By Dan Shea
“Filling the magazine, and loading the cartridges into the chamber, should be done with quickness, ease, and certainty. The sights should be simple and not liable to shift during firing; they should be capable of being quickly set, easily seen and accurately aligned. – On Rapidity of Fire; The Text Book of Small Arms, 1904, Captain W. B. Wallace, 2nd Bn. Suffolk Regiment, Inspector of Small Arms.
One hundred and one years ago, the mantra of the small arms designer was evident. Keep it Simple. I was struck by this paragraph while reviewing the 1904 edition, and the lessons learned it represented. I would urge all of today’s designers of weapons and accessories to find a copy of this book and spend some evenings reading it. There is much to be applied on today’s battlefield. Simplicity is important in high stress, high impact situations. Anyone who has ever buttstroked an enemy with an M16, and had the stock break, will understand this – even if it was in training. You have effectively disarmed yourself. If you break an AK47 buttstock, you lose accuracy at long range but you can still fire from a two handed grip. Simple and robust are good words to remember when designing weapons. The sights? Ah, the sights. In today’s world of SOLIC, HALO, CQB and the rest of the acronyms, there are incredibly complex sights being developed. The best are extremely robust and some can even physically break and still keep operating. Again, just going back in time and seeking some wisdom from the old school.
Q-I have a ZB30 and want to get some spare parts put together for it. The bolt face was welded and I wanted to make a firing pin out of some ZB26 parts I might have access to from a friend. Any suggestions on this?
A- Actually, some comments are necessary before addressing the firing pin issue. There are three basic variations of the ZB gun parts you are apt to commonly run into today: the original ZB26, the ZB30, and the ZB30j, which is the Yugoslav variation. A lot of these guns are coming out of the Balkans as parts kits, and it is important to realize that the development of these weapons does not allow for much interchanging of parts. I am also not much of an advocate for changing original parts to fit other guns, blasphemous as that sounds. Sure, common magazines or very common barrels being converted to work in something unusual, but as we have seen, a stroke of a pen and the sources on cheap magazines, barrels, or fill-in-the-blank, are gone. I suggest that having such a rare gun, you should try to find original parts kits and buy them to stock up on original parts.
On all of these guns, the firing pins are very different in most dimensions, and should not be cut up or altered for other guns. It would be easier to start from scratch and turn and mill down what you need. Actually, it would be easier to watch for the parts sets on the market and buy them. I spoke with Bob Faris and Bill Vallerand at length on the ZBs to affirm this information. Read the picture captions for the differences in the firing pins. Also, bear in mind that the ZB26 was one of the most robust and reliable machine guns ever made – the receiver was expected to do 5,000,000 rounds. The system was designed for one type of ammunition, one loading of powder and bullet, and initially there was trouble with any heavier projectile. This Vzor 23 ammunition had a 150-grain flat-based projectile, as well as a single hole Berdan primer system. The ZB30j was expected to address this ammunition sensitivity issue. With the correct ammo, the 26 wouldn’t skip a beat. I have fired all of these in Bosnia and Serbia, as well as in US collections, and I consider these along with the FND BAR, the MAG58, and the bastard child of the ZB, the Bren, to be some of the best light machine guns in the world.
On the firing pins, it is good to remember that the oblong shape presents a stronger “neck” and is less likely to splinter than the round shape does. It also presents a larger surface area striking against the primer. In the ZB26, the bolt face has a ridge that actually crimps the brass of the cartridge seat around the primer, producing a better gas seal. With those two features, the initiating process of the combustion chain of events are much more reliable than in some other systems. The Vzor 23 ammunition did not have to have the primer pocket crimped in as it was done during firing. However, this oblong shape adds more work to production. The ZB30j firing pins could be turned on a lathe and had one mill cut for the pin, while the ZB26 and ZB30 firing pins required additional machining to make the oblong shape.
Q- I bought some of the PPSH41 drums that just came in, and one of them has the left feed lip much taller than the right. I was told this was for the PPSh-34 but I can’t find any info on that gun.
A- Probably because there wasn’t a PPSh-34. There are some model names close to that, and if you look at the accompanying photo you should see your drum right in the middle. It is for the PPD-40 submachine gun, which was the precursor to the famous “Shpagin”, the PPSh-41. The PPD-40 drum does have the left feed lip higher than the right. The first of the Soviet submachine guns we are discussing were the PPD-34 and the PPD-34/38. The “D” stands for the designer’s last name, Degtyarev. The PPD-34/38 guns fed from a stick magazine or a drum with a stick magazine top (left) which complicated feeding as well as manufacture. The same designer made the PPD-40, which introduces the open space in the feed area, allowing a drum that presents the rounds directly from the drum to the bolt. This drum (center in the picture) has one side of the feed lips machined, and the other left alone. In 1941 the PPSh-41 was adopted. The “Sh” stands for the designer’s name, Shpagin. This drum (right) is the one most commonly found, and both of the feed lips are formed down to present to the bolt. If possible, you should try and find the owner of a PPD-40 to sell or trade that drum with. These drums are not too common, and I did see a PPD-40 sell from Ohio Ordnance’s tables during the October 2005 Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. Perhaps they can help you find a buyer for that drum so it gets re-united with an original PPD-40.
