Friday, January 24, 2014

Identifying a Type 56

In the AK family of firearms, there are a huge number of different models. The Chinese type 56 rifle is one of these common variants. So how does a person tell that this is a Chinese made AK variant or some other model. This post aims to explain that.

First, many Chinese made AKs have markings in Chinese, so if a person is close enough to examine the markings, then this might be a good indication of where it was made. One place to look is near the fire selector lever, which selects the rifle's firing mode.

Click on image to enlarge.

The two Chinese characters are 连 (pronounced as "Lian" and translates as "chain" or "join" or "link successively") and  (pronounced as "Dan" and translates as "single" or "only"). These are the equivalents of "automatic" and "single-shot" modes.

In some Chinese made AKs, the letters are transliterated into English as 'L' and 'D' instead (L for Lian and D for Dan)

In the above image, you can see the letters 'L' and 'D' stamped in into the metal.

In some Chinese made AKs, there may be other markings in Chinese, or even say "Made in China" in English letters, especially in some imported models.

Even without getting close to the firearm, there are other ways to distinguish Chinese made AKs from a distance.

One of the distinctive features of Chinese AKs is that the front sight is a fully hooded type:

The front sight is inside a complete circle. This feature is distinct for Chinese made AKs and no other AK models have this type of sight (assuming that the original front sight hasn't been replaced, of course. It is possible for a non-Chinese AK to have a hooded sight if the owner decided to replace it. Conversely, the owner of a Chinese AK might have replaced the hooded sight with another one.)

By the way, the rifle in the image above shows an earlier model type 56 and the receiver is milled, rather than being stamped. Note the deep horizontal groove in the receiver on top of the magazine. In later models of the type 56, the receiver was manufactured by using stampings and rivets, in order to speed up production. For example, we have:


As you can see, the hooded front sight is common to all these models. There is also one more common feature that is seen with later model type 56 variants. In all the above images, look at the three rivets in front of the magazine. For example:

As you can see in the image above, the three rivets form a triangular shape. You can see this triangular arrangement in most type-56 models, except some of the early models which had milled receivers. This is also something that is unique to Chinese made AKs only and rifles that are made elsewhere don't have this rivet pattern.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Is it a shotgun or a rifle? Drilling Guns

In our last few posts, we have studied several examples of guns designed to be used as shotguns and rifles simultaneously. In our last post, we studied Combination guns, which are over-and-under type firearms with one barrel rifled and another one smooth. In today's post, we will study another class of gun that is also designed to be used either as a shotgun or a rifle, the so-called Drilling gun.

In the case of combination guns, cape guns and paradox guns that we studied earlier, these are all double-barreled firearms. A drilling gun, on the other hand, has three barrels. Generally, two of these barrels are smooth and designed to be used with shotgun cartridges and the third barrel is rifled. However, some other combinations are possible as well, as we will see below soon.

The word "drilling" is actually a corruption of the German word "dreiling", which means "triplet" ("drei" means "three" in German). Several of the early guns of this class were made in German-speaking areas of Europe, for hunting purposes.

The reasons for developing a firearm like this were the same as for all the other firearms we have studied in the previous four posts (viz.) the hunter doesn't need to carry a separate shotgun and rifle, the hunter can be prepared for a wide variety of game, poorer hunters can purchase one weapon that can be used both as a rifle and a shotgun, instead of purchasing a separate rifle and a shotgun etc.

The most common variety of drilling gun has three barrels arranged in an inverted-triangle manner, with the upper two barrels being shotgun barrels of identical bore and the bottom barrel is rifled.

In the above two images, we see two guns where the upper two barrels are smooth and the lower barrel is rifled. This arrangement is called "common drilling" in English ("Normaldreiling" in German). Incidentally, we have already studied a firearm of this type on this blog many months ago, when we studied the TP-82 Russian space pistol.

Another fairly common variant has the barrels arranged as a triangle, where the bottom two barrels are shotgun barrels and the top barrel is rifled. In this configuration, the rifled barrel is generally pretty small caliber (something like .22 Long Rifle or .22 Hornet). This variant is called "Schienendrilling" in German.

A rarer variant is a gun that has two rifled barrels and one shotgun barrel. These are harder to construct because the rifle barrels must be carefully aligned during manufacturing, so that they shoot at the same point of aim at some given distance. This is the same process that is done to double-barreled shotguns as well, but shotguns have much short ranges and wider shot patterns, so a small misalignment are not so obvious with shotgun barrels. Due to the precision manufacturing processes required to make the rifled barrels, these firearms usually cost about twice as much as common-drilling firearms.

