Category Archives: Weapons

Inglis Diamond, The Canadian Hi-Power Pistol Book Review

The Browning Hi Power is one of the most successful post-war 9mm military pistols of all time. Although the vast majority of these automatics were manufactured by the FN company in Belgium, during World War Two production was started in Canada at the Inglis factory with plans reconstructed from memory by FN employees who had escaped the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Production at Inglis was relatively short lived, but numerous variations within the basic design of the pistol abound and the pistol was to have a profound influence on post-war commonwealth militaries in finally persuading them to drop revolvers in favour of automatics.

The story of the Inglis manufactured Browning therefore is a fascinating one and tonight we are looking at a wonderfully detailed book on the subject “Inglis Diamond: The Canadian Hi-Power Pistol” by Clive Law, released in 2001 by specialist weapons publishing company Collector’s Grade.K1391A_a9bb7e78-000e-4340-b0c3-1e4a0e7d334cFor such a specialist topic this book is quite lengthy, coming in at 312 pages and starts with a brief overview of the pistol’s design and how Canada came to be manufacturing it. The book is profusely illustrated and covers all the contracts for pistols produced at the factory, alongside variations in design, sights and markings. Detailed photographs are provided of many different pistols as well as close ups of markings and slight mechanical changes to the design. The book also covers experimental models, prototype lightened pistols, presentation fire arms and even mentions illegally manufactured pistols created by Inglis staff who pilfered components from the assembly line! Added to this is a detailed study of the pistol’s accessories so different holsters and magazine pouches are covered which for someone who is fascinated by Canadian webbing as I am was very interesting! It is not just the Inglis made Hi-power’s career with the Canadian military that is covered, but also its service overseas with everyone from the Chinese to the Dutch. It is particularly interesting to see the weapon in its global context.image

imageimageThe book is very well written and packed full of original source documents to illustrate the political wrangling surrounding the pistol’s adoption and continued production; indeed the quantity of information in this book is astounding and if you are a collector of Hi-Power pistols then you will definitely want to get a copy; the more casual enthusiast might find the level of detail a little overwhelming however. Do not let that put you off however as it is an eminently readable book and although it has been out of print for a long time, copies are still available: Jeremy Tenniswood Militaria have copies available for £44.95 here.


5.56mm Ball Round

When the SA80 rifle was introduced a whole new calibre of cartridge entered British service, the 5.56mm NATO round. This round had been produced as prototype ammunition for at least five years when the SA80 was rolled out in 1985 but large scale British manufacture had not yet started so initial ammunition had to be sourced from overseas. The first British produced rounds began to be manufactured in 1984 but it took time for production to ramp up. The new cartridge was produced at the factories at Radway Green and was of a conventional design with a brass casing:imageLike all modern ammunition this round is rimless and has an extractor groove cut into the base:imageThe bullet itself weighs 4.0 grams and is projected using 1.52 grams of propellant, either NNN (cut tubular) or later nitrocellulose (cut tubular):imageThis particular round was produced in 1993 by Radway Green, as can be seen but the headstamp:imageI suspect that this inert round has actually been assembled from a fired tracer round, rather than a true ball cartridge as the ball rounds had the designation L2A1 and L2A2 when in service and this is marked as L1A1.

When the new ammunition was issued, it warranted a special explanation in the publicity material for the new SA80 rifle:


The ammunition in the new standard 5.56mm calibre meets the performance requirements of both the UK and NATO. In meeting operational requirements it is fully effective up to a range of 1000 metres as generally required in infantry operations. To meet the stringent standards of the UK ordnance Board all rounds are manufactured under high quality control conditions. A variety of natures are available, i.e. Ball, Tracer, Blank Drill and Low Power Training.

An important feature of the ammunition is that it is less than half the weight of the alternative standard NATO 7.62mm ammunition. This enables more rounds to be carried by an infantryman thereby extending logistic capability and operational effectiveness.

The relative merits of 5.56mm versus 7.6nmm ammunition have been debated since the introduction of the smaller calibre. The 5.56mm round is lighter and easier to fire more accurately, but lacks the range and power of a 7.62mm which has remained in service for the GPMG so the army has ended up with two calibres of ammunition. It was felt most combat would be at short range so the lower power would not be an issue and generally this has proved to be the case, however in Afghanistan troops found themselves up against insurgents equipped with old fashioned rifles who could engage targets from well outside the range of the British infantryman’s weapon. As is so often the case, there is no perfect cartridge size and there are good arguments on both sides of the debate, what is clear is that despite research into intermediate cartridges the 5.56mm calibre is here to stay in the short to medium term.