Q- I bought a small box of AR-15 magazines from a GI who was walking through a local gun show. Most of them were pretty standard looking and had the usual floorplate markings. There was one light weight magazine that had no markings and it had another mag catch square cut out on the right side. Not like the AR-18 slit, a full cut out box. I thought it might be one of the British SA-80 aluminum magazines. Any idea on where this magazine came from?
A- The square cut out on each side, combined with the lack of markings and the light weight are pretty sure indicators that this is a Type 65 magazine. This is the Taiwanese variant of the M16 series of rifles. I only know of a couple of these rifles in the US, and these were pre-1986 dealer sample guns. How most of the magazines that I have seen got into the US was from the 1989 invasion of Panama. Some of the Panamanian Defense Forces used the Taiwanese Type 65 rifle, and some US troops brought back magazines, bayonets, etc. as part of what should have been war trophies – but in actuality were contraband. I am still a firm believer that our warriors should be able to bring back the weapons of the enemies they fight, and to legally register these machine guns. Regardless of what I happen to think, the powers that be have decreed that these items are contraband.
The British SA-80 magazines would look similar but have Radway Green markings (circle RG), different welds, and not have that second cut-out. Regarding that, I have no idea why that right side cut-out is there. The rifle doesn’t have any mechanism in that area.
The rifles were manufactured at the Hsing-Ho Arsenal, Kaohsiung. Magazines were presumably made at the same arsenal, but there have been reports of various factories making these.
Q-I recently purchased a set of the Smith & Wesson 1940 rifles in 9mm. One is a Type I, the other a Type II. This is starting into a quest for me to obtain all of the accessories. I saw a picture of a special tubular stock once, and would like to know where I can get one.
A- Congrats on the score of a set of these. The original production of the 1940 went to the UK, with all tools and gages. Legend has them all being destroyed by a Nazi bomb. With a few exceptions, these all had the standard black plastic stock. Interestingly, most of these in the US were sold as sets. A S&W collector discovered the parts for the 1940 Light Rifle in the back room at S&W during the 1970s and made a deal to have all of these “in the white” parts finished with a beautiful blue, then completed. He sold them all as sets of a Type I and a Type II. Most had a warning plate on them to not fire with modern 9mm ammunition, as it was too powerful. Interesting guns, the magazine fits into what appears to be an oversized well, but in actuality the rear of the well guides the brass straight downward. Also, the barrels are under 16 inches in length making these Short Barreled Rifles, but these were removed from the NFRTR as Curio & Relics and do not require transfer or registration anymore. The buttstock you are referring to is an unusual stock that was made for the British as a “Paratrooper” or “Takedown” stock, with an aluminum base and a steel tube extension and shoulder piece that was removable for takedown. I have only seen that one in the MOD Pattern Room Collection (now at the Royal Armouries in Leeds). Accessories that are usually found are slings and magazines, with the magazines frequently being new in a cardboard box.
Q-I got a tool in a pile of parts, and need some help identifying it. (Picture enclosed)
A- The first clue is that the tool has such a weird shape that it is well known to .50 caliber shooters. This is the famous “Butterfly Wrench”, or more correctly “Wrench, Combination, M2”. This wrench design predates the World War II guns, and during the war it was a common tool for all three basic variants: the M2 Water Cooled, the M2HB, and the M2 Aircraft Basic. There are many different tools worked onto one metal piece. The best way to explain the tool is through a picture. Yes, it can be unwieldy and awkward to use and requires a good look through the manuals to see exactly how it was used, but it also combines an entire tool box in one flat piece of metal that is pretty handy to have around.
Magazine: Taiwan T65
Manufacturer: Taiwan – various factories.
Notes: Very thin aluminum shell, painted black, for Taiwanese version of M16. Mag catch hole on each side.
Category: RDC2B (Rifle caliber, Dual column, Curved, presents from 2 columns, Box style)
Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
Capacity: 30 rounds
OA Length: 7 1/8 inches
Backstrap: 7 1/4 inches
Max. Width: 2.520 inches
Body Width: 2.380 inches
Max. Depth: 0.870 inches
Body Depth: 0.870 inches
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|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V9N6 (March 2006)|