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The Vault

Pedersen Selfloading Rifle at RIA

When the US military decided to seriously look at replacing the 1903 Springfield with a semiautomatic service rifle, two designers showed themselves to have the potential to design an effective and practical rifle. One was John Garand, and the other was John Pedersen. Pedersen was an experienced and well-respected gun designer, with previous work including the WWI “Pedersen Device” that converted a 1903 into a pistol-caliber semiauto carbine and the Remington Model 51 pistol, among others.

Pedersen’s rifle concept used a toggle locking mechanism similar in concept to the Borchardt and Luger pistols, but designed to handle the much higher pressure of a rifle cartridge. Specifically, the .276 Pedersen cartridge, which pushed a 125 grain bullet at about 2700 fps. Both Pedersen’s rifle and the contemporary prototypes of the Garand rifle used 10-round en bloc clips of this ammunition. Ultimately, Pedersen lost out to Garand. Among the major reasons why was that his toggle action was really a delayed blowback mechanism, and required lubricated cartridges to operate reliably. Pedersen developed a hard, thin wax coating process for his cartridge cases which worked well and was not prone to the problems of other oil-based cartridge lubricating systems, but Ordnance officers still disliked the requirement. This combined with other factors led to the adoption of the Garand rifle. After losing out in US military trials, Pedersen still had significant world-wide interest in his rifle, and the Vickers company in England tooled up to produce them in hopes of garnering contracts with one or more other military forces. About 250 rifles were made by Vickers, but they failed to win any contracts and production ceased – making them extremely rare weapons today.


Pedersen lived until 1951, and was well regarded for his sporting arms development with Remington – none other than John Moses Browning described him as “the greatest gun designer in the world”.

“My Friend” Knuckle-Duster Revolver at RIA

The “My Friend” knuckle-duster revolver was a defensive weapon sold on the civilian market from the late 1860s until the early 1880s. It functioned both as a revolver (this one is in .22 caliber, with a 7-shot capacity) and a blunt weapon for striking. These were made in upstate New York (in the Catskills, specifically) by a man named James Reid and his company.

Shanghai Municipal Police Colt 1908 at RIA

The Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless was a very popular pistol for civilians – it was compact, comfortable, reliable, and exceptionally modern for its day. The initial production was all in .32ACP, but 5 years after it was introduced a variant in .380 caliber was introduced – the model 1908 Pocket Hammerless. By the end of World War II, more than 570,000 1903s and 138,000 1908s had been manufactured.

More than a few corporate and government organizations adopted the Colt Pocket Hammerless, among them the Shanghai Municipal Police. This department was led at the time by an Englishman named William Fairbairn, who was an extremely influential developer of combat tactics. His work would prove to be a fundamental foundation for modern police organizations and military Special Forces (he was one of the men primarily responsibly for training WWII Allied special units, including the OSS). He had some particular ideas about how best to employ handguns in combat, and these are reflected in the modifications he had made to the Colt 1908 automatics purchased by the Shanghai Municipal Police Department back in the 1920s.

Want to see more about Fairbairn? You can check out his WWII “Get Tough” book on hand-to-hand combat online, or order one of his many books – which form the intellectual foundation for much of the tactical training right up to this day:

Several Items…

No Vintage Saturday today – I’ve had a number of items stack up that I’d like to post in between the RIA videos this month. First up, I found a very neat Nova documentary on WWI aircraft, done in conjunction with New Zealand’s The Vintage Aviator Ltd. I think it’s neat to take old guns to 2-gun matches to get some glimpse at how they handled in real use, but TVAL goes way, way, WAY further, actually building exact functioning reproductions of all sorts of WWI aircraft (and engines). Their guns are dummies because of NZ law, alas, but the documentary (free to watch on Nova’s web site through the link above) is a lot of fun to watch regardless.

Second, I recently had a chance to attend a demo of a new brand of precision .308 and .223 ammo, called Eagle Eye. It’s not something that really applies directly to what we do here at Forgotten Weapons, but I expect a decent fraction of you guys may find it interesting – they guarantee 1/2 MOA performance from every lot. You can see my full article on it over at TheFirearmBlog. Also, it was a fun opportunity to make some 800-yard rifle shots with coaching from Glenn Dubis and Kelly Bachand. :)

Third, I had the opportunity to help out with a paper ARES is publishing Monday on the arms being used in the current Ukraine conflict. It goes beyond small arm into vehicles, artillery, explosives, and more. Interesting reading for any weapons nerds out there (you know who you are!) and anyone interested in keeping tabs on the events.

