7.65mm Radium Pistol at RIA

The Radium was the predecessor to the much more well-known (and more successful) Ruby pistol made by Gabilonda y Urresti, which was sold to the French Army by the hundreds of thousands during World War One. The Radium was very unusual in its magazine design, which featured a spring loaded sliding grip panel instead of a detachable magazine. To reload, one would push the locking catch and pull the left grip panel down, drop loose cartridges into the magazine area, and then latch the grip panel back up into place. Most of the Radium pistols were made in 6.35mm (.25 ACP), but this one at RIA is a 7.65mm model.


  1. This method of loading is even less secure than using an en-bloc clip or a stripper clip. Loose cartridges into an internal box magazine in this manner will be only somewhat less fiddly (arguably) than loading a revolver.

    If this set of assumptions is incorrect, please feel free to address it.

    • More fiddly, actually. When loading a revolver, you don’t generally have to keep pressure on the cylinder to keep a relatively powerful spring from snapping home and throwing all the rounds back out into your face.

      To properly load this gadget, you’d have to hold it flat, right side down, drop the rounds in one at a time, and carefully push them into place so they all lie in a neat row. Then carefully let the grip panel go upward; too fast, and the rounds are likely to go POP!, just like logs rolling down a chute and “bumping” over each other. Begin Again.

      I suspect the idea was to appeal to people who were used to revolvers. They may have been inspired by other fixed internal magazine pistols like the Mannlicher and Mauser, both of which were popular in Spain at the time.

      Creating a magazine loading lashup like this was probably considered easier than re-designing the basic Browning blowback system to accommodate a stripper-clip loading through the ejection port as per the Mannlicher.

      None of the above considerations makes it a good idea. As the old engineering saying goes, if nobody else does it that way, there’s generally a very good reason.



  2. That is a really interesting pistol. Removable magazines are certainly a better method than this one and since you can’t even use a stripper clip (Like Mauser C-96) or speed loader (like revolvers that have a swing out cylinder or break open) reloading is doomed to be slower than with other sidearms at the time.

    Still, it is an innovative (if complicated) design and for non-combat use it would be just fine.

    • “Removable magazines”
      Notice that in early 20th century there were many accidents due to “forget cartridge in chamber” i.e. assuming that firearm is safe (will not shoot) because the magazine was removed.
      And where your fire-arm don’t have removable magazine you can’t lose it.

      • Most people apparently assume that somehow, the cartridge sits still behind the barrel even before the slide is racked and that the round is magically removed when magazine is pulled out…

        As for the Radium pistol, it would have been better to have a stripper clip guide built into the slide so that there would be less of a likeliness of dirt getting into the works (a concern of the time). Or if the sliding panel must be kept, try an en-bloc clip for faster loading…

      • I can see the possible appeal of “no magazines to lose” in a civilian pistol, but I don’t think this would be any less subject to the “forget there’s one in the chamber” problem than a more conventional semiautomatic.

  3. What are those 8? eliptical um, cavities around the end of barrel?

    And one has to put this gun sideways to drop cartridges in, but is there anything to keep the grip open while you search pockets for rounds?

    (btw. love those videos, by far the best about guns on the web)

  4. In a lot of the old books about guns (those written before 1960 or so) the author would give their list of reasons why revolvers were superior to semi-auto guns, and that a revolver had no magazine to lose was always in that list.

    They sort of had a point. For most of the 1900’s it could take weeks to get a replacement magazine if one could get a replacement at all. If someone today needed to get a replacement magazine for, say, a S&W 39 and the Internet could not be used and there was not a Midway or Brownells catalog around, how easy would it be to get one for that mass-produced arm? That was their world. A lot of people would have had to go to a gunsmith and the gunsmith gone through his list of used parts dealers to track one down after some letter writing. That is probably why some civilian firearms (e.g., the Remington model 8) basically took detachable magazines and fixed them to the rifles. Military and police usage was different, where the armorer had a stack of spares. It is easy to suggest that one try not to lose the magazine, but that was more easily said than done in an era when people still rode horses and might have to reload while riding.

    • You got that right. With no internet and perhaps given only a telephone, arms catalogs, and an address book, one would be hard pressed to get new magazines for a semi-automatic hoping that he dialed the correct number and didn’t get scammed. European semi-automatic pistols with fixed magazines fed by clips would at least have a slimmer profile to holster…

      While revolvers are simpler to operate, they can’t be adapted into rifle-length weapons without crap-loads of people getting burned or worse (and the stupid US Army Ordinance Board kept citing the Colt Revolving Rifle disaster). A semi-automatic pistol action could potentially be used in a medium-length barrel carbine (Bergmann, Mauser, Luger, Borchardt, and perhaps a few others), though there would be limits to how effective the configuration would work in the field. The Browning style pistol action probably would not succeed in a carbine length weapon… Or am I wrong?

      • Army Ordnance actually tried a pistol-carbine version of the 1911 in the 1930s, complete with long barrel, extended slide, detachable shoulder stock, and extended magazine.

        The troops hated it because it was clumsy all around, nearly impossible to use as a pistol with the then-required one-hand stance, and when fired as a carbine they had the slide racketing back and forth a couple of inches in front of the right eye. Worst of all, holstering it was pretty much out of the question.

        Reliability was an issue, as well. The heavy slide required heavy loads to function. The so-called .45 Remington-Thompson round (similar to the later .45 Winchester Magnum) may have been developed for this project in addition to the Thompson SMG, to deal with this issue.

        In the end, Ordnance chucked the whole business and asked the rifle manufacturers to come up with a carbine. The Winchester-designed M1 was the result. In his book Weapons (1954), Edwin Tunis called the Carbine “the pistol that looks like a rifle”, and that’s about what it is.

