By Jean Huon
Few people know of the SOLA submachine gun which was made in Luxembourg, and the history is mysterious.
Their history is tied to the Scholer family, businessmen who began trading in 1910 with the Monopol store. In 1948, Grands Magasins Monopol S.A. was the successor to SARL Monopol. The owners wished to diversify and in 1949, a dry cleaning clothes company was started and another, the SIVI (Société Industrielle de Vianden) was established in 1952. The same year another subsidiary was born on January 17th: the Société Luxembourgeoise d'Armes, created by Nicolas Scholer. It was owned by Mr. Roger-Henri de Somzee, industry manager à Bruxelles, Mr. Eugène Rouff, bank director in Luxembourg City, Mr. Antoine Scholer, Mr. Isidore Scholer and Mr. Léon Scholer, merchants in Luxembourg City. The formation of the company was accepted by Mr. Neuman, notary and the capital was 10 million Luxembourg francs.
Mr. Nicolas Scholer was president and manager of the company. The head office was established in Vianden, near the German border and the management at 16, Dicks street in Luxembourg City. The factory was established in Ettelbrück in the former Godchaux plant. The building was improved and modernized, from the plans of architecht Pierre Grach. Another building for administrative office was constructed on land owned by the city in place of the Godchaux hydro-electrical engine. The city of Ettelbruck was happy to see the installation of a new factory, but up to the closure in 1960, no more than 20 people worked there.
On April 19, 1952, Nicolas Scholer obtained a five year license for small arms production from the government of Luxembourg and on May 1, 1952, J.-P. Tanson, engineer, entered the factory as a technical director. Later, on May 26, a tool maker arrived named Victor Kramer. He had worked in Germany during WWII in small arms factories and had strong experience.
The company began to improve the Sten Submachine Gun and 200 of them were obtained from the Army of Luxembourg. They had a new line, designed by Imperia in Belgium, with a telescopic stock, a one piece plastic grip and frame and a rotating selector. But the model, named SOLA-Sten, was not successful.
Then the factory looked at a Belgian prototype, the Ram, designed by Vitold Pobesky, made by Repossmetal S.A. in Brussels. We have no details about the development of this model, but it seems to be the result of a joint program of the L. Berger establishment and the Paul Ranson Company. The prototype was crude and had a perforated jacket around the barrel. The SOLA company presented the weapon to various official agencies around the world, but without any success. Nicolas Scholer himself went to Washington and entered the Pentagon with demonstration weapons in his suitcase. He was shown out and the security agents dismissed him.
The Luxembourg Army also rejected the SOLA after trials at the Fort Walferdange and Reckenthal proving grounds. We do knot know who the first customers were for the gun, but its name was best known in a scandal. In the mid-1950s, several privately owned companies were established in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland that sold small arms on the international market. The activity was easier then than today because no End User document was needed by any authority. The "traders" generally sold second-hand weapons, but sometimes they could be interested in newly manufactured guns.
That was the object of Georg Puchert (also known as Captain Morris). A Latvian and former Kriegsmarine sailor, he worked in import-export sales and was perhaps a Soviet agent. First, he arranged illegal cigarette trading and founded a small maritime transportation company named Astramar. Quickly he became a specialist in explosives and gunrunning; then he became one of the main suppliers of North African rebels, using anchovies and shrimps fishing as a cover.
At the beginning of the Algerian rebellion, he had good contacts with the leaders of the movement to which he furnished material. But why was he interested by the SOLA activities? In an article published in 1974, a former officer of the French secret service, Deodat du Puy-Montbrun, told the story:
Puchert hired some female collaborators to catch the attention of people able to furnish material. Then he recruited a girl named Corina, an unemployed actress.
