Landstad 1900 Automatic Revolver

We spent a bunch of time earlier this week covering the Webley-Fosbery “automatic revolver”, and I would like to close out the week with another pistol of that type, but one that’s even weirder than the Fosbery. I don’t have much information on this piece, but did find some surprisingly good photos that were originally in a Norwegian magazine. Pretty much everything I know about it comes from the captions in the pictures, which you’ll see if you read Norwegian or translate them.

Anyway, this is a design patented in 1899 by a fellow named Halvard Landstad, who lived in Kristiana (now called Oslo) at the time. He designed the gun on his own dime, and presented it to military trials in 1901, which it failed miserably.

Landstad automatic revolver
Landstad automatic revolver (click to enlarge)

What makes this design really unusual is that it uses both a revolving cylinder and a box magazine (a bit like a Dardick, actually). The magazine – which doubled as the left grip panel – held six rounds of 7.5mm Nagant ammunition (a common caliber in that time and place). The top rear of the action contains a slide that comes back with each shot:

Landstad automatic revolver slide locked open
Top: ready to fire
Bottom: Slide back, ejecting case

More unusually, the cylinder was actually flat, with only two chambers:

Landstad cylinder partway rotated
Landstad cylinder mid-rotation. Note how it is flat, with only two chambers.

The firing cycle went like this: a round from the magazine would be loaded into the bottom chamber of the cylinder. Pulling the trigger would rotate the cylinder (like a DA revolver), moving the round up to the top, in line with the barrel. The hammer would fall, fire the round, and the recoil energy would cycle the slide assembly at the top rear, extracting and ejecting the empty case.

I’m unsure on a few points, like whether it could be fired single-action as well, and how the mechanism controlled loading of cartridges from the mag into the cylinder. Here are some photos of the Landstad disassembled:

Landstad automatic revolver disassembled
Left side, disassembled (click to enlarge)
Landstad automatic revolver disassembled
Right side, disassembled (click to enlarge)

And here’s the one patent drawing I found:

Landstad automatic revolver patent drawing
From Norwegian patent 8564, April 11 1899.

The gun never went into production, because of its dismal performance in trials. But it appears that the inventor kept the prototype gun, and brought it with him when he emigrated to the UK, living in Middlesex until his death in 1955. It was donated to the British NRA and kept in their museum at Bisley until 1977, when it was sold at auction.

The Landstad 1900 differs fundamentally from the more commonly known auto-revolvers like the Webley-Fosbery and Mateba in that it actually ejects cases when empty. The other guns are more accurately described as “self-cocking revolvers”, since they must be loaded and unloaded just like typical revolvers. Not a tremendously important distinction, but a valid one all the same.

Patents

Norgwegian Patent #8564 (Halvard Folkestad Landstad, “Automatisk revolver”, April 11, 1899)

German Patent 114,184 (Halvard Folkestad Landstad, “Selbstthatiger revolver”, August 1, 1899)

British Patent 22,479 (Halvard Folkestad Landstad, “Improvements in automatic revolvers”, January 13, 1900)

37 Comments

  1. This is a very odd design.
    The revolver cylinder seem completely redundant, and it seems to me that the entire revolver mechanism only serves to make the gun heavier and more expensive.
    It looks to me like this design would be much more functional as a standard blowback pistol with a single chamber rather than 6, and no revolving cylinder.
    Something like a scaled down Armsel striker would probably have worked better.

    I have some drawings of a similar improved design that I’ve been working on for a while, but I’m going to keep them to my self for the moment.
    I don’t want this to be like the time I left a comment on a gun manufactures youtube video suggesting a simple design improvement.
    They soon deleted my comment, and two months later they reviled the new version of the gun WITH MY SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENT.
    I doesn’t really affect me since I didn’t lose money on it or anything, but it pisses me off that they didn’t even thank me and they acted like it was their idea.

  2. I would have loved to talk with Mr Halvard Landstad and see why he thought this was a good idea. Surely he had a logical explanation for this beast…..

  3. Wow, that sure is a strange one. I am unsure why the cylinder even exists instead of feeding the rounds directly into the chamber. The only thing I can come up with is perhaps the concept was a “safe carry/drop-proof” mechanism; if it is truly double-action-only then the “chambered” round would be kept in the lower cylinder position, away from the firing pin. This would ensure that a “chambered” round could not be fired except by pulling the trigger. Does this make sense?

    A “safe carry/drop-proof” mag-fed semi-auto is my only guess.

    Never seen a magazine double as half a grip panel either, weird.

  4. My congrats, you must have undergone a meticulous research for publishing this article. I did not even such a weapon exhisted.

    It’s anyway good to have one more piece of firearms history, thanks to your valuable job.

    Keep doing, I guess more people are grateful for what you are doing.