        Most armies that tried to develop “pistol-carbines” in the early 20th century gave up on the idea when the submachine gun came long. Just as most armies that fielded SMGs retired them when assault rifles were developed in the middle of the century.

        Any shoulder arm is generally easier to shoot accurately than a pistol. This is especially true with enlistees or draftees who may never have fired any gun before in their lives. And a shoulder arm can easily accommodate a cartridge with an effective range of about 400 to 500 meters without generating recoil that would be a problem for a novice. A handgun with that much power is going to be a problem for even an experienced shooter.

        I speak from personal experience. And I operate on the principle of only using the pistol out to 50 yards; beyond that, I use a rifle.

        When you’ve been shooting off and on for fifty-some years, you learn things like this.



        • Wow, I didn’t know the Ordinance Board actually tried to innovate… I can’t seem to find much on the 1911 carbine, and my searches only result in pictures of modern carbine-conversion kits for 1911’s today. Do you suppose the army destroyed all prototypes and photographic evidence due to embarrassment?

          Anyway, the blowback rifle I think is based on the Dreyse 1907 pistol moved the trigger group behind the magazine. The slide was changed into a bolt-carrier and does not reciprocate dangerously close to the user’s face. The issue with turning any pistol into a carbine is changing the basic layout to accommodate the intended usage…

          • See “History of the M1 Carbine”, article by Konrad F. Schrier Jr., in Guns Of The World, Petersen Publishing, 1972, reprinted a couple of times since then by Bonanza Books. The “.45 carbine” is photo no. 5 on p. 77, with this caption;

            “5. The .45 1911 as modified by Colt into a carbine with stock, extended magazine and lengthened slide/barrel group. A European concept which did not find favor here. Photo courtesy of the late Col. B.R. Lewis, USA, Ret’d.”

            While done to an Ordnance contract, the actual work was apparently done by Colt. According to the article, it was submitted to the 1940 trial that ended with the adoption of the M1 Carbine, but was suddenly withdrawn before any actual recorded tests, probably due to the reactions of the first round of testers who had been working with it before that point. The weapon was reportedly the work of Val Browning, John M. Browning’s son. (All according to the Schreier article.)

            Incidentally, the same 1940 test series included the Smith & Wesson 9mm Light Rifle, and two proposals from some outfit called “Woodhull”, a carbine and an SMG, both of which were actually modifications of the Winchester Model 1907 and Model 1910 Self-Loading Rifles in .351 WSL and .401 WSL, respectively. These may have been intended as some sort of “control” item, reflecting the (unofficial) use of the Winchesters in WW1 by AEF units in France.

            Whether or not the “1911 carbine” was seriously intended as a potential service arm is hard to determine. It, too, may have been intended as a “control” item, for comparison purposes only.

            In the end, we got the .30 M1 carbine out of all of it, so I’d say that whatever happened, the trials had a successful outcome. Whatever else you can say about the carbine, there’s no doubt that it works when used for its intended purpose. That being outshooting SMGs and such at ranges below 300 yards.



        • “Reliability was an issue, as well. The heavy slide required heavy loads to function.”
          If it needs different cartridge than Colt 1911 it would be illogical to adopt it – for logistic it is better to have two different design firing same cartridge, than two design with common parts and uncommon cartridges.

      • “While revolvers are simpler to operate, they can’t be adapted into rifle-length weapons”
        Unless the revolver are gas-seal like Nagant or Pieper (see: Pieper carbine)

        • Okay, but didn’t you read the full sentence!? Most revolver carbines apart from the Pieper end up burning the users because of the cylinder gap and some exploded due to misaligned cylinders.


          • Taurus seems to do pretty well with “revolving rifles” like the Circuit Judge, today.

            It comes down to engineering and tech levels. The engineering and tech base of the mid-1800s (tolerances considered “acceptable” if within .05″, percussion cap-and-ball ignition with sideflash and multiple discharges considered a way of life) just aren’t good enough to make a “revolving rifle” safe.

            You need tolerances in the thousandths, not hundredths, and self-contained metallic cartridges that won’t ignite even if they get washed with sideflash at every shot.

            The thing is, once you’ve reached that tech stage, the revolver is generally considered obsolete. Sort of the same way that by the time our chemistry reached the point at which we could accurately determine exactly how black powder burns, we were a century past the point that almost everybody had stopped using black powder because smokeless powder had come along. So there wasn’t even that much interest in studying it.

            Heck, it’s only been in the last decade or so that historians and chemists finally figured out what “Greek Fire” actually was. And that contrary to some peoples’ previous assumptions, not only wasn’t it a Chinese invention like black powder, the Chinese had never even heard of it until they made sustained trade contact with the West in the late-medieval period.

            Yes, they had flamethrower-type weapons in the 10th Century AD. No, they didn’t burn “Greek Fire’; their flame fuel was not self-igniting on contact with water. In fact, it was a highly purified light petroleum fraction. Today, we call it “gasoline”.

            It was ignited by a man standing to one side of the nozzle holding a burning slow-match. On a long wooden pole. Talk about somebody who should have gotten hazardous-duty pay.

            That’s how the history of technology works. Most of the time, we humans can figure out how to make something a long time before we know enough basic science so that we can actually figure out the exact way that it works.



          • “we humans can figure out how to make something a long time before we know enough basic science so that we can actually figure out the exact way that it works.”

            Corrosive primers are a good example of that: people knew if they did not scrub the bore with water it would rust, but it took a while to figure out why. People are still trying to figure out exactly why bullet lube (on lead bullets) works. Or why hard lead bullets mean less leading sometimes, then soft lead means less leading sometimes.

            With guns espeically a lot of people experiment and tinker and see what works, rather than starting from first principles.

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