Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Enjoy what you read here at Forgotten Weapons? Please consider supporting me on Patreon with $1/month! Thanks!

Selling my Vickers HMG

Yes, it is a sad thing to do, but it must be done. I am selling my Vickers heavy machine gun. A few details…

Continue reading Selling my Vickers HMG

Winchester’s Liberator Shotguns (Video)

In the early 1960s, an influential but little-known (today) firearms designer by the name of Robert Hillberg came up with an idea for a cheap-but-effective armament for the masses. With encouragement from DARPA, the Winchester company took up manufacture and development of the design, under the name “Liberator”.

The guns were initially planned to be made almost entirely as magnesium castings, with steel liners in the barrels, with a total cost of about $20 per gun. They would use prepackaged 4-round ammunition packets as well, rather than standard individual shotgun shells. By the time production was actually begun, however, the design had been altered to a break-action system using regular shells – the prepackaged quad-cartridges proved too difficult to perfect. So the production Mark II guns used conventional shells with a break-open action.

As it turned out, casting the frames over the steel barrel inserts was a quite difficult process, and Winchester soon moved to a MkIII design which replace the barrel casting with 4 independent all-steel barrels fixed at the muzzles by a stamped plate. By this time, however, military interest in the guns had fallen away and Winchester was left to try to market them commercially. They attempted to interest both police and civilian markets (although with 13 inch barrels, the guns were regulated by the NFA). None of these marketing attempts succeeded, and major production never began. The design was too impractical and guerrilla-oriented to really appeal to anyone with a more ordinary use (like recreational shooting, sport shooting, or security/law enforcement) in mind.

Thanks to the Cody Firearms Museum for allowing me access to film these!

Roth-Theodorovic Pistol w/ Tambour Safety (Video)

Georg Roth’s company in Austria presided over a wonderful variety of interesting handgun development, and this is one example of that lineage. Roth’s licensed or purchased the patent for this pistol from its inventor, Wasa Theodorovic, and turned it over to his engineer Karel Krnka to develop (I’m simplifying this). The design used a long recoil action and a rotating bolt, elements which would later find their way into the designs of Rudolf Frommer, who worked at FEG where the Roth pistols were manufactured.

About 80 of these Roth-Theodorovic-Krnka pistols were made, with no two quite the same. They were in a constant process of development and improvement, and this (serial number 77) is one of the very last ones. It exhibits a quite refined fire control system with single and double action modes as well as a decocker. It is made yet more interesting by the addition of a grip safety, which does not appear to be a factory element. Instead, it appears to be a design patented by Tambour and installed by a contemporary gunsmith. Tambour safeties were put in a number of other types of guns at the time, including Mannlicher 1901/1905 pistols.

Colt Paterson No.1 Carbine (Video)

Sam Colt’s very first work was done in Baltimore, but this ended fairly quickly, and it was with his subsequent move to Paterson New Jersey that the first true production Colt firearms were made. Colt set up a small shop there and introduced both handguns and rifles using his patented system in which cocking the hammer of a revolver would rotate and index the cylinder. Initially the rifles and carbines were substantially more popular than the handguns, mainly because of caliber. The pistols were tiny .28 caliber pocket models, and remarkably underpowered, while the rifles were .40 caliber and more practical. Both were very expensive, though. Only 200 of these first model rifles/carbines were made, with 50 of them going to the Army for the Seminole Campaign in Florida.

Type 99 Arisaka Sniper Rifles (Video)

4x Nagoya: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/1441
2.5x Kokura: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/1446

The Japanese Army made significant use of snipers (or in today’s terminology, designated marksmen) as part of its infantry combined arms doctrine, and produced about 22,000 Type 97 sniper rifles for use in WWII and the Sino-Japanese War. In 1941, shortly after the adoption of the new 7.7mm rifle cartridge, it was decided that a sniper rifle variant of the Type 99 should be made in addition to the Type 97 (which was basically a scoped Type 38).

