Pedersen Selfloading Rifle at RIA

When the US military decided to seriously look at replacing the 1903 Springfield with a semiautomatic service rifle, two designers showed themselves to have the potential to design an effective and practical rifle. One was John Garand, and the other was John Pedersen. Pedersen was an experienced and well-respected gun designer, with previous work including the WWI “Pedersen Device” that converted a 1903 into a pistol-caliber semiauto carbine and the Remington Model 51 pistol, among others.

Pedersen’s rifle concept used a toggle locking mechanism similar in concept to the Borchardt and Luger pistols, but designed to handle the much higher pressure of a rifle cartridge. Specifically, the .276 Pedersen cartridge, which pushed a 125 grain bullet at about 2700 fps. Both Pedersen’s rifle and the contemporary prototypes of the Garand rifle used 10-round en bloc clips of this ammunition. Ultimately, Pedersen lost out to Garand. Among the major reasons why was that his toggle action was really a delayed blowback mechanism, and required lubricated cartridges to operate reliably. Pedersen developed a hard, thin wax coating process for his cartridge cases which worked well and was not prone to the problems of other oil-based cartridge lubricating systems, but Ordnance officers still disliked the requirement. This combined with other factors led to the adoption of the Garand rifle. After losing out in US military trials, Pedersen still had significant world-wide interest in his rifle, and the Vickers company in England tooled up to produce them in hopes of garnering contracts with one or more other military forces. About 250 rifles were made by Vickers, but they failed to win any contracts and production ceased – making them extremely rare weapons today.

Pedersen lived until 1951, and was well regarded for his sporting arms development with Remington – none other than John Moses Browning described him as “the greatest gun designer in the world”.