Q&A Video #1: H&K G11, Owen, F1, Worst Gun Ever, and More!

As part of my new fundraising system on Patreon, I am starting a monthly Q&A video series, answering questions from Patreon contributors. The support from you folks is a tremendous help to me in running the site, and I really appreciate it! This month I am addressing:

  •  H&K G11 (and caseless rifles in general)
  •  Origins of clips and magazines
  •  Firing a Japanese Knee Mortar
  •  Union carbines from the Civil War
  •  WWI aircraft gun technology
  •  The worst gun design ever
  •  Australian subguns – the Owen and F1
  •  Ideal guns for complete beginners

If you enjoyed this format, please let me know, and if you have suggestions for making it better, please share those as well, in the comments below. Thanks!


  1. Off the top of my head;

    1. Caseless weapons; the presentation you showed a year or so ago pretty much knocks the whole caseless ammunition idea in the head. The most practical alternative with similar characteristics is Plastic-Cased Telescoped Ammunition (PCTA), especially if the plastic case can be made combustible.

    2. Worst gun design ever; Most people would say the Chauchat, but my vote goes to the 30mm MK 108 cannon in the Me-262. There’s something faintly counter-intuitive about an air-to-air combat weapon with a straight-blowback action necessitating a muzzle velocity so low that it has over 2 meters of ballistic drop at 200 meters.

    3. Owen and F1 SMGS- They look funny, but they work. Fun fact; Owen’s original design was for a .22 RF weapon, apparently intended for training. It turned out to be very easily “scaled up” to 9 x 19mm.

    4. Ideal weapon for beginners; .22 RF, single-shot, bolt-action or falling-block rifle. No contest.



    • “2. Worst gun design ever; Most people would say the Chauchat, but my vote goes to the 30mm MK 108 cannon in the Me-262. There’s something faintly counter-intuitive about an air-to-air combat weapon with a straight-blowback action necessitating a muzzle velocity so low that it has over 2 meters of ballistic drop at 200 meters.”
      I can’t agree. Distances during air-to-air were (prior to introduction of air-to-air rockets) short, as well was time with chance to hit enemy, hence weapons with lower muzzle velocity but higher RoF were preffer over higher muzzle velocity and lower RoF – MK 108 (540m/s, 650rpm) was developed from MK 101 gun (900m/s, ~250rpm) but the first become more popular. Notice that also other air forces adopted guns with similar muzzle velocity:
      American M4 cannon (P-39 Kobra) fires 610m/s with RoF = 150
      Japenese Ho-23 (Ki-45 Nick) fires 570m/s with RoF = 120

      • Also so far I know 30mm MK 108 cycled properly, there are many worse weapons systems:
        -so-called “Saturday night special” cheap automatic pistol firing (of course when if it not jam) .22 rim-fire, .25 Auto or .32 Auto round (see Jennings J-22 for example )due to low reliability also know as a “Jam-O-Matics”
        -German G41(M) i.e. Gewehr 41 (Mauser) which has low reliability and was hard to clean and eventually lost to (also troublesome) G41(W) rifle
        -Polish MORS sub-machine gun which measures 970mm but have only 300mm long barrel and weights 4.25kg (without magazine) – more than then-standard Polish Karabinek wz.29 with mass of 4.0kg!
        -French St. Étienne Mle 1907 produced (due to not-technical reason) and used alongside with more reliable Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun, which feature awkward mechanism of operation and rate-of-fire adjuster (Wikipedia entry states RoF = 80…650 rpm, but this first numbers looks very low for me, do you have any source denying or approving it?)

    • Eon – 2 points 1) The MK 108 was light (weight is a killer in aircraft weapons), relatively easy to manufacture and fires a Minengeschoss – explosive warhead which only required one decent hit to bring down a piston engine fighter plane and three to bring down a four engine bomber of the Flying Fortress/Liberator variety 2) I have handled the original Owen .22 SMG prototype and it looks nothing like the 9 mm Owen SMG. The .22 Owen gun used a clockwork circular spring magazine filled with .22 rimfire ammunition each of which had its own cylinder hole – a bit like a revolver. Major redesign had to be carried for it to evolve into the Owen SMG as we know it.

