Colt Paterson Revolver

My thanks to the Cody Firearms Museum, at the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West, for allowing me to film the revolver. I am very lucky to have handled it as it is normally on display.


The US Patent Office granted Samuel Colt a patent for his ‘Revolving Gun’ in February 1836 (US #9430X). Colt had already patented his design in Britain in October 1835 – at the age of just 21. He subsequently patented his design across Europe and worked with Baltimore gunsmith John Pearson to build a number of prototype revolvers. Colt’s pistol was not the first revolver but it did embody a number of important features combining the use of percussion caps and a bored-out cylinder with a single action trigger mechanism and cylinder locking bar.

With backing from his cousin and other investors Colt established the Patent Arms Company, building a factory in Paterson, New Jersey in late 1836. The Patent Arms Company produced a variety of revolvers in different sizes including pocket, belt and holster models. The .28 calibre Pocket Model No.1 being the smallest and the .36 calibre No.5 holster revolver being the largest. The company produced approximately 2,300 – 2,800 firearms (sources have various estimates on just how many revolvers and revolving rifles were manufactured) before the company collapsed, due to insufficient sales, in 1842.

The Colt Paterson

It was the No.5 which saw the greatest sales with small numbers being purchased by the Texas Rangers, Texan Navy and private citizens. The US Army reportedly tested Colt’s revolver in February and June 1837, finding a number of weaknesses to the design. Despite the approval of President Andrew Jackson the US military remained largely uninterested in the Paterson.

Small numbers of the revolvers were purchased by the U.S. government including 100 for the Navy in 1841 and 50 for the Army in 1845 after the company had collapsed. The Republic of Texas also purchased 180 revolvers for its navy in 1839.

Colt 1839 patent
Samuel Colt’s August 1839 Patent (US #1304)

The Paterson has a number of interesting features and lacks some components that would become standard on Colt’s later revolvers. The Patersons had octagonal barrels and were sold in a number of barrel lengths ranging from 2.5 to 9 inches, with 7.5 and 9 inches being the most popular. The barrel assembly attached to the receiver via the cylinder axis pin which was locked together by a wedge – a method which would be used in Colt pistols for over 30 years. They had a small front sight and a notch cut into the hammer that acted as a rear sight. The pistols had no trigger guard, instead they had a folding trigger, which deployed when the weapon was fully cocked. Initially, the Patersons lacked a loading lever beneath the barrel. Instead the cylinder was removed to enable loading and capping with a separate loading tool. Another characteristic of the belt and holster Patersons was their flared pistol grips.

Despite this Colt’s .36 calibre No.5 revolvers proved popular with Texas Rangers, so much so that workers often referred to it as ‘The Texas Arm’, who were frequently engaged in skirmishes with Mexicans and Native Americans. During one engagement with a large Comanche warriors along the Guadeloupe River one ranger recalled: “They were two hundred in number, and fought well and bravely, but our revolvers as fatal as they were astonishing, put them speedily to flight.”

Colt Paterson No.5 RIA
Patent Arms Company ‘Colt Paterson’ No.5 holster revolver (Rock Island Auctions)

Despite the Patterson’s relatively small calibre, lack of an integral loading arm and the frailties of the design (such as a bent axis pin) the revolver’s five round cylinder offered the men wielding them five times the firepower of their muzzle-loading, single shot pistols.

Despite the limited success of Colt’s revolver the design still needed improvements and Colt became determined that the path to success was through military contracts. Sadly, for Colt there weren’t forthcoming and the Patent Arms Company collapsed in 1841/2.

It was the Mexican–American War (1846-48) that revived Colt’s fortunes. Captain Samuel Walker, of the Texas Rangers and the US Army’s Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, was an admirer of Colt’s revolver having carried them in the field for a number of years. So much so that he wrote to Colt in 1846 saying:

“The pistols which you made… have been in use by the Rangers for three years, and I can say with confidence that it is the only good improvement I have seen. …Without your pistols we would not have had the confidence to have undertaken such daring adventures.”

Subsequently, the US government contracted Colt to produce 1,000 large calibre revolvers, the Model 1847. These huge, robust pistols had a fixed trigger and a loading lever as standard.

Colt Walker RIA
Colt’s Patent Manufacturing Company Model 1847 ‘Colt Walker’ Army Revolver (Rock Island Auctions)

In 1847 Colt began manufacturing what has since become known as the ‘Colt Walker’, a large, .44 calibre revolver with a six-shot cylinder, that weighed 4lbs 9oz (2.07kg). He subcontracted the production to Eli Whitney Jr. who set up tooling to manufacture the new pistols. These were issued to the US Army’s mounted regiments including the Texas Mounted Volunteers, the US Mounted Riflemen and Dragoons. The success of the Colt Model 1847 Army Revolver paved the way for Colt’s future success.

