Overview of Danish Schouboe .45 & .32 Caliber Pistols

In 1903, Danish engineer Jens Schouboe began developing an automatic pistol for the Dansk Rekylriffel Syndikat in Copenhagen (later to become the Madsen company). He made the guns in both .32ACP and also in a proprietary Danish .45 caliber based (I believe) on the centerfire conversion of Denmark’s 1867 pinfire revolver. The .45 cartridge used a wood-cored bullet of only about 55 grains weight, traveling at some 1600 fps. Schouboe’s pistol was a simple blowback design with a shrouded hammer and 6-round magazine (10 round in the .32 caliber models).

About 400 or 500 Schouboe pistols were made between 1903 and 1917, but never in a true mass production series. Every known example differs in small details, in addition to the existence of three major patterns (1903, 1907, and 1910, plus potentially a 1916 model). Today we’re going to look at an assortment of Schouboes across this developmental timeline, including two presentation models and one with a holster stock.

For more information, check out Ed Buffaloe’s article on the Schouboe pistols.

35 Comments

  1. “Ouch! Stop hitting me with those wood balls!” There is a reason why nobody uses wood or paper pulp as pistol projectile core material now, but I could have tripped over a snag in logic.

    • A 60-grain bullet at 1,600 F/S works out to about 340 FPE at the muzzle. In other words, about the ME of a standard .45 ACP or 9 x 19mm round.

      The wood core would give it relatively low sectional density, so we’re not talking about a long-range round; it would lose velocity due to air resistance relatively quickly.

      Still, at typical pistol ranges (50m or less, never mind the shoulder stock) it would probably be about as effective as the more conventional .45 ACP or 9mmP) rounds.

      Actually, with that wood core under a thin metal jacket, I’d expect results much like a Glaser Safety Slug when shooting at a live target. Small entry hole and a large cavity behind it.

      This might have been sailing close enough to the Hague Convention prohibitions on expanding bullets for “civilized warfare” to discourage potential military buyers.

      cheers

      eon

  2. Hi Ian
    I’m a Dane, and enjoy your homepage, with all the fun and interesting info regarding these forgotten weapons.
    But you probably have to pronounce Schouboe as Schoubo. (no “e” in the end.)

  3. I was reading tonight re the German military use of rounds fitted with wooden projectiles for use in training, and how in NW Europe in later 1944 and to the end in 1945 they were frequently used in the front line. This was brought up at the Nuremberg Trials, when Field Marshal Kietel was questioned as per their front line use against the Hague Convention.

    • Wooden bullet rounds were often used for grenade launching, because they obviated the need for a separate specialized blank cartridge with an extended neck and crimp. They were often mistaken for “practice” rounds by cartridge collectors in the 1960s.

      Their use as anti-personnel ammunition would be an emergency measure only. Among other things, extensive firing of wooden bullets would probably actually cause carbon buildup in the rifle’s bore, as the bullet was literally ablated by friction on its way out.

      cheers

      eon

    • Yes, I remember wooden bullets used for training cartridges. This was in Central Europe, consistent with German use and tradition. In my time of service they were replaced by crimped blanks (rosettes) and orifice restriction at the muzzle.

      • I have a box of wooden projectile cartridges in 8*57 mm IS at home. It came to me over several steps being handed from one gun owner to the other. I have a rifle in that caliber, but have never shot them actually. I am afraid that they are going to really make my bore dirty like blank tend to do. Thank you military service for making me nervous about shooting blanks.

        The headstamp looks commercial from RWS and the box they came in was for DWM loaded with TIG (Torpedo Ideal Geschoß) bullets. So not much info there.

  4. I wonder if this is the type of gun that was used as a model for all those guns (pellet, wax, BB, and even some scifi ) that used to be advertized in the back of comic books??

  5. 6 round magazines. Perhaps the Danish cartridge wrapping machines were set up to pack 6 rounds for the 6 round revolver cylinder and it was too much trouble to reset it

  6. lnteresting pistol. The cartridge it uses is also interesting and usable as well. Pitty not appreciared at the time.

    The backstrap looks awkward but might provide better control the muzzle rise. lMHO.

  7. It is very fun to clean an assault rifle after using wooden training ammo. The idea is to use a recoil amplifier mounted on the flash hider/recoil brake to create enough with pressure to make the gun work. The wooden bullet is supposed to shatter when hitting the recoil amplifier. Man, your rifle is dirty after this, cleaning is a real job. A squad automatic gun (KvKK) barfs at those wooden rounds, a lot of mafunctions while it Works nicely indeed with real ammo.

    • Since no mention has been made of thy\e .32 ACP versions requiring special ammunition, I’m inclined to suspect that the Schouboe system was originally designed around that cartridge. The 11.35mm version was most likely an adaptation created when armies looking for self-loading pistols to replace their revolvers insisted on .45 caliber instead of, say, 9mm.

      Considering the cartridges that could be safely accommodated in a blowback action without resorting to tricky bullet designs, there are several that might have been suitable for the Schouboe, such as 9mm Browning Long (9 x 20 SR) or the 9mm Brixia/Glisenti loading of the 9 x 19mm. Both certainly worked safely in straight-blowback actions, and both had about the same muzzle energy as the then-new American .38 S&W Special.

      In a 9mm bore chambering with a reasonable cartridge, the Schouboe might have garnered more attention than it did.

      cheers

      eon

      • I agree, the 9mm would be next step. In any case, I suspect they found that .45 worked by blowback, so they went away with it. Trial and error in other words.

