LAW M72 update

Anti-Tank, Cold War, Custom builds, LAW, War on Terror, Weapons

I’ve been working quite hard on the LAW rocket launcher this month so far, with lots of plastic work!

I had the fortune to find two pieces of pipe which had corresponding inside and outside diameters, allowing one piece to slide snugly inside the other. My client had a model of an earlier type of LAW and had sent me the trigger mechanism housing from it (in green below) to work from.

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I created a wooden mould from photographs of the A7 in order to be able to form this complex shape. My initial idea was to build a vacuum former but before going to the expense of doing that I thought I’d have a go at forming with a heat gun…
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Pushing the plastic into the former.

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My second attempt, getting the sharp edge in front of the trigger is pretty well impossible with this technique without splitting the plastic or creating a crease so it looks like I’ll have to build a vacuum former after all!

I also ran some tests on nerf balls to see how they performed ballistically. When put in the end of the 50mm bore tube I was planning on using for the barrel it barely fell out the end when the grenade was actuated. I then tried a smaller bore pipe which sat just around the end of the nerf ball. This produced a much better effect, shooting it maybe 10 yards.

I decided that a slightly different approach was needed. I have been playing with the idea of expanding foam rockets as an inexpensive, disposable missile system. I made a mould up from some plastic tubing…

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The three components: the body tube (top), nosecone former (bottom right) and the backcap (left). I have inserted the tail fins into slots at the top. I am yet to make a rocket from it yet however! I think that this will produce a more ballistically viable rocket that will also be cheap to reproduce if lost.

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MG08/15-initial designs

Custom builds, Machine-Guns, MG08/15, Weapons, WWI, WWII

For this project, I acquired a Classic Army M249 as I knew the gearbox was ideal for the build both dimensionally and for the heavy-duty fire-support role of the gun. Another advantage that cropped up was the incredibly easy to adjust hop, controlled by a wheel that was very easy to access. This will allow the user to adjust hop in the field without having to open up the gun, allowing for longer or closer range work.

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First job: to strip out the parts I need:

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Having drawn out the rough layouts on paper, it was quickly obvious that this apparently simple shape was actually going to be quite complicated to cut out. The sheer quantity of sheet steel required for this gun requires a different take to my usual old-fashioned ‘everything by hand’ approach, drawing out components on paper and modelling them in card was all very well but something would have to give for the manufacture of the gun itself.

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Taking the time to roughly model everything in card, I had my solution. CAD/CAM, or Computer Aided Design/Manufacture allows a designer to create an digital representation of an object and manufacture it on a suitable piece of machinery. Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) lathes, routers, milling machines, laser cutters and water jet cutters are but a few of the machines available. In this case I am investigating laser and water-jet cutting options.

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Once I have all the components cut, parts can be riveted, bolted or welded together as appropriate. Some parts will still have to be made by hand, small details like the sighting system will be cut out and stamped by hand.

Having spent so much time designing on a computer, I can’t wait to get the parts cut and get to work making things properly!

For some background history on this project, see here.

 

As ever, if you are interested in our builds and want to know more or have a project in mind, do let us know! You can email us at enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

The MG08/15

Custom builds, Machine-Guns, MG08/15, WWII

In the deadlock of trench warfare that epitomised the Western Front in Europe, all sides tried their hardest to develop a tactic or weapon that would allow them to break the stalemate.

The British developed the most successful weapon, the tank. This mobile fortress allowed men to push forward under solid cover which could also lay down suppressing fire. The Germans didn’t really catch on to the tank until later on (Blitzkrieg, anyone?) but they did appreciate the value of lightweight, well-equipped shock troops.

The trouble was that the weapons of the era were not well suited to this sort of combat: small units attacking well-defended, confined spaces. Rifles were too long, swords and bayonets unwieldy, handguns had a limited magazine capacity and range. What their Stormtroops needed was something to suppress enemy positions and quickly re-enforce their footholds.

The ideal would be to have a machine-gun that could be moved forward with the first wave of soldiers, but at the time even the lightest of machine-guns such as the British Lewis Gun was too heavy for long walks across no-man’s land. The Germans found their answer in the Maxim gun that they already used as their standard machine gun.

