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Ed Browning’s Winchester G30 Prototypes (Video)

After Jonathan Edward “Ed” Browning had his 1929 rifle dropped form US military testing, he took the design back to his shop in Utah and kept working on it. By 1938 he had made enough improvements that he was ready to present the gun to Winchester, hoping they would be interested in purchasing the design. Specifically, he redesigned the receiver to move much of the bolt travel into the wrist of the stock, shortening the action. He also replaced the short recoil action with an annular gas piston. He made two sample rifles, one in military configuration and one in sporting configuration.

Winchester was looking for a self-loading rifle to market at the time, because they could see that war in Europe appeared to be imminent. They had been caught without a military rifle of their own during World War One, and did not want to be in that situation again. They thought that Ed Browning’s design showed merit, so they agreed to purchase it, and brought Browning onboard to help continue development.

With Winchester’s resources, it was possible to make the guns more professionally. Winchester designated the rifle the G30, and we have one of the examples made by Winchester in the video as well.

The tilting bolt mechanism took inspiration from John Moses Browning’s 1911 pistol, and the trigger housing bears an interesting resemblance to that of the French Berthier rifles (which may or may not be coincidental). The rifles appear to have worked reasonably well, although the annular gas piston was a hindrance which Browning apparently was unwilling to abandon. With his death in 1939, the project moved on to a new phase with David Marshall Williams taking on the job of improving it.

Vintage Saturday: Sniper Troubles

British troops in Northern Ireland, 1971

British troops in Northern Ireland, 1971

Hard to use those face shields and still get a sight picture…

Colt Model 1929 Prototype .276 Rifle

On October 1, 1928, the US War Department published a request for semiautomatic rifle designs. The Colt company submitted this .276 caliber rifle to the ensuing trials in 1929. It was designed by Jonathan Edward “Ed” Browning (half brother of John Moses Browning) and was a recoil-operated, tilting bolt design weighing 9lb 9oz and using 108 parts. The tilting bolt system was derived from the 1911 pistol system as designed by John Moses Browning, and the operating system also used an accelerator reminiscent of JMB’s Model 1917 and 1919 machine guns.

After the trials, the Colt 1929 rifle was deemed unfit for further testing by the Ordnance Department because of poor feeding, poor cooling ability, an overly long receiver and short barrel, too many parts, and being too heavy overall. Ed Browning would take the design back to his workshop and continue working on it, eventually replacing the short recoil operating system with an annular gas piston, and bringing it to the Winchester company in the late 1930s.

Today, this rifle resides in the collection of the Cody Firearms Museum.

A Spencer Anecdote

In early 1864, Arizona pioneer and Colonel King S. Woolsey borrowed a Spencer repeating rifle from then-Territorial Governor John Goodwin for an expedition against a band of Apaches. On Aril 26, 1864, the Hartford Evening Press published this account from Woolsey:

We rested the next day to arrange details,, fit pack saddles, assort and equalize packs, etc. The note of preparation was heard everywhere, mules being shod, saddles and bridles repaired, balls cast and cartridges made. The citizens were trying their long rifles at a mark at about a hundred yards. It was a small board painted black, with a bit of white paper, about an inch square, in the center. All frontiersmen are curious about new weapons, and at the same time prejudiced against them. The fame of my seven-shooter, the Spencer, had got abroad, and they wanted to see it shoot.

I don’t much like to waste ammunition when no more can be got, and to tell the truth I had no great confidence in my marksmanship to do justice to the weapon. I had never fired a rifle in my life until I left the Missouri, and I never fired anything but the Spencer. This last gave me great advantage, for the weight in the Spencer is very different from any other, and usually annoys a stranger in firing it at first. I advanced into the ring, and at the first shot had the good luck to hit the paper in the center and split the board. I concluded it was best not to try again, and others fired off the other shots.

As a weapon for fighting Indians, the Spencer has no superior. Its seven shots can be loaded in less time than any other rifle can be loaded and capped, it can be fired more rapidly than a revolver, and reloaded in a tenth of the time it would take to reload a Colt, in fact in an Indian fight, in close quarters, I think a revolver was never reloaded. The fixed ammunition has immense advantages, as soon it can be easily obtained say at San Francisco even, for it never wastes, and cannot be injured by transportation.

