Strange Guns

By Annika R.

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LOSOK Custom Arms prototype Mk 36
While I tend to focus on antique designs (partly due to personal preference and partly due to the fact that firearm designers were simply more creative in the past), there certainly are some strange new guns out there.
Here we have a prototype firearm that can be described as essentially an AR10-Garand hybrid chambered in 30-06. The lower receiver accepts a standard AR lower parts kit (whether 15 or 10 is not specified) and a standard AR buffer tube. The gas piston (and presumably bolt construction) are of the M1 Garand type. The weapon is described as having been built in order to offer greater range potential as compared to current 7.62 NATO AR pattern rifles, although it seems to me that the performance increase wouldn’t be all that much. Either way it’s a neat looking design and I have to applaud anybody trying out new and interesting configurations.
The LOSOK representative and designer of the arm claims in this video that Osprey Armament will market and produce the rifle. The only 30-06 rifle shown on Osprey’s homepage is, however, the Heavy Counter Assault Rifle: a joint Ohio Ordnance Works-Osprey Armament design (pretty much a modern lightweight M1918 BAR). It seems a little unlikely to me that Osprey will market both of these rifles, considering how similar of a niche they are both intended to fill.

LOSOK Custom Arms prototype Mk 36

While I tend to focus on antique designs (partly due to personal preference and partly due to the fact that firearm designers were simply more creative in the past), there certainly are some strange new guns out there.

Here we have a prototype firearm that can be described as essentially an AR10-Garand hybrid chambered in 30-06. The lower receiver accepts a standard AR lower parts kit (whether 15 or 10 is not specified) and a standard AR buffer tube. The gas piston (and presumably bolt construction) are of the M1 Garand type. The weapon is described as having been built in order to offer greater range potential as compared to current 7.62 NATO AR pattern rifles, although it seems to me that the performance increase wouldn’t be all that much. Either way it’s a neat looking design and I have to applaud anybody trying out new and interesting configurations.

The LOSOK representative and designer of the arm claims in this video that Osprey Armament will market and produce the rifle. The only 30-06 rifle shown on Osprey’s homepage is, however, the Heavy Counter Assault Rifle: a joint Ohio Ordnance Works-Osprey Armament design (pretty much a modern lightweight M1918 BAR). It seems a little unlikely to me that Osprey will market both of these rifles, considering how similar of a niche they are both intended to fill.

Filed under GUN Guns prototype AR 30-06 garand rifle long range firearm new

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Mystery solved! And how! The truly bizarre “M17” Frommer Stop Long-Recoil Dual Submachine-gun.

Quite a while ago I came upon a curious photo of a Frommer Stop that had no visible trigger guard or trigger. Some folks on a Russian gun forum had been guessing about it but hadn’t come up with anything definitive.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it must have been one of a matched set of Frommer submachine-guns originally meant for mounting on a tripod!

According to various writers on the greatwarforum, the Austro-Hungarian High Command had been inspired by the Italian Villar Perosa twin barreled submachine-gun, primarily because of its extremely high rate of fire - “as fast as 1500 rpm per barrel”. As is shown one result of this inspiration was the creation of a tripod mounted submachine-gun based on the native Hungarian Frommer design, although I’m not sure whether the end result was chambered in .32 or .380 ACP (presumably the former). I wonder if the long-recoil action would have slowed the rate of fire at all as compared to other submachine-guns. Also, each individual pistol can be fired by hand simply by exerting sufficient pressure on the tab just above the grip safety, sometimes causing them to be called “palm guns”.

This arrangement seems to have been considered unsatisfactory as the Austro-Hungarians ended up producing a direct copy of the Villar Perosa called the MP18.

Find out more in “Ortner, M. Christian (2006). Storm Troops: Austro-Hungarian Assault Units and Commandos in the First World War.” (Militaria Verlag).

Filed under GUN Guns firearm submachinegun pistol Frommer Villar Perosa vintage Antique military war

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The Knoble .45 Prototype 1907 Trial Pistol.

Here we have yet another of the lesser known automatic pistol designs submitted to the 1907 US Military Trials.

W. B. Knoble, of Tacoma, WA (a part of the country not exactly known for firearm design) started working on his design in around 1904 and submitted two test pistols to the trial, one a dedicated single action, the other a promising double-action model, something of a rarity amongst automatics at the time.

The short recoil action is a relatively simple and elegant design, visually similar in some respects to the Luger toggle-lock system but more compact and probably more positive in its locking and unlocking. In this system the barrel, barrel extension (or receiver) and breech bolt travel backwards together for a short distance before a connected pivoting lever simply lifts the whole breech bolt and its locking lugs out of corresponding slots or recesses in the barrel extension.

