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The Vault

Snabb Semiauto Conversion

A reader named Roy sent us a link to a very interesting system for converting bolt action rifles to semiauto function. One of them was sold back in 2009 at auction, and (interestingly) the exact same gun is coming up for sale again in a couple weeks at Rock Island.

Snabb conversion of a 1917 Enfield rifle (left)

Snabb conversion of a 1917 Enfield rifle (click to enlarge)

Snabb conversion of a 1917 Enfield rifle (right)

Snabb conversion of a 1917 Enfield rifle (click to enlarge)

The conversion was apparently done by a Swedish engineer named Snabb in 1938, and was intended to be a design that could convert any typical bolt action rifle into self-loader. From Rock Island’s description:

The Snabb was well balanced, simple and rugged design that was intended as a low cost alternative to replacing large stocks of bolt action rifles with new semi-automatics. Though mechanically successful, the higher than anticipated price, coupled with the outbreak of the Second World War, ruined the Snabb’s chances. A long gas trap is fitted to the muzzle, which runs to a gas tube driving an operating rod. The original bolt has been altered to accept this rod, with the handle shortened, a safety screw installed into the firing pin hole, and a dust cover installed on the rear of the receiver, which encloses the bolt and the new mechanisms. An extension has also been installed on the magazine, a safety switch on the right side of the cover, and the trigger mechanism has been fitted with an extended trigger bar and a disconnecting sear for semi-automatic fire.

This description sounds very much like the German Gewehr 41 designs made by Mauser and Walther – a system that works well enough on the square range, but doesn’t hold up very well to combat conditions. At least three Snabb conversions are still floating around – the afore-mentioned 1917 Enfield, one built on a 1903 Springfield rifle (which sold at auction in 2009 for $5500), and one built on an 1893 Mauser which is going up for auction in December.

Snabb conversion of an 1893 Mauser rifle (left)

Snabb conversion of an 1893 Mauser rifle (click to enlarge)

Snabb conversion of an 1893 Mauser rifle (right)

Snabb conversion of an 1893 Mauser rifle (click to enlarge)

The 1917 version coming up for sale includes some documentation, which we have compiled into a PDF:

Snabb documentation (French)

It’s in French, though, and we haven’t yet had a chance to transcribe it into a translation service, so we don’t know what it says. We know the conversion idea didn’t catch on, but clearly someone put some real work into it to have surviving examples of three different types. The ingenuity of the conversion is notable, even if it didn’t create a viable combat rifle. If Snabb had been pitching his idea about 30 years earlier, he might have found some enthusiastic buyers.

Snabb conversion of a 1903 Springfield rifle (left)

Snabb conversion of a 1903 Springfield rifle (click to enlarge)

Snabb conversion of a 1903 Springfield rifle (right)

Snabb conversion of a 1903 Springfield rifle (click to enlarge)

3 comments to Snabb Semiauto Conversion

  • Patrik BP Andersson

    Sorry, but you have it a bit backwards here.
    “Snabb” is the Swedish word for “fast / quick”, and the French document speaks of a “A/B Snabb 38″. A/B was the common abbreviation for “Aktiebolag” (now it’s usually shortened as “AB”), meaning a stock company, so proper translation would be “Ltd. Quick [conversion] 38″.

    It seems this company is represented by Leo Warkol, approaching SAGEM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAGEM) about the invention of Per Harry Erik Rehnberg, which would be the conversion kit with the Swedish patent number 6057 and French patent 432 069. As I don’t speak French I can’t say for certain what the rest is about though.

  • Luris

    Hello !
    I’ve read the document and, using my super power of being French, I’ve confirmed that as Patrick said, it’s a contract between Rehnberg, Warkol and SAGEM which allow SAGEM to build Snabb’s conversion kits for a fee and specifies how much (10 Kr. per kit from what I’ve understood) and other details (like who can patent eventual modification to the original design).
    Some pages seem to be missing but it’s not an issue as the document isn’t really interesting in itself, being just a contract.

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