Adapted Colt Paterson with Loading Lever

Colt Paterson with holster
Adapted Colt Paterson No.5 Holster Model with contemporary holster (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)

The Colt Paterson was an expensive item when it first appeared on the market, costing between $40 and $50 – well over $1,000 today. So then, as now, it makes sense that people who invested a considerable amount in a revolver would adapt and upgrade it if they could.

Below is another example of a Colt Paterson which was adapted. A No.5 Holster model, serial number 951, which had had its barrel cut down to 5 inches. This was done after it left the factory as the cut interrupts the original factory marker’s markings. The pistol also has a new cone front sight added.

shortened colt paterson n05
Adapted Colt Paterson No.5 with factory loading lever, with a shortened barrel and new front sight. (Rock Island Auctions)

The pistol we are examining in this blog/video, is part of the Cody Firearms Museum’s collection – serial number 954. It had a number of alterations to the revolver, principally the addition of a captive loading lever and a new rear sight. While the Patent Arms Company had begun adding a loading lever to their revolvers in 1839, these were of a different style and shape. Below we can see two original examples of Patent Arms Company factory loading levers.

Colt Pater son long loading lever
Colt Paterson with long loading lever and scalloped cutout to allow capping, Serial number 818 (Collector Firearms)
Colt Paterson with lever - RIA
Colt Paterson with a short loading lever, serial number 515 (Rock Island Auctions)

It appears that loading levers of different designs were used on the post-1839 Patersons. The top revolver appears to use a lever similar to the one later utilised in the Model 1847. Both of the examples above differ significantly to that seen on serial number 954 (below), which is more akin to the loading levers seen on the Colt Model 1848 Percussion Army Revolver (or Colt Dragoon) and the later Model 1851 Navy. The profile of the levers and design and location of the pivot point differ. They both also lack any retention point near the end of the lever. This would suggest that #954’s lever is not a factory addition but something which was added later, copying the 1851 Navy’s retained lever which was patented in September 1850 (US #7,629). On close examination the cap cutout at the rear of the cylinder and the cut into the barrel assembly just in front of the cylinder to facilitate loading appear to differ from Patersons with factory loading levers.

Cody Firearms Museum Colt Paterson No.5
Colt Paterson No.5 serial number 954 held by the Cody Firearms Museum, note the 1851-style loading lever (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)

A similar retention latch system can be seen in Colt’s 1850 patent:

Samuel Colt's 1850 Patent
Samuel Colt’s 1850 Patent, featuring a loading lever retention system (US #7,629)

As with other Colt percussion revolvers with loading levers, the rammer acts on the 6 o’clock cylinder. To load, the revolver was brought to half cock, powder was poured into the chamber, followed by round ball projectile. This was seated enough to allow it to line up with the rammer and the lever could then be pulled to ram the ball home. The cylinder could then be capped. The 1839 Paterson’s had a scalloped cutout to allow caps to be placed on the cylinder nipples without removing the cylinder.

left colt paterson
Left-side view of the Colt Paterson No.5 (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)

Interestingly the revolver has a slightly bent rammer but seems to function fine despire this. This is perhaps an indication of hand-fitting by the gunsmith who adapted the revolver.

bENT RAMMER
Close up of the Colt Paterson at half cock, note the slightly bent rammer (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)

At some point, perhaps at the same time as the fitting of the lever, a new set of sights were fitted. With a more prominent front sight and a rear notch sight added to the top of the barrel, just in front of the cylinder. This was a feature that the 1851 Navy did not have, and no Colt revolver would have until decades later. The gunsmith appears to have cut the dove tail for the sight though the original decorative scroll engraving surrounding the maker’s mark.

Colt Paterson barrel markings
Close up of the revolver’s markers markings and added rear sight, which cuts through some of the original decorative scroll work (Photo: Matthew Moss, Courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum)

More Photographs of the Adapted Colt Paterson:

 

The revolvers produced at the Patent Arms Company’s Paterson factory in the late 1830s and early 1840s date from a fascinating period of American history, on the cusp of an era dominated by Samuel Colt’s revolvers. While the exact circumstances of the adaptations/upgrades made to the revolver we have examined at the Cody Firearms Museum are unclear it tells us that Colt’s revolvers, even early examples, were highly prized.


