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.

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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.

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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).

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Lanchester MkI*: Complete

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

So, the Lanchester is finished! And I am in love, though I say so myself.

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Details, the new magazine well closely resembles the original and is an improvement on the Sten original. I have brazed the mag catch head so that when it wears it looks brassy.

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The foresight and bayonet lug. This should take a rubber SMLE bayonet if the owner decides to do so!

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The trigger is set back, the pull is a little unusual but not bad.

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The buttplate, steel, though a brass SMLE buttplate could be substituted in here.

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The rear locking lug is just for looks on this. A hinge is quite hard to do but may be doable in the future. For now you can remove the lock and back cap to replace the battery. Unfortunately the wrist of this stock is too slim to drill through to a larger battery compartment in the buttstock.

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You can check out the build process for this gun here.

 

If you like this build, you may like to take a look at where it came from, the MP18 and its extended family.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog or join us on Facebook for more! You can buy some of our ready-made products on Etsy. You can also email to enquire about custom or special builds on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

 

P.S.: If anyone wants a Lanchester with this awesome period tac-light please DO get in touch. 

Fighting_in_the_Dark._2_January_1943,_Liverpool,_the_Navy's_Lanchester_Gun_Fitted_With_Illumination_Attachment_For_Night_Operation._A13831

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.

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

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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.

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The external detailing is welded on.

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

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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

MG08/15: The last furlong?

Custom builds, Imperial Era, Inter-War (1918-1939), Machine-Guns, MG08/15, Weapons

Thos of you who have followed Vintage Airsoft for some time will recognise this and be like: “Is he STILL working on that?”. Well, yes. I swear if something could go wrong on this build, it did. At least once. 

So, here’s hoping this is the last build post at long last!

One of the problems was the air seal between the gearbox and the hop unit. This it turned out was caused by flex between these parts, resulting in variation from shot to shot.

 

In the end, I re-designed the mounting plate to feature a hop-up ‘vise’ to hold the unit in place really solidly. There isn’t any wobble in this sod. 

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I had to make a few mods to the trigger unit design and the bottom of the baseplate to work together, but now the trigger raises a sear which sets off the microswitch in the gearbox itself.

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In place, clamped down! I’m still using the same feed system as before. 

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The feed tube comes out to meet the magazines.

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Oh yes, new grips. I wasn’t happy with the old ones, one wasn’t quite spot on, but as with all things the second attempt was much better. I’ve used hardwood this time (as opposed to laminate) and cut in cross-hatching for grip.

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Topping up the paintwork. 

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I’m really looking forward to having the finished photos on this at last.

 

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.

Lanchester Build: Part 2

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

Since the last post, I have welded the rear sight unit and fitted the buttplate into place.

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With the buttplate screwed down, I can do the last bits of shaping on the stock. I always leave a bit of excess to make this fit as close as possible.

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I also took the opportunity to fit the action lock. In the original this stops the receiver from tipping forward on the hinge under the magazine well. As the receiver is screwed into the stock on this it is merely there for the aesthetic.

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The rear sight is permanently affixed. For an SMG adjustable sights are generally overkill.

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This side picture shows how much further back the trigger is compared to the Sten original.

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I then applied finish to the majority of the parts. I am using hardwax oil for the wood as it picks up a patina nicely and looks the part for these period weapons.

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The metalwork is sprayed black enamel on the whole.

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The smaller parts have been oil blacked where possible as this is more wear resistant.

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The trigger contacts gave up the ghost as they do tend to, so I have replaced this with a switch and advised a mosfet. 

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With the mosfet in place, I re-assembled everything and ran my tests. Pictures of the finished item to follow!

 

If you like this build, you may like to take a look at where it came from, the MP18 and its extended family.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog or join us on Facebook for more! You can buy some of our ready-made products on Etsy. You can also email to enquire about custom or special builds on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

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. 

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

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.

02109_r

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.

 

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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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.

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.

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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. 

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

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MP18 and family.

Cold War, History, Inter-War (1918-1939), MP28, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

During the stalemate of the Great War, both sides took to the laboratory to try and get an edge on the battlefield and level the massive attack/defence discrepancy in their favour.

To this end each side ended up using to varying degrees: tanks, poison gas, aerial bombardment, advanced artillery spotting, mining, aerial reconnaissance, indirect machine gun fire, mortars… the list is pretty endless.

One area that was somewhat neglected in spite of its potential was small arms development. Repeating, smokeless rifles were still a relatively new thing, and commanders expected to make use of them in a similar way to the way they were used in the colonies. Blocks of men firing into an attacking force while the attacking force tried to get close enough to shoot back. Unfortunately this idea was put paid to by the enemy having very similar ballistic capabilities and ability to hit targets at quite the same ranges.

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Although massed rifle fire at range did play something of a part in the early days of the war, especially at Mons and in the defence of Paris when both sides ground to a halt and entrenchment began volley fire became almost useless.

