By J.M. Ramos
Between 1980-1990, the late John Minnery was quite active in exploring and developing new ideas relating to exotic weaponry. The Englishman had collected nearly two thousand patents covering a wide spectrum of weaponry with hundreds dating back to the 1800s, up to the very latest chain gun patent at the time of his sudden death in 1992. A professional locksmith by trade, Minnery is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant researchers that have virtually mastered weapon history of all types from esoteric to modern exotics, from silencers to blade weapons to undetectable poisons and bullets, he knew them all. Minnery had one of the most extensive collections of such class of weapons in Canada. Despite the vast array of modern automatic weapons and silencers in his collection, it was the crude 9mm submachine gun made in the jungle of Indonesia and hand made Webley revolvers and single shot cal. 30-06 pistols from India’s famous Khyber Pass that tickled his fancy. Minnery was one of the very few Canadians that possessed a very special license that allows the holder to acquire or build prohibited type weapons. This is about the equivalent of a U.S. Class II manufacturer but with one exception: he could not sell them to anyone. However, he gave back to the law enforcement community in exchange for his special license. His expertise in unconventional weapons and poisons assisted police departments both in the USA and Canada in solving numerous high profile cases.
In 1989, Minnery invited me to his Brantford residence and I was shown numerous patents of .22 machine pistols and submachine guns dating back to the 1920-1930’s. Minnery praised the American M180 SMG and was quite impressed with the weapon’s drum magazine but preferred something more streamlined that would permit a slim concealable machine pistol format with appropriate substitute parts. At this point in time, rim fire look-alikes were in vogue and Minnery had half a dozen of them hanging on his wall. In addition to collecting rare and exotic weapons, he also experimented with converting bolt-action rifles to semi-auto operation that included full auto modifications of popular hunting and sporting guns. His first experimental .22 full auto was the AK-22, one of the first to be imported in the country. Additionally, the busy locksmith also came up with many kinds of exotic and silent munitions; including those that can be fired underwater by frogmen. Minnery’s gun room is a weapon aficionado’s dream land. The main section of the first floor of his modest Victorian style residence is decorated with weapons of all kinds, tastefully separated in sections from one wall to another. A great number of these weapons are hand made by artisans in the Far East, Middle East and Africa. Complementing his magnificent collection are experimental guns and knives that he designed and built himself. A majority of these weapons have appeared in many of his books and articles.
On one particular section of the wall were two very exotic looking guns, something the author had never seen before. Explaining that these were his latest experiment, Minnery pointed to the top gun as the “Saturn”, a twin-barreled .22 machine pistol that he claimed to be an improvement over the original “Policarpa” machine pistol created by Von Wimmersperg of Austria sometime in the early 1970’s. The Wimmersperg gun was originally marketed by Venus Corporation of Utica, Michigan as the Venus 22-2 machine pistol. (I will cover Minnery’s version of the Venus, the “Saturn”, in a future article.) The gun mounted below the Saturn was equally interesting. It was composed of multi-components reminiscent of the famed Stoner .223 assault weapon system employed successfully by the U.S. Navy Seals during the Vietnam War with the exception that it was chambered for the .22 long rifle cartridge. Minnery called this the Super-X .22 weapon system, and was one of his favorites from his entire line up of prototype guns. He admitted that many of his creations were based upon numerous firearm patents from which he made further improvements or revisions as well as a combination of different patent features of a certain weapon to fit his personal preference. He envisioned his X-22 as the ideal traveling man’s companion: something he imagined portraying himself. It is a clandestine ops best friend while on assignment in unfriendly places. The weapon system can be transformed to various configurations from compact carbine, submachine gun and concealable machine pistol or a silenced partner by simple substitution of parts. All necessary components fit in a regular briefcase for low profile transport.
Minnery’s brainchild .22 weapon system started as a Marlin “Papoose” take-down semi automatic carbine. At first, he considered the AR-7 to be a good candidate for the project but disliked the aluminum barrel. He believed that the Papoose was the perfect platform for the X-22 system. It had the same detachable barrel arrangement like the AR-7 but was an all steel construction rather than a steel liner enclosed by an aluminum casing like the AR-7. The sturdier Papoose steel barrel was considered more suitable for fully automatic firing. The receiver of the Marlin gun is also slimmer and shorter than a Ruger 10/22 making it ideal for a concealable machine pistol format. The entire length of the barrel, with the exception of the chamber area, is turned down to a slim-line format making it ideally suited for creating a silenced barrel version. The barrel can be enclosed by a perforated aluminum barrel jacket for a sub machinegun look and still keeps the weight down considerably to allow one hand firing. The design also calls for a telescoping or a folding stock for the SMG and full size carbine versions combined with an adjustable rear sight for multi-range shooting applications. The weapon fired from an open bolt operation to prevent cook offs; something very likely to experience with the ultra-thin rimfire shell once the chamber got very hot from a long burst of automatic fire. A 30-shot magazine and assortments of after market muzzle devices completed the package.
