Information Age Trench Broom?
January 13th, 2020
5 minute read
The concept of the drum magazine dates back more than a century. The definitive drum magazine, at least in this hemisphere, came as part of a package deal from General John Taliaferro Thompson. General Thompson’s “Annihilator” was ready for deployment just as World War I was winding down, and would have been an amazingly capable “trench broom” in the hands of American troops.
An integral part of the iconic look of the full-auto Thompson was its drum magazine. Those original 1921 Tommies fed from 20-round box magazines as well as 50- and 100-round drums. These drums load from the front and incorporate a key that must be wound to power the clockwork spring that drives the thing.
Around the same time was Georg Luger’s 1914 Lange Pistole, what we modern folk call the Artillery Luger. It fed from a lyrically complicated 32-round contrivance called the Trommelmagazin. This monstrosity required a dedicated loader and was overly complicated but did quadruple the Parabellum pistol’s onboard firepower.
The 50-round drum magazines were standard issue to American tankers and British commandos early on in World War II, but their weight, bulk and tendency to rattle on patrol made them cumbersome in action. The later streamlined M1A1 Thompson lacked the receiver cuts to accept them. However, halfway around the world the Russians were churning out drum magazines of their own.
The Soviets were embroiled in an existential fight for survival with the Nazis just as we were girding up for the second world war. Desperate for armaments that could be mass produced by semi-skilled workers, the Red Army embraced the PPSh-41. PPSh stands for Pistolet-pulemyot Shpagina or “Shpagin Machine Pistol.” The Russian grunts who spanked the Nazis called it the “Papasha” or “Daddy.”
The PPSh-41 fired a 7.62x25mm round pirated from the WW1-era German 7.63x25mm and fed via either 35-round curved box magazines or 71-round drums. Around six million PPSh submachineguns rolled off the lines before it was supplanted by the SKS and Kalashnikov rifles. While the insular nature of communism has kept the PPSh relatively rare on this side of the pond, the gun’s unusual lines are as much a part of the natural fabric in Russia as those of the Thompson are to us over here.
Much like the Thompson, the PPSh drum loads from the rear and must be wound up to work. Also like the Thompson, the drum is both bulky and noisy. However, the PPSh cycles at a blistering 900 to 1,000 rounds per minute, so the drum nicely complements this rugged little full-auto bullet hose.
21st Century Drumbeat
Fast forward to the Information Age and drum magazines have been replaced by and large by uber-reliable polymer box magazines. However, technological advances that drop immensely powerful personal computers into the front pockets of our jeans and put robots on Mars have also breathed new life into the time-tested drum magazine. Arguably the state of the art hails from X-Products.
X-Products makes reliably strange yet undeniably cool stuff. Their Can Cannon will launch a soda can filled with sand into the next grid square. If you cannot comprehend why anyone might want to do that, then drop your man card in the mail to me. I’ll just hold onto it for you until you come to your senses.
Their line of high-tech drum magazines will feed a bewildering array of weapons. X-Products drums are cut from aircraft aluminum and come in two broad flavors. The serious sorts have solid bodies to exclude grime and dirt. The fun Hollywood kind are skeletonized so you can watch the rounds cycle into the action. All of them are wonderfully well-executed. If you foresee using yours in a dirty environment, I’d suggest going with the non-skeletonized versions.
Their drums will feed SAINT-pattern 5.56 and 7.62 firearms as well as the M1A and numerous other popular platforms. All X-Products drums load and function identically.
How It Works
There’s a generous wheel on the front of the rig that lets you release the spring pressure. I hold the drum in my lap with the feed tower leaning against a table. Twist the wheel to lower the follower and drop in your rounds one at a time. Loading a full 50 rounds takes a couple minutes. Once you are done, the drum protrudes below the gun less than a standard 30-round box.
I run my X-Products drum on my trusty Springfield Armory SAINT rifle. I was an early adopter, so I have pushed a lot of rounds through my copy. The SAINT is a nicely tricked-out top-tier black rifle priced for the common man. With a few well-reasoned accessories, the SAINT will inoculate you and your family against most of life’s manifest unpleasantness.
You can never really have too much ammo. While I wouldn’t want to hump the Hindu Kush packing a dozen of these puppies, a single X-Products 50-round drum hanging underneath your favorite home defense arm means you won’t have to fret over magazine changes. The combination of the X-Products drum and the superlative Springfield Armory SAINT rifle is simple ballistic synergy.