Egyptian Service Firearms: The Hakim and the Helwan
By R.K. Campbell

The Hakim Rifle

One of the most interesting but little known rifles used in the Middle Eastern wars is the Egyptian Hakim. In appearance and function, the Hakim rifle is a straightforward design in most ways featuring blued steel parts and wooden furniture. It is a gas operated firearm designed in Sweden. The AG 42 Ljungman used by the Swedish Army is the primogenitor of the Hakim. The Swedes sold tooling to the Egyptians in order for the Egyptians to produce their own variant. One of the innovative features of the piece is a gas impingement system. Doing away with the operating rod of other designs, the Hakim features the same I initial principles of gas impingement as the AR-15 rifle (But not Eugene Stoner’s internal gas designs). In other words, the gas generated by firing is trapped and redirected to impact directly upon the face of the bolt carrier. There is an adjustment valve near the front of the gas tube for adjustment for different types of ammunition. The bolt is of the tipping bolt design familiar to those who have examined the Tokarev rifle. It is similar to the SKS, MAS 49 and other types. A significant change in the rifle came when the Egyptians decided to chamber their version for the 8x57mm Mauser cartridge. The original rifle was chambered for a European 6.5mm cartridge. The 8mm cartridge was possibly available in good surplus stocks and the larger caliber was more desirable for long range warfare in the desert. The Hakim deployed ten rounds of this cartridge in a removable box magazine. While it is possible to change the magazine to keep the piece loaded the rifle is designed to be loaded with five round stripper clips. The Hakim was used extensively by Egyptian forces but began to be replaced by the AK 47/AKM rifle during the 1960s. The rifle was transferred to the reserves but is still occasionally seen in news reports, primarily in the hands of police units.

Research indicates some seventy thousand of these rifles were produced. A much more rare version is the Rasheed, a carbine version. Perhaps eight thousand of the short Rasheed rifles were produced. The Rasheed was chambered for the Soviet 7.62x39mm cartridge, neatly sidestepping the problem of harsh recoil with a short barrel full power rifle. The high point of the career of the Hakim seems to have been the Suez Crisis of 1956 and 1957. There is little word of how the rifle survived in the desert, but there is no doubt that the 8mm Mauser cartridge was a considerably more powerful round than the 6.5x55mm chambering of the Swedish rifle and at least on the par with the American .30-06. The 8mm Mauser is more powerful than the .303 British cartridge as an example. This was one of the last full power battle rifles deployed. The 8mm should have been a formidable cartridge for use in the open arid desert. In operation the gripping serrations on the bolt cover may have allowed a better gripping surface than with other rifles, particularly when you have wet sweaty hands. The muzzle brake is removable and replaceable and seems effective. Designer Erik Eklund’s rifle proved to be an important rifle for the Egyptians and one that embodied several important and effective design features. However, it proved far more cost effective for the Egyptians to accept Russian aid in the form of boat loads of AK 47 rifles and also to produce their own variants of the more modern AKM.

Specifications: Hakim
Caliber: 8mm
Action: Gas
Weight: 9.7 pounds
Capacity: Ten rounds
Length: 47.9 inches

Firing the Hakim

To load the Hakim, the bolt cover is pressed forward and then brought to the rear. The rearward action racks the bolt. When the cover is once more pressed forward the piece is ready to fire. With the bolt to the rear and the cover open, the five-round stripper clip is loaded and then another stripper clip loaded for the full ten-round capacity. It takes some time to master the Hakim’s loading sequence but with time it is fast enough. The trigger is surprisingly crisp in this example at a very nice three pounds – unusual for a military rifle. The safety is located at the end of the bolt carrier in the rear. While different in operation from other rifles, the Hakim may be learned quickly by those acclimated to the type. The Hakim was fired with new production Wolf 8mm Mauser. Be careful when firing any Hakim as with the gas regulator set for low power loads but using full power loads the extractor may be damaged. It is preferable to set the gas regulator for full power first and work from there. In any case, the Hakim worked perfectly with the Wolf ammunition and gave excellent results. At fifty yards the Hakim produced a number of three shot groups averaging less than two inches. As may be expected from a ten pound rifle recoil was modest. The Hakim is an interesting piece and may be underrated in the scheme of things. Sixty rounds of Wolf 8mm were fired without a single failure to feed, chamber fire or eject. The new Wolf loads are an excellent resource for anyone wishing to fire their 8mm Mauser caliber rifle, whether it is the Mauser bolt action rifle or the formidable Hakim rifle. Accuracy was surprisingly good, but then the particular rifle tested was blessed with both a crisp trigger action and excellent wood to metal fit. Groups of two to three inches were exhibited at a long one hundred yards. The average of three shot groups for five groups was two and one half inches: excellent results by any standard.

