Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol

Today’s post was written by a Swedish reader named Arne Bergkvist, about a very early Swedish automatic pistol I had not been aware of. It is particularly interesting as one of relatively few examples of self-loading firearms designed before the advent of smokeless powder. It never went into serial production, but shows plenty of ingenuity for its time. So without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Arne…

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol

by Arne Bergkvist

Carl Peter Swanström, born on 11 September, 1854 in Älvbacka parish just outside Karlskoga, the city where the BOFORS factory is located. Swanström was an employee from the early 1880s, first as a smith but later as foreman at the gun factory. An accident in the test department took his left arm, but the work with his automatic pistol was finished. Swanström had a grandson who immigrated to United States in the late 1920s and brought both a pistol and shotgun with him. In 1968 his widow got in contact with a well known gun collector and Luger-book author, Harry E. Jones from Torrance California. He purchased the pistol (as well as a shotgun made on the same principles), and the guns have been in the Jones family for 30-40 years now.

Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol
Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol, right side
Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol
Swanström 1882 Automatic Pistol, left side

In 1999, when I for the first time could see and touch, both the pistol and the shotgun was Harry E. Jones not with us anymore. His son Mike Jones, at that time owned and maintained the collection. Harry E. Jones had under the time he owned the pistol, contacted the Army museum in Stockholm and done investigations about Swanström to get the proper information.

The Pistol
Extremely well done, handmade, with a short glance looking like a sawed of Winchester 92. The loading gate is similar as on Winchesters. The finish at the internal parts looks like a Swiss watch. By removing two screws you can divide the pistol in two parts, mechanism and grip.

Swanström broken into two main parts
Swanström broken into two main parts

After divided in two parts you can continue the dismounting by taking out the magazine unit by pulling the magazine tube forward. Now the system is open for inspection and cleaning.

Swanström with magazine tube removed
Swanström with magazine tube and grips removed. Note the lug under the muzzle to allow the barrel to recoil backwards guided by the magazine tube.

Instead of a hammer, the use of a striker take less space, and makes the mechanism behind the feeding elevator less bulky. The barrel-receiver unit will move backwards about 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) every time you pull the trigger. The bolt and barrel are locked together during this recoil by a pair of lever arms, which have square ends locking into the barrel assembly (the recesses in the bolt to fit them are located in the enlarged “bulbs” behind the chamber; see photo below) and round ends that lock into the bolt. Under the bolt on the picture below, you will see one of the locking levers. These levers are pushed open to release the bolt after recoil pushes the whole assembly back far enough. The striker is the “key” for opening the bolt. When striker passes the back part of the locking levers, they press out in the back and the hooks will fall deeper in to the bolt, unlocking from the barrel. After the front part of the levers open up the unit, the bolt continue backwards , throwing out the empty shell, picking up a new round from the elevator and is back in action again.

Swanström bolt mechanism
Swanström bolt mechanism – note the locking lever

The receiver turned up-side-down. Here you can see the square opening for the recoil hooks next to the chamber. At the front of the bolt you can see the recoil hook mounted at the bolt.

Swanström bolt mechanism
Swanström bolt mechanism

At the top of the receiver you can see the bulbs on each side of the bolt, just before the rear sight groove. The barrel is tapered with a steel front sight.

Swanström top view
Swanström top view

Technical Specs

Caliber: 7,5 mm Swiss ordnance 1882
Operating system: Short recoil
Locking system: Delayed blowback
Total length: 298 mm (11.75 in)
Total height 115 mm (4.5 in)
Barrel length 135 mm (5.3 in)
Magazine capacity:5 cartridges
Grips: Wood
Finnish: None; “in the white”
All pictures taken by Mike Jones, Torrance California USA