The purpose of a military trainer

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The history of airguns

Airguns as military trainers

This report covers:

  • The first trainers
  • Model trains
  • Bayonet
  • World War II
  • MacGlashan Aerial Gunnery trainer
  • Hakim
  • Quick Kill
  • What else?
  • Many connotations

I was going to report on several military trainers today and it dawned on me that maybe we don’t all think of them in the same way. What is a military trainer? Why do they exist? Or, do they have more than one purpose? Once we better understand what they are, my future reports will make more sense.

The first trainers

The earliest military trainers are probably the half-scale muskets that officers had custom-made for their sons. I mentioned this in an earlier report. They were smaller than the muskets they resembled, but very close copies. They existed for multiple purposes. First, they were to allow the boy to learn the manual of arms while holding something very heavy and real. Second, they allowed the boy to shoot with a suitably sized weapon. And finally, I believe these trainers were talismans that the fathers wanted their sons to get used to holding — like batons of office. Don’t overlook the importance of that. It’s like a cowboy father getting his son his first pair of working boots. It’s a small rite of passage.

Model trains

What do model trains have to do with guns? Not much, except the concept of train models shows us that people can enjoy the technology even when they cannot own it or use it directly. Such is the case with airguns and firearms. In World War I the public was very interested in the technology of war, though they didn’t care for the war, itself. Tinplate models of early tanks powered by clockwork mechanisms rumbled around little boys’ bedrooms. And Daisy’s Number 40 military model that came out during WW I (1916) had a bayonet and looked similar to the Springfield rifle of the day. It sold for $5 at a time when most BB guns were less than half that. Daisy thought it just looked like five dollars.

Daisy 40
Daisy’s Number 40 military model came with a bayonet and sling.

Bayonet

The Number 40 came with a blunt metal bayonet. It had a rubber tip, but could still do damage if used incorrectly. Naturally parents removed the bayonets and stored them for safekeeping, so most Number 40s today are missing them. There has been a brisk aftermarket trade in the reproduction of bayonets over the past 40 years, so it pays to know what the real deal looks like. It can double the value of a gun, while a repop just makes the gun look nicer.

World War II

Not to be outdone, Daisy made a very few Number 140 Defender BB guns in 1942. These had a bolt handle that doubled as an automatic safety, and they came with a web sling. No bayonet, though. Daisy learned their lesson years before!

I think it odd that Daisy stuck to the bolt action design, despite the tremendous national fascination with the semiautomatic Garand. But perhaps they felt that rifle was too difficult to copy at the time.

Daisy 140 Defender
Daisy’s Number 140 Defender was so realistic that it had a fake bolt handle that was an automatic safety. It also had a web sling, but no bayonet because Daisy had learned!

Both these Daisys were civilian models that sold because of their military styling. There weren’t real military trainers. No military units had them for any purpose. They just fall into the trainer category because of their appearance. So appearance is another way to categorize a military training airgun.

In writing this short explanation of airguns that are classified as military but never were, I am bypassing a good many other airguns that also look military but were made strictly for the civilian market. The Webley Mark II Service rifle that had interchangeable barrels in the 3 popular pellet calibers (.177, .22 and .25) is one example that comes to mind. In the case of the Mark II Service, even the name was suggestive of a military connection!

Webley Mark II Service
Webley Mark II Service looks military and even has the right name.

The Mark II Service cocks and fires like the Webley air pistols. It is beyond quaint-looking and has been on my bucket list for over 20 years. If I ever find one I can afford, I will do a series of reports for you.

In Germany, Haenel made their model 28 air pistol that resembles a Luger. Everyone seeing one for the first time just assumes it had a military application. I have even read articles that suggest such a use, though I have never found any evidence to support that theory.

Haenel pistol
I bought this well-worn Haenel model 28 pistol just because I liked the feel. Most people classify it as a military trainer and Luger substitute, though there is no evidence it was ever used that way.

I have owned a couple Haenel model 28s and can tell you they weigh more than the Luger they resemble. They are made from steel parts and have a heft that strongly suggests a military origin. However, as much as Haenel must have wanted that, I have never found a connection with any military activity and this air pistol.

MacGlashan Aerial Gunnery trainer

Then there are the airguns that really were built as trainers for the military. One popular model that comes up often is the MacGlashan aerial gunnery trainer used by the Army Air Corps in World War II to teach basic gunnery skills to new airmen. Designed and built by Paul MacGlashan in Long Beach, California, the MacGlashans were meant to resemble the .30 caliber Browning 1919A4 Light Machine Gun.

