Mystery “Rocking Block” Pistol at RIA

There isn’t much I can say about this very unusual pistol, as I have no idea who made it or when. What I can tell is that it is a blowback action with a rather unique “rocking block” type of bolt and what appears to be a clock style coiled flat spring for the hammer. Definitely unlike anything else I’ve seen before!


  1. Recoiling elements of this pistol seem hardly reach to the sufficient mass needed to work safely for the catridge it uses. But if it realy works, it should have some unusual features like unrifled barrel which provides shorter remaining in the bore time for the bullet or other factors that being not common in calculating simple blowback elements. Clockwork spring which is used for unchanging, constant tension for certain distances, is a clue that the hammer counterforce at last stage of breechbolt recoiling travel, would be more than enough in case of a common flat or coil spring was used. In short, if this unusual design realy works, it would teach highly different things in managing of recoiling force.

    • I suspect that the reason the barrel is unrifled is simply because the guy who built it didn’t have the equipment to rifle it. He may have used a clock spring for the hammer simply because he had one already left over from something else.

      I’ve tried to think of a reason for the “rocking” action, and the only one I have been able to come up with is that it let him avoid having to machine slots in the frame and slide. The long legs which go down to the bottom of the grip would make the motion as linear as possible with this type of action, so I don’t think the “rocking” motion was a design objective in and of itself.

      I suspect this pistol was simply a home-made hobby project by someone without, or with very limited, access to machine tools.

      Overall, it is interesting for its unusual design, but I don’t think there are any ideas in it which would appeal to a commercial gun maker.

      • May be true. But, as appreciated, things look different from different angles excepting globe, and this sample does not seem as clear as a globe. There should be various causes for a different embodiment including; making a different article than existing samples, lack of demanded material, and realizing an intended purpose. A person finding steel wires to make recoil and magazine springs, could manage it to form into a coil spring for hammer. A man having a lathe could use it as an horizontal milling machine. A craftsman having freedom to make a firearm might get it rifled its bore or, insert a rifled bore into the place where intended to use as a barrel. Clockwork spring usage may show the need of constant, unchanged resistance against to recoiling breechbolt and though the flat types may response the same need in limited gaps, the worker might not find enough room for this kind of using. Unrifled barrel may point out a need of gas exhaust for a servicable round, rocking block breechbolt may reveal an intention of providing cocking easiness as Daweo pointed out. All in all, this piece may not be considered as a work of an ameteur gunsmith.

  2. My first thought was that it was a handmade pistol from the Vietnam war era. There were a lot of very odd ones floating around SEA at that time, made in jungle shops by the VC, Pathet Lao, etc. Few were much more complicated than “pen-gun” or “zip gun” designs, but they did manage to fire 9 x 19mm without blowing up- most of the time.

    Self-loaders (such as the Cao Dai made ones) tended to follow Colt/Browning practice with simplifications. For instance, most CD-made P-35 copies had straight-sided slides without the characteristic P-35 “scallops” on each side up front. This was to make room for a separate, 1911-or-Tokarev-type barrel bushing and recoil spring plug. They were just simpler to make than the P-35’s one-piece slide and recoil spring tunnel arrangement when working mostly with hand tools.

    Some Asian craftsman might have come up with this one, but it’s not a high-weighted probability. Although it could be an early attempt by some Chinese warlord’s arsenal to create a “prestige” pistol for The Boss.

    My second thought is that it’s a European or American handmade prototype from around the turn of the last century. There were all sorts of odd breech systems being experimented with back then, such as the Schwarzlose 1892 8mm with its magazine under the barrel and a breech not unlike a Remington rolling block single shot, or the even more curious 1898 Spandau prototype with a triangular block rising vertically as it simultaneously moved backward in recoil.

    (That pistol, with an upper receiver moving backward and upwards on an angled lower receiver plane, must have looked like it was field-stripping itself every time it was fired.)

    I note that everything about this pistol appears to be handmade, even the magazine. And that while its mechanism is one I can truthfully say I’ve never seen before in a self-loading pistol, its external outline seems to be a crude copy of the Colt “Sporting Model” .38 automatic introduced commercially in 1900-01.

    If it does in fact chamber .32 ACP, that would also date it no earlier than 1900, because that was when the 7.65 x 17SR Browning was introduced in the FN Modele’ 1900 pocket automatic. So that, too, would indicate this pistol could date to the 1900-1910 timeframe.

    (The 8 x 18.5mm Roth-Steyr round dates to 1907, but I don’t think that magazine is quite big enough for it front-to-back. It certainly isn’t big enough for the 7.63 x 27.5mm Model 1900 Mannlicher round.)

    The presence of a recoil spring under (or over, or around) the barrel was a Browning idea later adopted almost universally, but tying it to a “rocking” breechblock is quite possibly unique. (Probably not in a good sense.)

    I don’t think it could be an American or other “prison-made” gun. Or an IRA item. Those tend to follow conventional design concepts, mostly Browning (again). Ditto “Paltik” weapons from the Philippines.

    I’m going to say, “probable early-1900s hand-built prototype, European or American”. A patent search might turn up something. Barring that, it could be a “Far East”- made pistol, that could have been made any time from the pre-WW1 era to the 1960s, and anywhere from China to the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

    Other than that, I got nothin’.



