Swedish Hamilton Trials Pistol (Video)

The Hamilton was a handgun entered into the Swedish military pistol trials of 1903, where it competed against guns like the Luger and Colt/Browning 1903. The Hamilton was a simply blowback action chambered for 6.5mm Bergmann, although it did have the interesting and unusual feature of a bolt which pivoted on a round path during recoil rather than traveling linearly.

The Hamilton’s loss in military trials to the Colt 1903 is not particularly surprising, as it was heavy, underpowered, and rather awkward to handle. It never saw commercial sale on any scale, either.

Edited to add: A Swedish collector contacted me with some addition details about the trials that the Hamilton participated in. There were more pistols entered than I had realized, including several different types of Colt and Browning designs which are easily confused. The full list of entrants is:

  • DWM Luger in .30 Luger
  • Browning M1900 in .32 ACP
  • Colt/Browning M1903 in .380 Browning Short (.380 ACP)
  • Mannlicher (presumably M1900) in 7.63mm Mannlicher
  • Mannicher carbine-pistol in 7.63mm Mannlicher
  • Hamilton in 6.5mm Bergmann
  • Browning M1903 in .380 Browning Long
  • Frommer in 8mm
  • Russian Nagant M1895 in 7.62mm Nagant
  • Swedish Nagant M1887 in 7.5mm Nagant



  1. “bolt which pivoted on a round path during recoil rather than traveling linearly”
    I bet that it might be inspired by revolvers, in which hammer pivots.
    In Soviet Union in 1920s pivoting bolt automatic pistol was build in prototype form:
    It was called Сист. Ознобищева обр. 1925 (Oznobishchev System Model 1925):
    It was designed for 7.62mm Nagant ammo (then standard handgun cartridge of Red Army), later it was rebuild for .32 Auto cartridge.
    Magazine capacity: 10. Gas-operated. Can be cycled with one hand (like Lignose Einhand). Has empty chamber indicator (when chamber is empty it protrude so sights can be used). For .32 Auto locking system is not necessary.
    Ознобищев has no possibility to further development, so it remain experimental-only automatic pistol.

  2. As often seems to be the case with these ‘dead ends’ there seems to be a good idea hiding in here somewhere, but definitely not in it’s current form. On the positive side, it does look gorgeously well made.
    Also if you throw it at an opponent and miss, it’ll return to you which seems a useful feature :P.

  3. It’s interesting to see those curved configurations with everything fitting in the grip.
    I assume one positive aspect would be to avoid thumb injury while firing a gun drawn in hurry.

  4. Love it that there are holes drilled through the frame that match the holes in the magazine. You would always know how many rounds you have, and who needs a 1911 torture test.

  5. Actually, the pistol finally adopted by the Swedish Army was the FN Modele’ 1903 “Grand”, in 9 x 20SR. The Husqvarna Model 1907 is a license-built copy of it.

    AFAIK, Colt in the U.S. had nothing to do with it, although the FN ’03 can easily be mistaken for a Colt ’03 unless you have some index of size, the FN being about the size of a Tokarev TT-33. Which was itself an amalgam of the FN ’03’s layout, the 1911’s locking system, and the cartridge of the Mauser C/96 “Broomhandle”.

    Interestingly, after Sweden went to their license-built Finnish Lahti Saloranta pistol in 9 x 19mm, toward the end of their service in the late 1980s the Lahtis began developing cracks around their locking recesses. To supplement them until the new 9 x 19mm SiG automatics could be issued, the Swedish Army degreased a lot of Husqvarna ’07s and FN ’03s from inventory and reissued them. So by the mid-1990s the eighty-plus-year-old Browning pistols were briefly the standard sidearm of the Swedish Army again.

    I’ve always found the Hamilton design interesting. The breech system, while working with a curved breechbolt, seems to work on the same basic concept as the Madsen LMG bolt with its curved path, which was pretty much suggested by the breech of the Remington Rolling Block.

