Creating an impression: British Infantry, Temperate Climates 1969-1985

Cold War, Creating an impression

First things first, this uniform is an approximation for airsoft purposes, it’s still a working progress (as any impression should be). It is absolutely not the typical British soldier in several respects, which I will detail.

My reason for putting this load out together was to have something which complimented my M16A1, which really didn’t work well with my WWII British Battledress and 37 Pattern Webbing. I’ll refer to the M16 from this point on as ‘Armalite’, as this was how it was largely referred to by the British at this time.

Also, there is no magazine in the rifle. I know this, I was in the safe zone, hence no magazine in the gun!

Research

Contrary to expectation, British forces have used the Armalite rifle since pretty early on. While the Self-Loading Rifle (SLR)* is the iconic British service rifle of the Cold War, there have been roles where the Armalite has been used as an alternative. These fall into two categories:

  1. Where a lighter rifle with lighter ammunition is required
  2. Where select fire is needed to provide automatic fire where a light machine gun would be unsuitable

The majority of the former situation applied only really to Special Forces units, the SAS, SBS and Pathfinders for example. I’ll do these as separate impressions as there are many variations between operations.

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The latter situation applied in a couple of places, Northern Ireland and the Falklands. Although not in every case, some units were given an Armalite for every ‘brick’ (which was the term used for a group of around four men). This was typically carried by the section commander as a little extra firepower, one supposes as an upgrade on the Sterling SMG, which by all accounts was not popular.

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Northern Ireland, as a Corporal, this chap was probably in charge of a brick, hence the Armalite.

The picture above is pretty typical of urban Northern Ireland in the 1970s, at a later date I shall came back and do this load out as well.

Although Trousers, Lightweight (plain, Olive Drab/OD and DPM 68 pattern smocks were commonly mixed, soldiers also wore matching 68 Ptn Jackets and Trousers, along with mashups including but not limited to: wooly knitted pullovers, trops (tropical issue trousers), flak jackets, private purchase para smocks, not to mention an assortment of water and wind proofs.

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Lieut. General Sir Harry Tuzo, GOC Northern Ireland, (centre) with a Military Police escort in Newry.

Headgear varied depending on the conditions. Berets were common headgear, comfortable and fairly warm. When patrolling through streets on peacekeeping operations these were seen as more ‘normal’ and approachable than a steel helmet, and certainly more comfortable to wear for prolonged periods.

Steel helmets were often worn with nets and heavily scrimmed, as you can see below, however they were worn without scrim during riots,  replaced with a visor.

BRITISH ARMED FORCES IN GERMANY 1945 - 1975

On the feet and ankles, DMS (Direct Moulded Sole) boots were the norm, though private purchase boots were sometimes worn. DMS boots were just to the ankle, so puttees were worn as extra support and theoretically sealing boots against dirt ingress (apparently this is effective against sand). During Second World War, puttees were largely replaced with anklet gaiters, which were much quicker to put on and take off and did not require careful tying. For reasons best know to the higher-ups, after the war the army went back to puttees.

 

*For those outside the UK, you would better recognise the SLR as the FN-FAL, though locked to semi-automatic only.

 

The Impression

This is an approximation for an infantryman not in a frontline role where combat was imminently expected.

On my head, I have a black beret with General Service Corps badge. This is sufficient for now until I decide what regiment to portray. If I wanted to add camouflage to this, loosely folding a scrim scarf over it to cover the colour and break up the outline is historically valid.

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The General Service shirt should, for other ranks, be worn over the collar of the combat jacket.

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The webbing setup is a light belt kit, as used in Northern Ireland where patrols were not usually longer than a day and threats were within a fairly limited scope. This belt did have a First Field Dressing (FFD) attached with electrical tape for fast access near the buckle. Most of this is 58 pattern, with a few exceptions.

