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.

Creating an impression: 82nd Airborne, Italy 1943-44

Creating an impression, WWII

This is part of a new series, written by contributors outside of Vintage Airsoft itself (though I am sure I and some friends will have to do some of our own as well). Although I edit, pictures and words are from them and they have done their own research. Accreditation is at the bottom of the article.

82nd Airborne: Operation Avalanche

A less common impression in both the reenacting and airsofting community, as most loadouts are based on the Normandy Campaign.

The equipment pictured can be used for Operation Husky (Invasion of Sicily), Operation Avalanche (Invasion of Italy), or Operation Overlord (Invasion of Normandy). As the war progressed, the standard M42 jump uniform, as well as most of the equipment was phased out in favor of the M43 field uniform.

This is the one of the earliest variants of the U.S. airborne uniform that saw combat during WWII, with most jump uniforms being reinforced after the invasion of Italy in late 1943.

IMG_20170715_115645

 

Head

M1C/M2 Helmet: $99.99-345.00 (UK approx £200 from Soldier of Fortune)

The standard U.S. airborne helmet used throughout the war was the M2 “D bale” helmet. This helmet differs from the standard infantry helmet in that it uses curved fixed bales that resemble the letter “D.” This design was eventually decided to be inadequate as the bales that secured the chinstrap would often break in the field, necessitating constant repairs to helmets when returning from the field.

Due to large demands for airborne helmets, a number of standard M1 infantry helmets were converted with a jump liner and paratrooper straps to meet the demands for M2 helmets.

Eventually the M1C jump helmet was introduced to replace the M2, and added swivel bales to the helmet to prevent the bales from snapping off; however, they were not common until late 1944.

All versions of the jump helmet usually also had an airborne jump liner, which was a standard infantry liner with the addition of “A yokes” to hold the leather chinstrap. This chinstrap was used to secure the helmet to the paratrooper when jumping from aircraft.

The helmet pictured was compiled from various auctions on eBay, full M2s or M1Cs can be found at: At the Front, Jmurray and Soldier of Fortune

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Uniform

M42 Jump Uniform: $150

The M42 jump uniform was the standard uniform for paratroopers during 1943. The uniform was later upgraded with reinforcements at the knees and elbows, and later replaced by the M43 uniform.

The uniforms are common, however At the Front has the most durable and accurate for their price.

 

Khaki summer shirt: $50

The khaki summer shirt was often worn by airborne and infantry under the M42 jump uniform during the summer months. While technically not permitted, this was a common practice due to the hot climate of Italy in late summer.

What Price Glory is one of the few vendors to still sell khaki summer uniforms. (the one pictured is an original)

1937 wool shirt: $50

The standard regulation shirt (not pictured) was worn under the m42 jump uniform. This is the same shirt used under the M41 jacket by infantry; however, there are several photos of paratroopers wearing khaki shirts under their M42s instead of the wool shirt.

At the Front, What Price Glory, and other vendors have reproduction wool shirts, and originals are still plentiful.

 

Insignia

Sewing patches: Each paratrooper was to sew on their own insignia to their uniforms, this lead to a variety in the manner in which the patches were affixed to the uniform. Some would spend time meticulously sewing intricate patterns for their insignia, like the cross stitching pictured, while others would attempt to quickly sew insignia to the uniform, creating a sloppier look to the uniform. Others, especially units like the 509th parachute infantry regiment chose not to sew on a unit insignia.

IMG_20170715_115658

Divisional patches should be sewn onto the left shoulder, approximately the width of two fingers below the shoulder seam. American flags should also be sewn two finger widths below the right shoulder seam. Rank patches should be sewn approximately one finger width below the unit patch or halfway between the elbow and the bottom of the unit patch.

At the Front makes quality patches for uniforms, as original airborne patches are nearly impossible to find.

82nd Airborne Patch: $10
The 82nd Airborne was the first airborne division to see combat in the European theater in WWII. The division fought in Sicily, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

PFC Stripes: $5
Private First Class stripes, added to denote rank of private first class.