    One question; does the Hamilton have a separate, spring-loaded striker or hammer, or is it an open-bolt, advanced primer ignition “slamfire” arrangement with a fixed firing pin?



    • “The breech system, while working with a curved breechbolt, seems to work on the same basic concept as the Madsen LMG bolt with its curved path”
      How curved way influence cyclic Rate-Of-Fire? I assume that it is lower than straight, but how many %?
      BTW: Notice French MAS-38 sub-machine gun, it has straight way of bolt movement but it is sloped to barrel axis (i.e. barrel axis and path of bolt are not parallel), this with quite low-powered cartridge allowed quite low (600-700 rpm) Rate-Of-Fire in light weapon.

  6. If you don’t look too closely, the Hamilton resembles portions of the KRISS Vector in function. While an articulating bolt and bolt weight aren’t the same as a curved bolt, recoil is directed downwards. This should help to mitigate muzzle flip from the high bore axis of the Hamilton. There is a cost for everything, though. To keep Mr. Newton happy, if part of the gun moves lower, something must move higher. In the case of the Vector the bolt weight moves down and to the rear, very near the center of mass so torques are minimized and the rest of the gun moves up and forward. In the Hamilton, the bolt doesn’t move directly away from the center of mass, so it gives back some of the muzzle flip. (Center of masses guesstimated).

  7. It looks to be a well machined piece of equipment, at least on my computer screen. I don’t suppose this one will be coming up for auction??

  8. I hate to ask, but doesn’t the curved action require more skill and better equipment to make and maintain than a Browning action?

    • I’d expect so. Most obviously, if the shape of bolt or boltway deviates more than about half a degree of arc off a true circle segment, you’re going to have problems.

      It helps if you thing of it as a segment of a spoked wheel with one spoke going to the axle. It moves back and forth as a segment of wheel rim on a wagon or old-time locomotive wheel would.

      Now remember that it is moving in a curved “slot”. If the curvature of “rim segment” and “slot” don’t match up exactly, and they aren’t properly aligned with the “notional axle” (pivot centrum, to dredge up a term from my Solid Geometry 201), it’s most likely going to jam up the whole production.

      One of the big selling points of Browning designs is that they are a bit “loose” in tolerances, mainly to ensure that they keep working when full of dirt, powder grime, etc. This also makes them a bit easier to mass-produce, as they don’t require super-fine tolerances. Consider the number of operations needed to make a 1911 and compare them to the number needed to manufacture a Parabellum (Old Model or New Model, your choice).

      Either one can be made by hand. The Browning is faster, easier, and cheaper to mass-produce.

      And much less likely to jam on you at 2 AM, in a muddy field, in the rain, in a firefight.

      Exaggerated? Maybe, but the first rule of combat is “Stuff” Happens.

      The Hamilton would probably be harder to mass-produce, and more vulnerable to adverse environmental “stuff”, than a Parabellum. Which isn’t a good thing for a service pistol.



      • Okay, so given a choice in the field, which is best for combat reliability assuming that the following can be effectively suppressed? Would you load tranquilizer rounds if this were a spy mission in order to avoid spoiling your stealth with blood spatter?

        1. Viz Pistol or FN 1903
        2. Smith & Wesson Model 39
        3. Luger or Walther P-38
        4. Beretta 1934 (or a Kriegsmarine Mauser 1934)
        5. Commander’s Nagant or Stechkin OTs-38
        6. Winchester 1894
        7. Carl Gustav M/45
        8. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list.

        You aren’t required to read this comment or respond to it. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

        Thank you,


        • If I want absolute, 100% reliability, the lever-action Winchester wins hands-down. If I want to throw a lot of lead in a hurry out to 50-75 meters and actually hit something, the Karl Gustav (Kulspruta) M/45 “Swedish K” is the best choice, with or without a suppressor.

