AN-M8 Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol

© Brooke Clarke 2015
AN-M8 Pyrotechnic Flare



This is a flare pistol, mainly used during and after W.W.II in aircraft.  Flare pistols were called Very pistols in late 1800s.  They were named after Edward Wilson Very (Wiki) there are two spellings Wiki shows Verey, the Signal-Cartridge patent (below) shows Very. His cartridge looks similar to a shotgun shell except there's a couple of pyrotechnic balls that ignite as soon as the cartridge is fired and so, like a tracer round, there's light from the muzzle until burnout after reaching maximum altitude.  He patented the signal cartridge (not a pistol) which came to be called the Very Light.

Signal Cartridges were intended to be used like Signal Flags (Wiki) or Morse Code (Wiki) and Aldis lights 1867 (Wiki), that's to send a message. Note the Very patent is dated 1877 so came after the Aldis light.  Not sure of the relative adoption rates but expect it would be a lot easier (lower cost) to bring a flare pistol on board any ship than it would be to mount an Aldis signal lamp.


Although intended to be mounted in the M1 aircraft mount, this flare pistol can be used as a conventional flare pistol.  The barrel hinges down to allow loading/removing a flanged partridge (Fig M74A1).  But a grooved (flangless) type cartridge (Fig M9A1) must be breach loaded from the muzzle end of the barrel. 
Designed during W.W.II to be manufactured by the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Co. (Wiki) and so uses metal stamping instead of machined parts.  The frame is cast aluminum.

The two levers on the top of the barrel give it a very unique look.  The top hook shaped lever when pulled back allows the pistol to be installed or removed from the M1 mount in an aircraft.


As received the firing pin is not coming out of the breech.  If a dead 9V battery is trapped between the back of the barrel and the breech block, and while the safety is held down the trigger pulled, you can hear the snap but there's no mark on the battery.  Putting a 1/16" brazing rod into  the firing pin hole with the pistol pointed up (barrel closed) and pulling the trigger vigorously shoots the rod so the firing pin is moving, it's just too short to work.

Here's some information on the firing pin
NSN 1095-00-529-9549

Casehardening Indicator: Not casehardened
Firing Pin Type: Shoulder
For Use With/On: 1095-726-5820 AN-M8
Metallic Hardness Rating: 40.0 minimum Rockwell C and 45.0 maximum Rockwell C
Overall Length: 0.687 inches minimum and 0.697 inches maximum
FSC Application Data: Pistol,pyrotechnic
Material: Steel, Fed QQ-S-631,comp 1095
Weapon Model Number: AN-M8
Weapon Size Designation: 40 millimeter
Striking End Diameter: 0.124 inches minimum and 0.126 inches maximum
Striking End Radius: 0.031 inches nominal
Striking End Type: Spherical
Surface Treatment: Phosphate


Uses 37mm flares or 26.5mm flares by using an adapter.
Doesn't seem to use M79 type 40mm rounds.  Need to check to see of M79/M203 type rounds can be fired from an AN-M8 .
A unique feature of the AN-M8 is that it can use both American annular groove ammunition, like the M9A1 (Fig M9A1) and British flanged ammunition like the M74A1 (Fig M74A1).  This is very similar to the difference between a .45 Colt flanged round and a .45 ACP round.
Fig 30 Ammo
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Left to right

Custom made round for Canadian Flare Pistol
Flange dia 43.9 mm
Flange thickness: 3.8 mm
Body dia. just above flange: 39.7 mm
Body dia. at open end: 39.5 mm

Mk19 type 40mm Practice Round  & solid aluminum projectile
Flange dia 43.6 mm
Flange thickness: 1.88 mm
Body dia. just above flange: 41.3 mm
Body dia. at open end:  41.1 mm

37mm? Flare case that takes 209 Shotgun primer.
Flange dia 42.7 mm
Flange thickness: 3.4 mm
Body dia. just above flange: 39.0 mm
Body dia. at open end: 38.0 mm

The M169 40mm case used for the M385 practice round that's used in the M79/M203 gernade launcher will not fit the AN-M8.
The AN-M8 bore is within less than a half mm of 40mm I.D.
The M169 case has an OD of more than 41mm.

See: OP 1664 (Vol 1) 1947Part 3 Ch 8 Aircraft Pyrotechnics, S1 - Pistol and Hand-size signals -
Parachute Star M11: 7.69" long, 1.58" (40.1mm) dia
Double-Star AN-M28 to AN-M33: 3.92" long, 1.58" dia combinations of Red, Yellow and Green
Single-Star AN-M34 to AN-M36: Red, Yellow or Green
AN-M37 to AN-M42: 3.85" long, 1.54" dia



Fig 1 Right side
s/n is on back of frame.
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 2 Left side
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 3 The firing pin retainer can be seen.  It has a central hole for the firing pin, and a couple of spanner wrench holes to the left and right of the center.  The top hole contains a 6-32 x 1/8" long set screw.  Also see Fig 7 below.
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 4 marking inside a triangle:
U.S. Property
Pistol Pyrotechnic M8
Smith Wesson Co.????
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig M74A1 British style Flanged Round
Must be breach loaded.
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol M74A1 ammo
Fig M9A1 American style Grooved Round
Note must be muzzle loaded because flare body is larger in diameter than bore of pistol.
A flanged round can not be muzzle loaded.
AN-M8 Pyrotechnic
                      Flare Pistol M9A1 round
Fig 5 The Periscopic Aircraft Sextant has a mount with a hole that's about the same size as this flare pistol.
But it does not fit. It sure would be convenient if it did.