MacGlashan
This MacGlashan E3 is set to fire electrically.

They fired BBs automatically at a cyclic rate of 300-500 rpm, depending on the air pressure used. They could be set up to fire either manually with a realistic butterfly trigger or by electric solenoid.

MacGlashans are popular among airgun collectors because they are relatively easy to put into service. They cost very little to shoot because the ammo is BBs, which is always a plus for a full-auto gun.

MacGlashans are but one of many airgun trainers used by U.S. forces during World War II. Others, like the “Hotpoint” from the Edison General Electric Appliance Company, shot larger .375-caliber Bakelite balls that are not so easy to find today. The Hotpoint copies the popular Browning M2 heavy machine gun, and is very nearly the same size! This one is a collectible that doesn’t get used as much.

Hakim

After the war, Egypt purchased the design rights and the manufacturing tooling for the Swedish AG-42 Ljungman semiautomatic rifle. The Swedes built it in their own 6.5 Mauser caliber, but the Egyptians, having come into a host of abandoned 8mm Mauser ammo, decided to convert it to fire that round. Thus was born the gun many call the Egyptian Garand.

The Swedes sent technical personnel to Egypt to assist with the construction of the factory and possibly consult on the modification of the rifle. All I know for certain is the Hakim rifle design is advanced from the Ljungman.

In 1954 the Egyptians contracted with Anschütz to build 2800 .22-caliber underlever pellet rifle trainers for their new Hakims. They also contracted with Beretta to make a 10-shot semiautomaic .22 rimfire trainer that’s still on my bucket list. The trainer was to teach basic rifle marksmanship to soldiers without the cost of full power battle ammo.

Hakim
The Hakim trainer was made in 1954 by Anschütz. It’s a single shot underlever spring piston rifle.

Quick Kill

We shouldn’t leave this subject without mentioning the Daisy Quick Kill program of the Viet Nam War. This trainer is an example of a gun that followed a novel approach to training. Instinct Shooting has never been a military program in this country, and indeed, it isn’t one today. But in Viet Nam our soldiers were encountering ambushes unlike any they were used to.

Once they analyzed the threat, the military developed training to “beat the ‘bush.” Soldiers were trained to attack directly into the oncoming fire — a highly unnatural response, yet one that met with initial success. Instinct shooting was needed to teach the soldier to shoot without relying on his sights, which was necessary for this tactic to work.

Once the enemy recovered from the initial shock of being attacked by their targets, however, they learned to mine and boobytrap the ground between them and their targets and beating the bush turned back on the attackers. Instinct shooting training passed into history, and airgun collectors began snapping up the thousands of special Daisy model 2299 models Daisy made for this purpose.

We have just looked a a few training airguns that were used by the military. There are many more from countries around the world. And I will show you some of those in future history reports. But the question is — have we covered the subject of military trainers thoroughly yet? I think not.

What else?

There is one more category of trainer that needs to be addressed. It is those airguns that were used by the military in a semi-official role. There was no plan for them like there was for the MacGlashan and the Hakim. They simply filled a need when the military looked around for something they lacked.

We see this a lot in the rimfire world. The U.S. Army bought up tens of thousands of Mossberg bolt action target rifles when they entered WW II and discovered they hadn’t kept pace in the training rifle department. The M2 Springfield was a purpose-built target rifle built on the 1903 Springfield receiver (initially) and converted to use the much smaller .22 long rifle cartridge. The Army used the M2 and the 1922 that preceded it in the decades leading up to WW II, but when the size of the force expanded by several orders of magnitude in a short time, there weren’t enough M2s to go around. So Mossberg, who happened to have some target models that were reasonably priced, was contacted.

The British military was even farther out of touch in the target rifle department, so they tacked on thousands more sales to the U.S. Army requirements. I’m sure the management at Mossberg was dancing in the streets.

But there were no airgun trainers at this time. In the 1960s the U.S. Air Force would buy several hundred Crosman model 160s target rifles to use a trainers, but in 1941 there was nothing like that.

As long as we are talking about other military applications for airguns, though, I would be remiss if I did not point out the OSS purchase of several hundred Crosman 101 pneumatic rifles and one million rounds of .22-caliber lead balls for purposes they never revealed. Conspiracy theorists have guessed they were used for silent assassinations — the OSS being the nastier parent of the CIA.

Crosman-101
The Crosman 101 pneumatic rifle was purchased by the OSS during WW II for purposed that have never been specified.

Others have guessed the rifles were gifts for tribal chieftains in the southeast Asian jungles. They would be formidable foraging guns.

