The Bommarito Rifle

As our regular readers have by now guessed, early selfloading rifle design is a major point of interest for me. It’s not well-known, but before the US entrance into World War I, Ordnance was extremely interested in procuring a self-loading rifle design to arm US troops in combat. A significant round of tests followed as a result, and between 1910 and 1917, the US government tested designs from Standard Arms Co, Dreyse, Kjellman, Benet-Mercie, Rock Island Arsenal, Bang, Mauser, Mondragon, Rychiger, St. Etienne (what would become the RSC 1917), Stergian, and Liu, at least. One other rifle┬átested during this period was the Bommarito rifle, on which Forgotten Weapons has posted an article with description and photos.

The Bommarito is described thusly in the Handbook of Ordnance Data:

This rifle is of the recoil-operated type, with a toggle breech bolt, similar to the Luger pistol. The barrel recoil is 1-1/4 inches and this, with the long toggle levers necessitated by the length of the service cartridge, render the rifle a very unwieldy one, with grave danger of injury to the firer’s hands in use. In August, 1918, however, a contract was awarded for the construction of a test rifle.

Interestingly, the Bommarito was fed by 20-round detachable box magazines, something that the Army would in the 1920s shy away from. Pictures of the Bommarito, provided by our own Miles Vining, can be found below:

bommarito3 bommarito2 bommarito-disassembled bommarito-disassembled-2 X507-SA.1-springfield

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 is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Franciscomv

    I’d never heard about this rifle before, and somehow missed Ian’s article on it (I love his blog). Thanks for posting this! It’s quite an interesting design.

  • echelon

    I think I shall open a Mexican restaurant with that name…

    Cool gun too.

  • Vitor Roma

    And it looks like a M14. The bro rifle way ahead of its time.

  • Blake

    I see “Cal. 30” in one of the illustrations; I assume it was chambered in .30-06 like other gov’t rifles of the time?

  • And what makes you think he doesn’t know that.

  • john huscio

    Sounds more like a taco bell special than a rifle….

  • Kivaari

    It seems that all rifles using a coil spring around the barrel fail if fired fast and furiously. The heat destroys the spring. The 8-81 would be a horrible gun to keep running in wet and muddy places. Like the M1889 Belgian and M88 commission rifle the outer barrel jacket simply adds weight and a place for rust to grow.