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Early British Automatic Rifle Trials - a lecture to the HBSA of GB


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Gas operation, long recoil, short recoil, organisation of the British War Office Ordnance Board, Chief Inspector of Small Arms, Small Arms Committee, Maxim conversion of Martini, Griffiths-Woodgate, automatic rifles tested, Automatic Rifle Committee, Enfield "A", Enfield "B", Menteyne-Degaille, Kjellman, Halie, Sjogren, London Small Arms Co., BSA Ltd., Mondragon, Roth, Brauning, Rexer, Farquhar-Hill, Revelli, Bang, Hefffeld, Tatarek, Kretz, Vickers, Fidjeland, Cei Rigoti, Shoube, Perino, Laird-Menteyne, Faletrans, Smith-Condit, Fedorov,

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Early British Automatic Rifle Trials - a lecture to the HBSA of GB

  1. 1. Bisley Lecture 29th August 2009 Early British Automatic Rifle Trials
  2. 2. Gas operation
  3. 3. Long recoil operation
  4. 4. Short recoil operation
  5. 5. Organisation Ordnance Board Various Select, Standing and Sub-committees, e.g. Breech Loading Machine Gun Small Arms (Magazine Rifle) Chief Inspector of Small Arms (CISA) Chief Superintendent of Factories (CSOF) 1900 Small Arms Committee (SAC) Charged to consider all aspects of small arms and ammunition and to cover every possible military aspect.
  6. 6. Maxim conversion of Martini Patent 447836 5th December 1891 Action: Long Recoil Calibre: .577/.450
  7. 7. Maxim conversion of Martini
  8. 8. Griffiths-Woodgate Tested 1893 Action: Long recoil Calibre: .303 inch
  9. 9. SAC June 1900 The Director General of Ordnance desired the Committee to say: “Whether there are, in their opinion, any such defects in our Lee Enfield Rifle that makes it desirable to consider the question of providing a new rifle for the Army.”
  10. 10. Captain Kenyon recommended that the Committee obtained and tested the following: 1 The American Army Rifle 2 Spanish Mauser 3 Boer Mausers 4 Lee straight pull rifle 5 The latest production from the Austrian Steyr factory 6 The latest Mauser obtainable automatic rifle 7 Any other automatic rifle
  11. 11. Rifles tested by the SAC Jan. 1902 De Falentans Aug. 1903 Mondragon Nov. 1903 Kjellman Nov. 1905 Smith-Condit Jun.1906 Halle
  12. 12. Feb. 1906 Committee laid down conditions to be fullfilled by any proposed automatic rifle. Rifle to be simple and strong, easily and cheaply repaired Loading to be with ease and certainty Cartridge to be rimless Energy of 3000 ft.lbs. Bullet wt. not less than 140 grns. Charger/clip not to exceed present service type (194 grns.) Rifle not to exceed 9½ lbs. Calibre not less than .25” nor greater than .315” Rifle must be capable of automatic or manual operation Ejection not to incommode the firer or man at his side Bolt or block positively locked Efficient and positive safety
  13. 13. Automatic Rifle Committee Formed October 1909 Chairman Secretary Brig. Gen. H.H.Wilson CB DSO Director of Military Operations Col. W.Congreve VC MVO Cmdt. School of Musketry Hythe Col. J.D.Hopton Ret. ex President SAC Lt.Col. The Hon. T.F.Fremantle Maj. W.B.Wallace Maj. W.H.Greenly Col. L.T.Pease R.M.A. Naval representative Col. R.C. Stuart Indian representative Capt. C.W.Scott “To select the most suitable automatic magazine action for rifles, complying with certain prescribed conditions.”
  14. 14. Automatic Rifle Committee The requirements for the rifles were largely based on those of the Small Arms committee of 1906 with the following changes: A pointed bullet of between 150-180 grns. A calibre of .27 - .28 inch and pressure of not more than 21 tons/sq.inch at 80 deg. F. When putting the safety device out of action the rifle must remain cocked and ready to fire. Each rifle would be measured against 65 criteria.
  15. 15. Automatic Rifle Committee Formed October 1909 1st Meeting 23 November 1909 1st Interim Report 25 August 1910 2nd Interim Report 30 October 1911 3rd Interim Report 9 July 1913 Dissolved December 1913 Final report 22 January 1914 3 Volumes of proceedings
  16. 16. The Rifles
  17. 17. Enfield “A” 1908/9 Action: Gas Calibre: .303 inch
  18. 18. Enfield “A”
  19. 19. Enfield “A” RL 16749B
  20. 20. Enfield “A”
  21. 21. Enfield “A” Conclusions: The rifle is not simple or strong The mechanism is not well protected from the entrance of rain, sand or dirt. The gas cylinder and piston rusted badly It complied with most other conditions re: calibre, weight etc.