        • “(…)I suspect they found that .45 worked by blowback(…)”
          https://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/Schouboe/schouboe.html puts this story in different light:
          After the 1903 model was launched, Schouboe began work on a military version. He intended to produce it in a large military caliber, like .45, but his blowback design simply wouldn’t handle a heavy round. So Schouboe worked with the ammunition designers at DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken) to design a lightweight bullet of 11.35mm diameter.
          This suggest that Schuboe was looking how to combine .45 caliber with blow-back operation principle.

        • “(…)the 9mm would be next step.(…)”
          This overheats my understanding of English language. I detect would as suggest that something might happen but did not here, but it must be apparently here same as was as there was actually 9mm version done, according to https://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/Schouboe/schouboe.html
          At approximately the same time the 11.35mm Model 1910 was produced, DRS also manufactured the same pistol chambered for a 9mm cartridge…

    • “(…)because of low impulse(…)”
      Query in Russian wikipedia https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9_%D0%B7%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%80 provides two empirical formulae for estimating required mass of moving parts (Q):
      1st: Q = Lq/l
      where L = length of rifled part of barrel, q = mass of bullet, l = distance traveled by moving parts during bullet being inside barrel
      2nd: Q = ((q+0.5w)/x1)*L
      where w = mass of powder charge, x1 = distance traveled by moving parts during bullet being inside barrel, other same as above
      Second is somewhat similar too cartridge recoil impulse but yet very distinct as velocity is ignore in this case.
      BEWARE that these are empirical finding (rule of thumb in U.S. parlance if I am not mistaken) and might not work well with such extremities as Schouboe wooden-cored bullet.

      • This is first time I do not see in it velocity of bullet. In fact it is here, hidden under length of barrel vs. slide travel. Nothing wrong with that as long as case’s base portion takes the pressure.

        • The formulae should be a shortened version of known Newton,s third equality in which “velocity” factor being replaced with its equality: “distance/time” and since the time is equal for either side as; bullet travel time along the rifled section of barrel, right side of formula is simplified as; expelled mass of bullet plus mass of the powder charge multiplied by rifled section of barrel and since some excess gas remains in the barrel and works for case ejection, powder charge is roughly accounted as its half. Empirical value simply remains at the powder charge mass which should be computed through numerous experiments.

          A very practical formalae. lMH0.

  8. It’s possible that some of the many changes were due to them chasing orders from different military or police organizations that had different preferences for things such as sight design or safety position/function. Without documentation it’s hard to know for sure the reason but you do see that in other early series production firearms.

  9. Back then, the military requirement was driven by cavalry. Then infantry. The base requirement was to hit and kill a horse or msn at up to 50 metres. This (in .45”) would not have done that.

    The civilian/police/second-order military requirement was met by anything from 6.35mm through 7.65/.32” to 9mm/.38”. Gun as much as threat as weapon.

    Only in recent-ish (1960s onward and accelerating) years has the focus on pistols, whether mil, pol, or civ, has been on effects at 10 metres or less. Because of everything from real-world experience to the introduction of SMGs, carbines, and PDWs. Driven by the police.

    Against that background, a big fast low-recoil round with frangible or expanding properties (but poor long-range accuracy) would potentially be very attractive.

  10. PS. I’m pretty sure the U.K. adoption of .455” Webley auto was not a question of “converting” the .455” Webley revolver cartridge, more of the mandrels then in use by Webley. The bore size stayed the same. Everything else changed.

    • When the engineers from FN arrived at John Inglis in Canada in 1940 with all the necessary knowledge to set up production of the GP M1935, the first order they got was to convert it to .455in WSL. On the grounds that there was no production base for 9 x 19mm in Canada, while .455 WSL could be manufactured on existing .455 Webley revolver cartridge machinery at CIL.

      Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. The major result of the proposal was the postwar North American Arms Co. Brigadier pistol, an enlarged GP chambered for the .45 NAACO, essentially a .45 Thompson Carbine cartridge. It failed to attract military adoption mostly due to its heft of nearly 4 pounds and its exuberant recoil.

      The later LAR Grizzly had several features in common with the Brigadier.

      cheers

      eon

      • During development of OWEN MACHINE CARBINE numerous different cartridge were used, not only automatic pistol but also revolver, including .380 revolver (alias .38 S&W) which even was specified to be used in first batch but finally overturned in favor of 9×19 Parabellum cartridge by Australian Government (so cartridge choice must create huge buzz that it triggered reaction at such level).
        As https://www.forgottenweapons.com/submachine-guns/owen-smg/ put its
        It had passed mud and dust testing with exceptional results in(…).38 S&W (the first 100-gun order was again demanded to be in .38 S&W by the brass). Only in early September 1941 was a 9mm version authorized, and this by a civilian official tired of Army obstructions.

    • “(…)now we know why the danes don’t design weapons(…)”
      Hmm… so who designed MADSEN LMG which was exported for numerous countries for several years according to you?

  11. With the light machine gun so iconic and ubiquitous. It often forgotten that Madsen also produced a stream of other weapons – pistol to cannon. That usually far less successful.

  12. If you read in “American”, then to determine the speed of rollback (and other things), this is recommended 😉
    https://www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/Books/Technical%20Notes%20on%20Small%20Arms%20Design%201968.pdf
    And about .45 SCHOUBOE there is a book
    “THE GRANT HAMMOND, SAVAGE AND SCHOUBOE .45 AUTOMATIC PISTOLS”
    https://www.worldcat.org/title/grant-hammond-savage-and-schouboe-45-automatic-pistols/oclc/506020929
    SCHOUBOE is described as “a simple design with a minimum of detail”.
    I also read that SCHOUBOE had “unsatisfactory lethal action and accuracy at distances greater than average”.

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