Specifications (for No.5 Holster model, #954):

Overall length: 13.5 in (35cm)
Barrel length: 8 in (20cm)
Calibre: .36
Capacity: 5-shot cylinder
Weight: ~2lb 10oz (1.2kg)


Bibliography:

‘Revolving Gun’, S. Colt, US Patent #9430X, 25 Feb. 1836 (source)

‘Improvement in fire-arms and in the apparatus used therewith’, S. Colt, US Patent #1304, 29 Aug. 1839 (source)

‘Improvement in revolving chambered fire-arms’, S. Colt, US Patent #7629, 10 Sep. 1850 (source)

Colt Paterson No.5 with Loading Lever, Cody Firearms Museum, online catalogue entry (source)

The Handgun Story, J. Walter, (2008)

Colt Single Action Revolvers, M. Pegler, (2017)

Handguns of the World, E.C. Ezell, (1983)

‘Colt’s Paterson—the Foaling of a Legend’, True West, P. Spangenberger, (source)

‘Colt: Evolution vs. Transition’, Arms Heritige Magazine Vol.4. Iss.3, R. Pershing

‘A Colt Collector’s Dream: The Colt No. 1 Baby Paterson Revolver’, Guns & Ammo, S.P. Fjestad, (source)

‘John Pearson: Gunsmith for Sam Colt’, American Society of Arms Collectors, Bulletin 103:24-32 , R. Pershing, (source)

The 7.92mm Kurz Rheinmetall Volkssturmgewehr

I’m very pleased to present the first of the videos filmed during my recent research trip to the US. My thanks to my friend Chuck Kramer, of the excellent GunLab blog, for his generous help and assistance making this video on a special little rifle. – Matt


The Volkssturmgewehr

By early 1945 Nazi Germany’s situation was desperate, with no real hope of victory left desperate holding actions became the order of the day.  It was hoped by many on Hitler’s staff that if they could hold back the Russian’s long enough the Western Allies would reach Berlin first. This was not to be as the Red Army was making rapid progress into German territory, covering up to 35 km a day by March 1945. Once the Soviets encircled Berlin on the 20th April there was no possibility of a surrender to the Western Allies who in reality had long since lost interest in the ‘Race to Berlin’.

While the war had seemed hopeless for many months the German High Command continued its efforts to construct a formidable defence against the oncoming Russian forces. This saw the activation of the German militias and the forming of a new corps, the Volkssturm or in English: ‘people’s storm’.  This optimistically named force made up of all men aged between 13 and 70 were called up and expected to defend their local areas, much like the British Home Guard formed in 1940.

Volkssturm with vg1-5
A well equipped, uniformed Volkssturm unit defend the banks of the Oder in this propaganda photograph, the man in the foreground holds a VG.1-5 (source)

In order to arm these men stores of older weapons were re-issued and the Volkssturm were issued Mauser G98s and old MG08s along with a large variety of captured foreign weapons which were in store including French, Polish and Russian small arms.

There were not enough modern weapons to equip the struggling regular forces let alone the newly improvised ‘volunteer’ force. As such Germany’s weapons factories were directed to create prototypes of simpler, cheaper weapons that might be mass produced quickly with minimal tooling. This project was dubbed the Primitiv-Waffen-Programm. These primitive weapons had to be made quickly with the materials at hand. This spawned a number of prototypes with varying degrees of sophistication, the so-called VolksGewehr or ‘people’s guns’. The best known of these is perhaps the Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr or MP 507 -often referred to as the VG 1-5.

VG1-5
A Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr (RIA)

The Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr was undeniably the most complicated of the Primitiv-Waffen. A semi-automatic, delayed blowback operated, carbine chambered in Germany’s new intermediate 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge. This weapon will hopefully be the topic of a future blog/video.

Rheinmetall Volkssturm Carbines

The focus of today’s blog/video, however, is another Primitiv-Waffen chambered in 7.92x33mm developed by Rheinmetall. Rheinmetall developed a series of several prototypes, the VG45 or VG3 was the only prototype to be tested, however, a stamped receiver prototype was also developed.

Formed in 1935 as Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, Rheinmetall while perhaps best known for their larger calibre guns, they also developed a number of small arms designs – including several weapons for the Volkssturm. The VG45, chambered in 7.92mm Kurz, was developed in late 1944 and according to Wolfgang Peter-Michel, in his book Volksgewehre which quotes a contemporary British report, the VG45 was somewhat similar to the Walther designed VG1 in design, but chambered in 7.92 Kurz rather than 7.92x57mm Mauser. There is only a single, grainy photograph purporting to be the VG3 (with a missing bolt), which can be seen here.

Replica ermawerke carbine
Rheinmetall stamped Volkssturmgewehr replica (Matthew Moss)

Using a tube receiver simple forgings, spot welds and rivets the VG45’s design was utilitarian with one-piece beech wood furniture. It weighed around 6.8lbs or 3.1kg unloaded and had an overall length of 34 inches / 86cm. With a simple two lug bolt and no safety the carbine was extremely utilitarian. In October 1944, rifles from five companies were submitted in response to a call for a weapon of “simplified construction for mass production.” Rheinmetall’s design was not one of these first five designs.