          The double-action 9s tend to have “problems” in sustained fire. Like the trigger-return spring breaking, etc., things that are an annoyance on the range but can get you killed in the field. (BTW, with the exception of the Stechkin, I have owned and/or used every weapon listed at one time or another.)

          Any self-loader can be jammed up if it’s dirty, etc., and pistols generally don’t have as much power in the system to deal with that and still unlock the breech or just work a blowback. Which is why the best self-loader in a situation like that is a high volume of fire blowback firing a serious round on full-auto, i.e. the full-grown SMG. Or else a rifle that outranges, and has more killing power than, what the opposition is shooting at you with.

          As Elmer Keith said, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight; Never bring a pistol to a rifle fight”. A handgun is by definition a weapon you keep close at hand for an unexpected emergency, that you can easily and discreetly have with you at all times. If you have advance notice that the balloon is about to go up, you get a more powerful, longer-ranged weapon with equal or greater firepower.

          There’s a reason that no matter what sort of high-capacity automatic police officers carry on their belts today, when there’s an unknown trouble call the experienced officers get out of the cruiser with a shotgun or carbine in their hands. And why the military issues rifles or carbines to the infantry, with handguns being strictly a secondary weapon.

          Going into a known potential combat situation with just a handgun, if you have a choice, is sort of like going into a bar brawl with one hand tied behind your back. You still might win, but you’re really going to have to work at it.



        • “5. Commander’s Nagant or Stechkin OTs-38”
          Soviet Union and Russia has long tradition in silenced weapons:
          -БраМит (BraMit standing for Brothers Mitin) devices are silencers developed for various weapons in 1930s-1940s, known variants are:
          –for Nagant revolver, never widely used
          –for Mosin rifle, used with special cartridge with bullet Л and lower muzzle velocity (~260m/s), whole bullet was painted green (to avoid confusion with normal cartridges), effective range: 150-200m, mass production started in 1942, captured by Wehrmacht were used as Schalldämpfer 254(r)
          –for Mosin carbine, never widely used
          –for Tokarev 1927 and PPD sub-machine gun, prototype only
          –for SVT-40, planned, whatever prototype was crafted or not is unknown
          –for DP machine gun, fitted instead flame-suppressor, firing special version of 7.62 cartridge, can fire cartridge for Mosin rifle silenced described above, but with lower reliability, tester describe it “make sound like sewing machine”, adopted 27 May 1942, data about production are not known.

          Since end of WW2 various silenced weapons were produced:
          -single-shot or multi-barreled with one-shot per barrel
          –NRS-2 silenced knife (1980s)*
          –Device D silent grenade launcher (1960s/1970s)*
          –S4M silent pistol (1960s)*
          –MSP silent pistol (1970s)*

          –Device DM silent grenade launcher (1970s)*
          –VSSK sniper rifle (2000s, also known as Vykhlop), 12,7×55

          -self-loading or full-auto:
          –PB silenced pistol (1960s) – heavily modified Makarov pistol, 9×18
          –APB silenced pistol (1970s) – heavily modified Stechkin APS pistol, with wire stock instead of wooden, 9×18
          –PSS silent pistol (1980s) – automatic pistol*
          –6P29 sniper rifle (1980s, also known as VSS Vintorez), 9×39
          –6P30 special avtomat, developed from 6P29 (1980s, also known as AS Val), 9×39
          –VSK-94 developed from 6P29, has non-integral unlike 6P29 (1990s), 9×39

          and other
          (* fire piston ammunition)

  9. Had the rear sights been used as the cocking mechanism instead of that awkward flat button I think this gun would have done much better in the open market.

    • I think it was supposed to have a “button” on each side, so you could hook two fingers over them and yank it back like the charging handle on an AR-15. The rounded buttons would let your fingers slide off them safely, which is better than tearing your skin on that sharp rear sight.



  10. It’s sort of a point along the path that leads to the Kriss SMG and it’s non-linear system of operation, albeit MUCH simpler.

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