Until the early 1950s, Egypt actually did not have its own defense industry and, as a result, did not have a design school. Wanting to rearmament, the army command was forced to seek help from foreign manufacturers. Thus, it was proposed to produce new self-loading rifles under a Swedish license, the issue of machine guns was partially closed by Spanish products, and in the area of service pistols it was planned to rely on Italy.
General view of the product "Helwan". Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
After certain negotiations, the Egyptian army and industry leaders were able to negotiate with the Italian company Pietro Beretta Armi SpA and sign a new contract. Under this agreement, Egypt received the right to independently produce self-loading pistols such as Beretta 1951 Brigadier, for which he was transferred the necessary technical documentation. Perhaps, along with the papers, a part of the technological equipment was also sent to the customer, as was the case with some other contracts of that time.
It should be noted that the product of the Italian development was created at the very beginning of the fifties, and at the time of signing the contract for licensed production was one of the last self-loading pistols in the world. Thus, the interest of the Egyptian army is quite understandable. She could count on getting modern weapons with very high performance.
Serial production of Italian-made pistols for the Egyptian army was entrusted to the weapons factory in Helwan. Apparently, it was this fact that determined the future name of the gun. The Egyptian version of the Beretta 1951 was given the name Helwan. Other designations of the gun are unknown and, most likely, simply absent.
From the point of view of design, the Helwan pistol had to completely repeat the basic product of the Beretta 1951. However, as practice has shown, the similarity was far from complete. At that time, the technological capabilities of the Egyptian arms industry, despite the best efforts of specialists, were very limited. Because of this, in the production of licensed pistols other steel grades could be used that differed from those foreseen by the initial project. In addition, there was a problem in the form of rough manufacturing of individual parts, leading to some or other consequences.
Details pistols Beretta 1951 and "Helwan". Figure Gunpartscorp.com
Egyptian serial pistols differed from the Italian less accurate exterior trim, but it was not the most important difference. In connection with not the highest quality manufacturing of mechanical parts, the licensed weapon could have other technical and combat characteristics. So, the most famous distinction of "Helwan" was the increased descent force - up to 4-5 kg, i.e. many times more than the base Beretta 1951. There was also a risk of improper operation of automation, delays in shooting, jams, etc.
With all its problems associated with production, the Helwan pistol was, in terms of design, an exact replica of Italian weapons. The traditional for modern self-loading pistols scheme has been preserved with a frame containing a trigger mechanism and a magazine-receiver handle, as well as a slide casing moving along the axis. The recognizable appearance of the weapon was also preserved, and a coarse finish did not lead to the appearance of serious differences.
The main part of the gun "Heluan" was the L-shaped metal frame. Its front element, made in the form of a hollow gutter, contained the return spring of the moving casing, and was also equipped with guides for it. Behind the spring there was a part of the parts of the trigger mechanism, as well as a lever that fixed the parts of the weapon in the working position. The back of the frame was the basis of the handle with an integrated shop shaft. Above the store were the details of the shock-trigger store, in particular the trigger.
A movable shutter casing and a barrel were fixed on the frame. Like the Italian prototype, the Egyptian Helwan was completed with a rifled barrel with a caliber 9 mm and a length of 114 mm (12,6 caliber). The barrel did not have rigid mounts and could move along its axis, which was used in the automation system. Locking the barrel before the shot was carried out using a swinging larva. The barrel and other mechanisms of the weapon were covered with a movable cover. The latter had a recognizable front part with side bevels. The similar shape of the casing soon became the "calling card" of Beretta brand pistols.
The Egyptian pistol retained the trigger-type firing mechanism. At the level of the movable casing, in the rear part of the frame, there was a spring-loaded trigger, in front of which there was a drummer inside the pistol. In the cocked position, the trigger was blocked with the help of a sear, connected to the trigger. USM pistol "Helwan" was built according to the scheme of single action, and therefore the weapon could only fire with a preliminary cocking.
Pistol with the casing shifted back. Photo by Smallarmsreview.com
From the "Beretta 1951" Egyptian "Helwan" passed a specific non-automatic fuse. The movement of the trigger was blocked using the buttons brought out through round holes in the upper rear part of the handle. By pressing the right button, the shooter could block the descent. Pressing the left, in turn, allowed to fire.
The Egyptian licensed pistol was supposed to use detachable box stores placed in a shaft inside the handle. The magazine contained 8 ammunition of the “Parabellum” type 9x19. In its place inside the handle, it was held by a latch located on the left side of the frame. The latch is controlled by a button on the side of the handle.
Were used the simplest sights, designed for firing at a distance of 50 m without adjustment. In the front part of the movable casing there was a small protruding front sight, in the back there was a fixed rear sight. Both of these devices were part of the casing and were made with it.
For more convenience shooter, gun "Helwan" got the simplest accessories. The sides and rear surface of the lower part of the frame, which served as the handle, were covered with plastic lining. On the sides of the plates there could be a ribbing that facilitated the retention of the weapon. Bottom on the handle, just outside the receiving window of the store, was the only swivel for installing a safety strap.
Like its Italian prototype, the Egyptian self-loading pistol had a length of 203 mm and weighed about 1,35 kg without a magazine. In connection with the specifics of production, serial "Heluans" could noticeably differ from each other in mass. The reference initial speed of the bullet was 360 m / s. The gun had to effectively hit targets at ranges up to several tens of meters. However, the firing characteristics of a particular serial pistol could be different from the calculated ones. They were affected by the quality of both the weapon itself and the ammunition for it.