However, by mid December Rheinmetall had submitted their carbine, the VG45, for testing. It reportedly performed well during testing in Kummersdorf, firing some 2,000 rounds and 20 rifle grenades successfully without major malfunctions. A report to Heinrich Himmler, dated 28th December, who had been tasked with overseeing the Volkssturm’s formation, noted that “most of the rifles’ stocks cracked when shooting the rifle grenades… the rifles are not yet [fully] examined and the current status of development do not yet permit a final test-firing.” Of the rifles submitted to testing only the designs from Mauser and Rheinmetall continued to be considered. While the VG1 and VG2 were ‘officially’ accepted Rheinmetall also received an order for 25,000 of their VG45 carbines – later referred to as the VG3.

Full scale production never began as the factory was heavily bombed in the closing stages of the war. Prototypes of the VG45 were found by the Allies when they captured the Rheinmetall plant in Sömmerda in Thuringia, central Germany. The British tested one of these rifles, marked ‘Rh Nr.4 VG45K’ on the receiver.

The British also captured another prototype 7.92mm Kurz bolt action carbine. It had a two-piece stamped receiver – welded together at the top of the receiver, with spot-welded inserts that formed the magazine housing simple two-lug bolt and a two-piece stock. It is unclear if this prototype carbine was submitted for testing. It is likely that it was still in development at the time of the December 1944 testing.

Another 7.92mm Kurz Carbine

Ermawerke, or Erfurter Maschinen- und Werkzeugfabrik GmbH, was established in Erfurt, Thuringia in the early 1920s, throughout the war they manufactured the Erma EMP, the MP38/40 and developed the prototype MP44 submachine gun. In late 1944, Erma set about developing their own entry for the Primitiv-Waffen program.

Original Ermawerke Carbine
Profile photographs of the original incomplete Ermawerke Carbine prototype, missing its bolt and reportedly with replacement more elaborate wooden furniture (Photographs originally taken by US Army)

Erma’s prototype is very similar to Rheinmetall’s stamped prototype – a small, light, bolt action carbine chambered in the 7.92x33mm cartridge and able to feed from standard 30-round Sturmgewehr magazines. Unlike the Rheinmetall’s carbines, Ermawerke’s had a rudimentary trigger block safety at the rear of the trigger guard. Erma’s rifle also went through the December 1944 tests with no function issues. It appears that very few were manufactured and that only one or two examples survived the war. One surviving carbine, said to be in Russia, is missing its bolt and has had reportedly had replacement furniture fitted.

The Ermawerke carbine also made extensive use of stampings and simple forgings with rivets used to attached crudely finished wooden furniture. The receiver is similar to a VG-2 with an ejection port on the right. It weighed 6lbs or 2.7kg and had a 16.5 inch or 42cm barrel. The original carbine reportedly had no Wehrmacht/Waffenamt (WaA) acceptance marks. In his book, Deutsche Sturmgewehre, Peter Senich suggests that an example of the rifle was tested at the US Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1945.

Shooting the Rheinmetall Volkssturm Carbine

Check out our short live fire & slow motion video with the carbine here

Rheinmetall’s stamped Volkssturm carbine used a simple two-lug rotating bolt action which was cocked on opening. It had a simple fixed rear notch sight and weighed just over 6.5lbs or 2.95kg unloaded, had a 15.45 inch or 39cm barrel and an overall length of 34 inches / 86cm. Unlike the VG45, the stamped prototype had a lever on the left side of the receiver which acted on the trigger sear to prevent it being depressed.

This video features a replica of Rheinmetall’s stamped Volkssturm carbine produced by Range Facilities (Burnham), one of a small batch made, which attempts to reproduce the original prototype. I had the opportunity to handle and fire one of the carbines. As such my appraisal of the rifle’s handling characteristics and shooting experience are based on the replica not the original. But I feel my experience with the reproduction is representative of how the original Rheinmetall carbine, and the other Primitive Waffen 7.92mm Kurz carbines might have handled.

Both the carbine and the 10-round magazine featured in the video were handmade to a high standard. There are, however, a number of key differences between the replica and the original, as described in the original British intelligence report. No markings were reported on the stamped prototype, however, the reproduction borrows markings from the VG45 and is marked ‘Rh Nr.5 VG45K‘ on the left side of the rifle. Another key difference is the addition of a utilitarian safety bar which blocked the trigger rather than a lever reported to be used by the original prototype. The replica also had a rounded bolt handle while the original is described as having a “straight and hollowed out bolt with no bolt knob, similar to the VG1. The reproduction has had a cleaning rod added beneath the barrel and its wooden furniture may also differ slightly.

