firearms development

buzzfeed.com
Live Updates: Man Shot By Police Outside Parliament
Eyewitnesses described seeing a man attacking police officers outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
By Patrick Smith, Jim Waterson, BuzzFeed News

What We Know So Far:

  • At least one person has been shot by police outside the Houses of Parliament, according to multiple eyewitness reports.
  • On social media journalists reported hearing a loud explosion and the gunshots. Pictures and videos uploaded to Twitter showed a large police presence around Westminster.
  • Police confirmed they were called to an incident at 2.40pm, which is being treated as a firearms incident.

This is a developing story. Please check here for updates.

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SIG MP48

After the failures of the MP44 and MP46 submachine guns, SIG developed the MP48, which was a much-improved version of the MP46. The weight was reduced, the production costs were lowered and the length was shortened. The MP48 also incorporated a retractable stock. The folding magazine housing was not a new feature of SIG’s submachine guns, but it was still an attraction that its competitors did not have. The rate of fire was about 700 rounds per minute and the barrel was 7.8 inches. Although the MP48 was one of SIG’s best attempts at creating a commercial submachine gun, it did not sell well and during its ten-year production run, only Chile placed any orders. In 1958, SIG started producing the MP310, which was a plastic version of the MP48 that achieved considerably more success, with orders being placed by Chile, the Philippines and the Swiss police.

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Erma EMP submachine gun

Designed by Heinrich Vollmer and manufactured by the Erma Werke Waffenfabrik in Erfurt, Germany c.~1930 - serial number 13311.
9x19mm Parabellum 32-round removable box magazine, blowback select fire.

One of the intermediary firearms developed from the Bergmann MP18 to the MP40 series in Weimar Germany.

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The Armalite AR-16

Armalite’s follow-up to the AR-15 was designed as soon as work on the AR-15 had finished, in 1959. Eugene Stoner was Chief Engineer on the AR-16 project and Arthur Miller was heading the development staff. While the AR-15 was intended to replace the M14 in US Army service, which it did successfully, the AR-16 was designed not for internal US agencies but for external exports. The idea was that (in theory) Armalite could make a profit by selling AR-16s cheap to new and developing independent nations that were setting up their own armies, and probably to powerful revolutionary groups too. Because of this, Armalite opted for the proven and hugely popular 7.62x51mm round, rather than the smaller 5.56mm used by the AR-15 which was not widely used by non-NATO countries.

While the AR-15 was quite a sophisticated piece of kit for the time, the AR-16 was designed to be cheap, easy to manufacture and idiot-proof. It was made largely of stamped steel and wood, which every country had easy access to so it could be manufactured anywhere in the world at a comparatively cheap price. It was so easy to manufacture, in fact, that only the bolt carrier and barrel were machined.

The AR-16 was finished and ready for manufacture in 1960. However, NATO’s insistence on the 5.56mm cartridge’s superiority over the 7.62mm detracted from any potential sales. The US Army adopted the 5.56mm cartridge and the rest of the world soon followed. Any countries that still relied on the 7.62mm cartridge were likely already using the FAL. No countries adopted the AR-16.

Like the AR-15, the AR-16 was gas-operated and fed through a 20-round magazine. It used a conventional piston, operating rod and rotating bolt lock and fired at approximately 650 rounds per minute. The barrel was about 20 inches long and the overall length was about 44 inches, with an overall weight of 8.75lb.

Variants included a 36.9-inch carbine and a “sporter” variant that had a longer barrel, smaller magazine and scope attachment.

The AR-16 looked a great deal like the Stoner 63 rifle that Eugene Stoner would go on to develop in the early 60s, and that’s because he re-used some ideas from the AR-16 - but overall the Stoner 63 was made to a much higher standard, and garnered considerably more success.

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In-depth: The BSA Machine-Carbine

On the 12th of April 1945, Birmingham Small Arms submitted their contender for the trials to find the replacement for the STEN gun in British service. Chambered for 9x19mm, the weapon used a blow-back mechanism but was cocked by sliding the odd-shaped fore-end forwards. The side-mounted magazine housing was hinged and thus when the weapon was not in use, the magazine could be folded in to make the weapon more portable. This feature could also be used to clear stoppages. The stock could fold snugly underneath the fore-end. It was demonstrated at Enfield and impressed the Ordnance Board; their only gripe with it was the weight.

In 1947, the weapon was trialed against the MCEM-3. The BSA was considered overweight but was easier to control than the MCEM-3. Feedback was sent to BSA and the weapon was modified in response. The new “Mk.II” BSA had a redesigned and more comfortable fore-end, a new curved magazine with a 30-round capacity and optional alternative means of cocking. The hinged magazine housing was ditched as a result of the curved magazine. The BSA Mk.II was trialed from the 8th - 16th of September 1947 against the MCEM-3, the Patchett Mk.II, and the Australian MCEM-1. The trials took place at Pendine and the results were not very promising. All the weapons suffered faults; the MCEM-3 overheated, the Patchett’s trigger mechanism failed, the Australian MCEM-1 fractured, and the BSA’s cocking mechanism was too stiff.

By the end of 1947, the weapons were improved and trialed again. This time, the BSA came out on top, and was advanced to the troop trial stages. The MCEM-3 was rejected. The BSA’s main competitor was the Patchett, which did not perform quite as well as the BSA but was still recommended for troop trials.