Knoble’s plan was to have a couple of New York outfitters represent him and his design at the 1907 trials, unfortunately they pulled out in favor of representing a .45 Mauser prototype that never materialized. As a result nobody at the trials understood the construction of the weapon and couldn’t get either example disassembled or even to fire. The trial judges noted that the submitted examples were roughly built prototypes and blamed the difficulty on that fact. Apparently there is an old American Rifleman article which claims that some branch the US military requested a better finished pistol for actual testing and was delivered on chambered in .30 Luger. It seems clear that this later example also didn’t impress, which is too bad since the design seemed to have promise.

The above drawing is from the 1903 patent “Rapid-fire pistol” US 743002 A

Filed under GUN guns firearm pistol handgun prototype 1907 trials us military vintage Antique

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John M. Browning Pistol Prototypes 1895 - 1924

From left to right in descending order:

  1. 1895 Gas Operated “Magazine Pistol”. Set the general configuration and basic look that was to be used by most American automatics. More info.
  2. 1897 patent .32 Caliber Blowback Pistol. Early precursor to the FN Model 1900 design. Patent.
  3. 1897 patent Rotating-Barrel Pistol. More info.
  4. 1897 patent .38 Caliber Recoil-Operated Pistol. A slightly more refined design that lent some features to the Colt Model 1900. Patent.
  5. Early .38 Caliber Prototype Colt Model 1900.
  6. .32 Caliber Prototype FN Model 1899/1900. Patent.
  7. Prototype FN Model 1903 Large Model.
  8. .32 Caliber Prototype FN Model 1910.
  9. 1922-23 Early 9mm Prototype Hammerless (striker-fired) Pistol. John Browning’s last pistol design, this roughly built example would serve as the basis for the  Browning “Grande Puissance” (Hi-Power). Patent.
  10. Last of the Striker-Fired Prototypes built at FN, ~1924.

Filed under GUN Guns pistol Antique vintage prototype browning John M. Browning Black and White

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This is one strange gun! The 9mm belt-fed Italian Sosso manufactured by Fabbrica Nazionale d’Armi di Brescia during WWII.

The most obvious bizarre feature is the use of a box-contained 20 round “belt” or link magazine. As the 1936 magazine patent puts it, the curved metal frame houses an “endless belt stretched between two drums…” The magazine and the belt are curved so as to accommodate a comfortable grip angle as this arrangement clearly doesn’t allow for the usual advancing diagonally stacked bullet placement.

The specific functioning of the pistol action is something that I haven’t quite been able to figure out. The only internal diagram I have to go off of is from the patent for Sosso’s sear system, which is vague at best regarding what exact type of action the illustrated example pistol uses (something about the barrel acting upon the breech via a swinging arm or lever, though it doesn’t seem to be lever delayed). A very strange detail explained in the patent is that the barrel mounted main action spring also acts as the hammer spring through a series of connected levers. There is no actual guaranty that these particular features are to be found on the production Sosso pistol, although it seems likely to me. Interestingly, this patent is cited by US patent 4539889A for Gaston Glock’s 1982 “Automatic pistol with counteracting spring control mechanism”.

Regarding the history of the Sosso, a member of the Axis History Forum has this to say: “[The first 1934 model] was rather expensive and so Sosso made a new version. Mechanism remained same, gun and slide were designed rounder and frame of the gun was made of Zama called metal mixture. This proved to be too flimsy. Small numbers of the nro 2 model were manufactured during 1938-40. Third [all steel] model was developed and it went into production in 1941 at FNA factory in Italy after Guilio Sosso had offered it to Walther factory in germany. Weight 1150 g, it had same 20 round magazine… There were two models in production - military model which had a metal-frame holster which could be used as stock and a lanyard ring. The model meant to civil markets lacked these. [sic]” Of course, I haven’t been able to verify any of these details.

Filed under GUN gun firearm pistol handgun Antique vintage wwII wwii history glock

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The lesser known Lewis designs.

Isaac Newton Lewis is most famous for his successful Lewis machine gun of 1911, a weapon used extensively in WWI and still occasionally seen all the way through Korea. This gas (piston) powered rifle had a few quirks, the drum magazine advancing system and the main action spring being notable. Interestingly, the design originally came with a large cooling shroud covering the barrel, but these were often seen as unnecessary and removed.

However, hardly anyone seems to remember his later, highly unique intermediate designs. With patents filed from 1918-19 and granted in 1922, his “Shock Action” system for both “light” infantry rifles and pistols is worth inspecting.

