Unless your going to buy some really crazy bits of kit, your weapon is usually the most expensive item you'll purchase, with the new regulations its also more of an issue in jumping through hoops than just where to buy it from. It used to be a case of which deactivated gun should I buy and you would have a choice of dozens of companies who would sell you one. Now with the law always changing, to buy one is really tricky and you almost certainly won't be ordering anything of the internet and if you do, you'll pay a premium for the pleasure!
Having said that, deactivated weapons can still be purchased at militaria fairs, not strictly supposed to be, but once you own that, the law is on your side. Your then just not allowed to sell it... stupid right!
So what role in the unit have you choose, make sure to get the right gun to match gun have you decided on? You don't want to grab the first thing you see, simply because it was easy to find or a good price if its not the right one for your role. The basics are - Riflemen always carry the Garand rifle, Support roles, like radiomen, LMG team members (except the gunner) carry the M1 Carbine, SMGs are usually for NCO's. Like everything in re-enacting, there are always exceptions, but always pick your role first and weapon second. Its all about making what you choose make historical sense.
A stunningly beautiful weapon and a cost to match if you want an original. The 'old' specs, with all moving parts are seldom seen anymore and will be well in excess of £1000. The welded up version, usually called new spec are cheaper, but still fairly hard to find. I have no idea on the current prices.
There are other options. You can purchase a replica M1, Denix make them, they are certainly not up to being bashed around, there are also some annoying features in the way that they constructed it, for example, visible screws where there should just be wood. But they are fairly cheap and cheerful... or not so cheerful, as things tend to go wrong with them and to be honest that's a £140 that could be spent on better things!
As with lots of things, I have many projects ticking along at the same time. So there should also be a better reproduction option in the future...
There are possibly other Garand options out there, but nothing came up on a quick search, even when you find Garand replicas, you'll look closely at the small print and see Denix somewhere.
In regards to the Denix, it can be improved, wood work darkened, screws hidden and things added. See the button below for a page of ideas and some examples of some that I have worked on.
M1 & M1A1 carbines
These strange hybrid things are a mainly used by specialists, born out of necessity; where a rifle wasn't practical to carry, but a pistol wasn't enough firepower, this is the result. Its like an M1 Garand and a M1911 had a baby. Although the M1 Carbine has a very pleasing look to it, it lacked the range that the .30-06 M1 Garand had.
These used to be the easiest US World War two rifle to buy, I can remember seeing a whole pallet of these M1 Carbine stacked about 5 foot high and the price... £100 each! Original deactivated and in pretty good condition too. Sadly those days are long gone. Trying to find a deactivated one is just the same as looking for the Garand, but a little easier and a lot cheaper.
Of course, just like the M1 Garand, there are reproductions out there as well. Denix of course make them, in both standard and the M1A1 with the folding stock. Again like most Denix replicas they are not going to stand up to much abuse, they will tend to go wrong fairly quickly. Even though our kit doesn't get abused as much as real kit did during World War 2 in the field, we still bash this stuff about a lot. They get dropped, knocked over, slapped, cocked, banged, thrown in cupboards, have stuff piled on them and then there is the running about and crawling around. all of which takes it tole on all our kit. Many years ago I had an airsoft 8mm version, why they made them in 8mm is anyone's guess! It was very solid, it had late war sights but it was a fairly good copy and being airsoft was designed to take some abuse.
However you can't beat a deactivated original. M1 Carbines can still be seen at some fair prices, if you want to turn it into an M1A1 then you can sometimes still find reproduction 'Overton Inland' folding stocks. This was the only company to make originals during WW2. Click the 'M1A1' button to lean lots about these originals. Get out to some militaria fairs and keep your eye on the price of deactivated ones. You'll pay more for one, but it'll always be worth what you paid for it and your not going to break it!
A favourite of many soldiers during the war, despite its bulk and weight, its stopping power was incredible. Now there are a lot of these as deactivated weapons still about. There was crates and crates of these found about 8 years ago in Russian, all part of the lend lease act, they were never used and stored away in a salt mine. There was so many coming into the UK that the price of a de-act Thompson fell to around £250 and still I didn't buy one! So if your want a real one, they are out there, go to some shows and have a loot for de-act Thompsons. There are some really rare versions out there. One of the rarest has 'Tommy Gun' on the side, really early M1A1 that are very sought after. If you want one, I may know a guy who might sell his, but it won't be cheap! Then again, where else can you get one?
Of course you've already guessed it, Denix also make a Thompson. Sadly I have never seen or handled one of these, so I can't pass comment, other than if the other guns they do are anything to go by, inspect one very carefully before ordering one blind of the internet!
