[Video] 1974 Special Forces Foreign Weapons Demonstration

    Gunner Mark Shapiro fires a PKM

    Grab a drink, and maybe some popcorn, and settle in for an hour long presentation on Soviet, ComBloc and other foreign weapons with former Marine and small arms expert Harold Johnson.

    The footage shows a Special Forces Foreign Weapons demonstration at Fort Bragg from 1974 – a fun afternoon at the range. While the footage is a little fuzzy, the audio is clear and Johnson offers some fascinating contemporary insights.

    Gunner Mark Shapiro fires a British L4, with a FN MAG and vz.58 in the background

    Harold Johnson of the Foreign Science and Technology Center was also the author of the, once classified, ‘Small Arms Identification and Operation Guide – Eurasian Communist Countries’ published by the US Defence Intelligence Agency in 1968.

    Johnson begins his presentation by explaining the Soviet tactical doctrine and the strategic approach they are likely to take in the event of war. He goes on to explain how Soviet small arms doctrine feeds into this and how Communist Bloc weapons were designed to enable an attacking force to maintain momentum and achieve local superiority.

    Johnson proceeds to explain and demonstrate a series of Soviet small arms including the AKM, the RPK and PKM GPMG – which Johnson describes as “one of the best machine guns in the world”. Johnson then describes how the “Czech have asserted their independence” and developed their own family of weapons before demonstrating the vz.58 rifle and vz.59 medium machine gun – with its grip-cocking mechanism.

    Hal Johnson holds up a Czechoslovakian vz.58

    The demonstration then looks at Chinese weapons including the Type 64 integrally suppressed pistol (which Johnson claims was to be used to assassinate Vice President Hubert Humphrey in 1966) – sadly the pistol couldn’t be fired as the firing pin had been removed.

    Johnson with a Canadian C1 SLR

    Johnson then talks through a variety of NATO firearms including the FN FAL, CAL (5.56x45mm) and MAG, a Bren L4 (in 7.62x51mm), and the H&K G3. He then brings out two suppressed SMGs: a suppressed Sterling L34 and an early MP5SD – both get a round of cheers from the SF guys watching.

    Johnson fires an early H&K MP5SD

    Johnson concludes his demonstration talking though a variety of pistols including the WWII-vintage Welrod, the FN Hi-Power and the Russian Makarov

    Near the end of the film Johnson is asked by one of the troops watching the demonstration what the future of small arms looks like. Johnson speculates that the year 2000, then nearly 30 years in the future, would see the AK and M16 families of weapons still in service, he explains this is because “we appear to be going into a period of peace right now and there’s just not money for weapons development.”

    Matthew Moss

    Matthew Moss – Assistant Editor.

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written for a variety of publications in both the US and UK he also runs www.historicalfirearms.info, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of www.armourersbench.com, a new video series on historically significant small arms.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]


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