The Vault

GoRuck Light – with a Pack, Field Combat, M-1945

I spent yesterday afternoon doing a GoRuck Light event – because it seemed like an interesting challenge. I do 5k runs regularly, and mud runs have been a lot of fun. This seemed like the next level up, and I was curious. As it turned out, it’s really not the same sort of event at all. The basic gist of GoRuck is a team-based march with weighted packs and exercises sprinkled in throughout.

When I decided to take part, I figured it would be an opportunity to try out some vintage gear a in real-life situation – I have a pattern 1945 US field pack that seemed like it would be the right size and ought to be durable enough. It was introduced too late to see much widespread use in WWII, but it was the standard pack for US troops in Korea, and was still in use in the early years of Vietnam. Now, backpack construction and standards have improve quite a lot in the 69 years since this thing was adopted. Today we have lightweight water-resistant materials, carefully designed suspension systems, padded supports, and so on. In 1945, the technology was all-canvas construction, no padding, and a waist belt whose sole job was to hang more weight on – not to help support the pack.

GoRuck with a 1945 pattern field pack

The pinnacle of WWII canvas pack technology

The GoRuck web site is pretty skimpy on details of what you will actually DO in their events, so I was a bit hazy on what to expect. I did know what had to go in the pack, though: water and bricks. Since I weigh more than 150lb, I was to carry 4 bricks, weighing 4-6 pounds each, and wrapped in duct tape to protect the pack interior. Water was an absolute necessity, and my 3-liter Camelbak just barely fit in the leftover space (that 1945 pack may be heavy and uncomfortable, but it isn’t very voluminous). I added in a spare pair of socks, a bayonet (there’s a tab for it right there on the side of the pack), and a bag of trail mix (in my pants cargo pocket for easy access). Considering that I was doing this to get a firsthand idea of just how much WWII and Korean War web gear sucked to use (or built character, if you prefer), it is worth noting that I was not carrying the additional cargo pack that hooks to the bottom of the field pack, canteens, ammo, a steel helmet, bedroll, entrenching tool, rifle, or other kit. My load was definitely the light version of an actual combat loadout (it weighed in at exactly 30lb).

GoRuck light pack contents

Bricks (small are 3.5lb, large are 8lb), water, socks, and bayonet

The fun began with an introduction to different types of movement. First up – buddy carry. With packs, everyone carried a teammate about 75 yards. Then low crawl, run back, bear crawl, run back, crabwalk, run back. Then two 75m (roughly) lengths of walking lunges. I should also mention that there was a 15lb team weight that had to be carried at all times (it got passed around the team throughout the 6 or 7 hours we were doing this). There was also a nice big American flag and pole to be carried by the team at all times.

After the movement warmup, we went into a sequence of exercises. Oh, and we were introduced to the rule that for the rest of the day, none of our gear was allowed to touch the ground at any time. Letting it do so would result in penalty exercises. Anyway, the complete workout sequence was 24 each of pushups, flutter kicks (lie on your back with heels off the ground and alternate raising each leg), squats, military presses (hold your pack above your head and lift it up and down), and monkey****ers (take a wide stance and grab the insides of your ankles, and then alternate bending and straightening your knees). And lastly, the Tunnel of Love. Everyone gets in a circle with hands and feet on the ground and hips raised up (way up) in the air. Then in sequence, each person has to low crawl through the circle (twice). All of this, of course, with packs, lag, team weight, and without letting any gear hit the ground. And, of course, these were military count exercises – up, down, up, ONE; up, down, up, TWO – so we were actually doing double the number that was counted out.

That pretty much concluded the introduction, and we went from there into actual travel. We were given 75 minutes to get to “A” mountain (the summit that the University of Arizona has painted with a huge “A”) – approximately 4.5 miles from our starting point. Oh, and we were also informed that this was non-permissive territory, and so any time we came within 50m of a police, fire, or EMS vehicle or officer, we would have to stop and exercise (15 reps for a person, 25 for a vehicle, 50 for a building like a hospital or police station, again military count and thus actually doubled). That happened 6 or 8 times. Also, we were not allowed to use bridges. Road goes over a wash or river or arroyo? We go down and across.

