The first successful semiauto rifle submitted to the US War Department was this design by Soren Hansen Bang of Denmark, in 1911. Two examples were sent to Springfield armory for testing, and they made a very positive impression with the staff there. It functioned very well, despite a few faults. In order to meet a weight requirement for the US Army (no heavier than the 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle), it had a very thin barrel, and a hollowed-out stock. This led to rapid overheating, and charring of the wooden furniture.
The rifle used a sliding cap on the muzzle to function Gas released from the muzzle would pull the cap forward, and this force was transmitted through a wire to cam open the rotating bolt and then push it rearward.
Bang presented another gun to the US military in 1927, but it was very similar to his original, and while the original gun had great promise, it was not refined enough for military service. When John Garand began working on a replacement for his early primer-actuated rifle, Ordnance officers urged him develop Bang’s basic principle. He did so, and this led to the early gas-trap Garand rifle.
For more history on the early development of a semiauto military rifle in the US, I recommend Major Julian Hatcher’s excellent work, Hatcher’s Book of the Garand.
(1927) Bang Model B1 Rifle (English)
Such a pity that the Bang rifle submitted for U.S. Army trials was thus compromised by an unrealistic and highly-constraining set of criteria. I wonder if Soren Bang ever received any real credit or acknowledgement for his invention since it appears to have been the foundation stone of development for the M1 Garand.
Actually if you read the Book of the Garand you find that the quote that the Bang “appears to have been the foundation stone of development for the M1 Garand” couldn’t be further from the truth. And Earl, it’s obvious you never carried a rifle in the military otherwise you wouldn’t say that a requirement to weigh less than 8.7 lbs was “unrealistic”.
And according to Hatcher, Garand only “played around” with a muzzle cap system after an ammunition redesign negated his favored primer actuated system. In the Bang the muzzle cap is pulled forward pulling a connecting wire along with it to unlock the action. Garand used a stationary muzzle cap to use the pressure developed between the barrel and cap to unlock the bolt. He wound up going with a system invented by L. Silverman of England and patented in this country in 1883 as #618743. https://www.google.com/patents/US618743
He then scrapped that notion for a gas port to drive the piston/operation rod and the rest is history.
So no, Soren Bang didn’t deserve to receive any credit for the M1.
John, while I certainly appreciate your insights and informative comments, I think you may have misunderstood my comments about the Bang rifle. While I am perfectly willing to admit that my judgement about the Bang and whatever relation it did or did not have to the Garand may have been incorrect, you in turn are incorrect in your assumption that I never carried a rifle in the military. I served for seven years in the infantry and know something about humping a load, rifle included.
I was not referring just to the weight criteria viv-a-vis the information in Ian’s article. Besides, a weight limit of 8.7 pounds for a typical infantry rifle at the time could have been considered exceptionally light compared to what was available.
Sorry for any misunderstanding on my part about your service but the weight limit was based on the M1903 Springfield so it really wasn’t a matter of relative and subjective terms like “light” and “heavy” but rather what we already had.
As far as your “exceptionally light” comment, I have to point out among rifles in use at the time:
Mauser Model 1889 – 8.82 lb
Ross Rifle – 9.6 lbs
Kar98k – 8.2 lb
Japanese Type 38 – 8.7 lbs
Mosin-Nagant M91/30 – 8.8 lbs
Lee-Enfield – 8.8 lbs
Although this isn’t an exhaustive list I think it’s representative enough of what was available.
The Kar98K wasn’t adopted until 1935. So, you’ve demonstrated that the M1903 is equal in weight to the smallbore Arisaka, and LIGHTER than every comparable BOLT ACTION rifle.
Since most (all under discussion) fullbore semiautos are “bolt actions +” i.e.
-Plus a few extra FCG parts to permit disconnection,
-Plus gas or recoil mechanisms,
-Plus shrouds to guard the shooter from them,
-Plus, usually, a little “beef” in the receiver to account for the battering it would endure in the days before they figured out how to prevent unsprung impact from the recoiling mass,
It would indeed seem “unrealistic” to spec one to weigh less than the lightest contemporary bolt-action in its class.
Is there a comparable (not a modern sporter, but a military model built with turn-of-the-century metallurgy, all the “musket furniture”, etc.) semiauto .30 that weighs that or less? On the contrary, I’d venture to guess that most modern M-16s, plastic and aluminum rifles chambered for a shorter lighter-recoiling round, weigh 8.7lb or more in fighting trim.
Hello, John :
Apology accepted, no hard feelings at all:). My “exceptionally light” comment was definitely not quite on the mark. This is what comes of writing on an intricate subject after working a series of 16-hour days — “mind in neutral”, as an old warrant officer from my basic training days used to say. I should have said “reasonably light” instead. My sincerest apologies for the misplaced comment.
And thank you for the follow-up — it is much appreciated. I happen to have a small collection of Mosin-Nagant rifles, and they feel lighter than they actually weigh, perhaps because they are quite well-balanced. For me, at least, a Mosin-Nagant seems to fall to hand very naturally and comfortably. Same thing with any Arisaka or Carcano rifle. Just my two kopecks’ ( pfennigs, cents, centavos, pennies, centismi, centimes, yen? ) worth.
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What’s not mentioned is that the Bang system was used by the German Gew 41 (W), the equivalent of the US M1 and Russian SVT 38/40