At heart the design utilizes a modified type of gas-trap system, one where a portion of  the gas released by the muzzle blast enters and fills (or otherwise produces force within) a large casing almost entirely encapsulating the barrel (rather than simply a small cavity). This gas, or hopefully as is described in the patent, a “shock-wave” is sent bouncing backward after crashing against the end of the barrel casing shroud, exerting pressure upon a tubular piston (in the above rifle patent drawing, part 13, with the pistol, 55) “in the form of an annular disc which is slidably mounted upon the barrel” and filling the gap between the barrel and outer “casing” or shroud wall. This barrel-mounted tube piston is connected to a traditional solid piston rod housed above the barrel, which acts upon the bolt in a more or less standard fashion.

US Patent 1430661 explains the benefit of this system in these terms: “An important distinction must be drawn at the outset between the present automatic… firearm operated by shocks or pressure impulses, and firearms operated by the direct pressure of the heated gases of discharge upon parts connected with the actuating mechanism of the firearm. In the improved firearm the hot gases of discharge do not necessarily come into direct contact with the actuating mechanism… and preferably are transmitted to said mechanism… through the medium of an intervening column of air. Thus said mechanism, or said parts, do not become highly heated by the gases and do not become fouled by deposits therefrom, enabling the firearm to be operated for more extended periods without cleaning, and preventing jamming or inefficient operation due to said fouling deposits.” In addition, the patents explain, recoil is reduced and the overall mechanism forces air over the barrel and internal mechanism while firing, helping to further cool the weapon.

Contemporary and later true gas trap designs, such as the Bang M1922 and the early Garands, gained a reputation for being finicky, owing mostly to excessive fouling. Lewis’ system seemed to have included most of the beneficial aspects of the traditional gas trap rifles (the Germans felt gas trap guns were more accurate, also they were theoretically more forgiving of a variety of bullet weights, powder loads etc.) and additionally may have avoided the issue of excessive fouling. I haven’t been able to find any documentation detailing why exactly this design never went anywhere. Likely it was just seen as too complicated and costly as weighed against the potential benefits.

  1. The top photo is the only one I know of depicting an assembled prototype of the rifle described in these patents, and was generously supplied by ForgottenWeapons.com (taken at the National Firearms Center in Leeds).
  2. Below that is an image from Great Briton patent 177550A, which is more straightforward than the US patent drawings. It is interesting to note that in these patents the rifle is shown to include “a metallic member or plate (US 143, GB 5) which may serve not only as a firing mount or support for the gun by resting the lower part thereof against the ground or other object, but which also serves as a shield or protector for the head or body of the gunner when firing the gun.”
  3. Below that is a photo of a fascinating example of the shock-action system having (presumably) been applied by Lewis to a rotating bolt, locked breech .45acp pistol design! That Lewis was able to convince anyone (even the company bearing his name) to machine and assemble a working prototype of this bizarre, complicated handgun seems to me a wondrous thing. The built example does outwardly deviate enough from the patent drawing to cause a suspicion that it may indeed be a simpler, derivative design.
  4. To the right is an image from the pistol patent US 1430662.
  5. Below that is a much more commonly available image of what appears to be a later transitional model rifle with a full-length, perforated handguard. It looks to me as though it’s outfitted with a true gas-trap mechanism integrated into the sight block at the front.
  6. The bottom image is of a later “Lewis M1924”, a detachable box magazine machine gun sporting a run-of-the-mill looking gas-piston system (this rifle was probably built by the St. Denis factory of Lewis Guns but may or may not have actually been based on a patented design by Isaac Lewis). Apparently these are all treated in William M. Easterly’s book The Belgian Rattlesnake, although I have never read a copy.

On a personal note, this is one of the earliest strange gun designs to catch my eye and cause me to become interested in obscure weapon systems when I was younger, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Filed under GUN Guns firearm rifle Antique vintage prototype

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Prototype, custom and special Bergmann models.

In order,

  1. Un-numbered Bergmann No.1 pistol in 5mm
  2. Very early Bergmann No.2 (s/n 16) with folding trigger
  3. Target model of the No.3 in 6.5mm, complete with improved sights, a 7.25 inch long barrel, and set trigger
  4. Non-standard No.5 Bergmann, this one comes from Reinhart and am Rhyn and was sent to Switzerland for trials
  5. Another prototype No.5. This one bears a lot of resemblance to the 1896 pattern, has no serial number, and appears to be an experimental transition model
  6. M1897 Long barrel pistol carbine. Although most M1897s were sold with a leather covered shoulder stock, the true long barrel pistol carbines were equipped with a solid butt stock that attached to the frame using a standard lug

The first five images and descriptions are from ForgottenWeapons.com, head on over to their website for much more info on each Bergmann model. As the seal clearly indicates, the last two images and description are from James D. Julia.

