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’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.
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.