Hybrid Sten

 

During our first research trip last spring I had the opportunity to examine an unusual ‘hybrid’ Sten submachine gun. The weapon combined a MkII Sten’s receiver with a MkIII’s magazine housing. Added to this was a proprietary folding stock and a new fire control group and pistol grip.

Very little is known about the hybrid Sten with Peter Laidler’s book The Sten Machine Carbine mentioning it and the later Osprey book by Leroy Thompson sharing a photograph and brief caption which calls it an “experimental version of the Mk III.” It is also unclear exactly when it was built.

Below are some photographs I took of the Sten, lets look at some of the interesting features of the Hybrid Sten.

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left side of the Sten with the stock folded flush under the receiver (Matthew Moss)

No production Variant of the Sten was fitted with an under-folding stock, the Australian Austen, however, directly copied the MP38/40. The entire weapon is covered by a layer of textured, crackle paint finish, this was commonly used on commercial Sterling Mk4 submachine guns. The weapon has a short, 3.5 inch, perforated fore-end welded onto the front of the tube receiver that appears to be from a Lanchester.

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Rear right of the weapon close up of its pistol grip, stock and trigger housing (Matthew Moss)

The under folding stock is rudimentary but effective, the butt plate swivels free but the lock up is quite secure. It uses the receiver main spring-loaded return-spring cap. The folding stock attaches to the pistol grip assembly (which can be seen detached below).

The proprietary rectangular trigger group housing brazed onto the tub receiver is unlike any other Sten and lacks a fire-selector.

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Left side of the Sten with its pistol grip and stock assembly detached (Matthew Moss)

The pistol grip itself is made from paxoline, a form of early resin plastic. The shape shape of the pistol grip does not resemble any production or prototype Sten grip. A simple hand-stop, made from a bent piece of sheet metal, has also been added in front of the weapon’s ejection port to prevent the user’s hand moving back and fingers being caught if gripped by the forend.

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Right side of the Sten with its stock unfolded (Matthew Moss)

While the origins of the hybrid Sten remain unclear I don’t believe it was an officially made prototype. While impressive it is relatively crudely assembled and does not match the Sten prototypes made by Enfield, such as the VI. Intriguingly, the magazine housing of the weapon has been stamped ‘PILOT’ below the usual ‘STEN MkIII’ stamp. I suspect that the weapon may have been put together by a unit armourer, perhaps authorised by a superior officer to suggest improvements or as an unofficial project gun.

Technical Specifications:

Length (with stock folded): approx. 40cm (30in)
Weight: approx. 3kg (7lb)
Barrel Length: 16cm (6.5in)
Action: Blowback
Calibre: 9x19mm
Feed: 32 round box magazine
Cyclic Rate: approx. 500 rpm


Bibliography:

The Sten Machine Carbine, P. Laidler (2000)

The Sten Gun, L. Thompson (2012)


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

1958 ArmaLite AR-10 Promotional Film

In the first part of Vic’s special episode on the AR-10 we brought you a remastered version of the fascinating 1958 ArmaLite/Fairchild promotional sales film made for ArmaLite salesmen, like Sam Cummings and Jacques Michault, to show to prospective buyers of the new rifle. Back in the 1990s Vic was lucky enough to scan Michault’s copy the film and has recently remastered with better image quality.

Below you can find the video, time stamped to begin at the promotional film (although I highly recommend you watch the entire video for Vic’s introduction to the early history of the AR-10).

Lets break the video down, with the help of some screen captures. The film opens with a rifleman emerging from the sea, firing as he advances. The film then explains Fairchild’s background and beings to explain the features of the rifle.

Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (16).Movie_Snapshot
Arrows point out some of the AR-10s controls
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (17).Movie_Snapshot
A close up of the rifle’s bolt and carrier
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (20).Movie_Snapshot
A set of scales is used to demonstrate how the AR-10 (plus 50 rounds) is equal to an M1 Garand

The film then shows several shots of the rifle’s lower receiver being milled.

Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (4).Movie_Snapshot
The milling of the rifle’s aluminium-alloy forged receiver

None other than the rifle’s designer himself, Eugene Stoner, then takes an AR-10 from a wall display and proceeds to completely disassemble it.

Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (6).Movie_Snapshot
Stoner standing in front of a display board holding three AR-10 prototypes and AR-5s and an AR-7 survival rifle

Stoner completely strips the rifle, its muzzle device and its magazine before Charles Dorchester, ArmaLite’s production manager, demonstrating the rifle’s operation and subjects it to sub-zero temperatures and once again firing the rifle.

 

The film then shows the rifle being used in a variety of roles:

Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (26).Movie_Snapshot
AR-10 being fired with a scope mounted to the carrying handle
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (27).Movie_Snapshot
The AR-10 being fired from a bi-pod in the light support role, feeding from 20-round magazines, the AR-10 LMG could easily be switched between magazine and belt feeding by removing the belt feed assembly
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (28).Movie_Snapshot
An ENERGA rifle grenade being fired from the AR-10, the US Army had adopted the ENERGA as the M28 rifle grenade in 1950.

Stoner then covers the rifle with sand before running five magazines through the rifle in quick succession to demonstrate reliability:

 

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The rifle is then submerged in mud (with its dust cover closed) and demonstrated again.

Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (32).Movie_Snapshot
AR-10 covered in mud

The film then shows how simple field stripping and cleaning is before Stoner demonstrates the belt-fed variant of the rifle:

Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (41).Movie_Snapshot
A rifleman demonstrates the AR-10 in its belt-fed configuration, changing position several times before switching to feeding from magazines. Note also the ‘backpack’ belt box and controlled chute/feedway
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (40).Movie_Snapshot
Stoner firing the belt-fed AR-10
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (39).Movie_Snapshot
Stoner with a happy grin on his face before opening up with the AR-10,
Fairchild Armalite AR10 Promo (15).Movie_Snapshot
Note the bolt link port in the lower receiver

Don’t forget to check out the full episode and the accompanying blog here!

Photos: Heckler & Koch G11 ACR

Here are a selection of external photographs showing the H&K G11 submitted to the US Army’s Advanced Combat Rifle trials in the mid-1980s. You can watch our introductory video featuring two G11s here.

Note: While this collection of images covers only the externals of the G11, rest assured that if and when we get the opportunity we will follow this up with hi-res photographs of the weapon disassembled!  

1
Right side view of the G11, note the muzzle plug inserted into the barrel (Matthew Moss)
2
Left side view of the G11, note the small window in the magazine showing the follower spring (Matthew Moss)
3
Close up of the right side of the G11’s fire selector (safe – semi – hyperburst – full auto), trigger and grip which enclosed a ‘control brush’ used to check the chamber was empty and in cleaning (Matthew Moss)
4
Left side close up of the G11’s selector, trigger and pistol grip – note also the rifle’s designation,  serial number, presumably manufacturing date and calibre moulded into the weapon’s casing (Matthew Moss)
5
A view of the G11 from above – note the alignment of the magazine and the lack of later additional channels for spare magazines seen in some G11K2s (Matthew Moss)
6
Close up of the G11’s foregrip and sling loop and an empty magazine loaded into the weapon  (Matthew Moss)
7
Close up of the weapon’s rotating ‘cocking handle’and pressure valve, note the white arrow indicating the direction to twist the handle to cock the weapon – the plastic folding handle on this example has sadly broken off, a common issue with G11s (Matthew Moss)
8
Close up of the left side of the G11’s ‘central part’, as HK described it, into which the barrel and breech assembly slide (Matthew Moss)

Many thanks to the collection, which wishes to remain anonymous, that holds this example of the G11 for the opportunity to examine, photograph and film it.


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

Photographs: Durs Egg Breech-Loading Carbine

Matt was recently lucky enough to examine a 1785 Pattern Durs Egg Breech-loading cavalry carbine. Based upon Giuseppe Crespi’s breech-loading system, the Egg carbines were tested by British cavalry regiments in the late 1780s. You can check out our full-length article on the weapon here and our video here.

