Sunday, November 19, 2017

An experimental Walther Model MP ("MP/PP") pistol, possibility their first attempt for replacing the Luger.

Walther had a rather unique approach when working on an experimental series, it was their policy not to build any two alike, they simply made many variants to see which worked better. This policy is both a Walther collector’s dream come true or nightmare depending on how he looks at it. It certainly makes for some rare pistols.
This pistol, referred to as the "MP/PP" by Buxton and Rankin and illustrated and described on pages 38 and 39 of "THE P.38 PISTOL, VOLUME ONE" by Warren Buxton.
It was manufactured between 1929 and 1932. Known serial numbers range from 5004-5009. Only four Mod. "MP/PP" pistols are known to exist.

The pistol has the same general configuration as the Mod. PP (380 ACP) but is a scaled up version with a 5 inch barrel utilizing the same design blowback locking mechanism. Chambered for the 9mm parabellum cartridge. It features an exposed ring hammer, 90 degree safety lever and magazine release on the left side of the frame. The target type rear sight is adjustable and the front sight is fixed. The slide has a serrated rib between the front and rear sights. The pistol has a cartridge cocking indicator similar to that on the Mod. PP. A military style lanyard loop is fitted to the frame behind the magazine well. An eight-round magazine.

It is thought that this first model MP, using the “beefed up” PP design, was not strong enough mechanically for the 9mm parabellum so the idea was tabled.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Walther collector’s dream come true, a sheet metal Model MP pistol with concealed hammer.

It is, of course, a prototype and the only known one of its kind.
This pistol is pictured and described on pages 80 and 81 of "Walther Volume III 1908-1980, by Rankin. There he notes “The Sheetmetal MP was a single shot concealed hammer pistol”.
Rankin feels that although the pistol is a sheetmetal design it was actually manufactured in the mid 30's time frame at the same time the Walther factory was experimenting with producing the Model MP concealed hammer pistol. He is of the opinion, that it was an engineering effort by the factory to determine if these pistols could be produced on a low-cost basis using a mostly all sheetmetal design. This effort would later pay dividends in the late days of WWII.

As you can see the pistol remains totally in the white and is void of any factory markings or serial numbering. The frame was manufactured by using two stamped halves of the frame which were welded together with the welds ground off with the internal parts pinned in place. The slide is also a stamping with an internal rail pinned in place on each side of the slide (noted the raised slide rails) with the barrel and barrel lug still manufactured using the tried and true forging and machining process. The internal parts are composed of both machined and stamped parts.
The pistol is one of the first stepping stones towards the P-38 and a unique example of complex Walther ingenuity and manufacturing expertise.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The prototype Vesely V-42 submachine gun.

Joseph Vesely fled his home country of Czechoslovakia, to England, in early 1939 because of the German occupation. It is thought that Vesely had been an arms designer for Zbrojovka Brno Arms.
In the early 1940s he approached the British Ordnance Board with blueprints of a new submachine gun he had designed and patented.

In most respects, the design was a typical submachine gun, firing 9mm Parabellum cartridges and using a simple blowback mechanism. It offered a selector for semi and full automatic modes, a manual safety, and 900 or 1000 rpm rate of fire (depending on how the bolt was configured). The sights had three settings, for 100, 200, and 300 yards.

The standout feature of Vesely’s gun is its double-column magazine.
It uses two rows of ammunition in staggered, double-stacked configuration. When the front stack of the magazine is full, a spring-loaded lever in the side of the receiver depresses the rear stack, allowing the bolt to bypass the rear stack and feed from the front. When the bolt retracts and ejects the last case fired from the front stack, the front follower rises into position and cams the lever out of the way, allowing the rear stack to rise, and the bolt to feed from it. This gave the weapon a great capacity for uninterrupted fire, while still maintaining a magazine of reasonable design and profile that could be loaded by hand.

Four basic models of Vesely appear to have been made. All in all, the gun seems to have been well thought out and well built, however, it was not adopted into British (or anyone else’s) service, likely because it didn’t ultimately offer very much more than the Sten, which was already in use and significantly less costly to manufacture.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A brass frame Colt M-1855 prototype.

A forerunner of the M-1855. One of Colt’s prototype Sidehammers that was never fully completed. Its brass frame required two-piece grips, whereas the production models continued the Colt practice of one- piece construction. Is said to have been created between 1849 and 1850 at Colt’s Armory in Hartford. Caliber is .265. The barrel length is 3 inches, and it has an overall length of 7 inches.

Rather interesting. If you look closely at the images you will note a sliding bar attached to the hammer and captured in the top strap. The bar indexes the cylinder, using the diagonal cuts on the cylinder, as the hammer is cocked. Also note the “creeping gear” loading lever.

Colt expert, R.L. Wilson once wrote “First of the Sidehammers, with grooved cylinder surface, proved impractical.” 

