Raffica Resurrection
By Dan Shea

"This example illustrates the use of machine gun fire to deny an area to the enemy, and at the same time leave it in good condition for the advance of our own troops. The targets were lanes through German minefields, which were shown by reconnaissance to be marked by tapes. Before retiring the Germans always removed such marks for obvious reasons, and if this could be prevented the advance would be quicker and the casualties fewer. An artillery barrage would have cut up the ground and probably partially destroyed the marking tapes. A machine gun barrage was therefore put down on each lane for five hours to stop any attempt at removal of the tapes. It was successful, and the tapes were found intact." - "Pistols, Rifles and Machine Guns by Major W. G. B. Allen, s.a.c., The Loyal Regiment, 1953

I was reading Allen's book over again, and several of his examples of somewhat unorthodox use of machine guns in battle stuck in my mind. In the current environment of putting scopes on belt fed weapons, and the (I think) mistaken doctrine we hear of "two round bursts", it has been refreshing to hear that many of the machine gun instructors in the U.S. military are returning to teaching the basics. Defilade, enfilade, grazing fire, and indirect fire are essential parts of a machine gunner's skills. Since we have gone to lighter weight, air cooled machine guns, the incredible sustained rates of fire that were once part of a machine gunner's palette are no longer there, but that doesn't mean that an M240 gunner can't accomplish a withering sustained fire to allow his fellow soldiers to clear out of an area, or hammer a bunker to keep their heads down while his unit aggressively maneuvers. I just wanted to thank the guys in training who are taking the time to really raise the bar on skill levels. That being said, we have an interesting picture coming back from Iraq on the amazing diversity of weapons being found by our troops there.

Q- Dan, here is a picture of some weapons liberated from the insurgents during the battle of Fallujah (Al Fujar). I know about the PKM by my feet, but what is the silver weapon in my hand? I have seen two of them so far. One with a stock and longer barrel and the one in my hand that has the barrel and stock chopped. The bolt assembly is triangular like the Hakim rifle and there is no top cover like the AK would have. It will not accept an AK magazine but the caliber looks to be 7.62x39. What is it?

A- This is a chop-up of a Czech VZ58 made into a pistol type machine gun. It is a full auto, correct? The VZ58 bolt system has far more in common with the Hakim than with the Kalashnikov series. That similarity is just in the outward appearance. I saw the other picture you sent of a similar weapon that had the buttstock and was full length. I sent this to Richard Jones at the MoD Pattern Room to see if he had any further input. Richard said they had seen VZ58s in the Iraq inventory, but none like this one. My conjecture would be that this was a special run made for the Brass there; pre-American involvement. Typical in Mid-East weapons contracts, the small arms that a country buys has a special group made for the elite guards when on parade. This is where the gold plated MP5s, Sterlings and AKs have come from. The country may purchase 10,000 of a weapon for duty, and want 20 made special for high profile duty assignments such as palace guards. Why else would someone take a perfectly reliable and aesthetically pleasing rifle like the VZ58 and pimp it up? That one looks like something off an MTV special. I can't imagine it would be very controllable on full auto.

The PKM at your feet has a copper colored shroud around the gas-piston/gas exhaust assembly. Richard wants to know if it is for decoration or if it is a muffler device to prevent gas escaping into the atmosphere and kicking up dust. My speculation is that this is for keeping the dust signature down, but it appears to completely encircle the vent area, which would be a bad thing to do operationally for the weapon. If you get a chance to shoot this, please let the readers know. (The person submitting the question is the proprietor of Clyde Armory, a Class 3 dealer who specializes in modern items and is a regular at Knob Creek. He has had frequent deployments in the service of his country.)

Q- I have been thinking about the CLEO sign-off requirements a bit, and wonder if anyone has asked this question of the BATFE before? As I understand it, from the Machine Gun Dealer's Bible and SAR, Dealers and Manufacturers are not required to get CLEO signoffs on transferable firearms, and can receive Class 2 items directly, once the transfer forms are approved. My question is: are all FFL's entitled to the sign-off exemption for NFA firearms they purchase, even if they must pay the appropriate transfer tax?