Testing through 1941 determined that there was almost no practical difference in accuracy between scoped examples of the Type 99 long and short rifles, and so the short rifle was chosen to be the basis for the Type 99 sniper (the Type 99 long rifles would drop from production altogether pretty quickly anyway). About 1,000 of the scoped 99s were manufactured by the Kokura Arsenal using the same 2.5x scope as on the Type 97 sniper, while the Nagoya Arsenal instead used a 4x scope, offering more magnification at the expense of a narrower field of view. Nagoya would produce approximately 10,000 of these rifles, with 4x scopes except for a period between serial numbers 5,000 and 7,000 with 2.5x scopes (most likely the remainder stored at Kokura when that plant ceased production). The rifles made into snipers were given no special selection criteria; simply taken at random from normal production. The utility of the weapon in Japanese practice came not from it being mechanically more accurate than any other issue rifle, but rather from the optical sight allowing better exploitation of that standard rifle’s inherent accuracy.

General Liu’s Prototype Rifle (Video)

The General Liu rifle (named for its designer – it never received an official designation that we know of) was China’s closest approach to an indigenous self-loading infantry rifle before World War II. Mechanically it used the same principles as the Danish Bang rifle – a muzzle cup captured some of the gases from firing and was pulled forward, moving a cam and lever that cycled the bolt. Liu was appointed head of the Hanyang Arsenal, and used the opportunity to put a new semiautomatic rifle into production.

The Pratt & Whitney company of Hartford was contracted to supply the machinery to mass-produce the rifle, and about a dozen sample rifles were built by P&W. They were tested in China and met with general approval, and the machinery was loaded up and shipped to Shanghai. Unfortunately, General Liu suffered a stroke and either died or was incapacitated (sources differ on this) before the tooling arrived, and it ended up sitting on the docks for years, as the rifle project foundered and never cam to fruition without Liu’s supervision. The tools were eventually sent to an arsenal and repurposed for producing other guns.

Colt “Brevete” Copy Overview: Legal, Illegal, and Post-Legal (Video)

When you think about early revolver patent infringement, the name that probably comes to mind is Rollin White. But Sam Colt had more than his share of infringement to deal with as well! Colt’s most important patent was on the linking of the hammer and cylinder, so that cocking the hammer would automatically rotate and index the cylinder (basically, the single action concept). He patented this in the US and throughout Europe around 1836, but his initial business efforts in Paterson, New Jersey were a failure. It wasn’t until the late 1840s that he created a really successful revolver design. By this time, more than half of his patent period had passed, leaving him only until the early 1850s to exploit his legal monopoly on his ideas.

European and American gunmakers were making unlicensed (illegal) copies of his guns from the first Paterson days, although they really took off in popularity with copies of the 1851 Navy model. Colt reacted to this by setting up a licensing fee system and hiring an agent to represent the company at the Liege proofhouse in Belgium, where it was possible to intercept most of the illegitimate guns. Those deemed of sufficient quality could pay 10 Francs and be stamped “Colt Brevete”, rendering them licensed and the manufacturer safe from legal action by Colt.

These Brevete Colt copies are a whole world of interesting collecting by themselves, and one that is ignored by most Colt devotees. In this video, I take a look at 9 different examples to give you an idea of the wide variety of guns that were made both as licensed copies, illicit unlicensed copies, and legal unlicensed copies made after Colt’s patents expired.

If you are interested in learning more about these guns, I strongly recommend the book “Colt Brevete Revolvers” by Roy Marcot and Ron Paxton.

The guns in this video are:

German: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/240
Belgian Post-1854: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/237
Nice Belgian Licensed: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/241
Another Nice Licensed Belgian: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/242
Engraved Belgian by T. Auguste: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/246
Weird Grip Belgian: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/243
Belgian w/ Fake Address: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/239
Another Belgian, Moderate Quality: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/238
Russian: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/244

Frommer 1901 Pistol (Video)

Rudolf Frommer was a self-taught engineer and firearms designer who worked his way up through the FEG concern in Budapest to eventually hold the position of CEO. During this time he developed a series of long-recoil, rotating-bolt pistols culminating in the Frommer Stop, which was adopted by the Austro-Hungarian military. These pistols began with the 1901 model (actually patented in 1903), which was a quite large handgun chambered for an early version of the 8mm Steyr cartridge.

