Dieselpunks.org | September 5, 2012
Some time ago I wrote about the stylized and long lived MAT-49 SMG from France. But it wasn’t the only collapsing weapon to come from the minds of Gallic engineers.
The Hotchkiss Universal Type submachine gun wasn’t anything special in how it operated, a standard direct blowback weapon. But in 1949, fresh off the lessons learned from World War II, French engineers wanted to create something that could be a jack of all trades, reliable, light and compact. A weapon that could be used by vehicle crews or paratroopers.
Chambered in 9 x 19 the Hotchkiss UT was put together like a jigsaw puzzle that could go from fully deployed weapon to compact and maneuverable. Today we image a simple throw of a locking toggle or rotating a washer. The Hotchkiss UT was a bit more complicated, therefore not quite as quick deployable as designers imagined or troops could want.
The UT had an under folding tubular buttstock, pretty standard arrangement for SMGs then and now. But then the designers went further. The sheet metal pistol grip then folded forward, covering the trigger loop. The magazine well could then be disengaged and pivoted forward, with the magazine slid further back along the underside of the UT.
The final and most unusual collapsing feature on the Hotchkiss UT was its telescoping barrel. The 10 inch barrel sat in the receiver just over a latch that could be flipped allowing it to be slide back into the receiver against the bolt face.
When completely folded and collapsed, the Hotchkiss Universal Type was barely over 17 inches in length.
Compact and complicated, the Hotchkiss UT never gained much popularity outside of the French Foreign Legion paratroopers. But it showed how even once immovable components of a firearm could be flipped, folded or retracted, if a little ingenuity was applied.
Dieselpunks.org | May 23, 2012
Magazines come in two basic types, single or double stack, meaning rounds are stacked in a single row or slightly staggered, doubling capacity and creating wider magazine. This is model has been standared for pistols, submachine guns and rifles for 70+ years, with the occasional “stick magazine” aberration.
In 1938 however, Argentina decided 20 rounds of pistol caliber ammunition was not good enough. Weapons designers started building a 9mm Parabellum and .45 ACP chambered direct blowback SMG with a ultra-high capacity magazine in an all aluminum receiver.
The Hafdasa C-series was a submachine gun that could go from rifle to concealable compact SMG. The C-2 was the tank-crew variant that completely removed the stock, followed by the C-4 (below) an all aluminum weapon for paratroopers with a folding stock or fixed and the Z-4 (above) with its monolithic fixed stock.
The choice of aluminim receiver saved weight in a gun that could become very heavy when loaded with its hefty magazines.
The C-series of submachine guns had mammoth magazines holding 50 9mm rounds or 40 .45 ACP rounds. These magazines were two magazines encased in a single sheath that fed into the narrow receiver of the submachine gun. There were no reports of feed issues with this piggyback feed arrangement.
Another design quirk of the Hafdasa C-series was the large spring loaded flap-style magazine well cover that protected the receiver from collecting debris in the field. The alumnium body of the Cseries also departed in a single color, choosing paint schemes of green, black and brown, another common sight on modern battlefield weapons.
Dieselpunks.org | May 16, 2012
Despite have a long distinguished firearms heritage, Italian smallarms makers during World War II seemed to have floundered in attempts to make the next great advance in weapons designs. They came close quite often, but inevitably fell short when finding that right next generation weapon. And while other weapons makers were utilizing standard methods of operation for their rifles and submachine guns, Italian designers took an unusual route in their expertly built FNAB-43.
Only 7,000 of these 9mm Parabellum submachine guns were built during World War II and most of them confined to the Northern Italy front of 1943-1944. A folding-stock SMG, the FNAB-43 had a front pivoting magazine well to reduce the overall sihlouette of the weapon with a magazine inserted. The Italian SMG could take a 20 or 40-round magazine that would be spent at a relatively low, controlable rate of fire.
At 400 rounds per-minute, the FNAB-43 could put a steady, slow string of bullets. This rate of fire was not accplished by traditional methods of a heavy bolt or recoil springs, but rather lever-delayed blowback. The bolt assembly on the FNAB-43 had a bolt head and a small lever piece between it and the bolt body. As the bolt head recoiled slightly upon firing of the round, the lever would apply mechanical friction, slowing the rearward progress of the entire bolt assembly until it was unlocked when propellant gas levels reduced to safe levels.
A perfectly effective submachine gun, the FNAB-43 suffered from timing as Facist Italy fell war-time production staggered making the precision construction of the FNAB-43 unattainable.
Dieselpunks.org | May 9, 2012
If you’re a gun geek like me, something small, the littlest thing about a weapon can excite you. Sometimes its the method of operation, other times its the inventive way they solve weight or size issues.
For me the Argentinian Halcon M-1943 has a great stock. Yes, you heard me right, this pretty mundane SMG has a slight edge because of its design. But mundanity does not mean it is overall not worth small arms praise. The M-1943 is a simple, direct blowback submachine gun that fired from an open bolt. With a rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute, the open bolt kept the fast firing SMG cool and uncomplicated.
Another interesting decision by the 1940s weapons designers in Argentina was chambering the Halcon M-1943 in the European popular 9mm Parabellum and the .45 ACP. The latter made the Haclon SMG a quality weapon in the class of the M3 “Grease Gun” or Thompson SMG.
Back to the stock of the SMG. Later versions of the weapon ditched the fixed stock in favor of the lighter, folding wire stock. But that is inelegant compared to the original fixed version that curved from the rear of the tubular receiver into a pistol grip and into a traditional wooden stock. Its a small thing, but it bridged the gap between a traditional straight line wood stock and the modern pistol grip.
Another ergonomic attribute of this South American SMG was its placement of the charging handle. Where North American or European designers placed the cocking horn or knob, it generally went on the top or ejection port side of a gun, Halcon mounted the charging handle on the opposite, or “weak” side of the gun. This meant that it could be charged or cleared jams while the strong hand stayed on the trigger. Modern training techniques have found ways around some weapons ergonomics, but in 1943 this simple choice made the Halcon an efficient and effective design.