The replica was very well made and care has been taken to give it a suitably aged appearance. Light and handy the carbine handled well and the 7.92x33mm Kurz chambering made it a light shooting carbine. While the replica’s bolt was a little stiff, this is probably quite representative of how the original would have handled.

The softer shooting 7.92 Kurz round certainly would have made sense for a rifle designed to be issued to poorly trained volunteer units made up of old men and young boys. The very basic rear sight necessitated the use of some Kentucky windage as the rifle shot a little low and to the left at ~70 metres. But within firing a single 10-round magazine I was able to quickly bring my shots to within a man-sized target with relative ease.

Here’s some photos of the carbine’s safety and magazine release:

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While both the VG1, VG2 and VG1-5 all entered limited production the war ended before serial production of the the VG45/VG3 could begin. Rheinmetall’s stamped prototype probably did not see official evaluations and probably only one or two were produced before the bombing and subsequent capture of the factory.

However, the various 7.92mm Kurz Volkssturm carbines and the other Primitive Waffen remain important examples of the desperate measures Nazi Germany was forced to resort to at the end of the war in an effort to equip its troops.


Specifications for Original Prototype Rheinmetall Volkssturm Carbine:

Overall Length: 88cm / 34 inches
Barrel Length: 39cm / 15.45 inches
Weight:  2.95kg / 6.5lbs
Action: bolt action
Calibre: 7.92x33mm Kurz
Feed: 10 or 30-round box magazines


Bibliography:

Desperate Measures : The last-Ditch Weapons of the Nazi Volkssturm, W.D. Weaver (2005)

Deutsche Sturmgewehre bis 1945, P. Senich (1998)

Volksgewehre: Die Langwaffen des Deutschen Volkssturms, W. Peter-Michel (2017)

John Browning’s Semi-Automatic .22

The .22 Semi-Automatic was John Browning’s third .22 calibre rifle to enter production following the extremely popular pump-action Winchester Model 1890 and the beautifully simple Winchester Model 1900 single shot bolt action rifle. Since its first appearance 100 years ago the .22 Semi-Automatic has been sold by three manufacturers; Remington, FN Herstal and Browning themselves.

Browning FN 22-SA
Right-side view of a FN .22 Semi-Automatic (Matthew Moss)

The .22 Semi-Automatic (SA22/.22 SA) is radically different from Browning’s earlier .22, whereas the Model 1900 had been simple and inexpensive the .22 SA is a masterclass in balance, ergonomics and operation. It feeds from a tube magazine located in the rifle’s butt and is blowback operated.

Browning's Patent for his .22 SA
One of the patent drawings for Browning’s .22 SA (US Patent Office)

The most interesting aspect of the SA .22’s action is that the bolt is at the base of the receiver with the cocking handle protruding downwards.  This makes the rifle truly ambidextrous as the spent cartridge casings are ejected straight down rather than up or to the right of the receiver as in most contemporary rifles.

Browning with Model 24
John Browning poses with what appears to be a Remington Model 24 (source)

The rifle is one of the most balanced of Browning’s designs and it can be balanced on a single finger placed just in front of the trigger guard behind the bolt handle.  Ergonomically the rifle is extremely pointable with an easily acquirable sight picture.  Another interesting feature is the rifle’s takedown mechanism.  Once the bolt is retracted a small catch in the base of the forestock can be pushed forward allowing the rifle’s barrel to be unscrewed from the receiver.  This makes the rifle extremely handy and easily portable weighing just 4.75 lbs or 2.15kg.

DSC_0539
Browning’s .22 semi-automatic disassembled (Matthew Moss)

Browning originally designed the rifle in 1912 with the patents being filed in March 1913 and granted in January 1914. At which time the production rights were immediately taken up by Browning’s European partners FN Herstal of Belgium who sold the rifle throughout Europe. Production was interrupted by the outbreak of World War One and the subsequent German occupation of Belgium. However, production began again in 1919 and continued until it was again interrupted by World War Two. Initial FN models had a small loading port located on the wrist of the stock in contrast to later models which located the loading port on the right side of the butt-stock.

Remington Model 24
Remington Model 24 (Rock Island Auctions)

Production rights in the US were taken up by Remington who began production of what they designated the Model 24 in 1922, four years before Browning’s death. The Model 24 initially was only chambered in .22 Short but was modified to chamber .22LR as well. Up until this point the T.C. Johnson-designed Winchester Model 1903 had dominated the .22 semi-automatic market.