She seduced a man who was a leader in the SOLA factory. But Luxembourg would not approve furnishing weapons to enemies of France. However, in bed Corina succeeded in proving that it was possible. The idea probably came from Georg Puchert. A quality control commission looked at the gun produced and bad weapons were declassified to be destroyed. Then "rejected" models became more numerous, but were not destroyed but packed in metallic containers as "motor replacement parts." She carried them in his car to Trier in Germany without any problem at the border. The custom officers merely admired a beautiful woman. From Trier, Puchert travelled to Brussels where the aircraft company SABENA carried the boxes to Casablanca in Morocco. But a Belgian packer let a box fall from considerable height at the feet of a security agent!
No more was necessary for a scandal to explode. France and Belgium protested to the Grand Duchy. Nicolas Scholer, the factory owner born on November 1, 1902 in Fleschette, was convicted on January 25, 1957 for a 2,000 Luxembourg francs penalty, for violation of the arms regulation. His firearms production licence was not renewed.
At this time, the company owned:
- 760 standard Sola SMG, at unit price of 2,000 Luxembourg francs (approx. $400 today);
- 1,500 Sola light smg, at 1,500 FL ;
- 350 unfinished Sola light smg, at 400 FL ;
- 2,000 unfinished standard smg, also at 400 FL.
All the guns were seized and destroyed, except 50 kept by the Luxembourg police for study.
But the manufacturer later built other guns. Then Scholer was convicted again for:
- being the illegal owner of 2,047 submachine guns and 361 frames for similar guns, between April 19, 1957 and January 16, 1959;
- between April 23, 1956 and January 16, 1959, as a gunsmith, manufacturer or trader, did not register the names and addresses of customers or sellers;
- having on an unknown date, but probably on October 11, 1958, sold illegally a gun without government permission to a South American country.
By a judgment No. 33/59 dated January 30, 1959, the Diekirch tribunal convicted Nicolas Scholer for a 5,000 Luxembourg francs penalty and seizing of all the guns. An appeal of this judgment was made, both by Scholer and the public prosecutor. The Judgment was confirmed by the Superior Court by decision No. 65/60 on March 7, 1960 and he also had to pay 114 Luxembourg Francs for expenses.
The SOLA Company was converted to the production of special machines for making plastic and rubber components. In 1959, it began to build refrigerator compressors for another factory of the SIVI, another factory of the Scholer group. Later the SIVI was owned by Electrolux.
In 1960, the factory closed and one year later, the plant was owned by the No-Nail Boxes Company, who built wooden cases. The company still exists but is located at Wilz.
On the factory site, a Monopol-Scholer supermarket was later built. Now all the Monopol-Scholer stores are owned by Breevast, a Dutch company.
Illegal sales of small arms during the Algerian war are still a sensitive subject and it left an uneasy feeling in the minds of the Luxembourg people. But some thousand of submachine guns sold to the rebels is a small part of the very large quantity of material they received from others. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, other East European countries and Egypt furnished hundreds or thousands of tons of explosive and guns. Between 1955 and 1961, the French Navy seized more than forty contraband ships. At the same time, SDECE secret services destroyed 14 various boats.
Georg Puchert still furnished arms to the Algerian rebellion for a promise to be the exclusive owner of the foreign trading company for the future republic of Algeria. In 1958, he agreed to deliver:
- 2 million 7.92mm Mauser cartridges;
- 100 mortars and 18,000 shells;
- 2,000 MP 40 SMG and 4 million 9mm Luger cartridges;
- 1,000 offensive hand grenades;
- 10,000 electric igniters;
- several hundred meters of primacord;
- 200 tons of TNT;
Price for all was estimated 1.5 billon francs, with a 33% commission.
But these activities caught the interest of the French secret service and officially or not, retaliation was organised. A Swiss, Marcel Leopold, associated with Puchert, was killed in Geneva, with a blowpipe shooting an arrow tipped with curare. But Puchert did not understand the warning and two of his ships were destroyed on October 1,1958: Atlas a German boat in Hamburg and Alkiran, an Egyptian ship in Ostende (Belgium).
