View Full Version : A partisan's rifle during world war II. Sounds etc

11-02-2013, 08:33 PM
Hi everyone, I am writing a scene where a partisan is hiding in a church and 2 SS walk in. They have their backs to him. His rifle is loaded, but he needs to take the safety off (or whatever it is you do when about to fire! :-) Would it make a noise that would draw the SS's attention? Could you describe the motions the partisan would have to go through to kill the two SS? How many shots would he have to take (he's a hunter, so he knows what he's doing).
It is set in Italy.
Thanks so much!

King Neptune
11-02-2013, 09:19 PM
Disengaging the safety would make almost no sound.

He would bring the rifle to his shoulder, aim, disengaage the safety, aim again, pull trigger. That would be the end of the first. He probably would have something with a bolt action or maybe a German semiautomatic. In the first case, he would have to work the bolt, and that would take a second, or so. In either case he would have to aim for the second and pull the trigger. The second one might have time and quick reactions and move somewhere.

11-02-2013, 09:55 PM
It'd be a great help to know what weapon your partisan is using. They were typically armed with personally owned weapons at the outset of the war, and later augmented their armories with battlefield recovered, stolen, and clandestinely supplied weapons.

Here's a declassified link that provides insight into the Italian partisan supply/acquisition situation - it was somewhat consistently erratic (and dramatic) for the duration of the war.

http://www.801492.org/Air%20Crew/Allied%20Supplies%20for%20Italian%20Partisans%20du ring%20World%20War%20II.pdf

The US OSS was a major supplier of small arms... see link...


11-03-2013, 01:21 AM
Remember that when shooting two people, you pick and choose who to shoot first. Considerations here would include who can get to the door first, who can get to cover first, who is most likely to react first, and what are the positions of their respective weapons. You also try to predict where the second person is going to go and make sure you've lined up that shot.

Slipping off the safety is virtually silent, but the first shot is going to wake the other one up. You want the first one dead and out of the way and then deal with the second. Do this right, you shoot the first one and the second one is sort of standing there figuring out what went on while you're sliding in the second bullet.

Killing two people is easy if you take your time and plan. It's next to impossible if you rush it and don't know exactly what you're going to do next every second of the process.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

11-03-2013, 03:52 PM
Thanks everyone. So the partisan is hiding behind the door of the church. The two SS walk in. One stays close to the door, his back to the partisan and the other one moves deeper into the church. Outside civilians are being executed, so what I would have happen is this: the partisan waits for another round of machine gun from outside to shoot the first SS (so the sound is partially drowned out), when the other one turns round, trying to figure out what happened, not knowing where the firing that killed the first SS came from, the partisan aims and shoots the second one too. So... he places the butt of the rifle againts his shoulder, slips off the safety and fires, then slides another bullet into the ....chamber(???) and fires again.
Does that make any sense.
I honestly don't know which specific rifle he would be using, I just call it a rifle.

11-03-2013, 06:13 PM
First off, I'd slip the safety off and chamber a bullet either when the door starts opening, or even before. I'd want absolutely no delay when I decided I needed to shoot.

Second is the distance from standing behind the door to the first soldier. Within a certain distance (maybe ten feet), it's sort of hard to use the normal aiming procedure. I'd be more interested in a snap shot if I was within ten feet to speed up the process.

But this would also depend upon the caliber of the gun and the bullet. A .22 and I want head shots. Something with a bigger caliber and soft bullets, and a gut shot going through to the spine is a better shot.