Many connotations

Today we have looked at the many different definitions of a military trainer. Now that you understand these definitions, the subject should seem easier to understand when we encounter it again.

55 thoughts on “The purpose of a military trainer





  1. I would hope the OSS Crosman 101 with lead balls was parachuted into occupied Europe to the anti Nazi guerrillas. I can’t think of anyone in the history of human conflict who had greater need of a relatively compact, light, quiet firearm training system.


    • The Allies planned to smuggle huge numbers of the FB-45 Liberator assassination pistols into France for use in The Resistance, but I remember reading that the plan was never really carried out. Too tough to get them into France and be sure they ended up in the right hands, perhaps.

      Vive La Résistance!

      Michael


  2. I have two things, BB.

    First, I have heard of the Crosman 101, but nothing more than that. I would love a report on that if you have the rifle available. If you don’t have the rifle for a full report, it would be appreciated if you could just tell us a bit more about it.

    Secondly, I would suggest you make a long list of bucket guns and publish then here on your blog. Maybe your readers would be nice enough to lend them to you for a report.

    Thanks for the great article.
    Rob


    • Rob,

      I have looked at the Crosman 101 already.

      /blog/2005/12/crosman-101-multi-pump-pneumatic/

      However, that was 10 years ago and the report isn’t very informative. Maybe I could do a review of this vintage airgun in the history series? I would compress the review into 2 reports, but cover the same ground as I normally do in three.

      B.B.


      • Well, it figured if I had heard something of the Crosman 101–I heard it here. I should have googled it first.

        It sounds like some people on the net think it was an actual fighting rifle. Surely, it was far too weak…unless you were at war with rodents.


        • The 101 is the gun that proved valve lock to be a problem in the multi pump design so smart shooters were stopping pumping just before valve lock and wringing all the power from them when necessary.
          Yes, it was a little light for assassination attempts but it was better than a butter knife.


      • Could you please give a quick guide to recognition of the different variations or link to one of your older reports that does? I’ve wanted one since my 392 was giving me accuracy fits.


  3. BB and Fellow Airgunners
    A very interesting article covering a side of airguns I hardly new existed. The Webley Mk2, and Hakim Trainer are the two airguns that caught my eye. I do believe you have covered the Hakim, however the Webley seems new to me. Where else can one find information about this side of our sport in such detail?
    Sometimes I think I have seen all I need to know about airguns, and then BB enlightens us with a new/old aspect of airguns that beg further investigation.
    Thanks BB for never letting this wonderful sport get humdrum by always covering the latest model uber airgun offering in your blog. I never knew my chosen sport had such a rich, and diverse history.
    Ciao
    Titus.


  4. I once saw a Mk II Webley Service having been given a full Venom treatment, i couldn’t make up my mind if it was sacrilege or a thing of wonder. In the the end i opted for the second, that rifle looked awesome. That air rifle has also been on my bucket list since i saw my first one that my Grand dad owned when i was a wee nipper.

    The ones that are worth top dollar are the ones with full matching serial numbers and there is a good chance that they were imported into the US by Stoeger like the did with the Webley pistols. Loving the new direction your blog has been taking lately, keep it up.

    All the best,

    Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe


    • Sir Nigel, so good to see you post. I visit your website periodically. You are the man who taught me what busking is. I have a co-worker who recently made a trip to London. Lots of photos wish buskers. Sadly, some regarded them as annoyances. Surly we have places where many busk but aside from New York City I can’t think of any.

      ~ken



  5. B.B.,

    Ah, I love these history reports!

    Of course the connection between the military trainers of the past to the CO2 blowback pistols of today is pretty compelling. Just like the military trainers the CO2 replicas are less dangerous, use much cheaper ammunition, and give the user a decent way to practice without having to go to a range, pay fees, clean the firearm, etc.

    What was old is new again.

    Michael


  6. Love the posts, B.B. Most of what you have posted on the history of airguns has been new to me, more so for the military trainers. I do wish I could get my hands on a Crosman 101 pneumatic. In a previous post you mentioned the Paris Kadet 500 BB gun. I didn’t respond at the time, but I want to add the Kadets of America to the military training list.

    It wasn’t the BB gun that I wanted back then. It was the K23 Trainerrifle (no space). I wanted to learn the drills and be a member of a drill team. I wanted to wear the uniform and be a full fledged member. All of this remained my fantasy for there was no way my family could afford any of it. I am posting a link to a page that I think succinctly presents the Kadets of America as it was around 1960 (about the middle of its lifespan).

    http://www.vintagekidstuff.com/kadets/kadest.html


    • Ken,

      I realize traveling is difficult for you, but you could have found a Crosman 101 at the Texas airgun show this year, I believe.

