Reader Questions!

Got a question about a military firearm you’ve been wondering about? Something you found that you’re trying to identify? Something else you think I might be able to answer? Well, ask me! If there is enough interest, I’d like to make a reader’s questions column a regular weekly part of the blog.

Just send me an email with your question, and attach any related photos (photos are a basically essential part of questions about what something is, or what a marking means). I’ll take a variety of them each week, and we’ll get you some answers!



  1. Dear Ian,
    I guess all of us firearms fans will never reward you and be grateful enough for this wonderful job of you. Sometime ago, the site “collecting and shooting surplus rifles” was reinstated and saved from burial.
    There used to be one site dedicated to which also disappeared, do you think it could resuscitate ?

  2. I recently purchased a neat old gun, a Model 1882 Comblain rifle. This gun might make an interesting piece for you. Cheers!

  3. Hi Ian! I also have a Colombian military rifle! I have a FN Model 1950 Short-Rifle (I think). It is chambered in 30-06 (marked “.30” on the receiver ring). I bought it for $90 in a pawnshop when I was 18, in 2000. This may have been a conversion from the previous FN contract rifles that went to Colombia chambered in 7.65 Mauser. I have found very little information about it’s possible uses in wars, and almost no way to tell if it was a conversion model or was a later contract (try finding serial numbers on these!). It was apparently import marked “.30-06 SPR SPN PN RA PA” on the bottom, which I didn’t notice for many years, and it may be chorme-lined (which I just noticed). Is there any way to find more info on one of these? Thanks.

  4. Matthew if you have a Colombian 1950, it was indeed originally chambered in .30-06 and built by FN… The Comblain on the other hand is a completely different rifle.

  5. Comparative military rifles with tube magazines. Do the tube magazines all function alike, or are there any salient differences? Just curious.
    Mauser 71/84

  6. Needle guns, needs videos about shooting needle guns. Probably want to start with the Chassepot, cheaper than a Dreyse.

  7. The Chaspot is hard to get gastight. I made a aluminium cylinder, with 4 Oringrubber rings, It works fairly well. The Dreyse is even harder, it tigtnes in a steal

  8. Oh, definitely a range comparison of every .45 ACP submachinegun ever used by a South American military. I’m sure it started with a 1921 Thompson, so you would need one of those. And of course one of the vertical-foregrip Steyr MP-34 .45s that Paraguay bought in the 30s. I’ve heard the Argenitine Halcon M-943 is pretty neat, and the Brazilian* made Madsen M-50 clamshell is a credible .45 buzzgun. And to make a clean sweep, get the Peruvian army or the Cuban navy to loan you one of those M-6 Ingrams (sort of a M3 with a Thompson stock) that was the granddaddy of the MAC-10. That would make a fun 5-gun shootout.

    *Speaking of the Brazilians… in 2004 the President of the United States was being briefed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who told him “and I’m very sorry to report that the latest setback for the Coalition of the Willing is that four Brazilian military policemen have been killed in Bagdad.” Bush buried his face in his hands and burst into tears and sobbed “That is horrible, horrible news.” Then he looked up and said “He’p me out here, General. Exactly how many is a brazzilion?”

    • There are a lot and I do mean a LOT of S. American Made 9mm submachine guns too… Chile made an übercheap clone of the Sterling SMG and now produces the FAMAE family of SIG knock-offs, including a 9mm version. Perú had a couple 9mm smgs, ranging from two conventional sort-of Carl Gustaf M/45 clones to a sort-of micro-uzi version–these former appear in the long forgotten Peruvian film about the anti-Sendero Luminoso PCP war/counterinsurgency _La Boca del Lobo_ aka. “The Lion’s Den.” Argentina’s Halcón smgs are very interesting: ML43 9mm ML63 9mm there are also the 9mm PAM versions of the U.S. M3a1 grease-gun, a Sten with wooden stock copy, and the other Uzi-style smg the FMK-3 9mm. Ian did have the Mexican Mendoza a while back…

      There is a “based-on-a-true-story” Spanish-language Argentine film called _Plata Quemada_ that is typically found in gay/lesbian interest film lists since it deals with a homosexual male couple engaged in various bank robberies in Buenos Aires in the early-1960s. Anyhow, the duo escape on the lam to Montevideo, Uruguay and there are various overwrought melodramatic scenes of a shootout where the Halcon smgs make an appearance. So few films get made in Uruguay that everyone there sees anything filmed there, in spite of predilections, orientation, etc. etc.

      • An Argentine e-friend got me interested in the Halcon – he had fired the 9mm version while he was in their Navy and had seen the .45 in a museum. There was (and still is) a very interesting military-arms industry in South America – some outright copies of north-of-the-equator models and some very interesting homegrown designs. The Taurus 9mm carbine Ian dropped in the mud recently is a Brazilian copy of a Chilean copy of a SIG, which is a pretty interesting family tree. Sounds like just about everybody has made a copy of the “Swedish 45” – S&W, Egypt, Peru, and I’m sure there are others. Not bad for a neutral power, although both the Swedes and the Swiss have never had any qualms about supplying arms to wars they stayed out of.