If he's a hunter, this is stuff he would know. He would do these calculations, quickly, but with a definite purpose. It's going to be hard to justify him just having a rifle if you give him expert knowledge.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

11-03-2013, 06:47 PM
See, this is just a glimpse of this old priest's past, when he used to be a partisan, that's why I wasn't going to go into detail about the weapons since I really don't know the first thing about them.
So he slips the safety and is ready to fire. The door is already open, he is standing behind it, the first SS walks to about 10 feet in front of him and he fires, maybe the bullet would hit the heart from the back (cause I think the SS used to wear helmets if they weren't high rank, while on these "missions"), also I think if the bullet hit the liver or the bowels, he wouldn't live much longer and wouldn't be able to fire back anyway. The other SS turns round and he sees the other soldier has been shot, but he doesn't know from where, as the partisan is still in behind the door. So the partisan takes his chance and shoots him in the face (he would be further away, poss. 20-30 feet?). Could you take me through the motions? The way he'd phisically be moving when taking the first shot and again the second time? Would he have to reload etc? Thanks guys!

11-03-2013, 11:00 PM
A lot of the bolt action rifles used by the military had stripper clips, and could hold several rounds. You had to work the bolt to load the next round, but you didn't need to stick individual bullets in.

The SS guy would notice a rifle being fired inside the church, even with the machine guns outside.

I used to portray a French partisan with a historical reenactment group that did WWII. We used almost all original gear, and I've shot most firearms in use at the time.

It's not likely the Germans would use a machine gun to execute. If they did, they'd probably use one or two bullet bursts to save ammo. They'd probably also be using an MP-40. MP-40s are pretty quiet compared to a rifle or handgun. Especially if someone is inside a building. So an MP-40 shooting outside at the same time as your guy will sound like, popopBLAM*insert ringing ears*

It's definitely going to get the attention of the second guy, and unless the soldiers outside are not paying attention or their ears are ringing from earlier gunfire (definitely a possibility) they are going to hear it too. In a stone church it'd be like setting off an M80. There will also be muzzle flash if it's dark inside, so if the second guy happens to be looking in his direction he'll see where your character is.

You could go with a smaller caliber handgun if you want to cut down on noise. From 10 feet away he should be able to put the bullet through the first guy's head no problem.

You could use the noise to ramp up tension. I assume the Germans have their weapons drawn? If someone is a skilled shooter it should only a take a couple of seconds to work the bolt and get the second shot off.

What branch of the SS are they in? Wehrmacht? Waffen SS?

Edit: Just noticed you said they're wearing helmets. If these are combat soldiers, they would be Waffen SS and yeah they would have helmets. In that case a torso or face shot would be best.

Also, the Waffen SS were the most highly trained military branch. They had more combat specific training than American troops. One type of training they did were dekken drills, which basically conditioned them to hit the ground and roll into a hiding place at a full run, in full gear, whenever wherever they needed. If shots are being fired, that is probably what soldier 2 is going to do unless your priest is faster than him.

11-04-2013, 05:17 AM
You don't want to be moving when shooting if you can possibly avoid it. If you do have to move, you try to move from one shooting position to another.

With what Canotila says, I'd give him an MP-40. A bit hard to find on the battlefield, but understand that all guns were in short supplies for partisans. As well as bullets. An MP-40 is also just about the ideal weapon in this situation. A rifle is going to be hard to handle in that situation.

Problem with discussing exactly what everybody is going to do is that the layout of the church makes a lot of difference. But here's one scenario.

Your guy is hiding behind the door and steps out to shoot the first. I'd do a double tap (two shots) center of torso. Without waiting for results, I'd take two steps to the side away from the door. Meanwhile, second guy has dropped into the seats. Here's where his knowledge of the church comes into play. He drops to the ground and shoots under the seats, again a double tap. Remember he needs to shoot fast before the guy screams for his buddies outside. Unless the second soldier is really smart, he's not going to remember that the seats don't go down to the floor and he should drop onto one of the seats. Understand that your guy will know where the second soldier is going to drop. Within certain parameters, people are predictable, and people tend to react in the same manner.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

11-04-2013, 09:43 AM
What do you want to have happen? Seriously, there is enough variety with weapons and weapon conditions that you can justify pretty much anything, as long as we know what you want to happen in the story.

If you *want* the SS to hear him as he gets ready to fire, have him carry a rifle or pistol with an empty chamber. They could conceivably than hear him work the action (run the slide on the pistol or work the bolt on the rifle) when he loads the chamber. He could also make noise some other way, like by bumping into something, creaky floors, etc.