A- All that having an FFL does is allow you to deal in firearms interstate. The Federal Firearms License program does not address NFA controlled firearms other than the Type 9, 10, and 11 Destructive Device licenses (there is no transfer tax nor SOT for these dealers to transfer DDs between like licensees). It is necessary to pay the Special Occupational Tax as a Class 1 importer, Class 2 Manufacturer, or Class 3 dealer to transfer NFA firearms without the transfer tax. These "SOT" status dealers are exempt from the transfer taxes as well. There is some ambiguity about the transfer taxes on Destructive Devices going to Type 1 FFL holders who are also SOTs, in that one or two transfers may be tax exempt for samples, but if the FFL holder appears to be "in the business" of selling, he will be required to upgrade his FFL to the appropriate Destructive Device license.

While the above doesn't answer your direct question, it lays the groundwork for this simple answer. Federal Firearms Licensees may deal firearms interstate, thus any FFL holder can receive an NFA firearm in interstate commerce. He can receive it from an individual in another state on a Form 4 tax paid, or on a Form 5 tax exempt for a DEWAT. As an FFL holder, you can receive any firearms interstate. However, there is no exemption for FFL holders to not fill out the rear section of a Form 4 or 5, getting the CLEO sign-off, and supplying fingerprints and photographs. FFL holders that are corporate entities do not have the CLEO requirement; this is just for Sole Proprietor type FFLs. If you want to be exempt from the CLEO requirement, you have to pay the SOT, or be a corporate entity.

Q- I have been considering making a larger caliber bolt action rifle, in 20mm caliber. Fifty caliber Browning is getting to be common. I keep seeing that 20mm Oerlikon and 20mm Hispano are both 20mm x 110mm and would like to use one of these styles but haven't found examples yet. Any advice on this? What's the difference?

A- This is a bit more complicated than just the difference between Oerlikon and Hispano. First off, the 20mm cartridges that usually come to mind for people who want that larger projectile ability are the ammunition for the 20mm Vulcan, for the 20mm Hispano, and the 20mm Oerlikon. Vulcan solid projectile ammunition (training practice) is fairly common as gun show fodder, but the Hispano and Oerlikon are considered rare and impossible to find, respectively. The Vulcan ammunition is much shorter and easy to identify due to the taper. The last 20mm round is the one for the Lahti and Solothurn S18-1000, but that ammunition is drying up.

To your first question on if there is any advice on this, the answer is yes. I would send you to the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association (FCSA) where there are a lot of people who experiment with the big bores. This is definitely beyond playing with cartridges as these large calibers can destroy firearm and shooter alike if made or reloaded improperly. Please spend some time with the FCSA, go to their shoots, and meet the shooters who have done the homework. I am sure they will be of assistance.

Regarding the difference in the Oerlikon and the Hispano rounds, even though they are the same nomenclature for 20x110mm, they each have further notations made in their technical names. The Hispano-Suiza round is referred to as the 20x110 HS404 and the Oerlikon round is the 20x110 RB, for "rebated rim." In the accompanying photo, the case on the left is the 20x110 HS404 Hispano and the right is the 20x110 RB Oerlikon round. The Hispano round is a rimless type, with an actual angle at the neck of the cartridge. The Oerlikon has a radically rebated rim and a full taper at the neck. While the projectile shapes themselves are almost identical, the cases are far different and share little other than caliber and length. Additionally, the Hispano rounds have been made in electric fired primer as well.

The Oerlikon is a 1930s development while the Hispano is a World War II development. One interesting note on the Oerlikon is that it fires using Advance Primer Ignition, meaning the primer has been fired and the propellant is actually burning while the round is chambering, and the forward momentum of the bolt is part of the recoil equation (discussed in detail in a previous issue of SAR). Both cartridges have been made in Boxer and Berdan styles. However, the brass for each of these is difficult to find, and live rounds are prohibitively expensive. You didn't ask this, but if it were my project, I would try and work with the readily available Vulcan brass, take pulled projectiles for the project, and attempt a conversion to fifty caliber primers. Perhaps even have a run of brass lathe turned specifically for the project. Good luck on this, and let us know how it turns out.

