Japanese T89 ‘knee’ mortar

Area effect, Area-effect, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), T89 'Knee' Mortar, Weapons, WWII

I was recently given this replica T89 mortar replica to convert to fire TAGS. I hope someday to make my own from scratch with a bit more detailing and moving parts.

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The first step is to fit a firing pin. This is quite simple, I tapped two disks and threaded them onto a bolt to create a stable unit. This can be pushed down to the bottom of the barrel.

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The shells are steel tubes with custom-made caps. This is the prototype, there is a second hole in the production versions to allow quick refiling of the TAGs. The bottom plate is held on by spring pressure.

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There are two rows of spacers. The bottom one keeps the shell centred in the barrel, the top, thicker row allows the user to line up the shell before dropping it into the barrel for firing.

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The completed shells.

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I’ll be taking lessons learned from this design to apply to my other mortars and heavy weapons. I’ll also be offering these quickfill shells as an alternative to the standard 2″ mortar shells I’m providing with the SMBL mortar.

 

If you want a mortar of your own, please do get in touch at: enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or join us on our Facebook page. Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

Lanchester Build: Part 1

Custom builds, Lanchester, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWII

First things first, I draw out the stock template on the wood.

I took the drill to the stock and took out the detailed bits, then sawed through the rest. I’m very much looking forward to the day when I have a bandsaw to do this job…

Over in the metalshop, I bent, tacked and welded the steel parts together. On this build I am making a new magwell, but will be using the original magwell sleeve.

The fore-end of the Lanchester, showing the foresight and sight guards. These will need to be hardened to be much use I think.

Fitting the action to the stock. This is always a long job, but having recently got a hold of some lovely blue oil paint I’m improving my fitting technique and speed quite a lot!

Showing the bottom plate, which I am going to draw around to cut a nice, deep recess for.

I have cut the recess for the bottom plate deep so that the trigger reaches through to the correct depth in the trigger guard. I may need to tweak the trigger design though as at present it is a bit sticky. Far from ideal in an automatic airsoft gun!

I can finally get to my favourite bit: Shaping the stock. The Lanchester has a very slim, feminine wrist on the stock reminiscent of a P14/17 rifle. As a result it will have to rely on Lipos in the back of the receiver which is unfortunate but better than sacrificing the stock strength at the weakest point further. Even when I have carefully selected the grain to flow down through this for maximum strength there’s only so much you can do to keep it strong.

The Lanchester, pretty much roughed out. Now onto the rear sight, locking lugs and detailing!

 

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. 

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FG42: First production model: Improvements

Battle Rifles, Custom builds, FG42, Weapons, WWII

First things first, a locking system for the bipod. It flopped around a lot on the pre-production version so I have added locking lugs. This should hold it in both deployed and carry positions.

The new receiver and trigger group. The shape has been changed significantly, losing the fore-end entirely which allows for a much stronger wood fore-stock. The back has been extended to fill out the buttstock and support it fully.

The pistol grip has also changed to fit the new grips I am making.

I bought in some repro grips from the US and modified them with polymorph to fill in the air gap and make them really solid.

I then made rubber moulds of these modified grips and poured copies.

The new magazine well is a big improvement. It locks up very tightly on the magazine.

I have modified the Sten barrel to fit an extension. The gas port is welded directly onto the receiver.

The new foregrip in place. This is much more solid than the first version and will have a correct-looking curve across the top.

I sanded down the woodwork and stained it. Finishing it with hardwax oil.

I then cut a slot matching that in the receiver up into the gas tube for the operating handle in order to allow it to move.

Some of the new parts having their first coat of paint. I’m looking into 3D printed versions of some of these, but need to test out the strength of the parts.

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In position on the gun. 

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The bipod locked down, so far, so good!

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The new gas tube cover.

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There are a few other small changes, but this article covers the vast majority. I hope to have the first  production model completed this week!

 

If this build is of interest to you, please get in touch at: enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or join us on our Facebook page. Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

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.