These pistols require a special aircraft mount, typically on the side, not the top like the sextant mount.
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 6 Grips removed
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 7 Firing Pin Group Removed
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
The set screw is 6-32 x 1/8" long.
Need to know the firing pin diameter at primer end
and it's protrusion past breech block when fully forward.
Let me know where to buy one.
Fig 8 Remove Trigger guard & trigger hinge screw
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 9 Remove barrel group
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 10 Remove right side plate after removing grips
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 11 Frame with plate in place
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 12 Frame with plate off
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 13 close up of mechanism & with firing pin in place
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol
Fig 20 Partially disassembled
                      Pyrotechnic Flare Pistol


AN-M8 Flare Pistol

Can fire both flanged "American" shells as well as grooved "British" shells.

2347645 Flare pistol, John M Sherrer, Glen R Severance, Ephraim S Huntington, Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Co, May  2, 1944, 42/69.1, 42/44
2354025 Firearm, Johnson Edwin H, Kilgore Mfg Company, Jul 18, 1944, 42/1.15, 42/46, 102/342 -   
Flare pistol, Glen R Severance, Frederick K Comiskey, Hilten E Jones, Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Co, Oct 10, 1944, 42/46, 42/1.15 
2363203 Flare pistol, John M Sherrer, Glen R Severance, Ephraim S Huntington, Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Co, Nov 21, 1944, 42/69.1

2400322 Flare pistol installation, Wheeler Henry L, Cons Vultee Aircraft Corp, May 14, 1946, 89/37.19, 89/37.4, 89/134, 89/36.14, 89/37.16, 89/31, 89/936 - mounting into side of aircraft

2449540 Aircraft flare, Albin Joseph, priority: 1942-06-09, Patent Citations (25),

Very Signal Cartridge

190263 Signal-Cartridge, E. W. Very, May 1, 1877, 102/346 - oldest patent in this class, 300 feet up 8 seconds burn time (starts burning in barrel) -
        oldest in class 102/346 AMMUNITION AND EXPLOSIVES\PYROTECHNICS\Gun-type cartridge
        RE8167 Signal Cartridge, E.W. Very,  April 9, 1878, 102/346; 102/342  (reissue of 190263)

1299136 Projection of explosive shells, bombs, or grenades, S.C. Davidson, Apr 1, 1919, 89/1.3, 89/1.1, 42/105 - tripod mounted flare pistol
1306407 Flare Light Shell, S.C. Davidson, June 10 1919, 102/342, 102/346 - cartridge for breach loading smooth bore launcher/gun

2344957 Pistol rocket, Anzalone Ralph, Aerial Products Inc, Filed: Jan 12, 1940, Pub:  Mar 28, 1944, - 2 parts, one breach loaded the other muzzle loaded. Referenced by 35 other patents

Sedgley Flare Gun

1788443 Firearm, Reginald F Sedgley, 1931-01-13, 42/8; 43/135; 42/1.15 - gas, shot, bullets or signals
1874815 Firearm, Reginald F Sedgley, 1932-08-30, 42/51 - one handed operation for pilots
2111374 Line throwing mechanism for pistols, Reginald F Sedgley, 1938-03-15, 42/106; 102/504; 89/1.34 -

Aerial Products

2309107 Parachute device, Guy E Giroux, Aerial Products, 1943-01-26, - molded as thin sheet of rubber in hemispherical shape
2344957 Pistol rocket, Anzalone Ralph, Aerial Products, 1944-03-28, - fins outside flare pistol barrel
2397114 Rocket construction, Anzalone Ralph, Aerial Products, 1946-03-26, - fins fold inside flare pistol barrel
2417592 Smoke generator, Dwyer Martin, Aerial Products, 1947-03-18, - metal can with pop-top lift and pull tab
2442528 Rocket device, John O Beattle, Aerial Products, 1948-06-01, - flare with parachute
2459267 Self-contained emergency signaling device adapted to be operated automatically after being launched, Dwyer Martin, Harbor Hewlett, Philip B Edwards, Aerial Products,1949-01-18, - dropped from aircraft, timer
2505950 Launching or discharging equipment for signaling, Dwyer Martin, Tsang Chi Mou, Aerial Products,1950-05-02, - for distress signaling, not countermeasure flares.


40mm munitions & projectors
8-Day Aircraft Clocks
Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum Revolver
Hammerlli M150 Free Pistol
FN FAL ".308 Match" Rifle
Daisy BB Rifle
Survival Kit with Pocket Pen Gun flare launcher
Gibson Girl CRT-3A Life Boat radio system
Survival Radios


FM 3-23.30 Grenades and Pyrotechnic Signals, Oct 2009

TM 901095-201-15 Operator, Organizational, Field and Depot Maintenance Manual
                                 Ground Signal Projector M1A1;
                                 Hand Pyrotechnic Projector M9; and
                                 Pyrotechnic Pistol AN-M8 with Pyrotechnic Pistol Mount M1
                                 Nov 1962

TM 9-1095-201-25P Organizational, Field and Depot Maintenance, Repair Parts and Special Tool Lists for
                                    Ground Signal Projector M9, and
                                    Hand Pyrotechnic Projector M9, and
                                    Pyrotechnic Pistol AN-M8 with Pyrotechnic Pistol Mount M1
                                    30 March 1962

TM-43-0001-37 Technical Manual, Army Ammunition Data Sheets:
                            Military Pyrotechnics (Federal Supply Class 1370)
                            January 1994

Notes on Signal and Illuminating Devices and the Apparatus for Projecting them, from the French Edition of 1917, Translated and edited at the Army War College, May 1917

Military and Civilian Pyrotechnics, by DR. Herbert Ellern, 1968 -
Pyrotechny by George W. Weingart, Poor Man's James Bond, Vol1 No. 1
Pyrotechnics by George Washington Weingart, 2nd Ed 1947

Patents with "Pains-Wessex" somewhere


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