M2 60mm Mortar: Complete

Area effect, Area-effect, Cold War, Complete builds, Custom builds, M2 60mm Mortar, Products, Weapons, WWII

The mortar is finished, and what a beauty she is too, though I say so myself.

P1010094 copy

The adjustable windage is quite smooth, the folding handle giving adequate purchase and leverage.

P1010095 copy

While the leg spreading system has its advantages, I can’t help but feel there are simpler designs that would have had the same result. Perhaps the reasoning is plainer with a live firing version.

P1010096 copy

The baseplate has a 3D printed socket for the ball to slot into. On the original this is stamped into the plate design and features a lock, but here the ball is left free so that the barrel can be quickly upended and spent shells ejected.

P1010097 copy

The spikes on the bipod should keep it raised just high enough to give access to the elevation control in the centre.

P1010099 copy

A top-down view, showing the windage lever in the stowed position.

P1010101 copy

Once packed away, this mortar isn’t actually too bad for portability. Considering the complexity and the precision you could achieve out to a respectable range on the original, you can see why modern light mortars are more closely related to this package than the T89 or SMBL 2″ families. While they may have portability and speed on their side, the ability to fine-tune fire for only a little extra weight and bulk certainly has its appeal.

P1010103

 

If you liked 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.

You can find the build posts for this mortar here.

Don’t forget you can buy some of our complete products via Etsy. If you would like to commission a build like this, please drop us a line on the above email.

 

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M2 60mm Mortar: Build 2

Area effect, Cold War, Custom builds, M2 60mm Mortar, Weapons, WWII

The first job of the next leg is to fit the leg limiter. This has two lugs on the centre column and on the left leg. Between this and the attachment at the head of the tripod it helps the user to keep the elevation adjustment vertical, even on sloped or bumpy ground.

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When deployed, the limiter sits pretty much horizontal. The collar it is attached to on the leg slides up and down, with a stop at the top of its travel to make it level out. In these two pictures you can also see the elevation adjustment handle. This piece of steel bar was bent and is screwed and pinned in position so that it can’t rotate without operating the elevation screw.

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The feet are welded onto sockets that fit over the bottom of the legs.

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And are in turn are spot welded onto the legs. These feet will allow the operator to dig the legs into the ground for stability when firing.

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The windage screw has a metal sheath, which I’ll be adjusting to be a nice, close fit. It will also have to have a tooth of some kind to work against the screw.

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With some rather happy timing, these 3D printed parts then arrived. Printed in ABS for strength, if they prove to not be up to the task I shall try casting them in aluminium. I suspect they’ll do beautifully though, these are very solid shapes.

_DSF9640

Roughly put in place, the mortar is really taking shape now. To finish off these parts, I need to fit a large screw to the barrel clamp and screw together the two halves of the windage unit. The windage screw also needs a little modifying to remain locked into the unit, rather than walking out either side.

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The two halves of the windage unit screwed together. This is a very rigid unit, as it needs to be to function. The screw thread is very stiff and it will need a little modification to work smoothly.

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With a little time on the lathe, I reduced the ends of the screw thread down so that they ran smoothly in their mountings. I also drilled and tapped each end for the stoppers that prevent it from leaving the windage control.

_DSF9653
The windage adjustment dial has a folding handle, like the original.
_DSF9655 _DSF9656

In place, it sits well and works quite smoothly. I think the barrel vise will need a little re-enforcing for use but it’s not bad even as is.
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A quick demo, it’s a bit awkward videoing and operating it at the same time but it’s easy to use.

M2 mortar windage
 

The last bits are the baseplate and baseplate ball, plus a fair bit of finishing. This thing will take some serious painting!

You can see the previous build post here.

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 many of our complete products via Etsy.

Lewis Gun: Build 2

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lewis Gun, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At the end of the last build post, I had made the bipod legs but not the bipod itself. I designed the bipod leg mounts and assembled them. I missed out the hinge on the cut list (something has to be missed out, it’s Sod’s law) so had to hand-make them.

_DSF9392

The distinctive bands at the front of the Lewis cooling jacket are welded into place. The rear one will also house the bipod unit made previously.

