Blow-Forward Schwarzlose 1908 at the Backup Gun Match

The Schwarzlose 1908 is the only blow-forward firearm ever to see real commercial sale. It is a compact pocket pistol chambered for .32 ACP, with a 7-round magazine. They were sold by Schwarzlose in Germany and also assembled and sold in the United States in a slightly altered form by the Warner Arms Company. I’ve long wanted to try one out in a semi-practical environment, and the Backup Gun Match provides a perfect venue, as its stages are designed around 5-round revolvers.

The Schwarzlose has a number of deficiencies as a practical gun. It is small and narrow for good conceivability, but that narrow backstop really concentrates the recoil. You would not expect much recoil from a .32, but the blow forward action magnifies it almost to the point of the gun being snappily unpleasant to fire. The sights are small and completely non-adjustable. Most significantly, however, are the potential safety hazards of the blow-forward action for basic handling. The gripping surfaces on the slide are not great and the recoil spring is fairly stiff, and it takes a lot of care and attention to not muzzle one’s own hand. This is particularly worrying when clearing malfunctions, which I had two of during the match. This is definitely a pistol that should be appreciated for its history and mechanical curiosity only!


  1. YEOWCH! Even the Nambu Type 94 pistol is several times more comfortable and several thousands of times more practical to shoot.

    • Note that a very early Japanese self-loading pistol design, the Hino-Komura, was a blowforward;

      There was a later prototype SMG, the Mendoza HM-1, in Mexico in the 1950s which worked on the same basic principle and looked very much like an enlarged version of the Hino-Komura pistol.



        • Mendoza had a blow-forward mechanism in which the “slide” including the bolt was pulled forward. Later, in 1975 U.S. patent 3.906.833, “Orozco” the patent was for a folding stock 9mm SMG in which the “telescoping bolt” like the Czechoslovak sa23-26 series or Israeli Uzi, but more like a self-loading pistol’s “slide” a bit like the long-forgotten Madsen m/1945, a handful of which were exported to Mexico and El Salvador, and used a “slide with grooves instead of a protruding bolt handle or the finger groove of the U.S. M3A1 SMG.

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