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The Vault

Burgess Folding Shotgun at RIA

Andrew Burgess was an extremely prolific gun designer who gets very little recognition today. One of has particularly interesting weapons was a pump-action, folding shotgun. Because Spencer already had a patent on the use of the forearm as the pump, Burgess designed his gun to use a sliding sleeve on the wrist of the stock as the pump handle. The guns were well made, and the company Burgess set up to manufacture them was bought out and shut down by Winchester to reduce competition with their 1893/1897 pump action shotgun. As a result not many were made, and very very few of the folding models. This one is in fantastic shape, and also comes with an excellent leather belt holster made for carrying it folded.

Japanese Inagaki and Sugiura Pistols at RIA

The most common Japanese pistols used during World War II were the Type 14 and Type 94 Nambu designs, by a huge margin. However, there were a number of other handguns used in small numbers, and today we’re looking at two of those. The first is the Sugiura, essentially a copy of the Colt 1903 made under Japanese supervision in China. Some 6000 or so of these were made, including production which continued for a time after the end of Japanese occupation. The second is the Inagaki, which was a domestic Japanese design not copied from anything else. About 500 of these were made in .32 ACP before production stopped to convert the design to 8mm Nambu. The 8mm Inagaki pistols were not successful and never went into serial production, though. The first 500 made were used by the Imperial Japanese Navy and as pilots’ sidearms, where compactness was more important than terminal ballistics.

Schouboe .32ACP Pistol at RIA

Before he adapted it to .45 caliber for US Army pistol trials, Jens Schouboe was building his pistol design in .32 ACP (7.65mm Browning). It was a blowback action, hammer fired, and very quick and easy to field strip. The gun was reliable and well made, but just didn’t catch on in the market, and not many were made. This particular one has a rather interesting feature of a second magazine latch location to act as a disconnect, firing single shots with the magazine held in reserve.

Allen & Wheelock Lipfire Navy Revolver at RIA

Not all companies responded in the same way to the development of cartridge revolvers and the Rollin White patent. Allen & Wheelock, for example, decided to simply ignore the patent and make revolvers for their proprietary lipfire cartridges (fairly similar to rimfire) while relying on their lawyers to delay the anticipated patent infringement suit for as long as possible. Ultimately it took 4 years for Rollin White and S&W to gain a legal injunction against them, and when that did happen they were ready and converted their production to percussion revolvers of the same basic type. This particular piece is a .36 caliber (“Navy”) version for the lipfire round, which have been since converted to use either lipfire or more common rimfire ammunition.

A Selection of Chinese Mystery Pistols at RIA

During the 1920s and 1930s, a combination of civil wars and international arms embargoes led to a lot of domestic firearms production in China. The size and quality of manufacturing facilities varied widely – everything from massive factories established with European technical assistance to one-man shops only a step or two above being blacksmiths. The weapons produced varied in quality to match. Among other weapons made during this period were handguns mechanically based on several European designs (the Browning 1900, Mauser C96, and Mauser 1910/14, primarily). These handguns show a huge variety of aesthetic designs, gibberish markings, and fake proof marks. They are virtually all single action, simple blowback designs, chambered for .32ACP or 7.63 Mauser. This auction at RIA includes a whole bunch of these pistols, so I picked out a handful of good examples to show some of the elements often seem among them.

You can see the RIA catalog pages for the guns in this video here:

Smaller frame with round butt
Square butt, short barrel, lightening cuts in slide
The one with the “bayonet lug”
The one that locks open on an empty mag
Square butt with ivory-colored grips
Huge & narrow 1900 copy with really long grip
Nicely made Browning 1900 copy

Collected Works of John Pedersen

John Pedersen was one of the more prolific and successful gun designers in American history, having even been described by John Moses Browning as “the greatest gun designer in the world”. And yet, many people only know about Pedersen from his unsuccessful toggle-locked rifle or his WWI Pedersen Device that never saw action. In truth, Pedersen’s work included a number of very successful sporting rifles and shotguns that many shooters would still recognize today. While looking through the guns at Rock Island on my most recent trip there, I realized that they had examples of virtually every one of Pedersen’s guns – so I figured I should do an overview of the man’s work:

The guns in this video that are coming up for sale at RIA at the end of this month are:

Pedersen Device
Model 10 shotgun
Model 14 1/2 carbine
Remington 51 pistol in .32ACP
Vickers-Pedersen rifle
Pedersen GY rifle

Prototype Optic on an M1 at RIA

In the years after WWII, several countries experimented with general-use optical sights on service rifles. The Germans had pioneered the concept with the ZF-41 long eye relief optic during the war (and the ZF-4, to some extent), and the British actually adopted the EM-2 with a permanently-mounted 1x optical sight in 1951 (only to un-adopt it almost immediately in favor of the FAL). The US also tinkered with the idea, as demonstrated by this 1x optical sight on an M1 rifle for sale at Rock Island. I was unable to find any reference information on this type of sight, but it does seem to fit the period. Perhaps one of our readers will recognize it?

North Korean Type 70 Pistol at RIA

The “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea has a number of somewhat unusual military firearms that are not quite direct copies of anything else, but we very rarely get to see example of them up close. Well, here is an excellent exception: RIA is selling a North Korean Type 70 pistol at the upcoming Premiere auction. The Type 70 was intended for high-ranking officers, replacing the Type 64 (which was a copy of the Browning 1900). The Type 70 shows features from the PPK and Makarov, as well as other elements not taken directly from existing designs. The hammer is an exposed single-action type, and the muzzle profile is very reminiscent of the Makarov. The action is simple blowback (in .32 ACP, despite the 7.62mm marking on the slide), but the barrel is set in the side and easily removed, instead of being fixed to the frame as is typical of blowback pistols. The safety is a cross-bolt button which doubles as the block holding the barrel in place. The Type 70 is quite comfortable in the hand, and probably nice to shoot given its .32ACP chambering.

PzB-39 German Anti-Tank Rifle at RIA

Most countries still had anti-tank rifles in their military inventory at the beginning of WWII – the Solothurn S18-100, the Lahti L39, the Boys AT Rifle, the PTRD and PTRS, and so on. For Germany, this role was fulfilled by the Panzerbüchse 39, a single-shot falling block rifle firing a high velocity 8mm AP cartridge. It was nominally effective in the opening campaigns of the war, but was quickly rendered obsolete as Allied armor improved. German planners has a huge number (25,000) of these on hand for the invasion of Russia, where they expected Russian armor to be vulnerable to them – which was not the case. Most were subsequently converted into Granatbüchse 39 AT grenade launchers, which were then used until the end of the war. Finding one of these still in its rifle configuration is pretty rare today!

Grant Hammond .32ACP Prototype at RIA

Grant Hammond is best known (to the extent he is known at all) for a .45 caliber pistol submitted to US military trials in 1917 and 1918. This pistol is a proof of concept prototype embodying some of the concepts that would go into the later .45 caliber pistol, and also showing some concepts that would not see further use. This .32 ACP prototype features a hybrid blow forward / blowback mechanism in which the slide uses a gas trapping system to move forward and the bolt moves backward. It also has a unique system for automatically ejecting the magazine when empty. Truly one of the most mechanically unusual pistols I have ever seen.


US Patent 1138377 (Grant Hammond, “Firearm”, Jul 16, 1913)