    • The Mk108 is an excellent weapon, think about repelling legions of winged zombies raining down on your hot air balloon.

  2. For caseless – just because I’m surprised how common they are on the used/ affordable collectable market – I’d like to see a look at the Daisy VL. They were available new when my buddies and I were in the pellet rifle/ .22 rifle age, but none of us were interested in an intermediate step so I’ve never fired one. For a first gun – what I recommend to friends who are interested (usually curious about ARs and AKs, too many video games) is a good used Marlin bolt .22 with a good scope and lots of tin cans on the creek bank. The Stevens Favorite is probably even better, but the “2nd generation” from the 70s are hard to find and from what I’ve heard the recent run were pretty rough. For a handgun – my dad bought a K-22 when I was 12 and by the time I was 18 (many bricks of LR and shorts later) I was a fairly phenomenal shot, but I really liked that Savage 101 that Ian reviewed a while back – remember seeing them in the case at the hardware store up on the town square for about $25 (when a new Bearcat ran $54) but never shot one of those either. I grew up in the Border War country in west central Missouri and was a Civil War history nut around the same time I developed a fascination with firearms… be hard to pick between a Spencer carbine for firepower and cool or a Ballard carbine for reliable, ergonomic elegance, guess I’ll take one of each in .56 Spencer RF.

    Worst gun ever – when we were talking recently about the Bren 10 and 10mms in general… I’ve seen Norinco 10mm Tokarevs (the 7.62s/ 9mm have what, a 3000 round life expectancy, so a 10 should be good for a few dozen shots before blowing up) and that would make an interesting video if Ian can borrow a bomb-disposal suit to wear while testing it….

  3. With regards to aircraft machine guns, there was another solution as well, the Hungarian Gebauer Motor Driven Machine Gun, dating from the end of WW1 and used into WW2.

    Unlike most other aircraft machine guns, it was designed from the ground up for firing through aircraft propellers. Instead of interrupting the firing, the entire operating cycle was driven by the engine crankshaft rather than by recoil or gas. This synchronized the cycle very tightly with the propeller, resulting in a very high rate of fire.

    They were made in 7.92mm and 12.7mm calibres. The 12.7mm ammunition was the Italian cartridge, which I believe was derived from the British Vickers .50 calibre.


    • “Italian cartridge, which I believe was derived from the British Vickers .50 calibre.”
      states that 12.70×81 Breda is linked with .50″ Vickers Mk I, if I read dimensions properly main difference between both is that Breda is semi-rimmed when Vickers is rimless.

  4. There were a few other problems with the foster mounts. First of all, they were not quite steady enough to hold a recoiling machine gun completely still, so there wer some accuracy issues. Also, mounting something as heavy as a machine gun that high up on such as small and light plane as the WWI scout planes tended to affect the planes balance and handling.
    A point in it’s favour however was that you could pull the gun partway down to fire upwards, as a precursor to the WWII “schräge musik” guns. Very useful, since below and behind was a blind spot for most planes and thus and excellent direction to attack from.

  5. Hi Ian,

    pretty good idea with these Q&A sessions, I may think of something for the future now, that I took the patreontage of the channel.
    ad. 1 – check with HK people at the Shot Show and try to bum a ride to Oberndorf. Advantages twofold at least: the Grey Room with G11 s/n 268 (if memory serves me well) all yours to play (although the ammo is not provided). Last time I was there I took it down as far as it goes without lasting damage and all I can tell you is SAUVE QUI PEUT!!! Gee, and they were going to liberate us behind the Iron Curtain with that contraption? No way. The other thing to do in Oberndorf (except for having a brew or two, or many) is to visit the Schwedenbau, the only original building left from the former Mauser company and not blown up by the French in 1947. (A note aside: all people tend to think of Germans as fantastically organised and efficient administrators. Well, reality sucks, but sometimes it is to advantage the future. This building was erected by the Swedish govt as a part payment for the Swedish Mausers built in it. Half a century later it was still on the books as a Swedish property, and only thus it survived the 1947 demolition. So sometimes having a terrible mess in court books pays. Even in Germany…) The Schwedenbau is not a community building for Oberndorf, and houses a Regional Museum. Half of it sucks to heaven: lots of environmental junk, stuffed animals, maps, old rusted just. But the other half… Well, let’s start with it being called the Waffenmuseum, and that’s what it essentially shows. Lots of it, plus assorted Mauser machinery (a wonderful early 1900s rifling machine with pitch control to enable rifling any barrel, Mauser company chairs, Mauser Bros busts, formerly gracing the concern HQ, Mauser brand automobiles, hair-clippers, arythmometers, whatever). And guns by the hundred, starting with 1811 Baden-Wurttemberg muzzle-loaders, thru 1860 Norris-Mauser, 1871s, all Mauser repeaters, military and sporting, Zig-Zags, C/77s, Broomhandle by the dozen, including the 1917 prototype Grabenkarabiner with fixed stock and 40-rounder stick magazine, Mauser machineguns (MG 34, MG81Z, MG151, Flakvierling), Gerat Potsdam Sten copy and postwar products from Oberndorf: by neo-Mauser, Rheinmetall, Feinwerkbau and of course HK.It is open on a very haphazard schedule, check the website, but if HK people are with you, you can go there anytime and spend a whole day.

