In a recent discussion with a friend the topic of early automatic pistol cartridges came up. Specifically, looking at the context of which cartridges were actually available at which times, and how this might provide helpful context for understanding why particular cartridges were adopted (or commercially successful) or were not.I decided to see if I could put together a useful video on the subject, and this is the result.
We will look at the cartridges available prior to 1900, the ones developed or introduced between 1900 and 1904, and then a few followups which appeared between 1905 and 1910. Some cartridges became popular because of their ballistic characteristics – like the 7.63mm Mauser and the C96 “Broomhandle” – while others became popular because of the handgun much more than the cartridge itself – like the Browning 1900 and the .32ACP / 7.65mm Browning.
This is a bit of a different format from my usual video work; I hope you enjoy it!
Terry Edwards has graciously offered to let me repost the excellent article he wrote for Small Arms Defense Journal. It’s a two part PDF, and I have posted both parts below.
If you are interested in this little-known developmental side track of the Johnson LMG, you should definitely have a look – and the same goes if you have never heard of the gun. It’s a story with tons of intrigue and engineering – what combination could be better?
Thanks to Mr. Edwards, and also to SADJ for permission to post this!
The Secret Life of the Dror – Part I
The Secret Life of the Dror – Part II
The three guys on the left all have Mosin-Nagants, the middle guy has an LS-26, next guy to the right has an m/31 Suomi, and the far right man has a Winchester 1895 lever action form the Russian 7.62x54R contract.
The Hagen (more information here) is an early semiauto rifle designed by a Norwegian, manufactured in the UK, and tested by several different militaries – but adopted by none. It uses a long stroke gas piston and a two-lug rotating bolt to operate. Compared to other contemporary rifles, it was a quite light and sleek design, although it was a bit awkward to handle. It also had a couple neat extra features, including a magazine cartridge counter and a selector to allow either semiauto or manual operation. Unfortunately for Hagen, the lightness came at the cost of durability, and its testing in French service was ended by parts breakage.
The Spanish company Gabilondo y Urresti, later to become known as Llama, introduced this locked-breech .45 ACP copy of the Colt 1911
in 1924. It was not a slavish copy, however, and introduced a captive recoil spring which would be the inspiration for that feature in the Polish Vis-35 and many later pistols.
By 1927, fewer than a thousand has sold, and it was decided that a new very that was a closer copy of the 1911 was introduced (in several calibers, including .45 ACP, 9×19, and 9×23) which would become very popular as the Llama pistol.
Some high-speed footage of a Roth-Steyr M1907 pistol here for you – these are rotating-barrel, locked breech pistols with trigger lockwork much akin to a Glock. Namely, the action cycling puts the striker at half cock, and the first stage of the trigger press fully cocks the striker before releasing it.
Another set of questions from my awesome Patreon contributors!
0:43 – Guns flexing in slow motion
3:41 – Destructives Devices – the guns vs the ammo
9:54 – What makes some stocked pistols exempt from the NFA?
14:41 – Unusual things build into rifle stocks
17:36 – Best rifle/pistol that never was (sort of)
19:33 – Pronouncing the word “Walther”
20:55 – Submachine guns and Advance Primer Ignition (API)
23:53 – Are we at a firearms development plateau?
26:04 – Why don’t we see higher velocity bullets?
29:12 – How do I do my research?
33:53 – Are submachine guns obsolete?
36:58 – Most obsolete gun at the time of its introduction
38:50 – Intermediate rounds as alternatives to 5.56 NATO
The Spanish Civil War is a relatively un-remembered conflict here in the US, but it is a fascinating event for firearms enthusiasts because of the huge variety of arms used. Both sides were supplied by a variety of other sympathetic nations, including Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, and Poland. The military aid supplies included both cutting edge material used to test new arms and tactics in a proxy war (such as German Stuka dive bombers and Soviet PE and PEM sniper rifles) as well as obsolete or obsolescent material sold to desperate groups who would accept anything they could find. The Soviet Union in particular used the Spain as a dumping-ground for all the miscellaneous small arms they had accumulated during and after WWI, sold to Spain for hard gold bullion.
Well, a reader named Leonard Heinz wrote up an extensive analysis of these small arms, you can read in PDF format via that link. His work is footnoted extensively, and he also created a sortable Excel spreadsheet of the different types of arms, their recipients, shipment dates, and ships used to deliver them. It’s excellent work, and great reading for anyone interested in the topic. Thanks, Leonard!
If you are interested in further research, the books Leonard references in his paper are:
Arms For Spain, by Gerald Howson
Mauser Military Rifles of the World , by Robert Ball
The Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, by Phillip Peterson
The Battle For Spain, by Antony Beevor
Between the Bullet and the Lie: American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, by Cecil Eby
The Republic Besieged, by Paul Preston and Ann Mackenzie
The Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War, by Michael Alpert
Designed in 1936 by Melvin Johnson, the M1941 Johnson Automatic Rifle was a competitor to the M1 Garand, but not introduced in time to actually be adopted din place of the Garand. Instead, Johnson hoped to have his rifle accepted as a parallel second option for the US military in case something went wrong with the rollout of the Garand, or production simply couldn’t meet the required levels.
However, Johnson was not able to make his case to the military successfully. A small number of Johnson Light Machine Guns were acquired by the US Paramarines and the First Special Service Force, and a large order (30,000 rifles) was placed by the Dutch government for shipment to the colonies in southeast Asia (it is from this order that the M1941 designation comes). However, those colonies fell to the Japanese before a significant number of rifles were able to be shipped out. This left a substantial number of rifles orphaned in the US, and a small number of these were unofficially put in service by acquisitive Marines, mostly in the Pacific theater.
Mechanically, the Johnson is a short recoil system with a rotating bolt (very similar to the later AR-15 bolt, which Johnson would influence). It is chambered for the standard .30-06 cartridge, and feeds from a 10-round rotary fixed magazine which can be fed by stripper clips or with individual cartridges.