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The Vault

Vintage Saturday: (The World is) Worth Fighting For

Ernest Hemingway firing a Mosin-Nagant during the Spanish Civil War

Loading them without clips was a pain in 1938, just like today.

Ernest Hemingway on the lines with a Mosin-Nagant during the Spanish Civil War. Photo by Hemingway’s companion Robert Capa, dated November 5th, 1938. What better way to research a book than to actually join the war you are going to write about?

Fosbery’s Pump Shotgun

Today’s post and photos were provided by guest author Miles Vining – thanks, Miles!

Lieutenant Colonel George Vincent Fosbery VC is primarily known for his most famous contribution to military small arms in the Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver which served Great Britain in the First World War. His most significant civilian contribution was the “Paradox”, which was a technique of rifling the last two inches of a shotgun barrel and thus allowing a common barrel to shoot both normal bird shot and solid slugs with relative accuracy out to 200 meters. It was so innovative that even the prestigious gun maker Holland & Holland took up incorporating it into some of their shotguns of the period. The Webley-Fosbery was phased out of service after World War One and Paradox production numbers declined in the 1930s, with none were being manufactured after World War Two. Fosbery was in dire financial straits when he died in 1907, despite his achievements -  his grave is that of a pauper in England, marked by a wooden cross and a single plate that says “V Fosbery” and a bible inscription below it. But there is one design that was absolutely ahead of it’s time that Fosbery invented but never saw in mass production. It was the Fosbery Slide Action of 1891.

Fosbery 1891 Slide Action (photo by Miles Vining courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

Fosbery 1891 Slide Action

Fosbery began his venture into rifle designs in the late 1860s to compete for the service breechloader trials that eventually the Martini Henry would win. (Ed: details of Fosbery’s breechloading design) In the initial trials of 1867, he was up against the likes of Remington, Burton, Peabody, Martini, and Henry (separate submissions). This award carried with it a £600 award for winning, £1000 for submitting, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition along with £300 to cover the testing expense. Fosbery’s magazine and action designs were very complicated and involved a wrap-around magazine similar to a Johnson M1941. Later on, he designed another breechloader in 1885 as United States Patent No. 356311 and he intended the magazine to be used in other designs of the period to include the Lee bolt action and Spencer pump-action. His second magazine design, that of United States Patent No. 366,211 involved a box magazine that used scissor shaped springs to push the follower up. This development in designing rifle actions and magazines led way to his shotgun.

Patent No. 11,339 was filed by Fosbery in 1891 for a slide action magazine fed 16 bore shotgun. The purpose of the shotgun is not known, he could have it intentioned for riot control forces because of it’s rapid firepower or for the sporting market. Knowing that pump action and slide action firearms have never been very popular in Great Britain, it was probably intended for the former.

Fosbery 1891 Slide Action, right side

Fosbery 1891 Slide Action, right side – note that the magazine is missing (photo by Miles Vining courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

Fosbery 1891 Slide Action, left side

Fosbery 1891 Slide Action, left side – note that the magazine is missing (photo by Miles Vining courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

The surviving example evaluated seems to be constructed in Britain. Apart from it being a magazine fed shotgun (revolutionary in 1891) the outstanding feature of the weapon is it’s bolt head. It has a rotating 6 lug bolt head, operated by the pump handle on the stock. Common knowledge states that Eugene Stoner borrowed his bolt head design from Melvin Johnson, but where did Johnson get his design from? Fosbery’s rotating bolt head was patented almost 40 years before Johnson even began work on his rifles and light machine guns. Even down to the position of the extractor and ejector. There is evidence of a Scandinavian rotating bolt lug system design that predates Fosbery’s but the date and name of said design are not known at this time.

Fosbery's rotating bolt design

Fosbery’s rotating bolt (photo by Miles Vining courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

The bolt head leads to another innovation and that is of the pump action slam fire. It was common of slide actions of that time period to be manufactured without a battery safety, so if a shooter kept his finger depressing the trigger as the slide/pump was pushed forward, the instant the bolt would go in battery, the hammer would fall and the shell would go off. This could be handy in a rapid fire scenario but if only one shot was expected it could be a rude awakening. Fosbery used a description of this feature within the patent referring to a different breech closing device than the rotating bolt one, but it is still a similar design.

Another design feature that is possibly connected to modern designs is that of the slide/pump itself. If observed closely, the operating rod that the pump controls has a shape that is unmistakably similar to the operating rod on John Garand’s M1 rifle. Although there is no toggle lock system, the rod is secured to the pump and the bolt itself through 4 screws, 2 at either end of the rod.

View into the chamber of Fosbery's slide-action shotgun

View into the chamber of Fosbery’s slide-action shotgun (photo by Miles Vining courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

Two elements are missing from the example in the pictures, and that is the barrel and the assumed magazine. The barrel is a Winchester 16 bore barrel made in 1909, so thus the configuration of the original barrel is not known. The barrel must have been changed out by one of the owners after some years of ownership. All designs point to the use of a box magazine as the boxed shape of the trigger guard allows one, there’s magazine catch points, Fosbery had a number of magazine patents and the design doesn’t include room for a tubular magazine. But the biggest problem is where is the magazine! The example in the pictures does not come with one so if there ever was one, it is now lost to history.

Markings on the replacement barrel

Markings on the replacement barrel (photo by Miles Vining courtesy NFC, Leeds, UK)

Today only two examples of the Slide Action of 1891 exist to the author’s knowledge. One is in a private collection in Florida, and the other is in the National Firearms Center in Leeds, England. The latter example is shown in photographs by the author. Much of this information is from pages 45-47 in the book Paradox – The Story of Colonel G.V. Fosbery, Holland & Holland and The Paradox Rifled Shot and Ball Gun by David J. Baker and Roger E. Lake, an excerpt from “American Artisan and Patent Record” Jul 17 1867. Also conversation with Doug Wicklund, Curator, NRA National Firearms Museum.

Type 94 Nambu in Slow Motion

The Type 94 Nambu is a much-maligned pistol used by the Japanese military from 1935-1945. It’s actually a better gun than people give it credit for, but we will address that in a later video. For now, enjoy some high-speed footage of it firing:


New InRange Trailer and Madsen Catalog

First off, in the past few days we have had a number of people ask for a trailer for the first episode of InRange that actually provides a thorough idea of what is in the show. The initial trailer was cut to look exciting and hip, and I’ll admit that it really didn’t say much about the show content. So, we put together a second extended trailer, which is a full 15 minutes long – meaning it is a full quarter of the show. It does, I think, a much better job of conveying the show content:

Like what you see? Check out the full episode, and tell your friends!

Blatant self-promoting ad out of the way now, I do also have some old-gun material to post. My friend Hrachya sent over some documents in light of the recent Madsen SMG video, including a neat catalog of pretty much all the guns offered by the Madsen company after WWII. It’s a fun piece to flip through, and it made me realize that there is now information here on almost every one of them…

Madsen Company Catalog (English)

Madsen Company Catalog (English)

One of the items in the catalog that jumped out at me in particular is the “Madsen-Ljungman Semi-Automatic Rifle”:

Madsen-Ljungman semiauto rifle

Madsen-Ljungman semiauto rifle

It is clearly a Ljungman rifle, but not quite the same as what the Swedes produced. Little details like the magazine profile and handguard vents are different. It would appear that the Madsen company got themselves a license ot produce Ljungman rifles, but was unable to garner any contracts for them – I’m not aware of any of these rifles ever being manufactured (and note that in the catalog, they are listed as being available in your choice of caliber, between 6.5mm and 8mm).

The 50mm mortar is also an interesting piece, which I have not gotten to see in person, not found other information about.

Anyway, for more info on Madsen company check out these previous posts:

M47 Lightweight Military Rifle (bolt action)

INA 953 (Brazilian copy of the Madsen SMG)

Madsen M50 (SMG)

Madsen-Rasmussen 1888 and 1896 (semiauto rifles)

Madsen LMG (including belt-fed tank model)

Madsen-Saetter (belt-fed)



Ruy points out that the Danish State Defense History Museum has photos of two of the Madsen-Ljungman rifles. One is in 7.65mm (presumably in an effort to secure South American contracts) and one in 7.62mm (it’s dated 1950, which would make that .30-06 caliber). Thanks, Ruy!

