By Dan Shea
Short and sweet this month, fellow Rafficarians. I broke my thumb firing a rifle grenade at too low an angle. Not that I haven’t fired a lot of these in the past, or because I don’t know how - simply the lower I aimed, the harder to keep sling tension. Just before touching the HEAT round off, I subconsciously noted the slack condition of the sling. Nice satisfying explosion followed by a big “Ouch.” Makes typing with this cast on a total pain, so, a shorter Raffica this month. Back in force next month.
So, kids, don’t be like your old Uncle Dan and wind up being humiliated by the constant email arrival of Mpeg loops from “friends” showing how dumb you were, or the constant questioning of, “So, how’d you break your thumb? Someone kick you in the axx?” Make sure the sling is tight.
Q- While attending a recent gun show, something in a class 3 dealer’s display caught my eye. It was an unusual “tube gun” that I had never seen before. The dealer was very busy but I did get from him that it was the only sub-gun designed and fielded in Luxembourg. Can you shed any more light on this interesting little gun?
A- It is called the Sola and was manufactured by Société Luxembourgeoise d’Arms S.A. They produced two distinct models with some slight sub-variants. The two variations of the unusual and very rare Sola Super are the standard Sola Super and the very different Sola Light. Both are “tube” guns as you noted. There are many design similarities with the Belgian Vigneron submachine gun, but the Solas are indeed their own unique designs. This was in the post World War II era and many of the submachine gun designs in the 1950s were destined for economic failure mostly due to the huge piles of surplus submachine guns that could be had for about 25 cents each in quantity.
Supposedly, there were five of the Sola Supers that were brought into the United States in 1955 for trials. I have never seen a transferable, original gun, although there are some examples in museums in the U.S. The Sola Supers were sold into North Africa, particularly Morocco, and some have been seen in South America, but there aren’t any contract records. The Sola Light was only sold to the FLN in Algeria, as far as records show. The parts kits for these were brought in by LMO in the late 1980s-early 1990. We purchased them from another contractor who was working in Morocco. There were 134 of the Sola Super kits brought in and sold, and 5 of the Sola Lights. One live Sola Super was imported. Class 2 Gunsmith Stan Andrewski built several of the Sola Lights for study and evaluation and LMO built one. It is a very interesting post-war design. The guns were inherently very accurate, and with the long receiver tubes the bolt tended to “run out” on the recoil spring, which made for a very smooth shooting cycle. Examples of this concept pre-dated the Sola of course, but the same principle can be seen on modern machine guns such as the Negev and the Ultimax. (Both of which have entirely different recoil/return systems, but still take advantage of a long spring controlled recoil stroke to achieve their smooth firing.) At some point SAR will cover these unusual Luxembourg submachine guns in depth, but at this point they are generally considered a footnote to post World War II development. Soldiers serving in North Africa should note these weapons in case they see them, like any other oddity.
Q- I have seen an odd drum in a private collection. It was very old and rusty and reminded me of the Luger snail drums, but it was rifle caliber and offset to feed from the side. It had a fold out lever for charging. Any ideas?
A- Markings would help, if you could get them. It does sound a lot like the Mondragon drum. If it is, surely the collector should know that. If it is unidentified, then let’s nail it down. I was doing a study on the Mondragons at the MOD Pattern Room and gathered some ID guide photos of both the Mondragon drum and the standard box magazine.
Soon to become General, Manuel Mondragon was an amateur firearms designer in Mexico, and when he was a younger officer he tackled the self loading rifle problem. This was in the 1890s, so you can imagine he was ahead of his time. Mexico wanted to move ahead in the arms race, but they didn’t have the industrial capacity, so Mondragon’s design went to SIG in Switzerland. We’ll get into this all deeper at another time, but the General had nailed down a basic gas port take off with a piston that had copper gas rings reminiscent of the M16 gas rings on the bolt. The bolt had seven locking lugs, which again sounds spookily familiar, but in the Mondragon there were three lugs in the front of the bolt and four lugs in the rear: the idea being to make a super tight gas seal. This is all at the beginning of gas operated self loading rifle designs, and it is still quite exciting to study in a historical sense.
The Mexicans ordered 4,000 rifles from SIG, took about ten percent and canceled the rest of the order. SIG took the hit financially on the Self Loading rifle of 1908, but during the mid World War I era, they sold the remaining stocks (re-worked into 7x57mm) of about 1,000 rifles to the German Air Force as the Self Loading Rifle 15. This is the point where the 30 round drums were added. Obviously, there is much more to the story but that is for a longer article.
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