The pouches visible in the photo below are from left to right: Left ammunition pouch (with loops for bayonet), compass pouch, 37 pattern ammunition pouch and holster for .455 Webley (this is of course not standard issue, but when running a sniper rifle in airsoft it is  good manners to carry a sidearm). This will be replaced in time with a Browning Hi-power and suitable 58 pattern holster. On the right is a later-issue S6 gas mask bag. When skirmishing I use this to carry my scrim scarf as a gas attack is unlikely, and it is more comfortable to fall on than an S6.

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The trousers are the 68 pattern type. Until you have worn these, it’s not obvious to someone who is used to more modern equipment why ‘lightweights’ were so named. These are more closely related to the Battledress trousers of the last war than to modern issue, they are very thick and heavy, supported by braces and high-waisted. An FFD pocket is stitched on the front like battledress.

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The TRF is a fictitious one, just to complete the look. Under this are corporal stripes that came with the jacket.

In use, this setup is very comfortable in cool, wet conditions. When moving through thick brush and thorns, the jacket and trousers provide very good protection. Even running around quite a lot, I found the clothing breathable and fast drying. I’m yet to try it on a hot day.

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Personally, I am quite fond of the puttees. They provide a little extra support, even with the high-ankle boots. However the trousers do pull out easily, though this may just be that they are on the short side.

With the webbing, it is quick to get magazines out but hard to close in a hurry. I’m producing a set of reproduction M16 pouches to play with to see if they are an improvement.

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Equipment and sources

Most of this equipment is not available as reproduction.

Webbing

In the UK, it is easy to find sets of 58 pattern webbing for next to nothing. Not so long ago people struggled to give it away, but now you can buy sets online easily for £10-25 in worn condition. Silvermans usually has some, and if you want them in brand new they have those too… at a price. They also have some rare trials versions produced in nylon, which was one attempt to make it more suitable for use in NBC warfare.

If you shop around on eBay and collectors groups, you may find it for less.

 

Berets

Berets used in the 60s-80s are much more like modern berets than those used in WWII. A modern one is pretty close, though if you can find a beret with a slightly large crown it’ll look better. With cap badges, make sure they are for a unit/regiment that existed, there have been many amalgamations since the end of WWII.

Helmet

If you wish to wear a helmet, the MkIV turtle helmet is your best option. You can find them in various conditions from £25-40. A helmet net and scrim is used for anything outside of fighting in built up areas.

Puttees

For puttees you want the short, ankle type rather than the long, knee-length ones. You can find these on eBay for £10-15 a pair. If you are buying used ones, make sure the ribbons you tie them with are intact. They should be about 70cm long ideally.

Boots

DMS boots are easily had, for £15-20 used if you shop around. If you want to buy new, Soldier of Fortune have them for £40.

Clothing

GS shirts are available very cheaply, even the most expensive used ones are £7 or so in the UK. At Varusteleka they had some selling for £3 each a while ago. If you can’t find some for some reason, you can also legitimately use ‘Shirt, man’s, combat’ (known as the Hairy Mary), which is a green wool collared shirt. Itchy as buggery, but warm. Nice when you get used to it.

Some soldiers also replaced their issued shirts with US-made ones.

The 68 Pattern outer layers will be the most difficult to find. Looking on eBay will be your best bet, expect to pay £15-30 for trousers and about the same for a jacket. Absolutely DO NOT FORGET to buy a pair of braces. Grey elastic and leather braces as issued can be found for £5-10. Beware of retailers selling items as 68 Pattern when they are not, later patterns of DPM are darker and with chunkier splotches. You can avoid wasted funds by comparing the offerings to the patterns on Camopedia.

Scrim scarves of this era are two-coloured, a sort of weak green-black or green-brown, almost blue-tinted. They are found on eBay, Web-Tex make a good version.

Weapons

Your options for a typical British Soldier are reasonably broad for this era.

L1A1-10

The SLR

Ares produce an L1A1 SLR replica which I’ve heard many good things about. You can get it with a wood stock for early impressions and it comes with black plastic as standard.