Filed under GUN gun firearm pistol rare Antique Bergmann

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Steyr Laumann Model 1891 Repeating Pistol

The image provided depicts SN 15 of the Caliber 7.8mm pistol. Josef Laumann, of Austria, made a very small number of manual repeater pistols prior to his collaboration with the Schönbergers. These large frame guns had a very distinctive silhouette, largely due to their forward, angled magazine housing made to house a stripper clip. 

Operation is like most repeaters, whereby a spring loaded finger ring cocks the pistol while moving the bolt forward, simultaneously chambering a cartridge. When cocked, the rear of the firing pin extends from the bolt. Pressing down on the serrated arm of the safety allows the trigger to be pulled. Cartridge feeding was via a special stripper clip that was released using the 1/2” checkered button mounted on the right side of the receiver.

The main historical significance of this arm is, of course, that it served as the basis for the 1892 Schönberger-Laumann, one of the very earliest automatic pistols.

Filed under Guns gun firearm pistol vintage Antique steampunk mechanical repeater

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The Schönberger-Laumann (Steyr M1892) controversy.

For being a historically very significant firearm, one of the very earliest automatic pistols, the Schönberger-Laumann is not particularly well understood. Both internet sources and “canonical” books alike give differing reports concerning its most basic functioning.

For example, Ian V. Hogg (1926 – 2002), the notable British author of numerous books on firearms and other military equipment, described the pistol in question as having been primer actuated. “The bolt is locked by a cam surface on a forked arm; when the pistol is fired, the cap [or primer] sets back about 0.18 of an inch, imparting movement to the heavy striker before the cap is stopped by the face of the bolt. This slight movement is sufficient to cause a lug on the striker to disengage the locking cam, so leaving the bolt free to recoil…”  From New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Firearms. Edward C. Ezell agrees with the above judgement and even includes a very detailed (and seemingly fabricated) description of the primer actuation process in his Handguns of the World.

Others probably fall closer to the mark when they simply describe it as a blowback action. Although I haven’t read it myself, I have heard that R. K. Wilson in his 1943 Textbook of Automatic Pistols describes the Schönberger-Laumann as a delayed blowback design, which I now believe to be correct.

So why this confusion, considering that the US patent (in any case) hasn’t been lost to history? Simply put, the patent itself is most likely the biggest source of confusion. US No. 534,894 of Feb. 26, 1895 is rather poorly written by most modern standards. Crucial details about the functioning of the bolt delay mechanism are practically hidden throughout the text and some of the wording verges on the outright cryptic. Furthermore, the supplied drawings are anything but tidy. Certain important parts are never shown separate from the assembled whole. Tiny letters meant to identify important components are strewn throughout the images and are difficult to correctly attribute. Three alternative configurations of the pistol (semi-auto, a simpler semi-auto setup and full-auto) are depicted in the drawings, some with overlaid dotted lines indicating various stages of operation, further complicating things. Additionally, Laumann simply did not have much access to a standardized method of describing automatic arms. Considering this it’s no wonder that some of his terminology is rather creative.

All of this aside, the fairly unique nature of the action itself makes it a little difficult to call a classification one way or another.

Having studied the patent intensively I feel as though I understand why Hogg assumed the action to be a primer-actuated type (one may wish to consult the supplied patent drawings and the full text of the patent in order to better follow the next section). In the first case, the US drawing of the bolt itself shows its construction to be such that the firing pin might plausibly be able to protrude so far out of the breech face while firing as to fairly impale the primer of a round rather than merely strike it. Furthermore, protrusions that are part of the firing pin itself interact with the blowback delaying components of the bolt mechanism. All of this can easily lead one to assume a primer-actuation at play. The truth of the matter, however, is that the drawings show the firing pin as being obstructed from sliding as far forward as might be imagined possible and as would be necessary for primer actuation. The text also makes it clear that as much as anything the “locking bar” (J) pushes the firing pin back after being only briefly delayed by the pin’s projection (g1)- the firing pin doesn’t itself actually have to be pushed back prior to J rising out of the corresponding notch (h1) in the “standing breech”.  Or in Hogg’s language, the lug on the striker doesn’t actually have to first be pushed back by the cap in order to allow the locking cam to disengage, rather, the locking cam is slowed by the striker lug but ultimately just pushes it out of the way due to the overall movement of the bolt via normal blowback forces. Also, as gun author John Walter correctly points out, the 1895 US patent doesn’t mention anything about special ammunition attributes, something one would expect in a primer-actuated design.

