The weirdest magazine that barely was.

Blake En-Bloc

Back in 1892 the U.S. Army held trials for a new service rifle with entrants from around the world.  The ultimate victor was the Krag-Jørgensen but some of the best rifles in the most rapid period of small arms development made an appearance.  One humble entry from a lone inventor was passed over, despite hardly a word of criticism.  This was the Blake Infantry Rifle and it is weird.

The Blake Infantry Rifle

The Blake’s most fascinating features are found in its magazine system.  A soldier loading the rifle would open a large hatch that covers nearly the entire underside of the receiver.  He would take a rotary en-bloc clip, which was fitted with seven .30 Blake cartridges (a rimless clone of the .30-40 cartridge we were forced to use for our example here) from his belt.  Noting only that the cartridges are pointed correctly forward, he would then drop the packet into the action and slam the hatch shut.  No more finesse was necessary as the shape of the door and receiver would direct the en-bloc to the center axis.  If the soldier set the magazine cutoff lever on the left side of the receiver to the “Single” position he could then withdraw the bolt and toss a single loose round atop the loaded magazine, and smoothly chamber it.  He would now, in mere seconds, have eight rounds ready to fire from his service rifle.

Blake-loading

With the cutoff switch set for “Rapid” the rifle will begin to feed from the magazine.  This is accomplished by a unique mix of classic revolver and bolt action systems.  As the bolt is drawn back, it engages a sear that lifts a pawl to index the revolving clip.  The clip then presents the next loaded cartridge which is feed directly into the chamber by the returning stroke of the bolt. Because the single shot setting disengages the rotation, the shooter may switch modes at will without any disorder.

Despite some strong advantages the Blake was not adopted by the Army, Navy, or even the state of New York’s militia.  Instead it was marketed as a sporting rifle where it enjoyed little success.  Anyone who would like to know more about this odd rifle can learn more about it here.

 

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Othais

Othais is practically useless with modern firearms. That’s OK though, because he specializes in Curio and Relic military pieces and has agreed to decorate The Firearm Blog with a little history. He maintains his own site, C&Rsenal, with the help of his friends and the collector community.


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  • Nicholas Mew

    Interesting but meh.

  • bazker
  • Lance

    This is awesome doesn’t beat a Mauser with 5rd Stripper clips but a Krag revolver rifle would have been better for our troops in the Spanish-American war. Too little too late.

  • Julio

    Thanks, I’ve never seen that before, and it would appear to steal a march on the more familiar rotary magazine systems incorporated into the Savage Model 1895 and 1903 Mannlicher Schoenauer. It makes one wonder whether these were made non-detachable at least in part because of the dismissal of Blake’s system, despite the latter’s apparent superiority.

  • Fred Johnson

    That is very interesting. I never knew of it until now. Thanks for the post.

  • Frosty_The_White_Man

    Very cool. I saw this rifle in The Standard Catalogue Of Firearms and figured it was just a retro-tacticool piece. They described it as 7-shot capacity…but left out the awesome rotary en bloc!

  • SP mclaughlin

    Reminds me of the auto shotgun in Metro 2033, internally that is.

  • J.T.

    Looks like /r/guns is spilling out into the rest of the internet again.

    • Othais

      Everything is fine so long as MC is contained.

  • gunslinger

    holy crap that’s cool. i want one
    what about a way to make it semi auto? heck, even just DA?

    and why can i see this as something from the Borderlands universe?

    • kthxbai

      so true! i assume it would be produced by Jakobs^^

  • Jesse P Weaver

    Thats pretty cool. Totally want one in 30’06.

  • rjackparis

    2 things.

    1. why hasn’t this concept moved to revolver cylinders? sure it’ll require a bit more dexterity then a standard mag and magwell, but it’ll be quite a bit faster then speed loaders, ( possibly moon clips?) at least in my mind.

    2. in combat situations, i could see the clips ( i feel so dirty typing that in this context) deforming or getting crushed. well, more then a flat stripper clip would at least.

    • gunslinger

      #2 Clip is the correct term, because all that device is doing is “holding” the cartridge. the gun has the mechanical device to feed the chamber.

    • Paul Epstein

      To add onto gunslinger’s post, in a revolver the cylinder is also the chamber, and needs to be strong enough and held stationary against the barrel- this gun had a separate chamber into which the bolt moved the cartridge.

      In a handgun, that would make for a *very* long action and have all of the same potential issues as an autoloader AND a revolver without any inherent benefit.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Thank you for this most informative article. The colorful history of firearms is rife with innumerable examples where an otherwise excellent weapon has failed to gain acceptance due to bad market timing, the personal and professional prejudices of selection committees, badly-conceived perceptions concerning cost-effectiveness ratios, the murky undercurrents of the procurement process driven by one or more political agendas, overly-conservative attitudes towards new technological innovations or solutions, or a combination thereof — just to name a handful of the many reasons that result in the commercial failure of an otherwise sound design.

    In that regard, the Blake Infantry Rifle appears to have been an unfortunate casualty of the times.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    As a follow-up to my previous comment, I have to say that the Blake Infantry Rifle appears to be well-proportioned and nicely-balanced, as well as being very well-made. It is certainly an attractive rifle with distinct yet graceful lines.

  • Matt in FL

    That is a fascinating rifle. The linked said only ~300 were produced, so I’m guessing when they do come available, they’re not cheaply acquired.

  • percynjpn

    Very innovative – if it was reliable and accurate, then it sounds like the armed forces passed over a potentially great weapon.

  • WFDT

    Hey, that’s pretty badass.

  • j

    Cool

  • blackthorn

    Very innovative for the time period. I’m wondering if the rimless .30 Blake was invented specifically for the gun. If it was, it might have played a big part in the reasons why it was not picked. Also, as I look at it, I wonder if Bill Ruger used it for the inspiration behind his rotary magazines in the 10/22. Not to mention the current offerings from Ruger of the 77/44, 77/357, etc., bolt action rifles.

  • Daniel E. Watters

    There is an excellent discussion of the Blake rifle in Philip B. Sharpe’s “The Rifle in America.”

  • RickH

    Very interesting rifle. It would have been great if it had a chance to be further developed & refined.

  • Thamuze Ulfrsson

    Wierd? Good land, this thing is amazing. I’d love to see a Cei-rigoti mechanism (all Huot/Ross-style enclosed and protected) derived rifle or longarm utilizing this magazine system. Maybe chambered in 6.5 Swedish? That doesn’t sound too crazy, right?