German troops with captured Mosin Nagant rifles (and one SVT-40).
German troops with captured Mosin Nagant rifles (and one SVT-40).
This particular rifle is a prototype of the reproduction VG1-5 (or more correctly called the Gustloff MP-507) rifles that are available for sale from Chuck at GunLab.net. I will take some slow motion footage of a production example as well, once I have it in hand.
For more details on the gun, check out my full video on it here:
Regular readers may recall that about a year ago I wrote a review of Firearms Anatomy I: The Thompson M1A1 Submachine Gun by David Findlay. It was a very neat book covering the Thompson from a totally different view than other books; it explored the actual mechanical engineering behind how the Thompson operates. Well, Mr. Findlay has just recently released Book II in his Firearms Anatomy series, and this one is on the Sten Submachine Gun.
The book is similar in layout to the Thompson, with a brief history of the Sten (it is particularly impressive to realize that only 36 days elapsed from initial concept approval to the completion of the first firing prototype, and more than 3.75 million of the guns would eventually be made), followed by several chapters of mathematical and engineering analysis of the design, and a complete set of reverse-engineered technical drawings for a MkII Sten.
The analysis begins with two methods of calculating rate of fire as a function of several variables. The first method is calculations assuming conservation of energy (ie, that the bolt will have an equal amount of energy as the bullet) and the second is using the Working Model 2D software package (the software is not included with the book, to be clear – this is an explanation of the variables used to solve the problem). For a simple blowback submachine gun, the rate of fire is the mathematical heart of the system, and it allows you to understand the impact of changing bolt mass, spring strength, receiver length, friction of the bolt, firing angle, and elasticity of the bolt bouncing off the rear of the receiver. Once you understand the relationship between these factors, you can design a blowback action to fit whatever parameters you like. It’s not the only element of design (others would include trigger mechanism design, magazine design, feed geometry, etc), but it is a particularly important one.
Once we get out of this math, Chapter 4 is a brief discussion of metallurgy and heat treatment. Not much about why specific alloys and heat treats are chosen, but more than you will usually find on what choices are typical for which applications. Chapter 5 covers barrel design – a subject not included in Book I on the Thompson. Barrels are actually rather simple from an engineering perspective, and Findlay uses the chapter to show how one calculates tangential, radial, and axial stresses, and how to arrive at a barrel wall thickness based on those stresses combined with cartridge pressure and material strength.
Chapter 7 is a brief commentary on feed geometry which will provide the interested reader with the basic problems of designing a firearms feed system. It does not get into methods of solving these problems, though, as this work was basically sidestepped on the Sten by using the existing magazine and feed layout from the German MP-28.
I should also take a moment to point out Mr. Findlay’s qualifications for writing a book like this. He has spent an entire career in firearms design, including 26 years at Remington (which did not include any time spent on the new R51), followed by a stint as a designer and engineering lead for Marlin and H&R, and finally his current position as an engineer for Smith & Wesson. If that weren’t enough, he also hold 8 of his own firearms-related patents.
This book on the Sten is a great resource for the aspiring gun designer. It has a lot of the information needed to really understand how this type of firearm works at the purest level, and will point you in the right direction for the questions it doesn’t answer directly. It is printed independently by Mr. Findlay, and available on Amazon:
A friend of mine – Karl, in fact, who you’ve probably seen on InRange or 2-gun videos – is looking to sell or trade a reproduction German K98k sniper. It’s a gorgeous example of a single-claw sniper, built on an authentic sniper K98k sniper as far as we can tell. The work was very well done, and by someone who left a couple telltale details incorrect to prevent it from ever being passed off as an original. Karl bought it as a shooter, and it doesn’t quite live up to that standard, so he’s looking to get either sell it or swap it for a different reproduction K98k sniper.
(if you would like to see other photos of any specific details, let me know)
As I said above, the work was very well done. It is nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. It would be perfect for a reenactor, or as a placeholder in a sniper rifle or German WWII collection for someone who can’t justify the many thousands of dollars that would be required for an original single-claw sniper. Matching numbers on all the major parts (everything we can see except the buttplate), correct scope, correct sniper markings, the works. Excellent quality glass.
The bore is not in good shape. With Yugoslav ammo, it shoots 3-4 MOA. Closes on a NO-GO gauge, but will not close on a FIELD gauge.
