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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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.

large_di_2011_0587 

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.

turrett-rifle-blog

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.

porter-turret-3

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.

j-m-browning-harmonica-rifle-01

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. 

harmonica-6 djy3085-z-f2-h

 

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

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Mad Mondays: 6. The Revolver is born

History, Mad Mondays

As discussed a few weeks ago, metal cartridges were not an option yet as precision mass-production didn’t exist. While you could make a handful of cartridges that would work in one given firearm, Making hundreds of thousands of cartridges that would work in every musket issued to your soldiers potentially all the way around the world was a manufacturing impossibility.

During the years of the Lorenzoni action, soldiers were almost universally issued paper cartridges to speed up reloading over manual powder pouring and ball loading. As a result, well-trained soldiers could fire three to five rounds per minute with a consistent load each time. As the advantage of breech loaders became clear, militaries looked at the various options for cartridges that could be loaded from the back of the gun and continue to speed up the rate of fire.

Although manufacturing had come a long way since Henry VIII’s carbine, a universal metal cartridge wasn’t a realistic possibility yet, however if designers could find a way to make a series of cartridges that were somehow locked to the gun…

This is how the revolver was born. Early revolvers were made as rifles and pistols and in wheellock and flintlock versions, clearly developments from earlier rotating-barrel designs, some were even made by the same manufacturers.large_di_2013_0644

They were quite different to the revolvers of today, cylinders were loaded from the front with loose powder, wadding and ball much like miniature musket barrels. After each shot the cylinder had to be rotated and indexed by hand. In the first models, the pan had to be re-primed as well, though self-priming pans did really start to make sense for these pieces.

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This genre of firearms was short-lived, the percussion cap changed the way that firearms were able to be used and designed overnight. As a result they are not well-known today compared to their descendants of only 20 years later.

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One of the few to gain any attention is the Collier system, which by modern standards was a flop with only 150-450 produced. But for hand-made, cutting edge armaments this wasn’t doing too badly for the day. This had a hand-turned cylinder and a self-priming pan, which refilled as you cocked the hammer.

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Some have suggested that Samuel Colt may have been inspired to create his revolver by one of these designs, apparently coming across them during his travels in India.

However it is interesting to note that this late Collier revolving carbine in the Royal Armouries collection has either an unusually complex indexing system or something which looks awfully like a slot for a hand in the back plate and arms on the back of the cylinder…

This guy got SO close to completely revolutionising firearms. It was just within reach to create the single-action revolver 16 years ahead of Colt. As it was, the gas-seal for these would have made it impossible but it could have been remedied for the loss of a little velocity.

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You can see Ian’s AWESOME video on these at Forgotten Weapons.

 

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Links:

https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-15216.html

https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-40772.html

https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-35751.html

https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-10494.html

 

 

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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Mad Mondays 2: Multi-shot madness

History, Mad Mondays, Weapons

The standard struggle for firearms designers during the age of flintlocks was to improve the shot count of each firearm. In an age where the sheer number of shots that could be fired in a minute had as much effect on the outcome of a battle as any tactics this really mattered.

 

One solution was to strap a bundle of barrels together, fired by a single lock to create a ‘volley gun’. Although this was a devastating weapon the recoil was ferocious, it took a long time to reload and it still did not have the same effect as the same number of shots aimed and fired separately, not to mention the sheer weight. The most famous example of this is the Nock volley gun, used by the British Royal Navy.

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The next step was to equip each barrel with their own lock to fire them individually. The trouble with this is you end up with a very unwieldy weapon with lots of moving parts that require maintenance and is expensive to produce. You also still have the massive weight of all those barrels, plus the extra lockwork. It’s OK up until about two shots, but gets worse after that.

2

One example in military service was the Austrian Jäger ‘double-rifle’ (though it was in fact a rifled barrel over a smoothbore).

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Harder than you thought this business!

Another option that caught on was to have a set of revolving barrels that you rotate to line up with a lock, which you prime for each shot. Still a bit of a faff but still faster than reloading a musket. Some were produced with self-priming pans (but more on that in a later post) to speed this up.