    Best,
    Fab

  5. The concept may have to do with cavalry. A gun carried with nothing in the chamber might appeal to someone bouncing around on horseback, and reloading with a magazine would be easier on horseback than would reloading a revolver.

  6. We should take into account that the design was patented in 1899. How many pistols were around by then? Mr. Landstad probably thought of this design as a modernised revolver, more than a newborn design. I dont think he was aware of the few pistol designs that were just born. More than a century later, it´s easy for us to think that a blowback is an instant straightforward design, just as gas operated military rifles with drilled barrels are.

  7. Some improvements I would make would be to incorporate a full cylinder like the one in the Webley-Fosbery, and a short gas piston (like the one in the Ljungman) pushing a slide with a stud riding in the cam track on the cylinder that would also re-cock the hammer and eject the spent case. With that arrangement, you could conceivably make it a fully automatic revolver, though to what end besides being a cool range toy I am not sure of.

      • That’s a relief.

        I see what you mean about its goofy-ness 🙂

        a design which manages to combine the worst features of both revolvers and semi autos, but beautifully made and detail finished, including the decorative flaking on the lockwork.

  8. What if it had a 6 shot cylinder.
    With one chamber empty to keep the safety feature you would have 11 shots.
    If you could keep track of the shots you could do your ‘tactical’ reload of an empty magazine and still have several shots in the cylinder if you suddenly needed them.
    Would not be as flat but no big deal for a ‘horse pistol’.

    • but then, after running it totally empty, you would have to pull the trigger 5 times after you insert a new mag to get the next shot. And you would have a dry mag again.

  9. When I first saw Garcia-Reynoso revolver, I had an same idea: what if put magazine into revolver grip and make blowback mechanism. Everything that can be invented has been invented. 🙂

  10. Limits of realistic design are hard to determine. Just like you have good-average-bad products in every kind of human endeavour, it is the intended user who decides. What needs to be given credit for is the will to experiment and to take a risk. Same should apply today as was the case 100 years ago.

  11. This is using a mechanical “rammer” to cram the round into the bottom chamber as the slide goes forward. He’s also ejecting the same shell that fired with the mechanical energy from that firing.

    It’s closest cousin is probably my gun – “Maurice the FrankenRuger” started life as a Ruger New Vaquero and now has up to 14 shot continuous capacity if I stack a 9rd mag on top of five rounds in the six-shot cylinder. It’s been converted to 9mmPara, gas-powered shell ejection and magazine feeding via straight tubes with levergun coil springs and a follower:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4XtVldNbO4

    I have a two-round carry mag (for 7rd capacity in the holster) and then a pair of 9rd reload mags; the latter are a full foot long :). I don’t eject the firing shell, I eject the previously fired shell. That’s why I carry it hammer-on-empty – on the first cocking that puts the empty chamber in front of the auto-eject location so I don’t kick out a live round. Cock and fire again and the second shot ejects the empty from the first firing under direct gas pressure.

    Better pics:

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8504/8339446903_2c5e86d02a_k.jpg

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8216/8339446759_a9bec4b928_k.jpg

    I ended up with a weird tactical advantage I wasn’t expecting: once the cylinder is dry and the first empty chamber passes in front of the magazine there’s a distinct “clunk” as it rams in the first mag-fed round. So I basically get a warning that I’m down to my last two rounds.

    As to the Landstad: he should have used a six-round cylinder for a number of reasons: he’d have bumped up his ammo capacity some and he wouldn’t have had to spin the cylinder a full half turn on each trigger pull.

    • Jim,
      That’s really interesting, thanks for sharing.
      I’m going to be away from the net for a couple of days but please keep checking back as I’d like to ask you a few questions when I get the chance.

      Your ejection from the 2 o’clock chamber certainly avoids one of the problems with the Norwegian revolver – not having a solid standing breech to handle heavier recoil.

      going for a Ghisoni style low bore aligned to the bottom chamber, with mag feed to the top chamber would make for an interesting layout.

      • As far as I can tell, my gun’s closest cousin is the Nazi prototype 20mm aircraft autocannon called the Mauser MG 213. It used a five-shot cylinder, single barrel, electric rotation and a set of mechanical shell rammers and extractors each side of the firing chamber:

        http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/attachments/weapons-systems-tech/217211d1354087406t-revolver-cannon-design-canon_revolver_mauser_mg_213_ani-1.gif

        My feed cycle is basically similar (at least once my cylinder runs dry!) except I’m doing gas-operated extraction (complete with a hammer-mounted shell deflector to keep 9mm shells from zinging my right cheek) and straight-push tube mags with coil springs instead of a mechanical “rammer”. My mag tubes are more or less similar to a Spencer .44 carbine such as helped win Gettysburg, or the Browning auto .22 that also stored rounds inside the buttstock of a rifle and pushed them forward. My mag tubes are of course free-floating :).