L42A1 Build: Part 1

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

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With some dimensioned parts, I could get some bits laser cut and underway…

Receiver and scope mount first, this is a pretty simple tap, screw and weld together job by my standards!

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Once this was done, I marked out the lower stock, indicating the depth for each section.

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I then drilled to each depth to rough out the space for the internals. Once I made my way around the outside of each section, I took the rest out by chisel.

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Once it was roughly fitted, I scooped out the lower to expose some more of the receiver.

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I made a spacer/mount for the outer barrel. These parts will all be screwed into place and covered by the top guard.

For the curious, this is the magazine well design for the production rifles I intend to make for customers. I’ve played about with it a bit and it allows for a pretty fast reload with only a little practice, which makes it somewhat better suited to those up-close and personal moments than most VSR builds.

The top guard in place, waiting to be shaped.

So far, the main thing that is annoying me about this build is the barrel, which is a bit too low in the stock. I may have to revisit this at a later date and fit a wider diameter barrel higher in the woodwork, with the inner barrel off-centre.

This replica will make extensive use of 3D printed parts for the detailing. The foresight is closely related to the Sten MkV foresight I produce. The receiver and scope mount are new designs, which should fit around the existing metal parts. Although it is possible to purchase an all-metal replica L42 scope bracket it would cost almost as much as an authentic scope, so this will take a small bore scope suited to the period, maybe with some cosmetic modifications.

 

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.

Spring SMLE: Complete.

Imperial Era, Lee-Enfield, Products, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At long last, the first spring rifle is complete! I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at a VSR based SMLE, though there are a few tweaks I shall be making to production versions.

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I think in future versions I shall sit the action lower down in the stock to achieve a lower profile. Then I can add things like a charger bridge, maybe even splitting the back of the receiver for added authenticity.

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This example is using an original rear sight leaf. In future versions I hope to make reproductions to minimise the number of irreparably modified originals. The rear sight will also host the TDC hop adjustment mod, saving you a helpful upgrade.

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I may have to use No. 4 Enfield swivels unless I can find a way to reproduce these, swivels are becoming harder to come by.

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After the success of the 3D printed Sten MkV foresight, I have continued to use this technology here to create the outer barrel impression and foresight unit.

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The barrel has been trimmed down to fit. The VSR barrel is a little long so I removed it, cut and re-crowned it on the lathe.

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Here’s an important feature, I have lined the magazine well with steel which means magazine release should be consistent and not pinched by the wood. Other VSR Enfields don’t have this lining and I have seen magazines get stuck. There is a new design for this which I will use in the production versions to allow very fast magazine changes.

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The fake magazine is solid resin, painted to look right. There is no need to destroy a perfectly good magazine for this build!

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The original buttplate. I’m hoping to make reproduction ones for future versions. As this is an original buttstock you would still be able to fit an original if this happens.

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I’m hoping to improve the bolt handle and back of the bolt shape. However I am pleased with where it now sits, nice and authentic on the rear band you can achieve quite a good rate of fire.

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So, there are some changes to come for production but I’m very happy with this first go!

You can see the whole VSR SMLE build 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. This will be available soon.

Spring SMLE: Part 4

Imperial Era, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

I’ve had the mould sitting about from previous projects for SMLE magazines. I took a resin cast from this, cut it down to size and added some screws into the top to secure to the gun. I painted it with acrylics, which are great for getting metallic and weathered finishes.

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I’ve removed the rear band assembly to do some detailing and finishing work.

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I thought I would attach a few pictures of the band before being cleaned up here as I forgot to show the build process for this part. I’ll let you work out the details…

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Markings will be kept simple for this, no attempt to replicate the originals as they would require a very random set of stamps.

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As I’m replicating various Mks of firearm I can’t use the Mk system to denote changes in the designs of the airsoft versions as ‘SMLE No.1 MkIII MkI’ is a bit confusing! However I’m not going to stamp ‘V0.1’ onto this as it would look out of place, so it will be denoted as MkI. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

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Now it’s clean and marked up, it’s heated up and into the oil it goes for that lovely, black satin finish.