The Model 24 remained in production until 1935 when it was replaced by a the Model 241 ‘Speedmaster’ which built on the original design but introduced a longer 23.5-inch barrel and was heavier, weighing 6 lbs or 2.7kg. Developed by Crawford C. Loomis, the Model 241, had a tilting cartridge guide and a slightly different take down system – moving the take-down catch from the bottom to the left side of the receiver.

Remington Model 241 Speedmaster
Remington’s slightly larger and improved Model 241 (Rock Island Auctions)

Around 100,000 Model 241s were made before Remington ended production in 1949 and sales of the rifle ended in 1951. At which point the Browning Firearms company moved to reintroduce the rifle in the US, marketing it as the Browning .22 Semi-Automatic in 1956. Initially the rifles were produced by FN in Belgium however, all Browning production shifted to Japan in 1976. China’s Norinco have also produced the JW-20/ATD22, a direct copy of the SA .22.

John Browning’s .22 Semi-Automatic has been in almost continuous production for 100 years, another fine example of Browning’s enduring legacy of timeless firearms designs.

Specifications:

Length: ~36 inches (91 cm)
Weight: ~4.75 lbs (2.15 kg)
Action: Blowback
Calibre: .22 Short & .22LR
Feed: 11-round tube magazine


Bibliography:

‘Firearm‘, J.M. Browning, US Patent #1083384, 06/01/14, (source)

The History of Browning Firearms, D. Miller, (2014)

John Browning: American Gunmaker, J. Browning & C. Gentry (1987)

‘Remington Model 241 Autoloading Rifles’, Remington Society Journal, (2) 2010, J. Gyde & R. Marcot (source)

Research Trip Update

If you follow our facebook page you’ll know that I (Matt) have been over in the US for the last few weeks on a research trip. Well, I’ve returned home and finally had a chance to review some of the footage I filmed during the trip. While the core purpose for the trip wasn’t to film I made special efforts to get as much footage as I could. The opportunity was too good to pass up.

I’m happy to report that I have around 80gb of raw footage and over 500 photographs! This covers around a dozen individual firearms – everything ranging from pistols to rifles to light and medium machine guns to anti-tank rifles! Thanks to the generosity of both the Cody Firearms Museum and my friend Chuck Kramer, of the GunLab blog, I have been able to film videos on some truly fascinating and rarely seen guns. Special thanks to both for access to their wonderful collections!

Here’s a few photos of what’s to come:

So over the next few weeks and months you can expect a stream of new content which I am very pleased to say will include more live fire footage! You can check out some more behind the scenes photos and video I’ve posted over on the TAB facebook page.

Special thanks again to Chuck and the CFM for their hospitality, patience and invaluable assistance in the filming.

The Micro UZI

This week Vic brings us both a video and blog on the Micro UZI

The Micro UZI was an oddball in the UZI family, it was derived from the UZI Pistol which was itself born of an idea to get another IMI product introduced into the US civilian marketplace after the success of the full size UZI carbine by the then importer Action Arms. To get around, or at least comply with the strict US BATF regulations as to what a pistol constituted, a miniaturised  variation of the full size UZI was proposed. It had to have the ‘look’ of an UZI but be manageable to handle and shoot with one hand. This required more work than had been involved in the development of the Mini UZI.

The pistol had to have a closed bolt and only fire semi-auto, no buttstock could be fitted on the pistol as this would contravene BATF regulations. The bolt was based on the Mini UZI bolt and the striker but redesigned to be more compact to fit the much shorter receiver. A blocking catch similar to the then recently released model ‘B’ UZI Carbine, was fitted to the bolt. This was a safety device that prevented the gun firing ‘out of battery’. The receiver was the same height and width as all the other UZI family but considerably shorter. To reduce weight the receiver stampings were of 1.5mm material and not 2mm as per the full size & Mini UZI.

The UZI pistol was introduced onto the civilian market around 1984. It eventually was sold in the following calibres: 9mm, 9x21mm (Italian market), .41 AE, and .45 ACP.

Argentine Special Forces.
A joint service special forces team member from Argentina, with a Micro Uzi, posts security during a multinational amphibious beach assault training exercise in Ancon, Peru, July, 2010. (source)

In 1985 IMI realised that the UZI Pistol could be modified to be a compact and effective SMG. To convert it to full-auto fire the lower lip of the bolt which was milled off during manufacture of the semi-auto pistol was left in place. The selector block on the trigger assembly was removed and a folding stock, which was smaller than the Mini UZIs was fitted. The open ‘U’ notch rear sight from the pistol was replaced by a traditional ‘peep’ sight, and finally the barrel from the pistol was lengthened to 5.25″ and compensator notches milled into it to reduce muzzle flip and help control the gun whilst firing. The Micro UZI had a phenomenally high rate of fire at 1,800 rounds per minute, hence most guns were fired in semi-auto only (note that the example I filmed has the selector ‘blocked’ to prevent full-auto selection)!

