Weird Slide Action Prototype Rifles

These rifles sold at Rock Island on December 1, 2018 – the in-the-white prototype brought $14,950 and the more refined pre-production brought $12,650.

These two slide action rifles came form the same collection, and are pretty clearly related – one is a toolroom type of early prototype and the other is a refined pre-production sort of example. However, we have no idea who made them, or when or where. They look well made enough to have been the product of a legitimate firearms factory, but could also have been the work of a dedicated hobbyist. Without markings or provenance, we will probably never know. But they certainly are interesting to take a look at!


  1. Ingenious, but painfully impractical. It is clear that the inventor had little or no previous exposure to gun design/ manufacture. But, there is a flipside and that is – do not be afraid of (very) unconventional solutions. One such case in recent history was the AN94.

    • “One such case in recent history was the AN94.”
      In this case it was customer-induced feature. One of requirements was implementation of (either) rapid-burst (either) balanced system [that is where there are parts mechanically linked with “normal” moving ports, but traveling in opposite direction]. The aim was increasing of hit probability.

  2. Next iteration: Open-handed slide handle from first prototype, stock and sights from second prototype, Mauser or Lee-type magazine in front of trigger guard, and trigger connected to sear which controls a heavy spring-loaded striker (no room for a hammer in there, no?). Work the slide as you would work a Henry/Winchester except back-forth rather than up-down, you should be able to put your thumb over the stock if you wish, do away with all this cartridge lifter-feed arm complexity, and perhaps you can compete with Vetterli and Mannlicher.

    Lessons for any inventor: You have to figure ALL aspects out in advance, a la Mr. Browning. You can waste too much time and effort circumventing other guys’ patents, better just to pay royalties. Again, like Browning, you should have a prototype that you can take out and demonstrate.

    Thanks to Mr. M for showing us this fascinating item.

    Of course Lee still held

    • You are right, he could have fed out of regular magazine, without that awkward transfer. If done well it might compete with conventional bolt action. A benefit I see here is that action is for most part covered, protected from dirt.

  3. the removable box magazine patent, Mauser the top-loading stripper clip patent, and Mannlicher the package-top-loading patent. No wonder the feed mechanism tied Mr. McLean into knots.

  4. Why are two “odd” non working rifles so valuable? Obviously collectors but, there are no names or history connected with ether weapon?

    • Rarity alone can make something valuable, or at the least more valuable.

      This reminds me a bit of the non-functional bolt-action AK; you can hang this on the wall and it will get noticed. I think it is a good display piece whether or not it works.

      • If made from the factory/or as a prototype, bolt action “Ak” would have been a great value,
        but from Darra “file and hacksaw” monkeys, its value, even as a bastardised gimmick is highly questionable.

  5. The slide action is suspiciously like the Andrew Burgess “haveness” shotgun system. I’d be inclined to suspect that Mr. McClean (if this is in fact his work) would have been on the wrong end of a patent infringement suit by Burgess on that count alone.

    The missing transfer system was likely based on the Swiss Vetterli, which of course had a tubular magazine. The bolt was likely “borrowed” from the late Mannlicher designs. The magazine follower on the No. 1 rifle is obviously copied from the Mosin-Nagant M1891. The setup on the unnumbered one is closer to some early Mannlicher pistol magazine designs.

    If these do in fact date to 1896, then the cartridge could not be the U.S..30 Govt. 1906, or even its predecessor the 1903. Considering the size and shape of the magazine opening, a more likely chambering would be .30-40 Krag, or even more likely .30-30 WCF. Note that the Mosin-type box magazine handles rimmed rounds (like the 7.62 x 53R) very well, too. Note that the flared or funneled rear end of the split lifter would be necessary to allow a rimmed cartridge to be moved forward by the bolt.

    I don’t think either one was intended as a military arm. The shape of the unnumbered rifle’s receiver and ‘haveness’ system is strongly reminiscent of a lever-action, which was the default American repeating sporting rifle of the day.