So completely were the soldiers and civilians convinced of this that I could have sold a dozen on the spot with two or three hundred rounds of ammunition each, at very near a hundred dollars in gold apiece, if I had had them.

From Roy Marcot’s Spencer Repeating Firearms (Northwood Heritage Press, 1993).

Roth Steyr 1907 at a Run-n-Gun Steel Match (Video)

We have a monthly pistol competition here called Steelworkers – a bunch of stages of all steel targets. I finally accumulated enough stripper clips (3) for my 1907 Roth-Steyr to be able to compete, so I figured I should give it a run!

The 1907 was used by the Austro-Hungarian cavalry, and is in my opinion one of the best pistols of World War I. It is a solid and durable design firing a reasonably powerful cartridge (for the time, at least – 8mm Steyr is a 113gr projectile at about 1070fps) and with reasonable sights and good handling. It is mechanically innovative, with a firing mechanism functionally identical to today’s “safe-action” systems. The striker is halfway cocked by the action of the gun cycling, and the remaining half is done by the trigger press. The 1907 uses a proprietary stripper clip holding 10 rounds, with a movable follower built in. Pressing down on the clip’s follower puts an even pressure on the cartridges, helping to make it a very smooth design to use – I would rate it as equal or better than any other type of stripper clip I have used.

Overall I took 17th place of 21 shooters – although on stage #1 I am very pleased to have taken 10th! The strong hand and weak hand requirements there clearly helped me level the playing field. :)

Riot-Control Trigger Guards on Turkish G3 Rifles

An interesting detail from a couple photos of the recent disturbance in Turkey. Take a look at the trigger guards of the G3 rifles – they have been equipped with large protective shields. I have not seen this sort of thing before, but it appears to be a riot-control type of modification, either to prevent the trigger from being pulled when people are grappling over the gun, or to prevent nervous privates from firing unintentionally.

Thanks to Tim for the photos (click to enlarge)!

trigger guards 1

trigger guards 2

CETME-L History & Disassembly (Video)

The CETME-L was Spain’s replacement for the CETME Modelo C, which was the 7.62x51mm rifle that was essentially adopted by Germany as the G3 in the 1950s. By the 1980s Spain needed to move to the new NATO standard caliber, 5.56x45mm. A domestic design was preferred, so rather than but HK-93 rifles from Germany the Spanish military opted to bring back a development project that had begun back in 1971.

The CETME Modelo L uses the exact same operating system as the Modelo C and the HK 91/93, but because its design was run independently by Spain it shares few interchangeable parts. Most notably, the cocking handle tube and receiver top have a square profile, rather than round. The magazine well was intended to use STANAG magazines, but was not particularly well designed and has a very steep and abrupt feed angle. This, combined with quality control issues in rifle and magazine manufacture led to substantial reliability problems. The final development was completed between 1982 and 1984, with production beginning in 1986 and the full run or about 100,000 rifles finished in 1991. By 1996 the deficiencies with the rifle were clear, and the Spanish military held replacement trials, which would result in the H&K G36E being adopted in 1999 to replace the Modelo L.

The CETME-L design, if built correctly, is a reasonably good one, although rather old-fahsioned by the late 1980s. It lacked the modularity to allow use of modern optical sights, lasers, attached grenade launchers, and other accessories that were becoming common. This is likely due to the design originating more than a decade earlier – had it been introduced in the early 1970s it would have been much more timely.

In addition to this standard Modelo L, two other versions were also used in smaller numbers. The Modelo LC was a carbine variant with a shorter barrel and collapsing stock, and the Modelo LV was an marksman’s variant with a STANAG optics rail incorporated into its different type of rear sight.

Thanks to Hill & Mac Gunworks for letting me take a look at this rifle!