    ad.2 Mauser stripper clip was first used with 1889 Mauser, but of course it was invented earlier on. Someone has a patent with a date for it?

    ad.5 If we consider aircraft armament and ways to make the MG work on those powered kites, I think it would behoove us to mention the pushers, like Airco DH2 – they were armed with the MG up front, and had the propeller transplanted to hinder parts to push, instead of pull the airframe.

    ad.6 The worst gun – Daweo above mentioned my choice already: Mors wz.39 SMG, but not for the measurements. Over a 100 parts in a burpgun, automatic magazine release upon shooting the last round, but coupled with a flat spring inside the mag well not to let the magazine fell to the ground. And that ever so useful piece of engineering taking as much as TEN parts… Quick release barrel, like in Suomi, but requiring the shooter to index the new bbl on a pin buried so deep inside the shroud, that you can’t see it and have to find it by touch – all while holding the barrel with your fingernails as it fits inside the shoroud, leaving only like quarter inch CONICAL muzzle to hold on to… A monopod inside the front grip set so far to the front, most people of 1930s size were seriously stretched to hold on to it. The said monopod springing so much, the gun jumps even if let loose without shooting… C’mon, guys, that’s what a ridiculous gun is.

    ad.7 – Owen vs. F1: Owen also had a quick-detachable bbl, which made it super easy to clean. The F1 had a fixed bbl, the legacy of a British L2A3 Sterling, together with the 34-rd magazine – and a bayonet capability, which Owen lacked due to not having a “shoulder thing that goes up”.

  6. Most interesting gun: the Daisy VL which is a Diesel-Effect compressed air ignition system using an obturator back-pressure valve to protect the firing mechanism from the over-pressurization of the burning propellant An full explanation contemporary article (with drawings) can be found at: https://books.google.com/books?id=pdMDAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA121&lpg=RA1-PA121&dq=Daisy+VL%2Bobturator+valve&source=bl&ots=tnT853WvZ6&sig=gO12bTQQ5XvOE224h—P9Cop8Y&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAGoVChMIiMSk46SzyAIV0y2ICh0yfAri#v=onepage&q=Daisy%20VL%2Bobturator%20valve&f=false
    This ignition system is a take-off of the Dieseling Effect of most “Springer Airguns” that derive a portion of their power from Dieseling a minute quantity of the lubricating oil in the piston section of the action.

    My opinion of caseless arms, including the Daisy XL and others, is that the heat problem mentioned will be a problem that will be hard to overcome until more advanced technologies are available such as ceramic or cermet (ceramic/metallic) incorporation. I am in the process of converting one of my test airguns, designed to explore controlled dieseling, so that I can safely test higher-pressure tests without having to invest in stock in Smith Springs or the makers of gas-strut springs.

    My choice on the best/most enjoyable guns I have ever owned is split between the Stevens Favorite that my grandfather gave my father at age two and he then passed down to me at the same age and a Martini .219 Zipper Improved made by P. O. Ackley.

    The most interesting gun I ever fired was a reputedly 600-year old Japanese Hand Cannon complete with breast-plate with a socket for the butt. It was a Matchlock that had a serpent that had to be held at “cock” and was fired by releasing the Serpent Lever. It was approximately a .75 cal that fired stones wrapped in linen-like cloth.

