One of the more interesting guns that have come through the Guns.com Vault in recent months is a World War II-era Remington Rand M1911A1. The gun came to us from the family of a man who was reportedly a B-17 bomber pilot during the conflict. While the golden rule in used firearms is “buy the gun, not the story,” this Government Issue .45 certainly has a lot to say just by looking at it.
Remington Rand, not to be confused with Remington Arms, was a business machine company formed in a merger between the Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Kardex Corporation during the Roaring Twenties. However, as with other gadget and widget makers, during WWII they retooled to help crank out the Arsenal of Democracy and win the war.
For Remington Rand, this meant making M1911A1 pistols, the standard U.S. military handgun since 1926. The company received drawings, gauges and tooling from the Army’s Springfield Armory, which had been previously used to manufacture M1911s and converted their “C” Division typewriter plant and warehouse in 1942 to war production. While Colt, Ithaca, railway equipment maker U.S. Switch & Signal, and even the Singer Sewing Machine company would produce over 1.8 million of these iconic handguns during the conflict, it was Remington Rand that delivered the most to Uncle Sam.
With a serial number that dates to 1943, the Remington Rand in the Guns.com Vault has what collectors consider Type 3 slide markings, a very crisp “FJA” Ordnance inspector’s mark of Col. Frank J. Atwood, an Ordnance Department wheel, and U.S. Property marks.
When it comes to the barrel, this M1911A1 has one produced by High Standard as denoted by the “HS” mark on the lug. This is correct for late model Remington Rands as the typewriter and adding machine maker did not produce their own pistol barrels. High Standard, on the other hand, produced 5-inch M1911 barrels during the war for not only Remington Rand but also for Ithaca and US&S.
As for why the gun looks so minty, the story is that the gun was issued to said B-17 bomber pilot who only shot it to familiarize himself with it and returned home with the gun after the war, where it spent the rest of its life largely in storage.
This week marks the 77th anniversary of Mission #1, the first heavy bomber attack on Nazi-occupied Europe by the U.S. VIII Bomber Command, the England-based unit that was to grow into the mighty 8th Air Force. While that initial raid only fielded 18 B-17 bombers on a strike in occupied France, by Mission # 84, the famed Schweinfurt–Regensburg Raid — which was 76 years ago this week and coincides to the “born on” date of our Remington-Rand — the 8th Air Force sent 376 B-17s deep into Germany itself. By Mission # 817 in February 1945, the 8th Air Force was putting an amazing 1,437 bombers into the air over Berlin.
Over the course of the war, the 8th Air Force alone lost a staggering 4,145 bombers on missions over Europe. While aircrew were limited as to what they could bring along on their high altitude flights — for instance, most liquids were banned due to the likelihood of them freezing in the unpressurized aircraft — they were issued basic survival gear such as a special extreme cold-weather uniform, life vest, parachute and a pistol in case they had to “hit the silk” and try to escape and evade Axis patrols to make it to friendly lines, often with the help of local resistance groups.
While Navy aviators had to make do with various revolvers, Army Air Force aircrew were typically issued standard M1911A1s. The U.S. Air Force Museum has an example of one such gun on display carried by a WWII B-17 gunner that caught a piece of German flak on a mission.
The Remington Rand in the Guns.com Vault came from its owner complete with its 1943-marked Boyt M3 shoulder holster.
The M3, sometimes referred to as the “flyer” holster by militaria collectors to set it apart from later “tanker” holster models, was often issued to USAAF aircrews and occasionally to Army paratrooper officers.
In the end, while you can easily pick up any variety of 1911 clones, few are the real thing carried by the members of the Greatest Generation. Even when you do, military surplus 1911s are often “mixmasters,” with their parts swapped out over the years by military armorers and arsenals, leaving such pistols with a lot of character but little in the way of being all-matching. Meanwhile, this Remington Rand has escaped relatively unscathed and intact.
If only guns could talk.
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The question of whether you can put a suppressor or silencer on a revolver is a loaded one that has a simple answer as well as a few exceptions to the rule.
The original Maxim Silencer Company, as far back as the 1910s, advertised and sold numerous types of suppressors along with a series of barrel couplings to accommodate a range of rifles and pistols. Left out of the equation at the time were wheel guns as the humble revolver did not lend itself well to having its sound signature moderated. This is because, in general, while a suppressor can help reduce (but not eliminate) the report of a gunshot by slowly dissipating the escaping gasses caught in the suppressor tube at the muzzle, the gap between a revolver’s cylinder and barrel’s forcing cone allows some gas to escape at the other end, thus defeating the purpose.
