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Prototype Winchester WW1 .50 Cal Antitank Rifle


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian, I am here today at the Cody Firearms Museum, thanks to the generosity of their staff and curator, Getting to take a look at some of the guns that are in their fantastic collection And bring a few of the more interesting ones to you guys. So, this thing jumped out at me right away and not just because it’s huge and ridiculously heavy, But because some of the best literature published right now actually says this may not still exist, and Yet, here we go. So, almost certainly the only one of its kind in existence, Probably one of only two or three that were ever built. This is an early Winchester Anti-Tank Rifle. Specifically, they called this thing the Model of 1918 .50 Caliber High-Power Bolt Action Swivel Gun. Little bit of a mouthful there. This was, as the name implies, developed in 1918. Winchester was participating in some of the experiments that would eventually lead to the .50 BMG cartridge, Those experiments started with the German 13.2mm Tankgewehr cartridge, Or Tank und Flieger cartridge, And the US got some of the German anti-tank rifles captured and got some of the ammo And started experimenting with its own .50 Caliber heavy machine gun cartridge. And kind of as a side project under… On its own initiative, Winchester decided to start developing an anti-tank rifle using the same cartridge. This was 1918, the armor on tanks at the time was relatively light, certainly by today’s standards, and A .50 Caliber armor-piercing cartridge could go right through pretty much any tank of the day. So, that development makes sense. What ended up happening was, y’know, the war didn’t last Past 1918. Once the war ends, development is set aside, They go back to finishing out the .50 BMG cartridge and this design just kind of is forgotten. Lost. So, there were two primary developers involved in this gun. Fred Humiston and Edwin Pugsley. Both of these guys were very notable folks in the Winchester design area. Pugsley would go on to be just about every level of executive at Winchester and was phenomenally important to the company. Both of them, together, would also have a hand in the M1 Carbine development as well as many other Developmental projects at Winchester. Pugsley, specifically, patented the firing mechanism. Humiston was probably responsible for the barrel and receiver setup. Now, there are… What makes this gun interesting is, well, aside from the fact it’s kind of the only early American anti-tank rifle, We didn’t, didn’t really have one of those during World War I. But, it’s got a really interesting unlocking mechanism. Did actually come with a box magazine, apparently five rounds, And the cartridge that this was designed for, you can see it’s a single feed magazine here, They started working on this rifle when the cartridge still existed as a rimmed cartridge And at that point, the first version of it that I’m aware of was, like, a 508 grain bullet at 3,000 feet per second, Which I would expect would have made quite the effective anti-tank round with the proper projectile design. That’s a big projectile and that’s a very high muzzle velocity. Later developments actually reduced the muzzle velocity and increased the weight. It dropped down to something like a 707 grain bullet moving at between 2,450 and 2,600 feet per second. The design was then revamped to get rid of the rim and make it a rimless cartridge, Which is, of course, how the .50 ended up. And this rifle was apparently redesigned for the rimless cartridge and then development stopped. So, exactly how many of these were made, I don’t know. What’s interesting about this one is that at some point it had a catastrophic failure Because the bottom of the receiver is completely fragmented apart and I’ll show you that when we take a closer look. It is a bolt action rifle with the pistol grip acting as the bolt handle. So you pull it back like that. And then… Lock it into place, which it doesn’t want to do for some reason. There we go. That is how you would cycle the gun. You had a magazine of five rounds at hand. The magazine is actually offset. This is not a particularly easy gun to get on stands here. The magazine is offset to one side. There is a nice iron sight here, this is a duplicate of the Model of 1917 sight which makes sense, because Winchester was making those rifles. So, you’ve got your flip-up adjustable sight there. They also put this rail on, mounted onto the magazine well, and this would fit a scope. There is actually a period picture of this rifle In an office in the Winchester offices, And it’s shown with a telescopic sight here, and it’s also shown mounted to the tripod for a Winchester 18… Or a Browning 1895 Machine Gun. Anyway, why don’t we take a closer look at this and I’ll show you some of the interesting details to its construction. Alright, taking a closer look at the firing mechanism. Kind of interesting here, they appeared to have used basically the rough frame for a 1911 pistol, ‘Cause, hey, that probably would have been available at the time. Pair of 1911 grips on it. We have a manual safety right there. Drop it down, Pretty obvious that it’s blocking the trigger, that’s safe; That is fire. And then to cycle the action, You rotate This handle up, Pull the bolt back, You’ve got an ejector