Tribute to Earl Matsuoka

Remembering EARL MATSUOKA…

EARL MATSUOKA, former long-time HHAA member, passed away peacefully after a long illness on June 9, 2011.  Earl was a nationally recognized stock maker, wood restoration icon, and master custom flintlock maker.  His re-stocking of fine, double-barreled shotguns has been featured in national publications.  Earl’s interests even extended to the premier Las Vegas Antique Arms Show where he displayed his outstanding work under his dba, Ohana Antiques.  His wood restorations include artifacts (non-firearm) at the Bishop Museum.  Many of us have handled his superbly built, Yeager flintlock rifles. His skill in fine-tuning a flintlock resulted in extreme fast lock time… so fast that Earl’s flintlocks could be fired upside down!

Thirteen years ago, Earl wrote a 5-part series about flintlocks which was published in the HHAA Newsletter:  Part I — Why Choose a Flintlock?;Part II — Making Your Flintlock Work; Part III — Making Your Flintlock Fail-Safe; Part IV — A Reliable Flintlock in Wet Weather; and Part V — Flint Knapping for Flintlocks.  These were printed in the February, March, May, June, and July 1998 issues, respectively and reprinted after his death.

Original or Reproduction Percussion Revolver ?

by Darryl Choy

Is it an original cap and ball revolver or a modern foreign reproduction? To the true collector of original 19th century percussion revolvers this is an elementary no brainier. For those of us new to cap and ball revolvers it’s a lot more difficult and compounded by the disinformation, including incorrect information from reproduction retailers and wholesalers such as Cabela’s, EMF etc.

1. Virtually all reproduction revolvers are marked “Black Powder” or “Black Powder Only” No original revolvers have this marking since smokeless powder did not commercially exist in the mid-1800s and such a warning would have been meaningless. Such a warning on a revolver is a dead give away that it is a modern reproduction.

2. Virtually all reproduction revolvers are made in Italy (and are so marked) and have a host of Italian proof markings. Two upper case letters in a box is the code for the year the revolver was proofed. “Star over a shield” is the proof house coat of arms and the “star over PN” is the actual Italian black powder proof marks. If these marks appear on the revolver anywhere on the barrel, frame and/or the cylinder it is a modern Italian reproduction most likely made by Uberti, Pietta, Armi San Marco or Armi San Paola.

3. Any brass framed Colt or Remington are reproductions. The only original brass cap and ball revolvers are the CSA Griswold and Gunnison in .36, Spiller and Bur in .36, T.W. Cofer in .36 and Schneider and Glassick in .36. The Remington New Model Pocket first type in .31 with a spur trigger was also of brass.
4. Serious Civil War reenactors have been “defarbing” reproduction arms. This entails carefully removing all modern markings and imparting a worn patina finish to a modern reproduction firearm. Some are done so well it is difficult to determine if it is a copy at first examination. However, virtually all reproduction revolvers are metric.
5. Revolvers marked with model names such as 1847 Walker, 1860 Army, 1851 Navy, 1849 Pocket, 1858 Remington are reproductions. Original revolvers do not have such markings.
6. Modern reproductions have been manufactured since the late 1950s. A great may were well used and poorly cared for. Improper cleaning resulted in considerable rust and lost of bluing. They may look old and original, but are not. Look for the tell tale signs.

Colt Percussion Revolvers 101


by Darryl Choy

The following is a very general descriptive outline of the original twelve basic Colt cap and ball revolvers. Most original, second and third generation and Italian reproduction Colts are not marked with the model and year, as they are known by today. This outline should be helpful to a non-Colt collector in identifying these revolvers that may be encountered at a gun show.

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The Lee Enfield No. 1 Mark VI

The Lee Enfield No.1 Mark VI

(or, How The Most Interesting Things Happen If You Hang Around The Range)

by TM

Originally Published 2/2002

I’d like to share something about a neat rifle that just fell into my lap, a Lee Enfield No.1 Mark VI. Lee Enfields are “interesting”.  In British service from 1888 through 1992, a most tumultuous period in human history, the Lee Enfield’s career can be compared to the equally historic “Brown Bess”. Only by constant “tweaking” could the Brits get so much useful life out of the basic action. The particular rifle under discussion represents design evolution into the No.4of World War II fame. First, some background.