        The Mauser was copied by the US and used in 20mm and 30mm aircraft autocannons from around the early jet age, as the M39 autocannon and variants. I’m told that used gas-powered extraction same as “Maurice”.

        (In case you’re wondering…it’s called “Maurice” because some people call it “the space cowboy”…Steve Miller Band reference.)

        As to practicality…one cool part is that once a mag has run dry, the follower (which is a turned-around 9mm shell epoxied onto the spring from a 32-20 levergun!) goes forward into the cylinder and ties the gun up. This tells me that it’s time to swap mags if I can’t cock it again :). Plus I get that neat “two rounds left” warning when the 2rd mag “clunks forward” the first time.

        Cocking feel is slightly funky. The cylinder’s rear end is machined so that shell tops are flat with the back of the cylinder but I’m still rotating the cylinder with the top round in the mag jammed against the rear of the cylinder. So…it kinda “scrapes along” if you will. It’s acceptable in a thumb-cocked SA, but if this thing had a DA trigger the trigger feel during the DA stroke would be…ghastly :).

        But, I did accomplish what I set out to do: upgrade the firepower and reload speed of an 1873-pattern SA wheelgun to at least modern DA standards.

        What else…ah. See, I first got the auto-eject cycle to work in 357Magnum with the stock barrel and cylinder. But careful measurements showed that there was just no way I was going to be able to punch a hole at the 10:00 o’clock position fat enough for 357 rims. Not a chance in hell. 9mm was dicey enough – I had to shave and round the outside face of the pawl to let 9mm rounds slip past it. And seeing the pawl work the star from the REAR for the first time was a trip and a half. But it worked. That beefy Bowen chromoly cylinder blank should be able to cope with the nastiest 9mm+P+ weird crap I can throw at it…subgun ammo, whatever :).

        I considered setting it up as a 9×23 Winchester but I wanted a total loadout of 25 rounds, in part because that will let me shoot an entire stage of Steel Challenge revolver class (normally a six-gun with three speedloads) with two reloads. I checked – the rules there or in ICORE don’t (yet) exclude this monster and hell yeah I’m gonna race it :). For that matter I could shoot an entire SASS stage with one gun if they’ll let me as a gag; the SASS guys have joked around for years about an unlimited “Wild Wild West/Steampunk” class…yeah, wait’ll they get a load of this thing!

  12. If you have the place for 2, you have the place for 3. As far as I know in this type of auto-reloading the rotation of the cylinder is made via a cam, therefore 3 reduce the travel of the cylinder and make it more reliable.

  13. This is a very interesting pistol designed at just
    starting age of kinds using recoil to cock, eject
    and reload a handheld firearm.

    According to the photos showing the striker as
    cocked, the trigger has the ability of both single
    and double action working mechanisms.

    A single acting trigger with long radiused solid
    sight mounting places, is a real plus feature even in
    today’s standarts. It has also flat sided with and
    another revolver advantage of changing an unfired
    round with simply actuating the trigger. Attractive
    features joining goods of both revolvers and self
    loaders.

    Outside lines strongly follows unsealed Nagants of
    that era and unfortunatelly, breechbolt weight and
    construction seems weak for using powerfull rounds
    needing locks to manage the chamber presure during
    the projectile still travelling to go outwards.

  14. “another revolver advantage of changing an unfired round with simply actuating the trigger.”
    True but the ammo isn’t ejected, therefore you still have to extract it manually.

  15. first picture texts says:
    (its written in old fashion norwegian so i may get something wrong) Engineer Landstads “automatic revolver” from 1900, produced/designed at Hovedararsenalet(the Hovedar arsenal) Was fired during trails and the revolver can be considerd a totall failure. The “automatic revolver” was however the first Norwegian construction to be trailed as the future/first semi auto servicepistol. The pistol is displayed in England

  16. The magazine-cylinder system is somewhat reminiscent of the Needham rifle… That would be another interesting gun to feature, now that I think about it.

  17. A long time ago, when I was doodling guns for fun without knowing anything about them (uuuurrrg) I had an idea like this… but turned it down because even THEN I thought it was too ridiculous for me.

  18. I must say that I learned a great deal about this long-fogotten topic from all the knowledgeable posts and comments above. Many thanks to one and all!

    • Right. And I own the only non-crew-served piece with a similar feed cycle that I am aware of, “Maurice the FrankenRuger” in 9mmPara. I discussed it in more detail above.

  19. Hovedarsenalet means Main Arsenal. As written in the caption (H in upper case in the middle of the phrase) it refers to the Main Army Arsenal, Akershus Castle, a fortress built between 1859 and 1866 to protect Oslo (Kristiana at the time) AND as the Army Main Arsenal. It currently accommodates the National Defence Museum of Norway

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