weapons from the Army somehow made it into street fights. Said weapons included entire crates of hand grenades, rocket launchers, and Browning M2HB’s, alongside the usual missing SIG M17’s, M4 Carbines, and whatnot. I could be wrong, but what nitwit let THAT happen?!

        • Yes, it is comparatively easy for a bored junior solider to steal weapons and sell them on the black market.
          Up here in Canada, a small-time dope-dealer from a small out-port up the West Coast of British Columbia bragged that he could buy any machine gun or rocket launcher he wanted.
          Meanwhile, machineguns and rocket-launchers are prohibited for law-abiding citizens.
          Fortunately, B.C. dope-dealers traditionally limit shootings to other dope-dealers and a large percentage of the guns they fire are smuggled in from the USA. The rest of the guns – in the hands of Canadian criminals are stolen from law-abiding gun-owners.
          Similarly, most of the automatic weapons used by Mexican drug cartels are smuggled in from the USA.

          • Large and powerful criminal organizations in Mexico are players in illegal firearms markets that go well beyond the so-called “river of steel” arms smuggling from the United States, possessed as it is by a weapons and arms culture, several large-scale manufacturers, and laws on safe-storage of private arms that are honored in the breach.
            So, for example, a Mexican criminal organization may have the “Herstal” or “Herstam” i.e. the FN P90 semi-auto-only-version, and a bunch of Five-seveN pistols that emanated from the United States, and be able to get ammunition for them elsewhere, since U.S. consumers are blocked from getting the 5.7mm AP ammunition. Or, as another example, the Mexican Federales or infantes de Marina seize a weapons cache, and it includes cases of South Korean hand grenades… Those didn’t get driven over the border from a shop in Dallas, lemme tell ya.
            Proximity to Central America, and very porous maritime borders are factors aside from the long and highly commercialized U.S.-Mexico border… Hope that’s not too “political” a post for our fellow audience members…

  7. There are more single-shot rifles out there than just old military ones, and a lot of them are chambered for modern high-powered cartridges. A quick Internet skim (disregarding .22s) shows me that Thompason, H & R, CVA, Savage and Ruger all have new single-shot rifles available, and there is no shortage of Winchester high-wall (or high-wall homages) and Remington rolling-block taking cartridges still in manufacture. I see offerings in .30-30, .45-70, .243 Winchester, and 7mm Mauser both new and used. A single-shot breechloader match is perfectly conceivable with modern guns and ammunition.

  8. Back in the turbulent and violent 1960s-1970s with all the radical homegrown terrorists running around, the United States Printing Office issued complete layouts for Military Posts and National Guard Armories that could be mail ordered for something like one dollar. The Symbionese Liberation Army used these documents to access military ordinance to kidnap Patty Hearst and turn her into an active member of the organization, before the last big showdown with the Law enforcement personnel. Easy access to that information was up to that time considered business as usual for the Government. Keeping ordinance out of the hands of troublemakers has always been a failing of government agencies.

  9. To find a Kalthoff repeater, you better go to Sweden. According to Wikipedia, the Livrustkammaren (Royal Armoury, a museum inside the Royal Palace) in Stockholm has one.

  10. A two-gun match using period correct single shot rifles and revolvers- for the rifle a Remington Rolling Block in .45-70, and a Smith and Wesson Model 3 in .44 Russian would be a very good combo, or A Mauser 1871 with a .455 Webley are possibilities. If you don’t like the Mauser bolt gun, the Martini Henry and the Webley. There are sources for all the ammo for these guns out there.

  11. As usual, I found Mr. M’Collum’s answers pretty detailed and eminently well-thought out and reasonable… My .02:
    0:12:27 – “Economical” machine guns?

    The shorter answer is: “there ain’t none…” But Ian’s responses: stuff people can’t really shoot anymore without a huge ammo budget or SMGs like the MAC 10/11 bullet hoses seems well taken. My recommendation, apart from the Reising, would be to find some really cheap open bolt submachine gun that no one wants? Maybe a Sten Mk.II or Mk.III.. Maybe something along the lines of the Madsen m/50 or m/53? Or save up your money and try to get a S&W 76?

    0:31:13 – Choice for a 2-Gun match: Carcano, Enfield, Arisaka
    Can’t say I’d ever like to fire an Enfield No. 5 “jungle carbine” or a Steyr 8x56mm Stutzen carbine *ever again.* Make mine a Carcano, please!

    0:40:02 – Seemingly contradictory good guns (M3 vs PPSh-41)
    The two are “industrially efficient” weapons capable of full-auto fire, which seemed to improve the morale of any soldier equipped with one… Without getting into the hoary old and since-discredited claims of S.L.A. Marshal, it would seem that having a weapon that seems to offer the prospect of “stopping” the enemy goes a long way into why soldiers prefer them to other weapons… If USSR Red Army infantry, what else would you rather carry? If U.S. squad-leader, would a Thompson be better, or the unlovely grease gun? Honestly, I think the bad reputation of the M1 carbine in Korea is simply that no-one carrying one thought he could really do much to harm the enemy (and preserve his squad-mates lives, and that of his own), versus other weapons on offer… A bit crass, perhaps, but there it is…

    0:50:04 – Pedersen vs Johnson if there was no Garand
    For my money: How ’bout the Hatcher-derived (the brother of Julian Hatcher…), simplified Søren Hansen Bang system rifle, or the Pratt & Whitney General Liu rifle? I totally agree with Ian’s contention about the Pedersen .276 vs. the .30-06… The Johnson had some admirable qualities. It’s light-weight-for-caliber barrel might have led to issues with “vertical stringing” in very onerous combat use. The big glaring issue with the Pedersen rifle, apart from its great expense, as Ian noted, would be that it required a dry wax-type coating of the cartridge cases, which I think weighed relatively against its adoption versus the Garand gas-operated design. Imagine both the UK and the USA both fielding .276 Pedersen-caliber rifles–perhaps a self-loading rifle for combat troops and a light-weight “classic carbine” even in bolt-action for the ammo-bearers, truck-drivers, service personnel, gun crews, mortar men, etc. etc. on the very eve of WWII, hmm?

    0:59:27 – Biggest military lesson form World War One?

    Hmm. Given the sheer waste of human life and wholesale destruction of entire generations and devastation of cities, countryside, resources, economies, etc. etc. I’d say: “War clearly sucks. Why fight it?” If told war must continue in spite of the clear overarching destructiveness and ultimate uselessness of it to accomplish the “national interests” as defined by particularly blinkered, unimaginative, and frankly blood-thirsty statesmen (and some women) defined them, then I’d certainly agree with Mr. M’Collum’s assessment of combined arms being the big military “take away” from WWI… And certainly it ensured that WWII would end in a much more obviously total war and wholesale destruction than the “war to end all wars.” I borrow a concept from the late Belgian economist–and Marxist–Ernest Mandel: The war of “military Fordism” and the emphasis on industry and massive output of all weapons of war was the big WWI takeaway. The much-maligned CSRG Mle. 1915 Chauchat became basically “all guns” in WWII… The FT-17 became the basis of all subsequent tanks in WWII… While chemical weapons were understood to not be “war winning weapons” by the time of WWII, all the major powers invested huge, extravagant sums in chemical weapon arsenals and were fully prepared to use them…
    Perhaps too obvious a lesson, and one that was not learned, from WWI: Don’t have a secret treaty–have a clearly stated, blunt statement that you have friends and aren’t just some hapless neutral… Not everyone got the memo, of course.

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