Vintage Saturday: Life and Death in the Mud

Souain, France, ca. 1915.(Bibliotheque nationale de France Francois-Mitterrand)

French soldier standing over German dead. Souain, France, ca. 1915.(Bibliotheque Nationale de France Francois-Mitterrand)

Pavesi Prototype SVT Copy (Video)

This rifle is pretty much a big mystery – I have virtually no good information on it. Through inspection, we know it is a mechanical copy of the Soviet SVT 38 or 40 – it shares the same exact bolt, locking system, and gas system. Even many aesthetic features like the metal front handguard, muzzle brake, and sights are remarkably similar to those of the SVT. The biggest difference is the magazine, which is a fixed design fed only be stripper clips. The rifle is chambered for the 8x59mm Breda cartridge, and magazine capacity is unknown – probably either 9 or 10 rounds.

The clue that this is a Pavesi rifle comes from the safety lever, which is identical to the safety lever on the Model 1942 Pavesi rifle. The only markings on this piece are two repetitions of the serial number (875), on the receiver and stock. This serial number suggests that a significant number of these rifles may have been made, although I have not seen any other examples, nor any recorded information on when or where they were made, tested, or fielded.

The most interesting diversion from the standard SVT construction is the addition of a leather buffer pad on the back of the receiver. This was clearly added after the rifle was built, as it must be removed before the bolt can be taken out of the action. The details of the receiver cover attachment were also modified from the original SVT, making disassembly and reassembly easier, with the mainspring less prone to kinking as in the SVT.

This example is in the reference collection of the Beretta company in Brescia. Many thanks to them for allowing me to take a look at it!

Pavesi SVT Copy

Book Review: SOE Equipment Air Dropped in Europe 1940-1945

SOE Equipment Air Dropped in Europe 1940-1945A while back I posted a review of a great little paperback account of Winston Churchill’s Toyshop – the development of clandestine warfare gear for use by saboteurs and resistance movements in occupied Europe during WWII. That book did a great job of telling the story of the development of these gadgets, but didn’t really get into their actual distribution and use. Well, we now have access to a wonderful companion book by Anders Thygesen and Michael Sode about the devices themselves.

Where Stuart Macrae’s book is nearly all text, Thygesen and Sode have produced a volume in which virtually every page includes a nice glossy photo – some period black and white and many full color, taken in collections of this gear today.

This book is organized rather like a museum of SOE gear, with each section cataloging a number of items, with a brief description, development history, and production total for each. They are accompanied by clear and close-up photos of each item. The contents include:

– Initiating and Delay Mechanisms
– Explosives
– Incendiaries
– Weapons
– Containers & parachutes
– Communications equipment
– and more

The book is particularly strong in the areas of explosive initiators and timers, of which there were a surprising variety. Pull switches, pressure switches, time pencils, release switches, fog signals (for detonating railway bombs) and more. All manner of limpet mines and some pretty slick disguised explosives, like magnetic fake bolt heads and dead rats stuffed with explosive. When it comes to firearms, the book’s strength is definitely the Welrod. The authors had excellent access to disassemble and fire at least one Welrod, and the history and explanation of this very cool covert weapon is excellent. The other firearms that were used are pretty much just listed with photographs, as they are commonly available and well documented guns. Oh, except the Colt 1903 converted to be strapped to one’s waist and fired by remote activator, an example of which was captured by the Danish police and is well documented here.

There is much more in this book than I can describe in a short review like this, but hopefully this will give you the gist of the content. It runs to 255 pages, including about 50 pages of reproduced English-language original sabotage instruction manual. The printing quality is excellent, unlike some home-printed niche subject books – this is very definitely a professional hard-cover book and not just a pamphlet.

This is another of those works written to fulfill a personal passion, which will never be widely printed. The English run is just 300 copies, although if those sell out apparently a second volume will be done in a few years. So if you are interested in the subject, act now before they are gone. The price is a rather high, at 65 Euros shipped to the US (that’s about $73 at the time of this writing) or Europe (air dropped, you might say). But that’s the price we pay for well-printed books on very niche subjects. It is not available on Amazon or elsewhere, just direct from the authors via PayPal.