48 Star American Flag: $5
American flags were commonly sewn on the arm of invasion forces, leading to several variants of patches or armbands to be attached to paratroopers. Often, these patches would be removed after landing, so their inclusion is not necessary.

Feet

Corcoran Jump Boots: $125-256
Jump boots were issued to U.S. paratroopers throughout WWII, and are still used today. These jump boots are taller than most other boots to secure them to the paratrooper when jumping. The boots should be polished to a shine, as this was a common sign of pride among paratroopers. WWII jump boots should be brown, and polished to a dark brown shine.

At the Front, Amazon, and most other WWII vendors sell brown Corocan Jump Boots.

 

Field Gear

For the invasion of Italy, all field gear should be OD3 (khaki), there should not be any OD7 (green) field gear, as OD7 was not common until D-Day.

Webbing set: (pistol belt, rigger pouches, canteen, entrenching tool) $175
The standard web gear for U.S. airborne in 1943 consisted of a 1936 pistol belt, rigger pouches which could hold four enbloc M1 Garand clips or five M1 Carbine 15 round magazines. The canteens should be stainless steel, as original aluminum canteens contain large amounts of aluminum oxide. The T-Handle entrenching tool allowed soldiers to dig foxholes, clear brush, and could be used as a weapon of last resort. In 1943, the standard T-Handle or shortened airborne T-Handle shovels would be appropriate.

Much of the web gear pictured are originals, the e-tool was from At the Front, and the rigger pouches were from Man the Line

1936 pack system: $60
The 1936 Musette bag and suspenders are an important part of any airborne impression. The system allowed the paratrooper to be able to jump while carrying a pack, and was issued throughout the war to U.S. Airborne forces.

IMG_20170715_115702

The pack and suspenders pictured are both originals.

1916 holster: $30
The 1916 holster was designed to hold the 1911 handgun, and was issued to officers, machine gun crews, and other units who were not given an M1 Garand rifle. Additionally, U.S. paratroopers often acquired 1911s from various sources and were able to keep them for the Italy jump.

The holster pictured is an original.

Gas mask bag: $20
The 82nd Airborne jumped into Sicily and Italy still using their training gas masks. These were usually discarded soon after the jump upon the realization that the Germans were not using poison gas. These training masks were replaced by the M6 gas mask and M7 rubberized gas mask bag for the Normandy invasion.

Parachute first aid pack: $14
The parachute first aid pack was a small first aid kit for the individual’s use should they be wounded in action. Soldiers were also issued a separate bandage and pouch, however during the Italy invasion, the content of the second bandage pouch were often stuffed into the M42 jacket pockets.

The one pictured is an original.

At the Front, Man the Line, What Price Glory, World War Supply, and other vendors sell quality reproduction field gear. I would recommend against buying off eBay, as reproductions are often poorly made and poorly dyed.

 

Weapon

M1A1 Carbine (King Arms): $350
The M1A1 Carbine was a M1 carbine with a wire folding stock to allow easier use when jumping from aircraft. The rifle was folded and placed in a scabbard secured to the parachute, and unlike the M1 Garand, could be immediately used upon landing. Carbines were usually issued to machine gun crews, officers, and radiomen; however, there is evidence that some riflemen were issued carbines.

The King Arms M1A1 is CO2 powered, full metal and real wood, giving it a similar feel and weight to the real version. Unfortunately, King Arms did not base their model off the WWII version of the M1A1, and therefore the rifle needs modifications to bring it closer to WWII specifications. Additionally, the rifle shoots at 487fps using .2 bbs, making it difficult to use at normal fields.

KAAG127_3

 

1911 (WE Tech): $95
The Gen3 WE Tech 1911 GI model is an affordable, reliable sidearm. The handgun shoots reliably and possesses a 15 round magazine. A very capable sidearm, and one of the few 1911s made to WWII specification.

