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.

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

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.

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.

hms-alacrity_china

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.

14th-group

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.

spartacists1

 

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.

tsingtaomp18

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.

bergmann_mp-35

 

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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Browning M2HB .50 calibre machine gun

Cold War, Era, History, M2 .50 Machine gun, Machine-Guns, Products, War on Terror, Weapons, WWII

The Browning M2 has its roots in WWI. By the end of this war, both British and French militaries had large calibre machine guns and the Germans had been in the process of developing theirs. The need had come about with the introduction of armour in aircraft and vehicles that repelled most regular arms.

M2_Browning,_Musée_de_l'Armée

The early Browning designs were only half successful. There were water cooled variants but these were heavy and moves to make them air cooled followed quickly. With some effort and consideration, the design developed until one type of receiver could be used to make seven types of machine gun using different barrels, jackets and internal components. It could feed from the left and right which was important for its use in aircraft and it quickly replaced the .30 Browning, then in use for this role.

Browning_M2HB_Normandy

The M2 has been manufactured and in use since 1933 and the design has remained quite unchanged since. It served through WWII with Allied forces, notably by the Long Range Desert Group and the early SAS in North Africa where it was a popular choice for destroying aircraft on the ground in their signature hit and run raids.

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An M2 aircraft variant in use by the SAS in North Africa, WW2.

It also served in Korea and Vietnam, where it was occasionally fitted with a scope and used as an over-sized sniper rifle. As a closed-bolt weapon it was very accurate by MG standards and it was during Vietnam that the longest kill recorded, at 2000 yards (1800m), was set and stood until 2002.

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It has since served in nearly every war of note and many wars you won’t even have heard of. For Western militaries today, it is usually mounted in aircraft or on vehicle turrets, though it is sometimes to be found protecting bases in Afghanistan, where the exceptional range and accuracy is well-suited to the wide, open spaces.

 

I will be building a Browning M2 for a client, plus a turret mounting for the top of a Land Rover.

 

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You can buy many of our finished products in our Etsy store.

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.

Sten MkI/MkI* : Complete

Add-on kits, Complete builds, Products, Sten, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWII

Some images of the completed Sten MkI and MkI*. Firstly a picture of AN original for comparison. I should point out that you can find differences between nearly every surviving example so this isn’t definitive:

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The main issue with this replica is that the safety catch is at the top of the operating handle slot (as this is based on the AGM Sten MkII). The only way to adequately redo this is to make a whole new receiver unit. Maybe a project for the future…

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A close up of the receiver. The new operating handle and bolt also feature the Sten safety switch kit. You can also just make out the Sten MkI stampings on the magazine housing.

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The foresight on this is very comfortable to acquire, at least in the confines of the workshop where I have tested it so far! This will be going out in the field at the weekend.

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The stock is very comfortable compared to the MkII T-stock. That said clutching a thistle is an improvement over the T-stock… But in all seriousness this is a great alternative and is fast becoming a personal favourite.

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One final feature worth noting is the battery compartment. Accessible from the rear, it can just about fit the standard stick battery in it, though a stick lipo would be a far easier fit.

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And in the Sten MkI* configuration, once it had been optimised by the Singer company for serial production:

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This kit will be for sale on our Etsy page HERE in due course. If you like the look of this gun and would like a build of your own that we don’t currently offer please do get in touch! Email us on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or get in touch via our Facebook page.

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.

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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.

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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.