This is not too unrealistic. In many cases it is easier to do the gross manipulation required to work the action to load the chamber under stress than it would be to do the precise action needed to take off the safety.

Don't forget as a partisan he likely doesn't have any real military training so he may be more comfortable carrying with an empty chamber until he knows he needs to shoot.

On the other hand, if you want him to be noiseless and totally surprise the Germans, have him have the rifle or pistol or submachine gun ready to go. No safety, just ready to fire. Figure then he worked the action to chamber the round just *before* they entered the church so they wouldn't hear it. Then all that is involved is point and shoot.

If he's up against two SS, and you need him to win, I'd arm him with a captured MP 40 submachine gun as well. The scenario would go something like this:

The partisan sees the SS approaching or sees the SS rounding up citizens outside (whatever) so he finds a good hiding spot in the church where he can watch the door. (Maybe up in a balcony/choir loft or something? People tend not to look up right away in a fight and that would give him an advantage)

The partisan needs to make his weapon ready. With a MP 40 submachine gun he likely would already have a magazine inserted with the bolt handle pulled back to second (closest to the back end) safety notch. This puts the bolt to the rear, but the weapon can not yet be fired. What he'd do to ready it to fire is grab the bolt handle, rotate it down (out of the safety notch) and put it in the main cut out (where the bolt handle travels)in the receiver. When he lets go of the bolt handle the bolt will go forward a couple inches until it stops at the "ready to fire" notch. (The bolt is still all the way to the rear, but because the bolt handle is no longer in the safety notch when the trigger is pressed the bolt will be released to fly forward and fire the gun).

Please note that a MP 40 is what is called an "open bolt" weapon. That means that you don't "chamber a round" in the conventional sense. The chamber is always empty. When you want to fire you make sure the bolt is pulled back (it's held there by spring tension) and not in the safety notch. When you pull the trigger the bolt is released. The bolt will fly forward, pick up a round from the magazine, load it in the chamber, and *instantly* fire that round. The gas from the bullet firing pushes the bolt back against the recoil spring tension. If he keeps the trigger pulled back the bolt will travel all the way to the rear and then, under spring tension, fly forward again to strip the second round from the magazine, load it into the chamber, and fire it. This will continue until he lets go of the trigger, which will stop the bolt in the rearward position. (Or until he runs out of ammo if he just holds the trigger down). When the gun stops firing the chamber is always empty. (The bolt fired the round in the chamber and then was caught to the rear by the sear when he let go of the trigger or the bolt slammed forward on an empty chamber if he ran out of ammo).

If you want him to use a rifle, give him a captured German K98. This bolt action rifle holds five rounds in the magazine. Let's say he has the five rounds loaded, but carries with an empty chamber. In that case here's the scenario:

He runs up into the balcony/choir loft when he sees the SS outside. He quickly loads the chamber by rotating the bolt handle up, pulling it to the rear (to chamber the round) and then pushing it forward and back down. This loads the first round. The safety is OFF.

The SS comes in. He aims at one, from the choir loft, and fires. A full power rifle round into the back will likely definitely kill or at least incapacitate a man. No need for a head shot or a heart shot.

He hits the first SS man and very quickly (he has practiced at some point) rotates the bolt up, pulls it to the rear (the empty shell comes out now) and than pushes it forward and rotates it down to load the second round. This takes maybe a couple seconds, if he's practiced. Now he's ready to shoot the second SS guy. The problem is, the SS guy would have time to yell for help, or take cover behind a bench, or the altar, or run back out of the church. He might not look UP right away, but he's not going to just stand there. He'll do SOMETHING.

Still, you could have the SS guy take cover behind something that would protect him from someone on ground level, because he doesn't know where the partisan is, and have the partisan shoot him because he has the elevation.