  22. 22. Enfield “B” 1908/9 Action: Gas Calibre: .303 inch
  23. 23. Enfield “B” 1908/9
  24. 24. Menteyne-Degaille Paul M. Menteyne & Pierre A. Degaille Built by Coventry Ordnance Works Developed by Charles W. Laird Action: Long recoil Calibre: .303 inch No photograph or drawing has been found.
  25. 25. Menteyne-Degaille The rifle is not constructed to work properly The safety is not efficient and is unsafe If the sear becomes worn it could fire automatically
  26. 26. Kjellman Action: Long Recoil Calibre: 6.5 x 55mm
  27. 27. Kjellman Rejected due to: Calibre does not comply Complicated and expensive Fragile components Too heavy Parts not easily replaced Letter dated 29 October 1910 “… I am commanded to inform you that as a result of the recent trials … The Army Council do not desire to purchase a licence to build this rifle or any option to purchase and that no further trials will be made with it”
  28. 28. Halle Action: Short recoil Calibre: 7 x 57mm
  29. 29. Halle
  30. 30. Halle Conclusions: “Penetration at 25 yards, accuracy at 200 yards and the automatic working of the mechanism when clean appear to be fairly good. Filling the magazine through the bottom is inconvenient, the ejection of empty cases to the right is liable to cause injury to the person on his right.”
  31. 31. Sjogren Action: Recoil – Inertia bolt Calibre; 7 x 57mm
  32. 32. Sjogren
  33. 33. Sjogren Initially of “considerable interest” Cannot be used as a manual loader Failed depression test Further tests revealed weakness and liable to failure Shotgun had serious failure Improved model offered but “Not considered necessary to carry out trial”
  34. 34. London Small Arms Co. Action: Long recoil Calibre: .276 inch
  35. 35. London Small Arms Co.
  36. 36. London Small Arms Co.
  37. 37. London Small Arms Co.
  38. 38. London Small Arms Co.
  39. 39. London Small Arms Co.
  40. 40. London Small Arms Co. Failed several of the tests Particularly susceptable to sand and dirt “This rifle is not in a fit condition for firing trials to be carried out before the Committee.” LSA to be informed and given a list of the points of failure.
  41. 41. BSA Ltd Action: Short recoil Calibre: .276 inch
  42. 42. BSA Ltd Rifle is not strong and very liable to damage. Not well protected from sand and dirt Failed Condition No.9 – easily changed from automatic to manual operation. “The Committee are of the opinion that the results of these trials do not indicate that the present rifle is likely to develop into a satisfactory Service arm.”
  43. 43. Mondragon Action: Gas Calibre: 7 x 57mm
  44. 44. Mondragon
  45. 45. Mondragon
  46. 46. Mondragon Failed sand and dirt test Inaccurate The Small Arms Committee did not recommend any further trials of the rifle in its form at that time. “General Mondragon’s representative was so informed”
  47. 47. Roth Action: Recoil – primer actuated Calibre: Special 7.92 x 57mm
  48. 48. Roth
  49. 49. Roth Main disadvantage is special ammunition It would necessitate different ammunition for rifle and machine gun. Barrel too weak for bayonet Cocking handle broke during firing Ammunition very defective – over twenty case separations
  50. 50. Brauning Action: Short recoil Calibre: 7 x 57mm
  51. 51. Brauning
  52. 52. Brauning Body too frail and liable to damage Barrel too slight for high pressure cartridge Ballistics too low However, many good features “….the Department will be pleased to try another rifle if constructed to fire a cartridge giving the proper ballistics,”
  53. 53. Rexer Action: Long recoil Calibre: 6.5 x 55mm
  54. 54. Rexer Works well when clean Body and frame are very fragile “The rifle would not stand much rough handling or falling about” The representatives of the inventor were told that no further action would be taken at that time with this weapon.
  55. 55. Farquhar-Hill Action: Recoil Calibre: 7 x 57mm 7.92 x 57mm M88(1908) 7.65 x 54mm? (1909) At the Bisley meeting of 1909 was demonstrated with 180 grain bullet and was described as the Farquhar-Scott, presumably as it had been made by Webley & Scott.
  56. 56. Farquhar-Hill Action: Gas Calibre: .303 Rimless
  57. 57. Farquhar-Hill
  58. 58. Farquhar-Hill
  59. 59. Farquhar-Hill Generally worked well before breakages Fore end excessively weak Body weak at rear Little protection for gas cylinder and springs In fore end. Mainsprings broke, rifle taken fro repair Trials continued through WWI
  60. 60. Farquhar-Hill
  61. 61. Revelli Action: Short recoil Calibre: 6.5mm Carcano
  62. 62. Revelli “The Committee recommend that the makers be informed that it is not proposed to proceed With any further trials of this rifle.”