    The most basic rifle I ever fired was a WWII “Slam-Shot” 12 gauge gorilla-gun known as the Philippine paliuntod and paltik gun that had a movable barrel that you loaded a 12 ga. round in, slid it down an outside cylinder and “slammed” it down on a fixed firing pin. I found a website that shows the basic concept: http://www.guns.com/2013/04/29/richardsons-philippine-guerrilla-gun-a-gun-to-get-a-gun/

    As for the most worthless gun extant, I really don’t have a pick. Every gun I ever owned, saw, held or fired had something to offer but if push comes to shove it would probably be a “Zip Gun” patterned after the ones seen in the 1950s movies about JDs (Juvenile Delinquents) but in my crowd these were never an alternative … we all had guns almost from birth. That’s how it still is if you are born and raised in Texas….

    • Interesting ignition system, I had heard of it but didn’t know much about it. There’s carbon fibre barrels now apparently… Graphene that’s a new material, ceremics etc all good.

  7. Looks like you got the 56-50 dummy round. In all fairness, when they said you would get it on a Wednesday, I failed to ask them what month!!! Sorry they did not deliver it in time for the video. I have 4 more if you want to demonstrate a ’65-68 Spencer.

  8. A few comments concerning the Owen and F1. I have handled a number of Owens but never fired one. They were very popular with troops in WW2 and Korea, but were used in Viet Nam only for the first couple of years (about ’65-’66) until replaced by M16s and F1s.

    The Owen was renowned for its reliability in dirty conditions, and considered very accurate for an SMG. I have seen comments that the top-mounted magazine was an easy target for Japanese snipers, and I remember my father saying that he used to turn his Owen on its side when firing from cover (New Guinea and Bougainville). Some troops preferred the Thompson for its larger bullet, especially when Japanese soldiers would not be stopped after being hit by an Owen.

    The ‘quick-change’ Owen barrel would help with cleaning, but they were known to jam in the receiver, if not properly maintained and cleaned. Generally the Owen is quite heavy and bulky, but does handle quite well. They were very prone to slam-fires, which again my father talked about, having been put on a charge for dropping his loaded Owen butt-down when returning from patrol, to have it empty its magazine past his head and through the roof of the tent he was in. A later modification was an additional safety in the form of a ‘sleeve’ around the rear of the receiver, to prevent this.

    The F1 I did use quite a bit, but not in actual combat. While much lighter than the Owen, I still felt it was bulky for an SMG, due to the top magazine and the fixed wooden butt. The rear sight seemed fragile to me. It was very easy to fire, little muzzle climb and no recoil, could be controlled with one hand. Very simple take-down compared to the Owen, and easy to clean in spite of the fixed barrel. Also had double-presentation magazine like the Owen, but the ejector was in the receiver. Sights offset to the right, as with the Owen. Did not have the fire-selector of the Owen, single shots were easily achieved with a ‘half-press’ of the trigger. Application of the safety inserted a small bar into the receiver to obstruct the bolt, when closed or cocked, so a better idea than the Owen.

    Accuracy was thought to be inferior to the Owen, by some. I personally did not have much confidence in it as a weapon, but then again I did not use it in combat. The F1 was generally not very popular in Viet Nam, and generally not used by infantry units in the field. I did see a lot of them in rear-echelon units. I think this was because the M16 and SLR (FAL) were more effective at the relatively longer ranges that were characteristic of the Viet Nam war, compared to New Guinea etc. And especially up against the AK47.

    • A few more points: The internal parts of the F1 were fairly similar to the Owen. The bolts of both had two circumferential ‘rings’ machined such as to cause the bolts to slide in the receiver on these rings, allowing any grit etc to accumulate without necessarily causing stoppages. Probably a major factor in the reliability of both guns.

      The main difference is the return spring and guide – the Owen spring runs on a guide rod attached to the back of the bolt; the F1 spring is a loose spring which inserts into a hole in the rear of the bolt, the spring guide protrudes forward from the butt assembly. The butt assembly is a ‘bayonet’ fitting to the rear of the receiver.