So, while you can thread the barrel of a revolver and attach a suppressor to it, the barrel-cylinder gap is still going to allow gas, and thus noise, to escape. This, of course, has not stopped Hollywood from extensively showing such fictional contraptions to be “twhip-twhip” silent in movies like The Sting and Desperado. Lee Marvin famously carried a whole series of suppressed roscoes in the 1964 film, The Killers, a crime flick that also featured future President Ronald Regan.
Now that the rule is explained, there are, as with any rule, a few exceptions. With the problem in suppressing a revolver resting in the barrel-cylinder gap, finding a creative way to plug that gap can make a wheel gun a more effective suppressor platform. One such revolver is Emile Nagant’s series of gas-seal revolvers such as the Russian M1895.
On the M1895, when the trigger is pulled the cylinder is not only rotated but also moved forward, so it comes very close to the forcing cone. Further, each chamber of the revolver is countersunk to mate with the barrel while the special 7.62x38Rmm ammunition used has a very deep-set bullet design. All this comes together to create a wonky action that cams the cylinder and barrel almost shut, thus nearly eliminating the gap that almost every other revolver has.
While Mr. Nagant engineered his creation this way to produce a mild boost in velocity for the otherwise anemic cartridge, it also had the unintentional side benefit of allowing these fairly common military classics to be suppressed — provided you can mate a suppressor to the barrel after threading it or using a coupler. The Soviets later figured this out and created what was known as the Brambit Device to convert an ordinary M1895 to a suppressed revolver. Moscow liked the concept so much they even used a version of the Brambit for their full-sized M91 rifles but that is a whole ‘nother story.
As a proof of concept, Utah-based SilencerCo has often trotted out a suppressed Nagant to trade shows over the years and has talked about the unique characteristics of the neat-o Russki wheel gun.
In more recent times, the Russians have fielded the OTs-38 suppressed revolver, an invention by Igor Stechkin that, like the M1895, uses a gas seal. Utilizing specialty ammo, it is reportedly very effective.
Not to let the Russians run away with this topic, it should be pointed out that a series of suppressed or otherwise low-noise revolvers have been fielded on this side of the pond for niche purposes. During the Vietnam conflict, tunnel rats needed an effective but muted gun (for obvious safety reasons – they were underground!), that was still short enough to move around Viet Cong tunnels.
In 1966, the Army made a half-dozen experimental tunnel rat kits that included a suppressed Smith & Wesson .38 with downloaded ammunition for use by these underground gladiators. Deemed a Tunnel Exploration Kit, the revolver came with a mouth/teeth bite-switch activated headlamp. However, these kits weren’t liked and weren’t all that silent due to the escaping gas from the cylinder.
Another attempted solution was the 1969-era Quiet Special Purpose Revolver, a converted Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum that was chambered for a very low power special .410-ish Quiet Special Purpose Round filled with 15 tungsten balls in a plastic sabot. Since the ammunition itself had about as much powder as a Fourth of July party popper, the gun was fitted with a short smoothbore barrel and did not need a suppressor. Just 75 were made and, though quickly withdrawn from Army use, were purportedly still utilized by SOG in places that never existed late into the war.
Back in the early 1990s, C. Reed Knight Jr.’s Knight’s Armament Co (KAC) of Vero Beach, Florida responded to a call from a government agency yet unnamed to produce a small and short-ranged suppressed rifle. Their answer was a unique weapon based upon a Ruger Super Red Hawk.
According to reports, Knight took a commercial Redhawk .44 Magnum and replaced the barrel with a 10-inch .30 caliber 1-in-9-inch right hand twist example that had a gap between the cylinder and the barrel of 0.005 inch. For comparison, a standard U.S. 10-cent piece is 0.053-inches thick. Over the barrel, a 6061 T6 aluminum suppressor tube 18.5-inches long was fitted. Then the whole affair was coated black, a bipod was fitted, and the result was a 36.5-inch long, 8.5-pound integrally suppressed revolver.
What round did it fire? Well, like the Nagant before it, the cartridge was very special. The gun made its first mention in the “gun rags” in the September 1992 issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine. The article went into extreme detail in the method of sealing the cartridge to prevent gas escaping and thus make it quieter:
“Screw-turned with a needle-sharp point, the bullet is encased in an aluminum piston with a black plastic front face seal. Both are loaded into a Federal .44 magnum case. Powered by an undisclosed propellant of undisclosed charge weight and upon ignition, the piston moves forward a small amount and its beveled face interfaces with the rear end of the barrel to seal the front cylinder gap. A rubber O-ring on the piston seals the case from propellant blow by, so that all of the propellant gas is driven into the sound suppressor attached to the barrel.”
