Viper machine pistol
The “Viper” was designed in 1945 by Derek Alfred Hutton-Williams and was his attempt to meet the specifications set by the Ordnance Board for a service submachine gun. Although technically the Viper was a submachine gun, it was designed to be used more like a machine pistol. The shoulder stock was to facilitate for one-handed firing and the magazine (a German MP-40 mag) doubled as the pistol grip. The safety was not a switch but a button, which was pressed down fully for automatic fire and pressed down half-way for single shots. Despite the interesting design of the Viper, it was rejected after extensive tests. These days a weapon could be made with half the size and twice the accuracy.
French Gothic revolver
A finely decorated French self-cocking centrefire revolver. Signed Pidault et Cordier inventeur. Dated c.1870.
Tower of London Collection
Decorative Colt revolver
A Colt New Model Army percussion revolver, finely decorated with gold damascened onto a blued steel base. Among the details are floral patterns, and scenes symbolising agriculture, commerce, shipping, handicrafts and industry. The walnut grips bear a silver plate (pictured) that reads "The President of the United States of America to his Majesty The King of Sweden and Norway".
This revolver, part of a pair, was presented by Abraham Lincoln to Charles XV or Sweden and Norway in 1863. The pair were stolen from Sweden’s Royal Armoury in 1967 and have not been recovered since.
Top is the cheek-piece of a German wheellock rifle, with stag horn engravings depicting scenes from "The Labours of Hercules”, notably "The Rape of Iole" (shown). Dated c.1550.
Bottom is a Persian percussion carbine, inscribed with "The Work of Rustam". The top of the breech is decorated with floral patterns and diamond shapes. Dated c.1850.
German wheellock: City Art Museum, St. Louis
Persian carbine: Historisches Museum, Bern
Mitchell submachine gun
Designed by Allen Mitchell of Wanganui, New Zealand, the Mitchell submachine gun was sent to London for testing in 1943. It was fed through a 32-round STEN magazine and fired at a rate of about 700 rounds per minute. Tests found that it was a fine weapon for hipfiring, but the barrel got hot during sustained fire and both the stock and trigger mechanism exhibited faults. It was sent back to New Zealand shortly thereafter. Only four prototypes were made in total and are now in possession of the Waiouru National Army Museum.
Some odd US patents for revolvers. I won’t go into detail about their workings, but here are the patent numbers and inventors:
1. Hollingsworth & Mershon
"Improvement in fire-arms", US patent #12470, Feb. 27 1855
2. Charles H. Richardson
"Improvement in revolving fire-arms, US patent #191178, May 22 1877
3. Carlo Von Pecker
"Revolving fire arm", US patent #467558, Jan. 26 1892
4. Gim S. Ng
"Dual caliber revolver", US patent #4197666, Apr. 15 1980
5. Jacob Shaw
"Improvement in fire-arms", US patent #17698, Jun. 30 1857
6. Otto Schneeloch
"Improvement in revolving fire-arms", US patent #134442, Dec. 31 1872
A finely decorated Colt New Model Navy revolver, one of a pair, c.1873.
William M. Locke Collection
BSA Mk.I Machine-Carbine
The initial prototype model of Birmingham Small Arm’s submachine gun, designed as a replacement for the STEN. It was first unveiled in 1945 (NOT in 1949, as is often said) and utilized a unique cocking mechanism that was not unlike a pump-action shotgun. The plastic fore-end was pushed forwards in order to cock the weapon and then pulled back into place. The magazine housing was hinged and could be folded (shown) for easier carry. Trials lasted until 1951 and three different models were made in total, but ultimately the design was rejected in favour of the Patchett gun, which was adopted by the British Army as the Sterling L2A1.
The MCEM series
As World War II was coming to a close, the British Ordnance Board was rather desperate for a submachine gun to replace the stop-gap STEN. In response to this request, RSAF Enfield (split into three design departments: a British one, a Polish one and a Belgian one) set out to create a service submachine gun. The first design to come out of Enfield was the work of the British team, under the supervision of Harold Turpin, one of the original designers behind the STEN. The Ordnance Board dubbed this weapon the “Military Carbine, Experimental Model 1” or “MCEM-1” (first picture). Internally it was more or less an improved STEN and externally it had features such as perforated barrel casing, wooden stock and dual magazines. The Ordnance Board sent it back to Enfield for improvements as it did not entirely meet their specifications.
Meanwhile, the Polish team, headed by Lt. Podsenkowski, submitted their design (second picture), which resembled a sort of machine-pistol. It was dubbed the MCEM-2 (as it was the second design to come out of Enfield) and featured a stock that doubled as a holster. The bolt was light and the fire rate was about 1000 rounds per minute. The Ordnance Board preferred lower fire rates and were not impressed with the MCEM-2. It was sent back to Enfield for improvements.
Soon afterward, the improved MCEM-1 was re-submitted to the Ordnance Board under the name “MCEM-3” (third picture). The safety and magazine were both redesigned and bayonet fittings were added. It was trialed in 1946 and showed “considerable promise”. Further trials were arranged for 1947.
There are records of an MCEM-4 and MCEM-5, but very little is known about either. The MCEM-4 was apparently designed by Lt. Kulikowski, a Polish SOE officer who designed the silenced STEN Mk.IIS. Ordnance Board records reveal that the MCEM-4 was a suppressed weapon that was intended to replace the STEN Mk.IIS in service, but was rejected. The MCEM-5, on the other hand, has drawn nothing but blanks. It has been referred to as the “Sparc” (name of the designer maybe?) but otherwise nothing is known. It is likely that neither exist anymore.
The final MCEM was the MCEM-6 (fourth picture), which was simply an improvement of Podsenkowski’s MCEM-2. It had a longer barrel, a heavier bolt and reduced rate of fire, and bayonet fittings. Despite all this, the Ordnance Board remained unimpressed. Enfield cancelled all development of Podsenkowski’s weapon in favour of Turpin’s MCEM-3. In 1947, the MCEM-3 was trialed again, this time against the BSA machine carbine and the Patchett gun, and it failed quite badly. This marked the demise of the MCEM project, and in the end the Patchett gun was adopted.
British Bulldog revolver
The “British Bulldog” was a type of pocket revolver that was very popular in the late 19th century period. Originally designed in the early 1870s by Birmingham-based gunmakers P. Webley & Sons (later Webley & Scott), the Bulldog was copied worldwide by local gunsmiths. A British Bulldog revolver was notably used by Charles J. Guiteau to assassinate President James A. Garfield in 1881. The example shown is a Belgian copy with engravings on the frame, grips and cylinder, and a folding trigger.
Example from the author’s collection