Best sidearm of Great War

Discussion in 'World War I' started by The Basket, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure were this obsession with antiquated weapons comes from. Interesting and perhaps funky looking though they may be. A serious weapons of war some of them leave a lot to be desired.
    Quote from Modern Firearms website sums up the Nagant rather well.

    "Being somewhat complicated and relatively slow to reload, with ammunition of marginal power, Nagants were otherwise good guns, reliable, accurate and quite popular among the troops."

    Of course the troops in Russia in either WW I or WW II didn't know anything else except captured guns.
    A soldier with a 1911 could probably fire 21 rounds (2 magazine changes) before the soldier with the Nagant fired number 8 (1st round of first reload) due to the Nagant having a reloading "system" that makes the Colt 1873 look positively modern and up to date.
    Please note that in WW I the Nagant came in two versions, double action for officers who could be trusted with high rate of fire weapons and single action (thumb cock hammer) for enlisted men who could not be trusted with the higher rate of fire :)
     
  2. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    This is a historical forum. So old engineering are the thing.
    1911 is just as old. They are an interesting engineering conundrum with a solution.
    How they get around patents is just as interesting
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    There is old and good and then there is old and bad.
    The Nagant revolver was obsolete in 1895 on the first day it was issued. Simultaneous ejection on revolvers was already a number of years old using several different methods. The fixed, spring retracting ejector rod was over two decades old.

    Getting around patents is interesting but buying 2nd class weapons just to avoid paying royalties does an army no good when the shooting starts.
     
  4. Clayton Magnet

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    Worth noting, that the M1911 was replaced by the 9mm M9, which was more or less a modernized Walther p38. The "man stopping" effectiveness of the .45ACP has been exaggerated, while the 9mm is down-played. Pistols kinda suck at killing people, as you are mostly just punching holes in a guy until something important is hit. Shot placement has proven to be of greater importance than projectile diameter, and the flatter shooting, less recoiling 9mm lends itself better to this end.
    Browning himself (or Saive, who further refined it) intended the new Hi-Power to be the successor to the venerable 1911. And it really was a superior pistol in most, if not all, respects. And as good as the Hi-Power was, it was itself eclipsed by the double action, double stacked CZ75's, P226's Beretta 92's ect. And now the polymer framed, striker fired guns reign supreme.
    All of which were available before 1999, so by what criteria is the M1911 considered the greatest of the 20th century? It was a great design, no doubt, but so was the Model T Ford.
     
  5. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    awful story. But relevant to the usage of a sidearm in ww1.
    A British soldier who had been in various battles went AWOL and was captured and court martialed and sentenced to death by firing squad. He was still alive after the firing so the officer has to take his sidearm and perform the coup de grace. Which he couldn't do so he gave the gun to a Private who did it and got 10 days leave. That Private was said to have said on his deathbed 'what a way to get leave!'
    I am sure the Webley, whatever it's muzzle velocity or round capacity was up to the job.
     
  6. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    If I remember well, during WWI, just 15% of the casualties were from rifle bullets, the vast majority. coming from MGs, shell splinters, gases, bayonets, trenches and galleries collapses, frostbites and various diseases and so on.
    Having say that, how many casualties is reasonable to attribute to pistol fire in WWI?

    I don’t think to be far off if to pistol bullets could be attributed just 1% of the total of the casualties, probably less.

    That makes 6.000 in the Italian front, considering that Italy had 600.000 deads in that war: probably bayonets killed more men than pistols.

    We have to consider this and see it with the sparing mentality of Ministers of Finances and Generals of those times, expecially those of the poorer Nations, always attentive to the ratio of cost/performance of a weapon: from their point of view to use a bulk, heavy and extremely expensive pistol to kill 6000 men out of 600.000 in a long war was a nonsense.

    So, FMPV, in the realm of pistols, not always the bigger is the better.

    British Army in Africa understood the necessity of a weapon that could stop a Zulu warrior before his spear could be dangerous, but I suspect that no British Officer attempted to engage a moving target at a distance of more than 25 meters, pardon, yards…. from my personal experience, to engage a target over 25 metres is much easier with a .38 Special than with a .44 Magnum, let alone if the target is moving.

    I’m 5’10” tall but I have a small hand, 18 cm from wrist to the top of middle finger and, when I tried to shoot with Beretta 92, italian version of M9, I could barely grip it. Let’s imagine women in the todays Armies. So, if I was an Italian officer in a war, first thing I would procure myself a less clunky pistol. Never shoot with a Colt 1911. but I can imagine.