        Thanks for the notes on obscure movies featuring obscure guns. “Plata Quemada” sounds a lot like “Dog Day Afternoon” as far as based-on-true gay bank robbery flicks go. Neat stuff shows up in foreign films… I was watching “The Battle of Algiers” with some of my militant social-activist friends and said “Cool… a MAS 38” which got some funny looks from folks who couldn’t tell a Thompson from a flintlock.

    • Hi, Jim :

      Great story there in the second paragraph — it made my morning :):)!

      Somehow, at the risk of being tongue-in-cheek, I find the acronym for the Coalition Of The Willing highly appropriate — COW ( and with no criticism or denigration of the animal in question intended, either ).

  9. Hi Ian,
    I realize that this is a long shot given the incredibly low production numbers, but I’d be very interested in seeing some videos about the weapons in the 1980’s ACR program, particularly the H&K G11 and the Steyr ACR.

  10. Hi Ian,

    Though not a question, I thought you would appreciate this video. Despite the horrific 70s sideburns it’s a pretty nifty video that (like you previous video on the matter) shows some early breechloaders, however, this shows quite a number of them being fire etc..

    • Very nifty! I had never heard of some of these early breechloaders; it was a treat seeing them being fired. Despite a lot of experience with muzzle-loaders I had a long fascination with the Ferguson until someone quite sensibly pointed out that after two or three rounds the screw would be totally gunked and immobilized. I know this may be heresy to the English but isn’t the Martini essentially a hammerless version of the American Peabody? Loved the accents and ties on the range… for horrific facial hair

      and a nice demonstration of improvised defensive weaponry.

  11. I enjoy reading as much as anyone but it is more educational to see the actual weapons in action. The various two-gun matches are great. More please of period and contemporary arms, and mix up the shooters to give a fair comparison (e.g., four shooters with two sets of guns one match, or two shooters with two sets and swap guns the next match). Or if a match isn’t anytime soon, how about putting the weapons demonstrated through some set drills to establish a benchmark of sorts.

    It would be interesting to re-create pivotal shoot outs with simunitions. The video on the 1986 Miami Shootout was interesting, but I’ve never seen anyone try to stage the scene and see how things could have worked out. Same for the OK corral, maybe even some of Sgt York’s exploits (esp. the 1911 vs bayonet rush).

    Finally, more to the point of reader questions, for collectors of military arms (not safe queens but shooters) how about reviews / shop tours of gunsmiths/armories who specialize in working on them? If someone wants an M1 refurbished, for example.

  12. Ive been waiting for that right up on the bushmaster arm pistol you said you would do for a couple of years now. Im not complaining about the delay or anything and I don’t think that is technically a military firearm though it was intended to be. I think the story of the gun, the company it spawned and its designer is pretty interesting.

  13. If you are looking for ideas for articles, I have always been intrigued about where arms importers find all this vintage equipment. I have this image in my mind of a forgotten warehouse in a second-level European military district crammed full of dusty crates storing Cosmoline smeared rifles that have not seen the light of day in 55 years. And if it was not for the new military base commander needing more space for the latest acquisitions from the Ministry of Defense, this rusting steel warehouse and its contents would continue to sit day after day awaiting discovery.

    Are there public notices in obscure military logistics publications that are issued by the foreign military authorities for approved arms importers who get to inspect and bid on all of this wonderful and musty stuff? Or is the answer something more obscure…

    PB in VA.

  14. Many years ago I had a copy of “The observers book of firearms” by Nicholas Du Quesne Bird. It had a small B&W picture of (what was claimed to be) a 9×19 Apache pistol made by Enfield at some point during WW2 , complete with Broad Arrow markings along a slab sided frame. Mr Bird states that this was some form of prototype, and that it is the only example of a Government arsenal producing such a weapon. The pistol itself was a crude, utilitarian affair with slab sides, a rudimentary “point” and five? shot cylinder. My assumption was that it was an apprentice piece, but anything is possible with WW2 UK firearms! I have never seen any reference to this pistol outside of this book and would be interested if you, or any of your readers, could shed some light on this weapon. many thanks.

  15. Yugo M56 SMG – combining Beretta, PPS and MP-40 ideas in a neat and very accurate (for a SMG) package.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Bojan. Always liked the M56 and was thinking about suggesting a feature (or features) on MP40 inspired/derived SMGs; I’d like to see the Spanish Z45 covered too.

      • Wasn’t the Z45 made by Star? It was a well-made, reliable and highly-functional SMG, as I seem to recall.

  16. First, many thanks for your work! I can still recall at age ten spending every cent I had on my first copy of Smiths Small Arms of the World and then spending hours going through every page of it dreaming about shooting those weird and wonderful firearms. Now, a readers question. In your video on the Madsen M47 bolt action you load it with stripping clips. What kind of clips and where can I get some for my M47? Thanks again.

  17. is there such a thing as a rifle with a gas tube on the side of the barrel instead of on top or below?

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