It is also interesting to note that the Micro UZI was the first gun in the UZI family that started off as a semi-automatic gun and became a full-auto one!


Specifications:

Overall Length: 46cm / 18 inches
Length (with stock folded): 25cm / 9.8 inches
Weight: 1.5kg/ 3.3 lbs
Action: blowback
Calibre: 9x19mm & various (see text)
Cyclic Rate: 1500-1800 rounds
Feed: 20, 25 or 32-round box magazines

 

British Trials Browning Automatic Rifle

During World War One the British Army had been early adopters of the light machine gun concept, recognising the mobility and firepower offered by the Lewis Gun as early as 1915. Despite the Lewis Gun’s proven track record after the war a lighter weapon was sought.

In the final months of World War One the US had begun fielding the Browning Automatic Rifle, Model of 1918, in what they had envisaged as a ‘walking fire’ role. Relatively soon after the war British Ordnance began the search for what they termed a ‘light gun’. They took an interest in the BAR ordering 25 Colt Model 1919 commercial guns for testing and evaluation at a cost of £1,575 in November 1920. According to James Ballou’s book on the BAR, Rock & a Hard Place, the serial numbers of these guns ran between C-100374 to C-100398. The Colt Model of 1919 differed little from the earlier US military model, the principle changes were the lack of a flash hider and the use of relocating of the recoil spring to the butt, acted on by a transfer rod, from inside the gas cylinder tube.

This batch of guns was adapted to chamber the rimmed British .303 round, necessitating a curved magazine, a .303 barrel, an adapted bolt, extractor and ejector. In April 1921 the BAR along with four other light machine guns (the Madsen, Beardmore-Farquhar, a Lewis Gun and strip and magazine fed Hotchkiss guns) at the School of Musketry at Hythe.

Colt Model 1925
Colt Model 1925 Browning Automatic Rifle (Royal Armouries)

The Browning fared well in the testing with the evaluating officer stating that for a “light gas-operated weapon the Browning has done remarkably well…” In fact the Browning was selected as first preference out of the five weapons tested. The testing board felt it was suitably light and would be the cheapest to manufacture. The board made a series of suggestions to improve the BAR for British service:

  1. Move the cocking handle to the right side of the weapon
  2. Fit a light bipod which is height adjustable 
  3. Ejection port and magazine well dust covers
  4. Gas regulator hole to be clear of threads of regulator
  5. Improved method of fixing position of gas regulator
  6. Stronger  butt
  7. Magazine well capable of receiving Lee-Enfield rifle magazines

No further action was taken until 1927 when it was decided that the Superintendent of Design should adapt several Brownings to improve the weapon for British service.  According to Jame Ballou’s book these new modified BARs were not all from the original batch of test guns, at least one was a Colt gun purchased through FN.

The adapted BARs had carrying handles, flash hiders, bipods, Lewis Gun-style pistol grips, new rear sight and protected front post, an ejection port dust cover and a redesigned butt stock. A number of other changes were also made including switching the charging handle to the right (this change was found to be less necessary with the addition of a pistol grip).

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Specially adapted British 1925 Trials BAR (Royal Armouries)

While the modified BAR’s came fairly close to being adopted the principle problem remained the weapon’s limited 20 round magazine. Various larger magazines such as a 40-round box magazine from Colt and a 30-round drum were considered. By 1930 several new light machine guns had appeared and the Browning was beginning to look obsolescent. The Czech vz. 26 would eventually be adopted as the Bren.

We recently had the opportunity to examine what we believe to be a British trials BAR. Vic examined the gun finding that rather than a commercial Model of 1919, purchased for the first set of evaluations, it was marked as a Model of 1925. Interestingly, however, rather than resembling a Colt M1925 it had all the characteristics of an earlier M1919.

TAB 303 BAR (2).Movie_Snapshot
A still from Vic’s video showing the disassembled .303 Model 1925 (TAB)

The gun examined, serial number C-102723, falls outside of the serial range James Ballou states belonged to the 25 original .303 BARs. While it is marked M1925 the gun shares none of the characteristics of an M1925 – lacking the reshaped wooden foregrip, stubby pistol grip and rate of fire reducer. It does, however, have the 1919’s style of stock, foregrip and its relocated recoil spring. Additionally, the gun has had a folding carry handle, very similar to that of the later British trials BARs, added.

