Famous Firearm Flops

Show Notes

On today’s show with GunBroker.com, we’re talking famous firearm flops! Guns that had huge potential to change the industry, but just could never gain the steam. We start off with the Colt Model 1855 Revolving Rifle, which was a super interesting concept, but design flaws kept it from really taking off. One of the biggest problems was cased ammunition not being invented yet, as well as manufacturing issues straight from the factory. Now, remade with a modern take in the Heritage Rancher Carbine, these guns have gained some popularity and there’s still one common problem, no one knows how to hold them when shooting!

Next up, we delve into the 1960s, The Great Space Race! Astronauts, rockets, and Gyrojet Rocket Pistols! A rocket fuel powered firearm that was extremely complex and awesome, but just too early for its time. Arguably one of the best names for a handgun ever, it was hammer fired, but the hammer was in front of the cartridge that then drove it into the firing pin. The downside is that you didn’t get your maximum velocity until the bullet was downrange.

The Remington Model R51 had an absolute fantastic lead up to its launch, tons of good content and marketing hype that really made this gun a must have, but there was a downside? The gun was subpar at best. Different from the original R51, it was unfortunately a complete flop for Remington, who swiftly buried any evidence of its existence under the rug. A great conversation piece in firearm history, however, they can be picked up for a fantastic deal on GunBroker.com.

Closing out, we talk about the Heckler & Koch G11. Caseless ammunition has stumped manufacturers for years and with the H&K G11, it was no exception. Ahead of its time, with a large failure to launch these guns are extremely hard to find, however other caseless ammunition does sometimes pop up on GunBroker.com. Still to this day the caseless ammunition has not been figured out or mastered, hopefully one day in the future! Allen goes over some of the examples of these guns and ammunition you can find today on GunBroker.com.

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Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi everyone, and welcome to the No Lowballers podcast. I'm Logan Medish of High Caliber History, your host. I'm joined around the table by folks from GoWild and GunBroker. com. And today's topic is quite alliterative. We're talking about famous firearm flops. Say that five times fast. It's too early. Yeah, it is too early.

It's what, only about 9am? There's not enough coffee. Yeah famous firearm flops, things that had huge marketing efforts put around them or if not a huge marketing effort, at least something that was really interesting and had the potential to change the industry, and just didn't. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So did communism. Hey, on paper. Yeah, it looks great scrawled on a bar room napkin. When you wake up the [00:01:00] next morning,

yeah what is this anyway? So including one that was fueled by rocket power. Yes. We have rocket power, which is what we need today. Cause it's early and we're trying to get going. But we'll start earlier than that with firearm flops. And it's one that you might not. expect because it comes from a big name that was doing a lot in the 19th century, a lot of innovative stuff.

We're talking about Colt and, I've heard of them. You've heard of them. Yeah. Yeah. Little company up in Connecticut. They made a little bit of a splash, they're an up and comer, keep an eye on them. Yeah. Keep an eye on them. It's a bit of a sleeper on gun broker right now.

You can pick them up, for a decent price. No, so Colt, he gives us, you can't say the first revolver because it wasn't but the first commercially viable revolver. And then of course, later on after Sam is dead, we've got the single action army and the 1911 and all these stuff, Colt's got big name stuff that comes out.

But one of the things that comes out during Sam's lifetime that flops [00:02:00] is a revolving rifle. And it's the model 1855. And the concept is neat. And you actually see them today. I think, is it Heritage? Heritage, Carbine Rancher. Yep. Okay. Yep. And, but you can find those on Gunbird. I don't know if you can find a 55 revolving rifle.

Maybe they pop up every now and then. I didn't see one in my search. I took a quick look the other day and I did not see one pop, which didn't shock me terribly. Sure. Yeah, but the concept behind it is, it's taking the revolver that Sam Colt had come up with the black powder muzzleloading, percussion revolver, and taking it into a long gun package, if you will and so It's an interesting concept, again if it works it's a big plus, right?

