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!

Looking for an RSC 1918

Do you have an RSC-1918 rifle you would consider selling? Please email me at admin@forgottenweapons.com!

RIA: Beretta Model 1923

Beretta offered its first semiautomatic pistols during World War One, with the Model 1915 chambered in 9mm Glisenti. This was quickly supplemented by the 1915/17 scaled down to the .32ACP cartridge, which was both handier to carry and less expensive to make. After the end of the war, Beretta looked to deign a more modern replacement pistol for military and security service use.

This would take the form of the Model 1923, which was based on the same patent and the same basic design. It was again chambered for the 9mm Glisenti cartridge – identical dimensionally to the 9x19mm Parabellum, but loaded substantially lighter so as to be more suited to a simple blowback action. The 1923 was the first Beretta design to use an exposed hammer, a feature which would follow into all later Beretta service pistols through the Model 92/96.

The 1923 did not sell well, and only 10,400 were made by 1926, when production ended. These pistols would remain in Beretta’s inventory into the mid 1930s, and the last 3,000 were finally sold to the Italian military just following a contract signed for purchase of 150,000 of the Model 1934 pistols – a deal which has the hallmarks of a cooperative agreement of the government to take these reliable but generally undesirable guns out of Beretta’s hands to help clean up their books.

A small number of 1923 model pistols (actually designated model 1924 by Beretta) were made with locking lugs at the bottom of the grip to fit a detachable combination shoulder stock and holster. This stock was essentially a standard Model 1923 leather holster with a mate lug and folding retractable strut added to connect to the pistol. While all holster/stock combinations were compromises between the need to carry the gun and the need to make it a more stable shooting platform the 1923 type was not a great design, of limited shooting utility (hence its very limited production and sale).

RIA: M1944E1/M1945 Johnson Light Machine Gun

After getting his Model 1941 machine gun purchased in small numbers by the US military, Melvin Johnson continued to press for more sales and a general adoption. Following testing results and recommendations from soldiers in the field, he made a number of modifications to the gun and developed the M1944, which was quickly tweaked to become the M1944E1, also called the M1945. This new version included several improvements including:

  • Replacing the bipod with a monopod less prone to interfering with barrel removal
  • Improved stronger bolt anti-bounce latch
  • Metal dual-tube buttstock in place of wood
  • …and most significantly, a gas-boosted hybrid recoil operating system

This new model of the Johnson was in testing at the end of WWII, and weapons development budget cuts at the conclusion of the war prevented it from replacing the BAR as Johnson and many in the Marine Corps had hoped.

This particular M1945 Johnson is fully transferrable, as came out of the Winchester Collection (now the Cody Firearms Museum) back many years ago when curators would occasionally sell items from the collection to raise money.

RIA: London-Made Lorenzonis Repeating Flintlocks

A 7-shot repeating handgun before cartridges had been invented? Yep, long before. These two pistols are London-made examples of the Lorenzoni system, in which a gun was made with internal magazines of powder and projectiles and a rotating central loading spindle like a modern reloading powder throw. By rotating a lever on the left side of pistol 180 degrees and back, a shooter could load a ball into the chamber, load powder behind it, recock the action, prime the pan, and close the frizzen all in one automated sequence.

This system originated with a German gunsmith named Kalthoff in the mid 1600s, but it was an Italian by the name of Lorenzoni who made it more practical and began building pistols of the type. Lorenzoni is the name that has been generally applied to the system as a result. These two were made by a gunsmith named Glass in London in the mid 1700s – in these days of hand-made firearms ideas and systems like this would slowly spread and be adopted by craftsmen who were capable of producing them and thought they could find an interested market for them.

The Lorenzoni system offered unmatched repeating firepower for its time, but was hampered by its complexity. Only a very skilled gunsmith could build a reliable and safe pistol of the type, and this made them very expensive.

RIA: Mauser Model 1878 “Zig-Zag” Revolvers (Video)

After making their big break with the adoption of the Model 1871 Mauser rifle by the newly unified German government, the Mauser brothers, took a shot at getting the handgun contract for the military as well, with this revolver, the Model 1878. It is often colloquially called the Mauser Zig-Zag because of its conspicuously grooved cylinder, although of course that was never an official designation.

The guns were made in the official 10.6mm German Ordnance cartridge, as well as 9mm and 7.6mm cartridges for the civilian commercial market, with a couple different frame sizes. Unfortunately for Mauser, the guns proved too complicated for military acceptance, and they did not sell very well on the commercial market either. The external cylinder rotating tracks required special accommodation, as the cylinder had to have a chamber precisely in line with the barrel to latch closed after reloading. This was done by adding a manual locking lever at the front of the cylinder, which doubled as a safety catch.

Of course, what made the guns unsuitable for the military does make them pretty unusual and interesting for collectors today…

RIA: Prototype Mauser HSv Pistols (Video)

When the German military finally could no longer tolerate the expense of the P.08 Luger in the late 1930s, they held a trial of possible replacements. The three main entrants were BSW with a gas-operated pistol, Walther with what would ultimately be accepted as the P.38, and Mauser with it’s experimental HSv locked-breech design. Mauser had begun development of the pistol as a replacement for the models 1910/14/34, with two stylistically matching designs – once blowback in small calibers and one locked for 9×19 Parabellum. The initial commercial design had a full-length slide, covering a recoil spring located around the barrel.

However, the German military requirements specifically called for an exposed barrel. This forced Mauser to redesign its recoil spring system, and they opted to use a lever system like in Webley automatic pistols. With that change, and having moved the magazine release to the pistol’s heel, they had an entrant for military testing.