Price or Trades
Cash price would be $1500 shipped & insured to your FFL. A trade would be preferable, though, for another high-quality reproduction K98k sniper. How well it shoots is more important here than how it looks (there was a long rail sniper built on a Russian-capture rifle at the recent SAR show that would be an ideal trade, if its owner is interested). Any type of sniper setup is fine (the single claw mount is one of the rarest), and details like mismatching numbers would also be fine, as long as the rifle shoots 2 MOA or better.
Interested? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will put you in touch with Karl. Thanks!
If You’re Still Reading This
…you are probably reasonably interested in German sniper rifles. So I will take a moment to point out a pretty neat book I recently picked up: German Sniper Rifles: Propaganda Photo Series Volume VII by S.I. Publicaties BV. It’s one from a series of books based heavily on German wartime photos of specific weapons in the field (in this case, obviously, sniper rifles). The book is about 1/3 history of the German sniping program from the early Jaeger rifles through WWII, and then 2/3 photos, with detailed captions.
Unlike most coffee-table type photo book, I was impressed by the detail and depth of the historical section of this book. It’s not a full treatise on and particular type of rifle, like a Collector Grade book, but in 50 pages of history it’s not supposed to be. It gives a really good overview of the material, and does a good job of addressing the different types of scoped rifles used by Germany, including the G98. K98a, K98b, K98k, G43, MP43/44, captured Russian M91/30 and SVT rifles, and more. The photos include both WWI and WWII, although the WWII ones and more numerous. The photo captions are also much better than the typical photo book, as the editor (Guus de Vries) is actually serious history and firearms enthusiast, and takes the time to point out the interesting elements in each picture, and also provides details on when and where they were taken.
If you have any interest in the history of German sniping through the end of WWII, this would be an excellent addition to your library. Even if you already know everything covered in the history section, the photos are a great way to see how things were actually done in the field – which is not always in line with what books and manuals describe. the books are published in the Netherlands, but you can get a copy from the US retailer (Casemate Publishers) or from Amazon:
Reader Kymm was kind enough to load me this rifle to video, with a particular interest in seeing the amount of gas leakage (or lack thereof) on high-speed footage. This early model of Sharps featured a sliding sleeve inside the chamber, which was intended to push backwards into the breechblock under pressure when firing, and thereby seal the breech. In practice, however, powder fouling would very quickly seize the sleeve in place. Later iteration of the Sharps would use a more effective platinum ring on the breechblock to seal the action, before finally giving way to use of brass cartridge cases (which eliminated the gas seal problem once and for all).
I was unable to ascertain the true history of this particular Sharps, unfortunately. It is an 1852 pattern rifle, which is rather rare, and does not have a patchbox in the stock. The top of the barrel is marked “D.C. HODGKINS & SONS MACON GA 1862″ which would seems to suggest Confederate provenance, but I can’t find a reference to Hodgkins working on this type of rifle. Also, I am automatically skeptical of any potential Confederate weapon, simply because of their scarcity and the number of fakes made. Authenticating Civil War era firearms is not my forte, and if anyone can shed some light on the history of this one I would be very interested. It did feel authentic, as far as that gut feeling goes…
A couple video that went up this past week on Full30 that may be if interest…
First, footage of a Pedersen Device being fired. This was taken by Chuck (of GunLab.net) and I put it together into a video. Thanks, Chuck!
Second, a pair of videos of SMG Guns’ first experimental iteration of a modernized FG-42. While it was developed into the M60, the FG-42 never had a chance to show what it was capable of becoming as a shoulder rifle. SMG put together one with modern optics capability, a shortened barrel, and some other features, and sent it down for Karl and I to test out. We have two videos up, one of Karl shooting it in a 2-gun match, and one of he and I discussing its history and modifications.
Imperial Russian gun crew with a 1905 Maxim on an early Sokolov tripod mount.
Seth Cane has previously written a 3-part series of articles for us on the Galil, which you can see here: Galil SAR, Galil AR, and Galil ARM. He is now following that with an in-depth piece on the Swedish trials of the Galil. Thanks, Seth!
For folks interested in the Galil, Seth has also produced a PDF guide to the rifle in its many variations, which you can download here for free.