So, unless Hogg had access to a real working example and observed its operation as being different than that described in the US patent, the myth of the primer actuated Schönberger-Laumann can be laid to rest.

What, then, are the actual specifics of the action used? The bolt is delayed by several specific mechanisms:

1) When the bolt is seated forward in the cocked/locked position, a connected, pivoting “locking bar” (J) sits down in a correspondingly shaped notch (h1). The straight angles of the bar and notch would by their own nature serve to help slow the rearward travel of the bolt since the locking bar would have to fight somewhat against an angled plane to disengage itself.

2) The force of the main action spring acts upon the bolt indirectly via a forked “breech bolt lever” (I) in contact with a projection (j4) located on the swinging locking bar rather than directly on the main bolt body itself. When the bolt is forward with the locking bar down the bolt lever under tension is positioned in such a way that it exerts a somewhat downward as well as forward force upon the locking bar. This compounding of angular forces acts as its own delay.

3) As has been noted, at the moment when the firing pin is at its forward-most firing position an integrated projection (g1) is then in contact with the top of the locking bar. This simply adds a further element of hesitation as the momentum of the just released firing pin and also the standing spring tension behind it must be overcome by the rising locking bar.

All of these conditions act in concert to delay the force of the charge. This arrangement calls to my mind roller-delayed and toggle-locked systems since they operate along somewhat similar force-redirecting principles.

Further weapon details:

The Schönberger-Laumann is reported to have fired a “7.8mmx19R” or “8x25mm” round from an internal magazine with a capacity of 5. Concerning the ballistics of the round in question, R. K. Wilson hypothesized that it propelled a 116 gr projectile to around 1,198 fps, figures remarkably similar to the 9mm Parabellum.

On the right side is a large reciprocating cocking lever that retracts the bolt partially out the rear of the frame, when done manually this also engages a holdopen that locks the bolt back. Just above the tang is the large rotating holdopen/safety whose left side is serrated. Pushing down on the left side releases the bolt and allows the pistol to fire, or with the bolt already closed another downward push engages the safety. After returning the bolt to battery the rear of the firing pin extends from the back of the bolt and can be used as a visual cocking indicator. On early Steyr models, and perhaps others, there is a .5” diameter checkered button, set in a raised escutcheon in front of the cocking lever, that acts as a magazine/clip release.

The pistol was either designed by or for two brothers of the last name Schönberger (who may have been associated with Steyr) and patented several times in different countries by Austrian Joseph Laumann in and around 1892. In his quest to design a reliable semiautomatic pistol, Laumann made a number of prototypes, most of which were produced for Austrian Army trials, and were never sold commercially. According to Ezell, the Schönberger-Laumann competed in the 1894 or 1895 Austrian pistol trials against the Salvator Dormus and two other unidentified early automatic pistols (one by Konrad von Kromar and another from Budapest, possibly an early Frommer prototype) and one revolver. A combination of unreliable charge powder and the usual prototype bugs meant that the Austrians did not end up adopting any of the automatics at that time.

  1. The top photo is of SN. 6 produced by Österreichischen Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft (Steyr).
  2. The long center image is a compilation of all of the US patent’s drawings, a useful tool for anyone trying to make heads or tails of the patent text. I recommend having both the drawings and text open in different windows for quick reference.
  3. The bottom left image is a drawing from British patent 18,823 and appears to be far more useful than the US drawings.
  4. Bottom center looks to be a proof-of-concept one-off since it isn’t even fitted with sights and has a number of parts not seen on other models.
  5. Bottom right looks to be a later model with a different magazine release arrangement.

Filed under GUN Guns gun pistol firearm vintage Antique automatic

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Bernhard Müller’s 1902 Swiss patent pistol.

According to Pistols of the World (Hogg & Walter), the Müller design operates with a short recoil rotating bolt (actuated via cam-track). Not having been able to find the patent myself I cannot verify this claim, the supplied photos seem to be ambiguous in this regard.  One notable feature is the presence of a manual (internal hammer) cocking lever, to be used in case of a misfire.

Müller sent a .7.65mm (32acp) example for testing in the 1904 Swiss military trials. Rough construction (and perhaps a flawed design) meant that the Swiss judges rejected the pistol. Despite this setback it is reported that Müller sent details for a planned .45acp variant to the US military for potential inclusion in 1905 trials. Apparently the US was uninterested. It is estimated that only around 10 of these pistols were ever made.

If you have any more information about this firearm, please contact me!

Filed under pistol firearm Guns gun Swiss vintage Antique prototype