The X-22’s mechanical arrangement is quite simple and sturdy with the factory bolt group being retained. The original hammer fired trigger mechanism was replaced by a conventional sear that would hold the bolt at the rear in a cocked position for open bolt firing. Interestingly, the Marlin .22 firing pin location in the bolt is similar to that as found on the American M180 submachine gun. It is positioned underneath the bolt, assembled in the feed rib itself. Most .22 rim fire guns have the firing pin assembled at the top of the bolt. Positioning a fixed firing pin on top of the breech face will jam the loading operation as the protruding tip of the pin will stop the upward movement of the rim as it moves up the breech face as the cartridge is fed towards the chamber. In the case of the Marlin design, the firing pin will not interfere with the loading when converted to a fixed type since the pin tip itself is directly protruding on the bottom side of the breech face that normally strips the cartridge from the magazine. While the system worked quite well with the American M180 submachine gun, the fixed firing pin was also known to cause some serious accidents when firing full automatic. With the American 180 SMG, the drum magazine is positioned on top of the receiver and empty shells are ejected out the bottom of the gun – exposing the stomach of the shooter in the event of a blown out rim or a ruptured shell. A dangerous situation like this is likely to be encountered after the weapon has fired many hundred of rounds and the chamber is heavily fouled with accumulated powder residue. As the chamber gets dirty, it may soon restrict and thus slow down the normal smooth feeding operation of the cartridge and may hesitate movement at a certain point. This millisecond pause is enough to detonate the paper thin rim of the cartridge and explode unsupported whilst the bolt, with its fixed firing pin, is resting directly over the rim while moving forward. In the Super-X design, this drawback was corrected. The chamber was intentionally enlarged by few thousands of an inch to compensate for residue build-up. The lower section of the chamber has a slight ramp cut to minimize loading hesitation that normally occurs when the bullet nose hits the bottom edge of the chamber mouth. European rimfire self-loaders have incorporated this light ramping feature in the lower section of the chamber, which has proven to aid loading reliability by removing the sharp edge on the bottom shoulder of the entry hole to prevent the lead bullet from being snagged or scraped and cause a jam while gliding over the chamber mouth. The X-22’s chamber and feed ramp are highly polished and hard chromed. According to Minnery, his prototype gun has fired 1,000 rounds without any rim blow-ups in full auto. The only malfunctions noted are few failure to feed with some brands of ammo with the 30-shot Ram-Line polymer magazine. There were over a dozen misfires which occurred after the weapon becomes very dirty in the breech face after firing 500 rounds. The original recoil spring was replaced with stronger type and the misfires were completely eliminated. No malfunctions were experienced with the original 8 and 10-shot factory steel magazines.
The basic idea of the Super-X is to create a multitude of weapon configurations that could be assembled quickly to fill specific roles. The Minnery called it the “other James Bond gun.” Indeed, the weapon system can certainly find a good use for the famed British agent now that his scoped AR-7, used in the movie From Russia With Love to down the bad guy’s helicopter, is obsolete. Minnery must have had Mr. Bond in mind when he created his rimfire masterpiece. The system consisted of four exotic configurations. These include the carbine format (M1) with perforated aluminum barrel jacket, the submachine gun version with full length factory butt stock (M2), SMG with telescoping metal stock (M3) and the ultra-compact machine pistol with Ram-Line polymer folding stock (M4). Only the SMG with telescoping stock and machine pistol format will be discussed in detail here since the carbine version is basically the same as the factory model except for its selective fire capability and added perforated barrel jacket. The M2 is basically a standard factory Papoose with the short barrel of the machine pistol installed and the addition of a front pistol grip. The main module of the M3 is a hand made formed sheet aluminum frame with a Choate pistol grip attached. This exterior casing encloses the inner factory trigger housing. In addition to its awesome rimfire firepower, the X-22 has a big surprise of its own, something no other .22 machinegun ever combined with. There was a larger tubing positioned below the .22 barrel that can take a .410 gauge shotgun shell. To maximize the potential of his weapon system, Minnery experimented with miniature exploding bullets to be loaded in the 3 inch .410 gauge shotgun shell, which he called “Devastator,” with an effective range of 25 meters. A front pistol grip is mounted just below this large tubing which contains the front mounted push button type trigger for the shotgun barrel. The trigger bar is a simple wire positioned at the lower right side of the tubing at the open corner section of the outer housing. This wire connects to a lug that protrudes on the side of the recoil shield that controls the built-in sear which holds the striker in a cocked position. (Note: The trigger mechanism for the shotgun barrel is not completed at the time the photos were taken). To load the shotgun barrel, the barrel must be manually turned 180 degrees and loaded singly after it was separated from its outer sleeve. When the barrel is pushed back to its outer sleeve and turned to locked position, the built-in striker is automatically cocked and ready to fire. The cocking principle is similar to that of a modified break-open type shotgun. A push button safety is mounted to the front grip and blocks the movement of the button type trigger when it is pushed towards the right.