H&K SA80A2 Magazine

There were very few parts of the original A1 SA80 that were not poorly designed or produced, even the humble magazine was a source of constant problems. Briefly soldiers found it was prone to jamming on a regular basis, the original catch was too shallow so magazines could drop off- this was replaced with a slot that helped hold the magazine in more securely but let mud and dirt into the magazine. It had unreliable feed lips and did not always present cartridges at the most appropriate angle to feed into the chamber reliably and the metal the magazines were made of was thin enough to allow them to buckle inwards if excessive pressure was applied- again causing feeding problems.

When the German company of Heckler and Koch redesigned the weapons system they spent a lot of time improving the magazines:imageThe new magazine has a new smoother shape to allow the follower to feed the cartridges more easily. The follower was redesigned with an improved profile and was made of stainless steel:imageThis reduced friction and improved feeding. The feed lips were also improved and the prominent fold of steel on the front of the old magazine has been deleted in favour of a stronger welded design:imageThese magazines are of course for 5.56 NATO ammunition. A new magazine catch rebate was designed that did not cut into the body of the magazine and thus let in debris:imageA steel base plate is fitted to the magazine and this is engraved with the HK logo:imageBy pressing in the tab on the base of the magazine with the tip of a cartridge it is possible to completely disassemble the magazine:imageThe spring is a different profile to the old magazine and is painted red so it is clear which sort of magazine it belongs in.

These magazines were a huge improvement on the old A1 designs produced by Radway Green in the 1980s, but are themselves now being superseded by polymer magazines with clear plastic viewing windows in the side walls.

L1A1 M72 LAW Rocket Launcher

The Second World War ended with a number of different weapons in service to defeat tanks. The British were using the unique PIAT spigot mortar, the Americans the very effective by cumbersome and expensive bazooka and the Germans the cheap and lightweight panzerfaust. Following the war extensive design and development work was done by many different nations in an attempt to find a lightweight, yet effective, anti-tank system. The British initially used the ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenade, but in the 1967 adopted the US designed M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon). This was a one shot disposable rocket launcher system that came in a simple fibreglass tube, with controls on the top: Capture 2

Capture1This was extended outwards when ready to fire:Capture 4Capture 3As the two tubes are pulled apart spring loaded sights pop up, a metal frame with a plastic graticule on the front: imageAnd a simple metal peep sight on the rear: imageThe rear of the LAW has a metal cover over it, missing on this example, that is secured with a safety pin: imageThis pin is removed and the safety pulled forward from ‘safe’ to ‘arm’: imageThe large rubber button on the top is then depressed to fire. The launcher fires a 66mm HEAT rocket, and a warning reminds troops to keep clear of the rear as there is substantial back blast: imageThe rocket has a range of about 300m. Simple pictogram style instructions are attached to the body of the launcher:Capture 7This example is a British used LAW, and has markings indicating it was produced in June 1976:Capture 5The LAW system was used by the British infantry until the mid-1980s:image

imageRecently an urgent operational requirement in Afghanistan has seen the launchers pulled back out of stores and issued to troops for use against compounds and light buildings:3-para-lasmThe LAW was packaged in packs of five fibreboard boxes, and three boxes were carried in one wooden crate. As a one shot weapon they were used and the launcher then thrown away- normally after rendering it destroyed. The Vietcong were able to repurpose discarded M72 tubes during the Vietnam War so now troops are more careful in leaving behind what they see as rubbish for fear of it being used against them in a crude and improvised way. This launcher is deactivated to enable it to be legally owned in the UK.Capture 6

81mm Mortar Ammunition Carrier

Mortars are fantastic weapons at saturating an area with explosives. Unfortunately to do this they require large quantities of ammunition, which has to be brought up to the mortar pit, usually by hand. The British Army has used the 81mm Mortar for many decades and specialist plastic carriers were developed in the 1960s to carry rounds of ammunition. The carriers are made of dark green plastic and have two tubes, connected together, to carry the bombs in:imageEach tube has a separate screw lid with serrations at the mouth to aid grip:imageThese each also have four protrusions to give soldiers grip to help remove the lids when their hands are cold, wet or wearing gloves:imageThe threads on the carrier have a rubber gasket to help keep the contents waterproof:imageInterestingly these lids each have a different manufacture date inscribed into them, one is 1969:imageAnd the other is 1975:imageA carry handle is fitted to one side of the carrier:imageA very faded explosives label is attached to one of the tubes:imageThis has details of the contents and their packing dates:imageThe book ‘Soldier I, The story of an SAS Hero’ has the following account:

I could just make out the wiry figure of Fuzz hunched over the illuminated sight of the 81mm BATT mortar. At his elbow knelt Tak, almost invisible in the gloom, cradling a high explosive mortar-bomb in his hands as if it were a rugby ball. To the rear of the mortar-position, Tommy worked frantically preparing mortar bombs for firing, unscrewing the plastic tops of the containers, withdrawing the bombs and checking the charge cartridges were securely in position, withdrawing the safety-pins, replacing the prepared bombs in their containers- fins protruding from the openings to facilitate easy withdrawal- and stacking the containers in a tier system so there would be as many as four dozen bombs ready to hand at any one time.81mm02

Sterling SMG Magazines

Last year we looked at the Sterling sub machine gun here. At the time the excellent magazines issued with the gun were mentioned, but the post did not go into more details. Tonight however we are taking a closer look at two different Sterling magazines and the story they reveal.

The Sterling sub machine gun was manufactured, obviously enough, by the Sterling company. However in the mid 1950s the government owned Royal Ordnance Factory Fazakerly started secretly making its own version of the gun for the army. Naturally the Sterling company were not too happy about this arrangement and took the government to court. In the end it was agreed that ROF could finish the rest of the MoD’s contract, whilst Sterling got exclusive rights to market, manufacture and sell the weapons overseas. Both companies produced spare parts and accessories for the weapons and after the ROF stopped manufacture in 1960 all the British Army’s maintenance spares were produced by Sterling. There were subtle differences between the two manufacturers and tonight we are looking at a pair of magazines that illustrate this point:imageHere the upper magazine is an ROF example, and the lower the Sterling manufactured example. The first obvious difference is in the finish- the Sterling example is in a matt black, the ROF version is glossier. The shape of the magazines is also different, with the ROF version having a stepped shoulder where the magazine would be inserted into the SMG’s magazine housing. Turning to the back of the magazines again we can see major manufacturing differences:imageThe ROF example is made of two halves electrically seam welded along the back, the Sterling example is  made of four pieces with a distinctive scalloping shape along the back, each piece being spot welded together.

The front edge shows a further difference with the ROF version having an extra supporting lug:imageAlthough manufacture and details differ, the feed lips on both are identical- this being an essential feature to ensure that the magazines work consistently and reliably, regardless of manufacture.imageMarkings for the Sterling made examples are stamped across the back and read “MAGAZINE STERLING 9MM 34RDS”:imageThe ROF version is stamped on the top of the magazine “MAGAZINE 9MM L1A2”:imageBoth magazines are superbly well made and the differences do not affect their use- however the story of why they are different is an interesting one.

Lee Enfield Chargers

Following on from our recent post on the MK VII .303 round, tonight we are looking at the chargers used with these rounds to load the Lee Enfield, P14 and Ross rifles. Firstly on the matter of nomenclature: these are not clips and especially not stripper clips! All the period literature refers to these as chargers, they are fed into a rifle using a charger bridge and indeed the conversion of the early long Lee rifles to use this method of loading was referred to as the ‘Charger Loading Lee Enfield’.

Chargers are small sprung metal holders for five rounds of .303 ammunition and altogether there were four different marks of charger. Tonight we are looking at the MK II and the MK IV:imageThe MK II is on the left and the MK IV on the right. The official List of Changes for the chargers lists the following models:

Mark I, LoC 11753, 16th January 1903

Mark II, LoC 13465, 24th April 1906, strengthened by the addition of three ribs on the base.

Mark III, LoC 18973, 15th February 1916, “having circular pips and lightening holes and no ribs across the bottom”

Mark IV, LoC 19786, 20th October 1916, “Differs…in having four holes in the sides instead of five, which leaves more room for the spring in the lug end, and makes it less stiff.”

This last mark would remain in use with the SMLE and No4 rifles for the rest of their extensive service lives.

Here we see the MK II above, with its distinctive rectangular cut outs to the base and reinforcing ribs. The MK IV is below with four holes cut in the base of the charger to lighten it:imageOn both chargers however each end is slightly sprung to help keep the rounds in:imageWhen loading chargers, .303 is fitted with the rims down-up-down-up-down (DUDUD). This is often described as a way to avoid rim-lock, but is as much to do with allowing the chargers to be used either way up in the dark and to help them pack together neatly.

Returning to our chargers, looking at the sides we can see that the MK II has lightening holes that are both circular and oval, on the MK IV only the left hand hole is oval, the rest being circular:imageThe MK IV chargers are exceptionally common and are easily picked up for around £1-£2 each. The MK II chargers are considerable scarcer and can sell for up to £10 each. I have been lucky enough to come across four of the MK IIs, including two chargers with original pre-WW1 drill rounds.