7.62mm Madsen-Ljungman rifle

7.62mm Madsen-Ljungman rifle

7.65mm Madsen-Ljungman rifle

7.65mm Madsen-Ljungman rifle

Upcoming Match with a Swiss Gewehr 1911

This coming weekend, I’ll be taking a brief trip into western Texas to compete in the annual Pecos Run and Gun in the Sun. It’s a run-n-gun match, as the name implies, using rifle and pistol and covering between 6 and 7 miles. There are six shooting stages along the course, requiring use of either rifle or pistol, or both – and the rifle shooting goes out to a maximum of 400 yards. I’ve been training for this match with practice runs of increasing length and weight for the last few months, and now go-time is just around the corner. I did one last full-length run with all my gear on Sunday, and took the opportunity to also get some video of the practice:

The toughest decision in preparation was deciding which rifle to use…there are so many possibilities to choose from! I know the targets are going to be relatively difficult, so I needed something that is conducive to good shooting – good sights and a good trigger in particular. I considered using optics, but I actually only have two scoped rifles: a scout-scoped tanker M1 Garand and a Yugoslav M76. The tanker M1 is a great gun, but not really appropriate to my interest in historical arms. The M76 is better in that regard, but has some magazine issues and a mediocre trigger. And it’s pretty heavy to run with for mile on mile.

Kitted up and ready to go!

Yeah, I’m gonna lose to the scoped ARs…but at least I’ll do it in style.

Looking at my iron-sighted options, I realized that there was one group of rifles that were clearly the best suited for this (from my collection): the Swiss ones. The Swiss have a long tradition of marksmanship and designed their guns with that in mind. I have plenty of stripper clips to run a match like this with them, and the surplus ammo I have is of extremely high quality (of course; it’s Swiss). The K31 carbine is an obvious initial choice, but those are a bit common, aren’t they? Yeah, I’ll admit to a touch of gun-hipster. I’d rather use something a bit more esoteric. So sticking with the carbines (which are lighter), I moved to the K11. It meets the “less common” checkbox, and it has the longer bolt of the true Schmidt-Rubin actions – which I find to be smoother to operate than the K31. After a few trip to the range, though, I realized that I just wasn’t shooting well enough with it. This was partly because the sights weren’t quite regulated for my ammo (which seems odd, but the windage was both significantly off and the front sight was staked in place) and partly, I think, because of the short carbine sight radius.

The final decision was to use a Gewehr 1911, the full-length sister of the K11. It’s a flagpole of a rifle, but has an almost 31″ barrel and a correspondingly excellent 25.5″ sight radius to minimize sight picture error. The trigger is excellent (as they are on every Swiss rifle I have), and the G11 also has a bottom-mounted leather sling that I can wrap up as a “hasty sling” for shooting support – the K11 sling mounts to the side of the weapon and is much less conducive to this use). It is a bit heavy, coming in at 10.2 pounds unloaded according to my bathroom scale, but I can deal with that. Some of the other features the Swiss put into these rifles include a very sharp, square front sight to give the best sight picture, a nice deep crown to protect the muzzle, a semi-pistol grip for better handling than many contemporary arms, and a clip design that is extremely smooth and easy to use (better than any other stripper clip design I’ve used, and far better than some of them). It holds six rounds of 7.5x55mm ammunition, firing a 174 grain projectile at 2560fps (11g @ 780m/s). The surplus GP11 ammo is non-corrosive, and the combination of it and the G11 rifle are significantly more accurate than I am capable of. This will be my weapon of choice for the match.

Once I had reached that conclusion, I started to look for ways to carry ammunition. The downside of the Swiss chargers is that they are easily bent (they are made of waxed cardboard) and because they hold six rounds instead of five, they do not fit the gear designed for virtually any other rifles. The solution I found was a neat-looking Swiss bandolier originally issued to mounted troops (both horse and motorcycle). It has three pockets on the front and three on the back, each with space for two clips. Total capacity 72 rounds – about double the minimum number of rounds required for the rifle portion of the match. When the bandolier arrived from Liberty Tree Collectors, I was pretty impressed. It’s very sturdily constructed, the pockets are stiff enough to protect the clips inside from damage, and the flaps are easy enough to open but won’t come loose on their own. It can be worn either right- or left-handed, depending on which shoulder you want to have unobstructed for rifle shooting, and the bottom end loops securely around your belt (which will help prevent my pistol from bouncing around when I’m running). The one question I have been unable to find an answer to is why there are pockets on the back of the bandolier – they are basically impossible to reach – to access those I will need to undo the belt connection and pull the bandolier around so the back pouches are on my chest. That’s doable, though – I expect I will be doing so to move ammo to the front pockets while moving between shooting stations.

