By Roger Hull
The rarely seen Bren Gun magazine loading tool is certainly not the simple stripper clip guide seen in other weapons systems. It is about the size of a single stage reloading press and weighs slightly over one pound. Constructed of Aluminum castings and steel pivots and wear points, it folds to an 8”x 3 1/2” x 4 1/2” package for storage and unfolds to 12” x 3 1/2” x 4” for use. The built-in clamp will grasp objects from 9 3/4”to 10 1/2”. A perfect fit for the Bren Gun Magazine box that holds 12 magazines.
For use it is clamped to a solid support, a Bren Gun magazine is inserted into the magazine well, exactly as for the gun. A five-shot stripper clip of .303 ammunition is dropped into position and the lever is stroked from right to left. This pushes the cartridges into the Bren magazine. As the lever is returned to the start position the now empty stripper clip drops free through the slot.
So, to fill magazines, all the operator has to do is clip in a magazine, drop stripper clips into place and stroke the lever until the magazine is full. The idea was not to save time in loading just a few magazines; but rather to save time in loading forty or fifty magazines.
The rimmed .303 British cartridge must be inserted into magazines so they are rim-in-front-of-rim or a stoppage will occur. To accomplish this there is a hardened steel ramp in the throat of the loader that the base of the cartridge must climb. The bullet tip rides on a spring steel strip that acts as a cam at the lower end. Both the ramp and the spring steel strip fit below the lips of the magazine. As each cartridge drops off the ramp the cam forces it to the back of the magazine, in front of the rim of the cartridge already there.
The one I have is marked with the British Broad Arrow acceptance stamp and the manufacturer’s name in two places. The manufacturer was Birmal Casting Limited of Smethwick, South Staffordshire; located just north of Birmingham. They went out of business in the early 1980s.
In early 1940 the design was approved and a small lot was made up for troop testing. The tests were successful; but due to the wartime emergency situation the loaders were never put into production.
A rubber-lined box to carry the loader was attached to the rear of the early Universal Carrier vehicles (AKA the Bren Gun Carrier).
The design is an adaptation of a Czechoslovakian loader for the ZB-26 light machine gun. This version uses five-shot stripper clips. There was a second version for loose cartridges that had a hopper that held about fifty rounds and a clever mechanism to assure the rounds were loaded rim-in-front-of-rim. The hopper version was patented in the United States and the patent is downloadable from the U.S. Patent Office at http://www.uspto.gov/ and then searching for Patent #1,786,537
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N2 (November 2002)|