    It wasn’t too long after this that the Standard self-loading sporting rifle, which could also be used as a manual slide-action, was introduced (1908 IIRC), and it too was deliberately made to resemble a tube-magazine lever-action repeater in spite of being a box-magazine fed gas-operated self-loader, precisely because that was what American sportsmen were familiar with.

    If this is in fact a Samuel McClean design, I’m inclined to suspect he was trying to get into the commercial sporting rifle market. After all, at the time, the U.S. military wasn’t really interested in machine guns, the Army already had the Krag bolt-action rifle, the Indian Wars were over, and the Spanish-American War hadn’t even been thought of yet. (In 1896, most Americans barely knew where Cuba or the Philippines were, let alone that they were Spanish possessions.) So the military market was pretty much non-existent in the U.S., and Europe was pretty thoroughly locked up by DWM, Steyr, St. Etienne, Hotchkiss, and Maxim.

    And at the time, American hunters were more into fast repeat shots at deer-hunting range rather than single, 800-yard shots at mountain goat and etc. Which was the reason for the popularity of lever guns.

    I’m guessing this was an attempt to cash in on that market.



    • “it too was deliberately made to resemble a tube-magazine lever-action repeater in spite of being a box-magazine fed gas-operated self-loader, precisely because that was what American sportsmen were familiar with.”
      Here I want to note that among long gun designed by J.M.Browning and put into production there is 1 (one) bolt action rifle and it was single-shot rather than repeater, see drawing:

      • Having a manually cocked action rather than a cock-on-cycling action makes the Winchester 1900 safe to carry loaded across rough areas, where pratfalls with conventional cocked-and-loaded-ready-to-shoot bolt-action weapons could end with “oh no I just shot Alfred in the knee!”

      • In the biography of J.M. Browning co-written by his son, it is stated that JMB designed this gun to order from Winchester to compete with Flobert .22 rifles and beat them on price. That it was economical was enough; that it was safe and innovative were bonuses. JMB also designed an even simpler and cheaper, if somewhat unsafe, .22 rifle action, in which trigger, hammer and breechblock were all one spring-loaded piece. Never put into production.

      • The Model 1900 patent diagram looks almost identical (with the simple forked sear held by a flat spring) to my first .22 single shot, a Winchester 67A, made in the early 1960s.

    • I think it is probably Mc Cleans looking at the patent provided above, and I thought 30 40 Krag; then I read your comment, which also helped in regards answering “but why?” And I think your right in this, and in its similarity to a Burgess; from that I thought it might have been better as a pump action bullpup in a modified form, but forward pump rifles had patents probably which might explain this approach: Which is essentially a pump action but from the rear, which presents ergonomic problems. As a straight pull action, you could see potential for using it as a basis for an automatic but it was quite an early weapon. I would probably have gone for a modified design that created a bullpup but put a hook extending rearwards from the pump handle that would go under the arm behind the shoulder, with a canvas strap running from it; forward, ending in a loop for your “left hand” with the idea being you pull the gun forward; with the new pistol grip, and the hook holds the pump handle to the rear, then the loop via your hand enables the return stroke I.e. You prevent the hook going rearwards, along with the gun; to try and avoid pump gun patents, if relevant.

      Although I think a forward pump action would probably be a better idea, which it probably was hence why the Burgess type action never took off to the same extent as forward pumps. Anyway, it is an interesting forgotten weapon.

  6. Wouldn’t this concept have the consequence of having to charge twice every time the mag ran empty? Since the elevator needs to be loaded wouldn’t a second pump be required to move the bullet from the elevator into chamber?

  7. On the forward magazine rifle, do you think the bolt lug would pull the cartridge backwards, from the magazine? The lug would rotate downward, when unlocked, and appears that it would be positioned ahead of the cartridge rim. Maybe it was intended to use a rimmed cartridge?

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