The Schwarzlose Model 1908
A Blow-Forward Slide? How’s That Again?
Here’s a name to remember: Andreas Wilhelm Schwarzlose. Way back in 1898, his first pistol had a turning-bolt locking system and a hold-open after the last shot. Many years later, both features were used in the marvelous Auto-Mag, the Desert Eagle and the Wildey. In 1902, he designed one of the first successful heavy machineguns. Finally, in 1908, there was a compact .32 Auto pistol of very unusual design.
The breech face was a solid part of the frame, and in the firing sequence, the combined barrel and slide went forward, not to the rear. A fixed extractor held the fired case, and, in effect, the chamber was pulled away from it. A lug on the barrel-slide unit kicked out the empty and started the next round from the magazine, to be chambered as the unit came back to the rear.
The Schwarzlose Model 1908 was a “blow-forward” design! In this posed photo with an inert round,
the slide/barrel unit is coming back from forward position to scoop the cartridge into the chamber.
This “blow-forward” system is not often seen in auto-pistol design. I can think of a couple — the Japanese Hino-Komuro, and one early Mannlicher. Firing the Schwarzlose with regular .32 Auto rounds, the solid breech-face makes the felt recoil a little brisk. An odd little aftershock occurs as the barrel-slide unit returns to the rear.
My Schwarzlose has never failed to function perfectly. The forward-located grip safety can be locked out of operation via a latch on the left side. In 1911, the firm sold the manufacturing rights (and the remaining parts) to Warner Arms Corporation of Norwich, Conn., and they made it in the US for a short time. The original German pistols are notable for a marking on the right side of the frame, a nice rendition of the Schwarzlose machine gun!
By J.B. Wood