FFV-890C: The Swedish Service Rifle That Never Was
by Seth Cane
Although Sweden has maintained its neutrality for almost 200 years, it has managed to foster many great advances in small arms over the course of modern history and remain at the forefront of arms technology and military capability. Today we will examine one of the least-known Swedish designs that came quite close to being the standard service rifle of the Swedish armed forces instead of the FNC; the FFV-890C.
The story begins in the early 1970′s where Sweden was seeking a new service rifle to replace the rather outdated AK4. The AK4 was a locally-produced (and slightly modified) copy of the venerable HK-G3 rifle introduced to the Swedish armed forces in 1965. Although the AK4 was a reliable and easy to produce, budget-constraints and changes in the military’s logic (which at the time favored investments in aircraft and vehicles instead of small-arms) meant that mass-production never met the requirements of the Swedish military where the old Mauser rifles were still officially in use with rear echelon units and the Hemvärnet (Home Guard). At the same time, the adoption of the M16 by the Americans and the AK47/AKM/AK74 by the Soviets prompted Sweden to seek a new, lighter design in a caliber smaller than 7.62 NATO rather than continue to produce the AK4. Thus, new trials were put forth for the adoption of a service rifle that would be the AK5.
Trials for the AK5 were rather unique in that politics played no major role on paper but certainly lent themselves in the final selection; the neutrality of Sweden allowed a number of designs of differing backgrounds to be considered in initial testing which took place around 1974-1975. The candidates were:
Problems with most of the designs were quickly found during winter cold-weather testing that immediately disqualified most of them from selection, with the only remaining candidates being the FN-FNC (the FN-CAL was disqualified for cost and when production ceased) and the IMI Galil-ARM/SAR. Although the Galil-ARM and SAR tested were international export models produced by IMI, both had been submitted and re-designated “FFV-890″ by Försvarets Fabriksverk (FFV), a defense manufacturer that existed from 1943-1991 that also maintained ownership of the Bofors Carl Gustav state arsenal, in hopes of producing the rifle on license as was the case with the HK-G3. Although the Galil-ARM was unmodified, the Galil-SAR had a brass plate riveted over IMI’s markings on the receiver and given new markings. This was only done to the SAR model; the ARM kept its original markings, possibly because FFV found the SAR as having a greater chance of adoption than the heavier ARM.
During the years of 1975-1979, the Galil-ARM was discarded from the trials and the SAR was modified by FFV to decrease weight, reduce size, optimize for cold climates and reduce manufacturing costs. The modifications included the following:
It should be noted that most components on the FFV-890C were prefabricated by IMI with only the handguard assembly being a likely FFV-manufactured component. Despite this, there is some indication that the receiver may have also been manufactured by FFV as it lacks the lightening-cuts and markings used by IMI during the period. The FFV-890C is unusual compared to the Galil in that the receiver, recoil assembly, dust cover and bolt assembly are all serialized to the weapon; at the time, only the receiver, bolt and dust cover were serialized on Galil rifles. This practice was later dropped with only the receivers being serialized.
The redesigned FFV-890 (Galil-SAR) was designated FFV-890C (the addition of the ‘C’ indicating an update similar to American use of ‘A1/A2′ designations) and was presented as a complete rifle package, including a three-vial cleaning kit and rod, a multi-purpose Galil tool, rifle-grenades and a sling comprised of a Galil sling webbing with HK metal hooks attached.
At some point after 1979, the FFV890C was modified again into the Model-2(not an official designation) with the following changes:
The FFV-890C Model 2 presumably incorporated changes requested during the trials. It is unclear why most of the changes were made, as they appear unnecessary for the design with most of the ‘upgrades’ incorporated into the FFV-890C Model 1 being removed. With the new safety mechanism, it is implied that a user could have the rifle set to either Semi-or Full-Automatic firing modes and still have the rifle on safe with the cross-safety, though it is unclear if this was the intent of the design. Some Model 2 rifles even had modified G3 selectors affixed to the main axis on the left side; there was one example on display at the former Carl-Gustav museum in Eskilstuna, though the museum has long since closed. To date it is unknown how many Model 2 rifles were produced, but the number was certainly small, even compared to the standard Model 1 FFV-890C.