The end of the experimental work resulted it the M-1955 as we know it.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The United Defense Supply UD-42 submachine gun

The gun was manufactured by the Marlin Firearms company for the United Defense Supply Company. It was designed and patented by Carl Swebilius founder of the High Standard Firearms company, who in turn had the Marlin Firearms company actually produce the gun for the UDS company. It was actually designed/developed in 1941 but was not actually produced until 1942, hence the later model number of "UD-42". They were originally intended as a substitute for the Thompson, but by the time they actually got into production, the Thompson/Auto-Ordnance company caught up with their back orders and the intended orders for the UD-42 SMG never materialized in any sizeable quantity. It is estimated that total production was approximately 15,000 with a large quantity being used in the Far East, mainly the Philippines. Some saw use with partisan groups in Europe.

They function in a blow-back type operation that uses a 20 round Thompson magazine. There are two unique features of this weapon, one is that it does have a hold-open catch, that holds the bolt open after the last round is fired. The other is that the right side of the weapon has a sliding cocking handle almost identical to the cocking handle on the FN-FAL rifles. It has a fixed front sight with a very interesting rear sight that actually sits on top of a shaft that raise out of the rear of the receiver, which is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. They were a very robust weapon being machined entirely out of steel.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Walther "first developmental" stage Wehrmacht military contract P38 pistol.

Collectors estimate that this specific series of pistol was manufactured from 1937 to late 1939, with this specific pistol probably manufactured in Nov/Dec 1939. It is estimated that the total production in this first group was no more that 15 during the entire 1937 to 1939 time frame with only 2 examples even known today. Noted on page 90 of Vol. 1 of the book "The P.38 Pistol", by Warren Buxton.

These were considered as a test models so all examples were heavily tested, most to destruction or were eventually destroyed during or after the war. These early prototype P38 pistols each exhibited unique features, that were usually never incorporated into the standard production models. This example is fitted with the following:

1) A side mounted decocking lever, (not a safety lever) that incorporated a rectangular shaped "retracting firing pin" and very unique "anvil" shaped hammer nose:

2) A double action only firing mode, where the hammer is not engaged at all, (which is actually a continuation of the earlier "MP/F" concealed hammer pistols):

3) A unique left grip panel that features a raised/reinforced section directly behind the slide release lever. This features was also deleted from regular production as a cost and time saving measure:

4) A very unique early style slide that has slightly thicker side rails, with rear sections of the slide machined slightly narrower where the serrations are machined in.

5) It is fitted with the early concealed extractor.

Interestingly enough the locking block has several hardness test pin-punch marks on the side and both sides of the slide have been spot annealed where the recoil spring lugs are on the inside of the slide, obviously Walther was concerned about these cracking when fired during endurance testing.

It is felt that this early prototype pistol was intended as an "Wehrmacht Test" pistol and is probably one of the first examples so tested that ushered in the beginning of the Nazi P38 Military production contracts. The the fact that it sold at auction for over $30,000 would seem to indicate its rarity.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

There is a deceptive reason you don't hear much about the Uhlinger revolver.

William P. Uhlinger produced about 10,000 rimfire cartridge revolvers (two types in .22 caliber and one type in .32 caliber) in Philadelphia, PA between 1861 and 1865. He had purchased the tools and parts on hand of William Hankins, who had left his former gun making business behind to form a new venture with Sharps rifle inventor Christian Sharps, thus forming the firm of Sharps & Hankins. 

Since the guns that Uhlinger was producing were revolvers with bored through cylinders, he was in violation of the Rollin White Patent, which was held by Smith & Wesson. As a result Uhlinger produced the guns under a variety of trade names such as WL Grant, JP Lower and DD Cone in an attempt to conceal the identity of actual manufacturer, and avoid any legal troubles. About 50% of his pistols were also manufactured with no markings at all. He assumed this would help to avoid detection of his patent violations by Smith & Wesson, but it did not. He was eventually sued by Smith & Wesson for patent violations, and they won the case handily. The suit essentially put Uhlinger out of the gun business, and resulted in his gun being an interesting footnote in firearms history.

Considering the time and production totals one has to assume they were well accepted, no doubt that many a Union soldier went to war with a small frame Uhlinger .22 RF pistol in his pocket for emergencies. More than likely many line officers probably found the robust design of his solid frame .32 RF pistol as a much sturdier choice for their personal defense than the Smith & Wesson #2 Old Army revolver.

Note the ejector rod under the barrel. The rod has a stationary pin on one end and a spring-loaded pin on the other end. It snaps into place between the rod stop at the end of the barrel and the frame in front of the cylinder. Rather unique and inexpensive arrangement.

This one is marked with: "J. P. LOWER" on the top of the barrel. Lower was a clerk for arms dealer J. P. Grubb in Philadelphia.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Unique English Flintlock rifled pistols, ca.1645-1660

"Expensive, finely-decorated pistols such as these were carried by many Royalist officers during the First English Civil War (1642-1646). King Charles I is known to have left a pair behind at Wistow Hall, Leicestershire, after his defeat at the Battle of Naseby in 1645.