    Reverting to WWI, that reminds me another point. Generally pistols were given only to the Officers, so pistols were often used by them, rather than to kill enemies, for the harsh duty to enforce discipline amongst men not very willing to go out of a trench to be massacrated in a frontal assault. Not nice to say, but it was so, and in that case a small weapon that could be carried even when asleep was certainly handier than a big one.

    Sometimes the soldiers consider some of the enemies weapons, for one reason or another, better than theirs: so, as I’ve already said, as Tommy gun was a prized prey among Italians in North Africa and PPSH in Russia, so was Beretta 34 among the Allied Officers. Was Beretta 34 better than Colt 1911 from a ballistic point point of view? Certainly not, but those Allied Officers considered that, in their personal warfare, a smaller pistol was, all things considered, better than a big one.
     
  7. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    .... not to be under-estimated. Trench raiding was an ongoing strategy and was always close quarters .... this was
    silent, unlike any pistol
    1876-2.jpg
     
  8. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    How could it be determined if a casualty came from a bullet fired from a MG, or rifle ?

    In almost every army involved in WW1, their rifles used the same cartridge as their MGs.

    You'd had a man apparently wounded or killed by a bullet, but knowing the source of that bullet ??
    Italy might have used different rounds rifle bullets from MGs, but most didn't.
     
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  9. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    Quite simply, comparing battles where mostly rifles or mostly MGs were present.
     
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  10. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    I agree that spending huge chunks of cash on pistols isn't cost effective.
    Although interesting that the Luger and C96 were are used as carbines which I don't think the 1911 ever was. Could be wrong on that which would make the German designs more versatile
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Do you really think there was any WW1 battles where there were more MG's present than rifles ?

    Now I don't doubt than more rounds might have been fired by the machine guns.

    But if you have a British troop wounded or killed by a 7.92 mm bullet, how do you determine it's source, both their machine guns and rifle used the same round and both had barrels with 4 grooves with a right hand twist. Though under a microscope you could no doubt tell the difference in the grooves made by the rifling in the barrel. Do you really think they did that ?

    Or did someone just look at the inventory sheets and see x amount of rounds expended by each weapon, and since the MGs used up maybe 10 times more ammo than rifles, then they caused 10 times the casualties .

    In other words, they just took a WAG.
     
  12. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    #72 Elmas, Sep 11, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
    In October 1918, just a few days before the armistice, a Squadron of German Cavalry tried a napoleonic style charge against an extremely well defended Italian position, mostly by MGs, in a narrow valley in the Alps. This charge was so bold as it was silly.

    A few minuts afterwards the entire Squadron, nobody excluded, was to be buried.

    This scandal is not very often mentioned in the Annals of the Italian Army, as it was a case of mass suicide rather than a war episode.

    Question: how many fusiliers should have been needed to stop this charge in the same thoroughly way?

    It is obvious that Generals, in between a game of Bridge and a glass of Champagne, tried to answer this question, (personally I do believe that this episode has been studied by far more by German Generals than Italian ones..) as all these informations are the basis for one of the most important disciplines of modern warfare, Operations Research.
    See

    Operations research - Wikipedia

    for a quick reference.

    So, after a battle, a well seasoned Warrant Officer will be able to estimate, as it is humanly possible of course, how many man of his platoon have been hit by rifles and how many by Mgs: debriefing in the Army is just as important as it is in Air Forces.

    Of course that is Statistics and someone has said that Statistics are like bikinis: what they show is exciting, but what they hide is the essential... but Statistics sometimes work, for big numbers.
     
  13. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Look at any WW1 unit"s, any WW1 Army's, TOE, and see how many unit's there are with more MGs assigned than rifles. Even a MG squad had several men assigned as ammo carriers, they were armed with rifles. The gunner and his assistant were usually armed with pistols. So even withing a MG squad there'd be more rifles than MGs.

    Estimate is just another word for Wild Ass Guess. Unless that WO saw each gun fire, and each man fall, he's just guessing.

    I don't doubt that more casualties were caused by MGs than rifles, but to put a %number on it is questionable.

    Maybe because I was sometimes in on doing some arty fire, and bomb damage reports, and noticed the final reports seemed to have no relation to what I saw.

    I was also in on several after action debriefings. They'd ask questions that there would be no way you could answer with any accuracy, so you just came up with something they'd accept, in other words you lied. I know I'm not the only one.
    When you're under extreme stress, you mind isn't in memory mode, it's entirely devoted to trying to get you through the next few seconds.
     