Below are a some photographs I took of the carbine showing some of the details of its design:

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A right-side view of the length of the carbine
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The carbine with its breech fully open from the right-hand, lock side
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Detail photo of the carbine’s lock and breech handle
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An overhead view of the Egg Carbine’s open breech showing the chamber into which powder and ball were placed
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A closer overhead view of the carbine’s breech
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A close up of the carbine’s spear point bayonet showing the extension of the brass trigger guard into which the bayonet point sits
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With the carbine’s breech partially open its possible to see the small touch hole into the breech block, just above the frizzen and pan, which allows the flash from the fan to ignite the powder charge
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The carbine and its bayonet

 

Our thanks to the collection that holds this example of the Durs Egg Carbine, whom wish to remain anonymous, which was kind enough to allow us access to their impressive array of small arms.


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

Photographs: BESAL

We were recently lucky enough to examine a 3rd Pattern BESAL light machine gun dating from c.1942.  You can check out our full-length article on the BESAL here and our video here.

Below are a some photographs I took of the BESAL showing some of the details of its design as well as its stamped and spot welded constriction:

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Left-side profile of the BESAL, note the shape of the butt is very similar to that of the earlier Lewis Gun
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BESAL with magazine removed, the weapon appears to use a standard MkII Bren non-adjustable bipod
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Like the Bren, the BESAL has a universal magazine adaptor to allow it to feed from both box and drum Bren magazines

Some close ups of the BESAL

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Top-down view of the BESAL note the offset sights
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Rivet reinforcement of the bolt’s locking recess in the top of the receiver
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Right side – The butt-retention pin can be seen just below the rear sight assembly, this pin is captive and once pulled allows the butt to come off, the bolt and pistol grip can then be removed from the weapon
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Close up of the BESAL’s barrel removal catch – rotate to the rear to remove the barrel
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BESAL’s spring-loaded magazine dust cover closed, note the magazine catch on the left
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A shot from behind the BESAL showing the rear sight and the enclosed front sight, both off set to the left

 

Our thanks to the collection that holds the BESAL, whom wish to remain anonymous, which was kind enough to allow us access to their impressive array of small arms.


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

BESAL Light Machine Gun

By the Autumn of 1940, Nazi Germany controlled most of mainland Europe, France had surrendered, and the British Army had been forced to evacuate the continent and in the process had lost much of its arms and equipment.

Arms production in Britain was ramped up in order to arm the returning troops and the new units being formed to defend against the imminently expected German invasion. Existing designs like the Bren light machine gun and the Lee-Enfield Rifle were simplified to increase production however new options were also examined. The cheap, quickly manufactured STEN submachine gun was introduced and calls were made for a simplified light machine gun which could be made in any machine or workshop with simple tooling. Even before the fall of France the British Ordnance Board sent out a memo in June 1940, requesting a light machine gun which could be produced in garages and smaller workshops throughout Britain in the event that the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was bombed.

In December 1940, the Chief Superintendent of Design outlined a light machine gun based on the Lewis Gun’s rotating bolt, which fed from Bren gun magazines.

The Birmingham Small Arms company (BSA) were approached to develop a design. BSA tasked their chief designer, Henry Faulkner, with the project. Members of the British Army’s Ordnance Board, however, began to question the decision to have an established manufacturer build a prototype for a gun that was supposed to be assembled in small ad-hoc workshops. As a result the contract was cancelled, however, BSA and Faulkner persisted anyway.

Faulkner, with the help of Roger Wackrow, came up with a weapon which later became known as the BESAL. The design was developed to be simple, cheap and quick to manufacture. The standards of finish were significantly lower than those of the standard Bren then in production. The plan was to issue the BESAL in the event Britain’s armed forces found themselves engaged in a last ditch defence with German invasion either imminent or already underway.

Faulkner’s design was chambered in .303 and fed feeding from standard Bren gun curved box magazines. It used a basic trigger mechanism, a simple pressed gas cylinder and a body held together by pinning and spot welding. The first prototype had a folding but non-adjustable bipod and a skeleton butt stock with a wooden insert. With the manufacture of barrels expected to be a bottleneck to the weapon’s production it was suggested that the spare barrel issued with each Bren gun be recalled for use in the new BESAL. This clearly illustrates just how desperate the situation was expected to be. The first prototype BESAL was ready by late 1941, and testing began in March 1942. The BESAL proved to be reliable and effective during trials.