There are also Airsoft versions of these, some where the wood is plastic and others where the wood is real wood. They vary in price depending on condition and of course if they work as an airsoft gun or not.
As well as the other types, you'll sometimes see what is call 'plug fire' Thompsons. They are solid metal and wood, the cartridges, open up to reveal a place to put special cap and the gun cycles the rounds like a real one, except for the way it works is back wards, instead of the firing pin hitting the back of the shell, this pushes the shell into a pin that would hit the front of shell, where the head would be. They are not loud enough to be used in a battle and you would loose your rechargeable shells very quickly! However, its ruggedness and good constructions makes it a viable thing to carry around. They may also make other guns in 'plug fire', I have never looked! Might be worth of a Google search.
The best and most useful version to get would be a blank fire Thompson, these can be found, not easily and not cheap but they can come in both 8mm and 9mm versions.
M3 Grease gun
Sadly the Thompson was too complicated and expensive to make. It had to be simplified further or be replaced. It was much easier to come up with a totally new gun. The M3 'Grease Gun' was created, still a good weight to it, like the Thompson, however it was ugly, yet very cheap to produce, it still fired the .45 slugs, so its stopping power was similar to the Thomson. Now there are quite a few of these deactivated weapons still about. Shouldn't take you to long to find a de-act one if you really want one. In fact I recently decided to buy one, I went to one militaria fair and bosh! within ten mins of entering I purchased one for £450. Not bad I thought, three times the price of a Denix, but its a the real deal.
It was only a matter of time before Denix started making these too, however, they have done a pretty good job with this. It probably looks more realistic than most of the other guns they make because the real one is just so simple! It also has the nice earlier method of the cocking lever. So, a good option for around £150 mark.
There are a few old Airsoft versions of these, I think all of them are plastic thought, so if you get one, it might need some clever silver dry brushing to make it look like anything decent. They will really vary in price depending on condition and of course if they work as an airsoft gun or not.
As well as the 'plug fire' Thompsons. There are some M3 Grease Guns, they are solid metal, the cartridges, open up to reveal a place to put special cap and the gun cycles the rounds like a real one, except for the way it works is back wards, instead of the firing pin hitting the back of the shell, this pushes the shell into a pin that would hit the front of shell, where the head would be. They are not loud enough to be used in a battle and you would loose your rechargeable shells very quickly! However, its ruggedness and good constructions makes it a viable thing to carry around.
The best and most useful version to get would be a blank fire M3 Grease Guns, these can be found, not easily and not cheap, but they can come in both 8mm and 9mm versions. Expect to pay £1000 upwards.
An interesting one this, mainly only officers or a few specialists
were issued pistols. Of course, once in the field, anyone could
and would obtain anything that they thought we would be useful. As long as they could
be bothered to carry it. However, even baring in mind a few soldiers would have gained
a pistol, when you look at re-enactors, almost everyone has a M1911. Not because they
really want a pistol, but because they are the cheapest blank firing weapon out there by
a long way. For the average re-enactor, cashing out £1000 for a blank firing Thompson, if your lucky enough to even find one is not an option. Even hiring weapons at events that offer them, gets expensive real fast! So you will see an almost alarming rate of enlisted soldiers carrying sidearms. Almost a problem that needs addressing as its very unrealistic, but completely understandable.
There are many choices of M1911 on the marked. De-acts are fairly easy to find for sale, but very expensive, simply as this is such an iconic gun that served during WW1, WW2 and even many later wars.
Blank firers, there are lots of manufacturers of these in both 8mm and a few in 9mm. There are some interesting ones to avoid. Bruni used to be famous for their exploding hand guns! Not something to be proud of. Currently Bruni have addressed this and the new currently being produced M1911s don't have a habit of doing this... however they are pretty much cock three times, fire twice.... if your lucky. They hammer doesn't seem to quite have the punch to strike the cap hard enough each time. Annoying, but you can live with this for the price. Kimar costs a tiny bit more. There isn't much between them, I honestly don't know anything about the Kimar, I haven't used one. There are some other older not currently being manufactured guns, some of these have held up well, others do interesting things... a friend of mine purchased an older M1911 unknown maker, during a battle at War & Peace one year, he squeezed the trigger once, but something happened inside the gun, something broken and the semi automatic hand gun turned into a fully automatic weapon that was unstoppable. Luckily it only held about 8 rounds... so not too much of a problem. However, one hell of a shock!!! I did once own a 9mm version, it was a front venter, so frowned upon by some, however it was a semi blocked barrel so still legal as this cannot be removed and ran the full length of the barrel. It was one hell of a cannon! But rather an ugly representation of the M1911.