KAC of course later went on to develop the suppressor for the SEALs MK25 pistol in 1996, as well as other innovations. And with that, consider the question of if you can suppress a revolver answered with a “No, but also, yes.”
On July 17, Newington, New Hampshire-based Sig pulled down a $9.3 million modification under a previously awarded contract for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The mod covers an in-scope change to the internal reticle of the Squad-Variable Powered Scope to add a glass etched reticle. The initial SFP S-VPS program award last October, as detailed by Soldier Systems Daily, used the Sig TANGO 6 as the second focal plane portion of the platform. The TANGO 6 has also been tapped to be the glass for the Army’s new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle.
Meanwhile, Columbia, South Carolina-based FN on July 26 picked up a $10.5 million firm-fixed-price U.S. Army contract for receiver cartridges. The five-year contract with no option periods, set to run through 2024, details that work will take place at the company’s Palmetto State factory. FN currently provides a range of weapon platforms to the military including the M4 Carbine as well as the M249, M240 and M2 machine guns.
Speaking of machine guns, the Army announced last Friday that BCF Solutions of Arlington, Virginia, and Trijicon of Wixom, Michigan will compete for a $48.8 million contract for mounted optic mounts on the M2 and M2A1 heavy machine guns, the M240 family of general-purpose machine guns, and the MK19 grenade launcher.
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Developed by Russian Imperial Army Captain Sergei Mosin and Belgian firearms wonk Léon Nagant, the M91 Vintovka Mosina was a steel and arctic birch-clad beast that stood as tall as the Ivan who carried it – especially when topped by its always present no-nonsense spike bayonet. Designed to equip the largest army in the world at the time, the humble Mosin uses a strong turn-bolt-action fed from a five-round internal box magazine that could be charged with stripper clips and was innovative in its day, coming only a few years after the revolutionary M1885 Remington–Lee rifle.
The Mosin was an instant hit, replacing the Russian Army’s single-shot .42-caliber Berdan rifle systems and even older Krnka pattern guns adopted just after the Crimean War.
Chambered in 7.62x54R, which was also developed in 1891, the original Mosin-Nagants utilized Imperial Russia’s old Tsarist measurement system, with sights calibrated in “arshins” rather than meters, feet or yards, and the caliber measured in “liniyas” rather than millimeters or fractions of an inch. As such, the M91 was originally described as the “3-line rifle,” after its chamber bore.
With the first guns made in France by Chatellerault (makers of the Lebel rifle) in 1891, the gun later went into production in at least three factories in the Motherland. During the Great War, with the Tsar’s legions swelling from 3 million to 15 million men, domestic production fell hopelessly behind and millions of additional Mosins were ordered from Westinghouse and Remington in the U.S. — of which few were delivered before the Bolsheviks came to power and pulled Russia out of the conflict.
Still, the Mosin, with its first world war behind it, was revamped into the more modern and easier to produce M91/30 model in 1930, with new production guns crafted to the updated specification and legacy models in Soviet armories upgraded to the same standard.
This is the rifle that the majority of Stalin’s “frontoviks” carried with them from the gates of Moscow to the streets of Berlin during what the Russians still term the Great Patriotic War, known in the west just as WWII.
The M91/30 Mosin-Nagant model, which first went into production in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and was retrofitted to older guns in the Red Army’s arsenal, is among the most common Mosin that we have in the Vault, with over a dozen typically in stock at any given time. They are easily identified from the older M91 models as they have sights graduated in meters and a round receiver rather than the older octagonal or hex receivers.
In the tail end of WWII, the Soviets again updated the then 50-year-old M91 Mosin-Nagant design, making the short M44 series rifle. Whereas the M91/30 originally had a 29-inch barrel, the M44, a carbine-length rifle, had a 20-inch barrel and carried a side-folding spike bayonet.
Another variant that has been making its way to U.S. shores is the M91/59, which are typically older M91/30 rifles that were given the M38/M44 treatment sans the folding bayonet. These are called “KGB” guns as their use and design, created in 1959 — long after the Soviets had gone to the Kalashnikov series rifles — is somewhat shrouded in mystery but is thought to have been used by KGB border guards.
With over 37 million assorted Mosins cranked out since 1891, the guns have been produced everywhere from France, Russia and the U.S. to Poland (by Radom), Finland (by Sako and VKT), Hungary (by FEG), Romania, and elsewhere. In Communist China, the gun was adopted as the Type 53 before the People’s Liberation Army went SKS and AK.
