By Dan Shea
“Machine-gun fire is always collective and concentrated, unless deliberately dispersed by the firer; Rifle-fire is always individual and dispersed, unless specially controlled by fire-discipline under a leader” –Superiority of Fire, 1945, Major C. H. B. Pridham
Welcome to the mythical land of Raffica. It is a place where we “Firearms enthusiasts”, tinkers, historians, designers, and just plain shooters can go to alleviate the symptoms of post-ammo letdown, and fix our well worn rattle guns. Raffica is my “trademark” column, developed in the late 1980’s. Those of you who have been reading Class 3-type material will recognize it immediately. The term itself is from the side of my old Beretta Modello 12 submachine gun, and the term means “Burst” or “full auto” in Italian- depending on who does the translation. In this question and answer forum, SAR will try and answer as many of the machine gun and NFA firearm related questions as possible. I pledge to occasionally digress into other ranting and raving about the political process, firearms design, and just about whatever we want to talk about in response to the reader’s comments. If you have questions, send them in. If you have answers, send them in.
The other “Trademark” term that follows me around is the term “RKI”, short for “Reasonably Knowledgeable Individual”. This was coined in the mid 1980’s because I personally do not qualify to be an everything “Expert”. I know many very intelligent and highly educated people in this industry who qualify for the “Expert” title in regard to various parts of the field if they want. Those are the people that I ask when I don’t know. RKI gives me the opportunity to be a little “numb” at times. I get to have more fun that way.
This forum is for all of us- if you ask a question, I will try to find the answer and give credit to the source. Being an “Expert” on everything makes one too much of a target for my taste. Too many chances to make a mistake, too little opportunity for learning more. RKI works better. Welcome to Raffica!
Q1- What are the exact weights of the following bullets? M855 bullet, and the M856 tracer. Little “R” rambo
A1- Interesting question. I have heard several variations regarding the weights. The M885 series is the “Penetrator” 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round that was designed for the M249 program. These are designed for use in weapons that have a 1 in 7 twist. Performance in penetrating body armor and helmets is superior to its predecessors. The M885 is a ball cartridge, identified by the green tip, the tracer is identified by an orange bullet tip (M196 has a red tip). As a starting point- the M193 series deserves a look. M193 series projectiles were designed for the 1 in 12 twist barrels. TM 43-0001-27 dated June 1981 lists the following:
M193 Projectile…………… 56.0 grains
M196 Tracer projectile…………… 54.0 grains
M197 High Pressure test…………… 174.0 grains
From Olin’s 1997 Winchester Military Ammunition catalog:
M193 Projectile…………… 55.0 grains
M196 Tracer Projectile…………… 54.0 grains
M855 Penetrator Projectile…………… 62.0 grains
M856 Penetrator Tracer Pr…………… 63.8 grains
M862 SRTA Projectile…………… 4.0 grains
SRTA (Short-Range Training Ammunition) has a blue plastic tip and has the same accuracy performance as M855 at 25 meters. SRTA has a maximum range of 250 meters, and is identified by a blue plastic tip.
Cautionary note: The United States government has not released military ammunition to the public since 1968. There have been several lots of components sold, and these have been used to build cartridges for resale. When you are checking the headstamps on military type cartridges, look at the date. If it is later than 1968, then you need to ask some more questions of the person you are buying them from. If they are remanufactured, you need to know that. If they are not- you want a “Pedigree”; where did this ammunition come from. If no receipts are available, the odds are that it is “Stolen government property”. When you buy ten rounds at a gun show, this may not be a problem- but machine gunners tend to buy lots of multiple thousands. If someone is trying to sell you ten thousand rounds of brand new US military M855 1 in 4 M856, and he can’t produce a receipt, you should smell trouble. If not from the guy selling it to you, in your inability to explain where it came from if you are confronted. Always check the headstamps and “Pedigree”. It may save you some money and legal hassle.
Q2- I am purchasing what is being represented as an original “HK 33 SG-1” rifle. How can I tell if it is original? Basil
A2- Raffica knocked on the door of the hallowed halls of HK itself on this one. Even those intrepid souls had to take some time to search this out. The HK G3 SG1 is a select fire 7.62 x 51 mm rifle, with the following additions; adjustable cheek rest, set trigger group (See the HK trigger pack identification article in this issue), and an accurate barrel. In the period of time that the SG1 was being manufactured, the G3’s that came off of the West German line were examined for particular accuracy- and those guns were chosen to be the SG1 series. This is actually a system from HK- it included a Zeiss 1.5 x 6 scope, and a wooden transit chest. The SG1 machine guns were imported as Dealer Samples after 1968, with a few of them achieving “Post 86” status by being imported after 1986. The original guns are marked “SG1” next to the G3 marking on the magazine well.
HK imported several accurized HK33 rifles. These are select fire in 5.56 x 45mm (223). The features are the same as the G3SG1 with only one exception- there was no special engraving done. In order to tell if your HK33 SG1 is original, you need to see the original paper that went from HK to the first dealer or PD that the gun went to, and check the model designated on the paper, or see the original purchase order and sales slip on the SG1. This HK33 variant would be a real “Find”!
Q3- I bought a Reising M-55 from a dealer recently. The only problem is that it is marked “M50”. JRL
A3- Well, I wouldn’t say that was the only problem you have…. The Reising Model 55 submachine gun has certain characteristics that are unique to it. The barrel length on the Model 50 is 11.0 inches and it has a compensator. The Model 55 has a 10.5-inch barrel and no compensator. Both models will fit into the wire folding M55 buttstock, but only the short barreled version is correct for the M55. The M55 is also marked as such. If you have an M50 in an M55 configuration, it’s a fine shooter, but the M55 has a collector premium value of $600 to $1000 over the M50. If you didn’t get “Hosed” too bad on the price (Remember that the original wire stocks can bring $500 by themselves!) you should be pleased with your Reising.
I have a teaser to leave all the readers with. In the Mid 1960’s, HK had a series of machine guns that they were advertising. Several are not mentioned anywhere else. One that is of particular interest is the “HK 25”. Any of you RKI’s out there have information on what this machine gun was, and if it was ever produced? Send the answer to Raffica!
Questions to: Dan Shea, C/O The Small Arms Review
223 Sugar Hill Rd
Harmony, ME 04942
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N1 (October 1997)|