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Raffica: July 1998

By Dan Shea


Q1- I am in the process of obtaining a WWII British STEn gun from my father’s uncle’s estate. Is it safe to use modern Milspec ammo in it, or do I need to handload downloaded ammo for it in order to avoid damaging it?

Ed R.

A1- No problems at all with military ammo. The STEn should function reliably with almost any 9x19 mm (Parabellum or Luger) ball ammunition. You may experience difficulty in feeding truncated cone or hollow point variations. Some STEns were made in 7.62 x 25 (Tokarev) and .45acp, so make sure you have a 9mm STEn.

I would caution you on one thing since you are obviously a handloader. If you download the ammunition, it may reach a point where there is not enough back pressure to engage the sear on the bolt’s return stroke, yet the bolt has gone far enough to the rear to pick the next round on the unintended return to battery. Since there is a fixed firing pin, this means you will fire a bullet after you released the trigger. Your STEn will empty the magazine out like a sputter gun, and serious danger could be the result. It’s called a runaway gun, and it shocks the operator severely. Keep the pressures in the recommended ranges.

Q2- I have been privy to many of the books detailing weapons used during World War I by both sides in the conflict. However, I have never seen a picture or a narrative in reference to the “Balloon Gun” Can you help? Or, at least point me in the direction of a book that may contain this information.

Andrew Geller

A2- Vickers made an 11mm variant of the famous Vickers gun, and it was an air-cooled belt fed machine gun using Maxim’s lock style. Balloon Guns had a gear system that synchronized them with the propellers on the airplanes they were firing from. Dr. Ed Weitzman is planning a feature article in SAR on the Balloon Guns in an upcoming issue. You can find more information on this in Dolf Goldsmith’s book “The Grand Old Lady of No Man’s Land”, available from Collector Grade Publications (905)-342-3434

Q3- Dan - Could you please enlighten others and myself on the process of sending a Title 2 weapon out for repair. I am aware of the Form 5 process, and calling the company who is going to do the repair, to let them know that the firearm is on the way. My concern is sending the firearm through the mail (excluding the U.S. Postal Service) via UPS, FED-EX, etc. Also, what is the best way to ship without everyone opening the package because it is insured for ________ amount of tender. Should I use another class 3 dealer, and use his insurance?

I have looked through back copies of MGN, and the Machine Gun Dealers Bible, but to no avail. Maybe SAR can do an in-depth review on the subject at hand.

For your information, the said firearm to be shipped is a HK51 (3-shot Fleming Sear). The selector switch is extremely hard to operate, using just my thumb. It looks (to me at least) that the trigger pack mechanicals are all aligned properly. Thanks G.B.

P.S. Dan, you estimated 10 years on overturning the Machine Gun Ban of 1986, any predictions on the next 10 years?

A3- The two big ones are Fed-Ex and UPS. During the Gulf War, I had a PD in Texas ship me some HK’s. They were transferred properly, and unfortunately when Fed-Ex was handling the shipment, a G3 barrel stuck out of the box. The shift leader went berserk and called in all the alphabet agency people he could find, because of the “Terrorist” weapons. Even though there were Form 5’s enclosed, and instructions on who to call at the PD or at LMO, Fed-Ex didn’t take care of it. I was tracking the firearms because my customer had flown in to see them. Finally, after two days, I got a response from their office in Memphis. It was an “inquiry”, and they were moving quickly towards a task force or something. I had them call D.C. and it all quieted down real fast, but it impressed me. I don’t use their company unless I have to. Similar experiences with UPS having a package break open and show a machine gun resulted in them looking at the paperwork, calling my office, and getting things repackaged and delivered.

I tend to use UPS as my carrier. It’s about six dollars per week to schedule a daily pick up. Once they have been supplied with the copy of an FFL, and that makes them an informed shipper, there is no problem with shipping firearms. UPS seldom loses the packages- in twenty odd years, I can only think of a couple incidents. You can’t go to a dealer and drop off an NFA firearm to be shipped, unless you sit there until UPS picks it up. Leaving it at the dealers is an untaxed transfer! I have seen ATF work that into a prosecution before.

If you can’t conveniently get to a UPS facility, UPS has licensed, authorized pick up locations. Many of the “Mail-Box” type stores are legally regarded as UPS locations. This works well for firearms, but I would establish a working relationship with such a store. I wouldn’t walk in and say “I want to ship my machine gun” to the clerk.

Always ship insured, always include a photocopy of the paperwork as well as contact points, and I suggest in your case that you attach an ownership tag to the firearm with your contact point. That is because you do not have a UPS shipper number. Remember that “High ticket” shipments must have at least 2 inches of packing material around them, and a sturdy box. Get out the bubble wrap and tape. UPS can indeed inspect any shipment it wants to, but if the box looks sturdy, they usually let it go as is.

Regarding my prediction on how long it would take to overturn the 1986 ban on further manufacturing machine guns for private ownership; my opinion at the time was that the pendulum would have to start swinging in the other direction. (Remember that this section is my opinion.) I figured that it would take ten years to get the situation turned around. I did not think of, nor could I have conceived it to be possible, that someone like Bill Clinton could actually get to be the President of the United States.

His total lack of a moral base allows him to do almost anything he pleases. I don’t think that Clinton really cares a hoot about gun ownership of any type, any more than he cares about tobacco. It is entirely political. His backers and supporters want gun bans, so he gives them what they want.

One thing that has happened is that the anti Second Amendment fanatics have wised up- they are doing their homework on how to ban different “Scary” guns without having to go through the legislature. Using Presidential Executive orders and re-examining existing laws for new meanings has been very successful for them. They are creating havoc in the ownership of firearms.

In that same time period, our side has been paralyzed by image problems and in-fighting. We need our dirty laundry aired like we need another term of Clinton as President! Take a lesson from our opponents on these issues- most of them stand together, arms linked, singing the same song, while we bicker and fight and can’t generally present a united front. What message do the political wind testers in office get from this? That we lack resolve?

We will not get the 1986 ban overturned until the courts face it as a constitutional issue, or we get control of Congress and the Presidency at the same time. Remember that “Making machine guns legal” even though they already are, is not going to be politically popular. No legislator in his right mind, or his political handlers, is going to make machine gun ownership his rallying cry.

Our hope lies in the courts having to rule constitutionally, or in maintenance amendments to popular bills going through Congress and getting signed. The courts are more likely to be our ally, as they must present a modicum of constitutional ethics. If they don’t, then at least we know where we stand.

Questions to: Dan Shea C/O the Small Arms Review

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N10 (July 1998)
and was posted online on March 31, 2017

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