The Ordnance Board made an order for 100 BSA Mk.IIs but only recieved 6 since the manufacturing costs were so high. These weapons were examined by the Ordnance Board and they suggested that BSA improve the trigger mechanism before the troop trials, which they did. However, they also required that the BSA would need to have bayonet fittings in order to compete at the troop trials, and due to the design of the plastic fore-end covering the barrel, this could not be done without completely redesigning the fore-end. This proved to be a hindrance on the development of the weapon, and BSA was understandably unhappy with this sudden request.

It was not until May 1951 that the troop trials took place, and the competitors were the Madsen Model 50, the Australian MCEM-1, the Patchett and the new BSA Mk.III with a redesigned fore-end. The rigorous trials took their toll on each and every weapon except the Patchett. The Madsen’s magazine was susceptible to sand and mud, the Australian MCEM-1 fractured again and failed to eject at times, and the BSA Mk.III’s new fore-end proved troublesome in mud and was too stiff to cock. The Ordnance Board decided that the Patchett was the best weapon, and that it was not worth improving the BSA. BSA was not happy with this result and felt that the redesign of the fore-end to facilitate for a bayonet was unnecessary, and had impeded their design. BSA were so unsatisfied that they demanded that further trials take place in 1952, but the Ordnance Board were already set on adopting the Patchett.

It should be noted that this weapon is often referred to as the “BSA Model 1949″, but it was not designed or made in 1949. I don’t know where this name originates from, but it is incorrect. The three models of the weapon were called the Mk.I (1945), the Mk.II (1947), and the Mk.III (1951).

Martini-Henry Quickloaders

The British Army officially adopted the breechloading Martini-Henry rifle in 1871, and it served valiantly throughout several wars, but it was not without issue. The main problem with the Martini-Henry was that it was single-shot, and thus made redundant almost as soon as it was adopted, thanks to the advent of the magazine-fed rifle. It was withdrawn from service in the late 1880s and replaced by the 10-shot Lee-Metford, the predecessor to the Lee-Enfield.

During its service lifetime, however, some attempts were made to convert the Martini-Henry into a magazine-fed rifle. Being a breechloader, this was difficult - but it proved possible. Charles Greville Harston of Toronto managed to create a spring-loaded magazine that would feed rounds into the breech of the Martini-Henry, thought the user would have to keep the rifle steady to avoid cartridges accidentally falling out. Another design incorporated a rotary drum magazine that fed rounds into the breech through gravity. Ultimately it was more convenient to adopt an entirely new rifle than to convert every existing Martini-Henry.

ARCO Avenger

Designed by Jack Richardson at the Armament Research Company, around 1951, the Avenger was a very short, compact, and light submachine gun that was perhaps ahead of its time. Two variants were made; the Mk.I was a basic stripped-down version and the Mk.II had a foregrip and wire stock. Commercially the Avenger didn’t go anywhere but the concept of a light, easy-to-handle subgun with a high fire rate was endlessly repeated in the post-war 20th century.

ARCO Abider

In 1953, Jack P. Richardson of the Armament Research Company (ARCO) designed a very complex submachine gun. The ARCO Abider utilized a fixed box magazine that contained a rotating belt. Each round was loaded onto the belt and as the belt rotated around the inside of the magazine, the firing pin would strike the cartridge at the top. The belt would then rotate a new cartridge in its place and the cycle would continue until all cartridges were spent. There was no ejection system, so all the spent cartridges were still held in place by the belt until removed by the user.

Reloading was achieved one of two ways; the user could open a hatch at the bottom of the magazine and rotate the belt, replacing each spent cartridge with a new one, or they could open the magazine up and replace the belt with a fully-loaded new one.

The ARCO Abider was marketed to police forces but never got beyond prototype stages due to a lack of sales. It was ultimately too heavy, too complex and too awkward to attract any buyers.

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RSAF Enfield suppressors

For covert operations, soldiers required quiet weapons. The Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield made several attempts at creating a solid silenced submachine gun, with their STEN Mk.IIS being the most successful. Their lesser-known efforts include an integral suppressor for the M3 Grease gun, which, although apparently more efficient than the OSS’s suppressor, was never adopted. The M1 Thompson was also fitted with a suppressor at Enfield, issued in small numbers to Commandos. Although the Thompson was not a difficult weapon to suppress, the designers at Enfield seem to be the only people to have attempted it. If there are other examples, they didn’t see service.

STEN Mk.IVS

The STEN Mk.IV was a prototype variant of the STEN intended for paratroopers. The enlarged trigger guard was to facilitate for winter mittens and it also had a retractable stock. A flash hider was fitted to all of the Mk.IV prototypes except this one, which had a large suppressor attached. It was the only suppressed model of the Mk.IV ever made and it did little to change the fate of the Mk.IV project, which was abandoned for various reasons.

Nambu Model 1

An early Japanese submachine gun, the 8mm Model 1 appeared in the late 30’s and was trialed with the British Small Arms Committee (precursor to the Ordnance Board) in 1938. The Small Arms Committee thought it could possibly be issued to tank crews but the ridiculously long 50-round magazine was not only awkwardly shaped, but also 11 inches deep, making it very difficult fire from a prone position or from poking over cover. It was quickly rejected and sent back to Japan.

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Standschütze Hellriegel

The Standschütze Hellriegel was designed in 1915 in Austria-Hungary and could be classified as one of the first submachine guns. It operated similarly to a conventional belt-fed machine gun, but was chambered for 9mm Steyr and was much more portable than a machine gun. It could be fired from the hip with ease and was about the size and dimensions of a rifle. The barrel was water-cooled, which probably added a lot of weight. An interesting concept that never got beyond prototype stages, if the Hellriegel design had been further developed then there could have been many more interesting guns to come out of it.