From Gyrojets that fired miniature rockets to a hunting rifle with an on-board computer, many seemingly harebrained ideas have actually made it into the firearm marketplace. But those revisited here didn’t get far before they were scuttled due to lack of consumer demand. What? Your gun doesn’t fire Trounds? Read on.
Standard Arms Model G Rifle
One can only speculate on why its inventor chose to give his rifle the capability of both semi-automatic and manual operation. Smokeless propellants had been in common use for only a short time, and a possible reason was the lack of uniformity in factory ammunition available at the time. The two Model G rifles in .25 and .35 Rem. I have owned operated reliably with handloads loaded to maximum pressures, but a reduction in velocity of 100 to 150 f.p.s. caused both to malfunction. The velocity of ammunition exposed to extremely cold weather during an early 1900s hunt could easily have been lowered by that much. Adding to the rifle’s problems, propellant fouling buildup in the gas cylinder eventually leads to malfunctions. Poor maintenance may have also contributed to a reputation for unreliability.
The Model G has a top-ejecting action and an internal box magazine of five-round capacity. Cartridges are loaded through a hinged floorplate at the bottom of the receiver. Like other hunting rifles of the day, it easily takes down into two shorter pieces. A two-position safety lever is located inside the trigger guard. Machine work on the interior and exterior of the action is remarkably good given the tool and machining techniques of the time. The rear sight elevator, buttplate and slide handle are ornate brass castings.
Why the Model G failed to win the hearts of America’s deer hunters is easy to understand. Its competition, the recoil-operated Remington Model 8 and the blowback-operated Winchester Model 1907 were not as ammunition-sensitive and required less-frequent cleanings. A second variation called the Model M did not have the gas system and was capable only of manual operation. It had to compete with Remington’s Model 14 pump-action and, since I own one of those as well, it is easy for me to understand why hunters chose it over the Standard Arms rifle.
MBA Gyrojet Pistol and Rifle
The round-nosed body of the rocket was hollow and made of drawn steel. At first glance it looked like an oversized .45 ACP cartridge. During assembly, a propellant charge was inserted into the body of the rocket and its rear end closed off by pressing into place what was described as a nozzle plate. At the center of the plate was a conventional pistol primer and positioned around it were several small vents. The barrel of the pistol had no rifling so the vents were angled to cause the rocket to rotate about its axis as propellant gas flowed through them during firing.
Rifles, carbines and pistols were built, all appearing to have been constructed from a toy erector set like I received at Christmas as a kid. The pistol was about the size of a Colt M1911 and weighed around 25 ounces. Rounds fed from a magazine inside the grip. The rear-facing, internal hammer was positioned at the bottom of the receiver just above its trigger and, when the trigger was pulled, the hammer traveled to the rear to strike the nose of the rocket. This drove its primer against a fixed firing pin, thereby igniting the propellant charge. Forward movement of the rocket cocked the hammer, readying the gun for the next shot.
Whereas a bullet fired from a cartridge of conventional design reaches its peak velocity inside the barrel, the rocket traveled through the barrel rather slowly and did not reach top velocity until fuel burnout at about 20 yards. This and poor accuracy are but two of several reasons why it failed to pass either military or civilian acceptance. On the positive side, manufacturing cost of the “throwaway launcher” was said to be less than a dollar, recoil was quite low and the report was more of a mild “whoosh” than a harsh “bang.” Those and a high “wow” factor for the 1960s was about all the Gyrojet system had going for it.
Daisy/Heddon V/L Rifle
Pulling a long lever housed in a slot at the bottom of the fore-end of the rifle compressed its spring and retracted the gas piston and cylinder, thereby exposing the chamber of the barrel. After a round was single-loaded directly into the chamber, pushing the lever moved the cylinder forward to seal off the breech end of the barrel while the piston was held back by the sear. Pulling the trigger allowed the piston to move forward, and the rapid compression of air increased its temperature to about 2,000 degrees. As the required level of pressure inside the cylinder was reached, a check valve at the front of the cylinder opened, allowing the super-heated air to enter the chamber and ignite the propellant.
There were a few shortcomings. Removing a round from the chamber required either firing it or opening the action, inserting a cleaning rod into the muzzle of the barrel and pushing it out. The ammunition duplicated the performance of the high-velocity .22 Rimfire Short, yet it cost more than the more popular .22 Long Rifle. At $29, the standard-grade rifle with its plastic stock was considerably more expensive than single-shot .22 rimfires from other companies and more than some repeaters. The Daisy/Heddon creation was interesting but, as sales would eventually prove, it had more things going against it than for it.