Mr Nock produced a variant of his gun on this principle, with six barrels rotating about a centre pin.

3

Finally someone had a really bright idea. Why not ram several loads down one barrel and set them off one after another? What could possibly go wrong?

Well if you fired the locks in the wrong order the gun would blow up in your face, but apart from that not much.

This terrifying concept was used experimentally, but as far as I know it was never adopted by any military force. There was too much to go wrong.

4

There’s quite a bit more to this story, this is just the beginning!

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The MP28 in context

Custom builds, MP28, Products, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Yesterday, the owner of the MP28 came to collect his new gun and kindly brought his WW1-era Sturmtruppen impression for some photographs! The whole impression is mildly terrifying and it’s fair to say you wouldn’t want him appearing in front of you on a dark night…
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Although the MP28 isn’t a small fire-arm, it is very compact compared to the standard German service rifle, the G98 and even compares favourably to the K98a then in service with  advance units. Add in that the rate of fire is significantly higher than any bolt-action rifle and you have a fearsome new weapon for trench raiding.

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Jim has made and modified much of this uniform himself.

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Particularly noteworthy is the gas mask, in which he has replaced the glass vision ports with  mesh.

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He hand-painted his Stahlhelm based on photographs of originals, that distinctive block-camouflage was used by both sides in various forms, sometimes including unexpected colours like vivid yellows and sky blues.

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And of course, a vital part of any Sturmtruppen’s outfit, the spade:

“But the bayonet has practically lost its importance. It is usually the fashion now to charge with bombs and spades only. The sharpened spade is a more handy and many-sided weapon; not only can it be used for jabbing a man under the chin, but it is much better for striking with because of its greater weight; and if one hits between the neck and shoulder it easily cleaves as far down as the chest”

Eric Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front.

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You can follow the long process of building the MP28 here. This version has both a safety catch and a select-fire system built in with elevation and windage-adjustable rear sight.

If this replica firearm is of interest to you, please do get in touch at: enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or join us on our Facebook page. Don’t forget you can buy many of our complete products via Etsy, though builds like this are made to order.

MP28 Sten build Part 2

Custom builds, MP28, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At the end of the last piece on the MP28, I was doing battle with the fire select mechanism. I found a solution in cutting off the automatic mode altogether, not just one of the wires. Below is my original (functional) test rig.

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And built into a usable switch.

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This can be mounted into the Sten body with a screw. I have placed it at the back of the operation handle channel where it will be both accessible and discrete.

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One oil finished knob later and the fire select is complete. You’ll note the rather ugly M6 screw which is temporarily filling the role of op handle until one is made.

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Next job is to replace the trigger. The original was too short once it was set into the wooden stock. I simply cut around the top to keep the shape and improved the size and shape of the trigger blade itself.

_DSF6777 _DSF6778 _DSF6779

I fitted the battery compartment cover, this gun will take LiPo batteries which keeps the battery compartment size down.

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Closely fitting the buttplate before applying the finish to both parts.

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Several coats of Danish oil darkened up the stock and brought out the natural colouring nicely.

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I could then fit the oil blued buttplate with two oil-finished screws to blend in.

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And apply several coats of a new finish I am experimenting with that should produce a hard, wear resistant and semi-gloss surface.

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The bottom of the gun just after fitting the blacked trigger guard plate and battery compartment cover.

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The extending wire that links the battery compartment to the mechanism.

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Another view of the extending wire. The catch is screwed down with machine screws rather than woodscrews as it may need to be removed and this will reduce wear on the stock.

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And finally… with the mechanism in place.

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More photos and video to follow when test firing is complete!

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Like this gun? Why not email us on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to find out more. Also, why not check out our Etsy page where we have ready-made kits and accessories?

MP28 Sten build Part 1

Custom builds, MP28, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Taking a different approach to an MP28 build here! Going to be brief and to the point.

Roughing out the stock: The overall shape is cut with a bandsaw using a template. I then take the corners off with a router where applicable. The timber I am using here is Walnut, a beautiful piece I acquired from a furniture maker’s near York.
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I then cut out a recess for the catch and receiver, this is partway through cutting.

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I can then remove materiel from the bottom where the trigger guard will protrude.

