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The Vault

Australian Electrolux Charlton

As we mentioned earlier this week in the Charlton Automatic Rifle article, the Australian government expressed an interest in converting rifles to Philip Charlton’s self-loading design. Charlton spent several months in Australia negotiating the deal, and it was eventually decided that the Australian manufacturing company Electrolux (which made primarily household appliances) would produce the guns, with Charlton receiving a small royalty for each one. Electrolux built a couple prototype guns, and they differed in several ways from the typical New Zealand Charltons.

Charlton prototype made by Electrolux in Australia

Charlton prototype made by Electrolux in Australia (click for full size – photo courtesy of National Firearms Centre, Leeds, UK)

First of all, the Electrolux guns were made from No1 MkIII SMLE rifles, instead of the obsolete Lee Metford and Long Lee rifles used in New Zealand. The front end of the rifle was left intact with its wooden furniture and bayonet lug. Information about this Australian offshoot of the Charlton is pretty scarce, but it is possible that the Australians intended to use the guns as shoulder-fired semiauto rifles instead of light machine guns, and this would account for some of their design changes.

The Electrolux guns did have pistol grips, but not a front grip or bipod like the New Zealand guns. They also had sheet metal covers to protect the gas piston and other operating parts. Between these various changes, the Electrolux guns were much cleaner looking than Charlton’s original design. Looking closely, you can see that the buttstock was lengthened by splicing in an extension behind the sling swivel – the original length stock was too short to effectively shoot with he extra hardware added for the semiauto conversion.

Charlton prototype rifle made by Electrolux in Australia

click for full size – photo courtesy of National Firearms Centre, Leeds, UK

Note that while the original Charlton guns used the regular rifle left sight located above the rear of the barrel, the Electrolux version replaced this with a simple aperture sight at the very back of the action cover. This would have made for better practical accuracy by significantly increasing the sight radius of the weapon.

This particular Electrolux rifle is equipped with a standard 10-round SMLE magazine, and we do not know if the Australian planned to use those or replace them with 30-round modified Bren magazines or extended SMLE magazines. The 10-rounder may have been used on the prototypes just for simplicity’s sake.

Charlton prototype rifle made by Electrolux in Australia

click for full size – photo courtesy of the National Firearms Centre, Leeds, UK

After the prototype rifles were built, production began on the parts for a large quantity (10,000, according to Charlton’s agreement with the Australian government) of conversions. At some point, however, the project was abandoned, and no production Electrolux guns were ever assembled. Late in the war the Australian government got around to offering their stock of finished parts to New Zealand, but by that time New Zealand had completed the 1500 guns it wanted, and had no need for the parts. What ended up happening to them is up to speculation – they were most likely destroyed, but there is always the tantalizing possibility that they remain crated up in the back of some warehouse. If you happen to know of them, please let us know – we would love to get our hands on Charlton parts!

Because only a handful of prototypes were ever made, the Electrolux Charlton guns are even more rare than the New Zealand version. We know of one in the British Pattern Room collection, and there may be another in a second museum. Unfortunate, because of all the self-loading Enfield conversions, the Electrolux Charlton is by far the most elegant looking.

12 comments to Australian Electrolux Charlton

  • The damn thing sure is ugly and I wouldn’t go to war if they issed me that!

  • Big Al

    The latest in housewares from Electrolux.

  • I don’t think they’re ugly at all. But it’s probably a good thing the Kiwis didn’t go for it. After all, rifles built by Electrolux would pretty much have to suck.

    Haw! I kill me.

  • R. Aballe

    Gosh, that thing is hideous! But wait, I thought Electrolux was originally a Swedish firm… Maybe there was an Australian subsidiary or even a company with the same name.

  • Bart Simpson

    Imagine being armed with that POS and then having to face an MG42…

  • Dean Cascio

    Same corporation just the Australian branch.

  • James In Australia

    Electrolux also made parts for the Austen (maybe complete SMGs).
    If you look at the die cast forward grip and magazine well of an Austen its remarkably like a vacuum cleaner part.

  • Gunther

    Electrolux? I have an air conditioner manufactured by electrolux. It arrived already broken, was not repaired and I never got my money back. Do not trust anything made ​​by this company! The same for Samsung and HP!

    • R. Aballe

      Sorry for keeping this off-topic string on electrical appliances, but I do have an Electrolux vacuum cleaner that proved itself to be an excellent machine (actually the most silent vc in its category), with good performance. As for HP, I am totally with you. I had a horrible experience with two of their laptops. Will never buy anything made by them (actually made for them) again! As for Samsung, I am under the impression that the quality of their appliances is erratic at best, depending on which type of device we are talking about.

      • Someone Else

        While I don’t own any Electrolux goods at this time, I’ve tagged a few 40 year old Electrolux vacuum cleaners, and they’ve all worked better than most ten year old vacuum cleaners I tagged, regardless of their physical condition. I’d trust anything made by Electrolux back in the day.

        @Forgotten Weapons: thanks for posting these pictures! They almost make the Charlton look purpose built.

  • [...] Electrolux Charlton Australian Electrolux Charlton __________________ MOE! LARRY! THE CHEESE! Life Member the Elmer Fudd Hunt [...]

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