Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Gun Pr0n #332

Today's firearm is one that made it to the Sixth Annual Northeast Bloggershoot but didn't see any time on the firing line:

That's Alan's Bren build, and there's a lot of history that went into that rifle you're seeing right there. I'll let Alan tell you about it:
My first experience with a Bren was thirty years ago with serving in the Irish version of the Reserves. The name was then called the FCA. It was an abbreviation from the Gaelic name Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil. It changed in 2005 to RDF (Reserve Defence Forces). Go here for more info -

We of course called the FCA the Free Cloths Association! There was not a kid I knew that didn't have a pair of army boots for free. Those things were great for the always damp and rainy Irish weather.

One year during our annual summer camp I was volunteered for nuclear training. Basically it told us if anyone dropped a nuke on London, lets face it everyone likes the Irish so why drop one in Dublin, that the best thing to do would be heading to the Aran Islands and hoping the Guinness outlasts the nuclear winter. With prevailing winds it appears the Aran Islands are the safest place in Ireland.

Anyhow, with all that I completely missed my Bren Gun training. However, that did not seem to matter as a few days before the end if camp it was announced that we'd be heading to Carna for Bren qualifications. Ya, for us, but all I knew was point the muzzle down range!

In any event we all clamored into a truck and headed to the range. Carna was a big time range and went from 100 to 600 yards. Up to this point we fired Lee Enfield's first chambered in .22 then .303 at 25 yards, and not in Carna, but at a smaller range.

We arrived at the range and it was the usual hurry up and wait routine. After running around, then walking then sitting we were finally marched to the shooting position. It was a standing dug out at 100 yards. We were broken into smaller groups of seven and I was in group one. Down in the hole we went and a full time army man (most likely an armor) handed each of us a Bren and a magazine with 25 rounds. He also barked out many orders one of which was don't eef around with the bullets and make sure you keep that thing pointed down range. Grand said I. I got the gun settled and placed the mag next to it on the ground....that was one of the other orders we got.

The range went hot and the fire order came down "single shots lads, place the mag in the gun, cock them, keep your fingers off the eefing triggers and make sure the little switch is in S (for safe). When you start shooting make sure you set the gun to R (round as in single round) I happened to be in # 1 target and a good friend was at the other end in #7. I picked up the mag and fumbled around for a few seconds hoping to figure out where to stick it.....hmmm, there's a hole in top and one in the bottom....lets try the bottom....nope. I glanced at the guy next to me and his mag was in top. Great, I'll try that. After a few seconds I figured it out and my mag was in. Now, how do I cock this thing? Hmmm again. At this point I had a regular army guy looking over my shoulder and I quickly said "I missed the training as I was in nuke school" bother he said, just give that handle on the right a good yank and you'll be right as rain. Grand said I and I yanked where is the S switch! Before I could open my mouth I heard "make sure that switch on the left is in S. There it is. A few minutes later, as I was not the only one that missed the training or perhaps my comrades in arms were too hung over to pay attention that any event we all seemed to be ready.

I glanced over at my buddy in #7 and motioned with my eyes for him to look down range. He did and he spotted the magpie I was hoping he would at about 80 yards! Hmmm, I for sorrow, two for joy, three to get married and four to die...well one for sorrow was not going to do. Again the order went off for single round fire and fire at will. Mind you no one had eye or ear protection and I'm certain a few were still drunk from the night before. But, this was Ireland in the early eighties and drinking is a way of life and no one cared about ear and eye protection!

Once again I got my buddy's attention and between the two of us we managed to get everyone else's attention....simultaneously we all switched to A (yes, auto) and trained our guns toward our new 80 yard target that just happened to walk to the center! What a nice target! A few seconds later and 175 rounds - lets just say that "one for sorrow" never knew what hit him. It was the most fun we ever had at the range and in a flash, a cloud of smoke, displacement of a few yards of sod and the loudest rat-tat-tat I ever experienced it was all over. We never hit the back stop, but we sure hit our target.

As you can imagine the commanding officer was not impressed and we all ran round in circles for a while with Lee Enfield's over our least he didn't make us do it with 27lb Bren's! After a while he got over it and we all promised to not shoot full auto for the rest of the day. By the time I got back to the 400 yard range after shooting 200 then 300 I was really enjoying the Bren.

So that's the back story. After many years I came across a web site talking about rebuilding a Bren Gun kit. I did a little research and found a Mk ll for sale through IMA. These kits are not cheap, but are easier to weld back together. A typical demilled receiver is cut in three places with a cutting torch and according to the rules a 1/2" of material needs to be removed at each cut. As you can imagine welding one back together takes a bit of work, but since I was a welder for many years this part did not bother me. The required machining and part manufacturing was the real issue. As some of you may know I pain over all my purchases and I considered buying a milling machine for 3 or 4 months. All the while I was researching the rebuild process on line and in a book I found. After thinking about it a bit longer I decided not to buy a mill as many forums posts said you can do most of the work by hand. So I started whittling away and welding, grinding, filing and sanding and it came together fairly well. I did pick up a jig for re-welding the receiver and it worked great. After approximately 60 hours I was ready to range test it. Before you ask no magpies were involved! For the fist shot the gun was in a rest and everything was strapped to a table! I pulled the trigger via a length of twine. It went click and bang, but did not cycle and it locked up solid. It takes 30 seconds to break a Bren down, so unlocking the innards is not a big deal. I tried again and got the same results. I also got a few light strikes but it was not cycling and every round was locking it up. I did get behind it and pulled the trigger a few times. Given the weight and mass of all the moving parts the recoil on this is not bad at all. It's a lot easier than my Jungle Carbine.

After a little more work the gun is firing, not locking up but it's still not cycling. However, I'm moving in the right direction. This gun is a blast to shoot and I can't wait to get all the bugs out. It will be sweet to pull, click, bang, repeat.
Heck of a great rifle, Alan, and an even better story to match - thanks for sharing!

That is all.


Wally said...

{ hoisting a coffee in the air }

Here's to rebuilding pieces of history!

Great tale Alan, and glad to see you are making some progress on it. Some day I may get one or three put back together too....

Old NFO said...

Helluva story! :-)

Theredneckengineer said...

I know that Bren.
We've been helping him troubleshoot it over on the Weapons Guild.
Heck of a nice build, Alan.