After Jonathan Edward “Ed” Browning had his 1929 rifle dropped form US military testing, he took the design back to his shop in Utah and kept working on it. By 1938 he had made enough improvements that he was ready to present the gun to Winchester, hoping they would be interested in purchasing the design. Specifically, he redesigned the receiver to move much of the bolt travel into the wrist of the stock, shortening the action. He also replaced the short recoil action with an annular gas piston. He made two sample rifles, one in military configuration and one in sporting configuration.
Winchester was looking for a self-loading rifle to market at the time, because they could see that war in Europe appeared to be imminent. They had been caught without a military rifle of their own during World War One, and did not want to be in that situation again. They thought that Ed Browning’s design showed merit, so they agreed to purchase it, and brought Browning onboard to help continue development.
With Winchester’s resources, it was possible to make the guns more professionally. Winchester designated the rifle the G30, and we have one of the examples made by Winchester in the video as well.
The tilting bolt mechanism took inspiration from John Moses Browning’s 1911 pistol, and the trigger housing bears an interesting resemblance to that of the French Berthier rifles (which may or may not be coincidental). The rifles appear to have worked reasonably well, although the annular gas piston was a hindrance which Browning apparently was unwilling to abandon. With his death in 1939, the project moved on to a new phase with David Marshall Williams taking on the job of improving it.
“[Winchester] had been caught without a military rifle of their own during World War One, and did not want to be in that situation again.”
It seemed that the Russians may have chosen to ignore the ‘fact’ that Winchester did not have a proper *military* rifle when they placed that huge order of Winchester Model 1895s for the Russian army in WWI. (or maybe they might have even felt that a lever-action gun made a better “assault rifle” than a bolt-action gun?)
The Russians were despairingly trying to acquire any repeating rifles chambered for 7.62×54R. The Winchester 1895 was a good rifle, so ignoring the “wrong” action was quite easy for them.
“Russians may have chosen to ignore”
Russia has no choice, when the First World War become raging on “rifle famine” happen.
General Поливанов (War Minister from July 1915 to March 1916) wrote “In this time rifles were more precious than gold”
Some regiments in 1915 have only 25% rifles they should have.
In effect Russia buy or acquired any rifle from any source, whatever in correct/wrong caliber, repeating or single shot.
Some info from V.G.Fyodorov (designer of Fyodorov Avtomat, during WW1 his quest was finding rifle for Russia from abroad) memoirs titled В поисках оружия available here
In late 1914 experience shows that 200 thousands rifles should be delivered each month
We search for rifles in every part of world: North and South America, Africa, Asia. There were attempts to get Mosin rifles from Abyssinia send during Italian-Abyssinia war, some officers were to send to Mongolia and Manchuria to bought rifles lost by soldiers wounded/killed in Russo-Japanese war. In late 1914 300 thousands of rifles were ordered from Winchester, Mosin design was judged to be superior to Winchester, but second can be delivered months earlier
More info from some source:
French government donated to Russia: 450 thousands single-shot Gras model 1874 and 105 thousands Gras-Kropatschek model 1874-1885 with underbarrel magazine for 8 cartridges. Italian government donated 400 thousands Vetterli model 1870-1887 with magazine for 4 cartridges. Allies also donated: 39 thousands French Lebel model 1886-1907 and 60 thousands Japanese Arisaka model 1905 from Royal Navy as they were replaced by Lee-Enfield in Royal Navy service.
There was never army with more different in construction rifle systems used during one war.(…)Good collection for education about rifle history, bad ill war fighting
is: “(…)bad ill(…)”
should be: “(…)ill for(…)”
should be: “(…)same(…)”
Thanks for the information. During major wars, armies will of course take whatever weapons they can acquire, but during peacetimes prefer to standardize on one primary infantry rifle. Something I have never understood is why (before the semi-auto era) militaries preferred bolt-actions. It would seem to me that the ideal combat rifle would have been a pump-action rifle (ideally with a detachable magazine) such as the Remington 760, since they can rapid-fire much faster than any bolt action, and with a lever gun also being a good choice.
Just like the way armies the world over adopted single shot cartridge rifles over repeaters in the late 1800s, in the pre- and early 1900s they chose bolt-actions over lever and pump actions. I can only guess that rapid-fire capability was given a very low priority in military strategy in those times, since it’s never made any logical sense to me (at least from a modern day tactical perspective) why a type of gun with an inherently slower rate of fire would be the preferred choice for infantry.