In the above image, we have a drilling gun where the top two barrels are rifled and the bottom barrel is a shotgun barrel. This arrangement is called "Dopplebuchs dreiling" in German (which means "double rifle drilling"). Note that the two rifled barrels in the above image are the same caliber. Some of the guns of this type can fit large rifle cartridges, such as .375 Magnum, .470 Nitro Express etc. and can be used to hunt dangerous game such as lions and elephants.

However, this is not the only possible arrangement, as some hunters prefer two different rifle calibers in their guns. In this case, the shotgun and one rifled barrel are placed in an over and under arrangement and a smaller-caliber rifle barrel is placed on one side:

In the above image, we see a firearm with three different barrel calibers. The two rifled barrels are designed to fire 8x57 JR and .22 Long and the shotgun barrel is 16 gauge. This variant of firearm is sometimes called "Bock Drilling". Firearms of this type generally cost more than twice that of the common-drilling type.

Another very less common variant has two shotgun barrels of the same caliber in an over-and-under arrangement, with a rifled barrel on one side.

This variant is referred to as "Bock-Doppelflinte mit seitlichem Kleinkaliberlauf" in German.

There is also a drilling arrangement where all three barrels are all arranged vertically. In this variant, the top barrel is a shotgun and the bottom two barrels are rifles of different calibers.
The above image shows an example of this type. This is a very rare configuration that is seldom encountered.

There are also variants that have three shotgun or three rifled barrels, but we won't talk about those here because they are not designed to be used as shotguns and rifles simultaneously.

Finally, we have a variant called "Vierling" in German, which is a four barreled weapon. The name comes from "Vier", the German word for "four". Firearms of this type have four barrels in a diamond shaped configuration:

Vierling barrels

The rifled barrels may be of the same caliber or different calibers, depending on the customer's requirements.

Drilling guns were usually made by smaller manufacturers and each maker generally picks whichever barrel configurations they like. Some of them will adjust the barrel configurations based on customer requirements. Many of the well known manufacturers of this class of firearms are German, and they were mostly originally located around the city of Suhl in Germany before World War II. After World War II, the city of Suhl went to East Germany and some of these companies were forced to move to other cities in West Germany and others were forced to close their doors. A large number of drilling hunting rifles were also confiscated and destroyed by Allied forces after World War II, as part of disarming the German population. Hence, some types of drilling guns are very rare now and command a high price among collectors. Some of the well-known manufacturers are Krieghoff, J.P. Sauer & Sohn, Eduard Kettner, Christoph Funk, Heym etc. and all of these, except for Christoph Funk, are still in business currently and manufacturing fine quality drilling guns even today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Is it a shotgun or a rifle? Combination Guns

In the last few posts, we have studied several firearms that could be used both as shotguns and rifles. We will study another member of this family today, the Combination Gun.

In an earlier post, we had studied a particular type of firearm called the "Cape Gun". Basically, a cape gun is a double-barreled firearm with the two barrels attached side by side and one barrel is rifled, while the other one is smooth. This gun was popular with hunters in Southern Africa's Eastern Cape province.

The Combination gun is very similar in concept to the Cape gun, however the main difference is that the barrels of a combination gun are mounted one on top of the other. Like the Cape guns, these were first made for hunters in the latter part of the 19th century, for the same reasons -- this way, a hunter who expected to meet various types of game on the hunt, could be prepared to use either the rifle or the shotgun as needed. Also, poorer emigrants didn't need to buy two different guns (a shotgun and a rifle) separately, because a combination gun could perform both roles.

A Remington SPR94 combination gun

The above image is of a Remington SPR94 shotgun/rifle combination gun. It was manufactured by Baikal in Russia for Remington and this model was manufactured from 2005 to 2008.

Savage Arms model M24

The Savage M24 is one of the more popular combination gun models in the world and was made between 1949 and 1970. This particular model has one barrel rifled for .22 long rifle and the other is a .410 bore shotgun barrel.

Unlike some of the other types we have studied previously, combination guns are still being made today, e.g. Savage Arms Model 42.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Is it a shotgun or a rifle? Oval Bores and the Colindian

In the last two posts, we looked at some examples of firearms that could be used as both rifles and shotguns. In today's post, we will look at another firearm of this ball and shot gun category, the "Colindian gun".