In the aftermath of WWI, the British began to upgrade their small arms. The basic rifle, No.1 Mark III, had served well enough, but the rifle was expensive to manufacture, had a light weight barrel which gave nasty groups when heated, did not fire rifle grenades all that well, and could use better sights. But the trenches had proven the soundness of the the basic design. Obviously, a semi-automatic rifle would have been even better, and while some steps were taken along that path, further development of the bolt action rifle was more successful.

During 1922-1924, approximately 20,000 Mark Vs. were made at Il.S.A.F. Enfield. (The Mark IV was a .22 rimfire trainer.) The Mark V was not approved for production. But from this came another prototype, the Mark VI.

Still an evolutionary design, many items on the Mark VI are similar to the SMLE. According to Ian Skennerton’s “The Lee Enfield Story”, exactly 1,025 Mark VI’s were manufactured by RASF Enfield between 1929 and 1931. Trial rifles were allocated for troop trials at the Small Arms School at Hythe, the 3rd Carbineers and the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. After mid-1931, the Mark VI was no more and all further test/trial rifles were designated as the No.4.

(For Springfield MI903 aficionados. trial rifles were made in 1901 and 1902 and evaluated at 10 installations. For something as significant as a battle rifle, it ‘s traditionally been prudent to do extensive field evaluation and troop tests. The M16’s history shows the wisdom of this practice.)

So now,the rifle in question: From a distance, this rifle looks exactly like a No.4 with blued finish and better wood. Closeup: the stock is all walnut and lacks the brass disc. The butt plate is bronze (a test rifle feature),not brass. The receiver is set up for a magazine cut-off (unfortunately missing). The left side of the receiver looks almost exactly like a SMLE. There is a machined recess of the safety. The rear sight is very similar to the No.4, BUT the battle sight’ aperture is much smaller and its front portion has a machined “shadowbox”, making it very effective. The precision ladder sight has a max elevation of 1,300 yards. The bolster is unique. (Refer to illustration.) This identifying information is NOT to be found on war production or post-war No. 4’5. Information for those rifles is on the left side of the receiver. The “GR” refers to King George V, who died in 1936. Note the 1930 date and that the original nomenclature is crossed out, which per Skennerton, was standard practice when the rifle was re-issued in WWII. The serial number has also been altered per Ministry of Defense (MOD) practice, but the original serial number was simply reversed. This is a two-digit rifle! Did I mention that the metal work is blued, and that the “G R” stamping is all over the receiver, barrel bands and front sight? The trigger is GROOVED, not smooth as is normal practice for No .4s. The front sight blade’s base has hand-stamped numbers (for a standard WWII height) on its right side and a crown on the left. The blade is thicker than the No. 4’s u well, making it much more visible for older eyes. The stock bas the dings expected from an issue rifle, and the serial number is stamped just above the stacking swivel. The upper band appears to be a brass sheet, but more importantly, is SOLID. Not at all like the NO.4.

One last nice thing: just behind the trigger guard on the small of the stock is stamped: “NO.1 MK VI”. The stock seems to be original to the rifle. Not so nice things: The front sight wings (foresight protector), while blued, is not “waisted” (ala P14) as it should be. Also, the bolt cocking piece is straight. Per Skennerton and MAl Reynolds (author of “The Lee Enfield”), the trial cocking piece was button shaped (ala SMLE). The bolt may be replacement as it tends to overdrive when operated. Overall, the rifle appears to be hand finished and the trigger shows signs of being hand fitted.

Research indicates that the trial rifles were really one of a kind. Example: Skennerton provides photos of the trial rifles and my particular rifle does not have the stock checkering shown. However, the NRA’s “British Enfield Rifles”,authored by Reynolds, shows my rifle, EXCEPT that it has a unit disc on the butt stock. I go with Reynolds since he actually was involved with the development of the No.4 from 1941 on. However, if my rifle was issued to the Small Anns School there would have been no need for unit marking. And so it goes.

