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The Vault

Japanese Type 97 Sniper Rifle (Video)

The most common Japanese sniper rifle of World War II was the Type 97, essentially a Type 38 Arisaka rifle with a 2.5x telescopic sight mounted to the side of the receiver. About 22,000 of them were made in total (a smaller number of Type 99 sniper rifles were also made). The scope on the Type 97 was zeroed at the factory, and had no external adjustments for windage or elevation. They were chambered for the 6.5x50SR Japanese cartridge, which produced virtually no smoke or flash from the long barrel of the Type or Type 97, making is a difficult rifle to spot (it also had a quite mild report relative to other contemporary weapons). Virtually all of these rifles in the US today have mismatched scopes, which generally means that they will not shoot to point of aim (this one’s windage is way off).

Vintage Saturday: Antitank Rifle

German soldier with a captured Polish Maroszek wz.35 anti-tank rifle

Conquering France with Polish guns

German soldier in France with a captured Polish Maroszek wz.35 anti-tank rifle.

Format and Feedback

Well, today is the first day of RIA’s April Premiere auction – if you are bidding on anything, good luck! Of course, this also means we are finished with the current series of videos and I would be interested in hearing feedback from you folks. My audience has expanded into areas like Reddit and YouTube and Facebook, but the people like you who come here to read the daily blog are the core group that I would like to cater to. My stockholders or employers, if you will.

The opportunity to work extensively with both Rock Island and James Julia this year has provided me with access to a huge pool of fantastic guns to bring you video coverage of, and I would like to make the most of it. Do you like the balance of new versus old, military versus civilian, and practical versus slightly goofy guns? Is the significant increase in video (as opposed to written text) a net improvement for the site or a detraction? Are there any particular changes you would like to see? Do you prefer short-form videos on individual guns, or longer pieces discussing groups or families of related guns?

There are a couple things I am planning and considering for the coming months…

For one thing, I would like to take some of the guns I have in my own personal collection and spend more time shooting them in a variety of conditions with the goal of producing text or video analyses that give a more in-depth assessment of them. Disassembly and a handful of rounds downrange can only tell you so much about a design. Sometimes that is all that is possible (like with the Schwarzlose 1898 that will be coming soon), but when I own something myself I can spend a lot more time getting to know its quirks. Two of the guns that I specifically have in mind for this sort of treatment are the Gewehr 41(W) and the Winchester-Hotchkiss. I anticipate that I will be posting incremental material on these two guns (and other that get this sort of treatment) as I work my way towards being able to write something more comprehensive.

Something I am considering doing is adding a section on forgotten conflicts. There are a lot of small wars that are barely known at all today, but which comprise a significant amount of actual combat use of some of the guns we look at here. Some of the American Indian wars, for example, or the African bush wars of the past 60 years, or conflicts like the Gran Chaco War. Would this be of interest, or would you rather see me stick to just guns themselves?

Ultimately, the material here will continue to be based on what I find myself passionately interested in – that is what has made it successful from the beginning. But within that umbrella, there are of lots of different options for how material can be presented and I would appreciate getting your input. Thanks!

Shooting a G41(W) with ZF-41 scope



Mystery “Rocking Block” Pistol at RIA

There isn’t much I can say about this very unusual pistol, as I have no idea who made it or when. What I can tell is that it is a blowback action with a rather unique “rocking block” type of bolt and what appears to be a clock style coiled flat spring for the hammer. Definitely unlike anything else I’ve seen before!

Gustloff Prototype Pistol at RIA

Gustloff was a large industrial concern in Germany which made many different weapons for the military. In addition to these, its attempted to market a small-caliber pistol for police or SS use. This pistol used an alloy frame (with steel inserts for durability in crucial areas) and steel slide, with a simple blowback mechanism and a fixed barrel similar to the Walther PPK. It has a shrouded hammer, and double-action trigger mechanism. One particularly unusual element to the gun was its safety lever, which functioned to actually remove tension from the hammer spring when engaged. Ultimately, it appears that 200-300 were made for evaluation by various groups, but no contracts resulted. The pistols that were made saw little or no combat use, and were often brought back as souvenirs by occupying American soldiers. This example is a very early one, serial number 13.

