Alofs: A Steampunk Mousetrap for a Shotgun

The Alofs conversion is a contraption that can be bolted onto the side of a single shot break action shotgun to convert it into a 4+1 capacity repeating action. Patented by Herman Alofs in 1924 (, it was sold in the mid/late 1920s for $6. Surviving advertisements show it in the Iver Johnson catalog listed as 12ga, and in flyers directly from the Alofs Manufacturing Company offering it in 12, 16, 20, and .410 gauges. I am unaware of any examples not in 12ga, and I suspect the other sizes were advertised in hopes of finding buyers, but never actually produced except perhaps in prototype. These were only available for a few years before manufacture ceased.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Alofs is that it actually works! As long as it is mounted properly (the mount is adjustable to get correct spacing and alignment), it actually does exactly what it advertises. One could buy a single shot gun and an Alofs unit for about half the cost of a pump action repeating shotgun. Of course, a true pump action was a much preferably option, but for those tight on money the Alofs was actually a mostly-viable option.


  1. Cool thanks.

    A quick google search shows a lot of hits. Auctions, Sales, Videos, Pics…there must be not only one of a kind, looks like the actual presence on the market right now it was successfull and sold many times.

  2. Back around 1974, I acquired an Iver Johnson single shot 12 gauge shotgun that had a large hex headed bolt that served as the barrel pin. It stuck out quite away with a large hexheaded nut. I thought that it was the work of some cobbler but now I am wondering it it hadn’t had one of these conversions on it and eventually it was removed but they had to use the bolt because they didn’t have the original pin. I am unable to find a video on this conversion. Could you show the other side?
    Great work, please keep it up.

  3. The purpose of a repeating shotgun is a second quick shot in case you missed with the first one or if there is a second target/bird/etc. to shoot at. While this is much faster to reload than pulling a shell out of your pocket it’s still not fast enough to get that second shot on a target. So it brings up the question as to what it’s really doing for you. Between the cost, the questionable functioning, that it certainly messes up the ergonomics and handling of the gun, and even the esthetics it’s no wonder that it’s a Forgotten Weapon. But it’s very interesting and even more interesting that it more-or-less works as intended. Thanks for showing it to us.

    • This applies to hunting waterfowl, but shotguns were used for pretty much every type of hunting and home defense back in the day.

  4. Claus Alofs was once upon a time, a member of the German national team in soccer.
    There are similar things for the Martinis.

  5. This has always been one of those things that I’ve looked at, with wonder, finding it hard to believe it actually works. On the outside, it’s a very unlikely-looking thing. On the inside, it’s a magnificent bit of Rube Goldbergery that really functions.

    And, questionable aesthetics aside, that’s the real test of anything mechanical.

  6. Can’t see a real reason to start with a empty hull chambered.Should hold five rounds total with one round chambered and four more in the two magazines making its capacity capable to the pump shotguns of the day.

    • Many early pump-action shotguns only had like four or five round capacity. That was still more and ready to use than a single or doublebarreled shotgun, hence people buying these. Or the Alof’s conversion. Quicker than a singel-barrel and a few shells at the ready for not much money.

  7. The stock on the Stevens 94 shotgun is a proprietary plastic called Tenite. It was also found on early.22/.410’s and the two shot 12 gauge Stevens 124 cross bolt repeater.
    Over time it became brittle and the company returned to wood stocks.

    • I guess the latter. Lots of rural settlements in Canada and the people there may also have an interest in this conversion just like their USA neighbours.

  8. I kept wanting to yell, “Keep that shotgun shouldered while you work the plumbing!” But I suspect that would be asking too much of human nature, esp. gunbug nature.

    Old-time single- and double-barrel gunners sometimes stuck two shells between the fingers of their left hands, ready for a quick reload in case of multiple birds or rabbits. Yes, it took practice. Yes, fumbling it caused some really terrible language out in the field, especially with deep snow on the ground.

  9. I get the feeling that the reason this complicated device exists is the lack of tooling for a proper repeating shotgun in many places at the time. You want to make a new gun? You’d best have the production tooling in place first. Otherwise, your gun sales will be in the single digits per month. I could be wrong.

    • If you inherited an old single barrel shotgun, you could buy this device and have a repeater for the fraction of the cost. Back in the day, money was tight for most people.

  10. The Madsen light machine gun still takes the prize for ballistic steampunk awesomeness, a full-auto short-recoil falling-block action that wasn’t a cheap substitute but a reliable word-class weapon in its own right. But the Madsen’s steampunk nature requires disassembly and high-speed video to appreciate (for which we can all thank Ian’s past work); the Alofs puts its Rube Goldbergian glory on full display.

  11. Very cool. The gizmo worked, sort of. I wonder of the hang ups are still about the ammunition that you used. The device was tuned for the available ammo back then. The shotgun shells back then had a paper covering, not plastic. These type of cartridges that I have help seem to have a slicker surface than the modern plastic cartridges. Maybe the ammo you were using was not sliding as freely in the device’s tubes as the ammo available then. Federal still makes shotgun shells with paper covers. It might be worthwhile trying these. Also, a good cleaning and polishing of the device’s tubes might help.

    • Ian, as you have connections with the auction houses, maybe you can track down this example and talk the owner in letting you do an episode on it.

    • I saw that link earlier too researching this possibility, and I would love to believe it’s true. Especially finding a .410 gauge would be cool for a snake gun, but I’m suspecting that maybe the auction house could’ve made a mistake. The logic behind my assumption is following Ian’s suggestion that multiple different calibers were offered but demand did not meet up with the cost of tooling up for production.

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