Hoo boy, do we have a funky story today.
Thanks for tuning in to another video on ForgottenWeapons.com.
I'm Ian McCollum, and I am here today at Morphy's
with one of Gordon Ingram's battle rifles.
This is the .308 version of what would have been called
the Westarm in ... commercial sales.
Or in 7.62x39 it would have been the SAM-1,
in Somali military service of all things and places.
And this story - well sort of - it's Gordon Ingram,
in the 1960s Ingram worked for ... a man named Juan Erquiaga,
who was doing a bunch of stuff. Among other things he was actually
building M1 Garand, sort of, rifles that were magazine fed.
I actually have a video on one of those if you're interested in it.
And ... it may have been that that got Gordon Ingram's ... attention onto,
"Oh, you know, there's a market for ... full-power military cartridge rifles."
And when Erquiaga's business went bust, he actually went and talked
to Winchester briefly about making a military version of the Winchester Model 100.
Which would have been an interesting gun,
albeit probably obsolescent before it was even put into production.
At any rate, Winchester turned him down.
This idea would come back to Ingram 10 years later in the 1970s.
And the design that he had in mind is basically an M1 carbine,
scaled up with a long stroke gas piston instead of that gas tappet that the M1 carbine used.
And that's really it in a nutshell, we'll take this apart in a minute.
He shopped this idea around,
but he ... had trouble finding investors, finding places to build it.
And ultimately got the idea to go check out
Armera de San Cristbal in the Dominican Republic.
Notable mostly, not primarily notable, for having produced
the San Cristbal carbines under the direction of Pal Kiraly,
an expat Hungarian designer who had designed
some really interesting submachine guns for SIG.
... He was a big fan of lever-delayed blowback systems,
and designed a lever-delayed blowback
.30 carbine in the Dominican Republic.
Well, by the time Gordon Ingram is down there, which is 1978, the factory is basically mothballed.
They've stopped production, most of the European workers have dispersed,
the Dominican workers have settled into new jobs.
But there is an American like investment group there
that's trying to put the factory back into operation,
and so maybe there's a possibility that Ingram could
get access to the factory and use it to build his Westarm rifles.
There is a bit of scandal and hullabaloo while Ingram's there.
Some Arab investors came in, thought this looked really cool.
The factory was in the process of trying to build submachine guns
for the Santo Domingo City Police, which wasn't going well.
They were short on money, the Arabs give them a briefcase full of money as an investment.
One of the American executives tries to fly out of the country with it, it gets confiscated.
Like this is all straight out of a whacky '70s espionage movie,
or action novel, or something.
The Dominican Republic is not looking so great.
And as this all falls apart, Ingram is approached by
a group of Lebanese-American businessmen who are looking for firearms investment.
And they get the idea to ... take this rifle, this idea,
but move it to some place more stable, like Somalia.
So their plan is to take this over to Somalia,
contract with the Somali government to produce rifles for the Somali military,
and set up a rifle factory there.
And amazingly, this actually kind of works, at least the beginning aspects of it work.
The Somali government is interested, the rifle that they contract with
(and it's a lot of guns, I've seen the number 30,000, I'm not sure if that's exactly correct),
but they want basically this rifle in 7.62x39.
OK, not a problem, ultimately Ingram would build examples of this in 7.62x39, .308, and 5.56.
So, the idea comes together as the Somali government wants to set up a factory,
but they don't have the infrastructure to do it immediately.
Ingram hires a couple of people to help him,
one of them being a guy who had like 38 years of experience working at Beretta in Italy.
This guy has good connections to Italian gun makers in the Val Trompia area in Italy.
And there's still this option to use the ... San Cristbal Armoury in the Dominican Republic.
And they kind of mash it all together, and they come up with this plan
where the first rifles will be produced in Italy by an Italian company.
They will be tested in Somalia, they'll be Somali contract rifles.
And ultimately the engineering will be a combination of
engineers from the Dominican Republic working in Somalia to help set up this factory.
And ... there's some elements that make this a little easier than you might expect.