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Finally, screwing on the buttplate and some last finishing touches before assembly….

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You can see the whole build so far 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.

Mad Mondays: 9. Percussion

History, Imperial Era, Mad Mondays, Weapons

Last week and the week prior, we looked at Colt’s revolvers and some early repeaters, which benefitted hugely from the introduction of the percussion cap. This week we shall look at the more conventional mainstream military uses. Although the Colt revolver did slowly catch on, it was still a freak in military terms, every other man on the battlefield was still using a single-shot, muzzle loaded musket or rifle. The rate of fire had not changed for the majority of soldiers since the mid 1700s.

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We’ve already looked at the development of the percussion cap here so we shan’t go over it again. There were clear advantages to military adoption of the percussion cap over flintlocks in the form of reliability (in nearly all conditions), consistency, ease of loading and the lack of the initial puff of smoke and sparks from the pan that makes it easier to hold your aim.

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In spite of this, it still took around 20 years between the initial development of the percussion cap and its common military adoption.  Once the technology had proven itself, the changeover was actually relatively painless in comparison to later developments. Muskets and rifles could be fairly readily modified to take the new technology at relatively little expense.  As a result, this is what pretty much every world military did and it is quite difficult to pin down the first adopters of the percussion cap as there are no distinct new firearms having to be produced to accommodate this new technology.

brown-bess-percussion

Some early examples of the percussion cap in military use include the ‘Brown Bess’ musket, which was converted in fairly large numbers from 1842.  the US adopted a form of the breech-loading M1819 Hall rifle which used a percussion cap in 1833, though this was far from standard issue. The French converted a handful of their 1766 pattern muskets.

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It appears that once the concept had been proven, many countries started to build firearms exclusively for this system. Changes were afoot however, which meant that the smooth bore musket  had seen the last of its military usefulness.  Rifles were far superior for accuracy, all that was holding them back was a way to load them at least as fast as a musket so that they could be used for regular troops…

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You can find other articles on the development of firearms overall here and on historical interest pieces here.

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Mad Mondays: 8. The first modern repeaters.

History, Mad Mondays

Although there were a few early attempts at creating repeating firearms, there was a huge breakthrough in 1836 with the Colt Paterson.

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This revolver was the first use of the single-action, where the firearm was cocked and the cylinder rotated and indexed automatically. This was aided by the introduction of the percussion cap, which vastly simplifies delivering an ignition charge to a main charge of powder compared to a flintlock. 

So, what did this mean for firearms? Well, all of a sudden in order to take a second shot all you had to do was lift your thumb, grab the hammer and pull it back, then squeeze the trigger. In a world where nearly every gun available to people required you to ram a powder and ball down the muzzle with some force, prime a pan and then take aim and fire, this was a massive increase in firepower. Especially as the operator of this new revolver could follow up their first two shots with another three.

Admittedly, this came at a bit of a cost. The first revolvers were perfectly good, until they broke. Unit armourers did not have the expertise, nor the parts available to repair broken Patersons. As a result once a Paterson broke, it was unserviceable. To the soldiers of the time, this gave the impression that they were fragile. Whether or not this is fair, the result was that although these were adopted for military use, they did not see widespread adoption.14554256_3

Fortunately, the Republic of Texas liked the look of Colt’s revolving firearms well enough that they bought around 400 pistols, shotguns and rifles for their Navy. Although this service didn’t last long in itself, when the Texan Navy was disbanded these revolvers were surplussed off and ended up in the hands of the Texas Rangers. With them, the Paterson saw extensive use against the Comanche during the Texas-Indian wars, finding a great deal of favour among the rangers.

 

Such was their preference for this over every other firearm available, that Zachary Taylor, Commander US-Mexico Border at the time, sent Samuel Walker (formerly of the Texas Rangers, now serving with the US Mounted Rifles) to New York to have  Samuel Colt make a few changes to the Paterson to make it more suited to battle and cavalry use in particular.