Q- I have been looking for a set of Colonel Chinn's "The Machine Gun" for some time. Friends keep telling me about different editions of this, and the values seem to vary greatly from person to person. I can't tell an original from a second edition.

A- If you don't have an intuitive feel for the production era of these types of books, the fastest way to tell is by the outside size. The original 1950s era copies will be a blued hard cover that is 10.5 inches by 8.625 inches. The Second Edition is a blued hard cover that is 11.25 inches by 8.75 inches. We get so many questions on the Chinn books that I can't leave it at that. I know that small arms technical historian Kevin Dockery has been compiling data on the Chinn books for many years, so I asked him to help set the records straight on the Chinn books.

"George M. Chinn's Reference work on the Machine gun consists of five volumes in three different editions. The original military contract from the Department of the Navy called for a compilation of all available information on automatic weapons which was assembled into three volumes. Later, a fourth volume of specific engineering information was released. The first and fourth volumes were released to the public through the Government Printing Office. Volumes two and three were originally classified. They were declassified in August, 1961 but never offered for sale from the Government Printing Office.

Volume I - The History, Evaluation, and Development of Manual, Automatic, and Airborne Repeating Weapons. This was first printed in 1951 as a hardcover, 688-page buckram cloth-bound book with dark blue covers and gold gilt embossing. The volume is 10.5 inches tall. At the base of the spine is embossed "Bureau of Ordnance U. S. Navy." On the cover is embossed the crossed cannons over the fouled anchor symbol of the United States Navy Bureau of Ordnance. It originally sold from the GPO for $5.

Volume II, Part VII - Soviet Union and Satellite Machine Guns, WWII German guns, first printed in 1952, is a 215-page hardcover with the same physical description as Volume I. Embossed across the bottom of the cover are the words "A BUREAU OF ORDNANCE PUBLICATION CONFIDENTIAL." Printed on each page of text is "CONFIDENTIAL - Security Information". Released government books are stamped "Downgrade to Unclassified. Auth - FPSO Ltr, SC-1.14, Date 9-22-61". On the back cover of the volume is embossed "CONFIDENTIAL SECURITY INFORMATION" in gold gilt. The security classification markings were usually obliterated with whiteout, the material often cleaned away in released books. A copy of the reclassification letter was released for each copy of the book.

Volume III, Parts VIII and IX - Automatic Cannons, .50 caliber to 75mm, US and allies, during and post WWII, first printed in 1953. This is a 679-page hardcover with the same physical description as Volume I. Embossed across the bottom of the cover are the words "A BUREAU OF ORDNANCE PUBLICATION CONFIDENTIAL." Printed on each page of text is "CONFIDENTIAL". Released government books are usually stamped "Down Grade to Unclassified. Auth - FPSO Ltr, SC-1.14, Date 9-22-61. On the back cover of the volume is embossed "CONFIDENTIAL" in gold gilt. The security classification markings were usually obliterated with whiteout, the material often cleaned away in released books. A copy of the reclassification letter was released for each copy of the book.

Volume IV, Parts X and XI - Design Analysis of Automatic Firing Mechanisms and Related Components and relative patents, first printed in 1955, is a 638-page hardcover with the same physical description as Volume I. It originally sold from the GPO for $6.50

The first four volumes of the Chinn books were produced under contract for the Government which put them into the public domain. First editions were only produced in the 10.5 inch tall format. Complete sets in good condition command a premium on the book market. The value is increased when the original security declassification letters are included with Volumes II and III.

As of April, 2004, complete first-edition sets were selling for an average of $550. Prices for three available sets from rare book dealers ranged from $500 to $625.

First edition copies of Volume I were for sale at an average of $145. Prices for twenty-one available copies ranged from $59 to $280.

First edition copies of Volume II were for sale at an average of $170. Prices for six available copies ranged from $95 to $265.

No single first edition copies of Volume III were found for sale on the book market in April, 2004. One first edition copy of Volume IV was found for sale at $125.


In the early 1980s, Paladin Press released a limited printing of 1,000 units of the four-volume original set of the Chinn machine gun books. These books are easily recognizable by their red-cloth hardcover bindings

Volume V

In 1987, the fifth and last volume of Chinn's Machine Gun series was released shortly before the author's death. The Machine Gun, Volume V, Parts XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, and XVII, Machine Guns, Automatic Cannons, Externally-powered guns, automatic grenade launchers, unusual weapons, and patents, 1952-1987 is a hardcover, 748-page buckram cloth-bound book with dark blue covers and gold gilt embossing. The volume is 11.25 inches tall. At the base of the spine is embossed "CHINN". On the cover is embossed two fouled anchors circled by the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA". The book was produced by Edwards Brothers Publishing Co. of Ann Arbor, Michigan. This book was not part of the original government contract and is a copyrighted product.

At the time that Volume V was produced, Edwards Brothers also reprinted the four original volumes in the same larger 11.25 inch size. The covers of the Edwards reprints have the same markings as Volume V with the official symbols of the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance replaced with the USA and Chinn markings.

In a survey of the April 2004 used book market, no individual copies of any of the five volumes of the Chinn series were found for sale.

Three complete five-book sets were found for sale at $450 each.

When the Edwards reprints came out a limited, numbered, edition of each volume was also produced. Three autographed sets of these editions were found for sale at prices ranging from $650-$850 each set.

Autographed (originally signed by the author), Personalized (signed by the author to a named individual), and dedicated (signed by the author to an individual with at least an additional six-word notation) can command a 50 to 100 percent premium on the market. Reprints that include a reproduction of the author's signature, even in a numbered edition, do not command any real premium."

I want to thank Kevin for giving us everything we needed to know about Colonel Chinn's "The Machine Gun", and I hope this answers all of the questions from other readers as well.

Q- I have received your magazine since its conception and like it well enough. It is the only magazine I have had hard bound. I have a question for an RKI. I purchased an MG-42 parts kit and put it away in case legal manufacture by an individual is ever allowed again. I consider the price on these parts to be better now that it ever will be again. What can I do and purchase without violating the law, such as spare barrel, bolt, extractors, and ejectors. How about the rivets that have been damaged? Can I have both as long as I don't attempt to install. Can I knock the slag off the receiver in pieces? I love Uncle Sam but do not wish to be a guest at his gray bar motel.

A- Certainly the price on MG42 parts kits is excellent today as there were many thousands of these guns cut up in the former Yugoslavia and imported through various groups. I can remember when the kits were in the $1,200 range. While not quite as common as a Sten kit, the MG42 kits are readily available in the $400 range. Well...they have been. Things are drying up on the other end, and what is in the pipeline is "it" for the foreseeable future. What can you keep as a "Kit?" This speaks to the heart of the matter. What is, and what is not a machine gun; and what is, and what is not, readily restorable? The parts kits you are buying presumably have had the receiver destroyed so it is no longer a firearm, and should be torch cut according to the ATF approval of the Form 6 to import the parts. I say this because many kits have been out there that slipped through the cracks with an improper cut. As long as your MG42 kit has three major torch cuts completely through the receiver, leaving it in 4 pieces, you are probably alright. You can knock slag off of these, you can clean edges, and you can paint them pink; you just can't put them together in any fashion that would make them readily restorable to firing. You could make a semi auto, as long as it couldn't be readily restored to full auto. Essentially, you can buy all the rivets, the parts, everything, you just can't put the receiver together.

If you decide to put the gun together as a dummy or a semi auto, please take the time to do the research of what other people have got approved, and you will stay out of that government sponsored motel. It isn't worth it to push the envelope; stay well outside of the questionable zone. There have been too many guys who were simply enthusiastic about machine guns, and pushed the edge, and ended up with a problem. Keep it as a kit, or do the research for a dummy or semi auto. There are people making semi auto receivers now, as well.

Send questions to:
Or mail to Small Arms Review Attn Raffica
631 N. Stephanie St #562
Henderson, NV 89014

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N11 (August 2005)
and was posted online on May 3, 2013


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