Rock Island Premier Auction, May 2014

It’s that time again; another Rock Island auction is coming up this weekend. Once again, there are a bunch of pretty neat and unusual items up for sale, and today we’re going to take a look at a few (they also have plenty of much more typical collectible guns, but those are less interesting to me than these…)

First up, just for kicks, is an actual umbrella gun (Lot 3350). Feel like being James Bond (or a better-armed John Steed)? Nothing does the job with the appropriate panache like a .22 revolver hidden in the handle of a folding umbrella. I can’t comment on the history behind the piece beyond the German original described by RIA – this sort of hidden gun isn’t something I actually know much about. But it is neat!

Umbrella gun
It looks like an ordinary umbrella…
Umbrella gun handle
The cylinder and folding trigger slide inside the bottom of the umbrella shaft

Returning to more familiar territory, we have a Savage model 99 lever action, made under contract for the Montreal Home Guard during WWI (Lot 10). Arthur Savage designed an excellent lever-action mechanism complete with a rotary magazine to allow safe use of spitzer cartridges, but it failed to get the attention of the US military. In fact, the only military contract Savage was able to get for the rifle was with the Montreal Home Guard. You can find information on the contract and the rifles in Luke Mercaldo’s Allied Rifle Contracts in America – but suffice to say that they are quite rare today, especially in this condition.

Savage 99 for Montreal home Guard
Savage 99 for Montreal home Guard


I think my favorite item in the auction would have to be the Schwarzlose 1898 automatic pistol (Lot 3489). This is a short-recoil operated, rotating bolt pistol designed by Andreas Schwarzlose and tested by several national military forces, including the UK and the Dutch. Both rejected it on account of its small caliber (7.63mm Mauser, the same as the Mauser C96), unfortunately. It appears that several hundred were made, and reportedly most went to Russia while a small number were purchased by Boers. This particular one was captured (probably “liberated” – I doubt it actually saw combat use) in Germany by a US serviceman at the end of World War II.


Schwarzlose 1898
Schwarzlose 1898

And what would be a good rifle to match the scarcity and cool factor of such a pistol? A Pedersen Self-Loader, of course! (Lot 3608) These were the biggest competitor to the Garand self-loading rifle that would be adopted by the US Army in 1936. Chambered for the .276 Pedersen cartridge, there rifles use a short recoil toggle locking mechanism akin to the Luger pistol’s, and a 10-round en bloc clip (which is as difficult to find as the rifles themselves). The biggest drawback to the Pedersen was its need for lubricated ammunition for reliable extraction – although Pedersen designed the cartridges to use a hard wax coating that did not cause the problems typically associated with oil-lubricated ammo.

Pedersen .276 Self-Loading Rifle
Pedersen .276 Self-Loading Rifle

Too new for you? How about a rejected design form the 1892 Army trials? The Blake repeater (lot 3491) featured a rotary magazine, but one unlike the Krag that would go on to win the trials. The Blake’s magazine was fed by removable 7-cartridge round spindles, through a hinged cover on the bottom of the action. The trials reports don’t say much about it good or bad, but it was turned down by the military. Only a few hundred wound up being manufactured for the civilian market.

Blake repeating rifle
Blake repeating rifle

And one more, for people who always need something bigger. Up for sale is a Russian PTRS anti-tank rifle (lot 1578). This was the semiauto Russian WW2 AT rifle, designed by Sergei Simonov…and if that name sounds familiar, it is because he would go on to scale the action down to 7.62x39mm and create the SKS. The PTRS was much more expensive to manufacture than the bolt action PTRD that was developed at the same time (and they both fire the same 14.5mm cartridge), and so most of the effort went into making PTRDs.

Russian PTRS antitank rifle
Russian PTRS antitank rifle

Of course, these few guns barely scratch the surface of the auction – but I will leave it to you to scour through the rest of the catalog. If you need some hints, though, you might try these:

Lot 3380Lot 1158Lot 1081Lot 305Lot 307Lot 315 – Lot 106




  1. Hi Ian.
    Thanks for the excellent data on the Rock Island Auction.
    I especially liked the Savage 99. Beautiful gun. Is that a post for a bayonet on the forestck?
    On a broader comment…
    The RIAuction probably sets the market prices on a lot of firearms, especially the class ATF items.
    It would be great to listen in or received a real-time audio-video feed of the actual auction.
    Could this be done? I suspect not.
    Otherwise, a quick follow-up blog from Forgotten, listing the weapons and their selling price, would be great!
    In this way we all would know what our toys were worth, at least at the time of the auction.
    Perhaps this list would be too complicated to compile or too much time to compile and publish.
    Just my 2¢.

    • Sure, I’ll post a followup with the final hammer prices.