right there, it’s gonna kick your cartridge out. Magazine is sitting in here, So when you push this forward, That cycles your next round and then we just push this against The firing pin spring, Lock it down. Now it’s ready to fire. Now the firing mechanism Is clever and interesting. This is a kind of gun that you really do not want to fire out of battery. You never do, but on something this powerful, it would really be a bad day, So Pugsley came up with this really clever way to Separate the trigger from the actual firing and ensure, very positively, That you couldn’t fire this out of battery. So, in order to show you that, I am actually going to Disassemble the gun, pull this out, and show you up close. Now, in order to take this apart, we need to take the buttstock off, I do that by lifting up this lever… There we go. Flip that all the way back and then… I can just… Wiggle the stock Right off the back. So, this is nothing but a buttstock, It sets on the end of the receiver cap, And it’s got a semicircular cutout there to allow it to come on and off. Now with that out of the way, I can unlock the bolt, Pull it back, And pull it clean out of the gun. So, this whole thing is one solid piece. When I’m rotating the pistol grip here, I’m actually rotating the entire bolt and its locking lugs. So, this is very much a Mauser-style bolt, we’ve got a big long Mauser-style extractor here. And two large locking lugs on the front. This stem of the pistol grip, AKA bolt handle, acts as a third sort of a safety lug. So this won’t, if you, for some reason, had these two locking lugs shear off, which is kind of inconceivable, But the stem here would prevent the bolt from coming out the back of the action. Now, I mentioned the trigger; So, you can see That stub right there. When I pull the trigger, That lifts up And then the disconnector trips, And it drops back down. When this whole thing is going into the action, we have a Cocking piece back here, And when it fires, that drops down. Again, this is very much Mauser-like. Firing pin is exposed. So, how do we connect That To the actual gun working? To this, dropping? Well, we have an extra bit in the receiver. When you pull the trigger, That piece that goes up pushes on this lever, That lever, you can see right there inside the receiver, Drops down; That piece is what holds The firing pin, the striker, back. So, when this Lever is pushed, that releases the striker And fires the action. However, Because of how it’s located here, You can’t do that unless The trigger, The grip, Is all the way locked in place. If this isn’t fully locked, There’s nothing To put tension on this, Hence, you can’t fire it out of battery. Now, the magazine well, also pretty simple. Just a big box. We’ve got a Magazine catch lever here. This, the only surviving magazine which, by the way, does not have its Internal components Would fit Right like that. It’s pretty stiff, so I’m not gonna try jamming it in there, but You get the idea. Now, on that magazine well, they have mounted this piece with two flat surfaces, These flat surfaces act as scope mount points which They did, at least as an experimental thing, they did put a scope on this rifle. Whether it would have had that in the field or not, who knows? It never got that far, so, who knows? Now, if you remember that full long name that I gave this thing, or that Winchester gave this thing, they did call it a Swivel Rifle, And the reason for that is this was to be mounted on Trunnions on a tripod, or on a vehicle or, this was not intended to be, At least not in this form, Fired from the shoulder or perhaps even fired from a bipod. And you had this spring, so all three of these pieces are movable. You had a rear trunnion here, a spring, and then a front collar. The front collar comes in, compresses this spring to about here, And then that collar is tightened down. And then when the gun fires, The gun is able to slide backwards inside this Collar. Thus absorbing some of the very considerable recoil that this would have had. So, that’s why they would call it a swivel gun. This collar doesn’t rotate, so the gun is kept Vertically upright, but it does slide back and forth. Now, I said this had a catastrophic failure at some point. We can see that Pretty blatantly right here, this whole front section of the receiver Is heavily, is cracked in two. At some point, someone fired this and it basically went kaboom. Now, what’s interesting is the locking lugs didn’t give out, Those are still intact, you can still lock the bolt in place just fine. However, the actual body of the receiver tube Is what gave way. Yeah, someone had a bad day when that… When that event happened. So, this was pretty much the end, as far as I can tell, of a very short-lived US anti-tank rifle program right at the end of World War I. Thanks for watching, guys! I hope you enjoyed the video, I certainly really appreciate being able to take a look at this One-of-a-kind, very interesting early American anti-tank rifle. If you’d like to take a look at more guns like this, some just fantastic prototypes, I would strongly encourage you to come up to Cody, Wyoming Check out the Cody Firearms Museum, which is part of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This is one of, if not the best firearms museums in the United States. Tune in again next week to more anti-tank rifles from ForgottenWeapons.com.