And Sam was taking a gamble, because in 1855, all of your long arms that are viable are muzzleloaders. And they're single shot muzzleloaders. And so if you can get something with a [00:03:00] revolving cylinder giving you multiple shots out of that's... That's a big damn deal, right? You know whether it's going to be in a pistol caliber or not which it was because that was part of your limitations with them, but It had huge potential and it just had a failure to launch Which is a little disappointing.

So what do you think contributed to that failure? design flaws really and some of them some of the design flaws are inherent to the gun and other design flaws are because it was a product of its time. Yeah. If case to ammunition had existed that point, it would have had a better chance.

I'm still not sure it would have succeeded, right? But it would have had a better chance. Having the powder and the primer contained would have been a big deal. One of the biggest problems with black powder and tamping it in, you leave, if you leave a little residue in the barrel and you fire off cylinder one and a little spark, it's in cylinder two chain fire.

Now you've got. And one's going down a barrel, one's going into the frame, one's going out the side, the fact that cased ammunition [00:04:00] didn't exist yet was a big problem, but not the only problem. Beyond that, you have the manufacturing limitations in the 1850s. As you can imagine, That's a complex design.

The revolvers themselves, as Sam was doing, he had that kind of down pat, but when you have to scale up, quite literally, the size of that gun, and add that to your line, it's, it just, the gun became so much more complex, and it became a whole different monster. It was not just as easy as adding, pointing an expansion ray at it and scaling up.

A 51 Navy and putting a shoulder stock on it, the manufacturing was different and they were fragile, quite frankly, the guns were not the most sturdy built pieces of equipment out there and they're cumbersome, and damn, if they don't look weird and let's just be honest, people tend to be hesitant to buy new things If they look too weird, not me, weirder, the better.[00:05:00]

Yeah. I heard somebody wants to explain it as the show of its time, because since the magazine essentially is open with the revolver and rifles, typically, riding scabbards, they get a little more beat up, a little more dirty than say your revolver does encased in a proper holster.

So now you've also got all kinds of crud going into the chambers. So potential. Plug fires are just moisture getting in. So you have misfires dirt and magazines just don't get along well. Yeah. And you were, if your stock cracks, now you've just got essentially a very early pre bunt line, you've got a pistol with a gigantic, carbine length barrel and no, no stock to fire it from.

So it just, it was one of those. It's a great idea on paper and, but it was just too early. For its time, the ammunition technology wasn't there, the manufacturing technology wasn't there, but now, 170 years later Heritage is doing them with theirs and I think those do fairly well.

That's the oddity now. They [00:06:00] look cool. Yeah, exactly. They do look cool I don't have one. Do you have one? I don't but I want to throw out one of the complaints that people have about this design is They don't know how to fire it. You come up, right? Huh. Your support hand, there's a little hook on the Heritage, and I believe there's one on the other one we're talking about.

You actually have to hold it like this. You gotta get powder berms inside your arms, exactly. That's not natural. Sure. With a carbine. Sure. Those ergonomics have thrown people off, and they're just like, tar a circuit judge, no thanks. Yeah, no. Yeah. And that's, that ties into Alan's point of bringing up.

If you get a chain fire, if you've got your hand forward, now you're risking shooting yourself in the hand. At least shrapnel. Yeah. You're going to catch something going down range in your hand. And then of course you've got the barrel heating up that your hands in there. So yeah, it just that's a great point that I didn't even think about was the ergonomics of it.

Just no bueno. No. Just no. So we can then [00:07:00] move it will move about a hundred years or so into the future, a little further than a hundred years into the future. And we'll talk about something that was really cool. I thought and fit. Perfectly for the time period in which it was created.

The 1960s, we've got the space race going on. Astronauts are cool. Rockets are cool. Tang is cool. Powdered orange juice. Tang is always cool. Yeah. It's not cool anymore. Oh, nevermind. Sorry. I've got. Distracted different podcast. There's no couch here. Hey, I'm not the first one to make that mention.