Lever action rifles are more difficult to operate prone, which is probably one reason why they were never very popular in military use. Not that it’s impossible, but certainly more difficult and demands you to break your aim completely. Pump-action rifles with a vertical magazine suitable for spitzer bullets didn’t exist prior to WW2, or am I mistaken.
Bolt-action rifles were also reliable and in general quite easy to maintain in field conditions. Straight-pull bolt-action rifles allowed fast cycling of the bolt, although the main purpose of straight-pull actions seems to have been making the operation of the rifle easier under combat stress.
“Pump-action rifles with a vertical magazine suitable for spitzer bullets didn’t exist prior to WW2, or am I mistaken.”
You are mistaken – see STANDARD ARMS Model M
“It would seem to me that the ideal combat rifle would have been a pump-action rifle (ideally with a detachable magazine) such as the Remington 760, since they can rapid-fire much faster than any bolt action, and with a lever gun also being a good choice.”
There were few straight-pull bolt-action repeating rifle designs adopted, which similar to pump-action, should increase Rate-Of-Fire:
Mannlicher 1886,1890,1895 (Austria-Hungary)
Schmidt–Rubin 1889 (Switzerland)
Lee-Navy 1895 (United States – Navy)
Ross rifle (Canada)
Only Schmidt-Rubin series was continued after WW1, generally main disadvantage was that when dirty these rifle become slower and does not grant advantage over 4-movement-bolt-action-repeater.
@Daweo: Yes, I completely forgot about that one. It was hardly suitable for military use, however.
From my limited range time with both Winchesters of various models and Mosin Nagants, the Winchesters have all been superior to the Mosins . Sounds like some serious bias in play!
“my limited range”
I suspect that:
-environment was not matching that of real, i.e. mud, dirt and other
-you don’t fire from prone position or from trench
The Winchester 1895 was well liked by Finnish soldiers during the Civil War of 1918. On both sides, probably, although only the winning White army men got to bring back their rifles back to home. Not officially of course, but an estimated 80%-90% of Winchesters became “souvenirs” after the war. The exact numbers are not known, because Russian era records have not survived, but estimated to be several thousand rifles. In contrast, a much smaller percentage of Mosins went “missing”. It seems likely that many Winchesters confiscated from surrendering Red guardsmen actually went home with the White soldiers doing the confiscation as well…
And of course, Federov’s own Avtomat was chambered for 6.5 x 50 Arisaka because it was the only rifle cartridge available that was suitable for such an action. He emphatically did not want to try to cope with the 7.62 x 54R’s rim in that design, leaving Tokarev and Simonov that particular albatross.
Still, the fact that every other Russian self-loading rifle or MG other than AKs and heavies above .30 caliber have used the Mosin-Nagant round for about a century and a quarter shows what can be done when the incentive is strong enough. As in, you’re being invaded by entire army groups on multiple lines of advance, you need mass-production of auto-weapons to start ten minutes ago, and that rimmed cartridge is the only game in town…
“Still, the fact that every other Russian self-loading rifle or MG other than AKs and heavies above .30 caliber have used the Mosin-Nagant round for about a century and a quarter shows what can be done when the incentive is strong enough.”
In fact Russians tried or planned to switch to other rifle cartridge several times, but each time it failed due to not-technical reasons.
Fyodorov Avtomat was originally design to fire own 6,5×57 Fyodorov cartridge:
http://ww1.milua.org/bullets1916.htm but with outbreak war it was redesigned to 6.5 Japanese which was readily available. In early 1920s 6,5 Japanese was chosen to be default rifle cartridge, but this decision was later revoked and there was return to 7,62x54R because it has better AP, TRACER and HE bullet, which was considered important for usage in machine guns.
In 1939 there were works about 5,45-mm intermediate cartridge, but again war don’t allow finishing work (according to История советского стрелкового оружия и патронов by Д. Н. Болотин)
In late 1980s 6х49 мм cartridge was crafted, but with Fall of Soviet Union due to economical problems it can’t become default rifle cartridge:
(notice the case with groove, which allow big pressure without problems with extraction)
There was also Korovin design from 1933 for .351 Winchester SL cartridge (described as 8,9-mm), but why it was crafted and for what purpose remain unknown to me, photo:
More photos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqVoXgpJNKY
That looks like “nastoyashchaya shturmovka”. And years ahead of Jermans.