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To get a really close fit between the metal and wooden components, I smeared a very thin layer of boot polish over the surfaces of the metal to be mated. This leaves an impression on the high points (or accents as some people call them) that can then be removed tiny bit by tiny bit with a sharp chisel or small file. Using this technique and going slooooowly you can get a very close fit as demonstrated below:

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And with the receiver in position on its initial fitting. I have since adjusted the positioning slightly so it is a bit lower in the stock.

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So, confession time: this is how that Sten receiver fits into that shaped stock. I took an angle grinder to the trigger mechanism housing and removed all the metal below the top of the trigger guard.

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I could then weld on a flat plate of my own to seal the unit in. One of the really good things about the ASG Sten is that it is largely steel, not monkey metal like most airsoft guns! This means it is very easy to work with and I can MIG weld bits together as needed.

_DSF6449

Now, 40mm mild steel tube is damned hard to find. As a result I ended up buying a piece of 42.4mm OD tube with a 4mm wall and turning it down on the lathe. The original tube is on the right, the turned piece is mounted on the lathe.

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I could then mark out and punch where the holes needed to be:

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Before drilling them out.

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The front end of the Sten’s hop-up housing was then turned down to fit snugly inside the heat guard. You could also bore out the inside of the heat guard and leave this unaltered but life is short and this is easier!

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Fitted in place. Worryingly I quite like the look of it in the white, in fact this whole gun looks good with bright steel parts!

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I brazed on the foresight for two reasons: 1. my welder has broken down and is out for repair. 2. It produced a really neat little joint that looked right.

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I could then heat up the entire piece with the propane torch until bright red, the end nearest the camera was topped up with a MAPP torch to get it to temperature.

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I’ll attach a video as well, I thought this looked pretty cool! You will also see in the vid how I rolled the piece over several times to get even heat distribution, which is vital to an even finish.

Dipping this large part in oil, I decided to take a prolonged lunch break and avoid the cancer.

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I allow parts to cool off in the oil pretty much, then allow them to drip as much excess as possible back into the trough, sometimes reheating slightly to ensure maximum removal. I can then rub the piece down with a rag to show the finish. I’m pretty pleased!

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I can then fit the endcap and outer barrel unit, which is one brazed piece.

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And dry fit it to the gun to see the effect!

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Again, because of the broken welder, I brazed the rest of the magwell (the top and sides having been welded earlier). I used a piece of steel tube as the magwell band.

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And in place on the gun, the receiver is also polished ready to be re-finished.

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The rear sight base mounted in place.

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Due to the shape of the magwell, it is necessary to have a bit of an extension to the feed tube in place so that it can open the magazine. I turned this on the lathe in nylon, which should be resilient but not harsh on the magazines that will have to be pushed up against it time and again.

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During disassembly, this extension will have to be removed to remove the mag well. It is easily replaced with a pair of long nosed pliers and a finger.

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Everything oil blacked:_DSF6667

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And fitted into the stock, which still requires finishing. I want to get the fire select working before I finish the stock.

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Some of you follow the Facebook page, and you will have seen pictures of random bits of odd-looking wiring. Those are being used for this: the select fire system. Unfortunately, whoever produced the ASG Sten decided not to use a gearbox with a select fire mechanism built in, so I am having to mess about with a MOSFET in order to make this select fire.

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Having played about with the setup in this configuration, I can make the gun safe and fire in automatic. Just not in semi! Back to the drawing board, but I think I know what needs doing.

More next time!

If this post has inspired you to want a gun of your own, do drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss or find us on Facebook to look at more related content.

MP28 Part Three

Custom builds, MP28, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWI

At the end of the last post, I had the receiver tube cut, the stock made and a gearbox partially modified.

 

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Since then, I have realised that the receiver tube isn’t quite right, the gearbox modification is a pain in the neck to get working and as a result the stock is too shallow to take the gearbox in its native configuration. This has put the project back a bit.

To save time and get a working gun I am scrapping the modified gearbox. I will keep the incorrect receiver tube for now and treat it as a prototype so that all the parts fit and the newer correct one leaves the workshop clean and not abused.