Brad did it in a different episode. Anyway. No, that Tang is cool. I haven't had Tang in a long time. That is a good orange drink, but anyway, wow. We are way off topic. Space race, rockets, rocket fuel jets, gyro jets which are a really interesting firearms concept that came out. in the 60s.

Who wants to tell us about gyrochats? At the end of the day, it's a rocket gun, the cartridge itself was a self contained little block of solid rocket fuel that [00:08:00] had little directional holes cut in the side, just like a spacecraft needs little bursts of gas to steer it. The gyro jet that was its propulsion system.

It would project it down the barrel. It would also add the stabilizing spin to it. Super cool concept. Super complex cartridge, super complex ignition system. And frankly, the gun didn't look space age enough to be fair. It looked a little industrial, but, really cool museum pieces, cool to think about, but I think, again, it was a product of just too early for its times.

Yeah. I just don't know if the manufacturing, because you have to think about those little directional jets have got to be drilled into your cartridge case perfectly, because that's where your accuracy is coming from. If they're even just the tiniest, milradian off, it's gonna impact your spin, you're gonna now get wobble, and you're gonna be all over the place accuracy wise, which Is basically what we saw happen.

And we saw with a lot of early rockets that went up and went spirally and came down and didn't do what they were supposed to do. Exactly. By far, the best name for a handgun ever. It's up there. It is. It's [00:09:00] definitely up there. It's pretty good. It is pretty good. And you're right, Alan, to your point about the ammo.

I'm actually fortunate. I've got a couple of the rounds and they've got, they had different types of holes in the bottom, so you see one of them's got two holes, one of them's got four holes, and you you had different idea concepts behind how they were gonna get things to stabilize and, But to me, one of the most interesting parts about this gun is actually how it fires.

It's a hammer fired design, but it's backwards. The hammer is actually in front of the nose of the cartridge. And so the hammer comes up and smacks the nose and drives it back Into the firing pin and then as it takes off out of the barrel it pushes the hammer down to reset it But what that means is that it's got a slow burn as it's coming out.

So it is not reaching its maximum [00:10:00] velocity till it's down range a bit of a ways. As we talked about on the muzzleloader episode that you know, that now that lock time, that long lock time between hammer and fire that's an accuracy killer. Sure. But interesting story, I understand the space shuttle fired the same way, the big hammer just dropped it down and yeah, absolutely.

That's exactly how they did it. And early on, did you know they actually had a guy sitting up top there on the tower with a ball peen hammer? He just wow, on top of Apollo 11. And that's what set it off into space. Yeah. So there's no expansion in this bullet. No, it's just yeah. It is what it is.

Yep. It is straight up rocket and there's no there, there's no need for any kind of an ejection port or anything on the gun because everything is going down the barrel. This solid piece, it is a reloaders nightmare because there's nothing to reload. You're not getting anything back. There's no picking up brass on the range with one of these.

So what was their original intent for use? Was this a Military option? Do you really need a practical use? I don't need a practical reason to [00:11:00] launch little mini rockets. I don't know if the hope was to get government sales or if it was just they were doing something cool for the sake of doing something cool.

I really don't know. I couldn't I couldn't tell you for sure. I think at some point someone went, Hey, I've got an idea of how to make a rocket powered handgun. And everyone around the table went, Yeah. And actually, can you think of the marketing genius, if it had worked, if you could have put one in the hands of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin one small step. Pew!

That would have been awesome. That would have been marketing gold. If the gun had really taken off but they didn't. And they just, yeah, they were really cool. They were used in James Bond. There was a carbine version in addition to the handgun version. And so one of those was used in one of the James Bond films.

I can't remember which off the top of my head. But but they do look cool. But yeah, they're not quite as space agey as maybe they could look. Personally, I think a more cool space age [00:12:00] y piece that actually predated this was the Dardic that fired the triangles, yeah, and those are neat, and I thought that looks more space age y than that, but, it is what it is, time marches on, we move on, time marches in all sorts of different directions. So let's, before we get to that one, let's actually jump back a little bit and talk about something a little earlier again. The Remington R 51. And no, initially we're not talking about the gun from... like 2014. Because we are talking about famous firearm flops.

