World War One Q&A with Othais from C&Rsenal

Today I have made the trek to the C&Rsenal studio to have a Q&A with Othais. Not familiar with his channel? It is a wonderfully in-depth look at firearms history, development, and use focusing on the weapons of World War One. And if you are looking for someone to support directly, I can think of few who are more deserving and who work harder than Othais, Mae, and the whole crew behind the scenes of C&Rsenal. I support them, and you should too.

We would also like to thank Andrew at Archival Research Group for assistance finding great information in the US national archives:

And last but not least, thanks to Cam and Alex for the t-shirts!

Our questions today are:

0:06:22 – Why was the Madsen not used more in WW1?
0:08:10 – How would the Pedersen Device has fared in combat?
0:12:12 – Trench shotguns in WW1
0:14:53 – Ammunition for black powder rifles in WW1
0:17:56 – Why did integral rifle grenade launchers take so long to develop?
0:20:39 – How were territorial armies supplied with arms?
0:24:12 – Cut down rifles and “Obrez” pistols
0:29:00 – What changes would the 1919 secret weapons have brought to the war?
0:33:51 – Practicality of the semiauto rifles available in 1914/5?
0:38:04 – Scarcity of Austrian M95 rifles on the surplus market
0:41:17 – Best rifle for the Entente to standardize on?
0:44:21 – Captured rifles being rechamsbered for different cartridges
0:47:41 – Intermediate cartridge development in WW1
0:48:56 – Was the Winchester 1907/1910 an assault rifle?
0:51:26 – Why not more 10-round or larger magazines?
0:54:10 – Was the SMLE issued with spare magazines?
0:56:35 – What did the British do with their Arisakas?
0:58:12 – Popular field modifications of rifles
1:02:55 – Firearms design lessons of WW1
1:05:13 – Favorite WW1 carbine?
1:07:28 – Favorite WW1 “Forgotten” weapon?

As always, these questions were provided by my awesome Patrons.


  1. The fact that the parsimonious US government disposed of all the Pederson devices between the wars was a strong clue they were not any good.

    • And the brass used that to sully the concept of a magazine-fed self-loading rifle that did not use “man-stopping” ammunition. They wanted a clip-fed rifle that was both self-loading and capable of instantly killing any sniveling coward hiding behind a tree a mile away.

        • The M14 was supposed to replace just about EVERY front-line shoulder-arm the Army was using prior. That includes the M1 Carbine, the M1 Garand, the M1903 Springfield, and the M3 sub-machine gun. However, the M14 was uncontrollable in full-auto, something Ian confirmed. It couldn’t spray to suppress, and it kicked harder than its ancestor in single-shot mode (and it wasn’t any more accurate than the M1 Garand, so forget using it for mile-away headshots).

        • The “big lie” about the M14 was that it could be produced on M1 Garand machinery, and that it would save money over the T48 FAL. Turned out, not so much–By the time they turned the production over to TRW, the whole illusion was shattered, and TRW basically started from a clean sheet, and produced the M14 on then-modern machinery.

          The contrast between what the US did with the M14, and what the Italians did with the BM-59 is severe; the Italian effort was only a couple of years, and they did manage to produce it on the machinery that they were building and re-building M1s on.

          One of the things that would be really interesting and educational for Ian to do on some trip to Europe, sometime, is hit up the Beretta and Italian arsenals for the story on just what how they hell they managed that. The BM-59, in my opinion, was a superior weapon to the M14, and it was in service for a hell of a lot longer…

          The thing I’ve always wanted to know was precisely how they produced the M1 and BM-59–Was it on John Garand-designed machinery, or something they built themselves? How much of that was traditional European craftsman-based production, and how much of it was on modern machinery?

          Somewhere out there is a printed report/dissertation/article written by a guy who really knew his stuff about the whole Springfield Arsenal-to-TRW flow of events and manufacture for the M14; I can’t remember where I read it, but I was able to spend a couple of days with it, once, and I remember the tone of the whole thing as being severely critical of Springfield Arsenal in terms of how well they’d managed the equipment that Garand had built to mass-produce his rifle. You rather got the impression that the absence of Garand was a key reason that whole thing blew up–There were technocrats and politicians within the Arsenal hierarchy that had never liked Garand, deliberately eased him out of the way, and then when it turned out that he was the “secret sauce” behind the success of M1 production, refused to acknowledge reality. TRW basically had to throw out everything that had gone before, in terms of M14 production, and then re-engineer the whole production line for modern machine tools. Apparently, Garand had been a production genius, more than a rifle design genius, and he’d been working within what was available to the arsenal system inter-war, which was a mix of the old overhead-belt driven machinery and the more modern electric motor-driven stuff. Some of his solutions were positively inspired, but without him there to continue the work on the new rifle, well… It didn’t work.

