Bjorgum 1905 Norwegian Prototype Pistol (Video)

Niels Bjorgum was a Norwegian artist-turned-gun-designer who decided to try his hand at handguns for the Norwegian military. His design work ran from 1894 until 1921 or so, starting with long guns but later turning to handguns. He was able to convince the Norwegian government to sponsor his work, largely because he was one of very few native Norwegian designers who appeared to have some potential in what would eventually be the 1914 adoption of an automatic pistol by Norway.

This gun is, I believe, a prototype of his 1905 design. It is chambered for the 7.63mm Mauser cartridge, with a clip-fed 16-round magazine in the grip, a series of interrupted threads for locking, and a rotating barrel short recoil action. It is a really remarkably light gun – so light that I would have definite reservations about shooting it out of safety concerns. When it was informally tested by a Norwegian officer, it had four various types of malfunctions over the course of 16 rounds fired – not a great record, but about as good as any of Bjorgum’s guns ever managed.

He would continue to work on several different designs until Norway adopted the Colt 1911 in 1914, at which time he switched to working on a self-loading rifle. This was quickly dismissed by Norway, and he would travel to the US during WWI in an attempt to interest the US military in it. This (predictably) also failed, and in the early 1920s Bjorgum would leave gun designing for good and return to a successful career as a painter.


  1. A lot of enthusiasm, not nearly enough knowledge or experience would probably be a good way to describe Mr. Bjorgum’s career as a firearms designer.

    The pistol really looks more like a toy and would probably make a good prop for a 1960s era scifi movie ray gun. That is, before Hollywood started to believe that scifi guns should be larger and bulkier than real ones and with all kind of weird appendices.

    • Well, not all Sci-Fi guns are ludicrously bulkier than their real life counterparts. Take for example the “Cosmo Dragoon” from the anime Space Pirate Captain Harlock. It is pretty much a Colt Dragoon with a flash hider and a charging handle in place of the hammer. The Cosmo Dragoon even allows the user to loads energy cartridges into the cylinder (by hand), not something you see on most “laser pistols,” which look like glorified water guns. From the same creator’s works, try the Astro Automatic laser pistol featured in Space Battleship Yamato. It’s based on the Nambu Type 14 pistol and isn’t very bulky at all. The problem I have with that gun is the cross-draw holster, not good for responding to the threat of boarding parties. But in contrast, most of the western ideas of phasers, disruptors, blasters, etc tend to either turn a remote control into a gun or chop down and mangle real guns in manners which would make real gun smiths cry rivers of tears…

      Did I mess up?

  2. Things look diffedent from various angles. This should be the one of an artist which acting through senses rather than logic. Knowing the functions and locations of parts should not be enough for their correct use without influencing their needs.

  3. Getting this to fire more than a few times is some sort of accomplishment. I wonder if the bullet/rifling interaction keeps it locked until the bullet has left the barrel. That is if one switched from RH to LH twist would this gun break really fast.

  4. This gun looks like something my former boss would make. We worked restoring ww2 planes, at the time I was working for him, we had a P51d and a Buker Youngman in the shop. Boss somehow managed to incorrectly make every single part on these planes incorrectly and at unsafe qualities, the most infamous of which where he used a file tosomehow cut through the skin of an aircraft. (at which time we would make them correct behind his back) He somehow managed to weasel his way into the field of aviation mechanics and restoration. He fired the entire crew for “not being experienced enough”, and now is attempting to finish aircraft by himself. We are under a current legal battle for about 25 thousand dollars in unpaid wages. Mr. Bjorgum sound’s like the same kind of person (at least in my experience), and the idea that someone like my boss could even become a minor footnote in history is extremely disappointing, but at the same time comical. Great video Ian, this has got to be the strangest gun you’ve ever had the luck to look at.

  5. Bjørgum designed a semiauto rifle as well. The norwegian army dissmissed it after only looking at his drawings. In 1916 he had a prototype made in Sweden, but it was never a success.
    He had felt so unfairly treated by the norwegian state, so after his death, his widow donated the prototype rifle to the swedish armymuseum. With it was a note that if they didn’t accept it, she would rather destroy it, than give it to a norwegian museum. Here it is in the swedish armymuseum:

    The text say: 7,55mm selfloading automatic rifle M/1916 project Bjørgum, Norway.
    “Made in Sweden for norwegian money. The modell was made for norwegian army ammunition, but later reworked for british ditto”.

    • Wow…that is just…wow. I hope Ian can eventually take a look at that rifle, because I can’t even begin to guess why Bjørgum would choose that receiver…shape. Your neck would certainly get a workout lifting your head above the cheek rest so you could see the sights. And which of the uneven cylinders at the end of the rifle is the barrel? A strange rifle to match a strange pistol to match a strange man. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  6. I would love to see what Bob Ross might have come up with in a pistol design. One thing is for sure is that it would have been a happy little handgun. It is amazing the lengths that Norway went to for an indigenous design.

    • I read about this guy Margolin; maybe it was thru your information. His gun was apparently very accurate and Soviet Olympian team was winning one prize after another. It was so good, they had o change rules to clip its wings. 🙂

      • I once did some practice with a MCM and was quite impressed with the results, Denny. Wouldn’t mind getting my mitts on one again soon! Besides, I really liked the slightly freaky story on how it was created (already pointed up above by Daweo).

  7. From what I can see, it would not take that much to make into ‘more workable’ item.

    First, I’d add something which looks like stub slide to the rear end of recoil assembly while placing his rotary plug-bolt in front (oh yeah, those lugs need to be beefed up – substantially). It could actually be free rotating within this slide, as long as motion to lock/unlock is transferred to it. Then, I’d look at some more substantial guide-ways of what we are used to see. more mass and ruggedness would be good start.

    Maybe, just maybe it might start to look like something worth of name ‘pistol’. Mr. Bjorgum would make my portrait in return and … with his knowledge of locals I might be the first ‘Norwegian’ pistol designer. 🙂

  8. I am just looking at what I wrote and realised I loosely described Schwarzlose 1898 which brings me to ask: why Norwegians did not consider that one?

    • Good point, but then why wasn’t the Schwarzlose 1898 pistol adopted – officially speaking, I mean – by other nations. Apparently, it worked pretty well, the reliability (for turn-of-the-century standards) was good and its general layout was very modern, at least when compared to some of its rivals from the same era.

  9. I have long wondered which pistol served as the inspiration for the Forgotten Weapons logo.

    Now I know.

  10. Maybe it was just a sort of subversive performance art project he made up as he went along, with the gun itself not being as important as the interactions with his de-facto audience. We do the damnedest things sometimes.

  11. So…. He must have seen a cannon breech and thought he could adapt it to a pistol? This whole contraption looks like it was later refined and became the Liberator pistol…. I’m amazed this thing survived the first test fire without grenading itself….

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