On November 5, 1958, Amediane Aït Ahcene, the Algerian financial delegate, was shot by two snipers in front of the Tunisian Embassy in Bonn where he had his office. On the morning of March 3, 1959, Georg Puchert sat in his Mercedes car, parked in a Frankfurt street. When he tried to start the car, there was a large explosion. The vehicle and its driver disappeared, becoming flames and light...
SOLA SMG Standard Model
The SOLA standard looks like the Belgian Vigneron SMG, which is not a surprise because both were designed by the same people. The frame is made of a 35 mm diameter (1.38") cylindrical steel tube, with thread on each end. At the front, a screw retains the barrel and the rear receives a threaded plug. Near the barrel screw, the frame has several oval holes for cooling. On the left side is the cocking lever with a slide cover. It is guided by two welded small sheet metal parts. The ejection port is on the right side and is closed by a curved cover locked by a small button having its own spring. If the bolt is closed when the ejection port cover is closed, it does open automatically. Under the frame is a box to which is attached the pistol grip with the trigger mechanism. The grip is made of plastic and the mechanism comprises trigger, sear, selector and trigger guard with their pins and springs. The selector is a rotating lever located on the left side. It has three positions: full auto (A), semiautomatic (R) and safety (S). The magazine housing in located at the front of the grip receiver. The gun uses the MP 40 magazine. The bolt is cylindrical, with an integral firing pin. The main spring has a large diameter without guide. It has 13 coils and is made of a 0.7" steel wire. The stock is the same as the American M3 SMG. It can be extended in two positions for shooting, whichever is more comfortable for the shooter. The rods are slightly sharpened at the top to make assembly more easy. The barrel is fit in the front of the frame. It is 9mm diameter with six right hand groves and has a muzzle brake. Two front sights were available; trapezoidal (with or without cover) and half moon. On the four guns of this type we were able to observe, three of them had the trapezoidal front sight. The rear sight is a flip type with two U notches for 50 and 150 m shooting. It had protective ears and is mounted on the frame by a dovetail assembly. Two fixed rings are welded on the left side of the frame to receive a sling. This gun receives sometimes a blued finish, but most of them were grey/green painted. Marks are very scarce: only a serial number at the rear of the frame, on the right side of the grip housing and on the barrel. Some gun have the lion symbol of the country of the manufacturer, moulded on the grip ; most were unmarked. We saw a variation of this model (perhaps a prototype), where sling rings were both on the left side of the frame, stock rods were not sharpened, the magazine housing had no flare and the front sight was half moon shape.
Remove the magazine and clear the gun.
Take off the stock.
Unscrew the barrel ring to separate it from the frame.
Unscrew the rear plug.
Take off the recoil spring.
Extract the bolt from the frame.
Remove the grip.
Reassembly is carried out in the reverse order.
SOLA SMG Light Model
SOLA also built a cruder weapon, simplified and less expansive, called the "Light Model." The barrel is shorter, the trigger mechanism is simplified and there is no ejection port cover. It is completely built of pressed sheet metal and the number of part is less. The cocking lever locks the bolt in the opened or closed position. The selector is located on the left side, just over the trigger and it has three positions: 0 (safe), 2 (full-auto) and 1 (single shot). The front sight has no cover and the rear sight is an opened V notch sighted for 100 m. Like the standard model, it is blowback.
The Sola In the United States:
In the late 1980s, Long Mountain Outfitters imported 135 Sola Super submachine gun parts sets, and 5 Sola Light submachine gun pats sets into the United States with ATF approved destroyed receivers. These kits were sold to collectors in the US. The Solas had come from Morocco.
- M. Jeannot Nies, First Public Prosecutor at the High Court of Justice of the Grand Dutchy of Luxembourg.
- Mr. Pit Kaiser, President of the Société des Collectionneurs d'Armes Luxembourgeois.
- Mr. Michel Sinner, Secretary of the SCAL.
- Mr. Arno Munhowen.
- Mr. Philippe Regenstreif.
- Mr. Gilles Sigro, gunsmith in Toulouse (Atelier Saint-Etienne).
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