The Helwan 9mm Pistol

The Egyptian service pistol contemporary to the Hakim is based upon the Beretta 1951 pistol. The M1951 was developed in the early 1950s to compete on the world market with the French M 50 and Browning High Power. The M1951 was particularly popular in the Middle East with types being used by Iraq, Iran, Israel and Egypt among others. In common with the Browning High Power, the type faced its brothers across the war zone on many occasions. The Helwan is the version built by the Egyptian arsenal at Helwan. The pistol is a locked breech designed using the familiar tilting block or oscillating wedge first used on the Mauser broomhandle pistol. This system was used successfully by the Walther P 38 and is the basis for the operating system of the current United States military service pistol, the Beretta 92. The Beretta 1951/Helwan uses a single action trigger. The safety is a push button in the top of the grip frame, a type not often used in military pistols. The original Beretta was well made of good material and often proved very accurate. The Helwan is another matter. There is some suspicion the current crop of pistols was hastily produced for the U.S. market, perhaps of inferior material, although we have no way of knowing this is true. But it is a general impression as the Helwan pistols we have examined are not comparable to the Beretta in quality and function. This is an interesting counterpoint to the excellent quality exhibited by the Hakim rifle. Upon examining the Helwan, the finish is acceptable by military standards but a bit of handling and firing quickly wore the finish. The trigger action was atrocious at some ten pounds and very firm. This limited the results that could be had when firing for accuracy. Another limiting feature was the reliability of the firearm. Frankly, it was problematical. The pistol was fired with a quantity of Egyptian surplus ammunition that was obtained with the pistol. Delivered in cardboard 16-round boxes, enough for two magazines, this ammunition was unreliable. The Helwan, to its credit, exhibited a seventy five per cent firing rate. Other 9mm handguns often failed to crack the hard primers of this ammunition. Also, although appearing to use a 124 grain bullet, the loads demonstrated a poor 960 fps velocity, which is one reason the piece failed to cycle so often. This is simply low velocity for a 9mm. We switched to a proven load, the Black Hills 115 grain FMJ load. Even when obtaining a new production magazine and attempting to fire the weapon with both Black Hills ammunition and a new magazine, the cycle rate was about fifty per cent. Cycle rate with Egyptian loads, presumably intended for the Helwan, was about thirty per cent. Finally the hottest loads in the ammo locker were fired. The Remington 115 grain JHP +P has earned an excellent reputation for accuracy function and wound potential. The cycle rate jumped to sixty per cent with this 1,250 fps load but the piece was never fully reliable. (Feed reliability was not a problem, cycle reliability was.) A single magazine of the PMC Starfire was tried, but every round had to be hand cycled and one bullet was pushed into the cartridge case, indicating poor case mouth seal. After trying firing some two hundred rounds – and this required considerable manual effort – the pistol was disassembled. It was noted that the forward portion of the frame rails appeared peened and the finish was worn to the bright metal.

While the Helwan is available at discount prices it should be considered a relic and not a usable handgun. Our example seems typical, although some have claimed better results. We fired for accuracy off the benchrest. When firing the Remington load off the benchrest, function seemed to improve, perhaps as a result of the solid firing platform, but the piece was still not reliable. The heavy trigger was a limiting factor. At twenty five yards, accuracy results for a five shot group were poor, with the best shooter among the raters registering a six inch group. The average for twenty rounds fired in five shot groups was closer to eight inches, casual at best.

The two Egyptian service firearms are an interesting counterpoint in quality and efficiency, with the Hakim rifle demonstrating good workmanship, fine accuracy and excellent reliability even with ammunition that was not the original service type. The Helwan pistol is an example of ironmongery at best.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (February 2013)
and was posted online on December 21, 2012


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