      You can actually listen to the auction live via . From all the stories I’ve heard I wouldn’t recommend bidding through them, but they do carry a live streaming feed of the auction (audio and video both, I believe). I always listen in when I’m bidding by phone.

    • P-

      Sorry for the tardy response, but Ian is correct. Each auction now has streaming live audio/video through any of the third party services we use Proxibid, iCollector, or Invaluable. Regarding the final prices, you can obtain these one of two ways.

      1. Search for the item on Once found click the black “View Price” button.
      2. If you know the lot number(s) of the item(s) you want to check, head over to for the full PDF document. Using this document in conjunction with our catalog makes a pretty handy price guide for many collectors.


  2. I think you post about these auctions just to make us drool. I would love to add that Blake repeater to my collection. The Rock Island auctions are always interesting. Clark Ehlers is a very knowledgeable man up there. I learned a lot about firearm auctions from him.

  3. I do like the schwarzlose pistols, and their spawn; the 1970s “Automag”.

    Incidentally, the toggle action Pedersen’s, like Schwarzlose’ toggle action machinegun and pistol, use the toggle to achieve delayed blowback

    Lubricated cases are only needed where the case will be moving while it contains sufficeint pressure to cause separation

    That only occurs in blowback, or when headspace is very poorly controlled.

    • I always wanted an Automag when I was a kid, is that the .308 Win case turned into a .44 or is that something else…

      • Here’s a link to Sangford’s 1973 patent, you can download it free as a .pdf

        The Rotating bolt automag has steampunk appeal, commercially it was a disaster, costing far more to make than they were selling for.

        Mechanicaly, it ignored around 80 years of prior experience. most automatic systems (gas, recoil, blowback…) use the momentum of the moving parts to complete the operating cycle.

        Momentum = mass x velocity

        Browning’s combined slide and breech block, manages to have almost all of the mass of the moving parts in that one piece; it manages to complete all of its duties with relatively low velocity, and in the 1911, it provides its own incredibly strong bolt stop, and literally cannot come off the back of the pistol to smack you in the face. the only bit which does have a short travel is the very light barrel.

        Because of a Browning slide’s long and (comparatively) slow travel, spring and buffer design becomes that much simpler, than with designs like this Scwarzlose, Mauser (really the Feederle brothers) C96, Lahti’s L35/M40 and the first Automag.

        The Mauser unlocked with significant remaining prssure in order to accelerate the bolt, some of the Schwarzlose (not all), the Lahtis and the Automag used lever style accelerators to buffer and stop the barrel and slide and to transfer that energy to the bolt.

        The cleverest accelerators are the ones on Borchardt and Luger pistols (and the Maxim type machineguns which inspired them), where the combination of the unlocking cam and the toggle provides a very neat accelerator, working like a compound leaverage reloading press to extract the fired round, buffer the recoiling slide and barrel and accelerate the bolt.

        Lugers and Lahtis (I haven’t experience with the other guns I mentioned) when they get dirty, or with mild ammo (US made commercial 9mmP is very mild, some won’t even cycle a Luger)often need a bit of a slap to get them fully locked. I’ve never known a Browning style pistol to need that.

        Later (AMT)Automags bowed to the inevitable and used a Browning style slide.

        Coonan and Grizzly also produced 1911 style magnum autopistols, sometimes with a number of parts interchangeable with the 1911.

        • While the AMP certainly owes a lot to the Schwarzlose, it’s even more closely related to the Grant Hammond designed .45 prototypes built by High Standard for the last round of U.S. Army/Navy trials in 1915;

          It should be noted that Sanford and engineer Max Gera, the actual designer of the AMP operating system, were both ex-High Standard employees.




          • It should be noted that Sanford and engineer Max Gera, the actual designer of the AMP operating system, were both ex-High Standard employees.


            Probably not, they may well have chatted with old guys who worked on the project, and in the days of old buildings and paper records, they’d probably be familiar with the drawings, and maybe with an actual gun in the reference collection.

            I’m not sure whether this applies to gun makers, I was at a talk by a former Ford (tractors) employee: one of his slides showed around the back of the former stately home which Ford used as its European training centre, and there was a collection of competitors tractors – he said there was a gentlemans understanding ammong tractor makers in Europe that they would all freely lend out examples of their own products for others to test and examine.

            High Standard seems to have had a good team of very able engineers, far beyond the needs of their commercial pistol line. IIRC Roy E Rayle (who’s biography Ian reviewed), was contracting out development work from Springfield Armoury to High Standard. I can’t remember whether that was M14 or M60 work.

            Gary Willhelm, who designed the very nice 1980s Llama Omni, was also an ex High Standard engineer.