          Mass production engineering is actually probably more important than merely designing a superior weapon; if it can’t be built affordably, and in sufficient numbers…? It’s a waste of time.

          • Hi Kirk,
            Beretta for sure has been operating on Pratt & Whitney machinery, built in the USA, since the end of the 1860s, and then developed locally from there on.
            Other firms and state arsenals made use of Brown & Sharpe machines too, along with swiss, british (mostly Vickers’ ), austrian and german (depending on political alliances & war reparations) which had been slowly replaced/refurbished/updated with locally designed parts or designs. Turning points being the ’50s with the new wave of american products and NATO knownledge sharing, and the ’80s with national designs coming back lead the way (mostly due to automotive and aerospace industries).
            References can be found in books such as:
            Restructuring of Arms Production in Western Europe (SIPRI Monographs), by Michael Brzoska (Editor), Peter Lock (Editor), Michel Brzoska (Editor)
            Fabbriche, sistemi, organizzazioni – Storia dell’ingegneria industriale, by Millán Gasca

            As for the BM59 development history, its own thread here FW ( ) along with the links mentioned within, can shine a light on some of your questions.

            Hope it does help!

    • “disposed of all the Pederson devices between the wars was a strong clue they were not any good.”
      Remember that: Storing is not free action. Even if fire-arms generally do not need much attention after proper mothballing, they take space inside warehouse.
      Generally this is example of rucksack problem with limited storing space, items requiring some space and having own weight (“combat usefulness” in this case).
      Pedersen Devices would certainly improve volume of fire at intended ranges of engagements over bolt-action repeating rifles, yet critical assessment will show also some downsides:
      – big overall length in relation to cartridge used, c.f. MAS 38 firing very similar cartridge
      – untypical cartridge, more strained supply (WWII experiences showed that U.S. forces managed to support additional cartridge supply – namely .30 Carbine, but in inter-war period they do not have it)
      – somewhat redundant, as U.S. forces during Great War already uses shotgun (Trench Shotgun) providing volume of fire at close range) and BAR 1918, big quantity of BAR 1918 was stored and it was already battle-tested
      – above affected not only Pedersen Devices, but also Thompson sub-machine gun, which although more short-ranged, used default automatic pistol cartridge, was shorter and created by Thompson i.e. high-ranked U.S. officer – despite all this it did not attract bigger attention of U.S. forces until late 1930s

      • I’m not familiar with any governments that I’ve actually worked around that really paid much attention to that whole “knapsack problem”. Most of them seem to have severe issues in discarding things in general, and they’re really, really bad when it comes to military stuff. Yeah, there’s a lot of crap that they surplus, but… Holy crap, you actually go out into the storage facilities? You’re gonna get an education in what real “hoarding” looks like.

        We got sent out to pick up munitions in Germany, circa 1985-ish. The facility was a place out in the hinterlands, and was damn near impossible to even find. We get there, sign in, show the German civilians the paperwork we have for the materials (demolitions stuff; explosives) and they just whistled. First off, this isn’t a normal US facility–It’s NATO/German. Second, they’re not even sure they’ve got the stuff, because it’s in a part of the storage facility that they’re not currently using… So, we go out with them, and it’s like a freakin’ treasure-hunt, while they open up storage igloos and bunkers. I swear to God, there were crates and other crap in some of those locations that looked like the storage hadn’t been opened since before WWII–There were Nazi eagles stenciled on some of the stuff, and the locks they were cutting off the doors had the same markings. I wanted to grab one as a memento, but the Germans were like “No, no… Nazi marked, must be destroyed…”. We finally did find the stuff we were looking for, but there was no freakin’ clue what the hell it was doing there–The Germans thought it might have been stuck there sometime in the ’70s as overflow from a US facility, and just forgotten about until someone found the paperwork hanging around in the system.