Denix again make reproduction M1911s, I have no idea the purposes of these as they are almost the same price as a blank firer. Based on their usual build quality its probably over priced cheaply made tat, when you compare that to the solid metal construction of a blank firer you have to wonder if anyone buys them. As well as these reproductions, there are plenty of airsoft M1911s out there. Some of these are really stunning pieces, metal and wood finish, some are of course crap cheap looking pieces of sierra hotel India tango! Some of these can be purchased really cheap. I still have my old airsoft gun from when I used to do WW2 airsoft over 20 years ago! Sadly I broken it whilst falling down a huge bank and through a tree! It has never worked since, but still looks fantastic.
m1919 .30 machine gun
One of the more impressive guns to have on display is the Browning M1919 .30 'light' machine gun. If you want to bulk up, carrying this around all weekend will certainly help! These are normally owned by a re-enacting group, although I know a few individuals who own these. Sadly these are now really expensive, just like all deactivated original weapons, the value has gone through the roof!
These used to be found for around £500 and that was with the tripod and T/E gear. You can't even buy the bun on its own for that price now! However, depending on your budget, they would probably be a fantastic investment, even if these new laws about de-acts are frank ludicrous. From what I have seen as militaria shows, people are just carrying on the trade in all deactivated weapons.
There are blank firing M1919, but only those that you can hire out from specialised hire companies. Expect ro pay a lot for the hiring and then the amount of ammo you'll need on top will certainly cause your bank manager to cry.
There are a few 'prop' M1919s for sale, lots of these are made from wood, which look OK, but you'll have to look after them. As a few good bangs or drops and the wood will start to show through the black paint. A good cheap option for something that goes in the back ground though. In fact, if your handy with the tools, these shouldn't be that difficult to make yourself.
There is only one other option that I can think of, there are propane weapons, these are usually the mighty Browning .50 and also there are a few MG42's available. None of which are cheap, even when you see the price of the gun, you'll think "well its not too bad"... however, when you work out the price of the gas tanks, regulators, hoses, connectors.... its more than doubled! But, once you have it all, there is practically no ammo cost and once you have 'the mix' correct, its great to just blat away!
If you fancy challenge and the .30 cal is for you then no matter which version you go for you'll need the same things. A metal .30 ammo box, cloth ammo belt, a whole f*** tonne of .30-06 cartridges to put in the belt, from the gun to the box... I wouldn't even dream of filling the whole belt! That's 250 .30-06 rounds! Even at the good price of £1 each...... your still looking at £250... madness. As one of the members purchased a M1919 and a team was set up... never a shortage of volunteers to play with that, I started purchasing a few .30 ammo cans. Not only can I store items in them, but they'll look good littered about.
The first metal US .30-06 ammo can was marked "AMMUNITION CHEST CAL .30", and was the experimental/test can. Lots of these were painted white and used inside armoured vehicles. These had some unusual twist locking mechanism at either end of the can to open and the lid completely comes off. I only have one in my collection and it is a ground dug relic, but in surprisingly good condition.
After the idea of having a metal can as standard was adopted, a series of changes was made due to recommendations. The lid would hinge back and be much easier to open. This can was made in vast numbers by a fair few manufacturers, it was only changed slightly very late in world war 2 with the M1A1.
Post war brought along the M2 can. Lots of people like to claim these as British Made for the US Army during ww2. It probably makes them easier to sell if you invent a more interesting history and make them wartime, rather than postwar... However, the can is clearly marked M2, so this wartime idea just isn't even possible. The can was made by SF Ltd, a Canadian manufacturer and was used after the war when Canada obtain large amounts of American .30-06 arms and needed M2 ammunition for them. The main reason for the change in ammunition needed was that post ww2 they Canadian government declared the Vickers Machine Gun obsolete; and rightly so! This meant that a replacement needed to be found and the M1919 had proven itself in combat, was made by their neighbour and so a logical and simple choice. A company was then found to manufacture the cans, the cans were marked with 'US', not because the can was going to be used by the American military, but as it went with the American M1919.
Soldier of Fortune sell these 'British Made WW2 .30 Ammo cans" at £50 a pop, don't be fooled. Its post war Canadian... of course lots of people who own these have no idea what they really are. Hopefully this will shed some light on them.
M2, 60MM MORTAR
If carrying the .30 cal isn't bad enough, you'll need to convince at least one other person, ideally 2 people to form a mortar team. The mortar is awkward and crazy heavy, not something that really works well with just one soldier. It's called a team or crew weapon for a reason. However, if you can get a team together and work out a routine and pull if off, a simple display can look really impressive.