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The Armalite

There are of course countless AEG M16A1s that would be suitable and endlessly modifiable. My M16 is a WE gas blow-back, with modified nozzle to remove the locking lugs (which cause no end of problems) and flat hop.

The Sterling

If you want a sub-machine gun, the Sterling was widely used by those in support and command roles. It was also widely detested. Airsoft versions seem to have a custom gearbox so be prepared to modify standard parts for repairs.

The L42A1

 

This was the standard sniper rifle of the Army from 1970, taking over from the No.4 (T). It was a re-chambered No.4 to 7.62 with a new magazine and the No. 32 scope modified for the new cartridge. You can see the progress of the L42A1 being made here at VA.

Side-arms

Side-arms were not issued as standard to British forces, they were for support, command and special forces types. However for Airsoft it’s considered good manners to carry a side-arm if you have a rifle running above 350fps. You can carry a Browning Hi-power in a 58 pattern holster or a revolver as I have. Privately purchased pistols were carried, though frowned upon, bans being enforced more or less depending on circumstances.

 

If you enjoy this content, ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

M2 60mm Mortar: Build 1

Area-effect, Cold War, M2 60mm Mortar, Weapons, WWII

The project started with a good deal of research, finding pictures of all the component parts. From this I calculated dimensions and drew up plans.

The M2 is quite a bit more complicated than the SMBL 2″ used by the British. For my flat laser cut parts, I’m looking at around 3x as many pieces: plus a number of cast or printed parts.

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The baseplate is the first component to be assembled. This heavy plate is designed to stick into the ground to control and direct the recoil.

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Then the feet for the bipod legs and the hinge parts, Although the M2 is complicated, it does fold down quite tidily, which means a lot of moving parts.

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With the legs in place, the mortar starts to take shape. The tube through the middle will have the elevation control going through it, at the top of it will be the T-piece where the windage adjustment will sit.

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The thread arrived, it is a 20mm trapezoidal threaded rod which should be coarse enough to allow quick adjustments to be made, but fine enough to allow for accurate fire adjustment.

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The elevation adjustment screw in place and the T-piece at the top of the column (where the windage screw will go). There is a slit in the back of the column in which a screw sits that locks the inner column into the outer and engages the screw thread.

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When the elevation is raised to maximum, you can just see the thread through the slot at the back, but this will effectively be hidden by the barrel.

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The next components will be the windage adjustment and endcaps. These are going to be 3D printed in ABS for strength and will also have the barrel clamp.

 

If you are interested in the history of the M2, you can check out the introduction article here.

If you like this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles.

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

M2 60mm Mortar: Introduction

Area effect, Cold War, History, M2 60mm Mortar, Weapons, WWII

The M2 Mortar was a US light service mortar designed for close support by infantry at company level. These filled the gap between hand grenades/rifle grenades and the larger (81mm) M1 used at battalion level.

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The 81mm mortar in use with a mortar company of the 92nd Division.

It has its origins, much like nearly every modern mortar, in the WWI-era Stokes design. It was smoothbore, drop-fired and used a bipod/baseplate system.

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Doughboys with the WWI Stokes mortar.

Light mortars of the inter-war/WWII period fell into two categories: The first were simple, tubes held firmly by the user when fired and aimed by direct line of sight (such as the British SMBL 2″ and Japanese T89). The latter were complex, with coarse thread screws or other systems to control elevation and windage for very accurate controlled fire.

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The M2 fell into the latter category, with an attachment for a sight that could be used for both direct and indirect fire. As a result, it could be used accurately at close to its maximum range (nearly 2,000 yards).

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The sight used for the M2.

Post-WWII, the M2 served in Korea and numerous Colonial conflicts with the French, finally in Vietnam. The Chinese also locally produced their own copy. It was eventually replaced in 1978 by the M224 which is still in service today and increased range capacity by about 1/3rd.

