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Old 06-22-2022, 07:50 PM   #1
L.J.Steele
 
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Default Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

I'm working on a hotshot mechanic/engineer for an alternate history game. TL is about 1910-19. What would be state of the art for a genius gunsmith for a personal handgun of the time?
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Old 06-22-2022, 08:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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Originally Posted by L.J.Steele View Post
I'm working on a hotshot mechanic/engineer for an alternate history game. TL is about 1910-19. What would be state of the art for a genius gunsmith for a personal handgun of the time?
Is the character the type to have their own hand-built personal design?

Otherwise:

The German P-08 by Georg Luger was introduced in 1908 and was an excellent weapon. It was powerful, accurate, and reliable, and remained in service for thirty years. Though you might have heard that it is vulnerable to mud and dust, but this appears not to be true. It was eventually replaced in service by the Walther P-38 because that weapon was considerably cheaper to make.

The god of weapons designers working at that time (and for nearly twenty years before and after) was John Moses Browning, Kami-no-smallarms sama, than whom no greater genius of a gunsmith is plausible. His latest designs at that time were (1) the Browning 1910 (later the 1910/22 and Model 1955) in 9mm short (.380 ACP) or 7.65 mm, an excellent pocket pistol that stayed in production for seventy years; and (2) the M1911 US Government model in .45 ACP, a service pistol famous for its durability, that continued in service until 1992. His FN 1903 in 9mm Browning Long was still an outstanding weapon for the time, but was no longer the new hot.

If you want wild and crazy but reasonably effective, you could perhaps go with something like the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver (but that was introduced in 1901) or the Webley self-loading pistol (which was a rival to Browning's M1911 during development, but did not pan out as well).

.

Now, the 1911 was designed together with the .45 ACP cartridge because the US Army had found the .38 Long Colt (a black powder cartridge) underpowered, were skeptical that a .38 or 9mm cartridge using smokeless powder would solve their problem, and insisted on a .45 calibre at minimum (British Army insistence on .455 calibre similarly hampered the Webley self-loading pistol). When Browning did not face that requirement his design for a service pistol was what turned out to be the FN 1935-GP. So if you want to make an alternative-universe equivalent of John Moses Browning you might suppose that about 1910 his hot new handgun was a recoil-operated 9mm Parabellum, very much like the Browning Hi-Power except perhaps for using single-stack magazines and having a magazine capacity of eight or nine rounds. (Double-stack magazines were invented in 1927 by Dieudonné Saive, and represent a tech-level progression in smallarms technology.)
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Last edited by Agemegos; 06-23-2022 at 05:43 AM.
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Old 06-22-2022, 08:45 PM   #3
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

First you pick cartridge. You've mostly got the .45 ACP and the 9mm Parabellum. There are other usable cartiridges but they've either very similar to one of the two above. A warning to take to heart is that you will be choosing from FMJs only. Even if you custom make HPs they won't feed reliably in commercial guns and they won't expand reliably either.

9mm Parabellum ammo might not be commonly available for comercial sale.

Then you pick gun and the M1911 is a very strong contender. My information says that the Luger's complicated toggle bolt mechanism does jam more often and if HANS said the same in every applicable Gurps product I'd take that as close enough.

There are some powerful chamberings in the Mauser C96 in this period including 9mm Parabellum after the War starts. Never sold commercially but that shouldn't stop a perfectionist. If leglaity is an issue there was a 9mm Bergman-Bayard with equivalent stats to the 9mm Parabellum.

You would want to modify the C96 to take detachable magazines instead of relying on stripper clips but that would be pretty straight forward and was sometimes done int h period.

There is jsut on alternative possibility in the revolver line up. If you were shopping from Gurps Adventure Guns you could get a Colt New Service Target revolver in .45 Long Colt w/ ACC 3 and 3D-1 P+ damage.
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Old 06-23-2022, 04:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

Something I've learned from watching a lot of Forgotten Weapons on youtube is that there are basically two reasons for a gun not being commercially successful: (1) it's a bit rubbish, (2) it's great but too expensive. The tricky bit is working out which one applied.

At this era of tech, the firearms superstition that revolvers as a class are more reliable than automatics has been true in living memory, but it isn't true any more. So a character who wants the best available and never mind tradition will probably go for an automatic.

As far as I can tell, 9mm Parabellum is readily available in Germany, fairly available in the rest of Europe until the outbreak of war, and quite rare outside Europe. It doesn't get internationally popular until the end of the war. (May be less relevant in alternate history.)