By the mid-fifties, Egyptian specialists had completed preparations for the production of new weapons and produced the first batch of new licensed pistols. Apparently, the first “Helwan” pistols should have been tested, as a result of which the military could decide on their further fate. How exactly such a weapon showed itself during inspections is unknown. At the same time, there is reason to believe that it did not fully meet the desires of the customer. However, in that situation it was not necessary to choose and, despite all the shortcomings, the gun should have been adopted.
In the manufacture of Egyptian pistols could use materials that differ from those envisaged by the Italian project. In addition, the skill of the production participants and the capabilities of their machines did not always meet the requirements. In the first place, this was manifested in the coarser exterior decoration of the weapon. In addition, there was a consequence in the form of falling part of the characteristics.
It is known that the characteristic problem of "Heluan" was an excessive effort of descent. The springs used forced the shooter to press the trigger with force up to 4-5 kg, and this could lead to a reduction in accuracy and accuracy. The practical rate of fire also decreased. The rate of shooting was adversely affected by the quality of available cartridges. In some cases, the capsule body turned out to be overly durable and did not literally penetrate the drummer. As a result, the shot did not occur. The same effect was caused by the use of an insufficiently powerful hammer spring. Poor gunpowder, its improper attachment or other factors reduced the muzzle energy of the bullet: it reduced the fighting qualities of the weapon, and also made it difficult to automatically reload.
In defense of the pistol, it should be pointed out that only rare Heluans had all the problems listed at once. Some samples showed some disadvantages, while others did not differ at all in their use. Egyptian industry could not show a stable quality of production, and therefore both good and medium or bad pistols went off the assembly line. In addition, some types of marriage or flaws without any difficulties were corrected in the military workshops, after which the gun could go into full operation.
With all its problems, due mainly to insufficient production, the gun Heluan in the mid-fifties simply had no alternatives. The Egyptian army had no choice, and therefore such weapons were adopted for service. Serial production of pistols lasted for a long time - until the late sixties or early seventies. During this time, the arsenal of Helwan produced about 50 thousand pistols.
"Helwan 920" - a commercial version of an army pistol. Photo Guns.com
Serial "Helwanes" initially delivered only to the armed forces. They were intended for arming the officers, crews of armored vehicles, pilots and other personnel who need means of self-defense, but who cannot carry larger samples. Later, such pistols were adopted by the security forces and special services. In both cases, the supply of domestic-made serial pistols made it possible to gradually replace foreign-made weapons that were available, some of which had become morally and physically obsolete.
Self-loading pistol "Helwan" appeared in turbulent times, and therefore was soon able to get to war. Since the mid-fifties, in all the Arab-Israeli wars, soldiers and officers who were supposed to have such weapons participated. For obvious reasons, they did not always have to use their means of self-defense in combat.
For several decades of operation, licensed Egyptian pistols have become obsolete morally and physically. In the early eighties, Egypt signed a new treaty with the Italian gunsmiths. This time it was a question of acquiring a license for the release of a Beretta 92 pistol. The armament of the Egyptian army and security forces such a sample entered under the designation "Helwan 920".
The emergence of a new pistol with higher characteristics made it possible to begin the gradual replacement of obsolete weapons. "Helwanes" of the first model were gradually decommissioned and sent to storage or to be melted down. A part of the decommissioned weapons was sold to foreign commercial companies, as a result of which they entered the civilian market of some countries. Former army pistols were sold both under the original name and under the name Helwan Brigadier, reminiscent of the name of the basic weapon from the company Beretta.
Egyptian pistols found their customers, but still could not win a large share of the market. First, they were prevented by numerous technical problems, and then - not the best reputation. Helwan pistols are still found on the foreign secondary market, but now collectors are mostly interested in them. There are also Beretta 1951 pistols on the market, characterized by higher quality, which further reduces the commercial potential of Egyptian weapons.
According to reports, a significant number of Egyptian pistols Italian development still remains in service. For one reason or another, newer weapons could not completely oust them. Nevertheless, the solid age of the pistols used in combination with the obsolescence of the structure predetermines their future. The operation of such weapons can not last forever, and soon they must finally be written off. The timing of such a decision, however, remains unknown.
The results of the Helwan project are of particular interest both by themselves and in comparison with the results of other programs in Egypt. In the early fifties, the Egyptian industry mastered the licensed production of several foreign models of small arms developed by foreign countries. Under the Swedish licenses, the Port Said submachine gun (Carl Gustaf m / 45) and the Hakim self-loading rifle (Automatgevär m / 42B) were produced; in Italian - gun "Helwan".
The first two samples showed the desired characteristics and did not resemble the products of not very developed enterprises. The pistol, which was a copy of the 1951 Beretta, was noticeably different from them in both its rougher performance and technical problems. Why the Egyptian arms industry was not able to show the desired results in all three projects at once is unknown.
The modernized army of Egypt needed a variety of weapons, including self-loading pistols. In the early fifties, this issue was resolved in the usual way - by purchasing a license to produce a foreign model. The basis for the new gun "Heluan" was the Italian product Beretta 1951 Brigadier, showing the desired characteristics. Licensed production of such weapons had ambiguous consequences, but nevertheless led to the desired results and the rearmament of the army.
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