 

You can see some footage of the M2 in action here:

The Airsoft version currently being built will fire TAGs and moscarts, with a possibility of using TLSFX shells as well.

 

 

LMG25: Build 2

Cold War, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

At the end of the last post, I had most of the large components roughed out for the LMG25. However the cooling ports in the barrel jacket are a little rough at the ends.

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So I welded the outsides edges, so I could grind them down and round out the ends.

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Next I welded up the ejection port.

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And the rear sling swivel, attached to the mount.

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The bipod was an interesting challenge. In order to go from the stowage to the deployed position the lugs all have to rotate, so a little tweaking was needed to make everything move freely.

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The end result is a pretty stable bipod with good movement, allowing the operator to sweep over an arc of fire.

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The dry assembly of the rear sight and ejection port. From this I learned that the ejection port needed a little trimming off the bottom to sit tidily. I also decided to chamfer the edges of the rear sight base to get a deep penetration for the weld.

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The foresight has been 3D printed, it screws into place on the barrel jacket.

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It sits just ahead of the bipod.

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The back-cap is also printed, I may replace this with a cast aluminium version now I have a working kiln.

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Most of the remainder of the work is now detail parts such as the rear sight unit, operating handle and the attachment for the back-cap. 

If you have a thing for obscure Swiss Light Machine-Guns then you can check out the pre-build piece here.

If you enjoyed this content join us over on Facebook and check out our Etsy store. If you have an idea for a custom build of your own get in touch on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

Kar98k: Introduction

Cold War, K98k, Rifles, Weapons, WWII

After the Great War, the Treaty of Versailles (TofV) put strict limits on the number of weapons, ships and small arms. Germany, like all the major powers, had learned that short rifles were every bit as good as a long rifle for any realistic infantry use and frankly better in any situation other than firing in ranks.

As a result, they disposed of a lot of their G98 long rifles, keeping hold of far more Karibiner 98az models, though producing the so-called K98b (which was basically a G98 with a tangent rear sight and turn-down bolt) during the Weimar years. How many ‘b’s were produced is uncertain, but they don’t feature in pictures of the period.

During the inter-war years, levels of tolerance to the TofV fluctuated, with many civilian hunters and paramilitaries reluctant to give up their beloved weapons. As a result many were hidden, coming out of the woodwork to fight street battles between Communist and Fascist militias, the militias and the government and eventually into service with some government units.

K98k, with laminate stock.

In 1934, the German Army ordered a new design of rifle. The reasons of this are not entirely obvious, but given the timing one could conclude that it is related to: the re-armament of Germany and therefore standardisation on one rifle for all to simplify production and logistics. It would also allow for the removal of the G98/K98b from regular service and finally push those pesky long rifles to the reserves.

 

With this short rifle as standard, the Germans also standardised on the new s. S Patronen (previously used for machine guns) which produced less muzzle flash in the shorter barrels.

 

Early K98ks were blued, with walnut stocks, though changes were made to this as it went through its service life. Over time, laminate stocks were introduced, which were cheaper and required less processing time for the timber. Oak was used as a stand-in from 1943. Parkerisation was used to finish the metalwork on later models, making for a much hardier finish than traditional bluing.

The K98k is one of history’s iconic sniper weapons. Many were equipped with the ZF39 scope (pictured) and these were preferred by ‘true’ snipers.

Most famously, the K98k was the standard German rifle of WWII, but it was also used by Sweden and captured units by the USSR to fill gaps in their own equipment.

Later in the war the ZF41 scope was also issued. This clipped onto a mounting next to the tangent sight and could be removed quite easily. At 1.5x magnification it was unpopular with snipers and had a fairly poor field of view but it did allow sharpshooters to perform something of a Designated Marksman role as it would be called in modern parlance.

