Strange Guns

By Annika R.

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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

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Experimental Swiss “Pistole 47 W + F” (Waffenfabrik Bern)

One of the very few gas-delayed action pistols ever built and probably the first really refined design following the last-ditch Mauser Volkspistole (which ended up not even being gas-delayed).

"One of the last Bern pistols tested by Switzerland when seeking a handgun to replace the Luger. Approximately 15-20 of these gas seal pistols were assembled by Bern." - manebooks.com

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The 1905 and 1907 White-Merrill pistols.

According to Pistols of the World (Hogg & Walter), the earlier .45acp 1905 pistol design was a delayed blowback weapon wherein the delay was achieved by the “differential leverage” and resulting resistance of the specially placed hammer itself. Apparently this design proved unsatisfactory.

The later 1907 model, designed with a view to the military trials being conducted at that time, was not, as is often reported, a blowback design. Rather, it shared a remarkable similarity to the Browning system with three barrel ribs locking into the front of the slide. The most visually obvious feature of the 1907 pistol is of course the somewhat “batwing” shaped cocking lever under the trigger guard, useful for racking the slide with one hand. The 10 round magazine could be loaded either through the top via stripper clip or pulled out the bottom of the grip. While the photos we have available do not show this feature it is reported that the military trial pistol had a left side translucent grip panel for counting remaining rounds. The usual bugs associated with prototype specimens led to the disqualification of the pistol after having fired 211 rounds.

Filed under Guns gun pistol firearm vintage Antique .45acp military history

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The strangely proportioned and mechanically unusual Berger repeating pistol

Cal. 7.65mm. The Berger repeating pistol, made in France, has a unique mechanism that involves a double set of hammers. A large, fixed front sight, made of copper, sits on the barrel over a tubular magazine that loads from the left side. Pulling the trigger actuates the cartridge elevator while cocking both hammers. The forward hammer/breechblock, that carries the firing pin, falls first. The rearmost hammer immediately follows, striking the now-protruding firing pin. Relaxing the finger loop allows the trigger to spring back into position.

Filed under firearm Guns gun pistol Repeater vintage Antique Steam Punk steampunk

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James Sieg’s bull-pup rifle.
"A typical gas operated rifle, with expanding propellant piped off the barrel and against an rod/piston mechanism, the Sieg rifle wasn’t mechanically unique. What made it different was the choice of bull-pup layout, elaborate muzzle break and snag-free envelope. The Sieg was fed by a 20 round box magazine chambered in .30-06. To create the overall snag-free siholuette, Sieg designed a rifle that had folding front and rear sights, and not pistol grip. The rifle itself was manipulated by the firer who gripped the magazine behind the trigger assembly.
A lever behind the trigger assembly acted as a combination safety and magazine release, ergonomically laid out for easy use. And the trigger itself was deigned to have two stages. Instead of a separate lever or mechanism to switch between full-and-semi-auto, Sieg made the rifle trigger with two functions. The upper pivoting trigger fired in semi-auto, while the bottom half of the same trigger when depressed went full-auto, at a rate of fire between 600-700 rounds per minute. The element that was perhaps most appreciated by testers of the day was the Sieg designed muzzle compensator. Expertly machined, the muzzle assembly was designed to tame the recoil and muzzle rise experience in rapid or fully automatic fire. It was described as easy to shoot, with little recoil, and capable of being fire with one hand.”
Exactly why the design didn’t go anywhere is anyone’s guess at this point.
-Quote from http://www.dieselpunks.org/profiles/blogs/little-known-american-bullpup

James Sieg’s bull-pup rifle.

"A typical gas operated rifle, with expanding propellant piped off the barrel and against an rod/piston mechanism, the Sieg rifle wasn’t mechanically unique. What made it different was the choice of bull-pup layout, elaborate muzzle break and snag-free envelope. The Sieg was fed by a 20 round box magazine chambered in .30-06. To create the overall snag-free siholuette, Sieg designed a rifle that had folding front and rear sights, and not pistol grip. The rifle itself was manipulated by the firer who gripped the magazine behind the trigger assembly.

