Strange Guns

By Annika R.

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Two bigger siblings that never were…

… mass-produced, anyway.  Prototypes were built though, as we can see!

Up top we have an experimental .30-06 caliber Thompson SubMachine Gun, looking fairly handsome if you ask me. I can’t find a whole lot about this specimen, although internet reports suggest that it was a simple blow-back rifle! Those of you who have the money and desire to do so can order a video called “Thompson Submachine gun”, produced by Rimfire Productions and Mr. William Douglas, through this website. This video contains footage and information on “Model 1923 and 1929 Thompsons, the British BSA Thompsons, the model M1A2 and T-2 Thompson” and of course the .30-06 model.

The second of the two rifles is an experimental British 7.62 NATO Sterling prototype. Photos available from ForgottenWeapons.com indicate that at least two different prototypes were built, one that may have been a direct blow-back and the other looking perhaps like a lever- or roller-delayed action (you can judge for yourself).

Considering that most purpose built battle rifles chambered in full rifle rounds offer recoil that is nothing if not stout, it can be surmised that shooting either of these lighter, scaled-up rifles would have been something of a punishing experience.

Thanks to the Vintage Semi-Automatic Sporting Rifles forum for the above photo of the Thompson.

Filed under GUN Guns firearm rifle WWII History Antique vintage prototype experimental .308 30-06

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LePage (Liege) 9mm Browning Long high-capacity pistol.

Here’s a definite oddball! This large blow-back pistol probably held 20 or more rounds (similar to the Ruby Plus Ultra pistol) of 9mm Browning Long, but that’s not the strangest thing about it. According to littlegun.be, there is no direct linkage between the trigger group and the hammer firing mechanism, rather, the trigger simply exerts pressure directly upon the magazine, which in turn pushes backward and interacts with the separate hammer-fire group, releasing the hammer in order to fire. I have to imagine this would have made feeding less-than-perfectly-reliable. The bottom-center image seems to shows the inside front of the magazine well with the back of the trigger protruding where it pushes on the magazine.

Another cool feature is that the rear sight has three different easily selected notch options, probably allowing for quick range adjustment. The center notch is the standard fixed one but the sight picture can be altered by flipping up either the notch just in front of or behind it (kind of like the modern MBUS rear sight).

I can’t figure out what the exact relationship is between the large Lepage and the smaller cased one with the angular frame (looking almost like a Baby Eagle), there seem to be a few similarities and several significant differences. In any case the drawing diagram depicting the pistol-carbines lists #2733 as a “Lepage 9mm Bergmann-Bayard” and the drawing supplied shows a mixture of the big and small models. 

(Also of interest on the diagram is #2743, which appears to be a Brixia made long barreled Glisenti with range-adjustable rear leaf sight.)

Filed under GUN Guns pistol firearm Antique vintage strange high-cap

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Smith Rifle Prototypes

  1. Prototype Smith-Condit/Standard Arms Bolt Action Semi-Automatic Rifle - “This is an example of a military prototype rifle manufactured by Smith-Condit from U.S. patent #817198 granted to Morris Smith in April of 1906… It features a gas plug located below the gas tube which permits use as a semi-automatic or by a manual slide action. This was the first appearance for this feature which was later incorporated into the short lived Standard Arms “H” and later “G” Models… This rifle has an unusual charging handle arrangement, otherwise the receiver and general configuration are that of a Standard Arms Co. Sporting Rifle. This example is one of a number of such types of rifles made by Smith and given trials at Springfield Armory on April 8 and June 16, 1910. The board declined the rifle as not sturdy enough for military use, also for needing a non-standard cartridge and as being too complicated…”
  2. Smith-Condit Arms Slide Action Prototype Rifle - “The rifle is a prototype manufactured by Smith-Condit Arms and is very similar to the Standard Arms Model M slide action rifle, which this rifle likely evolved into. The Model M was Standard Arms’ manual slide action rifle that was introduced circa 1909…”
  3. Morris Smith/Standard Arms Prototype Rotary Bolt Slide Action Rifle - “This unusual rifle features a rotary bolt design and while a variant, still the basic configuration of a Standard Arms Co. rifle. The exact date of manufacture is unknown, however characteristics would put it during the late Smith-Cordit Arms or early Standard Arms period of 1907-1910….”

Photos and text from Rock Island Auction Company.

Filed under GUN Guns firearm rifle prototype Antique vintage

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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