BSA Prototype .45 ACP Pistol at James D. Julia

One of the neat things about taking the plunge into the archives, documents, videos, and even blog posts concerning firearms history, is that it really shatters the perception of a “complete” picture of firearms history created by tabletop books that attempt to catalog “every” type of firearm. A great example of what I mean is the BSA¬†prototype pistol in .45 ACP, up for auction at James D. Julia. Forgotten Weapons has, again, provided coverage of the auction, including this great video on the handgun.

The pistol really is one of a kind; no production examples were made. Prototypes existed in .32 ACP, .45 ACP, and a unique .34 caliber cartridge. Of those, three are known to exist today, and the example in the video is the only one chambered in .45 ACP.

The handgun works via my favorite method of handgun operation, rotating barrel recoil operation. In my opinion, rotary barrel operation¬†could have easily become the dominant mechanism for self-loading handguns, instead of Browning-style tilting-barrel operation. Browning designed his rotary barrel pistol in 1896, and it’s not difficult to imagine that method of operating catching on instead of his now ubiquitous tilting barrel type.

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


  • nadnerbus

    I saw that video. I absolutely love the lines of that handgun. Would be pretty awesome to see a modern company adapt the design for a modern gun.

    I had never seen the rotating barrel system. It seems like it helps give the slide assembly a slimmer, more streamlined profile as it doesn’t have to accommodate the barrel tilting. Would be fascinating to see how the recoil impulse compares to a 1911 for instance.

  • I always thought that this Charles Jolidon patent would be a neat project for a M1911 builder. The fixed nosepiece would be the perfect mounting point for a muzzle brake or sound suppressor.

  • John McPherson

    Rotating barrels have been used a number of times, as I remember recently by Colt. Did not impress anyone. I think it is too complicated in motion to be successful. Too many places for failure to function, especially when dirty.

    • Ah yes, the Colt All American 2000. Absolute junk (college roommate had one).

      Not Eugene Stoner’s best design!

  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    Looks very FN 1910/22-ish

  • Spencerhut

    Looks like a big Remington 51, the original one, not that new POS.

    • Blake

      Yep, was just going to say the same…

  • jamezb

    Say..that’s pretty slick! I wouldn’t mind one of those a bit!

  • John Daniels

    I’m extremely happy that rotating barrels didn’t catch on, because that design principle isn’t compatible with the use of a sound suppressor.

    • Micki

      The Colt OHWS and the Steyr TMP family spring to mind. Doesn’t seem to be any harder to suppress than any other handgun featuring a moving barrel.

    • Chase Buchanan

      If rotating barrel handguns had proliferated instead of tilting barrels, maybe we would have invented some alternate system of attaching suppressors, instead of screw threads. Is there any reason it couldn’t be done?

      • John Daniels

        I’m sure it “can” be, but a screw is just so simple.

        If tilting barrels hadn’t taken off, neilsen devices wouldn’t be needed either…

  • Fruitbat44

    Interesting little video. I wonder if production models would have been different, maybe an easier to use magazine catch? But still an interesting one of history might have beens.

  • CommonSense23

    Doesn’t the video show that they are going to work themselves loose?

    • John Daniels

      Yes, but it did briefly suppress the pistol without causing the pistol to malfunction in the process like I thought it might. A standard thread-on connection is clearly not adequate, and something more complicated is required, but it wasn’t a complete disaster either.

      I was expecting failure to unlock, short-stroking, or etc.,

  • nadnerbus

    Fascinating. Pretty well thought out too. I can see why it wouldn’t be adopted, if it didn’t do anything particularly better than a standard 1911, but that doesn’t mean the design is without merit.