  14. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    Exactly... they tried to estract from you all the useful informations they could get, and you replied to the best of your possibilities.

    Having collected several thousands of reports, someone will able to draw a line and obtain some kind of conclusion.
     
  15. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    I'm not saying that in WWI there were units with more MGs than rifles, of course.


    But there were situations where the proportions between MGs and rifles were different, where Mgs were more or less effective, as in mountain warfare for example or against well entrenched troops , and it was the confrontation between all these different situations that permitted to give an estimate, roughly as you want, of the losses to attribute to MGs and to rifles.

    In the situation A
    ax MGs, by rifles, cz losses. conditions: terrain exposed, up sun, foggy
    in the situation B
    dx MGs, ey rifles, fz losses, conditions: terrain covered, down sun, clear
    situation C ....
    and so on.
    In Mathematics that is defined a “System of equations”.

    Certainly it was not by chance that Germans developed MG34 before and MG42 later, while the vast majority of the Wehrmacht troops had on their shoulders an extremely good but old fashioned bolt action rifle.


    And it was the experience of the war that suggested that bolt action rifles were a thing of the past, ad it was time to develop an assault rifle like SturmGewehr-44. In a hurry, possibly.


    Of course debriefing is not a mirror of true facts, the reports of fighters hit by the gunners of B-17 over Germany excedeed in some cases the number of fighters deployed by Luftwaffe.

    But in a debriefing they try to estract from you all the useful informations they could get, and of course you replied to the best of your possibilities.
    Having collected several thousands of reports, someone is able to draw a line to obtain some kind of conclusion. Often not the right one, but in a war a quick decision now is better than a better decision tomorrow.
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Whilst it was generally suicide to charge well defended positions with cavalry, there were a number of exceptions. as an Australian the best that calls to mind for me is the capture of Beersheba by the Anzac 4LH regiment (really a bn sized unit) against a full regiment of Turkish infanty, more than 1000 strong equipped with either 9 or 18 MGs and well dug in. by attacking the defenders with utmost speed and surprise, the guns were unable to track quickly enough, and despite the headlong charge of more than 1000 metres over open desert, casualties amounted to only 50 killed or wounded from the Australian force. Many of the defenders fought with both rifles and pistols, but their bayonet defences fell apart pretty quickly.

    Cavalry wins by shock value. lose that and you are toast basically.
     
  17. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    Last cavalry charge in history of warfare was Italian

    Charge of the Savoia Cavalleria at Izbushensky - Wikipedia

    but it was in a flat and wide Russian plain, and not in a narrow valley in the Alps, extremely well defended by men toughened by years of war. A nonsense by a military point of view.
     
  18. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Different armies issued pistols for different reasons.
    And many officers, if they could, tried to use different weapons/pistols for convinence.
    Most high ranking officers (major and above) are NEVER going to get within Pistol shot of the enemy and a large heavy pistol is a nuisance unless trying to project an "image".
    On the Other hand in the US Army in WW II most junior officers (lieutenants and captains) were issued Carbines and NOT pistols so the acquisition of any pistol by these front line officers (actually likely to fire their weapons) has to be viewed in that light.
    The US army, before the issuing of the Carbine, handed out pistols to artillery crewmen, vehicle drivers, radio operators and others whose basic job and load prohibited the use of rifle.

    Some foreign armies did the same thing, some did not.

    The whole issue gets revisited every few decades. I believe it was back in 1989/90s that there was quite a lot of press and prototypes about PDW (personnel defense weapons) that would be more effective than pistols yet easier to carry at all times than a rifle or submachine gun.

    It is true that a very tiny fraction of enemy causalities are caused by pistols but without some sort of personnel defense weapon some troops might be more likely to retreat (bug out) rather than stay and serve their support weapons. The Pistol has a morale value and issuing cheap, dinky pistols doesn't do much for morale.
     
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  19. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    If it's Italian and they using Breda 30 then the no one was killed by machine gun fire.
    Riddle me this....if the 45 ACP is a game changer then why did Europe not adapt it?
    In fact some famous German inter war pistols were .380 ACP.
     
  20. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    At least some of the reasoning behind using captured weapons was the image boost that it conveyed. the owner of the captured weapon could only have acquired it by killing or capturing at least one enemy soldier.

    For some other less well supplied armies the use of captured weaponary was due to actual material shortages. Best case I can think of was the Australian use of Italian equipment, particularly artillery in the defence of Tobruk, 1941.

    German forces used captured weapons on an industrial scale during WWII. Not sure about WWI, but would expect some similarity.
     
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