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Old Trooper Gunsmiths LLC


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Under valued firearms in history: the pattern17 (1917) rifle.

Posted on March 20, 2016 at 6:54 AM Comments comments (493)
There are a few guns and equipment that is truly under appreciated in millitary service. Like the 2.5 ton truck or the 5 button sweater or the C130. But here is a tale of a great rifle that should have been more and was a reliable "stand by" for almost 40 years. 

     The story of the P17 is a convoluted one. The rifle that we are so familiar with was not even designed here. It was originally intended to be the new British service rifle in .270! This was known as the Pattern 13 rifle. And was based on a Mauser design and built to take advantage of the carnage a small, fast moving bullet can make vs. a large slow one.   
     The project was shelved after the great bloodletting that became WW1 came about. To invested in the Short Magazine Lee Enfield and the .303 round to switch over now. There is a quick war to be won. Or so they thought. 
      So the meat grinder of trench warfare drug on climbing countless lives, and unfortunately also claimed countless rifles. The Commonwealth factories were churning out as many SMLE's as possible. Only to loose them to the cruel  mistress of the trenches.So, the board of Ordinance went to the largest industrial base that was not at war: the Americans.  They gave them the design and patterns of the P13 rifle with the desighinndesighn change of a rechamber to the .303 caliber and some simplification of the finished product. So the Pattern 14 rifle was born! They needed rifles as fast as possible. And as many of them as possible. The new rifles went into production Winchester, Remington and Eddystone (a division of Remington). The conversion was a success. The rifles proved to be rugged and more accurate than the old "smelly".  Some were even adapted sor sniping service and were retained all the way into WW2. They were, however not loved by the Bord of Ordinance. They were only. 5 shot vs the Enfeilds 10. The sights were different and the bayonets were not interchangeable. Once the large English contract was up, the commonwealth had cought up with production and simplification of the #1mk3*. So no more rifles were ordered. Fortunately (for the rifles, not for humanity)  under the Wilson administration, who promised to keep us out of war as part of his reelection campaign, drug the country off to war. 

    The 1903 springfeild was our primary service rifle at the outbreak of war. Unfortunately it was a complex machined Mastrerpeice. The rear sight alone was over eight pieces. And it was only made by Springfeild armory and Rock Island armory. And they simply could not make them fast enough. So. The pattern 13/14 plans were dusted off and redesigned to take the American 30/06 round. The rifle was just as rugged and accurate as the British rifle. And due to it being a thinner round was now a 7 (6. In mag, one in chamber) round rifle. But when your ammo is issued in 5 round clips it is a moot point. The p17 or "Enfield" as may called it was not really that wel, liked. It was heavier than the 1903 by almost a pound, and felt chinky and unrefined compared to the grasefull Springfeild. But it was successful enough that (at best estimate) at least 65% of the AEF were equipped with them. 
          After the war the rifles were placed into storage. There was some debate on making the P17 the new American service rifle due to numbers on hand and its distinguished combat record. But the "not designed here" nationalists one out with that argument. So they stayed in storage. Some were sold off as surplus to requirements and many were chopped up ("Bubbaed") into deer rifles. 

    Now comes the Spector of WW2. Again, not having learned our lessons from the First World War, the allies were found short of rifles. Especially after the disaster at Dunkirk the Brits needed rifles. So, the venerable P17 was pulled out of storage. Many were rebuilt, restocked, refinished and rebarreled.  Most rifles sent to the Brits in ww2 will have a red band painted around the rifles stock to denote that it was NOT its .303 caliber cousin! The p17 went to the home guard, some Canada units and eventually the free French and free Belgian forces.  Some were even sent to the Chineese nationalists. Many of them were rebarreled to 8mm Mauser. Some of the luck ones stayed  stateside for training use.  

    However after WW2 the age of the auto loading infantry rifle was well under way. And once again, the p17 was cast off. This time for good. Many found their way to the CMP, to be resold. Many more were surplused out at scrap prices. Many, many were again butchered into cheap deer rifles or crafted into spotters ov various calibers taking advantage of the "American Enfields" extremely strong action. Many of the old under appreciated war horses are still around today. Wearing fancy stocks, rebarreled, restored, or just used up. But there still widely available at affordable prices. More so than many of its counterparts.  So, want to collect us rifles, a P17 may be in your future! 

This is old troopers actual...


Mystery solved!

