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.

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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)

Live Fire: Rheinmetall Volkssturm Carbine

The second in our series of short live fire and slow motion videos looks a reproduction of a Rheinmetall Volkssturm Carbine. Matt had the opportunity to fire a replica of the little known bolt action and captured some great video.

Rheinmetall developed the carbine at the very end of the war for the Primitive Waffen program which was intended to arm the Volkssturm (a militia unit). Chambered in 7.92×33 Kurz the carbine has a simple two-lug rotating bolt.

Replica ermawerke carbine
Rheinmetall prototype carbine replica (Matthew Moss)

It’s a handy little rifle and quite pleasant to shoot, the 7.92 Kurz chambering would have made it ideal for poorly trained Volkssturm members thrust into the fighting on the Eastern Front. The carbine, however, was never fielded and only a handful were built.

We’ll discuss the development, design and history of the rifle in an upcoming full-length video, so stay tuned for that!

My thanks to Chuck Kramer of Gun Lab for helping make this video happen, check out his blog here.


Correction:

The carbine was originally described as a replica of an ErmaWerke Volkssturm Carbine when in fact it is largely based on a Volkssturm carbine prototype captured at Rheinmetall’s factory at the end of the war. While both the Ermawerke and Rheinmetall carbines are chambered in 7.92mm Kurz and share a number of similarities they are distinct designs.

This is explained in our full video and blog on the Rheinmetall Volkssturm carbine here.

A Sneak Peak

This weekend I finally had the time to organise all of my photographs and video from my recent research trip to the US. The new 4TB back-up drive I ordered arrived so I could get copies of everything into one place and see what I have. In total it adds up for about 270gb of video and photos! I’m pleased to say tonight I started work on the first video that will come from the trip. I set about editing the photos of the weapon, these will be used in the video and the accompanying blog.

I’m excited to start editing video tomorrow but in the meantime I thought I’d share a few photos with you guys. I’m not going to give the game away and tell you just what this one is – but feel free to throw out some guesses. It’s a very interesting one!

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Simplicity personified
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A detachable magazine?
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Extremely adjustable rear sight

Check out our Facebook page for further updates and stay tuned for the video!

–  Matt

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

 

Live Fire: L2A3 Sterling SMG

In this episode we bring you our first live fire and slow motion footage! Matt had the opportunity to fire a British L2A3 Sterling submachine gun and Vic captured some great video. The Sterling was adopted by the British military in 1954 and standardised as the L2A3 in 1956.

Designed by George Patchett, at the Sterling Armaments Company, development began towards the end of the Second World War. After a decade of development and testing the British Army adopted the Sterling. It remained in service into the 1990s and Sterling produced and sold the gun overseas until the company closed in the late 1980s. Licensed versions of the Sterling were made in Canada and production continues today in India.

While the Sterling Armaments Company, the original developers and manufacturer of the gun, produced L2A3s for the government and the commercial market most of the British Army’s Sterlings were made by the government owned Royal Ordnance Factory in Fazakerly near Liverpool.
The gun featured in the video is a Fazakerly-made British Army L2A3, the magazine is also of the slightly simplified government pattern.

slow motion Sterling smg
Frame from the slow motion footage showing a spent 9x19mm case being ejected from the L2A3 (TAB)

In this episode we look at the firing cycle of the L2A3 and how the weapon works. The Sterling uses a standard blowback action and this footage shows it firing in semi-automatic. We can see the breech block travel forward, strip a round from the magazine and chamber it. The round is fired and the breech block then travels rearward again before repeating the cycle.

In future videos we will discuss in-depth the design, development and history of the Sterling.

We would like to thank Graham over at www.slomocamco.com for the loan of the brilliant slow motion camera which captured this great footage!

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)