The pistols had screwed barrels, that is, the whole barrel could be screwed into the stock. Their rifled barrels made them more accurate than most contemporary pistols. However, they were expensive to make and slow to load, as the barrel had to be unscrewed for unloading. This pair was made by the gunsmith William Upton of Oxford". 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

World War 2, Italy’s “Last Ditch” TZ-45 submachine gun.

All the TZ 45's were issued to Repubblica Sociale Italiana units fighting against Italian partisan forces during the civil war in Northern Italy (1944–45). The gun was emerged from WW2 with a poor reputation for reliability, style of the manufacture and poor finish, it was not liked. Manufacturing rights for the gun were later sold to the Burmese army where it was manufactured as the BA-52 and colloquially known as the "Ne Win STEN". The Burmese copies were roughly manufactured and unreliable, but they remained in service into the mid-1980s with their infantry and even into the early 1990s with support troops.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Whitney-Howard "Thunderbolt" Rifle

At the end of the Civil War, Whitney Arms Company was searching for a rimfire cartridge rifle design that would be adaptable to both the civilian and military market. Whitney became interested the Howard “Thunderbolt”, an underlever rifle protected by US patents belonging to Charles and Sebre Howard of Elyria, Ohio. An agreement between the two parties was reached whereas the Howards would retain the patent and receive royalties .

The Howard design had a tubular receiver which was virtually an extension of the barrel.

Swinging the lever forward opens the breech by drawing back the breech block/plug allowing the cartridge to be inserted from the bottom. The reciprocating breech block was locked by a toggle system, an internal striker being cocked automatically as the bolt ran back. The standard cartridge used was an extra long (1 1/2" in. case) 44 calibre rim fire, known as the 44 Howard Extra Long.

The Thunderbolt was an unsuccessful entrant not only in the US Army breechloading rifle trials of 1865 but also in those convened by the Adjutant General of the State of New York in April 1867. Neither board liked the absence of an external hammer.

The civilian market didn’t fare well either. All together, there appear to be less than 1,700 Thunderbolts manufactured from 1866 to 1870.

The sporting rifle was chambered in virtually any rimfire cartridge from .44 Short to .44 Extra Long. A 54-bore shotgun version was also made in small numbers. A few of these Thunderbolts rifles found their way west in the late 1860s, but were never popular.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The rare M-1894 Steyr/Mannlicher pistol of the "blow forward" design.

These early Mannlicher pistols were designed by Ferdinand Von Mannlicher and were produced by the Austrian Steyr factory. Mannlicher was an exceptional early engineer and designer who teamed with the Steyr factory to produce all of his rifle and pistols from the late 1890's through post WWII.

The pistol uses a special rimmed cartridge in 6.5 mm caliber. The design represented an entirely new utilization of mechanical principles in an automatic action called "blow-forward action". In the standard type of automatic action for low-powered cartridges, the recoil (or blow-back) is utilized to drive back a movable breech face or block, but Mannlicher utilized the principle of a rigid standing breech with the barrel blowing forward to extract, eject, and prepare for reloading.

A special barrel housing which carries the front sight, covers the entire length of the barrel (6.49 in/165 mm) when the arm is closed. A heavy recoil spring is mounted concentrically around the barrel within this housing and is compressed between a shoulder at the forward end of the casing and a shoulder at the rear of the barrel.

It is also a "double action" mechanism with a rebounding hammer, a cartridge can be in the chamber with the hammer down, you just pull the trigger as in the double action mode, just like many pistols today. Very unique for "1894".

Another interesting feature is that the pistol looks like it should have a standard removable pistol clip, however it actually has a permanently installed internal magazine that loaded from the top of the action via a stripper clip, when the barrel is forward.

To load this weapon the hammer is cocked. As the hammer rotates on its axis pin, it acts upon the trigger, and the sear snaps into the cocking notch, holding the hammer. The hammer axis pin also supports the center arm of the barrel holding lever, which arm emerges and is raised high enough by its spring to press into a slot under the barrel. The rising thumbpiece on top of the barrel over the breech is then pushed forward. The barrel moves forward until its muzzle emerges from the barrel housing, compressing the recoil spring. The barrel holding lever is snapped into the locking notch in the underside of the barrel, thereby holding it in forward position for charging.

The stripper clip (capacity five rounds) is inserted in the clip guide of the receiver and the cartridges are pressed into the magazine. The cartridges are stripped off the clip and pressed into the magazine-well in the body of the pistol, compressing the spiral magazine-spring. A lip at the top prevents the cartridges from emerging.

The preferred direction for holding this pistol requires that the index finger be positioned around the frame above the trigger guard, with the middle finger through the trigger guard and pressed against the trigger.

M1894 page 188.jpg