The fourth version M4 is of the machine pistol format that simply utilizes the Ram-Line polymer folding stock. With the six inch barrel installed, and with the polymer stock assembled, the weapon is very light, even with a fully loaded 30-shot magazine, permitting the weapon to be fired with one hand in complete control in full auto. This is quite a challenge to try with most center fire weapon of this class.
The Trigger Mechanism
The prototype’s trigger mechanism has been kept simple, robust and fairly conventional. The complete trigger group comes as a pre-assembled module and connects to the bottom of the receiver by a single pin to the rear and interlock at the front. The original free-floating firing pin was converted to a fixed configuration. This is accomplished by simply cutting a small section at the rear of the pin and a steel plate installed behind it to function as a plug, allowing a slight protrusion in the breech face. The lower section of the steel plate acted as the engagement shoulder for the sear when the bolt is pulled to the rear for open bolt cocking. The sear was a thick plate with a massive shoulder at the top that engages the rear mounted steel plate when the bolt is cocked open. The sliding type fire selector has dual ears bent downward (ambidextrous) just forward of the front of the trigger guard. It functions in the same manner as the UZI submachine gun. Sliding the safety to the rear allows the tripping of the sear to permit the sear to bounce back to its normal position to intercept the bolt during recoil. Pushing the selector forward will prevent the tripping shoulder of the selector from engaging the trigger mounted tripper precluding the disconnection between the tripper and sear. Holding the trigger back in this mode keeps the sear in downward position and will not engage the bolt; resulting in full auto fire until the trigger is released. The original push button safety was retained blocking the trigger pull. The bolt can be pulled open to cock the gun whether the safety is applied or not. The straight blowback rimfire full autos delivered approximately 1,300-1,400 rpm with the full size carbine and SMG variants. The ultra compact machine pistol with its six-inch barrel easily passed the 1,500 rpm mark. Accuracy results were excellent up to 50 meters for the carbine and SMG formats averaging 2-1/2 inch spread when fired on a rest during full auto. The short machine pistol barrel is capable of under a 2-inch group at 25 meters when fired full auto using the hot CCI Stinger ammo. Milder rounds resulted in better accuracy by as much as half to a full inch spread reduction in various test ranges. Marlin’s patented Micro-Groove rifling system is employed extensively with their .22 barrel and contributed much to their sporting rifle’s outstanding accuracy.
Folding and Telescoping Stock Variations
There are two types of stocks used in the X-22 . One is of the telescoping type patterned after the CAR-15 design. The stock is made entirely of aluminum except for the locking piece that secures the connection of the inner and outer tubing when the stock is extended or telescoped. The telescoping stock is specially tailored to match the exterior sheet metal pistol grip frame of the submachine gun and carbine configurations. The other was a commercial polymer side-folder manufactured by Ram-Line for the Marlin box magazine fed semi-automatic .22 rifles. The Ram-Line stock was shortened at the forearm to match the six inch machine pistol barrel. The overall length of the weapon with the polymer stock folded is less than twelve inches long. An AK-47 assault rifle type rear sight was mounted directly to the built-in scope mount groove on top of the receiver. It is elevation adjustable from 25-100 meters. The front sights on all three barrels are windage adjustable via side tapping manually with a tool. Barrels are fitted with after market .22 muzzle brakes that are readily available through mail order that fits the Ruger 10/22. These devices are not necessary for the mild shooting rimfire automatic, but they sure add sophistication and good looks to this unique experimental rimfire powerhouse.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V9N4 (January 2006)|