Know Your WW2 History: Axis vs AA Guns

AXIS VS. AA GUNS: HISTORY OF AMERICAN ANTI-AIRCRAFT WEAPONS

 

Even from the first moments of America’s sudden involvement in World War II, U.S. anti-aircraft (AA) gunners were in the thick of the fight. John W. Finn, US Navy Chief Aviation Ordnanceman, won the Medal of Honor during the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

As Japanese planes attacked his post at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, he fought back from an exposed .50 caliber machine gun stand. He hammered away at the strafing and bombing Japanese aircraft.

 

Military Weapons From the Past: Himmler’s Sniper Presentation Sauer 38H Pistol

This pistol on display here is a Sauer model 38H (a much more common pistol in German WWII service than many people realize) that was made specially as a presentation piece. Heinrich Himmler presented these pistols to snipers who had killed 100 enemy soldiers – other prizes were offered for 50 (a leave from the front and a nice watch) and 150 (a hunting trip with Himmler himself). For 100, it appears that a sniper was given a choice of binoculars, hunting rifle, or these pistols.

How many were actually made and how many were actually awarded is not clear. The serial number of known examples are in a range from 475396 (which is this one) to 475409. Clearly, they were all made in once batch and then awarded as Himmler saw fit. An interesting artifact of the Nazi Party’s interaction with the German military!

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Military Weapons From The Past: The British De Lisle Silenced Commando Carbine

Commandocarbine

British firearms-enthusiast and engineer William Godfray De Lisle designed his De Lisle Silenced Commando Carbine around the action and stock of the Mk. III Lee-Enfield rifle. Chambered in .45 ACP and accepting slightly-modified .45-caliber Colt 1911 pistol magazines rather than the Lee-Enfield’s standard 10-round .303 magazine, the De Lisle boasted an 8.2-inch integral barrel sound-suppressor. The suppressor allowed propellant gas from the rifle’s .45 cartridge to bleed out of the barrel, quieting the sound of the round leaving the muzzle.

It was never a very numerous weapon, but the De Lisle Silenced Commando Carbine proved to be just the thing for commandos needing to silently kill a few sentries as they infiltrated enemy lines.

 

De Lisle, whose day job was with the U.K. Ministry of Aircraft Production, had previously built an integral suppressor for his .22LR Browning SA, which he used to hunt small game. De Lisle’s neighbor Maj. Sir Malcolm Campbell, of the Office of Combined Operations, heard about the silenced hunting rifle and felt it might make a good clandestine weapon.

Prototype development ended in 1942. But after a few demonstrations, the government requested a nine-millimeter version. This was, at the time, the most commonly-available rimless pistol cartridge. However, the velocity of the nine-millimeter round proved to be too high. The suppressor couldn’t sufficiently reduce the prototype’s report.

In other words, the nine-mil De Lisle was just too damned loud.

De Lisle suggested re-chambering the carbine to fire the subsonic .45 ACP. This proved to be extremely quiet. De Lisle adapted the first .45 ACP carbine from a Thompson submachine gun barrel and the action from a Lee-Enfield. De Lisle and Campbell submitted the design and prototype to the Board of Ordnance for evaluation. Because the carbine was a project of the Office of Combined Operations, the government fast-tracked production. The Ford Motor Company produced an initial batch at its Dagenham works.

De Lisle applied for a patent for the suppressed carbine in May 1943, but due to the weapon’s clandestine nature, the government did not grant the patent until after the war in July 1946.

The De Lisle boasted better accuracy than the competing STEN Mk. II(s) and was marginally quieter. The government placed an order for 500 with the Sterling Engineering Company. Production began in the summer of 1944. The carbine had a 7.45-inch barrel, two inches of which fit inside the Lee-Enfield’s action. De Lisle and Campbell shortened the bolt and added a new .45 ACP extractor. They also developed a new magazine housing to take Colt 1911 magazines.

The men fashioned the suppressor tube from steel. The suppressor featured an initial expansion chamber followed by 10 or 13 baffles making up a continuous spiral and aligned by two rods on either side of the bullet channel.

Sterling manufactured just 130 De Lisle Silenced Commando Carbines before the government canceled the order in December 1945. The De Lisle was truly a niche weapon. Also, the suppressed STENs were cheaper, easier to manufacture and better suited for general clandestine operations.

The majority of the De Lisle carbines had standard wooden stocks, but Sterling also developed a paratroop version with a folding stock. Only two of these paratroop De Lisles were ever made.

The De Lisles saw a lot of combat — considering how few existed. The Special Operations Executive carried them into battle in Northern France prior to D-Day and against the Japanese in the Far East. Quiet and accurate up to 200 yards with no muzzle flash, the De Lisles excelled at killing sentries during infiltration missions.

The weapons saw combat through the Korean War and the Malayan Emergency. In 1970, the Military Armaments Corporation developed a nine-millimeter carbine it called the “Destroyer” that was inspired by the De Lisle. However, suppressed pistols and submachine guns proved more popular with special forces.

This story originally appeared at Historical Firearms.

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