Further testing of the FFV-890C and FN-FNC was conducted during the 1979-1980 period, where the FFV-890C was considered favorable over the FNC by the participants but labeled the opposite in the trial documents. The most likely reason for this was costs; because tooling for the AK4 was already setup for stamping components, it was deemed a step back to revert to milling and investment casting over the more economical method already employed. The Galil/FFV890C is almost entirely machined with the only stamped components being the magazine-release, dust cover, trigger guard, and right-safety selector. The FNC, on the other hand, incorporated a stamped upper-receiver and handguard assembly with an easy to machine alloy lower-receiver, cutting costs significantly. FFV had made attempts to incorporate a stamped-receiver like the AKM into the Galil/FFV-890C design, but like other attempts to do so with the Galil, this proved unworkable.
There were a few other possible political reasons for choosing the FNC over the FFV; first, the Israeli government did not have great favor amongst the Swedish social democratic government at the time (likely due to its seizing of territory after the Yom Kippur War of 1973) and discouraged adoption of an Israeli-licensed design; second, although Sweden was officially neutral, internally it considered the Soviet Union to be a greater threat than the West and adoption of a AK47-derived design was also discouraged.
Ultimately, the FN-FNC was declared the winner by the FMV-Försvarets Materielverk (Swedish Defence Materiel Administration) and modified further into what became the AK5, which was fully-adopted in 1985. That same year, production of the AK4 ceased.
FFV made attempts to market the FFV-890C internationally but failed to garner any buyers. The rights to the FFV-890C design were then sold to the Finnish company Valmet, who presumably incorporated some of the design characteristics into their own weapons. It is estimated less than 1000 FFV-890C prototype rifles were made (all bearing 4-digit serial numbers beginning with ’0′) with some still existing in police armories and a small handful having trickled out into the civilian market. It is rumored about 2-3 damaged rifles were de-militarized and imported in the early 2000′s as parts kits by SARCO company, though no completed rifles have ever been built on US soil. As such, information on the FFV-890C has remained relatively nonexistent despite it having been close to adoption as the AK5 service rifle of the Swedish armed forces instead of the FN-FNC. Today, both the AK5 and AK4 remain in service with the latter seeing use with reserve units such as the Home Guard.
Special thanks to my friends in Sweden for helping make this article possible!
Today we’re looking at a luftgekühlt maschinengewehr 08/15 in slow motion – a lightened and mair-cooled version of the Maxim used on German WWI aircraft. This particular example is set up as a Zeppelin gun, with a buttstock and pistol grip (guns mounted on fixed-wing aircraft had different fire-control mechanisms). It is also missing the original AA spider sights, and instead has a regular MG08/15 top cover and rear sight. Lastly, it is firing with an inverted MG34 belt – a workaround that was actually used during WWII when proper Maxim belts were not available.
Anyway, I am indebted to Mark D. for firing the gun on camera, and his father for making it available. Thanks, guys!
Today’s post is a guest article written by Mike Burns, taking a look at one of the S&W revolver copies made in Eibar for the French military. He compares it to a WWI .455-caliber S&W Hand Ejector and a WWII .38-caliber S&W Military & Police revolver. Thanks, Mike!
This is intended to be a technical article, however a brief potted history to set the stage is appropriate.
Once it was clear that the first world war would go on for some time, the French government needed to find alternative sources of handguns to supplement the “modern” Model 1892 Saint-Etienne revolvers, often mis-named “Lebel” revolvers, and the older Model 1873 revolvers still in service. To avoid supply issues, the French insisted that revolvers offered must chamber their 8mm M92 revolver cartridge. This cartridge propelled a 120gn .330” jacketed bullet at about 740fps, which by British and American standards is anaemic.
To respond to this need, many gunmakers in the Eibar valley in the Basque Country, started producing revolvers for the French. Since Smith & Wesson and Colt’s patent protection did not extend to Spain in that period, these makers had long been producing local versions of American revolvers, including the Smith & Wesson topbreaks, the solid-frame M&P, Colt New Model Army & Navy, and the Colt Police Positive.