The relevant detail that attracted the Russians was that Winchester 1895 tooling was already in place and usable (at least they thought so).
Another excellent review!
What is quite evident from presented samples is that while ED B. was not without talent, he apparently was not able to give his designs the form and function to threaten Garand. Also, samples look kind with not enough fit and appearance attention.
Regarding annular piston I feel this is an excellent approach (it does not add to barrel bending) BUT it is a pain for cleaning. I happen to own the vz.52 so I have first hand experience with that aspect of this now obsolescent design.
“annular piston I feel this is an excellent approach (it does not add to barrel bending)”
In theory, I suspect that in reality production tolerances and user skills might nullify this advantage.
“was not able to give his designs the form and function to threaten Garand”
I wonder about potential foreign clients – it would require redesign to different cartridge, because so far I know, in 1930s no-one use .30-06 as default military rifle cartridge. GAS-OPERATED tend to be generally flexible in cartridge used, still some quick&dirt solution might give unwanted results, see Hotchkiss machine for 7.9×57 Mauser used in Poland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ckm_wz._25_Hotchkiss
Heinemann already tried that and didn’t get anywhere. Neither did Walther or Mauser… Annular gas pistons would require that the barrel be made of stainless steel and then some…
That is good point. As matter of fact the cup/ piston on vz.52 is heavily chrome plated as is the portion of barrel it wraps about.
But then, nowadays with even better materials (ceramic for cup?) this technology can be revived. Forces and resistance to them centered around bore axis is really good thing.
@Daweo: I read what you say and generally concur.
Another problem, I have read, would be that as the gun gets hot, the barrel and annular piston expand to very slightly differing degrees, affecting the gas seal of the piston, and thus affecting reliability.
This is part of intricacy of design. I would think that if both material are same, there should be no case of jamming or excessive looseness. At least have not heard of and did not experience it. If problem occurred it might have been result of poor maintenance.
“gun gets hot”
This lead me to another question: during prolonged fire barrel become more and more hot (this apply generally to any fire-arm, bigger Rate-Of-Fire bigger effect). In external gas piston design barrel has contact with free air and thus it is cooled, in case of annular piston it is covered and thus less surface can be used to heat emission (assuming both system have equal-length barrel).
This will manifest most in full-power cartridge full-auto weapons.
There was Korovin avtomat with annular gas system firing 7,62-mm intermediate cartridge, it is known as
7,62-мм автомат Коровина. Опытный образец 1944 г.
(7,62-mm avtomat Korovina. Experimental model 1944 year)
see photos here: http://arsenal-info.ru/b/book/2240698102/7
7,62-мм автомат Коровина. Опытный образец 1944 г. (general view)
Затвор с затворной рамой и возвратным механизмом 7,62-мм автомата Коровина. (cover removed)
Weapon’s warmup and cooling during automatic fire is one of extremely interesting subject. I had couple times involvement with the subject which included taking measurements during specifically determined firing regime; logging and evaluation.
Yes, it is true, that there is a cooling taking place between bursts which essential for barrel life. On the other hand, I was witnessing test where barrel of automatic weapon was cherry read and it worked flawlessly. Actually, I was able to visually trace bullets taking off. But, everything has its limits.
“But, everything has its limits.”
Big problem will be if barrel hot enough to activate cartridge by heat rather than striking firing pin, in this case cartridge can fire when action is not fully closed.
Hah! “He wasn’t an idiot.” Talk about damning with faint praise.
Thanks for making this series, great to see these one-of-a-kind prototypes, “forgotten weapons” indeed! ^__^
Who else would like to see “The Widow-maker” in a video? =)
re. the Winchester Model 11 SL “Widowmaker”
And to tie it all together he could talk about the Winchester Model 50 shotgun. ^__^
Patents: US2196852, US2211405, US2247011, US2252754, US2301248 🙂
Ed Browning’s semi auto take on a Savage 1899?
There are shades of BrEn and BAR in there too
I love reading through an article that can make people think.
Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!
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