Since this is the HHAA, what it’s like to shoot?! My limited tests repeat the 1931 test results. The sights and trigger make this a sweet shooting rifle. The action is not timed: WWII stripper clips work but don’t consistently eject on chambering the first round. Groups open up after more than 5 rounds are fired and tend towards 2 O’clock. The second trial run in 1931 (the FIRST No. 4s by designation) had strengthened and higher left receiver walls to correct this problem. Perhaps further load development will cure the wandering zero. Incidentally, this “receiver wall” may account for the rifle’s survival. Skennerton reports that the first official (1931) No. 4’s were converted to snipers after the debacle in France. Their receiver walls are noticeably higher and flatter and amenable to scope mounting. They were not built for accuracy but being handmade, were certainly better than what was coming off the production line. Skennerton also states that while the ex­ trial rifles were all taken into service during WWII, the MOD ordered them withdrawn and scrapped in the mid-1950’s as they contained components which were not generally interchangeable.

How this particular bit of history escaped and arrived here is another story. Hard to see how a brand new rifle could more interesting than this old piece. Dick Keogh got it right!

A Visit with an Israeli Arms Collecting Society

A Visit with an Israeli Arms Collecting Society


Originally Published  4/2001

In December of last year, I was invited by Israel’s Society of Ethnographic and Historical Edged Weapons Collectors to address their general membership meeting with a lecture on Chinese edged weapons of the late imperial period (14th century til 1911). The Society, numbering about 160 members, is the only arms collectors’ organization in the country. It has an enthusiastic membership, which collects and studies bladed implements from all periods and cultures. Stone Age to 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Filipino daggers and swords to Jewish kosher butcher knives and ritual circumcision implements. When it comes to sharp things, you name it, they’ve got it.  Members connect with the field in various ways, not just by merely collecting. There’s a retired auto dealer who, as a self-taught archaeologist, has published in a number of scholarly journals. Some guys are martial artists. One fellow comes from a family of knife makers, sharpeners, and retailers. A couple ofmembers are skilled restorers. The one thing that all ofthem share is a thirst for knowledge. The year before, a curator from London’s Wallace Collection came out to speak. It’s hoped that this will be an annual tradition from now on.

It’s fortunate that most Israelis learn English or some European language in school, because the country is so small (6 million) that there isn’t enough demand by local collectors for publishers to print many books on arms collecting. Enthusiasts have to rely on foreign books and magazines, mostly US or European.

There also isn’t any GUN collectors’ organization in the country. There are a number of sports hooting clubs,but none devoted to the study of historic arms. I was told that most Israelis are rather unsentimental about firearms-they are mainly seen as tools. Perhaps the country is too young, and prior to the formation of the State of Israel, most diaspora Jews did not have the tradition of bearing arms. The ownership of any guns using metallic cartridges is restricted to permit holders. An applicant for a permit must be interviewed by police officials, and can be turned down for subjective reasons. However, a gun permit can easily be obtained during military service, and once obtained, call be renewed indefinitely after discharge. Since all able bodied citizens (with the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from a few denominations) must perform military service, the opportunity for getting a gun permit is widely available. Quite a few people take advantage ofit, including many members ofthe edged weapons society.

I got a chance to see a number of very fine private collections during my one­ week stay. For the lecture, I brought along some slides and transparencies, and got to cull the best pieces from the collections to highlight during the presentation. A few members are businessmen who used to travel to China regularly, and managed to indulge their hobby there. This opportunity, and the fact that they were knowledgeable connoisseurs, means they have some pretty fine pieces in their collections.

The original plan was for me to give a 90 minute presentation at the meeting. Later, a group of advanced collectors asked for a small discussion seminar at someone’s home, on the influence of Chinese martial traditions on Vietnam and Korea. The host happened to have a surprising number of Vietnamese swords and pole arms, and a rare Korean sword, and wanted more information on them. After jawboning those to death, we ended up digressing into the development of Cossack shashkas and Hungarian hussar sabers when members brought out their own pieces to show around.

The most popular field is bayonets and military knives. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. There isn’t much of the older European material there. Despite Israel being the heartland of the Crusader kingdoms and having a dry climate favorable to the long term preservation of artifacts, there are almost no medieval European swords in the country. Oriental weapons are more popular, and as can be expected, most of the material is Arab and Ottoman Turkish. However, Indian and Southeast Asian blades are enthusiastically collected, and there is at least one world-class collection of African knives.