Which comes down to: I'll also say probably the M1911. Probably not widely available outside the US at this point.

The Webley-Fosbery gives you techie credibility, and it's still in commercial production until 1924 and sold until 1939 (and it shows up in The Maltese Falcon); it's popular with target shooters, and .455 Webley is readily available from the UK. But probably only about 5,000 were made over its production lifetime, while over 68,000 1911s have been delivered to US forces by 1918.
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Old 06-23-2022, 07:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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At this era of tech, the firearms superstition that revolvers as a class are more reliable than automatics has been true in living memory, but it isn't true any more. .
For _some_ semi-automatics it s no longer true. Unreliable semi-automatics will be common for at least another 50 years.

Of course, many of those semi-automatics are in small low velocity calibers but surely no one chooses a Baby Browning for anything other than concealability.
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Old 06-24-2022, 11:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
For _some_ semi-automatics it s no longer true. Unreliable semi-automatics will be common for at least another 50 years.

Of course, many of those semi-automatics are in small low velocity calibers but surely no one chooses a Baby Browning for anything other than concealability.
A few remain in production despite being still unreliable... Jennings' .22LR pistols come to mind. (not just unreliable - a takeaway comes away with the upper receiver rather than the whole weapon...)

And while the 9mmP and the .45 are the best known rounds of the era, the Belgian Nagant was widespread export revolver, including to both Tsarist and Soviet Russia... in 3 different chamberings... 9.4mm (Belgium, Holland), 7.5mm (Luxembourg, Sweeden, Norway, Tsarist Russia), 7.62mm (Soviet licensed). Spain copied it, too. In all of those, as a military sidearm.
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Old 06-23-2022, 10:35 AM   #7
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
At this era of tech, the firearms superstition that revolvers as a class are more reliable than automatics has been true in living memory, but it isn't true any more. So a character who wants the best available and never mind tradition will probably go for an automatic.
There were more types of powerful revolver than powerful semi-automatic pistols available at the beginning of the 20th century. I think this was an issue with steel and tooling. That is not an issue to a gadgeteer, who can design something in 9x19 mm Parabellum, .45 ACP, or one of the similar cartridges which are no longer popular, but a shooter might well end up with a revolver just because none of the pistols they can obtain and trust meet their needs (the Mauser C96 is big, the Colt Government was new and I think it was not immediately commercially available).

I like the idea of something like a Browning HP but with a single-stack magazine.
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Old 06-23-2022, 11:46 AM   #8
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post

I like the idea of something like a Browning HP but with a single-stack magazine.
The closest thing to that is an M1911 in .38 Super Auto. Historically I don't believe it's commercially available until 1929.

Revolvers can be more powerful than semi-automatics because their mechanism is simpler. Try and build areally powerful semi-auto at this stage in the SOTA and you'll get a dubious creation like the Mars Pistol.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Automatic_Pistol

w/stats in Pyramid 3/100.
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Old 06-23-2022, 11:59 AM   #9
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
That is not an issue to a gadgeteer, who can design something in 9x19 mm Parabellum, .45 ACP, or one of the similar cartridges which are no longer popular
Heck, a gadgeteer could do something a little crazy, like making a pistol that fired rifle cartridges. The short barrel length of a pistol would mean not getting as much out of it as a proper rifle, and the weapon would probably be both markedly heavier and have more recoil (higher MinST) than a typical pistol of the day, but it seems like it would be doable. It would either need to be a revolver or have the magazine attach somewhere other than the grip, however (the length of typical rifle rounds of the day was I believe a bit too much to comfortably wrap one's hands around). Revolver is probably the better bet - I'd imagine holstering and carrying around a pistol with a magazine extending out the side/top wouldn't be terribly pleasant.

EDIT: Of course, the real answer is a custom, full-sized pistol chambered in 2mm Kolibri. It should work well so long as you're good enough to hit the eyes (and what self-respecting, gun-toting GURPS character isn't, really?), and you could carry so much ammunition in the magazine of such a weapon.
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Old 06-23-2022, 03:32 PM   #10
L.J.Steele
 
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Default Re: Top Handgun of the early WWI era?

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The Webley-Fosbery gives you techie credibility, and it's still in commercial production until 1924 and sold until 1939 (and it shows up in The Maltese Falcon); it's popular with target shooters, and .455 Webley is readily available from the UK. But probably only about 5,000 were made over its production lifetime, while over 68,000 1911s have been delivered to US forces by 1918.
My dad owned one of these. It's a strong contender.
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