The Germans took the Maxim MG08 and effectively cut off everything they could. Gone was the empty space in the receiver, the water jacket was made smaller and most importantly, the spade grips and thumb trigger were taken off and replaced with a buttstock, the trigger being moved down to a pistol grip at the bottom of the receiver.

The result of this was a machine gun that could be advanced with the front line of troops, indeed it was supposed to be fired from the hip in a tactic known as ‘walking fire’ (the BAR was designed on similar grounds). This is the singularly worst tactic ever invented-I recommend you do not try this at home-if you are being shot at.

Walking fire.

The Germans also added a 100 round belt magazine that slid onto a carrier on the right side of the gun, though the gun could also be operated from the 250round boxes used for the standard MG08.

The shortage of machine-guns in the lead-up to WWII meant that the MG08/15 saw active service right up to 1945, meaning that it is a perfectly legitimate weapon for many WWII scenarios. In the coming weeks I will be posting regular updates on the progress of an Airsoft MG08/15 for a client in South Africa.

LAW M72 trigger mechanism

Anti-Tank, Cold War, Custom builds, LAW, Products, War on Terror

Video giving a behind-the-scenes view of a bit of R&D at Vintage Airsoft. Although it doesn’t look much yet, a far more polished version of this unit will feature in a custom-built LAW M72A7. Apologies in advance for referring to it as ‘L72’ in the video repeatedly!

LAW M72A7

Anti-Tank, Cold War, Custom builds, Era, LAW, Products, War on Terror

I received an email at the end of last year asking if I would be interested in building an M72A7. This is one of the latest incarnations of a real classic in the world of rocket propelled weapons with its origins prior to the Vietnam War where it first saw service.

M72A2

The concept of the M72 series (also known as the LAW66 in some parts of the world) of rocket launches was to produce a lightweight, single-use anti armour weapon.  Anti-armour technology had come a long way since the beginning of the Second World War: At the beginning of this war tanks could only be dispatched using small direct-fire artillery pieces, though developments were made in the direction of anti-tank rifles (the Boys anti-tank rifle is a classic of the genre) these proved to be ineffective against the armour of newer tanks and were incredibly heavy and cumbersome to carry.

The US introduced the Bazooka to Europe, the first really practical man-portable anti-tank weapon. It was actually so effective that the Germans pretty well copied it when developing their Panzerschrecks. The Germans also developed the Panzerfaust,  a single-use recoilless rifle  that also proved effective against tanks and popular with users.

Sub-calibre training version in the deployed position. Smaller rockets that are designed to replicate the flight path of the real deal are used for training purposes.

Being a single use weapon, the LAW’s rocket is an integral part of the system a soldier has to carry. Many of the improvements and upgrades to the LAW66 are of the warhead or the motor component of the rocket itself, though there are a number of visual differences from the outside including different sights, end caps and sight housings.

The LAW M72A7 features an improved rocket motor to engage targets past 200m and a picatinny rail for night-sights and laser pointers (though who would stick an expensive night sight on a disposable launcher I don’t now, nor what use a laser would be in all honesty, answers on a post-card please!)*.

Another view of a modern M72, in this shot the picatinny rail is clearly visible.

The Airsoft version of this will not, of course have a range of over 200m and this is a very experimental build for me: I have never done anything like this before! Designs sketched out, my first step was to test the trigger mechanism. Once my theory has been tested, I can build it into the end product. More to follow on that later this week!

 

*ANSWER: My client for this build gave me a bit of insight into the use of a picatinny rail and what it was for:

“Bit of trivia RE the night sight rail, if I’m not mistaken it is for a PEQ (Infrared light and laser) box so that soldiers using night vision goggles can aim it because the goggles would prevent getting a proper cheek weld to the weapon, and also the dark would render Iron sights unusable. They’re not so much the throwaway weapons they were in the Nam era as the Americans started to learn the enemy would use them as parts of IED’s by filling them with hand grenades. As a result it is standing operating procedure to retain the spent case and take it back to base with you for disposal or to crush/render useless the tube in which case they would take the PEQ off and probably put it onto the rails of their rifle.”

M72 with PEQ box.