On to progress!

The new magwell is very slick and the mechanism is really solid in comparison to my first attempt. For those who don’t recognise them, the magazines are identical to those used for the Sten and MP40.

 

 

The next step was to fix this to the receiver. At this point though I say so myself I am quite good at rolling and bending steel accurately! I rolled a collar in steel around a spare piece of 38.1mm tube (the same as the receiver tube).

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This could then be tacked and welded in place.

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Some work with a hammer later, I managed to get it off the tube former and polished it inside with the drill drum sanders I have for jobs such as these. I kept going until it fitted just on the end of the receiver tube with a little friction.

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In order to get it all the way down the required location, I also had to take a sheet of wet and dry paper and sanded the receiver tube down. The main issue was the little rises around the cooling holes (you can see the little white rings in the photo below).

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With a little work, it slipped on comfortably._DSF6124

As you can see, the holes are not perfect, but they will also be invisible once assembled. I wanted to give a little extra space to ease aligning them.

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I could then clamp the magwell to the tube and tack it in place with the MIG welder  to test it before going to town and welding it permanently in place.

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I’ll grant, not that pretty yet. With jobs like this I like to leave plenty extra weld on top so that I get minimal porosity on the part that will be visible when I grind it smooth into shape.

 

And ground and polished roughly into shape:

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So, progress is slowly being made. At least I have been able to discount a few options in this deign and I have a nice spare stock! Hopefully this build should speed up a little now as I have done a lot of the design work for the improved version.

MP28 Part two

Custom builds, MP28, Sub Machine-guns, WWI, WWII

At the end of Part One, I had the two main external components at hand:_DSF5389_DSF5397

The receiver tube and the stock have been roughly cut, so most of the work to do was internal. I designed a custom hop unit to fit inside the receiver and feed the BBs back from the magwell to the chamber.

_DSF5520 _DSF5521

I sent off the orthographic drawings to a guy who can do 3D CAD work and he converted my designs into a digital model before 3D printing it in ABS. It looks smashing, far better than I ever expected!

_DSF5522

A bit of filing was needed to fit the hop in the tube, combined with a light tap with a small hammer and it was seated in place. A piece of barrel sits in the space in the side to engage with the magazine.

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_DSF5550The outer barrel is a piece of tube sat in the centre of the cooling jacket. Welded at the front and back are two steel rings to suspend the tube and at the front is the perforated front cap.

_DSF5552

Another little tap with the mallet and bingo, it fits very nicely!

_DSF5557

The rear cap has a space to take the locking latch, which is sprung with a tension spring. There are two screws in the edge of this back cap to secure it in place, though I may put another in the top.

_DSF5574

This latch then locks into the locking unit on the stock.

_DSF5564The rear sight functions much like the original, it is basically a miniaturised version of the sight I put on the MG08/15 with a ramp providing elevation adjustment and the leaf moving left and right for windage.

_DSF5563

There comes a point where you have to just try and fit the gearbox! Inevitably somewhere in your designs something will come a-cropper, in this case I forgot to factor in the nozzle position being at the top, not the centre of the cylinder casing. As a result the stock would have to be about 10mm deeper to fit the gearbox. Given that I have already made the stock this isn’t a great option! I plan to get a custom cylinder head made so that the nozzle is in a more convenient place.

_DSF5575 Also to save space I have conducted a little modification to the gearbox externals. The motor cage in most V7 gearboxes is angled down slightly to fit in M14 models. This is great if you are building a rifle, not so much for this project!

_DSF5577 My first thought was to build a whole custom motor cage but this would be a huge job. Instead I modified the original cage so that it sits slightly angled up. The motor came into contact with the back of the spring casing before it could be secured so a little material had to be removed from there. As you can see from the photo above, the trigger and a part of the fire select has also been removed.

_DSF5449 _DSF5561

The stock also needed a bit of space cutting out to take the gearbox. The shape eventually had to be quite complicated to take the wire guides on the side.
If this post has inspired you to want a project of your own, email us at enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com. You can get regular updates on Facebook as well as here.

Still to come! Trigger unit, gearbox mounting and the magazine housing.