The Model 1920 French Police Contract Broomhandle Pistol,

One of the rarest contract models of the Broomhandle pistol was the M1920 French contract.  Produced by Mauser Works in Germany, 1,000 of these pistols were manufactured for the French Gendarmie Nationale in 1920.  Chambered for 7.63x25 Mauser and holding ten rounds in a fixed magazine, the French contract model only had two differences between regular German issued broomhandle pistols.  First, the French contract featured a 3.9 inch barrel, as the post World War I Versailles Treaty banned the production of pistols with barrel lengths 4 inches or longer.  Secondly, instead of wooden grips, the French contract grips were made of ebonite, a type of vulcanized rubber. 


1920’s Chinese copy of a “Thampson” submachine gun

The Warlord Era of Chinese history lasted from the 1920’s up to the early or mid 1930’s.  During this period, China was divided between a number of warlords who ruled over their own personal Chinese fiefdoms, the Chinese National Government, Japanese occupation forces, and Chinese Communist Revolutionaries.  With China embroiled in a free for all between multiple factions, there was an insatiable need for arms, especially due to an arms embargo enacted by the League of Nations.  Thus, during the Warlord Era, many domestic arms makers produced weapons for warlord armies.  Most of these weapons were copies of European and other foreign designs. One of the most popular was the American Thompson Submachine gun.  Examples of copies can be found not only in .45 ACP, but also 9mm Luger, 7.62x25 Tokarev, and 7.63x25 Mauser.  Almost every warlord established his own armory, one of the most prolific Thompson SMG producers was the Taiyuan Arsenal serving the Shanxi warlord Gen. Yan Xishan.

Some of the more interesting Chinese copies were not those produced by warlord factories, but those produced by China’s cottage industry.  During the Warlord Era, many thousands of firearms were produced by small time gunmakers working in small shops, private homes, garages, basements, and attics, built by hand with whatever materials were available. One such example is the Thompson SMG pictured above, on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.  Many of these home gunmakers would often mark their pieces with Roman Alphabet trade names and other markings, often to trick clients into believing that they were buying a genuine foreign import, not a handmade copy built in some guy’s kitchen from low quality materials.  Often these stampings and markings have interesting misspellings.  Many are contradictory, for example a handmade pistol with both “Mauser” and “Fabrique Nationale” trade markings.  Some are a completely nonsensical.

In regards to the Thompson SMG above, the weapon has no markings with the exception of “THAMPSON SUB-MACHINE GUN” on the right hand side of the receiver.


The Tokarev TT-30 Semi Automatic Pistol,

In the early 1930’s the Soviet Union made the decision that it needed to replace it old M1895 Nagant revolvers.  At this time revolvers were giving way to semi-automatic pistols in military use, and it was important for the Soviet Union to keep up with the capitalist world.  One design of note was a single action semi automatic created by the gun designer Feodor Tokarev.  The new pistol visually was modeled after early John Browning designs, internally it used the short recoil dropping-barrel system from the famous Colt 1911, another Browning design.  Feodor improved upon the design by employing a much simpler hammer/sear assembly and cartridge guides that provide reliable functioning. Under testing the Tokarev was found to be extremely rugged and able to handle the worst combat conditions.  Soviet engineers also added several other features such as locking lugs all around the barrel.  The magazine feeding lips were even machined in such a way that they prevented damaged to the cartridge due to misfeeds.  More importantly the design was simplified to the point that Soviet industry could turn out thousands of the pistols without using significant time, labor, and resources.

The most interesting feature of the Tokarev was its ammo, a 7.62x25 cartridge that was bottlenecked to provide extra velocity.  This cartridge was based off the German 7.63x25 Mauser.  In fact during World War II the Germans issued a number of captured Tokarev’s because German ammunition could be used in the pistols.  Feeding the pistol was an 8 round detachable magazine.  The Tokarev had no safety other than a half cock feature on the hammer.

During World War II the Tokarev never fully supplanted the Nagant revolver, rather both were produced and issued concurrently.  After the war the Tokarev became standard issue of other communist countries, such as the countries of Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and Vietnam.  They also saw use in pretty much every war fought from 1950 up to today.  Below is a map of the various countries that at one point used or still use the Tokarev.

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The Russian replaced the Tokarev with the Makarov in the 1950’s.  Over 1.7 million were produced.


The PPs-43 Submachine Gun,

The Soviet PPSh-41 was an excellent weapon, so much so that it has become a legendary weapon of World War II.  However the PPSh-41 still had some flaws and needed further refinement.  For example its blisteringly fast 800 round per minute rate of fire quickly exhausted a 35 round magazine, thus it worked best with a large, heavy, and unreliable 71 round magazine.  The PPSh-41 was heavy for a submachine gun at 8 pounds.  Finally, while the PPSh-41 was easy to mass produce, the Soviet government wanted a submachine gun that was even quicker to produce using less resources, machining hours, and skilled manpower.

In 1942 a Russian officer named Lt. I.K. Bezruchko-Vysotsky invented the design which would provide the basis for the PPs-43.  The design would be adopted by the firearms designer Alexei Sudayev, who improved upon the design with an emphasis in simplifying it for mass production.  The first prototypes were tested in Spring of 1942, and the weapon was adopted as the PPs-42.  Later Sudayev improved upon the design further, which was again adopted as the PPs-43.

Like the PPSh-41, the PPs-43 was chambered for the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge.  However several changes were made that created a much different submachine gun.  First and foremost, whereas the PPSh-41 used a simple wooden stock, the PPs-43 used a collapsible metal stock.  The PPs-43 made extensive used of stamped metal rather than machined parts.  Thus machining time of the PPs-43 was only 2.7 hours whereas machining time for the PPSh-41 was 7.3 hours.  The PPs-43 utilized a blowback operated action which fired with an open bolt.  Rate of fire was purposely decreased to 500-600 rounds per minute, a significant decrease from the the 800 RPM of the PPSh-41.  Thus, the PPs-43 was only issued with a double stack 35 round magazine.  Fire was in fully automatic only, and a stamped metal recoil compensator was attached to the muzzle to decrease recoil and muzzle climb.  Overall, the PPs-43 was much lighter and economical than the PPSH-41, weighing 1.5 pounds lighter.

During World War II, the Soviet Union was the king of submachine guns, producing 6 million PPSH’s alone.  PPs numbers are impressive as well, with 2 million being produced by the end of the war.  Like the PPSH, German forces often used captured PPs’, using the German 7.63x25 Mauser cartridge.  Production ended in 1946 due to an oversupply of submachine guns after the war.  As a result, thousands were shipped to other communist nations such as China, North Korea, Vietnam, and the eastern European Soviet Bloc countries.  A modified copy called the M/44 was also manufactured by Finland and chambered for 9mm Para.