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RIA: Thompson Model 1923 Autorifle

One of the very early entrants into the United States Ordnance Department’s semiauto rifle trials was the Auto-Ordnance Company, makers of the Thompson submachine gun. For the rifle trials, they designed a .30-06 rifle using the same Blish-locking principle as had been applied to the SMG. Since the Blish principle doesn’t actually work, this resulted in what was actually a delayed-blowback action which extracted at very high pressure.

The Thompson Autorifle, as it was called, used a very coarse screw to delay the bolt opening, and required oiled felt pads in the magazine to lubricate the cartridges as they fed. It was a particularly long and unwieldy rifle as a result of it’s unusually long receiver, and is known today for having ejection so forceful that it could actually stick cases into wooden planks placed close to the shooter. Needless to say, it did not fare very well in trials and was dropped from consideration not long after this, the Model 1923.

RIA: CZ Model S Prototype (1929)

This CZ Model S rifle is one of many prototypes made between the world wars in Czechoslovakia in an effort to develop a military semiautomatic rifle. Similar efforts were underway in most other countries at the same time (basically every place that had a mature arms industry), and a huge variety of ideas were tried out.

In this case, we have a gas operated, tilting bolt rifle design. It is chambered for the 8×57 Mauser cartridge, and uses a 10-round detachable magazine. This rifle has a 1929 acceptance mark, which dates it nicely for us. It was designed by a team including one of the Holek brothers, and did better than its competition in trials – but not well enough to be accepted by the Czech military or to attract any outside commercial interest. Holek would go on to design the ZH-29 rifle, and CZ would move on to a series of other designs that ultimately led to naught.

RIA: Reifgraber .38 S&W Automatic

Designed by Austrian immigrant Joseph Joachim Reifgraber, this is a prototype gas-assisted short recoil pistol in a .38 rimmed revolver cartridge. While this version did not see any serial production, the Union Firearms Company of Toledo (Ohio) did market a slightly smaller model in .32 S&W (and .32 ACP). The gas-assist, as described in Reifgraber’s patent, is used in this gun but not in the .32 model.

RIA: 15mm Belgian Pinfire Revolving Rifle

The pinfire system was a popular type of early self-contained metallic cartridge in Europe, but didn’t find much use in the United States. Pinfire revolvers were made in a variety of calibers from 5mm up to 15mm, and a much smaller number of revolving rifles and carbines were also made. This particular revolving rifle is a 6-shot, 15mm model with a folding bayonet – made in Belgium for a reseller by the name of Juan Lopez in Buenos Aires.

RIA: Spreewerke VG-2

Five different companies in Germany produced designs for the last-ditch Volkssturm bolt action rifles, and they were designated VG-1 through VG-5. The VG-2 was developed by the Spreewerke company, and differed from the others in its use of a sheet metal stamped receiver (and consequently a pretty distinctive look).

In total, somewhere between 16 and 18 thousand VG-2s were manufactured, although they remain very scarce in western collections (most likely because most of them were lost or captured in areas overrun by the Red Army rather than the US or British forces). They retained a basic Mauser mechanism, and used spare Luftwaffe aircraft MG barrels. Unlike some of the Volkssturm arms, the VG-2 appears to have been pretty much unchanged throughout its production run.

RIA: Brun Latrige Model 1900

Patented in 1896, this is one of several models of unique pocket pistols designed by Paul Brun-Latrige. He was a manager of the Manufrance company located in St. Etienne France, a large mail-order catalog company that produced a wide variety of products. Early versions of this pistol used a ring trigger mechanism and a 5mm cartridge, while this one uses a folding trigger and is chambered for an 8mm round (the same ammunition used in Manufrance’s Gaulois palm pistols, I suspect).

RIA: Walther P38 Development

The Walther P38 was adopted by Germany in 1938 as a replacement for the P08 Luger – not really because the Luger was a bad pistol, but because it was an expensive pistol. Walther began development of its replacement in 1932 with two different development tracks – one was a scaled-up Model PP blowback in 9x19mm and the other was the locked-breech design that would become the P38.

The initial prototypes look externally quite similar to the final P38, although the locking system went through several changes and the controls did as well. Several of the early developmental models used shrouded hammers.

In this video I will take a look at both initial “MP” pistols (the blowback and the locked breech), then the Armee Pistole (aka the AP) in its standard configuration and also a long barreled model with a shoulder stock, then the second Model MP, and finally the HP which was the commercial model of the final P38. In addition, I will check out a sheet metal prototype of the locked breech model form the very beginning of the development program.

RIA: Whitmore 4-Barrel Swivel-Breech Rifle

One of the options for having multiple shots available in the age of the muzzleloading rifle was the swivel-breech rifle. Such a rifle would have typically two barrels and one lock – one the first barrel was fired, the whole barrel assembly could be rotated 180 degrees to bring the other barrel into alignment with the lock. These could be two rifle barrels, two shotgun barrels, or one of each.

MJ Whitmore of Potsdam, New York build many such swivel-breech rifles and also build some much less common 4-barrel swivel guns. This particular example has two .40 caliber rifled barrels on one side and a combination of a .40 caliber rifle and a .40 smoothbore barrel on the other side. In a particularly neat touch, it holds a single loading rod hidden in a spring-capped chamber in the center of the barrel cluster.

RIA: Japanese 8mm Hamada Pistol

Just as production of the .32ACP Type Hamada pistols was reaching full scale, Bunji Hamada was asked to redesign his pistol to use the standard 8mm Nambu cartridge. This he did, and after several changes required by the Army (which appear to have had more to do with giving the Army some claim to the design rather than for any practical reasons) it was adopted in 1943.

Production of the .32ACP pistols continued uninterrupted, while a defunct textile factory in Notobe was renovated to become the production plant for the new Type 2 Hamadas in 8mm. Machinery was provided by the Torimatsu factory, and the guns were to be sent to Torimatsu in the white for final finishing operations.

While several thousand were made according to surviving records, the only ones still known in existence today have serial numbers between 2 and 50 and are still in the white. This suggests that aside from a small initial (sample?) batch, all the Type 2 Hamadas were destroyed or lost – possibly by aerial bombing or during transit on the ocean.

RIA: Japanese 7.65mm Hamada Pistol

The Hamada was one of very few Japanese military weapons made by a private commercial firm. Designed and introduced in 1940, the basic Type Hamada pistol was a blowback .32ACP handgun similar in style to the Browning model 1910. About 5000 of them were manufactured during WWII, although most of these were sent to China. All the known examples in Western collections are form a fairly narrow serial number range (~2200-3000), which probably represent a single batch rerouted to the Pacific islands, where they were occasionally captured by US troops.

In 1943, Hamada was asked to develop a pistol in 8mm Nambu to simplify ammunition logistics, and this would become the Type 2 Hamada.