    • Hmm… Rocking block with under-barrel recoil spring seems more fiddly than having the spring around the barrel or above the barrel (I’m thinking of maintenance issues here)…

      • That’s another thing which makes me suspect an early-1900s prototype. It looks suspiciously like somebody was trying to come up with a design of blowback as close to the handling characteristics of the Browning 1900 or Colt 1903 as possible without running afoul of Browning’s patents, which FN and Colt protected with considerably ferocity back then.

        Until the Eibar cottage industry got rolling on autopistols in addition to revolvers around the 1905-1915 time frame, that is.

        In fact, this critter could very well be of Eibar origin.



  3. “with a rather unique “rocking block” type of bolt”
    Ознoбищев designed similar automatic pistol for 7.62 Nagant cartridge
    It was called Ознoбищев system model 1925. In this pistol slide cover doesn’t slide but pivoted. Above linked source states that:
    It was designed by enginee А. А. Ознoбищев in 1925. Originally for Nagant revolver cartridge, in 1926 it was redesigned to 7.65mm Browning (.32 Auto) cartridge. It was locked breech design, fixed barrel and 10-shot magazine capacity. It was gas-operated. In cause of misfire action can be cycled with one hand. This design can be used to use high-power cartridge, but for .32 Auto cartridge it was not necessary

  4. It could be a gun made to test a design concept, but there was no reason to go to the trouble of all the checkering just to test a design concept.

    Or, it could be a gun made by someone who both lacked some machine tools (i.e., a horizontal mill to machine a slide and rails) and lacked the time and/or patience to make a slide and rails using only hand tools. In one of the photos there is a yellow line between two pieces of metal which suggests it was brazed together with a bronze welding rod / acetelyne torch. I’d vote for a machinist’s mate onboard some ship that maybe had a lathe and a torch but no milling machine. In the end it really is a mystery, as no explaination for it seems to make perfect sense.

    One hint would have been to pull a screw and see what type of threads it had (Whitworth, one of the American styles, metric, or something that conformed to no system).

    Clever spring to return the trigger.

  5. I don’t know how safe that type of action would be with 2 moving “legs” under the grips. I would think that if the grips were squeezed too hard I would imagine that they could explode if one of both of the legs catch on them or at the very least impede its movement. Not being able to hold it in my hand and looking at it myself so I can only guess. Also the firing pin protrusion looks pretty excessive and would definitely pierce primers.

    • The big Webley self-loaders had “grasshopper-leg” recoil V-springs under the grips that bore on notches in the slide rails. The reason most of them had walnut grips was that the recoil springs usually cracked Bakelite or “composite” grips in short order. At which point the upper end of the V-spring was free to “jump” out of its slide notch.

      Beretta had similar issues with the Jetfire .25 auto. It had twin crank arms that bore on the slide much like the Webleys’ V-springs, with twin recoil springs in tubes underneath the grips below the crank arms. Unlike the Webleys, the loss of a grip panel didn’t cause loss of the crank arm, as it was drive-fitted onto its pivot.

      Incidentally, the modifications allegedly made by James Bond to his Beretta .25 auto (in “Dr. No”, etc.) included removing the grips and wrapping the bare frame with friction tape to reduce bulk but still provide a solid purchase. His .25 couldn’t have been a Jetfire; that treatment would thoroughly jam the whole recoil-spring setup.

      Either that or Ian Flaming didn’t know much about guns. Which is highly likely.

      His personal weapon in real life was at least a reasonable one. It was a Colt Official Police .38 Spl. 4″. 007 would have been much better off with one of those than the .25.



        • Fleming’s duty pistol was a FN 1906 as stated in some sources. In .25″ACP. This pistol has grip and manual safeties and a trigger bar working inside the receiver. If the
          grip plates are taken out and the handle section is wrapped around with a tape, the pistol goes on working as not affected of this application with an added advantage of precluding to actuate the grip safety as manually retracting an uncocked pistol, and also to fire the gun without firmly grasping the handle, but sacrificing all safeties since the blocked grip safety also blocks the manual safety. As looked outside, Beretta 418 carries all features of FN1906 with an added advantage that, its slightly extending forward barrel may give a support to carry a supprassor if attached. Fleming, with very limited gun knowledge, should assume this feature over his duty pistol FN1904. and gave it to his hero as a service weapon. Beretta 418 trigger bar runs outside of the frame handle and does not work if a band wrapped over it. Fleming also wrote some very strange applications on this pistol as sharpening its strikers tip into a pin point degree which was thoroughly nounsence.

  6. Whoa! I thought my design was unique put it appears now that the rocking mechanism has been done before. Here’s my single-shot design that uses what is essentially a giant hammer instead of a slide to handle the recoil:

    One of the advantages of this rocking design is that you can achieve positive ejection without an ejector or extractor, and the pistol ejects up and forward.

    One of the downsides is the limited mass that you can fit on the hammer. You would need to stick to very small caliber rounds or compensate with a very heavy recoil spring.

  7. I believe that the barrel’s lack of rifling is due to the fact that the person who manufactured it lacked the necessary tools. It’s possible that he utilized a clock spring for the hammer only because he had one lying around from another project.

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