Early Self Loaders
The advent of smokeless powder in the 1880s heralded a new age in firearms development. The age old problem of how to increase the rate of fire in a convenient way was about to be solved.
It didn’t take gunmakers long to figure out that the force generated by a cartridge firing could in part be used to reciprocate a mass, open the breech and load another cartridge. This wasn’t feasible with black powder, as the lower pressures and significant fouling would lead to any such gun jamming in short order.
Smokeless powder was therefore the ‘silver bullet’ of repeating firearms. These days, there are well established designs and often there is little real variation with repeating actions beyond materials and configuration, but in the early 20th century, there was no defined ‘right way’ of doing it.
Naturally, many gunmakers began experimenting with repeating guns and cartridges, some were successful, many weren’t. Automatic pistols were arguably the field with the most successful designs, as a simple blowback mechanism is comparatively much less complex than a locking breech system. That said, some early pistol designs (like the Roth Sauer) were horrendously and needlessly complex, but were on the whole probably still fairly reliable.
As a new and cutting edge piece of technology, semi-automatics were very much in vogue in the early years of the 20th century, with civilians and militaries alike. This led to the creation of all manner of weird and wonderful firearms, including small pocket pistols, up to full size handguns. Take a look at our full range of Antique Semi Automatic Pistols here.
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