Post-war, it saw service with the Viet-Minh/Viet-Cong (Soviet captures sent as war aid), Korea, France, West Germany, Norway and Yugoslavia, all with their own local modifications. They also saw action in Palestine, where they were used against Arabs and British forces. Even in the latest Iraq War and following insurgency they were being used against Coalition Forces.

Participants of the Haganah revolt against British control of Palestine carry K98ks and a Sten MKII.

This really is just to scratch the surface. The K98k and its Mauser brethren went everywhere and did everything, much like its sister bolt-actions of the era well outlasting standard military use to serve in specialist roles even up to today with some armed forces. This is not to even mention civilian use.

 

Vintage Airsoft is currently working on a VSR-based K98k and will be posting the build to the blog as it progresses.

 

You can find more information on the K98 through these links:

Weimar rifle markings

Overview/test of a repro ZF41

Very late WWII Volksturm K98-based rifle

Norwegian Mauser

Israeli 7.62 Mauser

 

TM L96: 308AWS to SMLE conversion

.308 SMLE, Cold War, Custom builds, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Quite some time ago, a client proposed making an Enfield with the magazine in the right place. Now, this is after the Matrix SMLE (Gas) but before the newer Red Wolf No.4, making it among the few with a magazine in the ‘correct’ place.

The simplest way to achieve this was to take a TM L96, which uses a feed ramp to take BBs from the magazine (located in the correct place for that rifle) forward to the chamber as it is effectively a VSR with an added on magwell/feed ramp system.

The first job was to modify the action/magwell to be as small as possible. I kept trimming it down until it was as small as possible without losing the rigidity required for this system.

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I could then fit to to the fore-stock.

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An original trigger guard was not an option sadly, as it did not fit around the dimensions of the donor.

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As a result, I designed a custom one. My first attempt didn’t quite look right.

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My second attempt was much better though.

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The next step was to attach the nose cap unit and top guards. 

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As with the VSR builds, I fit the metal parts before doing the shaping so that the shape fits around these. In the picture below, you can see the rear top guard has been cut away for the rear sight and sight guard.

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Cut down to size and part of the shaping done.

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It still needs to be shaped round the back end a bit to improve the grip, but the overall shape is coming together. 

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It interested, you can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

L42A1: Build 3

Cold War, Custom builds, L42A1/Enfield Enforcer, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, Weapons

The receiver in place on the rifle, a little tweaking was of course needed for the stock to fit the new action. Onto the side attaches a steel plate which is tapped for the scope.

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Another improvement is the first use of my newly designed Enfield trigger. This steel trigger drops into the standard VSR trigger unit.

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Although not perfect, it pretty closely resembles the original trigger and certainly gives it a nice pull.

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Another improvement is adding in a thick, steel custom nut. This is much stronger than the regular aluminium screw that is threaded into the original receiver.

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There’s really not much more to do on this now. I have a new scope mount design for the new receiver which needs making but there won’t be much to see on that!

 

It interested, you can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

New rubber melee weapons

BC-41, Cold War, Edged Weapons, Fairbairn-Sykes Knife, NR40, Products, Weapons, WWII

It’s been a while since I did a post about melee weapons, but there are a few items now available in the Etsy shop which may be of interest to followers of the blog.

 

BC-41

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The BC-41 was an early fighting knife adopted by the British Commandos. Inspired by earlier Trench Knives, this is great for an inexperienced knife fighter who can punch and slash and be fairly likely to do some damage.

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It was fairly quickly put aside in favour of the Fairbairn-Sykes design, which was much more flexible in use due to being able to hold it in a variety of ways. Ideal for the experienced and practiced knife fighter, though some would argue of questionable use to the average soldier.

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You can find the BC41 here.

 

Fairbairn-Sykes

The mould for the Second Pattern died a death recently and I reckoned it was time to do something a little different. The new knife is a First Pattern, though at a glance it could easily pass for a Second Pattern.