Sentinel Peak

Yeah, up there. Then back!

We failed to make the destination in the allotted time, so we had to climb up to the top of the peak without using the pack straps. Had to carry pack cradled in the arms, balanced on the head or shoulder…but no straps for support. After the final push to the top, we got a few minutes to rest (but still, no gear allowed to touch the ground) before reversing course in the now-setting sun and taking a different path back to our starting point. Again, with only 75 minutes to cover the 4.5 miles. We successfully made the return time, by using a combination of fast walking and slow jogging. By this point, it sucked. A lot. I was having trouble with both calves alternatives charlie-horsing on me, and was pretty much hating life. Fortunately, since we made the time trial, we only had to follow it up with 200 arm circles (hold your arms horizontal out from your sides and rotate in small circles form the shoulder) and 150 flutter kicks (again, still military count and still without letting gear touch the ground).

So…back to the pack. The main shortcomings of the pattern 1945 field pack are its water-absorbent canvas construction, complete lack of padding, and lack of hip support. Once I started sweating, the back wall of the pack soaked it all up, and by the end of the evening left my lower back thoroughly shredded from rubbing. If we had been forced to get into water, it would have soaked up plenty of addition weight, and remained wet and heavy for hours (in fact, the back panel of the pack is still damp with sweat as I write this the morning after…ewww).

The heavy canvas construction did mean that it had no issues of fragility – the bricks presented no threat at all of tearing anything. However, I did have one equipment failure – the metal buckle on one of the connections to the waist belt snapped (I think it was during the Tunnel of Love). when I tried to jerry-rig it back into us, more of it snapped off – so I ended to just double-knotting the strap, which held for the rest of the day. I definitely did not expect a metal buckle to fail, but it clearly was too brittle.

Broken buckle on a M1945 field pack

Broken buckle and field-expedient repair

How does the 1945 pack rate overall? Well, it would not be my first choice. Or second choice. But if it’s what you have, you can be pretty confident that it will get the job done. It will beat you up, but it will carry anything you can cram into it without tearing. The metal buckles are all pretty much optional, since the load is carried entirely be the canvas shoulder straps, which are thoroughly stitched to the pack. The 4 straps just hold the waist belt up, and that can be worn tight over the hips to support its own weight even if all the straps fail.

And how does GoRuck rate overall? If you are expecting something like a mud run on steroids, you are in for a surprise. It is much more accurate to call it a condensed sample of boot camp. It is a grinding physical challenge, and the mental challenge portion is basically just gutting it out and not quitting. We did have one guy who started but dropped out at the start of the bear crawl – he was rather out of shape, and having a really hard time. He wouldn’t let anyone else take his pack, and despite our attempts to get him to push through, he decided he was a burden to the team and left. I totally understand his mindset, but the purpose of the event is to work as a team and support the slowest teammate.

Ultimately, the concept is more rote physical hardship and less mental activity and variety than I really enjoy, and I don’t expect I will be doing another one (did I mention that the Light is the shortest and easiest event GoRuck puts on?). If I really wanted to do more of this, I would join the military, and get paid to do it. But it was an experience worth having, and it will make everything else I do for a long time feel a lot easier.

Vintage Saturday: Not for Squeamish Collectors

Destroyed 1895 Browning in Russia

“Some assembly required” (photo: Drake Goodman)

Russian Colt 1895 machine gun destroyed on the Eastern front, WWI.

Bonus Video: Lahti L39

I had the chance to shoot a 20mm L39 Lahti antitank rifle (cannon?) at a recent get-together. It is the cheapest of the 20mm guns you can generally find, but also one of the less pleasant to actually shoot. In this case, the gas system was turned off to help preserve the brass, so I got to eat the full force of the recoil. Normally some of it is absorbed by the action cycling. Notice how it shoves me back on the skis – definitely not a casual fun plinker.