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 11:49 AM Comments comments (272)
    After a few years of sort of half assed searching, we finally found it! The proper caliber and designation of our "mystery mauser"! If it was our rifle and not a consignment piece, we would have done this a very long time ago. But since it was a consignment gun, and the consinghner did not care terribly, so, it sat.. Ever so often throwing a random ctg. onto the chamber to see the size.. Even tried a 7mm mauser. Yet we found the 7mm we tried was an out of spec. reload (yes we find that out now!)
    Turns out this darn thing was an interesting story. Was a Spanish army issue rifle. Of the 1896 pattern (cock on closing), issued and used before the Spanish civil war. Than at some time was captured or seized by the republicans (the communists, and those wanting a republic instead of a dictatorship) in their fight against the fascists (those wanting a dictatorship, and alining with the nazis/ Franco)  The rifles were all refinished and had all of the royal markings obliterated. The only markings were the serial numbers on the stock, barrel and receiver.
    Unfortunately the war ended for them before these were issued out. The victors (the fashists) were not inclined to use these "defaced" rifles when better ones were available. They did just fight a civil war after all. Spain was a testing ground for most of the equipment that would go into WW2.
     So, they sat....

     Until sold during the surplus boom of the 1980's 

     Without documentation, and without an importers stamp.. Guess this one was still in the armory paper.. 

     So, the mystery. No national markings, no importer stamp, no box.. Nothing to tell me who this gun belonged to, and a clean, but shot into bore... And not enough incentive to do a chamber casting..
      Odd things one finds when is board at a gunshow and already looking up mausers in the appraisal guide..  This rifle was an "also noted" foot note in Spanish mausers at the bottom of the "military" book... 

    An interesting tale if only it could talk.. 

      Old troopers actual...


Italian M1 rifles...

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 12:39 PM Comments comments (518)
  Italian Garand rifle, M1.

        So a few of you "super collector" types have probably wondered why there were no M1 rifles made By Winchester in the post ww2 era.  Well long story short is they were. In Italy, by Beretta. For the Italian and a few other millitaries, for longer than the US M1 was in production... Well sort of...
      Confused yet?

   Ok, after ww2 the Italian industry base was, well a bit of a joke. And that joke had been fiercely fought over by a few army's.. So, in an effort to get our "allies" (ok, for a few months at least) back on their feet we set about to rebuild their arms industry.
    So, this being the "atomic" era. or as a few "educational" sources call it the "military industrial complex"era. We looked at building a good "client base" with the Mediterranean area to fight the emerging threat of the USSR. So Winchester no longer needing its line of machinery to make the M1 rifle, and thousands of rifles coming back from former combat theaters for rebuild, the need for "new" combat rifles for the American military was minimal.  The then surplus of rebuilt rifles was then "loaned" to friendly nations looking to modernize their army's with the "new" semi automatic battle rifles. To replace their "outdated" bolt action rifles from the previous war..
   By the late 1940's in the ruins of the Beretta factory the winchester machinery began to once again turn out rifles. Although compared with the millions of American produced M1's the Beretta made guns were relatively small. Enough to reequip the Italian army of the 1950's and make some for Albania and den mark. The parts were identical at first to the late war winchester guns, Late model  painted gas cylinder, non lockbar rear sight, stamped trigger guards, cut opp rods, ect.. The over all quality of these guns proved to be on par with its American counterpart. These guns served with their yankee counterparts throughout the army's of the world until they were replaced with "battle rifles" of the "new" 7.62 nato ctg. Many continued to serve as "2nd string" rifles well into the 1980's!
     The 7.62 era
     When the big buzz around the halls of nato in the late 40's was "standardization" So all forces fighting the Warsaw pact fire the same ammo.. This was so rudely interrupted by that pain that became known as the "Korean conflict". Or as we in the surplus arms trade call it "WW2's surplus dump".  The Italian rifles served in limited numbers with the many rebuilt American rifles in US and foreign hands, Turks, Greeks, Danes to name a few.  Along with NEW American made rifles made again by Springfield armory (not "inc" but the real US gov't armory) But also by Harrington and Richardson as well as International Harvester. 
     After the war the army's in nato picked back up onto the "standardization" kick. Fearing a full out assault from the USSR and the warsaw pact at any moment.  So, at the US ordinance departments instance the 7.62 nato (7.62x51) was crammed down the collective throats of NATO.  We developed the M14 for the new Cartridge. And a few of the old M1's were converted with a chamber insert or rebarreld to the new round.  The Italians who were spinning up to large scale production and really wanting to drop the long 30.06 (M2 ball) American Ctg. began production of their rifles in the 7.62 nato round. Wile development of their "battle rifle" began....
      The BM59
     Instead of the "redesign" of the M1 to M14 that the Ordinance department did. New receiver, new gas system, new bayonet, flash hider, ect..  The Italians who started at the same start point that we did came up with their version the BM59. The early BM59's were essentially 7.62 nato chambered M1 rifles modified to take a 20rd box mag. A new "gas lock collar/ flash hider was added. And that was about it...  Same style of gas system, same long hand guards, same bayonet..  The "Italian M14" was gradually (really, really, slowly) replaced starting in the 1970's by the AR70/sc70 series. Was not till the 1990's when front line troops turned in their big 7.62 guns for the 5.56 rifle.. A few are still seen in the hands of reservists and "designated marksman". 