And we'll get to that. But but let's talk about a famous firearm success because the R51 actually was originally a really cool gun, a really cool design. And in its day, it did pretty well. Yeah. It was basically Remington's answer to the Walther PPK. It was a fixed barrel. Used, we always hear about the Peterson device from the M1 area, but John Patterson.

Yep. Yep. So it's the same. Same gem, but with the recoil spring around the barrel it was a really smart [00:13:00] design. The breech block was in the slide as opposed to the frame like usual. So the original R 51 was a pretty, pretty successful little pocket pistol. It's a 380 originally, right? I believe so.

Yeah. Yeah, which, not, in its day, not an anemic cartridge, was definitely a solid self defense choice in the post World War I era. And, a John Pedersen was a great designer. The World War I Pedersen device was a great, Thing it was a really cool design.

Unfortunately, we didn't end up needing it because there was no spring 1919 offensive in World War one But he was a great designer. He had a great career and actually at one point Later in John Moses Browning's life Browning actually hailed Pettersen as the greatest firearms designer of our time that's high praise coming from st.

Browning so it's, there, there was potential, and which unfortunately cost us the chance to have history's greatest rap battle ever, but that would [00:14:00] be hilarious. Oh my God. Great. But who do you think would win? Browning was a man of few words, but I don't know Patterson well enough, but, maybe John Browning would spin.

Bit mad fat Ryan. He's you never know that's maybe that was his secret thing He would sit out in the workshop at night tinkering on stuff. Just laying them out there, man I don't know who knows but they would have saved all the swear words though for the modern iteration of the r50 Oh god, all the swear words for the modern iteration.

You know my background would have passed on the swear words I'm from that country. Trust me And he would have passed on the more modern R51 too, he would have been like, Pedersen did not design that one. The R51 is just such a dichotomy because, from my perspective, I'm from the PR marketing background side, it was a fantastic product launch.

Remington went all out. I know my colleagues and I watched this launch and we're like, oh man, we steal our little bits and pieces to use in our launches going forward. It was really well done. Big event. All the right writers had it. It was a fantastic launch. [00:15:00] One tiny little problem. The gun sucked.

That, that's, you're being very kind to that gun. Okay. Maybe not kinda. No, it straight up did suck. The handpicked examples that the writers had worked. Which I, do you want to clarify on that? It does happen. Sure. There are companies that will if a writer's getting a pro erotic sample, they will pull one off the line, they'll give it a cleaning, they'll go through it, they make sure it works.

And people figure out what companies do that the really reputable ones the ones that I've always enjoyed working with are they put An order in the system and whatever gun comes off the line that one's going to Cabela's that one's going to Nick's gun shop That one's going to a writer It doesn't matter and that's how it should be exactly really because I think that gives the audience and the readers an actual Representation of what the product is gonna be like.

Yep. And not only that but those are some of the most authentic and enjoyable reviews that I see where it's like, Hey, we got this gun in and it totally tanked. And so we contacted their customer service and we sent it back and they worked on it and we [00:16:00] got back. And now as far as like that's cool.

I actually enjoy reading a review like that because then, damn that they didn't get something that was cherry picked. They had a problem, just like you and I could have had a problem with. It also tells me that the company's gonna back it up. It tells me the company's got good customer service.

It tells me that they're willing to learn and listen. Yeah I agree. I li I like from a, just a consumer standpoint, I'd like to see those as well. Yeah, it was the PR guy. I want everything to work great out of the gate and be the most fantastic experience they've ever had. But, life is, life sometimes doesn't always go that way.

Where in this case, every consumer, it seemed like every consumer, at least who picked up a model 51 had, and it was a variety of problems. Oh yeah. Yeah. It wasn't just one issue. The gun just had a bunch of little issues. And I think that's part of the problem of taking a tried and true older firearm design and you don't just bring it back, but you try to modernize it and make it better.