_DSF9393

The rear sight block is another piece of laser cut steel, welded into place at the back of the receiver. I’m going to braze together the sight leaf itself together and use a 3D printed aperture to give elevation adjustment. (P.S.: Yes to other welders this weld is obviously pretty dire, I literally ran out of gas on this seam, I’ll clean it up).

_DSF9394

The donor is held in by two screws pinching it from either side…

_DSF9396

And a plate that will be welded into place at the back that holds under the buffer tube mount on the AEG.

_DSF9395

I brazed together the parts for the rear sight leaf. The aperture is adjustable and is based on an ‘upgrade’ Lewis sight that gave a clearer field of view in low light conditions. The flat spring underneath locks it into upright or stowed positions.

_DSF9604

The foresight is also 3D printed, this was by far the simplest way to get the weird shapes around that front post. This is secured by a screw and will be painted up to match the rest.

_DSF9603

The buttstock is quite a simple one, secured by machine screws running through from one securing tang to the other. Once shaped it will be stained and finished with hardwax oil.

_DSF9613

At the front end, the 3D printed cooling fins have arrived. They fit well, once painted up they will serve very nicely for the detailing purpose they are designed for.

_DSF9615

Painting up and assembly under way, I have to touch up a couple of areas previously missed.

_DSF9621

Once painted up, you can appreciate the sinister, gaping mouth of the cooling jacket.

_DSF9625

Finished photos to follow!

If you are interested in the history of the Lewis, 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.

American Civil War Airsoft: A treatise on the test day

Game write-up, Get into airsoft series, Imperial Era

 

When I talk to people about the idea of 19th Century Airsoft, the overriding response I get is: “Why would I want to stand in a line, in a field, and be shot at?” This is not an unreasonable question. This would be a very tedious day of airsoft.

It is also completely unlike the day of play we had. This game day was one of the most dynamic and varied I’ve ever had. I won’t give an in-depth blow-by-blow account of the day, but I hope to give some idea of why this style of play is worthwhile and highly enjoyable.

When it comes to historical airsoft, one major concern is that if you turn up to an event you’ll not have the right kit and be looked down on. The group shot we took at the start of the day will give you an idea of the level we’re aiming to start off with. We had no-one with 100%, truly authentic historical repro kit. What we did have was a bunch of guys who did the best they could with the kit they had.ACW Photo Day-6028

On the Union side, we had a mix of jeans and decorator’s trousers with blue shirts and tops.

On the Confederate side, a couple of the guys wore WWI/II German trousers, one a pair of green civvies and I wore a pair of British 49 pattern BDs. For the top I wore a cotton khaki shirt, the other guys wore either old grey uniform jackets/shirts and even a red cheque. We used a mix of satchels/belts and leather pouches to carry ammunition. The only period-specific equipment we had were the Kepis, which are pretty inexpensive to buy. I made my own Kepi from canvas, I’ll be making another from felt and may even offer a sew-your-own Kepi kit.

Airsoft gun wise, most of us used bolt-action rifles. Several guys used the stock, basic, unadulterated VSR knockoffs that sell for about £50-60 on the continent. They got kills with them too, using iron sights at the ranges we were playing at (typically 20-80 yards) they are perfectly usable. There are also rules for AEGs and gas guns, but if you are able to buy or borrow a bolt-action I would recommend it as it is a much nicer way to play.

ACW Photo Day-6111

Enough on kit for now. Let’s talk about game play. We headed off to the first game start point. It was a simple attack-defend points game, the Union had two spawns, Confederates had one.

ACW Photo Day-6040

The Confederate spawn was slightly uphill. The Union forces pushed through the trees, while we Confederates went further uphill and took the ridge. We put fire into their flank, taking out a couple of guys. At this point I was killed, but being in the middle of the battle area I could watch the events quite well. The Union took our spawn, pushing round our left. However their spawns had been left entirely unguarded and a couple our guys came round their rear, took the spawns and shot the Union out from behind.