Personally, I'd give the partisan the MP 40, have him ready, and then have him fire a short burst into the first guy and quickly change targets to fire a short burst into the second guy, before either one can react. That's very realistic for a submachine gun and close fighting like is exactly what they were made for. It would definitely work better against two SS at short range than a bolt action rifle.

A burst of anywhere from 5 to 8 9mm pistol rounds right into the body would, again, be enough to realistically kill or incapaciate the Germans. No need for head shots, etc.

As to the noise, I disagree and think that having the SS using a machine gun for the exeuctions is plausible. If they want to shoot a lot of people that is the quickest way. He could fire the MP 40 while the machine gun fires, which would help with the noise. If it's a big stone church, that would help as well. Again, if you write it correctly, you could justify the SS outside either hearing or not hearing the noise, as needed.

11-04-2013, 11:04 AM
Everything that Trebor said. MP-40s, because the recoil loads the next round, don't have any recoil. They're amazing to shoot and extremely accurate even with longer bursts of fire.

Something to keep in mind is that the Germans will have hobnail boots with metal heel plates. While it's possible to walk silently in them, it's extremely difficult and slow going. More likely they'll make some noise as they step which he could also use to his advantage.

11-04-2013, 12:19 PM
Everything that Trebor said. MP-40s, because the recoil loads the next round, don't have any recoil. They're amazing to shoot and extremely accurate even with longer bursts of fire.

Umm, that's not quite right. The MP 40 does have recoil. It's a relatively heavy gun though, about 9 pounds, and it fires a pistol caliber round so it doesn't have as much recoil as, say, a rifle. But, it does definitely have recoil and the longer the burst the more you will notice the cumulative effect. In my experience though, at ranges under about 15 to 20 yards, you can control bursts of up to 6 to 8 rounds and keep most (or all) on the target.

EDIT: I noticed your experience is with reenactments. Blanks have different characteristics than live fire. Recoil is minimized or non existent with blanks when compared to live rounds.

11-04-2013, 12:44 PM
I've fired live rounds from one as well. We also cut down a tree with an MG-42. :D

It really didn't feel like any recoil to me. And was much more accurate for longer bursts than the AK-47.

11-04-2013, 03:55 PM
I can't believe the amount of help I am getting from you! You're all amazing! Canotila, I am basing this part of my novel on true events which took place in Tuscany in 1944 when the Germans were retreating. They said the villages on their way would be safe and not to be afraid. They were lying. They gathered women, older people and children into the squares and killed them with machine guns, then took the pews from the churches and dumped them on top of the bodies and set fire to them. The bodies which did not get burnt were loaded with mines, so that when the men came down from the hills and tried to bury their dead... well, you can guess what would happen. I actually have the good fortune of knowing a man who was a partisan in Tuscany! Plus, there's a documentary where survivers give their testimony, I could give you the link if you were interested, but it's in Italian.
So I think I will give the partisan a smaller gun to keep the noise down. Do yout think I could have him carry it in his pocket? Or would it be hanging from a belt? Would this smaller gun be the M40? Once I've written this piece, the piece about the partisan, do you think it would be possible to post it somewhere for you guys or anyone willing to have a look at?

11-04-2013, 08:30 PM
PS where could I say he found the MP40? Could I say they nicked it from the Germans? Or that one of his partisan friends bought it through some sort of black market?

11-04-2013, 10:40 PM
An MP40 won't fit in your character's pocket. It's a two-handed weapon. Soldiers usually carried it on a sling hanging from shoulder or neck.

As for where he got it from, he'd probably have to have nicked it from the Germans, as it is not a hunting weapon.

Maybe he could take it from another German soldier before the first two get to the church?

King Neptune
11-04-2013, 11:29 PM
PS where could I say he found the MP40? Could I say they nicked it from the Germans? Or that one of his partisan friends bought it through some sort of black market?

His group knocked off a German unit, and that's what this guy got from it. Or they could have captured a truck full of MP-40's. And so on

11-05-2013, 02:29 AM
If you want him to carry a gun in his pocket it has to be a pistol. It would be harder to kill two SS men with a pistol, but it could be done.

