Pedersen "Selfloader PA" Rifle - Serial # 185
(Mfg by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd., Crayford, Kent, England)
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
Rifling & Twist: .................... 6 Grooves, 1 turn in 9 in. (228.6 mm)
Rifle Barrel Length: ............. 24 in. (610 mm)
Carbine Barrel Length: ........ 22 in. (560 mm)
Rifle Overall Length: ............ 44 in. (1118 mm) (Medium Stock) *(See Note)
Carbine Overall Length: ....... 42 (1067 mm) (Medium Stock) *(See Note)
Rifle Weight: ....................... 9 lbs. (4.08 Kg)
Carbine Weight: .................. 8.5 lbs. (3.86 Kg)
Magazine Capacity: ............. 10
Qty Mfg: ............................. 200+ rifles and a few carbines
*Note: Stocks are in three lengths differing by three quarters of an inch (19.05 mm).
Weight of cartridge clip empty (298 grains): ……………………. .0425 lbs. (19.32 grams)
Weight of cartridge clip filled (10 rounds,3,358 grains): …...… .4725 lbs. (215.52 grams)
Weight of bullet (125 grains): .............................................. .0178 lbs. (8.10 grams)
Weight of powder (31.5 grains): ........................................... .0045 lbs. (2.04 grams)
Total weight of cartridge (306 grains): .................................. .043 lbs. (19.82 grams)
Chamber pressure: ………………………………………....…...…… 19 tons (19,500 kilos)
Muzzle velocity: .................................................. ............... 2,700 fps. (823 meters per sec approx)
Maximum energy of free recoil: ............................................ 6.5 ft. lbs. (.90 m/K’s)
Trigger pull: .................................................. ..................... 6 to 7 1/2 lbs. (2.72 to 3.4 kilos)
Height of rear sight above axis of bore: ................................ .950 in. (24.13 mm)
Sight graduated up to: .................................................. ...... 1,060 yards (1,000 meters)
Distance from line of sight to heel of butt: .............................. 2.5 in. (63.5 mm)
Distance from trigger to butt plate (mean): ............................ 12.5 in. (317.5 mm)
Sight radius, Rifle: .................................................. ............. 30.20 in. (767.10 mm)
Sight radius, Carbine: .................................................. ........ 28.20 in. (716.20 mm)
Single division on sight deflection slide is: .............................. 4 MoA (minutes of angle)
Or for each 100 yards (91.44 meters) of range approx: ……..... 4 in. (101.6 mm)
Single division on sight deflection screw-head is: .................... 1/2 MoA (minutes of angle)
Or for each 100 yards (91.44 meters) of range approx: ............ 1/2 in. (12.7 mm)
Source... "The Gas Trap Garand", by Billy Pyle 1999
Source... "Handbook of the Pedersen Self-Loading Rifle, Model P.A.", by Vickers Armstrong Limited
Source... "Guns of the Empire, Firearms of the British Soldier 1837-1987", by George Markham 1990
Source... "Automatic Arms, Their History, Development and Use", Melvin M. Johnson Jr. and Charles T. Haven, 1941
Source... "Hatcher's Book of the Garand", Major General Julian S. Hatcher, 1948
Pedersen "Selfloader" Rifle and Carbine
(51 picture virtual tour)
Observations and Pics: by Terry Hawker (click here)
Terry would also like to extend a special thank you, to Keith Campbell and Dan Retting at Martin B. Retting Inc., Culver City, California, for their gracious contributions to this article.
The Pedersen rifle was designed by John D. Pedersen, the same man responsible for the Pedersen Device that would have allowed the conversion of bolt action rifles to semi-autos. His reputation was such, that according to Julian Hatcher, John Browning himself once modestly referred to Pedersen as, "... the greatest living arms designer and probably the greatest of all time." The great man's statement would undoubtedly provoke a few skeptical questions today.
Pedersen was a contemporary of John Garand and they both worked at the Springfield Armory during the 1920's on their separate designs for the US semi-automatic rifle trials. Although Pedersen's rifle came very close to being adopted, from the military point of view the arm had several flaws and Pedersen's contract with the US government was eventually terminated in 1930. Mc Arthur's edict in 1932, that, due to the enormous supplies in government warehouses of .30-'06 ammunition, the new semi-auto rifle would be in that caliber, became the final nail in the Pedersen's coffin, as the .276 design couldn't accommodate the longer round.
Vickers-Armstrongs, of Crayford, Kent, England, tooled up to produce the rifle when they thought it was going to be adopted in the US, and it performed well enough in the British semi-auto trials of 1930-33 to justify the production of a sporty-looking, carbine version with a two-inch shorter, exposed barrel for the cavalry.