The 1901 model Frommer pistol used a 10-round internal magazine fed by stripper clips, and those clips would be a primary reason the pistol was rejected when tested by the US military in 1904. American testing officers complained that the clips were finicky to use, and could easily cause jams if not handled just right (for example, yanked briskly out of the action after charging). The American testing board also criticized the gun for its 8mm cartridge (the Americans wanted nothing less than 11.25mm), and for the weapon not obscuring its sight picture when locking open on the last round.

Only about 200 Frommer 1901 pistols were made before the design was revised in the 1906 model, which was substantially smaller and chambered for a 7.65mm cartridge slightly shorter than the .32ACP. The 1910 model finally achieved a reasonable (if small) serial production of a few thousand guns, The 1912 “Stop” model introduced a much more conventional frame and grip design, and was the breakout success of the series, with several hundred thousand made.

Belgian 1862 Wall Gun (Video)

Wall guns are the philosophical predecessor to today’s anti-material rifles – large-caliber, high power rifles heavy enough that they cannot be fired from the shoulder realistically. Traditionally, they were used for defending walls or ramparts, as the name implies. They would allow defenders to perforate armor that would be proof against normal shoulder rifles, and also have a more substantial ballistic impact at long ranges than a normal rifle.

This particular one was made in Belgium in 1862, and is a .75 caliber breechloading design with a percussion ignition and hexagonal Whitworth-type rifling.

Colt Prototype “Zig-Zag” Root Revolvers (Video)

In the White: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/1132
Blued: https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/1133

The 1855 “Root” pocket revolver was a reasonably successful design for the Colt company, although it was not the best mechanical design. The side hammer design used the cylinder axis to rotate and lock in place instead of using the rear face of the cylinder, which resulted in several small and delicate parts. In an effort to correct these deficiencies, Colt and his factory superintendent Elisha Root experimented with a “zig-zag” design as well, which would use and external cam running in grooves on the cylinder wall to rotate and lock it. Root received a patent (#13,999) for a system using a ring trigger and lug on the bottom of the frame, and these two prototype revolvers demonstrate a similar system with the lug on the top of the frame. This system was not ultimately adopted, and these remain just an interesting look into the experimental workings of the Colt company.

Pritchard Bayonet for the Webley Revolver (Video)

The Pritchard bayonet for the Webley revolver is one of the more photogenic and less truly practical weapons to come out of the Great War. Designed by one Captain Pritchard after he spent a year in France in 1915-1916 with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, the idea was to use the front 8 inches or so of a sword on a cast gunmetal hilt to create a bayonet mounted on a British service revolver. He first presented the idea to the Wilkinson Sword Company, but they were too busy making sabers and rifle bayonets, and suggested that having to sacrifice usable sword blades for production would make it quite the expensive endeavor.

Pritchard next took his idea to W.W. Greener, where he found a more receptive audience. Greener had a large supply of surplus French Gras bayonets, which were cheap and served as excellent donors for the Pritchard bayonets. Something like 200 were made in total – not formally adopted by the British but available for commercial sale to officers who might want them. While some may have seen service, no hard evidence has been found to prove any combat action with them.

Over the decades, a great many fake and reproduction Pritchard bayonets have been made – many times more than there are originals. As far as I can determine, this one is a legitimate original (although it may have a replacement locking lever). A few things to look for in authenticating a Pritchard are engraved patent and manufacturer marks (most reproductions have no manufacturer logo and a stamped patent number) and a quality casting. When you hold the blade and tap the handle with a hard object, it should ring bright and bell-like (which this one does).