    • If we consider Pedersen semi-auto rifle we can’t forget about .276 Pedersen round. Despite the conducted tests show that in wounding ability the .276 and .30 was comparable the T1E3 Pedersen rifle was rejected. Note that adopting .276 round (not necessarily Pedersen rifle) would be great leap – it has weaker recoil and was lighter than .30-06 round.

  4. That Savage rifle appears to have the same lever action style visually as a Ruger lever action in my 16 year old copy of guns and ammo that also had a rotary magazine I bet it is very similar internally.

  5. Here: you can see other gun disguises as a utility things.

    PTRD is not a bolt-action (like say Mauser rifle) but semi-auto (in artillery sense) i.e. it will automatically open breech and throw spent case, next the next cartridge must be loaded (so it is single-shot rifle – you must load fresh cartridge after each shot, but is also semi-auto – so you don’t need to extract case manually).

    • I didn’t know that about the Ptrd, so it’s bolt operated instead of bolt action ie: It’s not locked by turning a lugged bolt etc? “Gunzilla” on the webpage link you provided Daweo, kinda looks like it’s a computer generated image I don’t get how that would work if the barrels don’t rotate… Rotary firing pin perhaps, action.

      • The PTRD action is best described as long recoil without a magazine. When fired, the barrel recoils. As it does so, the bolt handle hits a cam that pushes on it and rotates the bolt to unlock. As the barrel returns to battery, the bolt is held open by the sear, the spent case being extracted and ejected in the process. The assistant gunner then places a fresh round in the chamber and closes the bolt. From there it is rinse and repeat until the tanks are stopped.

        Regarding Gunzilla, the barrel assembly does not rotate. Only 2 of the barrels actually function as such. The whole contraption is a faux machine gun that produces the illusion of full-auto fire through the use of cranks and cams to actuate the triggers very quickly.

        • Hmm. If the bolt stayed back until the trigger was squeezed again (open-bolt to lockup firing cycle), the recoil force would have been partly soaked up by overcoming the bolt’s forward motion to lockup(inertia), rather like a blowback SMG firing from an open bolt. Most automatic cannon of the era, notably the Becker/SEMAG/Hispano/Oerlikon design, operated more-or-less like that.

          It wouldn’t have made it any more effective, but the resulting weapon might have been a bit lighter and easier for the PBI to hump.

          Incidentally, The PTRD’s “opposite number”, the German PzB 38/39, used such a semi-automatic breech, except in its case, it was more like that of a full-grown AT gun, being a dropping block very like that of the British 6-pounder on a smaller scale.



          • It wouldn’t work because the bolt has no return spring and no cam to reverse it’s motion on return to battery. Also, the bolt has a very low mass compared to that of a self-loading weapon. It’s basically a barrel, a bolt, a bipod, a grip and trigger mech, and a buttstock. It is already as light and simple as it’s going to get.

          • “Most automatic cannon of the era” is an exaggeration. There were plenty of locked bolt automatic cannons around in WW2, including the HS.404 (and derivatives), MG 151/20, MK 101/103, ShVAK, Berezin B-20, 20mm FlaK 30 & 38, Breda M.35, at least Bofors 25mm & 40mm AA guns and probably some I don’t remember right now.

      • Looks real to me. Silly, but real. Its a pair of MPA 971 9mm semi-auto carbines with a crankfire setup. Crankfire is a cheap and legal way to imitate full auto. It appears to have two functional barrels and four dummy barrels just for show. It appears to be on a Sokolov mount?

        • There was multi-barreled machine gun using Sokolov mount designed in Soviet Union – Slostin machine gun –
          It has true rotating eight barrel assembly and was self-propelled (see link for more info), but it don’t achieve required rate-of-fire and reliability.
          BTW: If you like bigger gun I can recommend 14,5mm Slostin machine gun with six barrels and firing the 14,5×114 ammo, it was designed to be mount on IS-7 heavy tank but never reach required reliability.

          • Thanks for the link. Probably the most “steampunk” looking rotary-barrel machine gun ever.

            With the barrels moving back and forth as they rotated during firing, it would have looked rather like a circus calliope at work.



  6. I’d love to go to that auction, but I’d have to figure out a way to pay for the divorce after I’d drained my bank account! FWIW, my dealer has a cane gun that is almost identical to the umbrella revolver shown in the photos. The handle is removable, and a little folding trigger .22 pepperbox pops out. The “weapon” has Belgian proofs, but it seems much older than the umbrella gun, although the “gun” portions are virtually identical as far as I can tell from the photos. I haven’t had a chance to shoot it, yet, but may wind up purchasing it as a neat curio. I’ve also been fascinated with the Blake rifles, having read about them some years ago. Seems they showed a lot of promise, but failed contract bids and lack of sales/operating capital seemed to doom the company.

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