  63. 63. Bang Action: Gas – blow forward Calibre: 7.65 x 54mm 6.5mm
  64. 64. Bang
  65. 65. Bang
  66. 66. Bang Performed well. “The rifle has given results superior to most Others that have come before the Committee. The committee recommend the inventor be sent a copy of the report and be informed that a Communication on the subject of Automatic Rifles generally will be sent to him shortly.
  67. 67. Hellfeld Action: Short recoil Calibre: 7.92 x 57mm
  68. 68. Hellfeld “In view of the excess weight over that laid down in “Conditions to be fulfilled by an Automatic Rifle”, also to the fact that it will not function as a magazine rifle, the Committee recommend that no further action be taken.”
  69. 69. Tatarek Action: Gas – Blow forward Calibre: .276 inch (Patt.’13)
  70. 70. Tatarek
  71. 71. Tatarek “Exceedingly long, being 3¼ inches longer than the long M.L.E. rifles. The conversion was roughly carried out, and the rifle was not in a fit condition to be put through a firing trial. ..badly balanced, heavy, bulky, weak, uncertain in its action, and complicated. …similar to Farquhar-Hill and Bang rifles, and does not shew any promise of ever developing into anything practical for service purposes.”
  72. 72. Kretz Action: Gas – Blow forward Calibre: .276 inch (Patt.’13)
  73. 73. Kretz
  74. 74. Kretz
  75. 75. Kretz
  76. 76. Kretz
  77. 77. Kretz “The rifle was not in a fit state to be put through a firing trial, the conversion having been very roughly carried out. …complicated, weak, bulky, excessively heavy, badly balanced, uncertain in its action, liable to derangement and breakdown under the most favourable conditions, difficult to strip and more difficult to assemble. The principle is similar to a combination of the Farquhar-Hill (but with coil instead of spiral springs) and the Bang rifles with all their disadvantages aggravated and many peculiar to itself.”
  78. 78. Vickers Action: Long recoil Calibre: .276 inch
  79. 79. Fidjeland No photographs or drawings have been found. Action: Gas Calibre: 6.5 x 55mm
  80. 80. Fidjeland “I do not think any action can be tolerated in which the lugs are both on one side of the axis of the rifle, and in which the bolt as a whole together with the extractor turns relatively to the cartridge case.” The SAC recommended that no futher trials be carried out unless the rifle was modified to more nearly comply with the conditions named.
  81. 81. Cei Rigotti Action: Gas Calibre: 6.5mm Carcano
  82. 82. Cei Rigotti “There is nothing positive in the action of this rifles…. …the principle is not considered suitable for a service rifle. It is not considered that a rifle constructed on these lines would be suitable for the Service. The Committee recommend that no further action be taken”
  83. 83. Shoube Introduced by Vickers Maxim & Co. No photographs or drawings found. Tested by SAC in April 1900. The rifle was “very well liked” by the Committee. VSM were informed that the introduction of a new rifle was not at that time under consideration. The rifle has not been submittted again. Action: Short recoil Calibre: 6.5 x 55mm (?)
  84. 84. Perino Action: Long recoil with gas assist Calibre: 6.5mm Carcano
  85. 85. Perino Not tested by the Committee. Description supplied by the inventor. Gas assist was muzzle booster similar to Vickers
  86. 86. Laird-Menteyne No photographs or drawings have been found. Action: Gas long recoil Calibre: .303 inch
  87. 87. Faletrans No photographs or drawings have been found. Two weapons submitted, a short carbine and a rifle. Action: Calibre: Short recoil 7.63mm Mauser & 7.92mm (?)
  88. 88. Faletrans “The weapons produced were of low power and the extraction and method of charging the magazine were not good. The general design is simple but the weapons appear to be still at the experimental stage…. Correspondence continued with the marquis de Faletrans until June 1905 when he was told there was no immediate prospect of adopting an Automatic Rifle.” No new rifle has been submitted.
  89. 89. Smith-Condit No photgraphs or drawings of this rifle have been found. Tested by SAC in November 1905 Action: Gas Calibre: 7 X 57mm
  90. 90. Smith-Condit The Committee do not consider that this military rifle contains any very distinct features or shows sufficient promise, as compared to other automatic rifles that have come before them, to warrant the ordering of one at a price of £500. The inventor was informed that no further action would be taken at this time.
  91. 91. Fedorov Action: Short recoil Calibre; 6.5 x 50SR
  92. 92. Federov Not tested by the Committee, but view based on translated description in Russian military journal.
  93. 93. Automatic Rifle Committee The Reports 1st Interim 2nd Interim 3rd Interim Final
  94. 94. Farquhar-Hill RNAS type
  95. 95. 1918 The plans for Great Britain’s first automatic rifle 100,000 to be issued in 1919
  96. 96. The End