 Interesting how things turn out when you start at the same place?

The "shaved" Webley revolver, MK I to VI

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM Comments comments (170)
      This is one of our favorite guns here at Old trooper. There is a special soft spot for what has been dubbed "the worlds finest combat revolver". I know there are S&W fans fumeing at the mear utterance of a challenge to the "combat masterpiece" and the Miclick "speed gun". But those guns were never issued and used by a standing army. The sort of "fugley" webleys defended the crown and her territories from 1870's to after ww2.  Sorry, our American entries of the 1917, both S&W and Colt, and "victory" series, do not even place...
       The webley is regarded by many American shooters as "loose" and poorly fitted with rough triggers. However in British hands they proved to be as rugged as a hammer and accurate enough to kill even the most stubborn opponent with its .455 bullet.  The reason for the "loose" judgment is that unlike the Yankee revolvers when the cylinder is "locked" (hammer back) there is still some "wobble". For a colt or S&W this is very bad, for these it is designed that way. Heavy barrels and massive forcing cones. Makes for a revolver that you really have to abuse to get them "out of time".  As for the triggers, well the double action on most "combat" guns is always heavy. The single action is still heaver than most American guns. But given the massiveness of the parts, are you really surprised?
     The webbley mkI first saw survive in the "africanas" campaigns. Fighting the Zulus, bores, and many local tribes. The mk I was improved as the cartridges were improved. The last "black powder" cartridge webley was the MKIII. This still retained the shape of the MKI with the "birds head" grips and shorter barrel (4inch). The improved CTG guns, the MKIV were made for a lower velocity (mk3) smokeless ctg, the MKV was simply a reinforced version of the the previous model. The MKV was first made around the turn of the century and saw service until WW1 when it was supplemented than replaced by the Bigger MKVI with a conventional "square" butt and a long 7in barrel. This was arguably the best version of the 455 guns. Possibly the best Webley ever manufactured. The big MK6 was made from 1916 till 1918 than made again by enfeild lock in the 20's.The Big revolver proved to be the most reliable pistol for trench warfare. Some officers even had privately manufactured bayonets made for them. Better than a sword I suppose.. In the firestorm of men, steel, blood and courage that was WW1, the Webley came out on top. It was not unheard of for a revolver to have 5 or more owners by the time it was turned it.
    After some argument from the ministry of war the big top break .455 were shelved in favor of a .38/200 (38 s&w here in America). The thought on this backward change would be that the "smaller bullet loaded to a higher velocity will cause as much if not more damage as our .455 cartridge". It also resulted in a revolver that looked like a 2/3'rds scale copy of the MK6. 
        The story for the big gun did not end there. The old caliber was proffered by the "veteran" officers and NCO's due to its outstanding stopping power. And they did as much as possible to retain the big breaketop. Fortunately for them hostilities came quickly, Issue of the .38 did not.. New ammunition was made and the gun placed back into frountline service. They were withdrawn after serving around the world once again. The last recorded issue of the .455 was in the early 50's in korea..
       The SHAVED GUNS
    Shaved? What do you mean?  In the late 40's and 50's the surplus firearms market was booming. Weather they be for your private collection or for your next coup or revolution, business was booming! There was one small problem for the .445 revolvers: No Ammo. Most if not all of the ammunition made for the big guns was shot up during the war. Little if any remained to make it to the surplus market. Some genius importer had found out if you mill down the rear of the webleys cylinder it can take a "half moon" or "full moon" clip like the 1917 revolver. This also allowed the .455 gun to shoot the plentiful .45acp cartridge. They sold quickly being a discount alternative to a 1917 or some of the newer .45acp weelguns available at the time. SO all the .455 revolvers with shaved cylinders started flooding the worlds gun markets of the 1950's. This unfortunately included "shaved" MKIV's and MKIII's even some MK2's have been reported. 
    The Problem
    First of all if you are reading this, hopefully you are smart enough to know that a modern higher velocity (yes I know, .45acp is not exactly a barn burner here)  cartridge out of a gun built for black powder is a bad idea! Heck, why do you suppose they have to stamp "Black powder only" on all modern replica muzzle loaders! SO you have a gun intended for a 456fps round, now lobbing a 800plus fps ctg.  Even the "Smokeless" ctg's were loaded (orig .455 loads) to around 650fps. On the black powder guns may have resulted in a few twisted frames, and blown cylinders. Possibly even some top latches blown out resulting in injury or death. The "smokeless guns" mainly suffer from bulged barrels from owners firing over velicoty ammo out of a platform not intended for it!  Despite these potential shortcomings many .45acp webleys continue to soldier on almost 100 years after manufacture.  Some when treated nicely make darn fine house guns! If you have ever wondered what the instructors of the personal protection in the home courses have beside their bed, YES it is a much loved MKVI!  We even have found a replica  bayonet!
    Due to the undersized round this pistol will never win any beauty contests or national match titles. But if you want a hammer reliable revolver that will defend your home and will go "bang" every time you pull the trigger, than this would be highly recommended!
     I would even take one of these to use against zombies! Yeah, that good...
    This has been the 3rd installment of "old troopers under valued guns of history".
 Any suggestions for #4?