      While I have not seen the F1 trigger mechanism, I think it would be largely the same as the Owen as well. And later versions (post Korea) of the Owen most certainly had a bayonet. These are now quite rare and collectable here.

      And the top-mounted magazine change is very fast, eg in the dark.

  9. The best reason to buy a 22 first is that you will always need a 22. You’re not buying a “starter gun” that’ll be replaced when you “outgrow it”; you’re buying the gun you’ll use most often for the rest of your life, no matter what other guns you end up with.

    • Eggo,
      I have to agree, ALWAYS a .22!
      My favorite starter, bought the Granddaughter one and suggested to many others, is the Ruger 10-22. Easy to use, easy to clean after taking the barrel off, simple to operate and you can fit one to anyone.
      I think I get more use out of my Ruger #3 bull bbl stainless than anything else.
      Question for the group: anyone know anything about the replacement of the (never sufficiently hated) bolt/trigger/round thingie that fits through the receiver and bolt? I have heard of a replacement that makes take-down MUCH easier but don’t know anyone that has experience with such a thing.

  10. It would be REALLY cool to see a G11 disassembled. I assume the only existing ones are deep in some bundeswehr and HK armories, might be hard to access to those.

  11. Ian, this is two videos of yours I have seen that have what appears to be a Swede Rolling Block behind you. When is that video coming?

    I just loaded the first 100 rounds for mine the other day.

  12. I think the Terminator is a decent primative weapon design, being slam fired you remove some of the working parts which would otherwise be required- Keeping costs down etc. And speaking of the Mk108 cannon, the Terminator would be ideal to use as the basis for a soft recoil weapon like the Hawkeye 105mm which is similar to the API system of the 108 in that the cartridge is fired while moving forwards thus the recoil of firing has to overcome the forward momentum being imparted on it at that point. You basically mount the Terminators tubular receiver inside an upscaled airgun design, with the Terminator replacing the piston. You fire the Terminator which fires before the spring reaches full extension, good for heavy recoiling rounds probably.

  13. Re: Early Chinese/Asian firearms, there’s a good, concise overview in Stephen Turnbull’s “The Samurai Sourcebook”.

    In brief, the Chinese had bronze firearms very similar to the European “handgonne” from at least the end of the 13th century (CE). In a similar timeframe, they also employed various pyrotechnics, incendiaries and fire-lances. These sound rather like roman-candles which emitted fire and poisonous smoke or porcelain sherds and were used to burn, injure and poison men and startle the enemy’s horses. The Chinese also used bombs in various ways, either thrown by catapult or hand or used in situ for demolition or defence. The Mongol hordes were on the receiving end of such “thunder crash bombs” and then utilised them themselves.

    Interestingly enough, the Japanese knew of these Chinese guns before the arrival of the infamous Portuguese traders in 1543 who introduced them to the matchlock — they simply didn’t see the utility of the cruder Chinese weapons at the time. Once everyone had been suitably impressed by the European arquebus, however, the gunsmiths of Sakai stopped production of the old Chinese style guns and got on with producing the new “Tanegashima”. Apparently even the Chinese abandoned the old pattern and took to the matchlock as soon as they encountered them in the hands of Japanese pirates.

  14. When recommending noobie gun I understand where the questioner is coming from. Everything you say is true. 22’s are easier to use and learn on. However the new person is also thinking about the future of a new hobby. He wants a gun that is easy to learn on but what will he do with it after he is done “learning”? What most gun people think is “oh well he can sell it or just keep it” but new people don’t want a “useless” gun and don’t want to get into the trouble of selling guns to “wacko gun people” 🙂 So what they are really looking for is a light gun that is easy to learn on but is also FUN when he eventually goes out and gets a big boy gun. So what 22 do you still find yourself always throwing in with the real guns you take out camping with you? I find my stupid AR-7 always finds it’s way out in the desert or mountains. It is a crappy gun in many respects, but at the end of the day I probably put just more lead through that stupid AR-7 then I do through any of my larger weapons. I have a friend that does the same with his pump 22. It’s just so light, comfortable to shoot and easy to take with. It’s a gun you never out grown. (I would think a few 9mm carbines that would also fit this same bill but give a much more satisfying report)

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