Last – but certainly not least – we finally have the next installment of InRange TV published! I’m very happy to say that it is now free to watch, and hosted by a new site devoted specifically to gun-related video called Full30. InRange will be appearing there weekly, and the first piece is a very impressive (if I may say so myself) series of experiments with Russian and German WWII explosive ammunition. How effective was that stuff? Check out the video and see for yourself!

Spanish Miquelet Flintlock at RIA

The miquelet lock is generally considered the first true, mature flintlock action in the progression of firearms technology. It combined the pan cover and frizzen (the plate against which the flint strikes) into a single multi-purpose part. This particular pistol is a good example of the characteristics of a miquelet, despite its rather rough condition.

Spencer Rifle Conversion at RIA

The Spencer repeating rifle was a major leap forward in infantry firepower, and more than one hundred thousand of them were purchased by the US military during the Civil War. The Spencer offered a 7-round magazine of rimfire .56 caliber cartridges in an era when the single-shot muzzleloading rifle was still predominant. This particular Spencer is a long rifle which was one of roughly 1100 rebuilt from damaged carbines in 1871 at Springfield Arsenal.

Iraqi Tariq Pistol at RIA

The official issue sidearm for the Iraqi Army (and many of its police agencies) is the Tariq, a domestically-manufactured copy of the Beretta M1951 pistol. The Beretta is a pretty decent pistol, mechanically fine and comfortable to shoot but hampered by an awkwardly-placed magazine release and safety. Copies of it were used by several middle-eastern nations, including Egypt (the Helwan) and Iraq. The Iraqi-made guns are of an impressively low quality, as you’ll see in the video, and apparently an option of last resort for Iraqis able to carry handguns. The same Iraqi factory makes a copy of the Beretta model 70 also called the Tariq (named after a general from the 8th century), but that gun and this one share only the name (and probably manufacturing quality standards).

Tariq pistols have never been commercially imported into the US, and all the ones here (there aren’t very many) were brought back by veterans of the various US military missions in Iraq. The paperwork required to legally bring one back has varied in level of difficulty, and is sometimes outright impossible, and a significant fraction of them were brought back without following those formal procedures (aka, illegally). Still, a neat addition to a collection of enemy sidearms from US military history.

S&W 320 Revolving Rifle at RIA

The Model 320 Revolving Rifle was one of Smith & Wesson’s least successful commercial products, and as a result has become one of the most collectible of their guns – less that a thousand were ever made. The problem with the guns was the same problem that has plagued virtually all other revolving rifles: the cylinder gap sprays the shooter’s forearms with hot gas and lead particles if they use the fore-end to support the gun. The S&W 320 was no exception. It was built on the action of the vastly more popular No. 3 revolver, and made with 16-, 18-, and 20-inch barrels (this particular one is the 20-inch type) with a detachable shoulder stock.

Chicago Palm Protector Pistols at RIA

“The Protector” was a very discreet palm pistol developed in the late 1800s by a French inventor, produced in bulk by the Ames Sword Company, and sold by the Chicago Firearms Company. They are mechanically double-action turret revolvers with a unique grip design meant to be to be fired by squeezing. The first few were made in France by the original inventor, and later licensed to an Irish-American who sold them through first the Minneapolis Firearms Company and later the Chicago Firearms Company. Most are in an extra-short .32 caliber rimfire cartridge, but a few were also made in both .41 and .22 calibers. Today I’m taking a look at examples of all three types at Rock Island:

You can see the Rock Island catalog pages here, if you’re interested in bidding on one or all of them:

French made (Systeme Turbiaux)

Minneapolis model

Chicago model

Lancaster Howdah Pistols at RIA

Charles Lancaster was a master London gunsmith who made 2-barrel and 4-barrel pistols in a variety of British revolver cartridges (commonly known as Howdah pistols). Many of his pistols was purchased privately by British military officers, explorers, and big-game hunters to use as backup weapons throughout the Empire. These three examples are chambered for the .380, .476, and .577 centerfire cartridges, and are all excellent examples of Lancaster’s work and the quality of Victorian-era British craftsmanship: