Yesterday’s Hopeful: The Orzel Machine Gun

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EnsignExpendable of the Soviet Gun Archives blog has found an interesting scrap of history regarding a machine gun designed by one Francis J. Orzel. In the document, Orzel is quite the salesman, attributing to his design magnificent characteristics such as it being “jam proof” and “designed to hold the barrel at constant temperature”. Despite the more colorful (and less substantive) language of the documents, there are still some interesting ideas contained there. One is Orzel’s “invention” of the “multi-caliber bullet for velocities up to 6,000 feet per second”. In fact, this appears to be an application of the Gerlich principle, whereby a bullet is squeezed down to a smaller size during firing. This does result in very high velocities, and was used during World War II in both German AT guns and Allied AT and tank guns, but Orzel himself did not invent it. The relevant documents are available in the imgur.com slideshow below:

The machine gun itself, which is implied to use Orzel’s proprietary rifling system (though not the Gerlich principle), is a svelte-looking but extremely long design. In the spec sheet, it is listed as being four feet long (though Orzel as working on a foot-and-a-quarter shorter variant)!

Orzel imagined his machine gun design to spawn a whole family of weapons, from automatic rifle to heavy machine gun. He further envisioned the heavier versions to be equipped with an automatic traverse mechanism to create in his words “an overlapping machine gun barrage”.

Orzel’s weapon never went anywhere, despite his unfaltering salesmanship. Whether more than the prototype shown in photographs in the slideshow were ever made is unknown to the author, as is the extent to which there was any interest in the design by military bodies at home or abroad.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Zachary marrs

    I thought modern press releases were bad with buzzwords

  • Seerightthere!

    Your link to the “heavy machine gun” goes to an amazon page selling a tape dispenser.

    • Zachary marrs

      You just don’t have the imagination

    • Some links are automatically added.

      • Giolli Joker

        …by Joerg Sprave? 😀
        Seriously, it’s a feature of no value to most TFB readers… 🙁

        • As mentioned, I have no control over it whatsoever.

          • Giolli Joker

            Nobody is blaming you, but it’s a feature of the blog that nobody likes and that somebody (admin) surely can manage.

      • Zachary marrs

        Vigi links ir whatever they’re called?

  • I have no control over it whatsoever.

  • It’s possible with conventional propellants if you decouple the projectile diameter from the bore diameter, a la a sabot or Gerlich design.

    Tank gun projectiles, for example, go nearly that fast.