I did also have the chance to Shoot the S18/1000 Solothrun you can see in the video, which was a far nicer gun. I am curious how both of these compare to the Russian PTRS and PTRD rifles, as well as the Boys and Mauser T-Gewehr, and looking forward to finding an opportunity to try those out as well…

Archived Post: The Obregon 1911

Things are still pretty hectic here, and I apologize for not having a new post. In lieu of that, I am going to repost a video from last year, on the Mexican Obregon variant of the 1911. It has the rather interesting design twist of changing from a tilting-barrel Browning type lock to a rotating barrel like a Steyr-Hahn. Thanks to a friendly collector, we got to take one apart and then do some shooting with it:

Full original post (and comments) here: Obregon Automatic Pistol (Video)

Japanese Type 1 HMG

I was recently contacted by a fellow looking for information on the Japanese Type 1 heavy machine gun – a replacement for the Type 92 whose name would suggest it was adopted in 1941, but which never seems to have been put into mass production. This fellow was able to track down the only known surviving example at the US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center, where the staff was very helpfully willing to pull it out of storage and take some photos.

The main source of we know about this gun is an article in the June 1945 edition of the US Army Intelligence Bulletin, which is very helpfully reproduced on LoneSentry.com. Here is the text, along with a scan of the one photo in the article:

THE NEW JUKI
Weight Reduced by 52 Pounds

Soldiers who are familiar with the Juki—the rather cumbersome Model 92 (1932) standard heavy machine gun—will be interested to learn that the Japanese have produced a new, handier model of their heavy machine gun. The new weapon is designated the Model 01 (1941).

The outstanding features of the Model 01 are its removable barrel and the reduction made in weight over the Juki, for the Model 01 weighs nearly 50 percent less than the Model 92. The reduction in weight has been accomplished by a lightening of the weight of most component parts. In turn, reductions in the moving parts has produced a somewhat higher rate of fire than the Model 92′s, but since the Model 01′s barrel is shorter, it is believed that the newer gun has less range than the Model 92, which is practically a copy of the Model 3 (1914) Hotchkiss-type heavy machine gun.

[WWII Japanese Model 01 (1941) Heavy Machine Gun]
The new Model 01 (1941) Japanese heavy machine gun.

The new gun is gas-operated and air-cooled, but dispenses with the very heavy barrel jacket which permits the Model 92 to maintain a steady rate of fire without excessive heating. The introduction of the removable barrel is supposed to compensate for the loss of barrel jacket. However, it is estimated that trained crews should require approximately 1 minute to effect the barrel change, for the barrel lock is definitely not of the quick-release type.

Though the Juki takes both rimmed and rimless caliber 7.7-mm ammunition, the new Model 01 (for reasons best known to the Japanese) takes only rimless ammunition. This ammunition is fed from the left side in the usual 30-round metal strips. Fire is controlled by a thumbpiece-trigger, but the thumbpiece does not also serve as the safety. The safety device consists of a lever on the left side of the receiver.

The Model 01′s tripod, though similar to that of its predecessor, is generally improved. It shows that consideration has been given to carefully calibrated indirect fire along fixed lines, if not for accurate searching fire. A telescopic sight may be fitted.

These figures compare the Model 01 and the Model 92:

Model 01 Model 92
(Juki)
Weight of tripod 36.3 pounds 61 pounds
Weight of gun 33.6 pounds 61 pounds
Total weight 69.9 pounds 122 pounds
Length without flash hider 38 inches 45 inches
Length of barrel 23.9 inches 29.5 inches
Total traverse 45 degrees 33.5 degrees

Only one sample of a Model 01 has so far been encountered. This one was found on Luzon. Though it was numbered “Serial 1″, the weapon was a production job, and not just an experimental item hand-made by some arsenal. It is not known whether the Japanese have produced the Model 01 in any quantity, or whether they consider it superior enough to the Juki to warrant replacement of the latter in spite of deterioration of production facilities and of increasing need for artillery, antitank, antiaircraft, and armored vehicles.