Although beautifully designed and executed, the rifle had some drawbacks. It employed a Luger-like, toggle- link, hesitation blowback action that lacked a breech lock and required lubricated ammunition. Pedersen developed an invisible, dry wax process to solve the lubrication problem, but the military evaluators were not pleased. During the US trials, the few rifles made at the armory used non-reversible, 10-round clips, but by the time of the British trials, a reversible clip had been produced.
For a detailed explanation of the principles and technical aspects of the Pedersen system, see, "Automatic Arms, Their History, Development and Use", by Melvin M. Johnson Jr. and Charles T. Haven, or the more easily found, "Hatcher's Book of the Garand", by Major General Julian S. Hatcher.
According to the various, noted texts, and the sorely-missed former curator of the Pattern Room, Herb Woodend, serial numbers of these rifles never got much above the 200 range. Exactly how many were produced is so far unknown, but we can get a pretty good idea of the number that made it to the US.
An advertisement from the San Francisco Gun Exchange, in an American Rifleman magazine of the late 50's, appeals to, "Advanced Military Collectors", and offers, in condition like new, Pedersen rifles for $250.00 and Pedersen carbines for $300.00. For those really advanced collectors that were a bit better heeled, both were available for $500.00! The most interesting thing about this ad is they list the serial numbers available; 17 to 208 for the rifles and 240 to 262 for the carbines.
Then, in 1962-63, Martin B. Retting, the owner of a well-known gun store of the same name, in Culver City, California, imported the Pedersen rifles and carbines that had been kept in the Vickers Museum. Mr. Keith Campbell, who was there then, and is there still, remembers splitting the shipment with Sam Cummings, another well-known importer/dealer of the era. Interestingly enough, this shipment included some Vickers Lugers that were also in the Vickers Museum.
According to Mr. Campbell, after the split, Rettings kept about 8-10 of the rifles and carbines. That would seem to account for the missing serial numbers 1-16 of the rifles, and a few of the carbines from the San Francisco Gun Exchange's lot, still supporting the belief that only 200-odd of these neat little semi-autos were ever made. One had the receiver cut in two, another was sectionalized, but of greater interest is Mr. Campbell's report of duplicate serial numbers observed, specifically, two serial number "1" carbines! (See "Collector's Comments and Feedback" Note #1 below)
That would certainly complicate the task of confirming how many of these rifles and carbines were produced, but unless someone finds Vickers' production records for confirmation, we may never know. Those records might shed light on the possibility of foreign orders, rumored before, but brought to light again, when Mr. Campbell related that, at the time of the museum acquisition, he heard the unsubstantiated rumor that there were about 20,000 rifles, bound for Spain, on a ship that went down at sea. Unless those records turn up, those rumors will stay unsubstantiated.
As can be seen from the photographs, this rifle was a joy to behold, beautifully made and superbly designed, despite its flaws. It is sleeker and more sporting-like, especially in carbine trim, than just about any military rifle, (although the Model 1896 OVS Mauser Carbine is a close second!). It is a 10-shot semi-auto in a package that compares favorably with the 1903 Springfield in size, weight and handling. Just looking at it makes one appreciate Pedersen's genius, and yet, knowing the level of machining expertise required to produce the barrel and action, and the number of milling operations demanded to manufacture the stock, one can't help but wonder, "What was he thinking?"
NOTE: Terry's article continues: The Vickers-Pedersen (Part Two) ... (click here) .....
Collector's Comments and Feedback:
1. Thanks to Mr. Thomas N. Magee, some very interesting new information on the Pedersen rifles and carbines has come to light recently in a piece he wrote for the "Favorite Firearms" section of the December, 2008 issue of the NRA's, "American Rifleman", titled, "An Unusual Vickers".
Mr. Magee reports, that in early 1966, he bought one of those Pedersen rifles that Martin B. Retting had imported from the Vickers museum and was told at the time, by Martin B. himself, "...that he had been informed by factory personnel that they had made only 13 pieces of this "Model PB."
What makes this rifle so interesting is the fact that it is, as far as can be determined from the limited sources available at this time, a previously un-reported variant. Most other Vickers-made Pedersen rifles are "Pedersen Self-Loading Rifle, Model P.A.", as is the subject of this MKL article.
The existence of a second model range of rifles and carbines does help explain the reports of possible duplicate serial numbers, and, with Mr. Magee's statement, "...that Retting obtained a near-mint carbine, as PB Serial No. 1., and several PAs, including serial No.243.", Keith Cambell's recollection of seeing two serial No. 1 carbines is further explained and confirmed.
Now we need to discover how these two models differ from each other and try to confirm which came first, though logic would lead one to believe it was the PA's.
On a technical note, Mr. Magee informs us that the twenty rifles and five carbines made in 1926, at Springfield Armory, for the U.S. Army trials, lacked the facility to eject the non-reversible clip they used when partially filled. The Vickers-produced models, however, using a re-designed magazine and reversible clip, could eject a partially filled clip, by holding the bolt open and pressing forward on the trigger.
Many thanks to Mr. Magee for filling in more gaps in the knowledge of these fascinating rifles and carbines. ....... (Feedback by Advisory Panel Member "Terry Hawker")
2. To give members some idea as to the rarity and market value of this collector's piece, read the thread in our Commercial Auction and Sale "Gossip" (click here) forum titled Reference Thread - Poulins and James Julia Auctions (March 7-11, 2008).
This thread contains a post regarding one of these rifles that just sold at the James D. Julia auction in March 2008 for $13,800 U.S.
Lot 238 *RARE BRITISH PEDERSEN SEMI-AUTO MILITARY RIFLE. SN 98. (click here). Very rare limited production rifle with 24" bbl, orig sleeve front sight with the unusual spiral machined cooling vanes over rear 2/5 of bbl, with a pierced metal hand guard cover. Action is the unusual George Luger-style knee action toggle-style with a vernier peep sight integral at back end with windage adjustment. It has a box magazine that loads from top and is mounted in a 1-pc walnut stock with two bands. Front band is split like the U.S. military models with integral bayonet lug & stacking swivel. Middle band has a sling loop with corresponding loop in butt. Sides of forestock have grasping grooves and bottom of forestock has cooling vents and it is fitted with a checkered, stamped steel buttplate and is accompanied by a U.S. military brass & leather sling. Also accompanied by a U.S. Remington Model 1917 bayonet & green leather scabbard, dated "1918". PROVENANCE: Stern Collection. CONDITION: Extremely fine. Metal retains most of its orig arsenal finish with some thinning on toggle link and sharp edges. Stock is sound with nicks, dings & scratches and a series of bruises just above trigger on right side. Mechanics are fine, brilliant shiny bore. Sling is very fine with some verdigris around brass. Bayonet is extremely fine, retaining virtually all of its orig factory finish. 4-34101 JR45 (8,000-12,000)....... (Feedback by "Badger")
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
3. For you ammunition collectors, these are the rounds used in the British Pedersen rifle trials.....
Caliber = .276 inch Pedersen
From Left to Right
F A 29
K.29 .276 (unprimed empty)
B30 0.276 Believed to be poor bunter for Greenwood & Batley.
K31 .276 Proof, purple stripe on head, bullet seated less deep to accommodate extra propellant.
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
There is also some further information and photographs in Hatcher's "Book of the Garand" ..... (Feedback by "TonyE")
4. When adoption of the Pedersen looked like a possibility for the U.S., Pedersen got Vickers to make up some with an eye to the world market. They are essentially the same as the U.S. Pedersen that lost out to the Garand rifle in U.S. trials.
Due to the operating system of the Pedersen (a delayed blowback), the rifle couldn't handle the .30-'06 without a massive increase in weight. So Pedersen, apparently quite a salesman, persuaded Army Ordnance to adopt the .276 Pedersen, a cartridge the rifle could handle. But the Chief of Staff of the Army, one Douglas MacArthur, thinking of the billions of .30 rounds stockpiled in the event of war, turned down the idea of a new caliber, and the Pedersen faded away.
Just to clarify a couple of points. First, the Pedersen toggle breech is often compared to that of the Luger, but the Luger is a locked breech, recoil operated system. The Pedersen is a delayed blowback, nicely engineered to give a maximum of mechanical disadvantage in the early part of the breech opening.
Second, the Pedersen rifles made by Vickers, like the U.S. Pedersens, were chambered for the .276 Pedersen, NOT the much larger and more powerful .276 Enfield for which the Pattern 1913 rifle (click here) had been chambered. There is not much doubt that the .276 would have been a poor choice for WWII. While lethal enough, its lack of range and penetration would have meant our troops being outranged and outgunned by the Germans and even by the Japanese if they were using the 7.7.
Here is a pic below of the cartridges being discussed. I included the .280 Ross because some publications have stated that the .276 Enfield is identical to the .280 Ross. A look at the picture will show that to be erroneous. (Like the Pedersen cartridge, there were a number of development stages for the .276 Enfield, but all were basically the same in appearance.) ....... (Feedback by "Jim Keenan")
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
5. Here is a list of a dozen Vickers Pederson rifles held in the collection of the 'Explosion!' museum near Portsmouth in the UK.