One of the guys on the Somali end served briefly
in the military in Cuba and was fluent in Spanish.
The Dominican employees of the San Cristbal Arsenal were pretty racially tolerant,
and there wasn't a big issue of working with Africans from Somalia.
Like it might have actually happened, which is frankly amazing that
a plan this convoluted had any chance whatsoever of success.
So there are prototype rifles made.
The Somali government puts in like 5 million US dollars
towards this plan for rifles and factory development.
And sometime in the late 1970s the first 10 rifles are delivered.
They were produced in Italy, delivered to Somalia to be tested.
And we'll pick up the story after we take a closer look at how this thing actually works.
Just to be clear, there are three different versions of this gun.
And they're all mechanically the same system,
just scaled up and down for different cartridges.
... There was the .223 version, the 7.62x39 version, and this, the .308 or 7.62 NATO version.
So, this pattern uses FAL magazines. We've got a short one in there,
but it will take full-size, full-length, 20 round FAL mags.
By the way, the other two versions: the 5.56 version used AR mags,
and the 7.62x39 version used standard AK mags.
Mechanically this is an M1 carbine.
Actually, the bolt here could be an M1 carbine or an M1 Garand,
because they're basically the same.
Two lugs, rotating bolt.
Where this differs from the M1 carbine
is that it uses a long stroke gas piston, which we'll take apart in a moment.
But of course the op rod is taken directly from the M1 Garand or carbine.
Alright, the markings on the side here - we have serial number 41.
I have no idea what the serial number range is.
The other .308 I'm aware of is not serial numbered.
The only other gun that I'm aware of having a serial number is actually 0009,
which doesn't match the same pattern as a "41", so that's a bit of a mystery to me still.
The rest of the markings: we have "COM Italy",
that's the company in Italy that manufactured the ... rifles.
They were originally going to basically do the tooling set up to provide to Somalia.
We have the model is Westarm, calibre .308 Winchester.
And "Cat" number (I think that's the Italian patent number) on there.
The rear sight is an aperture. This is actually very similar to the late pattern of M1 carbine rear sight,
where we have an aperture here that slides up and down a ramp
for ranges of 100 out to 600 metres.
The front sight is just a simple square post with some half protective wings.
There was also talk at one point of selling these in 7.62 NATO to Greece,
and that would have been ... equipped to take a standard M14 pattern bayonet.
That deal fell through.
We have a push button safety here, so that's safe, that's fire.
And a magazine well with an offset magazine catch
designed to fit FAL magazines and their offset magazine catches.
Now, disassembly of this is really quite slick.
We have a spring-loaded button here just at the front sling swivel.
And if I push that in, and then push the sling swivel itself forward,
that is actually a lug that locks the action into the stock.
So with that removed, I can just pivot that up,
and pull the action completely out of the stock.
We have these two lugs here at the back of the action
that lock under a metal lug right there in the stock.
Again, very reminiscent of the M1 carbine.
Once we are at this point we can take off the trigger assembly housing
by just pushing that pin out.
That comes out, and then the trigger assembly slides forward.
So there's a pair of grooves that hold it in place there inside this lug,
and then that pin keeps it from moving.
And then the pin can be fairly loose, as you saw, because it's retained by the stock.
When this gun's in the stock, the pin's got nowhere to go.
The fire control group in there is very simple.
These, as they would have been produced for Somalia
and for any other military contract, would have been select fire guns.
The ones that I'm aware of in the US are all semi-auto, including this one.
Post 1968, because they were manufactured outside of the US,
they could not be easily imported as machine guns.
So a handful of them were imported as semi-autos, presumably.
According to the former owner of this rifle,
this one was imported basically to do some testing with,
and to help determine how the gun was running.
Next up, we can take off the recoil spring assembly.
This is not self-contained, and that's a little bit annoying when you have to put it back in.
We've got our recoil spring there and its guide rod.
Just like an M1 we can pull this back to here, lift up.
Let's see, there's a spot in the track where we can lift up the op rod ...
right there, so ... pull the op rod off.
Notice on this we have a piston head here.