The original mortars can be found if you look around hard enough. I wouldn't have a clue on prices, but expect to need big pockets. Again, if your technically minded, most of the mortar is a series of different sized metal tubes, so it maybe possible to create a good reproduction your self.
I'm sure I have seen blank firing mortars being made by one company, no idea for the life of me who it was, but I'm sure I can find out if anyone needs me too. This would be a great addition to any display and a great asset to a group.
YAY, thanks Harry for telling me about http://www.elitemilitaria.co.uk/ who make not only a blank firing 60mm Mortar but also the Bazooka below. Mortar comes ready use and with 3 rounds for £425. Which seems a bit on the costly side, but then again, there is a lot of work to those metal parts.
m1, m1a1 - Launcher, rocket (BAZOOKA)
The M1 and M1A1 bazookas were the only real defence against tanks for many of the airborne units, even more so on that first jump into Normandy. The weapon was fairly effective, like all these style of weapons the reload time, isn't great, so if you miss with first rocket... you may not get a second chance! The rocket had to be connected to two electric terminals on the box at the rear of the bazooka. A small electric circuit would be completed when the trigger was squeezed and thus they rocket would be fired. A rather cumbersome thing to have to prepare under fire and in a rush.
The bazookas are fairly easy to obtain for re-enactors, yet surprisingly you never seen anyone with them. Despite there being some fairly commonly seen photographs of troopers on the way to Normandy with a bazooka.
All the ones available that I have ever seen have always been modern reproductions. SOF used to sell these, there are also kits you buy to assemble your own. To be completely honest, if you've ever done any welding or metal work, these can't be difficult to make. After all, the bulk of this is just a large metal tube.
Above - shows Pvt Brown and T/5 Murray test firing the bazooka. This was it's very first outing into the wild.
It would certainly make an interesting project, should anyone take up this challenge, please let me know, I would love to see your progress and the same with other project. You'll soon learn that re-enactors will always be creating and producing all sorts of things, from ID card, flags, signs and replica weapons.
I have always thought about using an alert mine that fires blank 12 gauge shotgun rounds inside one of the SOF M1A1 Bazookas and fixing it in place and fixing a firing method. After speaking with Harry Brown; a potential new recruit tonight whom I have known for a good few years, he found online a company making blank firing versions! Complete with electric firing mechanism and three 'rounds' for £299. That's not bad for something that is out of the box and ready to use. Have a look on http://www.elitemilitaria.co.uk/ website for more details, although they don't really say much... what is there too say though!
I almost didn't include this rifle on the website, mainly as this antique from World War One, although deadly accurate was soon all but 100% phased out. However because of its remarkable accuracy, some of these were kept in service and given to the best 'marksman'; or 'snipers' if you must insist on calling them that. These were seldom seen being used, so please don't everyone start getting these and all being 'Snipers' this is not 'Call of friggin Duty'.
Right - This Airborne trooper wears the M42 jump suit, if you look really closely you can just make out the 509th PIR insignia painted on the side. So he was a member of the 101st, so that rules out any myths that these were not given to members of the 101st. Another interesting point to note is that he carries a leather binocular case, so a nice addition to carry should you opt to carry this unusual weapon. He has rigger pouches on his belt, but I would imagine that most would have worn the usually rifle belt.
Below, the photo below shows again the 1903 Springfield with scope being carried during World War 2, this time in Europe. Despite being bolt action and only having a 5 round stripper clip. This soldier has his rifle belt and at least one bandoleer carrying extra ammunition.
However, despite these being a very interest thing to portray, finding yourself a nice M1903 Springfield on its own, even without the scope will probably be a little tricky. As you can already imagine, a deactivated one is going to be costly. Anything with that can legitimately contain the word 'sniper' in the title of anything for sale will automatically be worth and extra £500, combine that with the fact that these will appeal to collections from both world wars and that re-enactors of both world wars will want them also... there is quite a high demand! On top of that they are a fairly nice looking weapon! So even having one hanging on the wall looks great. So unless you have extremely deep pockets, which to be honest even if you did, an original early spec M1 Garand would probably be more tempting than this relic from the previous war...
The bad news!
As far as I know there are no companies making M1903 replicas... Even Denix don't make one, although I would rather they didn't make any of the guns they do!
The good news!
I did see a few of those at the last militaria fair and they were not kitted out as WW2 sniper rifles with scopes, but this is something that you maybe able to sort yourself.
If you do go down this route and you get an A-Class, do not forget to get the RIFLE marksman award. As this will simply not make sense to your impression if you don't.