The rest of my gear is less interesting – a USGI 2-quart water bottle that will anchor to my belt and be supporter by a strap over the shoulder, my trusty Ballester-Molina sidearm and  kydex OWB holster, and some spare 1911 magazines. Total with the rifle, it all comes to 28 pounds. Some might ask why I would decide to actually pay money to run for a couple hours in the Texas sun with all this junk (there is no prize for winning)…and that’s a reasonable question.

First off, if is a progression of activities I’ve been doing for a while now, and enjoying. I’ve been shooting a bunch of the 2-Gun Action Challenge Matches, and this is in the same vein. Simpler shooting stages, but much more strenuous overall. I’ve also done some local 5k terrain/mud runs, and enjoyed them as well. I like pushing myself a little farther each time, to see what I can achieve.

Secondly, I think that I learn more about weapons handling in the real world by doing this sort of thing than almost anything else I could do (short of enlisting in a military force and going to war). Shooting under stress is something you just can’t replicate from the shaded bench of a formal shooting range. I want to develop shooting skills that are universally applicable, and I believe that requires stress from a clock, competition, and physical exertion. I will be very curious to see how I perform in this event, and what new things I learn from it. Wish me luck!

Madsen M50 SMG (Video)

The Madsen M50 was one of a series of submachine guns developed and marketed by the Danish Madsen company after World War II. The first was the M46 (1946), followed by M50 and the M53. Each version was progressively a bit better than the last, but they never sold particularly well because of the easy and cheap availability of war surplus arms.

Vintage Saturday: A Rifle for Cold Weather

German sentry with a Mosin Nagant rifle, WWI

When in Russia, do as the Russians do.

German sentry in Russia with a captured Mosin-Nagant M91 rifle, WWI. Note the sling swivel on the front of the magazine, and the lack of sling slots in the stock – this is a pre-1908 rifle.

German Mauser Obrez Pistol

From the collection of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, a reader named James found an example of an Obrez pistol made on a Mauser K98 rifle action. This apparently was made by Czech partisans during World War II, using the grip from an MG42 machine gun.

Mauser obrez

Obrez made by Czech partisans with a Mauser rifle and MG42 grip (photo from DHM)

Thanks for the link, James – looks like a fun project for a home gunsmith with a bit too much free time!

Introducing InRange TV

I am very excited to introduce a new project today – InRange TV!

InRange is intended to be everything that cable TV gun programs have utterly failed to be: intelligent and educational, while still being fun to watch. Each episode will have 3-5 different segments on a variety of topics, including reviews and range reports on firearms (both old and new), practical experiments with guns and gear in the field, competitions, interviews with knowledgeable folks in the gun community, studies and recreations of historic gunfights, and much more. Unlike Forgotten Weapons, InRange will not be limited to unusual and exotic firearms, but will rather cover everything that we find interesting. It will, however, keep the same standards of quality content that you get here. Shows will be an hour long, and publish monthly.

The other big difference between InRange and my other work is that InRange is a pay-to-watch program. Karl and I have big ambitions for what we will be able to provide with the show and they require and actual working budget, and enough income to support us without keeping other full-time jobs. I realize this will require us to overcome a major internet prejudice against paying for content, but that is the only way we can make this show a reality and bring it to its full potential (short of a contract with the History Channel, which will not be forthcoming because the History Channel doesn’t do real programs anymore). We hope you will consider supporting the effort by watching our first episode! The asking price, after all, is less that a cup of coffee per month.

I should also point out that this is in no way a replacement for Forgotten Weapons – I will continue to publish the same type of material and at the same frequency as always. InRange is an additional project involving additional people, and if it takes off, it will actually be a benefit to Forgotten Weapons, by allowing me to travel more. For example, we recently filmed an interview with Jim Sullivan (one of the original AR15 designers) for an upcoming InRange episode, and while there I also filmed a video on a prototype .22 rifle he designed for John Wayne, which will be appearing here on Forgotten Weapons.

Hall Breechloading Carbine at RIA

The M1819 Hall rifle was the first breechloader adopted on a wide scale by a military force (the British Ferguson predated it, but was only made in small numbers). The Hall stayed in production on and off for several decades, being made in many configurations. This particular one is an 1836 pattern smoothbore Hall carbine, with a retracting spike bayonet.


This is the last of the videos I had the chance to make at Rock Island, and they are all going to be up for sale at the Premier auction this coming weekend – along with a couple thousand other guns. I hope you enjoyed these videos, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to do this again at another future auction!