The FG42

FG42, History, Products, Rifles, Weapons, WWII

The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42 was the product of German lessons learned during their attack on Crete in 1941.

This battle was the first battle in history where Paratroops were used en-masse, approximately 14,000 in all. The Germans won the battle, though with casualties so heavy that Hitler ordered that there would be no further large-scale paratroop operations. Oddly, the Allies saw the battle very differently: that paratroops had great potential and pushed forward the development of their own in order to gain the advantage this type of soldier would give them.

Fallschirmjägers landing on Crete, 1941. bundesarchiv_bild_141-0864

Fallschirmjägers landing on Crete, 1941.
bundesarchiv_bild_141-0864

The reason the battle was so hard on the Fallshirmjägers (German paratroops-literally translates as ‘parachute-hunter’) was that their main weapons; rifles, machine-guns and sub-machineguns were dropped in containers too far away from the soldiers. As a result much of the fighting had to be achieved with pistols and grenades, meaning the soldiers were at times hopelessly outgunned. As a result, the Luftwaffe wanted a gun that was light and compact enough to be dropped with the soldiers.

 

Dr. Bruno Sassen, showing the helmet and camouflaged variant of the over-smock.

Dr. Bruno Sassen, showing the helmet and camouflaged variant of the over-smock.

The criteria were extremely specific and strict, so much so that only a handful  of manufacturers offered up designs intended to seriously fulfil the requirements. The rifle had to:

  1. Be no longer than the standard K98k rifle
  2. Fire the 7.92 (often shortened to 8mm in American parlance) standard full power round
  3. Be magazine-fed
  4. Be select fire
  5. In semi-automatic fire from a closed bolt (for accuracy) and in full automatic fire from an open bolt (for cooling)

The last aspect was by far the most challenging. As this rifle needed to act in both the rifle and support weapon roles this was an arguable necessity but this did make the weapon much more complex.

FG42 Type 2 with ZF4 scope  mounted.

FG42 Type 2 with ZF4 scope mounted. Note the rear sight in the folded down position. The foresight could also fold down for jumping to minimise protrusions that could catch on clothing.

The winning design by Rheinmetall was put into small-scale production and used. Some problems were found and revisions were made. Although there are between six and seven subtle variants of the FG42 altogether no distinction was ever officially made. Today they are generally separated into two types: one and two.

The two main types of FG42 next to one another. Type 1 top, type 2 underneath.

The two main types of FG42 next to one another. Type 1 top, type 2 underneath.

There are mixed reviews in terms of how these rifles performed. Some say that they were impossible to control (extremely light rifle + full automatic = not ideal), some that they were too sensitive to dirt and fouling. However in gun circles small faults do seem to get blown out of all proportion just by being repeated and the SMG Guns replica (check these guys out, they are truly top blokes) seems to shoot very nicely at least in semi-auto. Sadly they are not legally allowed to produce full automatic versions!

Although this was a full power cartridge, remember that the butt was sprung to help with recoil absorption and seems to have been effective.

FG42 with bipod deployed.

FG42 with bipod deployed.

Sadly, very few of these astounding guns were produced. They were extremely expensive to make and the rest of the German military was leaving the standard 7.92 round behind in favour of the 7.92 Kurtz, an intermediate round. In order to standardise production of arms and ammunition the FG42 was shelved in favour of the much cheaper and simpler Stg44. Now buying an original FG42 is almost an impossibility, when they do rarely turn up for sale they reach truly astronomic prices.

Concealed Fallshirmjäger with a Type 1 FG42. bundesarchiv_bild_101i-720-0344-09

Concealed Fallshirmjäger with a Type 1 FG42.
bundesarchiv_bild_101i-720-0344-09

Here at Vintage Airsoft we are building a prototype FG42 type two. If there is enough interest we will be doing a small production run of them. If you are interested, please do drop us a line in the comments or on our email: enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com. The more people we hear from the more likely we are to make this a reality.

A working progress....

A working progress….

If you are interested in finding out more on this gun, I suggest you take a look at Forgotten Weapons. Ian has a nice summary of the gun and great photos of a US deactivated copy. He also has several ace videos with a video demonstration of the internals, a close look at a functioning original and an applied shooting competition using an SMG guns reproduction.

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The Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife

Cold War, Edged Weapons, Fairbairn-Sykes Knife, History, Weapons, WWII

The Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife was developed as a joint effort between William Fairbairn, Eric Sykes and John Wilkinson. The two former men of the Shanghai Municipal Police force and British Army the latter of the Wilkinson Sword Company.

I’ll not go too far into the history and development of the knife here as this is adequately covered in other places. A lot of the aspects of the design were carried over from the work of Fairbairn and Sykes on their Shanghai fighting knives-developped during their time with the police there. Each one was handmade and different to the next one.

From top to bottom: Pattern 1 Pattern 2 Pattern 3

From top to bottom:
Pattern 1
Pattern 2
Pattern 3

Fairbairn was experienced in fighting with knives and knife fighting, having been on both ends innumerable times working in Shanghai. From this experience he developed what he called his ‘timetable of death’. I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that a man so studious in fighting is best qualified to design a knife so single-minded in its purpose.

Timetable

On their return to Britain, they developed the knife further with the Wilkinson Sword Co. In November 1940, the War Department ordered a small number of knives to be delivered.

Over the next five years of war, Wilkinson produced three patterns of the FS knife for use by British and Allied forces while Fairbairn and Sykes trained them in their use. Royal Marines, Army Commandos, Royal Navy Commandos, the SOE and many others benefitted from their experience.

The knife was so popular it ended up featured on the insignia of Commando Units not only in the UK but in countries all over Northern Europe. It is still in use today worldwide.

 

To read up more on the design of this weapon, I recommend this site, which is overall quite thorough.

For more about the use of knives, this page has some interesting information.

MG08/15 shell

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

Yes, you read the title correctly, more progress on the MG08/15!

External parts this time, the whole build  is really starting to come together now. It’s best expressed in photographs so I shall let them do the talking…

_DSF5327

Right side of receiver soon after welding the grip. On the right of the picture you can see the magazine mounting for the portable 100 round ‘snail’ magazine (technically it isn’t a snail magazine, it is a belt box, I refer to it as a snail to differentiate between it and the box magazine I am building for fixed positions).

_DSF5328

A slightly soft-focus shot of the left side after tinkering with the safety switch mounting.

_DSF5326Close-up of the pistol grip. This shows the back where you can see the screw used to attach the trigger mechanism inside the gun.

_DSF5329

The first bit of woodwork for the gun, carefully shaped grips. This wood is ash stained with a blend of dyes to pick out the details. I’ll be needing to order in a special piece for the buttstock as the pieces I have are fractionally too small.

_DSF5318

Flash hider, carefully hand-cut and hammered into shape.

_DSF5331

Flash hider so far. The cone has been welded to a piece of tube that supports this component. The bulk of the rest of this part will be polymorph (the large black part here) which is still undergoing some shaping.

_DSF5333

And finally for this update, the cooling jacket. This close-up shot of the back-end shows the cover plate that attaches to the front of the gun and the hole through which the inner barrel will run.

 

As ever, if this post has inspired you, do drop us a line at enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com!

MG08/15 trigger, hop and wiring

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

It has been a while since I have written anything on the MG08/15 build as I have been slowly working on several small parts that in their own rights don’t make for a very interesting article!

The first of these to be completed is the motor plate. This unit houses the motor and the custom hop unit that I have made especially for this build. The original hop unit would only feed from the bottom left, entirely unsuitable of course for a gun that feeds from the top right!

_DSF5278

Motor plate with gearbox, hop and barrel.

So I designed a unit that would feed from the top, this has a feed tube that runs to the feed tray where the ammunition enters the gun.

Close-up of hop unit. The screw sets the hop, the feed tube sits just behind this.

Close-up of hop unit. The screw sets the hop, the feed tube sits just behind this.

The next part to be finished is the trigger. The trigger block sits just above the pistol grip and is secured by one M4 screw at the back. This screw is set into the grip, meaning that it doesn’t intrude on the use or look of the gun but the trigger block can be removed with relative ease. It also means that I can weld the pistol grip into place, meaning that this potential weak spot will be pretty solid!

Trigger unit and pistol grip out of situ.

Trigger unit and pistol grip out of situ.

Trigger housing and safety slot. The safety engages with the second sear.

Trigger housing and safety slot. The safety engages with the second sear.

Also, the wiring has been completed. Having run a test everything works fine, though I will be finding a stronger spring to reset the second sear to make trigger response sharper.

Where the magic happens...

Where the magic happens…

The next step is to assemble the rest of the outer shell and add the detailing. Then we can run a functionality test.

If this post has piqued your interest at all and you would like something similar of your own, do just let us know! Drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

Victory in Europe Day

History, WWII

As this business focuses on classic arms and their histories (mostly concentrating on the Second World War) it would seem silly not to celebrate one of the most important days in the last hundred years.

70 years ago today, the Western Allies accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender, one week after the suicide of Adolf Hitler, the man who started it all. He left behind a changed world; economically, technologically and culturally.

Cecil Beaton's famous photograph of a child bombing survivor. This photo was widely published in the US and helped turn public opinion against the Nazis.

Cecil Beaton’s famous photograph of a child bombing survivor. This photo was widely published in the US and helped turn public opinion against the Nazis.

The manufacturing capacity of the European powers had been smashed by unrestricted bombing of military and civilian targets and the people of Europe were left traumatised and distraught by the loss of their homes and loved ones.

Culturally, people had been shocked by the revelations of the Holocaust and the first major War Crimes trials were held at Nuremberg, where the Nazis held many of their massive rallies.

269F

Technologically, the Second World War created the modern world; the extensive development of the Analogue Computer, the Atomic bomb, the assault rifle, guided missiles, the jet engine, the fighter-bomber, airbourne soldiers, the amphibious assault vehicle and radar to name but a few.

Gloster Meteor, British Jet fighter.

Gloster Meteor, British Jet fighter.

This war also saw off a few symbols of the Imperial world. The last cavalry charges in the Western World happened in Poland and Russia in brave attempts to halt the German Blitzkrieg, leaving the horse in military use to ceremonial and support roles. The Royal Navy began its downward spiral into the small force it is today and the inevitable effect on the British Empire that relied on it.

Australian_troops_at_Milne_Bay

Victory in Europe day is not the end of this war sadly. The war on Japan is still ongoing as British, Commonwealth and American soldiers push them back island by island and colony by colony. The bloodshed went on.

So, when you have had a fantastic day skirmishing and go home at the end of it, shake hands cheerfully with your opponent and please remember that, in the words of General Sherman, US Army:

“There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.”

The bolt-action rifle

Cold War, Custom builds, Products, Rifles, War on Terror, WWI, WWII

With the advent and popularisation of centrefire ammunition, militaries around the world welcomed in a new era of accuracy and power. As smokeless powder replaced other propellants, a higher accurate rate of fire became not only possible but necessary to overwhelm the enemy.

British Lee-Metford or 'Long Lee', predecessor to the Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield (SMLE).

British Lee-Metford or ‘Long Lee’, predecessor to the Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield (SMLE).

The weapon of choice most armies turned to to arm their infantry was the bolt-action rifle. The best known being the British Lee Metford/Enfield series of rifles, the German Mauser mechanism and the Russians welcomed in Belgian firearms designer Leon Nagant in order to pilfer his feed mechanism! (OK, this story is a lot more complicated than that but I won’t go into that here).

There are advantages and disadvantages to all these mechanisms, the Enfield by all accounts had the highest rate of fire, The Mauser is a very solid, reliable mechanism and the (Mosin-)Nagant which is a solid mechanism with a good reputation for accuracy.

Gewehr 98 (G98). Predecessor to the Karibiner 98k.

All of these rifles served their countries well throughout their service lives. Consider that these mechanisms were all designed around 1890, the Lee-Enfield served the UK until around 1990 (100 years of service) and was still being used by India as of 2010, the Mosin-Nagant is still in use by a number of countries. The Mauser is harder to pin down on military use but it is still widely used for sporting rifles.

So it would be fair to say that these rifles deserve a fitting tribute in Airsoft too. Although good quality bolt-actions are available they are not often suited well to the Vintage Airsofter. Some are gas-powered and struggle in cold weather, others load through the fore-grip rather than the magazine so lose out on authenticity and ‘feel’ when being shot and some shell-eject which although look good are not practical for skirmishing.

Mosin-Nagant M28/30 rifle, one of the Finnish Nagant variants.

Mosin-Nagant M28/30 rifle, one of the Finnish Nagant variants.

Here at Vintage Airsoft we are developing a spring mechanism that will feed from a magazine in the ‘correct’ location. If you are interested, do let us know as we are looking for ‘backers’ to help us speed up the development of this system. It isn’t far off a functioning prototype at this stage and once it is functional we will be able to produce the main bolt-actions of the Second World War and many other rifles besides.

Do contact us on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com if you would like to know more about this project, we would love to hear from you!