A lever behind the trigger assembly acted as a combination safety and magazine release, ergonomically laid out for easy use. And the trigger itself was deigned to have two stages. Instead of a separate lever or mechanism to switch between full-and-semi-auto, Sieg made the rifle trigger with two functions. The upper pivoting trigger fired in semi-auto, while the bottom half of the same trigger when depressed went full-auto, at a rate of fire between 600-700 rounds per minute. The element that was perhaps most appreciated by testers of the day was the Sieg designed muzzle compensator. Expertly machined, the muzzle assembly was designed to tame the recoil and muzzle rise experience in rapid or fully automatic fire. It was described as easy to shoot, with little recoil, and capable of being fire with one hand.”

Exactly why the design didn’t go anywhere is anyone’s guess at this point.

-Quote from http://www.dieselpunks.org/profiles/blogs/little-known-american-bullpup

Filed under Guns gun firearm rifle Carbine bullpup

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Early development Schulhof manual repeating pistol M1884

Schulhof was credited with having developed several types of repeating pistols in about 1884 and later in the 1880s. This version has a 6” bbl with a drift adjustable front and rear sight. A finger loop lever under the receiver was used to close the bolt. Having traveled to its final position, the trigger protruded into the finger loop and could be pulled to fire the gun. A small nudge released the finger loop, allowing it to spring forward. Loading was accomplished through the left grip that was retained by a tensioned latch. It is estimated Schulhof made fewer than 50 of these repeaters. Though awkward and cumbersome by today’s standards, repeater pistols were an important development and provided the foundation for more modern semiautomatics.

The lower image depicts an interesting prototype alternative arrangement. Loading on this model is through a forward frame extension box magazine that is brazed in place and has a curved vertical slot in the right side to accommodate the feed lever and cartridge follower. The cartridges are loaded from a stripper clip (not present) inserted from beneath the magazine box and are tensioned by the leaf spring driven feed lever, which is pivoted internally from above the loading lever.

Filed under pistol firearm Guns gun Antique vintage Repeater steampunk Steam Punk

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Grant Hammond’s 1912 patent gas powered “blow-forward” pistol.

"The gun was chambered for the .32 ACP, though I suspect this was simply an expedient in a proof-of-concept gun, since the .32 cartridge doesn’t require a locked breech mechanism. The gun has a barrel casing which contains the gasses from the burnt propellant. This casing is blown forward by the force of the gas, and in its forward-most position the gas pressure is bled off.  By this time the bullet has left the barrel, and as the casing moves back toward the rear it activates the rotating bolt which unlocks the action, ejects the spent shell, cocks the hammer, and chambers a new round.  When the last bullet in the magazine has been fired, the magazine drops out of the gun.  When a new magazine is inserted, the bolt closes automatically and chambers the first round.  I can’t imagine that this gun could ever have been made to work reliably, as its mechanism was too complicated"

Find out more at http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/GHP/ghp.html

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Reiger Manual Repeating Pistol M1889 with brass frame.
Cal. 8mm.  Finger loop trigger and firing function are very similar to the Schulhof pistols. A finger loop under the receiver was used to close the bolt. Having travelled to its final position, pressure on the trigger releases the firing pin to fire the cartridge. To access the cylindrical rotary magazine compartment, it was only necessary to move the right-side cover toward the rear. The cylindrical skeleton frame 6 cartridge clip (present) was simply dropped into the recess to load the pistol. The safety is mounted on the frame behind the bolt. Pushing the safety to the left blocks the bolt, preventing finger loop movement and bolt retraction. If already cocked, the safety will enter a notch in the protruding firing pin to block its movement. Moving the safety to the right allows unencumbered operation.

Reiger Manual Repeating Pistol M1889 with brass frame.

Cal. 8mm.  Finger loop trigger and firing function are very similar to the Schulhof pistols. A finger loop under the receiver was used to close the bolt. Having travelled to its final position, pressure on the trigger releases the firing pin to fire the cartridge. To access the cylindrical rotary magazine compartment, it was only necessary to move the right-side cover toward the rear. The cylindrical skeleton frame 6 cartridge clip (present) was simply dropped into the recess to load the pistol. The safety is mounted on the frame behind the bolt. Pushing the safety to the left blocks the bolt, preventing finger loop movement and bolt retraction. If already cocked, the safety will enter a notch in the protruding firing pin to block its movement. Moving the safety to the right allows unencumbered operation.

Filed under Guns gun pistol Repeater vintage Antique steampunk Steam Punk brass