Faulkner’s design went through a number of iterations but the gneral design had been finalised by May 1942 when BSA, Faulkner and Wackrow filed three patents protecting the design. The principle feature of the later BESAL patterns was the use of a cocking system which saw the operator push the pistol grip forward to catch the bolt, and then pull it to the rear to cock the weapon. This is a system that was later seen in the Czechoslovakian Vz 52/57, 59 series and the Finnish KVKK-62 general purpose machine gun.

Iterations of the BESAL:

1st Pattern: 

Besal 2 001

(Artists impression of 1st BESAL prototype – from Dugelby’s Bren Gun Saga)

  • Right side cocking handle
  • Skeleton butt
  • Simple fixed peep sight
  • Non-adjustable bipod mounted on the receiver

2nd Pattern:

Besal 3 001

(Photograph of a 2nd Pattern BESAL with a pan magazine, note the right-side cocking handlefrom Dugelby’s Bren Gun Saga)

  • Bipod moved to front of the gas tube
  • Universal magazine adaptor fitted for Bren and Motley Pan magazines
  • Full wooden stock – similar in profile to the Lewis Gun’s
  • 2-position sight
  • Disassembly knob introduced

3rd Pattern:

DSC_0828

(Our photograph of a 3rd Pattern BESAL)

  • Pistol grip cocking mechanism replacing the conventional cocking handle

4th Pattern:

Besal 4 001

(Photograph of a 4th Pattern BESAL, note the selector on the pistol grip – from Dugelby’s Bren Gun Saga)

  • Introduction of a selector switch on the left side of the weapon’s pistol grip

In August 1942, BSA submitted the 3rd Pattern Prototype for trials. It was extensively tested between September and November 1942. On 6th January, 1943, BSA renamed the BESAL the ‘Light Machine Gun, Faulkner, 0.303-In Mk1’ in order to prevent confusion with the 7.92x57mm BESA machine gun used in some British tanks. The BESA, also produced by BSA, used a similar pistol grip cocking mechanism. We hypothesise that the the BESAL’s name might come from the BESA, meaning BESA-Light. This, however, is unconfirmed.

It seems that over time as BSA and Faulkner improved and refined the design the BESAL ceased to be a cheap, simple, quickly-made alternative to the Bren. Instead it appears that BSA hoped the weapon might be adopted as a somewhat cheaper substitute standard to the Bren. Final testing of the BESAL were held in March 1943, but by now the weapon’s original purpose had been made defunct by the huge increase in Bren manufacturing capacity. By 1943 the Bren was in production on four continents: at Enfield in the UK, at John Inglis in Canada, at Ishapore in India and Lithgow in Australia. Inglis alone was producing 10,000 Brens a month by 1943.

With the need for a new light machine gun gone the BESAL project was cancelled in June 1943. BSA produced an estimated 20 guns, of various patterns, during the BESAL development project. Today, it is believed that only a handful remain.


Technical Specifications:

Length: 118.5cm (46.6in)
Weight: 9.7kg (21lb 8oz)
Barrel Length: 56cm (22in)
Action: Gas operated, short recoil
Calibre: .303
Feed: 30-round Bren box magazine or 100-round Motley pan magazine
Cyclic Rate: 600rpm


Bibliography:

The Bren Gun Saga, T. B. Dugelby (1999)
Bren Gun, N. Grant, (2013)
Military Small Arms, I. Hogg & J. Weeks (1985)
Modern Small Arms, F. Myatt (1979)

Patents: 

‘Improvements in or relating to gas-operated automatic firearms’, GB572925, BSA, H. A. Faulkner & R.D. Wackrow, 30/10/1945, (source)

‘Improvements in or relating to automatic firearms’, GB572926, BSA, H. A. Faulkner & R.D. Wackrow, 30/10/1945, (source)

‘Improvements in or relating to automatic firearms’, GB572924, BSA, H. A. Faulkner & R.D. Wackrow, 30/10/1945, (source)