The French government chose local versions of the Smith & Wesson M&P, of which the firms of Trocaola Aranzabal Y Cia, Garate y Anitua & Cia, Orbea Hermanos and others already had experience. In French service these were referred to as “Modèle 92 espagnols” – “Spanish Model 92s”, presumably making reference to the calibre designation, or indicating that they were a substitute standard to the “real” Model 92’s. Interestingly enough, the British government also purchased numbers of topbreak S&W clones in .455 Webley at the same time, although these appear to have been relegated to a training role.
This particular revolver is from Trocaola, and is in about 80% exterior condition with holster wear. However, the barrel and cylinder interiors look like it has hardly been fired.
To compare with a Smith and Wesson of the period, we shall look at how this revolver differs mechanically and in its construction from a Smith and Wesson Hand Ejector in .455 Webley of WW1 manufacture. For a general external appreciation, we’ll also compare with a late-WW2 commercial M&P in British configuration in .38 S&W calibre with a 5” barrel. This particular M&P is a whole story in and of itself, but that’s for another time.
Are these revolvers junk, as many claim? Let’s have a look at them from an engineering, design and practical perspective.
So, to start off, here’s the three revolvers:
The relationship between the designs is obvious, right down to the end of the ejector rod, which is very much of the period and was later changed as you can see from the M&P. Barrel length is 11cm (4 1/3 inches), a practical length for a military revolver which makes the 16.5cm (6 1/2 inches) of the Hand Ejector look frankly ridiculous.
The finish is somewhat thin, although there are some dings on the surface which have not removed the bluing. The first difference for economy is that the frame behind the trigger guard is not as rounded as the S&W, eliminating some machining here.
Since we’re still dealing with the outside aspects, let’s have a look at the sight pictures:
For the period, the Trocaola’s sights are excellent: well-proportioned for combat shooting, unlike the impractically-fine sights on the Hand Ejector. My only complaint is that the notch could be deeper and possibly squarer, like the M&P.
Another external aspect that is interesting is the shape of the cylinder latch, which is deeply curved and very heavily chequered.
Interestingly, Trocaola chose to keep the pivoting firing pin nose of the S&W, which they could quite easily have done away with as a manufacturing shortcut. Surprisingly, they used a flush-ground solid pin rather than the rollpin of the original, which is so well-fitted that you can hardly see it in the photograph.
Viewed now from above, we have an ergonomic feature that is clearly better than the original S&W:
The S&W hammer of the era, which is the same even on the WW2 M&P in the first picture, is made of a single slab of steel, and has the same thickness everywhere. The hammer spur on the Trocaola (left) is broader than the body of the hammer, making manipulation rather easier – even though this is a manufacturing complication! Like the S&W, the hammer is colour case hardened. You can also see from this photo that the sideplate fit is pretty good. Although you can tell that the S&W is made to higher tolerances than the Trocaola when you put it back on, since the Trocaola is quite tight.
Here we can see a major manufacturing shortcut – the cutouts on the inside of the sideplate on the Trocaola (bottom) have clearly been made with worn tooling, cut as fast as possible. But since they don’t come in contact with any moving parts, it doesn’t matter. Interestingly, the three digit number stamped on the sideplate is not part of the serial number, but appears also on the front face of the cylinder and under the barrel. The crane and the bottom of the grip frame carry the real serial number.
Another change is the ratchets:
The Trocaola ratchet (left) is much simpler, and much more rugged. It is also quite a lot thicker, to compensate for the comparatively soft metal used in the revolver’s construction. And the rumours about soft metal are true – the screws in particular are made of monkey metal, and the sideplate has a slight dent where someone (not me!) hit it too hard with something too pointed when putting it back on!
To go with this chunkier ratchet, the hand is also much thicker and more rugged:
From a military standpoint, the S&W hand is quite fine and relatively fragile – the British Textbook of Smallarms makes reference to the S&W having the finest and most fragile lockwork of the three main British service revolvers of the period (Webley, Colt, S&W). From this perspective, the Trocaola hand is much stronger, much more rugged, and can thus apply more force to the ratchet in case the revolver is full of mud. You can also see the deep cutout in the recoil shield to allow the thicker ratchet to pass.
At the other end of the cylinder we have another bit of ruggedisation. The forcing cone is long, and gently tapered. Bearing in mind that the bore is .327”, here’s a .361” bullet inserted base-first into the forcing cone:
This will tolerate enormous amounts of mud and fouling, as well as an incredible misalignment of the cylinder. The flash gap is .017”, about the same as the Hand Ejector (.015”), but much less than the later commercial M&P (.007”). Again, we’re going for reliability and tolerance of dirt here.