        I’m telling you, you probably don’t want to know just what is really out there–The stuff that gets surplussed is just the tip of the iceberg. I had to go pick up a new sedan from the GSA once, in a Chicago suburb. The warehouse was enormous, like big enough to fit a couple of ships in. We picked up the new sedans, turned in the old ones, and then the guy guiding us around took a shortcut, and got us lost inside the building. At one point, he stops, gets out a camera, and starts taking pictures of a cyclone-fenced area filled with dust-covered vehicles and crates from the 1970s (this was the mid-1980s, BTW…), and I got out to ask him what was up. His reply? “Oh, yeah… We lost this stuff a couple years back, nobody knew where it was, and I’m just documenting where it is so we can get it back into the system…”. I’m like “Huh?”, and I’m looking at easily a couple million dollars in pickup trucks and other stuff like road equipment that’s all marked for National Park or Forest Service use…

        That’s how big that damn warehouse complex was. We’re talking like an easy half- to three-quarter acre of vehicles and equipment. Lost, and entirely forgotten–Looked like it was mostly brand-new, too… Well, when it went into the warehouse, that is.

  2. Please don’t under rate Italian engineering abilities

    The Italian milling machines and lathes of the period were every bit a match for the best from Germany and Switzerland

    And way beyond the machines that Cincinatti, Kearney Trecher, le Blond, bridgeport etc were turning out.

    Even in Switzerland, most of the people who did the scraping of the slideways of the machine tools for the watch industry, to bring them into accurate alignment and smooth, gliding movement, were Italians.

    A few years ago I was perving over a beautiful Italian (Di Paolo) tool room milling machine, with all of the accessories. I wish I’d brought it home. It was everything that a Deckel FP2 is, and more!

    A look at the machines that the likes of Di Paolo, Rigivia, Ferrari etc were producing, gives me little doubt that the skills were out there to produce even the most complicated guns, very well.

    Look what people in the same regions of Italy did with Motorcycles, cars and tractors;
    Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Aprillia…
    Ferrari, Lamborghini (originally a tractor maker), mazeratti, Alfa Romeo…
    Lamborghini, Same, Landini…

    They were way ahead of every where else in the world.

  3. I have also read that the British sent Arisakas to the various Arab tribes rebelling against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. T.E. Lawrence mentions in his memoirs that he received a stock of “Japanese rifles” that were in some way defective — rusty or broken. Thus also did the British not quite trust their “native troops.”

  4. The ostensible reason for the destruction of the Pedersen devices in the 1920s was fear that they would fall into the hands of “gangsters”. I think this was more of a commentary on slipshod Army stores cataloguing than anything else, as Kirk observed about the FRG above.

    As for their tactical use, the best way to actually use them would have been to pull the single heat-treatement early M1903s from store, that nobody trusted due to they’re not being able to stand up to .30-06 pressures (remember, they were built for the .30-03 cartridge), cut them down to carbine length with shortened forends as on the early 03 cavalry carbines, and install the Pedersen devices permanently, making them “dedicated” automatic carbines. Adding a fire selector could have been done at the same time.

    This way, not only would they have actually gotten the Pedersens into combat service, they wouldn’t have adversely affected M1903 production. And as chronically short of rifles as the AEF was (hence the M1917 Enfield, which incidentally was probably a better rifle than the ’03 overall), the addition of a few thousand automatic carbines to the available inventory wouldn’t have hurt one bit.



  5. Errr, Gentlemen

    Around the 40 minutes mark; .30-06 had no ballistic advantages what so ever!

    Please re read Hatcher’s Notebook for a contemporary account of the big, loud, drastic under performer of wwi.

    All of the wwi rifle cartridges had more than adequate energy, penetration etc out as far as a rifleman could identify a target. It’s just that some kicked harder than others, and some wasted more scarce resources than others.

    .303 mkvii is within half a minute of elevation of the supposedly flat (supposedly flatter than .30-06) shooting .270 winchester, out to 300 yards!

    What Hatcher notes is that US expeditionary forces were alarmed to find that their new .30-06 machine guns had significantly shorter range for laying down a barrage, compared to the supposedly “inferior” 8mm lebel balle D and .303 mkvii machine guns that they had been using.

    So did the .30-06 m2 ball in wwii!

    The post wwi .30-06 m1 ball does have good long range ballistics, but exceeded the danger zones on existing ranges, and the increased recoil was unpopular (outside of the marine corps).

    I have still to run the figures for 160gr round nosed 6.5mm Carcano compared to wwi .30-06. But if I can hazard a guess, the trajectories are not likely to be very far apart. Remember that the ballistic coefficients of the .30-03 round nosed and .30-06 150gr Spitzer are very close (depending on the velocity you are looking at, the ballistic coefficients of round nose and spitzer differ depending on mach number).

  6. Ooooooooooooooooooh
    Othias has a 7.65 Martini!
    I’m definitely going to take anote extra good look around their site.

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