Knoble .22 Rimfire Prototype Pistol at James D Julia

W.E. Knoble of Tacoma, Washington is not a well-known gun designer, and was in fact not a successful gun designer. But he did enter a .45 caliber pistol in the 1907 US pistol trials, and in so doing put his name permanently in the annals of firearms history. In addition to that design, he also made a few other pistols and here we have a blowback .22 rimfire from his shop. The grip angle and shape, and the unique open slot in the front strap of the grip are very distinctive of Knoble’s gun, and this one is no exception. It appears to be functional, but was never given a finish and is still very much a prototype. Still, it is extremely rare to find Knoble pistols, and this is the first .22 of his that I have seen.


  1. Excepting the outside look and magazine well fore-window, this pistol seems no share with the locked breech .45″ handgun Ian demonstrated before. It uses a Mannlicher type slide with removable breechblock dovetailed inside at its back and looks the forerunner of Belgian pistols branded “Melior” at its take-down department. The date when it was made should be unknown but, for a rough estimate, should be in the first decade of the last century and could be had a
    success through with its clever construction if it were produced serialy.

  2. Lack of trigger guard is quite intriguing, it could be encountered in some 19th century metallic-cartridge revolvers, but it is very rare in automatic pistols, even that of vest pocket size, example of guardless automatic pistols are Praga 1921 automatic pistol for 6,35mm Browning (.25 Auto) cartridge:
    and Jo-Lo-Ar automatic pistol, as it would be obstacle in using palanca.
    Knoble seems to be too big to fit into vest pocket category, but as this is prototype, guard might be omitted as it does not affect working of automatic pistol but does require additional work to made.
    BTW: When first US made .22 rim-fire vest-pocket automatic pistol was produced? I know about S&W Model 61 but it entered production in 1970. In 1920s Mossberg Brownie was produced, it full-fill “vest-pocket” condition but it is not “automatic pistol”, but shows that there was demand for vest-pocket .22 rim-fire pistols.

    • Technically, the first U.S. vest-pocket .22 (Short) was the Colt “Junior” marketed in the late 1950s, but it wasn’t U.S. made. The “Colt Junior” was actually the Unceta Astra “Cub” .22, made for Colt in Spain. Colt dropped it from its catalogue after a year, and Astra went on to market it under its own name and trademark.

      Other than that, pretty much all U.S. “vest-pocket” self-loaders were .25 ACP (6.35mm Browning) until the S&W Model 61 “Escort” .22 Long Rifle (essentially a copy of the Pieper-Bayard Model 1908 7.65mm vest-pocket auto) in 1970.



      • Ok, so I don’t overlook any design.
        Other than that, pretty much all U.S. “vest-pocket” self-loaders were .25 ACP (6.35mm Browning) until the S&W Model 61 “Escort” .22 Long Rifle
        Why? .22 rim-fire vest-pocket automatic pistol were produced in US since 1970s (for example Jennings J-22) why not earlier?

        • I think mainly because first and foremost, a self-defense weapon has to be reliable. When you pull the trigger, you want it to go BANG, and be ready to go BANG again if the first one doesn’t get the job done.

          By definition, small-caliber rounds tend to need multiple hits to accomplish the mission, even more so than anything else. (NB; I don’t buy the whole “one shot stop” thing; I’ve been to too many PMs.)

          And .22 rimfire, box-magazine self-loaders aren’t noted for reliable feeding. In fact, most average at least one fail-to-feed stoppage per magazine.

          Tube magazines, as on rifles, generally don’t have this problem any more than lever-actions or pump-actions with tube magazines do. But there has been exactly one tube-magazine vest-pocket gun in history, the Remington-Rider Magazine Pistol in the 1870s, and it was not a self-loader.

          The 6.35mm Browning round, and the Browning “Baby” designed around it, and the copies of same and variations of same in that caliber, consistently feed much more reliably than any .22 box-magazine job. Period.

          You can argue which is more or less powerful, the .22 or the .25, all you like. (Actually, there isn’t a lot of difference in terms of muzzle energy, although generally you can get better bullet designs like hollow-points more easily in .22 than .25.)

          What you can’t argue is that the chances of getting a second, third or fourth shot off without a hangup with a .25 vest-pocket automatic are a lot better than it happening with a .22.

          BTW, I suspect this is why the various Freedom Arms and etc. vest-pocket or even “belt buckle” .22 single-action revolvers are popular. Being both revolvers and single-action, not to mention stainless steel, you can pretty much bet on them working no matter what.



  3. The grip frame looks like it has seams. A lack of machinery for making frames in the traditional manner forced Franz Jager to come up with a new design in WWI Germany which used discrete frame pieces. Just a wild guess, but could the slot in the front strap be for an alignment fixture while separate pieces were welded together?

    • I wouldn’t either. Would you prefer a Ruger Mark IV, a Margolin MCM, or a Walther P88 Sport in 22LR?

      • I’d prefer the old Whitney Automatic aka Wolverine or its modern-day Olympic Arms version, assuming I could ever find one that actually freakin’ worked.

        The original 1960 Whitney I once had suffered from weak springs resulting in misfires and failures to feed, and I understand the present-day Olympic “clone” hasn’t improved any.

        I loved the way it fit my hand and pointed. It was natural “instinctive” or “point-shooting” gun. Or would have been, if I could have counted on it to fire when I pulled the trigger. Which I couldn’t.



  4. Could the cutout in the front of the grip potentially be for witness holes in the magazine? Clearly the magazine on the prototype has none, but maybe he intended to add them if his design went into full production?

    • The other reason which might be behind this hole might be for make weapon lighter. However it make more sense in .45 trial example, rather than in this .22 version. Anyway, we would know until someone find patent claim by Knoble which would explain purpose of this feature explicitly.

    • “Witness holes” in the front are a very bad idea. Quite aside from dirt getting in, round or oblong holes there seem made to order to get the bullet ends of one or more rounds jammed in them, especially with outside-lubricated .22 rounds.

      I don’t think a .22 needs another way to jam, it already has so many.



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