ACW Photo Day-6064

We then played a couple of games running through the village. On the face of it, the defenders should have the advantage when they have cover and the attackers are covering open ground to assault them. In reality, due to the controlled rates of fire, the attackers can fire and move from cover to cover with a minimal chance of being hit. In the meantime the defenders can only hold a certain position. For some time, I was in the building in the picture below duelling the guys in the next picture.

ACW Photo Day-6163

These guys (Ryan, left and Kim, right) kept me pinned for several minutes. Another of my team was going in on their left while two others were taking a spawn behind them. In the end, their undoing was Ryan advancing on my position, taking a couple of shots from close range in cover before being forced back and shot in the back as he retreated. At this point Kim was left on his own, with 3-4 guys coming at him from all sides all firing at his building and he attempted a retreat to the next building, which had more open ground around it so would have been harder to attack. Unfortunately for him, 2/3rds of the way across I let a BB fly and it curved beautifully into his hand.

ACW Photo Day-6164

That’s the beauty of this style of gameplay. If you want to hold a position, you need to stick together and work together. There’s no chance a single person can keep a whole team pinned with a flurry of automatic fire in about the right direction every now and then. Fire and manoeuvre is needed and actually has a chance of working without the unlimited ammunition and rates of fire in a normal skirmish.

The next game was a sort of collapsing defence game. The Confederate objective was to push through and clear a corridor of Union Spawn points. Once a spawn was taken, it could not be retaken, but the Union were able to advance as far forward as they liked.

ACW Photo Day-6177

The result of this was that although the Confederacy took each spawn, we were brutally flanked and taken from behind a couple of spawn points in.

ACW Photo Day-6180

This series of pictures really drives home what’s special about this gameplay. It is not staged. I had charged, noisily round the left of the fort to draw fire and attention away from my Confederate buddies.

ACW Photo Day-6186

I reached the fort and found it still quite occupied. Two of the nearest Union boys shot at me and missed.

ACW Photo Day-6187

I shot at them and missed. In normal airsoft play at this point one player or the other would sprint straight at the wall and hose over it on full auto.

ACW Photo Day-6190

Instead, there was a brief consideration of whether or not to reload, before deciding that at this range, let’s just go in with the steel. I only just managed to land a stab on Aidan, at which point I ducked back down to reload.

ACW Photo Day-6192

At this stage, my distraction had served its purpose and my team had pushed up and shot one of the others. We didn’t realise there was a third hidden away in the corner, who had to be dealt with as we climbed in.

ACW Photo Day-6193

Once in the fort, it was a case of attempting to repeat the flanking action on the next group of buildings. This proved much harder as they had several angles to fire from and each flank covered. We had to take them in a certain order, so couldn’t just come in round the back.

ACW Photo Day-6194

Now, with regards to marching in line and standing in a field; have I persuaded anyone yet that there’s much more to this type of play than just being a target? Because that isn’t exciting for anyone.

Now let’s talk about line fighting. ‘Cause this is exciting, even if it doesn’t sound like it would be.

ACW Photo Day-6118

For normal airsoft, advancing across open ground and firing in lines would be useless and painful to boot. With two opposing lines of even numbers, the chances of one side wiping the other out in shooting at range is unlikely. You have to get close to increase the chance of hits, even then there’s no guarantee and when BBs are coming in at near 400fps at close range the pressure is on to reload. Reloading under that sort of pressure is surprisingly hard!

ACW Photo Day-6114

If the attacking force do so with determination and vigour, using a little work on the flanks, they can get to grips ‘properly’. Melee is not just a nice addition to this type of fighting, it is a necessity.

ACW Photo Day-6145

The artillery is a nice touch too, advancing into it is unnerving. The only time the Confederates had to take it on was over relatively covered ground, but with the shells coming in around you and not being able to tell where they were coming from or landing was distracting. TAGs make a very, very loud bang by airsoft paper pyro standards. I’m told that advancing toward it over open ground is also unpleasant.

ACW Photo Day-6104

There’s a great deal of satisfaction in this type of game. Because of the higher-powered rifles there is more of an adrenaline rush when playing close up, the pressure to reload or charge is intense. The lack of automatic fire means you have to pick your shots, pick your targets. It means you can move from cover to cover without being pasted.

ACW Photo Day-6184

If you think this type of game could be your bag, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a go.

