Blow which way?


Jim K
September 16, 2005, 09:48 PM
There has been a lot of discussion about the way auto pistols work, and the term "blowback" is often used. OK, we have all seen blowback pistols, usually .22, .25, or .32 calibers; blowback is rarely used for guns over .380 ACP, for reasons I won't go into here.

But how about blow FORWARD? There were such guns and here are a couple of the relatively common (but still quite rare) blow forward Model 1908 Schwarzlose pistols, in .32 ACP.

There are two pistols; the one with the WAC grips was imported by Warner Arms Corp sometime before WWI; it has a push button type magazine release, apparently to cater to American tastes. The other is the European model, with the typical magazine release at the bottom of the grip. Both have the Schwarzlose machinegun trade mark. After the start of WWI, Warner Arms Corp could no longer import the Schwarzlose pistols, so they had pistols made in the U.S., using a design by a man named Davis. These are the famous (or infamous) Davis-Warner pistols. I will have some pics of those in the next posting.

The guns work in the reverse of the conventional blowback. The breech, which contains the hammer, remains stationary, while the barrel moves forward from the pressure. The cartridge case, held by the extractor, is pulled out of the chamber, and a stud on the barrel extension kicks it free. Meantime, a projection at the bottom of the extension pulls the next round forward out of the magazine, and positions it to be chambered when the barrel returns to battery.

A spring loaded sear on the barrel extension cocks the hammer, using the force of the recoil spring, as the barrel comes back into battery. Pulling the trigger moves the sear outward, releasing the hammer. The last picture shows the barrel, upside down, with the sear and the projection that pulls the round out of the magazine.

Disassembly is by pulling forward on the recoil spring guide (it has a crosswise hole for the purpose) and locking it into a notch in the frame. That gets it out of the way of the barrel and the barrel can be moved forward and off the frame.


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Jim K
September 16, 2005, 10:13 PM
When Warner Arms Co. could no longer get the Schwarzlose pistols from Germany, they had .32 pocket pistols made here. IIRC, there were three variations; here are pictures of two. You can see from the ribs, the front sights and the grips that there was a conscious effort to imitate the outline of the Schwarzlose.

The guns were called the "Davis-Warner Infallible", and their trademark was "Blocks the Sear", a reference to the way the safety worked. Unlike the Schwarzlose, the Davis-Warner guns are fairly conventional, striker fired, blowbacks, using a breechblock rather than a slide, though, since Browning had patented the idea of an auto pistol slide with an integral breechblock.

They had one serious drawback. If you look at the back of the guns, you will see that one has a small lever; the other a push through pin. If the shooter disassembled the pistol and forgot the turn that lever the right way, or forgot to push the pin all the way in, the breechblock would be stopped only by a small projection and could come back in his face. Needless to say, the guns were not "infallible" and the company soon went out of business.


September 16, 2005, 10:15 PM
Fascinating! Nice additions to a collection. Thanks for the explanation of the functioning.

September 16, 2005, 10:29 PM
Jim - thx.

For someone way too rusty on firearms history - this is excellent info and reading :). I am better informed.

September 17, 2005, 10:09 AM
Thanks for the fascinating post, Jim. I've always wondered how those little buggers worked.

September 17, 2005, 03:12 PM
Very interesting post. Even more interesting title.

September 21, 2005, 04:03 PM
Good post! I love hearing about little-known, rare and interesting firearms - got any more to share with us?

Just out of interest, I found in a book another blow-forward the other day. A revolver-shotgun, of all things! It was made by Becker and patented in 1921. From the illustration, it was a 5-chambered, open framed thing in 16 gauge. The text says that to cock it, you pulled the barrel forward until it was held by a sear, then when you pulled the trigger the whole barrel was flung back to fire the cartridge.
Now, I always thought that blow-forwards worked when the bullet engaged with the rifling to pull the barrel forward, but this thing worked as a smooth-bore and friction of the shot-charge was enough to cycle the action. Apparently it "...Survived fairly stiff tests (in 1921 and 1922) by the German Government Proof Houses, at Halensee and Neumannswalde."

If anyone cares to track a copy of the book down, it's called "Revolving Arms" (1967) by A.W.F Taylerson, in the "Arms and Armour" series.

August 6, 2008, 10:32 PM
I realize this post is old but it was the most useful information on this pistol that I have found yet.
I picked up a European model (from your discription) a couple years ago and have been searching for info.
The one I have seems to be an early model with only 2 digit number inside the grip.
Anyone have any idea what these things are worth?
I picked it up for a $75.00 service call

Jim K
August 7, 2008, 05:44 PM
They are an example of rare guns that nobody really wants, so supply and demand are a bit off. Schwarzlose pistols usually sell for around $800-900 so I would say you did OK. Compare with the much more common Luger, which usually starts in that range if in decent shape.

August 15, 2008, 10:53 PM
really great info i had been looking for imformation on the one i have also i recieved mine from my father we got the pistol from my grandfathers brother who brought it back from ww2 i had been searching for a long time as to the value as the one i have also is a 2 digit serial # there is one for sale on for sale exactly like mine with alot higher serial # it has a 4 digit so maybe mine would be worth a little more. thanks

August 15, 2008, 11:21 PM
That was great info. Anything else you have that is interesting? Also. Thank you for the info on the Model 99, since then I've had two more come in with the same problem and two for detailed cleaning since word got out that I repaired the last two.
Again. Thanks

Guns - out

El General
June 28, 2010, 01:43 PM
I know this is old, but I thought I would mention that I am an ancestor of AW Schwarzlose and if anyone knows of a reasonably clean one for sale I would love to pick one up.

Jim K
June 28, 2010, 06:03 PM
Not to be picky, but I think you are a descendant of Herr Schwarzlose, not an ancestor.


El General
June 29, 2010, 05:11 PM
Good point ;)

June 29, 2010, 06:26 PM
For another few examples of this odd method of operation, there are the 7.5 Swiss AK53, and the 8mm Japanese Hino-Komura.



Jim K
July 1, 2010, 09:56 PM
The Hino pistol is a blow-forward with one interesting feature. Once the barrel goes forward it locks, and is only released by the next trigger pull, when it comes back, picks up the next round, and drives it onto the fixed firing pin. It is the reverse of a blowback action firing from an open bolt. (The Schwarzlose has a fixed breech but a conventional hammer and firing pin like a revolver.)

The Swiss AK53 is not a blow-forward, even though it is often described as such. It fires the standard 7.5x55 cartridge, which no blowforward or blowback action could ever do safely. It is a locked breech, gas operated rifle, with the difference being that the gas piston unlocks the bolt and then forces the barrel forward instead of forcing the bolt back as in a conventional gas-operated rifle like the U.S. M1. It is ingenious and allows for a short action, but has no real advantages, plus one serious disadvantage, the movement of the heavy barrel disturbs aim much more than movement of a lighter bolt.


Jim Watson
July 1, 2010, 10:24 PM
Didn't "Carbine Williams" design a blowforward action?

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