Here's the gas block, there's the lug for disassembly, gas tube.
And then that sits right in there.
And then lastly, we can take the bolt out.
There we go.
So we've got a two lug rotating bolt, plunger ... ejector, big ol' extractor on there.
Spring-loaded firing pin in the back.
That is shrouded, so if the bolt is not fully rotated into battery,
the hammer (because it is hammer fired)
the hammer can't hit the firing pin. So that's your out of battery safety.
This looks like it would be a very economical rifle to produce.
So, several of the major parts are made as castings.
The obvious one being the trigger housing.
You can see sort of the rough finish on this.
That surface finish ... indicates that this outer frame was a casting.
That's a nice economical way in volume to produce a complex shape like this.
I think the operating rod was also a casting,
but then welded onto the gas piston, real obviously there,
rather than make a complex single part like the M1's op rod was.
On the receiver you can see
this hole in the back which is just the right diameter for the bolt to fit in.
So clearly one of the early machining steps in producing the receiver was to just
drill this entire block for ... a hole the diameter of the bolt.
Then they can do the rest of the machining operations to add in ...
the tracks and all the other features.
This handguard is just cheap, thin, light plastic.
It's retained in lips under here and under here.
So to take this off you would have to take off the gas block,
and I'm not going to take the gas block off. ...
There you have it: Gordon Ingram's very simple, very M1 carbine inspired, 1970s battle rifle.
OK, so back to our story.
Somalia has received 10 SAM-1 rifles, which is effectively this in 7.62x39.
And they have like every sort of malfunction you can imagine, it is not good.
... Well, Ingram surmises the problem is the guns are opening too quickly,
they need to re-engineer the cam surfaces to ... give them a little more delay before opening.
But he's doing this all remotely, like the guys who are test firing
the rifles in Somalia are not engineers, they're not even very well trained.
They can't fix anything, and they don't have any spare parts anyway.
So ... they're supposed to write down what malfunctions they have,
and then they like fax them to Gordon Ingram who's going to be either in the UK or the US,
depending on what he's doing at the time.
And he will try to figure out what the problem is, come up with a fix, and send it back.
This goes as well as you might expect it to, which is to say it's a complete disaster.
The Somali government gets really pissed,
because they have paid five million dollars for 10 rifles that don't work.
Ingram is informed at one point that
defrauding the Somali government is a capital offence in Somalia.
Gordon Ingram never returns to Somalia.
He maintains that ... there was no corruption or mismanagement on his part.
There are like three other companies that are involved in making all this nonsense happen,
and Ingram suspects that one of the other companies
and some of the Somali government officials basically siphoned all the money off and spent it.
The deal completely falls apart.
And what that left was just a handful of basically prototype rifles
that had been built as proof of concept guns, as marketing guns, as test guns.
And this is one of them, so I'm aware of one other semi-auto .308 calibre one.
I know all three calibres were actually made, I've actually seen examples of all three.
So they are out there, just in extremely small numbers.
The gun clearly needs some refinement,
it never got through that initial sort of field testing rollout in Somalia,
that's an essential component of finalising any firearms design.
And it fell apart at that point, there was never any other substantive contract.
There was actually talk as late as the mid-1990s
about producing these in Bolivia for the Bolivian Army. That also fell apart.
Gordon Ingram didn't have a lot of luck with this rifle, so.
Despite the fact that it didn't fully get developed,
it's a really interesting gun to me in that it's extremely simple.
Yes, it's largely a copy of the M1 carbine in many ways.
But I think it's taking the M1 carbine and perhaps even simplifying it a bit more,
and putting it in a modern calibre, which is an interesting concept.
As a combat rifle, this was obsolete/obsolescent the moment it was designed.
Just the wide open top,
the M1 Garand, M1 carbine style open receiver with exposed locking lugs
is not going to pass modern reliability tests had it even got to that point.
But it's a cool rifle.
Anyone who's into the classic wood and steel 1950s battle rifles
will be right at home with something like this.
Hopefully you guys enjoyed the video.
Thanks for watching.