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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Saw this while web surfing today.

Has anyone here ever heard of the Gabbett-Fairfax Mars?

Gabbett-Fairfax Mars

A Webley-made semiautomatic, it came in several versions, including one that this article says drove a .45 caliber bullet at 1,250 feet per second.
 

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Heard of it, read of it, seen pictures, never seen one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
One fascinating thing, reading a 1902 manual on the page, is how on page 3 it talks about shock and wounding and the theory put forth about bullet types then.

Interesting to see the roots of that whole debate (which has spawned many a discussion and gun zine article) going back that far.

http://www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/manuals/MarsPistolmanual.pdf

The manual also features an article on page 15 that says the original Mars caliber was .400, which makes me wonder if this was the original "10mm Auto?"
 

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The Thompson-LaGarde Tests took place in 1904 so it was very much on the minds of the people who made guns and even more so on the people who used guns. The debate has probably been around as long as guns have.
 

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DavidE,

Then there were at least TWO .45cal autos before the Colt's 1911. - I don't know what it was called but Colt built some .45 autos in the 1900-1905 period as "test pieces". - The USA Infantry Museum has one of them.
(The curator said that he believes that about 50 were built for the tests.- At least a few were actually "sent out to the field" for "on the job tests". - The one at the USAIS looks a little like the Colt's 1903, with a exposed hammer & W/O slide serrations.)

The weapons collection at the Smithsonian's American History Museum in DC is said to have one of the pistols, too.

yours, sw
 

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Savage made the competitor to the Colt in the pistol trials. When the Army asked for x00 pistols for troop trials, Savage didn't bother-or couldn't- make them. This is if the olde memorie banks are still functioning correctly.

I took a brief squint at the article on the Mars. You might want to be suspicious of the claimed velocities. Back in the day, chronographs-or other strange and wonderous devices to determine bullet speed (like ballistic pendulums)- were few and far between and checking up on the claimed velocities wasn't impossible, but might as well have been.
 

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You might want to be suspicious of the claimed velocities.
I am suspicious of the claimed velocities.

My first thought upon reading that was what did they use for propellant? Cordite with 40% nitro?

I've loaded thousands of rounds each of .45ACP, .45 Colt and .44 Magnum and am well aware the kinds of powder required to reach those velocities in Blackhawk/Carbine loads in .45 Colt and .44 Magnum. Such powder didn't exist at the turn of the century. For example H2400 was introduced in 1932 and IMR4227 in 1935. In 1900 you were pretty much limited to Bullseye and Unique or fast burning rifle powders.

If the claimed velocities are accurate, the whinging of the troops who test fired the bloody thing should be well preserved in military lore.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yeah, she doesn't seem to have the most graceful lines.

However I am fascinated looking at their loads, and to see where they were thinking of going then. It's like I can see the problems in the article, and that it may have been complex and heavy, but seeing their philosophy is fascinating.

.400 Mars (Original Load) = 10mm A.K.A. the "Centimenter Cartridge?"
.450 Mars Long = Close to a .44 Magnum strength load.
.450 Mars Short = Close to a .45 ACP I am guessing.
.360 Mars = .357 Magnum or .357 Sig?

I am not saying equal, but if one could replicate the loads today and fire them from, say, a Thompson/Center Contender with equal barrel lengths, it might be neat to compare the Mars rounds listed to those more recent calibers. While the pistol may have had problems they had to work out, it and the ammo are kind of fascinating in that respect.

Also, the idea of a .450 Short being developed from the .450 Long is eerily similar to the development of the .40 Caliber from the 10mm. Maybe I'm reading too much into that but it is neat "what if" stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
I am suspicious of the claimed velocities.

My first thought upon reading that was what did they use for propellant? Cordite with 40% nitro?

I've loaded thousands of rounds each of .45ACP, .45 Colt and .44 Magnum and am well aware the kinds of powder required to reach those velocities in Blackhawk/Carbine loads in .45 Colt and .44 Magnum. Such powder didn't exist at the turn of the century. For example H2400 was introduced in 1932 and IMR4227 in 1935. In 1900 you were pretty much limited to Bullseye and Unique or fast burning rifle powders.

If the claimed velocities are accurate, the whinging of the troops who test fired the bloody thing should be well preserved in military lore.
Very good points, I wonder if any load data is preserved? It might have been rifle powder, I wonder if the Mauser 96 used that, as the Mauser designers applied their rifle knowledge to the Broomhandle? It drove a bullet pretty quick. I'm definitely deferring to your knowledge on the powders available at the time and on what is needed to get slugs of that size to move at that speed.

With Mars load data, one could whip up cartridges and barrels to do some kind of test. That would be no small effort though I am sure.
 

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Very good points, I wonder if any load data is preserved?
I looked through Sharpe for anything resembling the Mars cartridge and didn't find anything. I looked through the load data for .45 Colt and .45ACP for old high performance powders and didn't see anything stand out. Just loads for #5 and #6, SR80, Bullseye and Unique.

Sharpe lists three loads for the Broomhandle using an 86g bullet.
#5 - 5g from Dupont,
Bullseye - 5g from Hercules,
Ballastite - 7g from Hatcher.
 

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Post # 11.

I vaugely remember seeing older .22rf ctgs that was labeled as having something called 'Les smoke' (sp?) as a propellent.

Dunno if ithe powder was available to reloaders.

Maybe it is faded memory. Does anyone remember 'Les smoke'?

salty
 

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It was lesmok

It was used briefly during the transition from black to smokeless powder

It was some evil stuff...highly corrosive... erosive... Not sure, but I don't think it was a reloading component
 

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Another dead end in the development of reliable semi-auto pistols.
Geoff
Who notes even Colt Commercial 1911s had troubles, until the combat pistol characters demanded functional perfection and I still don't trust a system until I have 200+ rounds through it.
 

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I wonder how many early semi-auto designs were based on avoiding / evading John M. Browning patents?
Geoff
Who is always looking for the perfect pistol, which explains my relative poverty, I've regretted selling every gun I ever parted with.
 

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I remember seeing reproductions of turn of the 20th century ads that noted, black powder and semi-smokeless and smokeless powders. I've always kinda wondered exactly what semi-smokeless was. Just the other week reading a european black powder blog, I realized it might have been black powder without the sulfer. Apparently, the sulpher is present to lower ignition temperatures for flint ignition and probably early percussion caps.

The early smokeless powders were erosive, the primers were corrosive-you kids don't know how good you have it.

I really miss a Webley I owned.
 
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