This article does not clearly mention that the Type 1 retains the same basic mechanical design as the Type 92, including its use of cartridge trays for feeding (presumably the exact same trays used by the Type92, for logistical simplicity). The Type 1 also was intended to be fitted with a 4x periscope-style optical sight.

Interestingly, the 1945 article mentions that the captured gun is serial number 1 – as is the gun we Ordnance center has. These are almost certainly the exact same gun. What we’re all wondering is, are there any others out there that survived the war? Nobody seems to know what the total production quantity was for this model, and any additional information would be much appreciated!

Here are the other photos provided of the known example:

I did find one other reference to the Type 1, in Ordnance Technical Intelligence Report Number 19 (a document printed by the Office of the Chief Ordnance Officer in Tokyo in January of 1946). This document has a bit more information, claiming that the need for a lighter replacement for the Type 92 was recognized as early as 1937. Initial trials of the new gun were first held in March of 1940, along with a new style of mount patterned after the German MG08 sled mount. These trials were unsatisfactory, with the mount being deemed not stable enough and the gun not operating reliably. A second set of trial was held in June of 1940 which were better, but still not ideal. These trials used a modified sled-type mount, and an improved version of the gun (including the use of spade grips in place of the original shoulder stock and pistol grip).

March 1940 first trials model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG

March 1940 first trials model – note shoulder stock, pistol grip, and sled mount

June 1940 second trials model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG

June 1940 second trials model – note the traditional-style spade grips and modified sled mount

Apparently the Infantry School disliked the sled mount, and development along those lines was halted (until 1942, when a request from paratroop command restarted it, although with no known final product). The final trial model of the gun was fitted to a lightened version of the Type 92 mount, and this version was found acceptable and formally adopted in November of  1942. It was slated to go into mass production and replace all Type 92 guns in service, but a lack of material meant that the plan was never actually put into motion.

Production model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG

Production model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG – note modified Type 92 mount, which is not the same as the tripod on the captured surviving gun. Also note the change to folding grips and the mounted optic.

Reproduction Gerat 06 Rifles

For those of you who don’t regularly visit GunLab, Chuck posted an update there yesterday that’s worth checking out. He has spilled the beans about deciding to manufacture a small run of reproduction Gerat 06 rifles. This was an intermediate design between the Gerat 03 (basically a roller-locked G43) and the StG-45 (the first roller-delayed blowback gun, which eventually evolved into the HK91).

Reproduction Gerat 06 receiver pressings

Reproduction Gerat 06 receiver pressings

The Gerat 06 is a stamped-receiver, gas-operated, roller locked rifle in 8x33K, using standard StG-44 magazines. They are a little bit heavy (no more so than the StG-44, though) and very, very comfortable to shoot. Only 4 were originally made during WWII. I have no idea what the price will end up being, when they will be finished, or how many will be available, but I will be happy to put your name on a list if you’d like to be contacted directly when they are.

For more information on the design, you can check out the video I did a while back: Last Ditch Innovation.

 

Savage Prototype .38ACP Autopistol

We have another new unique item from the September 2013 Rock Island Premier auction today – a prototype pistol made by Savage in .38ACP caliber.

Vintage Saturday: On Maneuvers

Zouaves on maneuvers, 1909

Looks a bit verdant for North Africa…

Zouaves on maneuvers with M1886 Lebel rifles, in 1909.

Burgess Folding Shotgun

Andrew Burgess has been the subject of a couple recent posts, and I figure it’s high time to actually take a close look at one of his firearms designs. Specifically, the folding shotgun. The first shotgun specifically designed to be a fighting weapon instead of a sporting arm, Burgess’ shotgun was patented in January of 1893 and first appeared on the market in 1894. It featured a 20″ barrel, 6-round tube magazine under the barrel, and unloaded weight of just over 6 pounds (2.7kg). This compact configuration was specifically intended for use by messengers, bank guards, police, cavalry troops, and others who could exploit the handiness of a compact shotgun. The size was complemented by the gun’s folding mechanism.

