In Part One of this series, I spoke about the Base Borden Military Museum’s awesome array of military vehicles- well, now it’s time to talk about its firearms! When I go to a military museum, I expect to see a few cabinets of guns; perhaps containing the standard-issue WWII firearms and one or two unique weapons pertaining to the museum’s focus. I was certainly not expecting a room full of firearms, especially not at an obscure local museum like Borden’s- but that’s exactly what I found!
I stepped into the room and was suddenly facing an StG 44 and a Chinese variant of the AK-47! “Delight” is not a strong enough description of my mood after that. The room had about 20 or 30 cabinets in it, and every one of them held something different. I had such a fabulous time browsing this room that my camera batteries were dead before I was even finished, and I think my museum companions were rather laughing at my enthusiasm. But who cares- guns like MP40s and Dragunov sniper rifles aren’t exactly common in this part of the world!
The MP43 is a 1943 version of what became the StG 44
Because Canada is a country where all fully automatic firearms (submachine guns, machine guns, and assault and battle rifles) are completely illegal for civilians to possess, it was awesome to see a large number of automatic weapons at Borden. One of the most impressive specimens was a 50 cal heavy MG from an F-86 Sabre.
Not long after the F-86’s time in service, cannons and guns on fighter aircraft were eschewed in favour of air-to-air missiles and rockets
Above is an Uzi, used by dozens of countries for military and law enforcement purposes. Below is a German MP40, used by the Wehrmacht in WWII
Because of my interest in the Eastern Front and Russian culture, I was extra thrilled to see no shortage of Russian and Soviet weapons as well! The museum had a PPSh-41 and a PPS-43, two weapons which were very important to the Soviet Army during WWII. Designed by Dmitry Shpagin, the PPSh-41 was created with economy and efficiency in mind- the design utilized stamped metal which cut down on the need for skilled workers. The PPS-43 came later but with the same requirements, and both designs were fielded in the millions by the Soviet Army.
The PPSh-41’s (above) distinctive drum magazine is shown but not fitted here. One can also see the extreme bare-bones look of the PPS-43 (below)
Despite foreign weapons like the PPSh-41, the museum did seem to (understandably) have a focus on guns used by Canada throughout its military history. There were several Sten guns, lots of Lee-Enfields, a collection of Bren guns, and an amazing number of licensed Canadian FN FAL variants. I had no idea that Canada ever used the FN FAL- but apparently, it was used extensively.
Over half a dozen Brens in one display case
A wartime Lee-Enfield and a postwar FN FAL, both used by Canadian soldiers
World War II was nowhere near the most distant era represented here, however. One case contained three muzzleloaders, which were the norm until roughly the mid-19th century. Muzzleloaders were inaccurate, unreliable, and a real pain, I would imagine- instead of simply loading a cartridge into the breech or a magazine into the gun, the shooter had to pour black powder into the barrel, before also seating a wad and projectile inside! Obviously, the propagation of cased ammunition and breech-loading firearms has done wonders for military efficiency!
I love the flintlock seen above here- muskets like these were used during the Napoleonic/Georgian era; which, after the ’40s, is probably my favourite period of history
I’m very interested in muzzleloaders, but there remained something that was awesome enough to tear me away from Borden’s muzzleloaders. And that was the presence of more Soviet firearms!
I first knew the RPK machine gun (at back) from Call of Duty: Black Ops. I can’t believe that now I’ve seen one in real life!
The middle gun here, the SKS was hardly used in WWII despite being designed in 1943. It is a semi-auto rifle, and fires the same round as the famous AK-47 which replaced it
WOW. I never thought I’d see one of these- a Dragunov, or SVD, sniper rifle! I think the earlier wooden-stock versions are among the most elegant rifles ever made
The Dragonov’s accoutrements, including the bayonet, which (although unusual for a purpose-built sniper rifle) is shared with the AKM rifle
This room of wonders was really characterized by things I never dreamed I’d see! Whether from Soviet Russia, dear old England, or Nazi Germany, the guns displayed by the Borden museum were fantastic to my eyes.
An MG34 stands on its bipod in front of an MG42. These two guns supplied Germany with remarkable firepower and versatility in WWII
A Mauser Gewehr from the late 1800s at bottom. Rifles like these gave rise to the standard-issue bolt-action rifles still used in WWII…
…such as the Karabiner 98K, seen here at bottom.
The middle gun here is an M1 Garand, used in WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam
The FG42 (above) was an advanced select-fire design made for the Fallschirmjäger, Nazi Germany’s elite paratroopers
One of the last things I saw was a particularly pleasant surprise, because it is a gun featured in my upcoming novel! The Luger pistol is a well-known symbol of Nazi Germany, and it is also a symbol of one of my novel’s main characters. Since I wrote it, I’ve become pretty fond of my novel, so it was exciting to see something that reminded me of it!
The Luger is directly below the pistol grip of the StG 44 in this picture
The final thrill for me was a series of Mosin rifles. The Mosin is also featured in my novel (after all, it was standard-issue for Soviet riflemen in WWII), and it has to be my favourite gun of all time. To me, the Mosin is a legend; it was reliable and sturdy in the terrible conditions of the Eastern Front, and it was used successfully by both normal riflemen and snipers like Vasily Zaitsev and Rosa Shanina. I love its simplicity and its track record; and I see it as a symbol of the tenacity and ultimate triumph of Red Army soldiers in WWII.
The Mosin began with an 1891 design, seen here in the middle
The Mosin is a big, wooden bolt-action rifle; and it has a 5-round magazine and (except in the sniper variant) a simple rear ladder sight with front post. The round used is the 7.62 x 54R cartridge, which is a powerful cartridge similar to the .308 Winchester; and it delivers lots of noise and decent recoil! This cartridge has been in service since the Mosin’s 1891 introduction, and remains in use with guns like the aforementioned Dragunov.
The gun in the middle here is a Model 1944 Carbine, which was 8 inches shorter than the standard rifle and also added a folding bayonet
The staple of the Soviet war effort, the Mosin 1891/30 (at bottom), was a modernized and upgraded version of the 1891 design. These upgrades were undertaken in 1930, hence the “1891/30” designation
My camera batteries, thankfully, delayed their demise until after I’d taken pictures of these three beautiful Mosins! Although there was still one half of the museum left to tour, I didn’t mind that I wouldn’t be able to take any more photos- after all, a room full of historic guns is a worthy thing to use up battery life on!
I will definitely be returning to the Base Borden Military Museum; the gun room is just too cool to stay away from for long. And what a great addition it is to the museum! Lots of museums have tanks and halftracks, but seeing the instruments that ordinary infantrymen from all eras and countries used adds an extra element of depth and interest. The Borden Museum was unexpectedly good, and it deserves a great deal of praise!