It appears that the Mauser HSv in 9×19 was every bit as good of a pistol as the P.38 – and it actually feels better in the hand than the P.38 to me. However, the Mauser was significantly more expensive, which led to the Walther design winning. The Mauser design would follow a pattern much like the 1910 Mauser had – the small scale blowback design would prove very popular (as the HSc, adopted by the Kriegsmarine among others and selling very well commercially), but the locked breech larger design would fail to make any inroads and never enter production.

RIA: Ethiopian ZH29 and Czech Experimental Z37

The ZH-29 was an influential early semiautomatic military rifle, although not one that saw any significant adoption. As best I can tell, only two countries purchased them in any quantity: China and Ethiopia. This ZH-29 is an Ethiopian contract example, with an Ethiopian Lion of Judah on the receiver and stock. The other rifle we are looking at today is a further iteration of the ZH-29 that was tested by the Czech military – the Z-37. This rifle shows a few relatively minor alterations from the standard pattern:

  • Rear sight attached at back rather than front
  • Bolt handle changed from round knob to hook
  • Safety moved from trigger guard to rear of receiver
  • Front sight and bayonet lug pinned to barrel and made separate from the gas block
  • Barrel weight increased

In interesting glimpse into the changes requested by the Czech trials board before finally rejecting the design.

RIA: Prototype W+F Bern AK44 Copy of the SVT

The Swiss factories of SIG and W+F Bern both produced a remarkable number and variety of experimental self-loading rifles in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Nothing would be adopted by the Swiss military until the StG-57, but these two firms were continuously working to develop a military self-loader for either Swiss or foreign purchase almost form the end of the First World War.

This example from W+F Bern, designated the AK-44 (for its design date, 1944) is not so much a new experimental design but rather a very faithful copy of the Soviet SVT-40 rifle. It uses a mechanically identical tilting bolt and short stroke gas piston, and even shares the metal front handguard, muzzle brake design, and simple manual safety of the Tokarev – although chambered for the Swiss 7.5x55mm cartridge and using a 6-round magazine instead of the Soviet 10-round type (almost certainly because of the Swiss use of 6-round charger clips).

Multiple different variations on the AK-44 were made, with variations in the muzzle configuration (SVT-40 type in this case; others had K31 configurations, FG-42 configurations, and more). Several different types of optical sight were also experimented with on the AK-44, including a German style mount for a ZF-4 type scope on a side rail, and a Swiss periscopic optic in this case – the same pattern as the Swiss K31/42 and K31/43 snipers’ rifles.

RIA: Strange Unique European Revolver

With no markings or provenance at all, the origins of this revolver are a mystery. Its features all point to the 1880s or 1890s, and someone clearly spent a lot of time working on it – but we don’t know who. What makes it interesting is the very unusual operating mechanism. It is similar to a “zig-zag” system like the 1878 Mauser or Webley-Fosbery, but with angled splines on the cylinder instead of grooves.

GX vs GY: What Are the Differences in Pedersen’s Garands?

In a last hopeful attempt to get a rifle adopted and produced for the US military, John Pedersen designed his own copy of the M1 Garand rifle in the late 1930s (approximately 1939). His toggle-locked rifles had been irreversibly rejected, and the Garand rifle fully adopted by 1936. Pedersen’s exact reasons for making a copy of it are not recorded anywhere I can find, but he did make a number of small changes to the design.

Two series of Pedersen Garand rifles were made, first the GX and second the GY. Only 10-12 of each were ever made, so they are extraordinarily rare today. They all show some detail differences form the M1 in stock design, sight design, etc. However, a persistent question had long been, what differentiated the GX from the GY? When I had the opportunity to examine one of each type side by side, I knew I would have a chance to determine that answer.

The meaningful differences are twofold: clips and gas system. The later GY rifle uses a standard M1 Garand clip, while the earlier GX rifle uses a distinct Pedersen-designed clip. Whether Pedersen was unable to obtain Garand clips to design around or if he thought he could make a better clip is unknown, but by the time the rifles were actually tested in 1943 it must have been clear that if they did not use a standard clip, logistics would immediately rule out their potential adoption.

The gas system difference mirrors a change that the Garand underwent as well. The early GX rifle was originally made as a gas trap style of action, in which the rifled barrel ends just shy of the muzzle, leaving an unrifled and minutely larger bore with a large hole to capture gas pressure just before the bullet exits. This was believed to prevent problems with wear and accuracy caused by drilling a gas port in the barrel itself (the German military also believed this to be a problem, as one can see from their Gewehr 41 development requirements). However, this system instead led to reliability problems, and by 1940 the M1 Garand had been converted to use a normal gas port. The later GY Pedersen had the same change to its manufacture, and the early gas trap GX in this video was retrofitted to that system.

RIA: Colt 1907 Trials Pistol

The Colt 1907 was one of the significant developmental iterations of the design that would eventually be adopted as the Model 1911 by the US military. This pistol began as John Browning’s Model 1900 in .38 caliber, with the .45ACP cartridge being first created for the Model 1905 iteration. That 1907 was the model actually purchased for field trials in the wake of its top placement in the 1907 US pistol trials.

The 1907 differs from the Colt 1905 primarily by its inclusion of a grip safety, added at military request. The trials pistols were evaluated for several years by several Cavalry units as well as institutions like the Army School of Musketry. This period of evaluation would lead to a series of small revision to refine its performance (such as improvements to the sear durability and widening of the ejection port) but there would be one last major design change before the pistol was in its final form. Even while the 1907 was being tested, Browning was working on replacing the twin-pivot locking system with a single-pivot one which would be presented to the Army as the Model 1909.