With little solid information available there could be a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the BAR Vic was able to examine was purchased for the later trials (between 1925-30) and it underwent minimal alterations – there is some variation between the documented surviving examples. The discrepancy between parts and the model name is curious. It is possibly a mix of parts were used to assemble the weapon during experimentation with configurations and an M1925 receiver was used as the basis of the gun but it was assembled with an M1919 barrel and furniture.


Specifications:

Length: ~115cm / 45 in
Weight: .303 M1919 approximately 7kg, later trials guns between approximately 7.5-8.5kg
Sights: M1917 Rifle sights
Action: Gas-operated, rising bolt lock
Calibre: .303
Feed: 20-round curved box magazine


Bibliography:

The Browning Automatic Rifle, R.R. Hodges, (2012)

Rock and a Hard Place: The Browning Automatic Rifle, J.L. Ballou, (2000)

Video from the Institute of Military Technology showing a .303 M1919 BAR (source)

Colt Advanced Combat Rifle

This is the final of three introductory videos looking at the US Army’s ACR prototypes. We will be revisiting these rifles later to show disassembly and how they worked. You can check out our introduction to the H&K G11 here, our look at the AAI ACR here, the Steyr ACR here and  you can also find our in-depth ACR Program overview article here.

Colt’s entry was perhaps the most conventional of the designs submitted. Based on the rifle the program sought to replace. Colt’s ACR was essentially an improved M16, which fired both conventional 5.56x45mm ammunition as well as a new 5.56mm duplex round. While the duplex round increase hit probability at shorter ranges, it impacted long range accuracy requiring the additional use of conventional M855 rounds.

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Colt ACR rifle submission Left and right side views of the Colt ACR (Matthew Moss)

It incorporated a variety of improvements including a new oil/spring hydraulic buffer to mitigate recoil. This resulted in a major decrease in the weapon’s recoil, Colt suggested as much as a 40% mitigation. A reshaped pistol grip and a hand guard which mounted a sighting rib for snap shooting – this stemmed from recommendations from the Human Engineering Lab. The weapon had a flat-top upper receiver which incorporated a weaver rail so a 3.5x optic (an early ECLAN) or a more conventional sight/carrying handle could be fitted.

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(Matthew Moss)

The rifle’s collapsible six position telescopic butt stock was an improved version of that offered with Colt’s carbines. When at full extension the Colt ACR was the longest rifle tested, at 40.6 inch or 103 cm long. A distinctive proprietary muzzle brake compensator (MBC) designed by Knight’s Armament was also added. The Knight’s MBC reduced the rifle’s report by 13.5-decibels and also played an important role in recoil mitigation.

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Close up of the Knight’s Armament designed muzzle device (Matthew Moss)
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Right-side close up of the rifle’s receiver and rail mounted Eclan sight (Matthew Moss)

Colt’s duplex rounds were developed by the Olin Corporation and placed two projectiles nose to tail. The projectiles were copper jacketed steel penetrators. In theory the lead projectile would strike at point of aim while the second would strike somewhere near point of aim with in a theoretically limited area of dispersion. The forward round was 35gr while the second was slightly lighter at 33gr.

Colt's 5.56mm Duplex round (US Army)
Colt’s 5.56mm Duplex round (US Army)

During testing one of the duplex rounds was not properly seated inside the cartridge case and when fired became lodged in the barrel and during the course of fire and the weapon’s barrel blew when another round was fired. This was addressed by a slightly larger propellant charge.

Another negative to the Colt entry was that, in addition to having to carry two types of 5.56mm ammunition,  its duplex round offered no improvement in weight and was infact slightly heavier than standard M855 ammunition. While the hydraulic buffer, muzzle device and furniture were not used later, some of the features developed for the ACR entry were later employed in the M16A3 and later A4. These included the selector configuration and the flat-top upper receiver.

Specifications (From ACR Program Summary):

Length: 40.6 inches / 103cm (extended) and 36.7 inches / 93.2cm (collapsed)
Weight: 10.3 lbs / 4.67kg
Sights: iron or 3.5x optic
Action: Direct gas impingement
Calibre: 5.56mm duplex round & M855 ball
Feed: 30-round box magazine

You can find out overview article on the ACR program and all of the rifles here


Bibliography:

Advanced Combat Rifle, Program Summary, Vol.1, ARDEC, 1992 (source)

‘Revisiting the SPIW Pt.3’, Small Arms Review, R. Blake Stevens, (source)

The Black Rifle II, C. Bartocci, (2004)

Our thanks to the collection that holds these wonderful examples of the ACR rifles


Please do not reproduce photographs taken by Matthew Moss without permission or credit. ©The Armourer’s Bench 2018