 

You can join the British 19th Century Airsoft Association Facebook group for reports and updates on the battles and events being held and to meet the community (top blokes all). You can get first word on events on the organisation page here.

 

Commentary on the American Civil War test day at C3 Tactical in Monmouthshire, August 2017. Photo credits to Luna Chapman.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 15.08.39

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.

_DSF9085

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.

_DSF9124

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.

_DSF9159

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.

_DSF9259

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.

_DSF9302

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.

_DSF9303

 

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.

Lewis Gun: Build 1

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lewis Gun, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

The base gun for this build is an M4. Nothing too fancy, but with lots of options for upgrade parts if needed. The first step to making the transformation into a Lewis is to build the receiver. I have modified plans I was given some time ago to build a replica to take the donor and be made from steel.

_DSF9122

Inside this I will fit a ‘harness’ to hold the donor.

_DSF9123

The drum magazine, on this I’m not sure if it will be functional, but it will be removable so I may do a very high capacity magazine in the future.

_DSF9126

The external detailing is welded on.

_DSF9127

I designed this spacer to mount on the rails, there are two of them to steady the barrel shroud.

 

_DSF9256

Dry fitting the parts, you can see the space where the rear end of the cooling fins are to go.

20170615_153236

I’m also making use of 3D printed parts for the taper on the fore-end. This part was simply much too big to make on the lathe and this system keeps the cost and the weight down.

20170615_155354

The bipod is the next major component. It will need some feet, and hinges made up for the top, which will have to come in a later instalment.

_DSF9296

Also for the next instalment, the design for the back of the cooling fins is complete (a long day’s work making this!) and it will be 3D printed much like the spacers before being painted to look like aluminium. It may even be a project for the new furnace.

Lewis_cooling_fins_2017-Jun-27_06-18-25PM-000_CustomizedView8964933988

 

If you are interested in the history of the Lewis, 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.

"Members_of_a_Negro_mortar_company_of_the_92nd_Division_pass_the_ammunition_and_heave_it_over_at_the_Germans_in_an_almos_-_NARA_-_535546

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.

kt3h4nf24q-FILEID-1.35.43

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.

usmortaritaly

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).

M4-Mortar-Sight

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.

 

 

Lewis Gun: Introduction

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lewis Gun, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Before I go any further, if you are seriously interested in the history and workings of the Lewis gun, check out C&Rsenal’s video. If you just want a quick overview, you can skip that and carry on reading…

Issac Newton Lewis, Colonel, US Army designed his machine gun in 1911 and spent around two years banging his head against a brick wall trying to persuade the US Ordinance Department to adopt his gun. In 1913 he left the United States and set up shop in Belgium where he received a respectable first order from the Belgians. In 1914 BSA bought a license to produce it and as war loomed Lewis moved his factory to Britain to keep it out of German hands. Lewis’ BSA license proved very profitable: between BSA and Savage Arms around 50,000 Lewis Guns were produced by 1918 and the license granted him commission on every one made.

The design itself was based on work done by Samuel Maclean, but between Lewis and designers at BSA it was transformed into a reliable and easy to produce machine. It is gas operated, open bolt with three locking lugs at the rear of the bolt. The most distinctive feature is of course the massive aluminium heat sink/fins/barrel jacket arrangement.

Shot of the Lewis receiver. On the right you can see the barrel jacket and the rear end of the cooling fins. On the bottom of the gun, forward to the trigger is the clock-type main spring.

The idea of this was to wick heat away from the barrel as quickly as possible (quick-change barrels weren’t really a thing yet). The large mass of aluminium took the heat into the fins and the muzzle blast would suck air through from the back towards the front. In theory. In reality the necessity of this sophisticated arrangement is dubious, aircraft Lewis Guns were pressed into service on the ground during WWII, even in North Africa and the guns were found to function perfectly well without.

The magazine is also worth mentioning, coming in 47 and 97 round versions. This Pan magazine is NOT a drum magazine (which relies on a spring to feed, keeping ammunition aligned with the bore) and is manually rotated and indexed as the gun operates.

lewis8

The indexing system for the Lewis. If you want to know how it works, see the C&R video above for the animation.