      If you decide to make the show in 2016, coordinate with Dennis Baker of Baker Airguns in Ohio. he had 4 tables at the show this year and if you tell him what you want I’m sure he will do his best to satisfy.

      B.B.


  7. BB,
    I just got the flyer from PA about the P08 WW2 edition and I just HAD to buy it!!! And then I got to thinking, have you tried the Excite lead BBs in yours yet? I was wondering how it would do with them. Maybe on your next test with those BBs you could include a few shots with the P08?

    Thanks
    Ryan


  8. B.B., I want to add a picture to your mention of the Quick Kill program. This link is to an article on Quick Kill, but also has a photo of the modified Daisy that looks like a comic book version of the M16. Of course the M16 was seen as comical by many because it had a plastic stock. Of course, it was still quite lethal.

    http://weaponsman.com/?p=20703

    ~ken


  9. Since I’ve been training to have both eyes open when the shot breaks I’ve noticed my head starts coming up into a more relaxed position which is problematic with a rear notch sight but devastating with a scope, just May be time to step back to a dot sight.



  10. Off topic:

    Pellet sorting continues! Last night — while watching the Royals victory over Houston!! Yay! — I sorted a tin of .22 cal RWS Superdome 14.5 gr. There were actually 256 in the 250ct. tin. Here’s the breakdown:

    5.49 mm – 2 pellets
    5.50 mm – 20 pellets
    5.51 mm – 147 pellets (2 x 14.2gr. 3 x 14.3gr. 95 x 14.4 gr. 25 x 14.5gr. 12 x 14.6gr. 8 x 14.7gr. 2 x 14.8gr.)
    5.52 mm – 87 pellets (5 x 14.3gr. 53 x 14.4gr. 17 x 14.5gr. 7 x 14.6gr. 5 x 14.7gr. )

    I only weighed the 5.51 and 5.52 mm since that’s where the greatest number of pellets fell. It looks like I will try out the 5.51 and 5.52mm 14.4 gr pellets to see how the head size affects performance.

    B.B., or anyone — have any input about what you think — or have experienced — that these particular pellets might work well out of? In .22 cal I have an RWS 54, a TX 200, an AA Pro Sport, and both an HW 90 & 100.

    Also, while sorting these I noticed that the skirts seem considerably thicker than what I see on JSBs or H & Ns. They almost appear to have a shorter, inner, double-wall. Any input on what that means for accuracy? I would appreciate any feedback you have.

    Thank you.

    Jim M.


    • Jim,

      I don’t have any experience with .22 pellet head sizes yet, but the guns you are using are some of the best out there. When you finish, you should know a lot.

      That thicker skirt means less potential for deformation in powerful springers.

      B.B.


      • B.B.,

        I wondered that — about the skirts. Is that necessarily good or bad? If the skirts are too thick, do you think that means they won’t engage the rifling enough? Or, would that thicker skirt be better for in-flight stabilization?

        Thanks!

        Jim M.


    • Jim M.,

      While I have not head or weight sorted the RWS 14.5’s, I will say that at {25 yds.},…they shot poorly (TX200) with the stock and HO tune,…..on the other hand,…they shot a 14mm. 10x group with the 12 fpe kit.

      Summary,…they seem to like a lower fps. Don’t expect them to shoot well with a stock TX200. It will be interesting to see what they do,….at least at 25 yds. if you can do that. You really need to to get out further if you can,….20-25yds.

      What is “poorly”,…..60-70mm with the stock and HO,…and 14mm with the 12fpe kit. About a 100fpe diff. If you remember, the stock and HO were close with the HO being a little higher.

      By the way,….nice “stable” of airguns there! 😉 Chris



      • Chris USA
        Ah but you forgot to say out of your Tx 200.

        You never know. They could be good in a different Tx. Air guns surprise me all the time. Just when you think you got them figured out they throw you a curve ball.


        • GF1,

          I mentioned it twice. You are right though, they could do well out of a different TX200. For the large differences I got,…I thought that it was worth mentioning. Chris


          • Chris USA
            I guess it was the comment about don’t expect them to shoot well out of a stock Tx. That made me think that you wouldn’t recommend them for somebody else to try in their gun.

            That’s what I was talking about.

            Anyway for the cocking arm for the 46 and its back shooting and good I might add. Also the black Talon SS I just got is doing nice. I used the Chairgun program and got low scope mounts and zeroed it at 35 yards with this one. Also did the Chairgun at 6 magnification this time. Much better results with this one than the first one I had.

