You may notice some weird stuff going on with the left-hand menu thingie and the new set of menus up above here – I am working on switch form one to the other, and it may take me a couple days to get it done. The result will be a much more comprehensive menu allowing easier reference of the different guns on the site. Thanks!
The Wesson & Leavitt is one of the scarcest revolving rifles made in the US, with no more than 50 made (some sources say only 16). The reason for this is that the Dragoon revolver which Wesson & Leavitt based the rifle on was found to be in violation of several Colt patents. Most importantly, when the Wesson & Leavitt Dragoon was introduced in 1850, Colt had a patent on the feature of having the cylinder index automatically when the hammer is cocked. They filed suit against Wesson & Leavitt, and won the case in 1851, before very many of the revolvers had been made.
Colette was a Belgian gun manufacturer that made this interesting parlor pistol. It used a rocketball type of cartridge, in which the powder and primer were encased in the hollow base of the bullet to make a caseless cartridge. The gravity pistol was named for its gravity feed mechanism and its 20-round capacity. Because of the very limited powder capacity of this type of cartridge, these pistols were made solely for sporting and recreational use, without an attempt at military adoption.
The Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon was developed in the 1870s as a competitor to the other manually-operated machine guns of the era, guns like the Gatling, Gardner, and Nordenfelt to name a few. What made the Hotchkiss stand out is that while the other guns were mostly built in rifle calibers, with larger options available, the smallest caliber Hotchkiss offered was 37mm. This was done because one of the primary applications for this sort of gun at the time was naval mounts to combat small torpedo boats. In that role, explosive projectiles were a major advantage, and international agreement restricted explosive projectiles to shells no smaller than 37mm.
The Hotchkiss has a cluster of 5 rotating barrels, but only a single bolt. It would chamber, fire, extract, and eject once with each full rotation of the hand crank, and it would hold the barrels stationary while the round was fired. The multiple barrels allowed a manual action to fire at a high rate, and also prevented barrels from overheating during extended firing.
This particular Hotchkiss is a modern-made reproduction, scaled down to use .50 BMG brass. However, the action of the Hotchkiss is not strong enough to use modern smokeless powder, so this can only be fired with black powder .50 BMG handloads.
The Menz Liliput is one of the smallest functional firearms ever put into mass production. It was offered in 4.25mm (.17 caliber) in addition to the more popular .25ACP and .32ACP. The 4.25mm cartridge is used generated about 17 foot pounds of muzzle energy – trivial by most pistol standards, but still several times that of the even tinier 2.7mm Kolibri. These pistols were made in the 1920s – some sources say from 1920 to 1927, but what I have found seems to point towards a commercial introduction in 1925.
Like most countries, Germany had a standard-issue antitank rifle when World War II began – the Panzerbuchse 39. It fired an 8x94mm cartridge with a small very high velocity armor-piercing bullet. And like the other AT rifles from the 1930s, the PzB-39 became obsolete quickly as tank armor improved during the war. However, while most countries simply scrapped their antitank rifles, the Germans opted instead to convert the guns into dedicated grenade launchers: the Granatbuchse 39.
Because the PzB-39 was already designed for a very high pressure cartridge, it was ideally suited to handle the stresses of firing large anti-tank grenades. Rather than relying on simple kinetic energy to penetrate, the grenades could use shaped charge technology to be vastly more effective than AP bullets.
In converting the PzB-39 into the GrB-39, the barrels were cut down, grenade launching cups attached to the muzzles, new sights designed for grenade use, bipods lengthened, and the folding stocks were fixed in place. Most of the PzB-39 rifles in service were subject to these modifications, and the resulting GrB-39 guns were able to be reasonably effective through the end of the war.
The M14E2, later redesignated the M14A1, was the replacement for the ill-fated heavy barrel M15 rifle. Both were intended to fill the role of the BAR in providing automatic fire in support of M14 rifles. The M15 program was cancelled before any rifles were built, and the M14E2 that replaced it was simply an M14 with a pistol grip stock, bipod, forward grip, and bipod. While it was more effective in automatic fire than the standard M14, it was significantly inferior to the M60 (no surprise there). A total of just 8350 were made. This particular one is a well-done semiauto copy made on a Springfield M1A receiver, so it can be owned without NFA paperwork.
The Gyrojet was one of the more creative and one of the most futuristic firearms innovations of the last few decades – unfortunately it wasn’t able to prove sustainable on the market.
The idea was to use burning rocket fuel to launch projectiles, instead of pressurized gas. The advantage was that without the huge pressure of standard cartridges, a rocket-firing gun could be made far lighter and cheaper, as it had no need to contain pressure. The rockets would accelerate down the barrel as their fuel burned (and the 4 rocket jets would be angled to put a spin on the projectile for accuracy), and the weapon would actually have the most kinetic energy at something like 20 yards downrange, when the fuel was expended.
A decent number of Gyrojet handguns were made and sold (mostly as curiosities), but intrinsic accuracy problems prevented them from ever being taken seriously as weapons. The company behind the guns (MB Associates) went out of business shortly, unable to fully exploit their full range of ideas. One of those ideas was a carbine variant of the gun. A few hundred were made in two different models, and we have the chance today to take a look at one of the Mark 1 Model B sporter-style carbines.
The FN Model 1903 was a Belgian-made scaled-up version of John Browning’s model 1903 pocket hammerless pistol. The pocket hammerless was made in .32 ACP and .380 calibers for (primarily) the civilian market in the US by Colt, and the FN model was chambered for the more powerful 9x20mm Browning Long cartridge, with military and police contracts in mind. The most common source of the FN pistols in the US is from the Swedish contract for the guns, but they were sold to a number of other nations as well.
This example is from the Russian contract, which included shoulder stocks with the pistols. Many military automatic pistols from this time were offered with the option of combination holster/stock units, which could be used to provide improved accuracy to the shooter. The stock for the FN 1903 is a bit different than most, in that it requires the use of an extended 10-round magazine instead of the standard flush-fit 7-rounder. As with most such original guns, these have been specifically exempted from NFA regulation in the US.
Sylvester Roper is not a well known name in firearms history today, but he made a number of notable contributions to the field – in addition to his work with motorcycles and automobiles where he is much better remembered.
The Roper revolving shotgun was an early cartridge-firing repeating shotgun that could carry and fire four rounds without reloading. It was offered in both 12ga and 16ga (this one is 12ga) and used a rather unusual open-bolt mechanism. Cocking the hammer fully would bring a shell into position between the bolt and chamber, and firing the gun would cause the bolt to drop forward, chamber the cartridge, lock in place, and immediately fire. Re-cocking the hammer would extract the fired case but leave it in the rotary magazine, and then bring a new shell into position to be fired. As a result, one could fire four rounds and then would have to unload the 4 empty shells form the magazine carousel before reloading.
Roper would go on to share the patents for the first pump action shotgun with Christopher Spencer (better known for his lever action rifle used in the Civil War) before his ultimate death on a steam-powered velocipede (we all have to die eventually, and that was a cool way to go!).
Pretty much every major military had an antitank rifle in service when WW2 kicked off, and the British example was the Boys AT rifle, named after the Captain Boys who designed it. It was a bolt action .55 caliber rifle with 5-round detachable magazines. If was obsolete by 1943 and replaced by the more effective but equally unpleasant PIAT.