Let’s take a look at the lockwork now:
This is where it gets really interesting. On the left we have the classic S&W lockwork of the period, and on the right we have the extremely well-rationalised Trocaola lockwork.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the Trocaola is much simpler – there are only three major moving components: the trigger, the hand and the hammer. The trigger return slide has been deleted, reducing also the need to finely machine and finish the surfaces on which it runs. This removes quite a lot of parts and machining, since the trigger return slide also needs a post, a coil spring, and a connecting rod linking it with the trigger.
The mainspring is a single V-spring, which replaces three separate springs in the S&W: mainspring, trigger return spring and hand spring. One end of the V-spring is hooked onto a stirrup on the hammer, the same as the S&W. The other end terminates in a long finger which bears on an angled slot cut into the left face of the hand, pushing down on it. Since the slot is angled, this simultaneously pushes the hand down and cams it forward, and also pivots the trigger forward.
The parts are case-hardened where necessary, and the finish is every bit as good as the S&W where it matters. For ease of production, this rationalisation of the lock is very well thought-out.
Unfortunately, I can’t disassemble the lockwork further. That V-spring is a beast, and I suspect you need a clamp to un-tension it and take the lock parts out. But in any case, we can have a look at the lockworks in the resting and single-action positions (apologies for the camera glare):
The Trocaola lockwork thus functionally does everything the S&W’s does, but with far fewer components and far less precision machining and function-critical finishing. The hammer even withdraws properly when the trigger comes forward, without the benefit of the lug on the trigger return slide. The revolver is thus equally as safe to carry with the hammer down on a loaded chamber as the S&W.
You’ll also notice a rollpin on the grip frame. This doesn’t go all the way through the mainspring, but simply serves to keep the fold of the spring in position.
Something else they could have scrimped on but didn’t is the cylinder stop spring, which is still inserted down an angled bore from the outside and closed with a screw. Later S&W’s did away with this.
However, all this ruggedisation and simplicity comes at a cost:
Trigger pull. S&W are not stupid, and they put all that complexity and fine metalwork into their triggers to give an excellent pull.
With the Trocaola, the double-action is smooth, predictable and somewhat heavy. In fact, it is even a bit lighter than the 455 Hand Ejector with its original spring which is quite stiff. One improvement though is that there’s less “trigger stack” towards the end of the pull than the S&W.
Single-action – they’ve gone for a bit of safety, and the single action is quite long and creepy, and heavier than the S&W. They’ve cut a clear notch in the hammer, and you feel the hammer moving back during sear release. For a mass conscript army, this is probably not a bad thing. There apparently used to be a prejudice in the British army of the period that handguns were of more danger to their users than to the enemy, and there is probably more than a grain of truth to that assertion.
Both trigger modes are heavier and longer than my war finish Webley 38 Mk.IV. But if we compare them to contemporary Continental revolvers, are they bad at all? I’ve never handled a French Model 92, but compared to a Swiss M1882, the pulls on this Trocaola are lighter, although the M82 single action is crisper – it’s just extremely heavy. Unfortunately, as a modern shooter there’s not a lot you can do about the trigger pull. If I could find a replacement spring, I might try filing it a bit thinner across its width, but I suspect that the way the spring interracts with the hand to cam it forward needs it to be fairly fierce.
Compared to a tuned S&W, it’s clearly an inferior product in handling. But this is somewhat unfair, since it was designed as a cheap, mass-produced combat arm that had to be reliable in the hands of a muddy conscript. As for interchangeability with a real M&P, there is none. Not even the grip panels – the half-moon cutouts are a different size, the alignment pin is in a different place, and the grip needs a hole for the mainspring pin.
Overall, it appears that the revolver is a very serviceable military handgun, certainly in comparison with its continental contemporaries. It is certainly more practical than the side-gate loaded Swiss M1882, even if the quality of the materials and the finish is understandably poorer. However, the materials and finish are good where they need to be.
If anybody wants any detail photos of any specific aspects, let me know – I’ll be happy to oblige (if it can be seen without taking the mainspring out!)