Unfortunately, Colt was out of business. Sales had not been good enough to keep his company afloat and it had closed down. However this significant military contract was lucrative enough to allow him to undertake the design work and contract Eli Whitney to manufacture the new revolvers.

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This new model was named the Walker Colt, it featured: six shots, a simpler loading system (including a built-in ramrod) and at .44 and .454 cal were big enough to fell a man or horse with one shot, important not only for combat but also dispatching wounded animals safely.

This still wasn’t perfect, with the built-in ramrod prone to deploying under recoil, preventing the efficient cycling of the gun, though many fixed this in the field with a piece of rawhide to tie it up into place! However, the firepower this offered was outstanding and a real man-killer.

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We’ve now jumped ahead by following this line, so in the next article we shall take a step back and look at the first adoptions of percussion weapons by militaries, before looking once again at the development of repeating firearms.

 

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You can find other articles on the development of firearms overall here and on historical interest pieces here.

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Mad Mondays: 7 The percussion cap and the not-quites

History, Mad Mondays

In the last post, we looked at some fantastic examples of early revolvers, such as the Collier.

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The percussion cap was not a direct development from flintlocks, fulminates were discovered by Edward Charles Howard in 1800 and were initially used as a replacement for priming powder in a similar fashion to a flintlock (mixed with some other components). As well as being more reliable to fire, there was no cloud of smoke rising from the frizzen, giving a clear view right up until the moment the bullet left the barrel.

The first patent awarded for the percussion cap was to François Prélat in 1818, though there is a great deal of controversy over who actually invented it, with Joshua Shaw claiming to have invented it in 1814 (US patented in 1822). Other claimants include: Joseph Manton, Colonel Peter Hawker and Joseph Egg.

With the invention of the percussion cap, the format of the revolver could start to take its modern form, with one action operating each cylinder independently one after another. Before we get there however, there were a few alternatives that floated about in the early days. It took about 30 years before the percussion cap came into common military use in spite of its obvious advantages, as a result there were a few interesting civilian developments first, deciding how best to use it.

Some very early percussion guns used a frizzen-type system, with a hopper of caps that dropped one cap into the firing tray as the cylinder was rotated. However it was much more common to attach a cap to each chamber. Much simpler, much less likely to go wrong.

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One format was the turret rifle/pistol, this had a disk with chambers drilled around the circumference, each loaded with a charge and ball. Now, the eagle eyed among you will notice something about this.

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Each chamber is pointing in a different direction. 360 degrees of different directions, including back at the shooter. Now, with an unsealed cylinder there is a certain amount of uncontrolled flame around the chamber as you fire and there is a very small chance of a ‘chainfire’ occurring, where said fire jumps from one chamber to another, setting several other chambers off out of alignment.42cal-brass-pistol-right

So, if this unlikely event did happen, you could potentially shoot your target, followed in very quick succession by yourself. Although the design makes this occurrence incredibly unlikely, it seems that competitors to this design encouraged this urban myth to spread.

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Another option that never really caught on was the Harmonica gun. Instead of a cylinder, you had a square bar, drilled at regular intervals for chambers, with a percussion cap nipple usually located on the top, which could then be stuck by the firearm’s hammer.

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You’ll not find many of these about, those that were made as rifles aren’t too bad, but they make a pistol quite a bulky business, a bit too much so for a convenient carry piece. One famous maker (arguably the only famous maker) and the apparent designer of Harmoinca guns was Jonathan Browning. How on earth he had time to design and build guns among producing 24 children is a mystery to me, but he still managed to be the father of the John Moses Browning. 

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If you don’t know who he is, we’ll get to him much later on. He’s kind of important to modern firearms.

If this content interests you, subscribe to the blog or join us on Facebook for more! 

You can find other articles on the development of firearms overall here and on historical interest pieces here.

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