And, sometimes newer isn't always better. And. And that's what they found out with that R51. But you talk about they had that amazing marketing [00:17:00] genius for the launch. They did an amazing marketing disappear on it, too, because, I went to the Great American Outdoor Show in February of that year, and that was their entire booth.

It was huge. It was R51. That's all their guys wanted to talk about, and it was cool. I was sold on it. But then, two, three months later, I go to the NRA show and like. All of it's gone and like none of it, like it, like the men in black, they just zapped it. And none of the guys would even talk to me about it.

Sorry, R51. Oh yeah. That's the error code when your car's low on refrigerant. Yeah. Yeah. Air conditioning system. Or they're like, Oh yeah, that was the gun that John Petterson designed back in 1918. I'm like, no dude, the one from last week, and they just wouldn't engage. So they, So I'm assuming you can get a killer deal on one of those if you find one on Gun Broker.

That's a great point. Yes and no. So if you're looking for the original, they're not listed often. Really rare. I've seen a couple going, going back into the archives a little bit. Still looking around for about 600 bucks, which, for a early 20th century pocket [00:18:00] 380s, not. Terrible. No. Magazines, of course, are the sticking point.

They're really hard to find. And that's always, as one instructor I know calls a semi auto a bottom feeder, because that's where 90 percent of your function problems are in a magazine. If you want one of the new versions. First of all, why? Some people are gluttons for punch. And some people might live in really windy areas and they need lots of paperweights.

I'm just imagining the baseball card world. The cards that had the error on there. Those are the more valuable ones. This was the Billy Ripken one with the writing on the grip of the bat. Okay, that's what this was. You can get the new ones, they're listed for 300. I say that because they're not selling for 300.

They're not selling, so I can't really tell you what the... The valuation would be, but, they're listing for three and sitting. So we weren't smart enough to look up what the original MSRP was before the show, because it would be interesting to know. It's definitely less, definitely more than what they're listing for right now.

So listen, if you want a piece of firearms history. You can get into it and someday we're [00:19:00] going to look back on this. We're already starting to as a bit of historical piece. Probably not the one that the Remington of that day would like us to think of it as, but if you do want something that stands out, that is a good conversation piece that, you want to take to the range and work and get to tell everyone the story of it.

Fantastic. You can get into them pretty, pretty inexpensively. Yeah, because the new ones are now what? Nine millimeter. I believe so. Yeah. Which was another one of the problems upsizing from a 380 to a nine mil, even though you're only going up one millimeter in case size, just that particular jump. It's never one millimeter.

It's so much more than that. It is insane. The difference that has to go into designing a manufacturing, a 380 versus a nine millimeter. You wouldn't think so, but there's just something about that particular window. Where it just takes that one little tick. It's a tipping point for so many things from pressure, from dimensions, from stresses, from it's really hard to upsize those, but you're right.

From the historic standpoint, it is going to be really neat. And especially cause that's how I, that's how I make my living is looking at things from the historic [00:20:00] standpoint and it won't be long before it will be very cool to, to take a Pedersen. R 51 and a failed R 51 and doing a compare and contrast and talking about them and looking at the historic aspects of both at that point.

We still remember the Studebagger. We still remember the Edsel. We still remember, the cars that were great for being junk. So someday, I think the R51 will be in that spot. So I guess what I'm saying is now's the time to get your collector's item. Get your historical item.

If you want that safe queen that you're never going to shoot, I would recommend an R51. But you not really fair to call it a safe queen because a safe queen is a gun that you choose not to shoot. It's not that the gun chooses not to shoot, and. So that'd be more a safe princess then?

There you go. Yeah we'll jump really quickly and we'll talk about a little bit of Kraut Space Magic, the HKG 11, which is a very interesting firearm with caseless ammunition. I so wish that one had been a success because that was the, again, on [00:21:00] paper, such a cool idea. Yeah, it really was.