            The first one back however many years ago it was when I got it. I used high mounts trying to help my line of sight when I rested my cheek on the bottle. So that put the scope way up above the barrel. Plus I was shooting at 12 and higher magnification with it plus I was zeroing at 50 yards cause that’s what I mostly shot at. Just wasn’t the right combination. Had to put to much hold under on it at closer distances than 50 yards.

            This one I got is doing nice. The most I have to put in it is a mildot at 15 yards and out at 60 yards. Well of course more mildots out past 60 yards. But way better than the other gun the way I had it set up.

            Again live and learn.


  11. GF1,

    Glad you got the 46 back up and running. The new Talon sounds nice and you got it set up better than before. Maybe a keeper? Cool. ( you do keep some of them, ehh?) 😉

    The RWS 14.5’s were the one’s that kept me guessing. They surprised me at 12fpe, but they just did not perform at stock and HO. I have said that I shoot good and not so good on different days. That difference was just to big to ignore. And like you told me, get out further. That’s why I suggested that Jim M. get out further. Like you said,…they can all look pretty good at closer distances.

    And you said it,…they will surprise you,…and,…Live and Learn..


    • Chris USA
      Yep I do keep them. And I also have went back and I have tryed guns throughout time that I have tryed in the past. Some gave me the same results I had in the past and some better results. At least I didn’t get worse results the second time around.

      But I have learned there is certain ones to stay away from. And maybe this time around I got a better idea of what I want from a air gun for the type of shooting I want to do.

      I still can’t believe how much I want one of those AirVenturi air shot guns. I guess thats all steming from my shot gunning as a kid. Plus I see they also sell the shot shell for it that is unloaded so you can load it as you like. That even makes it more interesting to me.

      Well at least maybe working all this overtime I’ll be able to get one. Still waiting for BB’s low power review on it though too. Might just give a respectable shot count and pattern if I load my own shot shells.

      Interesting time to be a air gunner that’s for sure.


  12. Fascinating. That electric-powered machine gun is cute. But what targets would it shoot at and how would the short distances simulate aerial gunnery? It sounds like they were imitating the training of German WWII snipers who used .22 rifles on little model villages. It looks like instinct shooting never got its due. While this kind of shooting would be useful in an ambush, I expect that it would be very useful elsewhere, especially in close-quarters battle where there is no time to aim. And I thought that the orthodox response to an ambush was still to charge into it.

    Something nastier than the CIA must be nasty indeed. Or perhaps the meaning is that the OSS was more involved in the field which was my understanding. But I thought that since 9/11, the CIA has expanded the use of field case officers. In fact, Jason Bourne originated that way in the book version. No idea why they would purchase a bunch of airguns. If it was for assassination, they could have used a silencer with greater lethality. If it was to impress primitive people in Southeast Asia, I’m sure that ended once the area was flooded with SKS and AK47 rifles in the Vietnam era.

    I still haven’t figured out who actually uses these trainers. In WWII, my understanding was that while Garands were in short supply, the army used Springfields for training. Whoever was issued a rimfire trainer must have been low on the totem pole. Maybe the Boy Scouts.

    Matt61


  13. I read many years ago that hundreds of Crosman 101’s were given to native allies in Burma during World WW II by the OSS. they were for foraging and set up to use round balls that could be made locally. I’ve searched but I can’t locate the reference.
    Also read that Marines used airguns liberated from shipboard recreation gear on Guadalcanal for quiet foraging.
    Lucky McDaniel invented Quick Kill as “instinct shooting” see book by that name by Mike Jennings. Also “Secrets to Shooting” by McDaniel and Reece and Army Manual TT23-71-1. The system works and backyard practice with it has helped my Trapp and Skeet shooting.


    • Fido3030,

      If you are interested in instinct shooting, read this:

      /blog/2006/10/instinct-shooting-with-a-bb-gun-part-2/

      and this:

      /blog/2015/10/the-rise-of-the-bb-gun-part-2/

      and this:

      /blog/2011/09/lucky-mcdaniel-instinct-shooting-trainer-outfit/

      B.B.


  14. Thank you! I first became interested in instinct shooting after reading an article on it by Lucian Cary in one of his books. It works, and is another reason for adults to play with BB guns!
    Thanks you for your response and all you do!


  15. I have a Hakim. Heavy big rifle with original leather sling. It’s nice but nothing I can’t live without. Due to age I don’t fire it much. Shoots nice and straight though.


Leave a Reply