Annual membership in the Society is about $100 per year. The dues sound kind of expensive by HHAA standards, but they include a full dinner at each meeting and cover the travel expenses of overseas lecturers. There are ten meetings annually, at a hotel in a resort town near Tel Aviv. Meetings start with a trading session (there are no arms-related shows in the country) which lasts maybe an hour, followed by a kosher buffet dinner. After that is a pretty brief business meeting, followed by a break. Then there’s a mini-auction (five or six items, the club taking a cut on the proceeds), and then the keynote lecture or a series of short “show and tell” presentations. The evening finishes up with more horsetrading, tall tales, and the like until the hotel banquet staff kicks everyone out because they want to close down and go home.

All in all, I was most impressed by the level of enthusiasm in this Israeli club, and the fact that it attracts aficionadoes of all ages. It is the nearest thing to the HHAA, and is far higher than the old-fart stodginess I’ve seen in the few arms collecting societies I’ve run into here on the Mainland.

1/6 scale action figure Update

1/6 Scale Action Figure Update

by Cyrus Chun

1/6 scale action figure collecting has grown tremendously in the past few years. Action figures,once relegated to action & adventure and science fiction (Sci-Fi), now includes historical figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, Ben Franklin, George Washington, U.S. Civil War, WWI, WWII, Knights and even a Roman soldier.

Some companies have taken the word “action” literally. Dragon(Dragon Models LTD or DML) a manufacturer of plastic historical WWII model kits has entered the competitive race with a basic action figure that has over 30 articulated joints. This figure can be posed lifo-like as opposed to the stiff “G.I. Joe” type made by Hasbro and mimic by 21 Century, Marx, Action Man, Cotswold and others. Big toy retailers like ToysRUs, K-Mart, Kay Bees, FAO Schwartz and Wal-Mart also are involved by special ordering certain figures or sets as their “store exclusives”, e.g., a K-Mart set I saw on the Mainland in Tennessee) during TDY; it was an Iwo Jima diorama scene set wlth participating Marines raising the US flag on Mt Shirabachi. It was unbelievable and cost a mere $250.00.

In 1999 21st Century released vehicles for their figures; Schwimmwagen, Kettenkrad, Indian motorcycle, Harley-Davidson motorcycle w/rider, AH Littlebird helicopter and a 1942 Willys Jeep. Hasbro also released an Indian motorcycle and a Harley-Davidson Commemorative w/ 1930’s style dispatch rider.

Year 2000 promises to bring more surprises to the world of 1/6* scale action ftgure collecting: .21111 CeDtga: Kubelwagen, M5 Stewart Tank, BMW motorcycle w/sidecar (foys R Us exclusive), US Bradley tank, various U.S. and foreign army troops and a US WWII tanker figure (Kay Bee exclusive), Yellow 8gbmariae: panzer Stunngeschutze commander (whose articulation would rival Dragon’s); DIMOD: Jackie Chan, u.s. G.I. (Steve), 2 female figures (Diplomatic Service and NYPD sniper) plus at least 20 more figures. Co1swold: plan to release 1- 2 new figures per month up to 24 for the year.

This is just some examples of manufacturers and retailers. There are hundreds of cottage industries that are devoted to custom uniforms, insignias, vehicles, diorama sets, etc. To give an idea as to the immensity of a 1/6th scale vehicle, a Tiger I Tank would measure 44″ long x 22″ wide x 19″ high. This tank is currently available which I believe can hold all five crewmen (no idea if its 88mm gun can fire .22 LR rounds). For Year 2001, 21-Century already has built a production prototype of the ME-109.

If you are interested in this field of collecting, I can help point you to the sources for customizing, however, I will not order the items for you.

Cyrus Chun  Yo, Joel!!

To Restore or not to Restore


To restore or not to restore, that is the question. Many begining collectors get the bug of wanting pristine weapons. It all depends on what you want; factory issue, used G .I., arsenal refinished, arsenal rebuild, etc. The best advice I have is to do a lot of research. You’ll find main expense and asset gun collection is its reference library. Even an obsure note such as field unit armories will provide valuable insight on weapon conversions, i.e., USMC 1903 . sniper rifles. Always remember, will the restoration enhance the value of the weapon or devalue it. Will it affect it’s resale price? Sometimes it is unwise to refinish a gun. But the bottom line is do your research, keep good notes and do it right the first time. You will be less frustrated and. discouraged. Remember most military weapons are over 50 years old and ain’t a spring  chicken. Good luck and Happy Collecting!

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