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As with the previous model, it is stiffened so that it doesn’t flop about. This is aided by a new rubber I am using for thin blades which is slightly harder.

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It has an optional sheath based on the second pattern version to keep costs down, though it should fit in a repro sheath if you already have one.

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You can find the Fairbairn-sykes here.

 

NR40

For the Soviets among you, the NR40 will serve you well for WWII and post-war impressions. Although it has long since been replaced in service, privately procured ones have remained popular with Russian soldiers.

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Once again, this is stiffened and uses the new rubber mentioned above to maintain stiffness on this relatively thin blade. This is cast from a reproduction but should fit in original and repro scabbards.
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The NR40 is here.

 

You can take a look at the Etsy store for these and other interesting and unusual items, but don’t forget to join us over on Facebook where there’s nearly always something interesting going on.

LMG25: Build 1

Cold War, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

The LMG25 is a really weirdly formatted gun, but with a Sten and some modifications I’m hoping to make something really interesting and unique.

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As ever, this started with a load of research and design work. There aren’t too many parts to this compared to some of my builds and they nearly all attach directly to the receiver. The first step of construction was to make this receiver, which I made a template for and centre punched for the drill, before cutting the space needed for the donor.

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The welding begins with the mock-upped ejection port and the trigger grouping/pistol grip.

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I also cut a hole for the magazine feed.

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The magazine well has an awkward and distinctive shape, so it is being 3D printed and will be mounted with metal plates and screws to the receiver.

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In place it fits quite nicely! This replica takes AK magazines which look the part well enough from a distance.

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Onto the stock. I cut it out in the usual way from the blank, but I can’t cut out the action recess in the usual manner due to the awkward lump at the front of the stock. It would have been possible to have this as a separate piece but it’s not a major issue to work around.
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The pistol grip unit is, fortunately, an entirely separate unit. This means making it is a lot easier than a one-piece pistol grip/stock. It somewhat resembles some of the early semi-auto conversions of bolt-action rifles in this respect of its design.

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There is quite a pleasing curve to the back of this pistol grip which is easily missed.

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This means that all the major working parts are in place. The next important step is to get the working parts actually working! Then we can enjoy the detailing, sights and bipod.

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If you have a thing for obscure Swiss Light Machine-Guns then you can check out the pre-build piece here.

If you enjoyed this content join us over on Facebook and check out our Etsy store, and if you have an idea for a custom build of your own just get in touch with us on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

L42A1: Build 2

Cold War, Custom builds, L42A1/Enfield Enforcer, Weapons

Since the last post, some of the 3D printed parts have arrived. The scope mount isn’t bad, the receiver is OK (not shown here) but both need a few tweaks to be perfect.

I’m very pleased with the shape of the 3D printed bolt parts, some minor tweaks and they will be perfect. I need to work out how to get them made in metal though as plastic simply doesn’t have the strength required for the job.

In the meantime I’ll keep using the steel handmade bolts for testing.

The receiver side plate painted. Although this will do for now I have a new design for a side plate integrated with the receiver itself.

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Moving the outer barrel off-centre means a new spacer, but it does improve the aesthetics of the rifle massively. I have also tapered the woodwork a lot more to allow use of the iron sights.

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I am also making new scope mount screws that look more the part than the temporary ones. Deep knurling makes then very nice to grip to tighten and remove, these will be oil blacked for wear resistance.

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The new screws in place. I’m going to re-dip them as the oil loosened up the flux on the joint.

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The bolt is a temporary measure, it will be replaced with a cast one once I have the kiln working.

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In the meantime it looks OK and will be oil blacked to tidy up.

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I have some tweaks to make to the receiver design and scope mount but this is the majority of the work done. The new receiver will have a steel side plate for the scope mount. I hope in the future to cast the rest of this piece.

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As you can see, it takes an original rear sight leaf. while it’s nice and secure for the battle sight, I need to make a locking system for the ladder.

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You can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.