100 thoughts on “Prototype Winchester WW1 .50 Cal Antitank Rifle

  1. I would assume there wasn't a lot of demand for this item as the Germans only produced 20 tanks during the war and captured and repurposed around the same number of allied tanks. So this rifle was produced to deal with a non-existent problem.

  2. Interesting, cool design, can someone oil that thing? As I watched you try to disable it it gave you a hard time.
    Were is the curator of weapons?
    Dude, RAGS AND OIL!
    GREAT VIDEO.

  3. I have 5 .50 cal bullet casings dated 1911 and 1914 (at least that is what the casing says on the back). Did any weapons in that time use this bullet? The bullets were manufactured by FNB (FN Herstal) except the 1911 one that one says IVI on the back (or I^I) it has the exact same dimensions as a 50. BMG which I assume it is

  4. Silly writers, you may think a gun no longer exists but someone has at least one stashed away in their collection.

  5. They had a .50cal sniper in WWII that was bolt action take down and was a two man team rifle. the second gut carried half of the rifle and was the bipod during shooting if you couldn't find a good tree. Was still in use in 1979 for support units. I was assigned as gunner for the one for 4th S& T battalion.

  6. How hard would it be to accidentally hit that firing lever with your thump while you're trying to swing the grip into locked position?
    That could explain the catastrophic failure.

  7. When that bolt is out of the gun, it looks like something out of Star Wars. It's big enough to be a handgun in and of itself.

  8. At first, I thought there was something off with the rifle in the thumbnail; I didnt realize the pistol grip also doubled as the rifle’s bolt.

  9. I imagine Ian sending the writer a picture of this with himself behind it in a shirt open seductive car ad esk pose

  10. Seeing the 1911 grip and the way the action is cycled, imagine how cool it would be if you could remove the grip and it's a fully functional 1911

  11. This looks like the tuskan raider's rifle from star wars, it was a unknown caliber projectile weapon used by sandpeople

  12. Have you ever tried to do any reports on the R.W. Norton (Shreveport, LA) gun collection?
    They have a small number of fantastic guns on display at the Norton Art Gallery. Borchardt(sp?) pistols, tround (triangular round) pistol/rifle, rare titanium pistols and lots more. The Norton personal collection is vast but they only keep a few dozen at the museum.
    Normal people can't get onto the Norton mansion grounds but I'd bet that you could arrange it. They're nice people, but heavily guarded and if you come within a few hundred yards of their compound, big commando looking guys in suits will meet you in seconds.
    I wish you'd get in there for us.

  13. Wow….wonder way the dint use…say 1897..model pump design and go 50 cal….proably rimfire concept…..here's a million dollar idea….why dint barret make the 50 in a pump for mat…..???? All kinds of answers i guess !!!😁😁😁🙈🙉🙊🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  14. The grip (hand grip) has a near appearance (shape, angle and what looks to me size) of our current AR grip. Just happened to catch mt eye and again, by shear appearances only.

  15. You could make hamburger with that thing. Just shoot a deer, get yourself some cheese and ketchup, and voila: IT'S BURGER TIME!!!

  16. I realize this is a minor point posted long after the video first came out, but at the distance of watching the video, the magazine looks to be a double-column single position feed, rather than a single column, and looks to be more the dimensions of the 10-round magazine for the M8C spotting rifle than of the 5-rounder for the Boys AT Rifle. Is it possible to compare the dimensions among these?

  17. I could imagine a big American walking down a German trench blasting multiple little blondies down with each shot in a Tarantino movie. The irony? The big American is of German decent. Full circle death. Evil returns to kill evil

  18. I wonder what Ian thinks about being called gun jesus? I wonder how much he has learned over the years from doing forgotten weapons? I thought I knew alot about guns but to have the name gun jesus I couldn't come close to that lol.

  19. If you run out of ammo, just grab it by the barrel and start swinging it around like a baseball bat. You could take out half a platoon of bayonet charging Germans.

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