Under valued firearms of history: Mas36

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (183)
Undervalued Firearms Of history: The MAS 36 and variants
   The Mas 36 and 36/51(grenade launching version) were a prime example of "to little to late". It has the dubious distinction of being the last bolt action rifle ever designed and fielded by a major power (you yougo 48 series dose not count, still a mauser standard pattern). A 5 shot bolt action in 7.5 French. This is the first rifle to use this long lived cartridge. This is a refinement of the earlier ctg that was easily confused for the 8mm german with the only exception of the 7.5 dia bullet. The results of confusing the two claimed a few dozen lives before the redesign.The resulting round was very similar to the modern .308 ctg. Ballistics almost identical. The rifle had a set back action with an oddly swept forward bolt handle. The resulting carbine had the longest barrel into the shortest over all length. Not quite a bulpup, but getting there.. The rifle featured the innovative (for the time) "ghost ring" sights and 4 sided bayonet stored in the
rifles forearm. The finished rifle was a light, accurate rugged standard issue carbine, rival to any competing bolt action fielded by any major power.
However, the production of this replacement for the 8mm labell and labell/ berthier rifles was slow to go into production. Serious manufacture did not occur till 1938. By this time the American army had adopted the M1 Garand as a standard issue arm and the USSR and germans had developed similar auto loading rifles (both of which had their "problems" and were never issued very widespread). To further complicate things the French had additional production issues and were only able to get the new rifles to the "first line" units, such as the elite "guards", commandos, legionaries, and motorized rifle regiments. And by the time of the German invasion of 1940 only 20% of the French army had the new rifle. Most of the French troops involved in the fighting still had the same rifles their fathers carried in the first world war.
The German occupiers and the vishey govt kept the good little gun in limited production to arm Atlantic wall troops and the vishy malice (anti partisan) troops. Many found their way into the hands of the resistance. After liberation production restarted, some seeing action in late ww2 with free French troops. Most of the rifles seen on the surplus market are made or rebuilt in the post ww2 period and will be gray parkerised instead of the black painted over blued finish of the pre war guns. The rifle had a distinguished combat record in the fighting in Algeria and french indo china (Vietnam) where they were supplemented by American rifles. The bolt guns were phased out for the equally odd looking MAS 45, MAS 49, and MAS 49/56. The later being finally retired in the late 90's as a "designated marksman" rifle.
Many of these guns found their way to America in the late 1990's via century arms. These were surplussed out of the French war stores in rebuilt/ new condition. Many were still in the (at the time) unavailable 7.5 french. Quite a few were converted to .308 by century. Some conversions done well, others not as much. Average price under $100. Not bad for a 7.62 nato chambered bolt gun.
Despite their appearance they have proven to be quite reliable, accurate and handy rifles. My wife's gun holds a 2inch group at 100m. Not bad for iron sights and surplus ammo.
     Not Bad for history's "too little, to late" rifle.