Last but not least, the mainspring is a spiral clockwork type, mounted in that distinct protrusion from the belly of the receiver. This is very efficient and saves space over a much larger conventional mainspring, also allowing for easy adjustment to account for field conditions to make for reliable firing in all weather.

 

The Lewis gun’s service was long and varied. Before even leaving for Europe, Lewis had put the gun on a Wright Flyer and as a result it has the distinction of being the first machine-gun fired from an aircraft (1912).

During the Great War, Britain used them extensively, eventually outnumbering the Vickers by about 3:1 in spite of being more expensive. That the government was willing to spend so much more on these than an established home-grown piece is a comment on the quality of the design.

Due to its light weight, the Lewis was readily adopted by Air Arms where it was widely used for observer’s defensive guns. It was also mounted as foreward firing guns but had to be mounted outside of the propeller’s arc due to firing from an open bolt (therefore being nigh-on impossible to synchronise to a propeller).

By the Second World War, the Lewis was outdated for the role in which it was originally used. After Dunkirk and the fall of France, Britain pulled its Lewis guns out of reserve where it was used by the Home Guard and for low-level anti-aircraft fire. In the Far East it served with Empire forces on the front lines. Throughout the war it remained in use with the Navy and RAF for air defence from boats.

 

As well as versions chambered in .303 British, there were Lewis guns made in 7.92 and 7.7 Japanese rimmed, the Japanese having copied the design from versions captured in the Far East.

 

The Lewis had some limited influence on other designs, the FG42 taking inspiration for its bolt/piston arrangement and from that the M60. There was also a Lewis pistol, which fired from an open bolt.

 

Links:

Lewis gun firing in slow motion

Lewis Gun video, manuals and pictures

The Lewis Pistol

Mad Mondays: 5. The Ferguson Rifle

History, Imperial Era, Mad Mondays

The disadvantages of a muzzle-loading firearm at this point were quite clear. They were slow to load, inaccurate and could not be easily re-loaded on horseback. 

The solution would be to switch over to a breech-loading option. This allows for faster re-loading, the ball does not have to be squashed down the barrel or patched (for accuracy) or loose fitting for speed of loading.

The trick was finding a suitable system that could be batch produced. Interestingly, for a time when thread standardisation was a major difficulty in manufacturing, a tapered, 11-thread screw provided a possible solution.

fergusonriflebreech

The inventor was Major Patrick Ferguson, modified from an earlier design by Issac de la Chaumette. Ferguson acquired a patent in 1776 and was permitted to take an Experimental Corps of Riflemen to fight in the rebellion going on in the American Colonies.

The only actions these rifles saw that can be seriously verified are the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of Brandywine, in which Ferguson was wounded and while recovering, his Corps was disbanded.

 

So, how did this work?

fergusonrifle2

At the back of the chamber, there is a brass plug. This has a tapered thread. The tapering was important, as once it had been fired fouling would build up on these threads, the tapering would allow free movement of the action once the initial break was made.

The 11 parallel threads meant that instead of a number of revolutions, the breech could be opened in one fluid movement.3388773_02_ferguson_breech_loading_rifle__640

You can then insert the ball into the breech (remember, you’re loading from the breech, not the  muzzle now!), followed by your powder charge. Screw the action closed, clear loose powder off the barrel and prime the pan.

fergusonriflelockplate

Although this sounds like an involved process to modern readers, it is significantly faster than reloading a musket correctly, as demonstrated by the rate of fire being 6-10 rounds per minute. Even a very well trained infantryman may only manage 3-4 shots per minute with a muzzle loader.

fergusonriflelargeviewsideplateside mbo51-1b

The Ferguson is widely recognised as being the first breech-loading rifle ever adopted by a military. Although it only saw limited service, it paved the way for other breechloaders to be tried and used. In the US, the M1819 Hall Rifle was adopted and used in the American Civil War, though the first military to adopt a breech-loading rifle as the standard arm for infantry was Norway (the Kammerlader).

Kammerlander

The Kammerlader

 

You can watch a great video on the Ferguson over at Forgotten Weapons here.

 

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