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Of course in defence soldiers would line up on the parapet and shoot those missed by the machine guns but once the enemy was in the trench, your rifle that could shoot accurately somewhat further than you could see with the naked eye was only useful when you spun it round and used it as a club.

What soldiers needed was something with a high rate of fire that could deal with the high number of targets at close quarters experienced in trench conditions that didn’t necessarily have the range of a full rifle cartridge and certainly didn’t come with the weight of a typical machine gun of the era.

There were ready-made options. DWM already produced a carbine Luger with the infamous ‘trommel’ magazine for the German Army and a shorter Luger that could be fitted with a stock for the Navy.

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Mauser produced the C96 for both the Austrians and the Germans and was used internationally. This frankly was much better with a stock used as a carbine than as a pistol.

Mannlicher had designed a carbine that, although it looks very C96-esque, operates differently and used a very early form of intermediate cartridge. These were never produced in large numbers and as far as I know never saw service anywhere.

For some reason, the Imperial Army decided to introduce a new firearm instead. There are a few plausible reasons for this, the Luger series and C96 pistols fired at extremely fast rates. Though this could be fixed (especially for the C96) they decided a new design would be cheaper and easier to achieve a desirable result with.*

Thus the MP18/I was born. This is the first dedicated infantry sub-machine gun, though some will cite other early SMGs, the MP18 was the only one widely used and issued in WWI, anything else used at this point really only featured as a footnote in the fighting.

It saw extensive use in the Spring Offensive of 1918, where the Germans took huge (in WWI terms) swathes of territory, exhausting their country’s war effort in the process.

Post-war, MP18s saw use in the Weimar Republic, especially in urban fighting between the  German State, Freikorps and the German Red Army during various uprisings in Munich, Berlin, the Ruhr, Saxony and Hamburg. There was a good deal of rebellion and fighting, especially in the inner cities in between various political factions. During this time, the MP18 saw extensive use, showing a distinct superiority over conventional rifles and pistols in close quarter urban fighting.

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Around the same time, these submachineguns saw use in South America, China and the Spanish Civil War. These things really got about.

During the early Weimar Republic, MP18s underwent some improvements: the Government took existing MP18s  and modified the magazine wells to take stick magazines rather than Luger magazines and drums. During this later service they were issued with 20, 30 and 50 round magazines. There were also many licensed and unlicensed versions produced, with SIG and Haenel (under Schmeisser) each producing their own versions. Haenel developed it into the MP28 which the Spanish copied, having converted it to 9mm Largo.

There are dozens of descendants of the MP18, the most significant are the MP34, MP28, Sten and the Lanchester. These and their relatives were used internationally all through the late 20th century.  

Although the open bolt submachine gun has fallen out of popular use with militaries and police forces, due to so many being produced you will still find descendants of the MP18 still in service in some parts of the world.

 

Notes:

*This said, the Imperial Army did experiment with a form of the C96 with detachable 40 round magazines. Few were produced, very few survive today.

 

Identification notes:

MP18/I: Slanted magazine well, takes Luger magazines (standard and Trommel). Two-option non-adjustable rear sight. Hooked Op handle

bergmann_mp18-1_submachine_gun_with_drum_magazine_theodor_bergmann_suhl_germany_1918-1920_ad_-_braunschweigisches_landesmuseum_-_dsc04716

MP18 (type two): An MP18 in all respects except that the magazine well has been changed out to take a straight magazine. These should also have ‘1920’ stamped on the magazine well and on the receiver.

MP28/II: An MP18 but with perpendicular magazine well, box magazines and either the MP18 or a straight, tapered op handle with a ball end. Adjustable tangent rear sight.

mp28

Mitraillette 34: An MP28 made in Belgium. Cannot find pictures but expect Belgian markings and proofs.

Sig Bergmann 1920: Rounded Op handle, with bead on end. Collar at front of barrel shroud. Tangent rear sight. perpendicular mag well. Stick magazines.

sigbergmann1920

Tsing Tao: Chinese characters, vertical magazine well. It looks like they also produced direct copies of the MP28.

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MP34: straight sides, magwell angled around the circumference of the receiver. Vented foresight guards. Bayonet lug on side. Adjustable rear tangent sight. Hinge behind magazine well to lift top cover. Unusual as has magazine charger at 90 degrees built into the mag well.

mp34_right_angle_front

Lanchester MkI: Brass magazine well (though if still finished this may not be visible). 50 round magazine. Hooked op handle. Vented front sight guards. Tangent rear sight. Bayonet lug for SMLE P07 bayonet. Stock similar in shape to a P14 Enfield.

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Lanchester MkI*: As MkI but straight op handle, fixed rear sight with two very large sight guards. 

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Bergmann MP35. You can take a look at the picture to ID this oddity.

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The majority of decedents from beyond this point (Stens, Sterlings etc…) are for another article really. This is a rough guide, due to their extensive re-use and circulation there will be variants on variants I am quite sure. I have tried to give you the best chance of identifying different models, sometimes using original and sometimes applying my own nomenclature to differentiate between models. If you see anything that you can prove is incorrect with quality sources, please do get in touch on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

 

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