If he has a pistol if you can write it so instead of being up in the choir loft, as I suggested earlier, he manages to find an alcove (Confessional maybe?) where he can wait and hide when the Germans enter. He can then literally step out and be behind them and very quickly fire a couple shots right into the back or back of the neck of each German from point blank range. (Almost touching). Basically, they walk past his hiding spot, he takes one or two steps and is behind them and, before they can turn around, BANG!, BANG!, and it's done.

Think "assassination" instead of "shootout."

The bonus is a couple pistol shots would be quieter than a couple rifle shots (rifles are MUCH louder) and would be shorter duration than using a MP 40. (Two or three shots total, instead of a couple "bursts" of 5 to 8 each).

Looking at it again, in many ways, having him use a pistol in this manner would be the way to go. It's quieter and, assuming he gets right behind them, just as fatal and quicker. Plus the gun is easier to hide.

Don't worry about the details of where he got the pistol or even what exact type it is. If you really need to explain it just mention it was a "captured German pistol" and leave it at that. No need for details on how it was captured, who captured it, how the partisan got it, etc. (Same goes for the MP 40 if he uses that. The readers won't care on the exact details once you say, "He clutched his captured German submachinegun." They'll fill in the blanks themselves)

I still have a problem with how he gets away though. After killing the two SS men, the other SS men will come into the church and find them, right? Then they'd look for him and possibly start a general search of the area. He'll be outnumbered, outgunned, and less mobile (on foot and they have vehicles, and guys on foot). You'll have to do some thinking to justify his getaway.

11-05-2013, 04:02 AM
One thing I should have asked: Are the German soldiers exploring the church because it looks cool, or are the German soldiers searching for people? There's a great deal of difference between the two scenarios.

And with the fact that they're there to execute civilians, my guess is they'd be being cautious, unless the church had already been cleared by other soldiers. Which brings up the issue of where your boy was hiding.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

11-05-2013, 07:07 AM
Maybe they've been sent into the church to start hauling pews out for the bonfires? He could easily take both down as they hoist a pew up to carry it out.

Getting away afterward would be the trick, but if this is a flashback you might not need to show all that.

11-05-2013, 09:59 PM
Thanks, guys! I'll have him use a pistol.
Ok. The boy has come down from the hills because two flares, one red one blue signalled the beginning of the executions (as it was), but basically he gets there when everyone (apart from a few survivors) has been killed. Still, he is hoping against hope that some of his family may have lived. He goes into the church to see if anyone is there and sees the local priest lying dead by the altar. So yes, it has already been cleared. He drops something and the two German SS outside, having heard the noise walk in. He hides behind the door. There are doves inside the church which the Germans think caused thre noise, plus they are drunk (as they often were when carrying out executions). The other Germans are further off in a more central square in the town so they will not hear the gunshot, especially as the last round of the machine guns covers the sound. The partisan has a huge advantage on them, this is his hometown, and these small Tuscan villages are full on nooks and crannies where you can hide. That's how he gets away and he never goes near the centre of the action, so to speak.

11-06-2013, 01:19 AM
He's armed with a Springfield 1903, a Lee Enfield or a Mosin Nagant 91/30, depending on where he got the rifle. All are bolt action, hold multiple rounds in an internal magazine and are quite capable of killing the Germans. But he also has a bayonet. Best scenario is hand to hand with the bayonet, easy on the first soldier and possibly not alerting the second that quickly.

With a rifle shot, the people outside will hear it and come to investigate. If that's okay, the sequence is BANG!, click, clack chink, Bang! But if the second soldier is within 30 feet, he won't get the second shot off. SS were well trained, well equipped and would not let the partisan survive.


11-06-2013, 01:36 AM
I ended up writing what trebor suggested, two point blank shots, one in the back of the neck of the first SS and the other in the cheekbone of the second one as he turns round. The boy is standing right behind them at this point. I think I'll use their drunkness as an excuse for their slow reflexes