The Colindian gun was produced by Charles Lancaster, a famous British gunmaker in the 1800s. Mr. Lancaster was not only interested in small arms, but also larger cannons as well. In 1850, he came up with the idea of an oval shaped bore. The bore would be slightly oval shaped and would rotate throughout the length of the barrel and therefore, a tightly fitting projectile would come out spinning, just like a rifle bullet. Unlike a true rifle though, there are no grooves and therefore, no sharp rifling edges, which makes the bore easier to clean.

The above image shows the cross-sectional profile of an oval bore barrel. The image has the details slightly exaggerated though. In reality, the oval diameter was only slightly away from being perfectly round and imperceptible to the eye.

To prove that his idea could work, he constructed a 68-pounder cannon (which was the same as the largest cannon then in British military service), which he successfully demonstrated to the British government in 1851. In 1852, he decided to use the same principle in rifles and produced a few carbines bored with his special oval boring, which he submitted for evaluation by the British military. This carbine design was accepted by the Royal Engineers in 1855 and used until 1867. The Lancaster cannon design was also used in the British military, especially during the Crimean war.

In 1870, he took on an apprentice named Henry Thorn and when he passed away in 1878, Mr. Thorn continued to produce firearms under the Charles Lancaster name.

The Colindian gun was produced in the late 1800s for hunters in the British empire, using the same oval-bore principle. The name is an abbreviation of the words ,"Colonies" and "India". These could be loaded with either a shotshell loaded with buckshot, or a shell with a single .65 bore slug. In emergencies, it could also be loaded with a heavy 750 grain hardened conical bullet, to take on elephants and rhinoceros. The sights were of the folding type and could be adjusted for 50 or 100 yard ranges, or folded down so that it could be used as a short-ranged shotgun. The Colindian guns were rated to use both black powder and the newer cordite propellants.

Vintage advertisement for the Colindian gun. Click on image to enlarge. Public domain image.

Vintage advertisement for the Colindian gun. Click on image to enlarge. Public domain image.

Click on image to enlarge. Public domain image.

These guns were made in several bores and with multiple barrels as well.

Four-barreled Charles Lancaster gun. Click on image to enlarge.

The above magnificent gun is a four-barreled hammerless breech-loading rifle that was once owned by the Maharaja of Rewa in India. The four barrels are all oval-bore. The rear trigger is actually a cocking lever. Pulling the cocking lever for the first time makes the upper right barrel ready for firing. Each pull of the trigger and cocking lever fires each of the barrels in turn. The oval nature of the barrels is almost impossible to see, as the oval is only 0.006 inches out of round.

The Charles Lancaster company continued to produce oval bore rifles from the late 1800s to the early 1920s or so.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Is it a shotgun or a rifle? The Cape Gun

In our last post, we studied the Paradox gun, which could be used either as a shotgun, or as a rifle. The Paradox gun is one of the examples of a class of dual-purpose firearms. We will study another member of this family in today's post: the Cape Gun.

A cape gun is a long side-by-side double-barreled firearm, where one barrel is rifled and the other one is smooth. The user can use the rifled barrel to fire long range accurate shots against large game and use the smooth barrel to shoot shotgun shells at smaller animals. The gun has two triggers and allows the user to pull either one as needed. Cape guns were once very popular in South Africa, especially in the Eastern Cape province, but the guns themselves were mostly made in Europe. Cape guns made in Germany and Austria usually have the rifled barrel on the right side, whereas British made cape guns tend to have the rifled barrel on the left side.

Click on image to enlarge.

In the above image, we see a cape gun from the breech end. Note that the barrel on the left side has rifling visible and the barrel on the right side is smooth. This particular model is loaded from the breech, but there were many muzzle-loading models made as well. Hunters often used these in South Africa, where a wide variety of game could be expected.

Vintage advertisement for a Cape Gun by T. Bland and Sons

The author W.W. Greener, in his book, The Gun and its Development, mentions that these guns were much esteemed by South African sportsmen and that it was useful in countries, where the kind of game that may be encountered cannot be determined beforehand. It was also found useful by poorer emigrants, who could not afford two different kinds of firearms. On the other hand, he mentions that it also has some drawbacks: A cape gun is pretty heavy compared to ordinary shotguns and the balance is also somewhat affected, making wing shots more difficult. As a rifle, it is light compared to ordinary rifles and has a larger recoil, when used with heavy-load cartridges. Therefore he recommends getting a separate rifle and a double-barreled shotgun instead, if it is practical to do so. It must be mentioned though, that Greener also manufactured combination guns and choke-bored rifles, which we will study in the near future.

Cape guns were made by a large number of manufacturers and are still found in auctions today. In the next post, we will study some more types of combined rifles and shotguns.