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Mystery Guns

By Bas Martens

Sometimes you get lucky. Very lucky. That happened almost 20 years ago, when a small group of four people went to see some museums in Russia. The arrangements had been made by the Dutch collector Henk Visser (who passed away in 2006) and his American friend Tom Nelson. They were accompanied by my colleague Guus de Vries and myself.

It would be impossible to make this trip now, but in the year 2000 things were different. We had unlimited access to the depots of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow, as well as to the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps in St. Petersburg. We were able to take as many pictures as we liked. All in black and white and all on negative film.

This unexpected opportunity raised some problems. Many of the weapons in these magnificent collections were experimental, prototypes or just extremely rare. What should we do? Take as many pictures as possible, or take the time to study the guns and see how they worked? We chose the first and thus came home with a treasure trove of pictures. Some of these have been used in Tom Nelson’s book The World’s Assault Rifles, and others are waiting for publication. But having so many pictures had a downside: information on several guns was lacking. Sometimes we were not even sure how a certain gun worked.

Many riddles have been solved in the past 17 years, thanks to books being published, the internet and some personal contacts. There still remains, however, a selection of weapons about which we know little or nothing. Some of these are pictured here. If SAR readers know more, we would appreciate any additional information.

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This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N7 (September 2017)
and was posted online on July 21, 2017

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