Still regularly encountered around the globe from parades in Red Square to Third World hotspots in the Middle East and Latin America, the Mosin remains in factory production in Russia by Molot for sporting purposes. Here in the states, even though the days of cheap crates of 91/30s fresh off the boat after a recently thawed Cold War seem to be in the rearview, the “Nugget” has proved popular with collectors and shooters.
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Heckler & Koch announced last week they are preparing to deliver a shipment of new rifle weapon systems as part of the U.S. Army’s Squad Designated Marksman Rifle contract.
The SDMR is a variant of the company’s G28 (HK241) chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. The platform, which itself is a development of the HK417 series. was evaluated at Fort Bliss by the Army’s PEO Soldier program earlier this year. Manufactured in HK’s Oberndorf, Germany plant, the rifle will soon begin arriving at the company’s Columbia, Georgia facility to marry up with optics, mounts, and accessories provided from a field of a dozen U.S. companies.
“This is a significant achievement for Heckler & Koch,” said Michael Holley, HK-USA’s COO/CSO. “The HK SDMR system will add much-needed capabilities to virtually every squad in the Army. We are honored by this opportunity.”
The Army is moving to adopt between 5,000 and 6,000 SDMRs to replace modified M14 rifles used as designated marksman rifles over the past decade. Doctrine stipulates a compact scope for the squad-level platform, and in 2018 the Army selected Sig Sauer’s 1-6x24mm Tango6 optic as the designated glass for the SDMR system.
The same G28 rifle, when classified as by the U.S. Army as the M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS, uses a Schmidt & Bender 3-20 power variable scope.
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Inside the mammoth contract awarded to Sig Sauer to supply the U.S. Army with new handguns is a stipulation that Sig must also provide pistols specifically for Army generals. Sig’s media relations manager, Samantha Piatt, explained the stipulation for General Officer handguns is a standard contract item.
“GO handguns are issued for operational use. The GO handgun is essentially an M18 with a distinguished serial number,” Piatt said. “Additionally, each GO handgun is supplied with a large and small grip module in addition to the medium grip module it is configured with upon delivery.”
New Hampshire-based gun maker won the $580 million Modular Handgun System contract in 2017, besting a tough field of competitors that read like a who’s who of the firearm world with a version of the P320 pistol. The new gun was adopted in two formats, the full-sized M17 and the more compact M18.
So far, Sig has delivered about 800 GO pistols to the Army. To put that into perspective, the Army reports 231,586 MHS pistols have been purchased over the past three years. While the bulk of military users – about 95 percent – will be issued the larger of the two handguns, the M17, individuals, and units requiring a concealed weapon, such as overseas training teams and advisors, investigators, and special operations personnel, will use the M18.
Piatt added that other military branches have their own examples on order as well. Sig currently markets three different commercial variants of the M17, with slight differences from the military’s pistol, in Commemorative, P320-M17, and P320-M17 Bravo models. In contrast, the company does not list a non-military M18 variant, although the P320 FDE Compact is similar.
While general officers in U.S. service have typically been armed — George Washington often carried several pistols with him on campaign. George Patton carried an ivory-handled Colt Single Action Army. Others alongside them did so with personal weapons.
One of the first issued handguns for generals were Colt 1908 .380 pocket models which were handed out staring in 1943. These were replaced in turn by General Officer Model M15 .45 caliber pistols made by the Army’s Rock Island Arsenal in the 1970s before Beretta M9 GOs became the standard in the mid-1980s. All have had special “GO” serial number ranges.
When an Army colonel is promoted to brigadier (one star) general, their promotion ceremony typically includes the pinning of their star by a family member, and the presentation of the GO pistol and pistol belt. The latter, a thick black leather belt with an 18-karat gold-plated buckle and imprint of an eagle, was first produced in 1944. The rig is worn at the discretion of the general.
While most flag request and accept the special pistol, they often carry legacy firearms in the field. For instance, U.S. Army General Austin “Scott” Miller, appeared at a meeting with Afghan troops last month armed with an M1911 in a Kydex holster, a gun he was first issued in 1992 while a captain assigned to the Army’s secretive Delta Force commandos.
According to U.S. law, at the end of their service, generals can purchase their issued pistols, which are typically rare collectibles if not retained by the family. As noted by the Army, noted WWII Gens. Omar N. Bradley, George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower all purchased their guns when they left the military, many of which are on public display, as no doubt some of the Sig M18 GOs will be one day.
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