Blake Bolt Action Rifle at RIA

The Blake was one of many rifle designs submitted to the US Army trials that would ultimately result in the adoption of the Krag-Jorgensen as the US Army’s standard rifle. The main innovation of Blake’s design was a unique ammunition “packet” system which held 7 cartridges. The rifle would be loaded from the bottom with pre-loaded packets, which would be carried like clips or magazines by troopers. However, the loading was not as quick or simple as with more typical clips, and the trials board felt the packets were both too fragile and too bulky. Blake went on to submit his rifle for Navy testing a few years later, where it lost out to the Lee Navy straight pull. His last effort was commercial production of the rifles, which got him a few sales, but not enough to sustain manufacture. This example is one of the commercial rifles.

Pinfire LeMat Grapeshot Revolver at RIA

Colonel Jean Alexandre LeMat was a native Frenchman who emigrated to the United States and in 1856 secured a patent for a “grapeshot revolver”, which had both a 9-shot .42 caliber cylinder and a 20-gauge smoothbore barrel acting as the cylinder axis. A moveable striking surface on the hammer allowed the user to alternate between firing the rounds in the cylinder and the center shotgun barrel. Unable to find a manufacturer in the US, LeMat had them manufactured in Belgium. These revolvers achieved most of their current notoriety as a result of several thousand being used by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War – and those guns were percussion ones. However, LeMat also made a smaller number of pinfire variants for sale in Europe (where pinfire cartridges were much more common than in the Americas). This LeMat revolver is one of the pinfire examples, which still has a 9-shot cylinder and retains the percussion mechanism for the center smoothbore barrel. It comes in its original case, with several tools including a mold to make an interested 3-part segmented slug.

A Semiauto FG-42 up on Gunbroker

Rick from SMG Guns dropped me a line to let me know that he has put one of his 8mm semiauto FG-42 rifles up for sale on Gunbroker. In fact, it’s actually the exact demo gun that he had sent me back in 2013, which I did a review video about. A few things to know about this rifle – it is definitely a used gun, but has a new chrome-lined barrel installed, and Rick is selling it with a warranty just like a new gun. So basically, you get a nice and slick action with a brand new barrel and a guarantee. To me, that’s better than brand new. The starting price is $2500 (half that of a new gun), and the winner gets it right now, instead of having to wait for a new production piece (the wait time is a couple months right now, I believe). Why sell this one? Rick has made a couple tweaks to the receivers to make them look a bit more original, and so this is no longer useful as a demo and review gun.

Semiauto SMG FG-42 rifle

If you didn’t see my original review, I’ve embedded it below – but in a nutshell, these rifles are soft shooting, hard hitting, and oozing with awesome historical quality. Rick has done a great job building them, and they are great shooters. I think the 8mm version is preferable to the .308 for historical authenticity, and because they use available and high-quality ZB26 magazines.  I don’t know what the final sale price will be on this, but someone is going to get either a great deal, a free ticket past the waiting line, or both. If I had the money, I would be buying it myself instead of telling you guys about it. :)

Japanese Pedersen Rifle at RIA

After he failed to win US military adoption of his toggle-locked rifle design, John Pedersen went looking for other countries that might be interested in the gun. One of these was Japan, which experimented with toggle-locked Pedersen rifles and carbines for several years in the early/mid 1930s. This particular one is serial number 8, and has a scope mounting rail attached to it. It functions like a normal Pedersen rifle, but has a rotary magazine instead of the en bloc clip used in the US trial and British-produced rifles.

Very Early Mars Pistol #4 at RIA

Until the midle of the 20th century, the most powerful automatic pistol made was Sir Hugh Gabbett-Fairfax’s Mars pistol. With the .45 caliber version approaching the energy of a .45 Winchester Magnum, it was quite the accomplishment for a gun designed initially in 1898! Well, RIA has a very early example of the Mars – serial number 4 – coming up for sale. This gun (chambered for the .360 Mars cartridge) has a number of features that differ from the more “typical” Mars pistols (all 80 or so that were ultimately made). These include a very long barrel, a tangent-style rear sight, and a 3-lug bolt instead of the standard 4-lug type. A very cool pistol to have a look at!