M3 Trench Knife: $50
The M3 trench knife was issued to U.S. soldiers who did not have an M1 Garand bayonet. This knife was used as both a fighting and utility knife from 1943-1945.

Rubber knives can be found on eBay for $40, while the M6 scabbard can be found on eBay separately for $20. 

Editor’s note: Other suitable main arms would of course include the M1 Garand, M1 or M1A1 Thompson. You can of course find some rubber knives in the Vintage Airsoft Etsy Store.

 

Vendors

There are a variety of vendors from which to source a U.S. Airborne impression, for simplicity’s sake, the links to quality vendors of reproduction equipment in the United States will be listed instead of the prices for individual items, which are subject to change at any time.

US: At the Front: www.atthefront.com 
World War Supply www.worldwarsupply.com
Man the Line www.mantheline.com

US/UK: What Price Glory www.whatpriceglory.com

UK: Soldier of Fortune www.sofmilitary.co.uk

 

As a rule of thumb, At the Front has the highest quality reproduction uniforms and field gear, however they are more expensive. Man the Line and World War Supply have some items that are of high quality, but others that tend to fall apart quickly. What Price Glory offers a larger selection of uniforms than At the Front, but often are lower quality.

Original items will vary in price greatly, and generally sell for approximately the same price of At the Front. USThey will be the highest quality, and most accurate, but due to age, they may not be as durable as good reproduction gear.

Editor’s note: Apart from strong items like helmets or garments not exposed to the elements such as shirts, I’d personally avoid using original items in the field as they are likely to succumb to wear or loss and it’s sad to lose a piece of history! That said I wear original uniforms for airsoft myself sometimes, just bear in mind historical value.

Text by Jacob Riley
Photos by Roger Harris

Edited by Dominic Evans

Kar98k: Build 1

Custom builds, K98k, Weapons, WWII

Now, this is a build I’ve wanted to do for a while. Having found a keen customer who had all the parts it is now nicely underway!

This is a VSR-based build, the most practical option for a spring-powered bolt action rifle. I’m using an original stock which will be modified to take the new parts. You will be glad to hear that it isn’t a WWII period stock so far as I can tell.

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The action dropped in fairly easily, a square cut for the fore-end, the back being scooped out carefully to fit snugly.

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A view inside.

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The barrel, naturally, goes through the barrel recess.

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I then chased out part of the fore-end of the action recess all the way through the stock for the magazine well. The one slight faff with doing VSR Mausers in this way is that the faux magwell meets the real one but this is not a major issue as I’m expecting to make a new faux magwell from scratch.

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The outer barrel is a piece of ERW tube, which is the perfect size to use the original fittings. This will be cut to size closer to the end of the build.

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The VSR based rifles are still experimental at this stage, I’ve produced about four or five different magazine catch designs which I am putting into different guns for customer feedback.

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I’m very please with my rear sight design for this build. 3D printed, once painted up this will really look the part and gives the user elevation control.

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Best of all it will fit snugly onto the receiver with minimal faff. It would be nice once my casting setup is complete to make this in aluminium.

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On the rifle with its Uncle the G98. What you can’t see is the TDC hop mod which is part of the sight unit. This disposes of the rather finicky and annoying side adjustment arm that is the weak point in a normal VSR system.

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There’s still a good bit more to do on this rifle, but the framework is all there. It’s really, really comfortable and I can’t wait to get the bolt handle in place along with the last external parts and start shooting.

 

If you are interested in the history of the K98k, you can check out the introduction article here.

If you like this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles.

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

 

M2 60mm Mortar: Build 1

Area-effect, Cold War, M2 60mm Mortar, Weapons, WWII

The project started with a good deal of research, finding pictures of all the component parts. From this I calculated dimensions and drew up plans.

The M2 is quite a bit more complicated than the SMBL 2″ used by the British. For my flat laser cut parts, I’m looking at around 3x as many pieces: plus a number of cast or printed parts.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 15.08.39

The baseplate is the first component to be assembled. This heavy plate is designed to stick into the ground to control and direct the recoil.

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Then the feet for the bipod legs and the hinge parts, Although the M2 is complicated, it does fold down quite tidily, which means a lot of moving parts.

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With the legs in place, the mortar starts to take shape. The tube through the middle will have the elevation control going through it, at the top of it will be the T-piece where the windage adjustment will sit.

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The thread arrived, it is a 20mm trapezoidal threaded rod which should be coarse enough to allow quick adjustments to be made, but fine enough to allow for accurate fire adjustment.

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The elevation adjustment screw in place and the T-piece at the top of the column (where the windage screw will go). There is a slit in the back of the column in which a screw sits that locks the inner column into the outer and engages the screw thread.

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When the elevation is raised to maximum, you can just see the thread through the slot at the back, but this will effectively be hidden by the barrel.

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The next components will be the windage adjustment and endcaps. These are going to be 3D printed in ABS for strength and will also have the barrel clamp.

 

If you are interested in the history of the M2, you can check out the introduction article here.

If you like this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles.

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

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.

_DSF9123

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

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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

Kar98k: Introduction

Cold War, K98k, Rifles, Weapons, WWII

After the Great War, the Treaty of Versailles (TofV) put strict limits on the number of weapons, ships and small arms. Germany, like all the major powers, had learned that short rifles were every bit as good as a long rifle for any realistic infantry use and frankly better in any situation other than firing in ranks.

As a result, they disposed of a lot of their G98 long rifles, keeping hold of far more Karibiner 98az models, though producing the so-called K98b (which was basically a G98 with a tangent rear sight and turn-down bolt) during the Weimar years. How many ‘b’s were produced is uncertain, but they don’t feature in pictures of the period.

During the inter-war years, levels of tolerance to the TofV fluctuated, with many civilian hunters and paramilitaries reluctant to give up their beloved weapons. As a result many were hidden, coming out of the woodwork to fight street battles between Communist and Fascist militias, the militias and the government and eventually into service with some government units.

K98k, with laminate stock.

In 1934, the German Army ordered a new design of rifle. The reasons of this are not entirely obvious, but given the timing one could conclude that it is related to: the re-armament of Germany and therefore standardisation on one rifle for all to simplify production and logistics. It would also allow for the removal of the G98/K98b from regular service and finally push those pesky long rifles to the reserves.

 

With this short rifle as standard, the Germans also standardised on the new s. S Patronen (previously used for machine guns) which produced less muzzle flash in the shorter barrels.

 

Early K98ks were blued, with walnut stocks, though changes were made to this as it went through its service life. Over time, laminate stocks were introduced, which were cheaper and required less processing time for the timber. Oak was used as a stand-in from 1943. Parkerisation was used to finish the metalwork on later models, making for a much hardier finish than traditional bluing.

The K98k is one of history’s iconic sniper weapons. Many were equipped with the ZF39 scope (pictured) and these were preferred by ‘true’ snipers.

Most famously, the K98k was the standard German rifle of WWII, but it was also used by Sweden and captured units by the USSR to fill gaps in their own equipment.

Later in the war the ZF41 scope was also issued. This clipped onto a mounting next to the tangent sight and could be removed quite easily. At 1.5x magnification it was unpopular with snipers and had a fairly poor field of view but it did allow sharpshooters to perform something of a Designated Marksman role as it would be called in modern parlance.

Post-war, it saw service with the Viet-Minh/Viet-Cong (Soviet captures sent as war aid), Korea, France, West Germany, Norway and Yugoslavia, all with their own local modifications. They also saw action in Palestine, where they were used against Arabs and British forces. Even in the latest Iraq War and following insurgency they were being used against Coalition Forces.

Participants of the Haganah revolt against British control of Palestine carry K98ks and a Sten MKII.

This really is just to scratch the surface. The K98k and its Mauser brethren went everywhere and did everything, much like its sister bolt-actions of the era well outlasting standard military use to serve in specialist roles even up to today with some armed forces. This is not to even mention civilian use.

 

Vintage Airsoft is currently working on a VSR-based K98k and will be posting the build to the blog as it progresses.

 

You can find more information on the K98 through these links:

Weimar rifle markings

Overview/test of a repro ZF41

Very late WWII Volksturm K98-based rifle

Norwegian Mauser

Israeli 7.62 Mauser

 

Make a good impression.

Advice columns, Creating an impression

I’m writing this as I’ve seen quite a few posts recently where someone has bought a load of gear and posted their shiny, new impression that they are thrilled with – only to be put down instantly and told everything is wrong.

Farbmuster

Just… no. German WWII camouflage was distinctive, there are very few post-war patterns that look even remotely like it.

 

Here’s my advice to create an historically valid impression using general rules that can be applied across eras. This is more aimed at historical accuracy rather than filmsim levels of accuracy, as those guidelines are a good bit more flexible.

At a later date I, or guest writers, may produce guides on specific impressions.

1. Use pictures.

If historical impressions interest you, looking through a tonne of original photographs isn’t a hardship. The more you look at, the more you learn about how people from your chosen era set up their clothes and equipment in real life as opposed to in the field manuals.

THE CAMPAIGN IN NORTH WEST EUROPE 1944-45

When looking through pictures, try and find photographs of the unit you are portraying. This isn’t always easy, but if you are familiar with the role your unit fulfilled you may be able to draw parallels from other similar units if they worked in the same theatre at the same time.

2efb7ea452742e5b42fe719f2b7f07b4

Yeah.. you can play airsoft shirtless. I wouldn’t recommend it though.

If you have a low quality image that  you don’t know the original source of, you can use Tineye reverse image search to potentially find more, higher quality versions and maybe even some context.

 

I have folders subdivided by units/forces/years with reference pictures in the hundreds. It sounds slightly anal when I say it like that, but if anyone questions the authenticity of something you can point to an original source and people can’t question those.

51YY9SN3VKL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

A sound all-rounder.

If you are starting completely from scratch, Osprey books are not a bad place to pick up some of the basics. They usually have an excellent selection of colour illustrations which are taken, more often than not, from original photographs. These are accompanied by commentary on the basic items and the peculiarities to the individual.  Some of their books are very general, say looking at soldiers from a particular century, but others go into much more detail on all sorts, even WWII Croatian Legionnaires.

osprey-nz-wars

As I said, Osprey get pretty darn specific….

By all means use modern kit guides. For specific airsoft ‘genres’, be they WWII, Vietnam or Cold War you will find good guides for basic impressions which are a great way to get started, but do a little of your own research and make the impression your own. I’ll include links to some of these at the bottom.

 

2. Remember dates.

Equipment changes and during times of intense war, weapons and gear can change either subtly or distinctly. As a general rule, if you use earlier equipment you can excuse it being used later. Yes, Pouch B may have been issued to replace Pouch A, but they were not all replaced overnight. There are limits to this of course, the British Army had stockpiles of 37 pattern webbing into the ’70s, that doesn’t mean it was being actively used!

 

3. Read original sources.

Military memoirs are often written with the warm glow of hindsight, sometimes looking to glorify or justify the writer. I would take them with a pinch of salt. They are however somewhat more reliable than accounts by historians if taken in context and contrasted with other sources of the same events. Let’s just say that no-one I know of used a 4.5mm pistol in WWII.

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Original sources are best. Just remember who wrote them and why!

With written sources, the closer they are written to the events they describe occurring, the more likely they are to be reliable. That said, beware of Unit War Diaries/logs. Promotions, demotions and bollockings could depend on these, so the people who wrote them made sure they and the people they needed to impress looked good.

 

I’ll include talking to veterans here as well. Remember that if someone is talking about events that happened decades ago, their recollections may not be 100% reliable but you’ll come away with a better ‘feel’ for the events that they experienced, which instil has value.

 

4. Balance the exception and the rule.

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What a pair of farbs! Oh, wait, these guys are original WWII farbs. These chaps are definitely on the far end of the non-standard spectrum and turning up like this will probably get you shot by your own side as well as the enemy!

Some people are very strict on portraying only the most average soldier, using only the most average, issued equipment. I don’t have a problem with people doing this, but remember that real soldiers ≠ tin soldiers. Yes they would do as they were told and carry what they were issued, but if you had to traipse through North Africa and Italy from 1940-1944, you would use and do what worked for you if you could get away with it.

A really good example of this insert is the low-leg tanker holster for the .38 Webley. In WWII, these holsters were used to some extent by vehicle crews, but you will see quite a few other British impressions with them.

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There’s two pictures I know of where this happened (this and a man killed in the St Nazaire Raid), from which you may surmise a couple of people did it. However this was not the norm, it just appeals to people who like the idea of some WWII-tacticool. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just don’t make every single item of your equipment simultaneously some kind of modified coolness you sourced from a dozen different soldiers.

 

5. Enjoy creating and using your impression.

Only start buying kit once you have the basics pinned down, whatever way you decide to do your research. There is a great deal of satisfaction in getting something well-researched and authentic put together and if you play with other, like-minded folks, they will notice and appreciate the effort you have put in.

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On the flip side, if you turn up to an historical event having put no effort in at all and looking like you have time-travelled in from 30-200 years in the future it’ll upset people and in a community like that you have to pull together to create an impression that makes it good for other people too. 

But remember it’s airsoft. If your magazines won’t fit in the correct mag pouches, you can either keep them in a satchel/pockets or you can find the next best pouches. The important thing is to put the effort in. Once you are familiar with a genre, keep any advice to newcomers friendly and positive!

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Links:

Osprey publishing (Men at Arms series)  Good starter books for impressions

Tineye reverse image search To find other versions of a reference image

Imperial War Museum collections Original photographs, artwork, films and objects. This website can be a bit clunky to find what you want, but worth perusing when you have time.

Bundersarchiv picture database I’ve not spent as much time on this as I would like, but loads of photographs to search through. Ideal for German impressions.

UK WWII Airsoft Kit guides for various countries including: German (Heer, Gebirgsjager, Falshirmjager, SS), Soviet, British (Infantry, Airborne, Commando, Mountain), US Infantry, Rangers, Airborne) and even a basic Japanese impression.

Cold War Airsoft have some simple kit guides for various period forces in the European theatre.

TM L96: 308AWS to SMLE conversion

.308 SMLE, Cold War, Custom builds, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Quite some time ago, a client proposed making an Enfield with the magazine in the right place. Now, this is after the Matrix SMLE (Gas) but before the newer Red Wolf No.4, making it among the few with a magazine in the ‘correct’ place.

The simplest way to achieve this was to take a TM L96, which uses a feed ramp to take BBs from the magazine (located in the correct place for that rifle) forward to the chamber as it is effectively a VSR with an added on magwell/feed ramp system.

The first job was to modify the action/magwell to be as small as possible. I kept trimming it down until it was as small as possible without losing the rigidity required for this system.

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I could then fit to to the fore-stock.

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An original trigger guard was not an option sadly, as it did not fit around the dimensions of the donor.

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As a result, I designed a custom one. My first attempt didn’t quite look right.

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My second attempt was much better though.

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The next step was to attach the nose cap unit and top guards. 

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As with the VSR builds, I fit the metal parts before doing the shaping so that the shape fits around these. In the picture below, you can see the rear top guard has been cut away for the rear sight and sight guard.

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Cut down to size and part of the shaping done.

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It still needs to be shaped round the back end a bit to improve the grip, but the overall shape is coming together. 

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It interested, you can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

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