Burgess Folding Shotgun

Burgess Folding Shotgun (photo from Rock Island Auctions)

This folding was accomplished by putting a hinge just behind the end of the chamber. The top of the barrel and magazine assembly had four machined thread-like parallel grooves which fit into matching slots in the receiver assembly, similar to many other take-down shotgun designs. However, the pivoting pin at the bottom and the spring=loaded latch that Burgess added to the design allowed the gun to be carried in a folded state (with the magazine fully loaded) and snapped into a locked firing condition with a flip of the wrist. In fact, Burgess sold a belt holster for the shotgun to allow one to carry it under a coat in just that manner.

Unholstering a Burgess folding shotgun

Presenting the shotgun from the holster, from an original Burgess advertisement (photo: Swearengen)

One of the more significant purchases for Burgess folding shotguns was secured with the aid of just such a holster. Burgess salesman Charlie Dammon – an impressive exhibition shooter – made an appointment with then New York City Police Board President Theodore Roosevelt in 1885, and arrived concealing a loaded Burgess in a holster under his coat. After exchanging a few greetings, Dammon thoroughly startled Roosevelt by whipping out the gun, snapping it shut, and blasting six blanks into the ceiling of the office. Roosevelt, always one to be enthusiastic about weapons technology, promptly order one hundred of the guns for use in the New York State Penal System (these were eventually sold at auction in Canada around 1920).

Burgess folding shotgun latch and hinge

Latch and hinge mechanism (photo: Swearengen)

The other element that really makes the Burgess gun stand out from other pump shotguns (particularly today, when we have many more around than there were in the 1890s) is its unusual pump mechanism. Because Samuel Roper (partner of Christopher Spencer) had patented the now-ubiquitous slide wrapped around the magazine tube, Burgess had to find an alternative. What he did was to make the grip and trigger guard into the slide assembly. A sleeve wrapped around the wrist of the stock, and the shooter would pull this back to open the action and then push it back into place to load a new shell. Burgess had tried to challenge Roper’s patent in court, but failed (where Winchester would later succeed through a technicality, allowing them to use the now-standard slide mechanism in their 1893 and 1897 models).

Burgess pump shotgun, closed

Action closed (photo from ShootingBums.org)

Burgess pump shotgun, open

Action open (photo from ShootingBums.org)

These shotguns were manufactured and sold from 1894 until 1899 by the Burgess Gun Company in Buffalo, New York. During this time Burgess made both folding shotguns and a non-folding takedown sporting version of the gun with 28″ and 30″ barrels. In addition, a very small number of pump-action rifles using the same mechanism (although not folding) were made in .30-30 and .45-70 calibers. The shotguns are fairly rare today, with folding models particularly hard to find – and the rifles are extremely scarce. In 1899, Burgess decided to retire, and sold his company and factory to the Winchester company. They promptly repurposed what tooling and machinery they could, scrapped the rest, and shut down the factory.

Burgess folding shotgun, folded

Folded (photo: James Julia)

The Burgess shotgun is little-known today, with its more commercially successful contemporary Winchester 1897 competitor being far more common. However, the Burgess really was one of the first of the truly combat-oriented shotguns. In addition to being concealable and compact, it was capable of very rapid fire. Burgess’ exhibition shooters would regularly perform feats such as breaking six clays thrown simultaneously, or firing rapidly enough to have all six empty hulls in the air simultaneously – feats which were simply not practical with the Spencer pump shotguns or the Winchester 1893. Even today, it remains a practical fighting shotgun (to the extent surviving examples can be found). Perhaps someone will decide to start manufacturing reproductions so we can all enjoy shooting them?

Technical Specs

Caliber: 12ga (.30-30 and .45-70 in very rare rifle examples)
Action: Pump, exposed hammer
Barrel length: 20″ (28″ and 30″ for sporting versions)
Overall length: approx. 40″
Weight, unloaded: approx. 6lb (2.7kg)
Magazine capacity: 6 (2.5″ shells)

Patents

US Patent 521,202 (A. Burgess, “Folding Gun”, June 12, 1894)

US Patent 524,800 (A. Burgess, “Folding Magazine Gun”, August 21, 1894)

Resources

Swearengen, Thomas F. The Worlds Fighting Shotguns Chesa Ltf, Hong Kong, 1978.