Supposedly, these were handed in by the wife of a deceased Royal Navy officer. A couple of them had bad cracks through the wrist, one rifle being in two pieces. There was a number of different butt lengths visible, showing a variation of about one and a half inches between the longest and the shortest.
It's interesting to see how the numbers correlate with the rifles sold off as surplus in the States.
The Pattern Room have a rifle s/n 24 - which bears British ordnance markings from use as a trials weapon, and a carbine s/n 245.
The above reflect a time when Vickers was trying to drum up business between the war's, not just in the military arena but also in the sporting field, with their range of .22 target rifles, bolt action sporting rifles and shotguns; but that's another story. ....... (Feedback by "AlanD" from Sydney)
6. Further to my last comment above, here are some serial numbers of Vickers-Pedersen rifles that have ended up in the Imperial War Museum. The first group are currently in the collection, while the second group have been used in trades etc.
1. 138 141 143 144 145 148 179 222
2. 131 133 134 136 137 139 140
Note: Number 140 is in the collection of the Small Arms Museum Lithgow, and is not s/n 14 as I previously stated. ....... (Feedback by "AlanD" from Sydney)
7. I've had three Vickers Pedersen rifles. I bought my first one from Shore Gallery Auctions in Chicago in the middle 60's. It was SN 233. In the late 60's I bought another almost mint (with a short stock) SN 166. I got another one this week from Julia's Auctions SN 187. This is the only one I have now. Sure would like to get a loading clip for it!
In private email discussions with Terry Hawker, I indicated I didn’t think SN 166 was a carbine, as Terry seemed to think it might be. The stock had a shorter trigger pull than SN 233. All other measurements were the same, like barrel length. As I told Terry, I had a good friend who was a Canadian weapons mechanic during WW2. He told me that England made their rifles fit the rifleman. They had different length butt stocks to put on the Enfield rifles so that a more correct trigger pull could be obtained. The way that the Pedersen stock is made with the narrow comb, the stock was not cut down. It was made that way.
Hopes this ads to your list ....... (Feedback by member Clem “Micoclem” Miller)
8. Here are pics below of my US Pedersen clip. Viewed from the side, it is identical to the V-P non-reversible clip, but the bottom is slightly different, probably making the two non-interchangeable. ....... (Feedback by member Clem “Micoclem” Miller)
(Click PIC to Enlarge)(Click PIC to Enlarge)
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
9. When Clem mentioned he had owned three Pedersen rifles, one of which had a "short stock", I instantly, (and erroneously, as it turned out), pictured one of those beautiful little carbines, not realizing he was referring to a rifle with a short butt. My apologies for the confusion and thanks to Clem for pointing out the varying stock lengths. A line has been added to the specification section so no one else makes the same mistake. ....... (Feedback by Advisory Panel Member "Terry Hawker")
10. Six Vickers-Pedersen rifles were in the Cogswell & Harrison Ltd. inventory when it was acquired by Samuel Cummings of (then) Interarmco in 1959. Most were in the low-to-mid 200 serial range.
Nos. 157 and 232 were in the Cummings collection. I have No. 229. These British guns are readily distinguished from the U.S. trials version by the external shape of the magazine, which is noticeably different.
Refer to the thread in the Commercial Auction and Sale "Gossip" (click here) forum titled Reference Thread - Poulins and James Julia Auctions (Oct 3-7, 2008). A carbine, No. 257 (click here), was sold at that most recent Poulin for $8,912.50 U.S.
No. 108 was featured many years ago in a "Rifle" magazine article. ....... (Feedback by "MGMike")
11. I was recently given a list of small arms Parker Hale Arms had for sale at the end of 1959. Included in the list were the following nine Vickers-Pederson 276 rifles:
107 195 196 199 202 205 234 235 238. ....... (Feedback by "AlanD" from Sydney)
12. The secret to creating and maintaining quality research data in the Milsurps Knowledge Library is you! This is your site and these MKL entries on various old milsurps are yours to add to, or change. The volunteers on the Advisory Panel (click here) can only do so much to vet and validate the information posted here, so please contribute as much as possible to help us present the most accurate and reliable data we can gather on these old milsurps. If you own a particular specimen of any MKL entry, then please send us pics of it, even though they may be duplicate views of pieces you already see here. In that way, we can build up multiple sets of pics for several milsurps of the same model, which will help in indentifying markings and authenticity. For example, in the case of this MKL entry of the Pedersen "Selfloader" Rifle, if you own one, we'd like to receive more pics of the stampings and serial number views as shown in the "Observations" section and various "Collector's Comments and Feedback" notes. ALL pics and information received will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and respect of your privacy. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, which is helping to make the Milsurps Collectors Forums a prominent site for serious collectors of all genres of old milsurp collectibles. ....... (Feedback by "Badger")