Reader Questions: Rusty Pistols, Artillery Shells, Colombian Mausers, and Israeli Translations

Today I’m answering some questions sent in last week – I think this will be a fun and interesting regular feature for the site. If you have a question you’ve been wondering about, please email it to me, and I’ll see if I can get you an answer for the next Reader Questions column! I did get many more than I have the space to answer for this week, so I picked a couple to cover. We start with this email from Bill:

Question #1 – Large brass artillery shell casing

I acquired this some years ago (~15) at a yard sale for $20. It looks like a giant brass cartridge case. It’s dimensions are:

Overall Length    9 1/8″        =        233.8 mm
Case ID             8 1/2″         =        213.0 mm
Case OD           8 11/16′     =        218.0 mm
Rim OD             9 1/4″        =        230.5 mm
Rim Thickness    7/32″         =            6.0 mm

The headstamp around the tapped primer hole reads at:

11:00 &  1:00         3SP    89
9:00 & 3:00        MAI   O   1918
6:00                         SP 197

I have had suggestions that this was for a howitzer but the case seems to be short for that application. A large mortar is another possibility. There was however a uniquely obituration system called semifixed ammunition. This involved a projectile loaded followed by bagged charges. But rather than a DeBang pad the breach was sealed with a short brass cartridge containing the ignition system. My best guess is that this is a 210 mm case for one or another of the guns used in that caliber. Coastal rifles, howitzers, or “sniping” artillery are likely candidates. So what is the opinion of the panel? FWIW it has been my office wastebasket for years!   Bill

I consulted with my friend Ira Sellars, and we were able to pinpoint what this case is from, Bill. It’s a case for a Krupp 21 cm Mörser 10/16 – a German heavy mortar used in large numbers during WWI. You can find a hole bunch more information on it from the Kaiser’s Bunker web site. It’s an impressive piece, firing a 252-pound explosive projectile out to a maximum range of nearly 6 miles.

21cm Mörser 10/16 brass case next to a WW1 German helmet (image from the Kaiser’s Bunker)

Question #2 – Colombian Mausers

I have a FN Model 1950 Short-Rifle (I think). It is chambered in 30-06 (marked “.30” on the receiver ring). I bought it for $90 in a pawnshop when I was 18, in 2000. This may have been a conversion from the previous FN contract rifles that went to Colombia chambered in 7.65 Mauser. I have found very little information about it’s possible uses in wars, and almost no way to tell if it was a conversion model or was a later contract (try finding serial numbers on these!). It was apparently import marked “.30-06 SPR SPN PN RA PA” on the bottom, which I didn’t notice for many years, and it may be chrome-lined (which I just noticed). Is there any way to find more info on one of these? Thanks – Matthew.

As you say, Matthew, Colombian Mausers in .30-06 were both bought new from FN in Belgium and also converted from older rifles. Both types will be marked “.30” on the rear receiver ring. Probably the easiest way (although not foolproof) to determine whether one is original or converted is the buttplate. An older converted rifle will have a typical flat buttplate. The new ones purchased in the 1950s from FN have a buttplate that wraps around about the back 1/4 inch of the stock, like this:

Colombian FN1950 Mauser buttplate
Buttplate style of an FN Mauser purchased by Colombia in .30-06

In addition, the side of the front receiver ring will have a Belgian proof that looks like a pillar on a stepped pedestal. That proof mark is a more definitive assurance of the rifle being original Belgian .30-06 production, since the buttplate could theoretically be swapped out. The best discussion I have found on these rifles is this thread at Milsurps.com.

FYI, Colombia bought .30-06 Mausers in both Short Rifle (22.75″ barrel) and Carbine (17.5″ barrel) configurations. The Short Rifles are much more common, and have straight bolt handles. If you come across one with a shorter barrel and (matching) bent bolt, it could very well be an original Carbine version, and not a sporter.

The import markings on the barrel of yours stand for Springfield Sporters, Penn Run, Pennsylvania – they brought in a bunch of these guns in the 1960s.

Colombia has not been involved to any significant extent in any international wars where these Mausers could have been used, but it has had a lot of internal strife, including a 10-year civil war from 1948 to 1958 (“la Violencia”) in which the .30-06 Mauser rifles may well have seen use. There is no real way to determine the history of a specific rifle short of having something like stock art on the gun or a traceable lineage on the weapon (which would not be the case with one imported as part of a Springfield Sporters batch).

Question #3 – Identifying dredged-up pistols

From Bart, we have this photo of the remain of four pistols fished out of a Dutch canal during a dredging operation – and he wants to know if we can identify any of them.

Pistols found in a Dutch canal
(click to enlarge)

Well, Bart, I thought I would be able to find something on the lower left automatic, but my searching turned up nothing that matches. However, I am pretty sure that it is a blank-firing starter pistol – the exposed nub of the hammer is a feature fairly common in starter pistols and pretty rare in defensive pocket pistols.

The lower right revolver is of the “Velo-Dog” type, although I can’t tell a specific make or model (there were lots of these type of pistols made by small shops) under all the corrosion. These were .22 and .25 caliber revolvers with folding triggers and shrouded hammers intended basically for bicyclists to use on overly-aggressive dogs. Or for anyone else who simply wanted a very small and concealable handgun.

As for the two revolvers on top, I have no idea. The left one is more intact, and perhaps one of our readers may recognize some of the features and be able to determine the make and model…

Question #4 – Israeli translation

WHAT DOES DROR MEAN ?

We’ll finish up with a quick one from Gary – “Dror” in Hebrew can mean either “sparrow” or “freedom”. In the case of the Dror LMG, I think it’s a safe bet that “freedom” was what they had in mind. (Thanks to Amit for the translation!)

I hope you found these interesting! If you have a question you would like to have addressed next week, send it to me!