And, but caseless ammo is something that has plagued arms manufacturers for 150 plus years. I thought the muzzleloader did, the musket did pretty well for caseless ammunition, but... But I think to call a muzzleloader caseless ammunition, that's a little bit cheating, the idea for true caseless ammunition is that your powder and everything is actually attached to your projectile.

Which, of course, is not the case with a muzzleloader. But that was something that had been tried for a long time. The potential benefits are huge. Some of the most complex design of a semi automatic firearm is the extraction of... and the reloading. You take the extraction part out of it so you no longer have to grab now the hot expanded sticky case and pull out and throw away, and you just have to feed in from a magazine.

Most of our firearms failures, yeah, you get failed feeds, but most, at least in my experience, are almost always failed to extracts. Stove pipes or short stroking or whatever, and you take all of that out of the equation, [00:22:00] you're bringing down the complexity, you're bringing down the cost. Theoretically okay.

For the gun, the ammo, it's like the Keurig. Sure. We'll give you a gun, but you gotta buy the ammo. And cost, you're right. That was one of the things, it was the manufacturing complexity and the cost. And it just ahead of its time. We've talked a lot in this episode about things being ahead of its time.

And that was certainly one of those instances. But because it had a failure to launch a G11 is not something that you're going to find on gunbroker. com. But you can find examples of caseless ammunition on there. In fact, like I've seen like the Daisy VL rounds you can buy some of those in there from the Daisy BB companies, one and only real firearm that.

was only in production for a short period of time that they had to quit making because they didn't have a firearms license. That's a whole other interesting story. Now that is a failure. That is a extreme collectors piece. I'm assuming if you get your hands on one of those, they're cool, man, they're really cool.

But but yeah, the ammo pops up a lot more frequently than the guns. I've got [00:23:00] some of the ammo. At home, I do not own one of the guns, but it's a whole cool story there in that in that piece. But yeah, caseless ammo, it is something that is still baffling the arms world to this day. We have yet to figure out how to perfect it.

Today is not that day. Tomorrow doesn't look good either. But for you, one caseless ammo, you can find though on gunbroker is the gyrojet. Yes, I was actually stunned. I took a quick look. We've got multiple listings for him. Surprisingly affordable, 3, 000 to 4, 000, which for the history and, something as cachet as a gyrojet, I thought that was a really good price.

Yeah. And about half the listings come with ammo. I would not recommend trying to fire it, but it can happen. does come with it? I will tell you, about half of the listings come with ammo and about half of the ammo actually fires. I can tell you that from personal experience. I've had the opportunity to pull the trigger and the, it just degrades over time and they've got about a 50 50 shot of it actually going off.

Does it sound different? When it's [00:24:00] fired? Yes, it does. And I really can't describe it. It doesn't have quite that same crack. It's because there's a whole different kind of ignition thing. And, they do sound different when they work. And opposed to the sonic crack coming right at the muzzle because it's getting up to speed, the sonic boom is a little further down.

Yeah, and they're cool. You can actually watch if you look at them from the back because it's that rocket fuel, you can actually see the flame coming out the back as they're spinning. Somebody please bring them back. Yeah. Please. Yes. Yeah they're really cool but they just they just failed to take off, they just were a flop.

Which is something that this episode. is not. It is not a flop. This has been a lot of fun talking about famous firearm flops around the table with you guys and with you guys at home listening. We appreciate everyone tuning in to the show. If you're not subscribed to the show on your favorite platform, please do that.

Leave us a review, some likes, some comments talk to us about the stuff. There are other flops out there. Let us know what your [00:25:00] favorite firearm flop is that we didn't cover. Because we'd love to hear about it and who knows, maybe it'll find its way into the next episode, but we're not customer service.

We can't fix it. Just tell us about it. Yeah, exactly. That's a very important distinction to make. All right, guys. Thanks for tuning into this episode of the no low ballers podcast. We will see you right here on the next episode.