Flayderman, Norm. Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values Follett Publishing Co, Chicago, 1977.

Predicting the Future

Journal #27 of the Royal United Service InstitutionWhile doing some research on the experimental Spencer-Lee rifle design, I came across an article on shoulder rifle technology written by Col. George Fosbery in 1884 for the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution. Fosbery, of course, is an arms designer of some note (being responsible for the Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver as well as the Paradox gun and more) as well as a decorated (with nothing short of the Victoria Cross) fighting soldier. This would suggest that he would be a pretty astute judge of small arms developments. However, even the best and brightest can’t always predict the future. Take, for example, Fosbery’s commentary on box magazines and electrically-primer cartridges…

You cannot expect that any Government will consent to pack its rifle cartridges by fives in steel boxes of inconvenient shape which, in the addition contain moveable plates, and steel springs, studs, and catches, and would neither stand sea air nor Indian magazines for a year, and remain serviceable, to say nothing of their first cost. Nor, I think, should we call on our soldiers or sailors to carry less cartridges and more useless metal than necessary, besides which we should not give them in addition to other things a lot of little boxes, which, in heat of action, they must carefully put back in their pockets when empty.

Fosbery’s objections here are largely reasonable – magazines take more space than loose cartridges, they are expensive, fragile, and require specialized storage on a soldier’s person. What Fosbery did not envision were the solutions and workarounds to these problems – making magazines either more study or disposable, making them with cheap stamping technology, and issuing ammunition in clips with which soldiers would fill their own magazines (among other solutions).

A few pages later, he brings up a novel and promising new technology…

Before concluding, I will, if you permit me, show you what is as yet but an infant but still a well-grown and capable infant, and one that may well develop into a powerful and formidable man; and this is the electric gun of M. Pieper of Liege. The details by which the current is produced or conveyed to the cartridge may be modified, and the source of the electricity carried in the gun itself instead of on the person of the firer. But the cartridge is would, I think, be impossible to simplify or improve; and, once we admit such a thing as possible, see the advantages which we obtain.

First, we do away with special appliances for delivering a central blow on the cartridge, and have all the space which they now occupy for our magazine or other means of loading. Then, having no fulminate in the cartridges, we can carry and arrange them how we please; and, igniting the powder in front, we are enabled to get higher velocities with lower charges – a great decideratum. In machine-guns such as the new Gatling of Mr. George Accles, which fires 104 rounds in 2.4 seconds, and now necessitates the compression and release of 14lb springs so many times in that period, imagine the saving of labour which would result form the adoption of a system which required only the making and breaking of electrical contacts instead, and the saving of wear and tear which would result. But, as I said before, the thing is still in its infancy, and for these and other purposes is yet awaiting development. M. Pieper is already manufacturing these arms in the form which you see, and so far they are perfectly satisfactory – one great advantage being their immunity from danger of accidental explosion when out of the shooter’s hands.

Many people have opined on the promise of electrically-primed cartridges, and the advantages Fosbery lists are again all legitimate. The firing mechanisms for electric cartridges are mechanically much simpler, and would free up space and weight in a firearm. They would be an ideal solution to the problem of pointed bullets in tubular magazines, which was relatively common in this period. Such cartridges have seen limited use (E-tronx, Voere, some 20mm Vulcan guns, among others), but never become accepted in the mainstream.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that Fosbery was anything but brilliant. In fact, I hope to make the opposite point – even the most brilliant cannot be counted upon to accurately predict what trends will or will not become common and popular. When we see new innovations today like TrackingPoint computerized optics or 3D-printed components, we should carefully judge the arguments for and against their practicality, and always remember that sometimes great ideas die on the vine and sometimes objectionable ones are adopted over those objections.

Anyone interested can download the complete Journal through Google Books: Journal #27 of the Royal United Service Institution