Two German Rotary Barrel Pistol Prototypes At James D. Julia

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Last week, we looked at a .45 caliber rotary-barrel BSA recoil operated handgun design, available for auction at James D. Julia. Interestingly, in the same auction are two other rotary-barrel prototypes, these two from Germany. The first is the Nickl prototype by Mauser, which led to the Czech Vz. 24 handgun, and the second is a Walther prototype Volkspistole. Ian of Forgotten Weapons has produced video overviews of both weapons as part of his coverage of the auction:

Despite the dominance of Browning-style tilting barrel locking, the arguably better rotary barrel method seems to be always bubbling just beneath the surface, as evidenced by these unique handguns. Relatively few rotary-barrel handguns have become commercially successful, but maybe it’s just a matter of time before the right handgun comes along and popularizes the design?

Both of these handguns are currently up for auction; should you decide that either is right for you, you can findĀ their listings at James D. Julia’sĀ here and here.



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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  • Vitsaus

    Very interesting! I’ve seen that Nickl one before, but not the Walther. The latter looks like what would happen if a TT33 and a GP35 got drunk and ended up in hotel room on spring break.

  • Nathaniel, as much as you like rotary barrels/mechanisms I am surprised you don’t drive an RX7/RX8, lol.

    • Riot

      Brilliant cars.
      But it raises the question; do DI guys drive pistonless cars?

      • Of course we drive piston cars; DI guns have pistons in them!

        But we don’t drive cars with oprods.

    • Zebra Dun

      Do rotary pistol’s go Hummmmmmm?

      • If they are like rotary FDs they work for a few weeks and then need to be completely rebuilt.

  • MPWS

    Machining of cam block in these pistols is quite fancy considering (at least in case of Walther) war time production. Beretta did clever short-cut with post in frame and helical groove on barrel. Lot better way to do it.

  • MPWS

    I believe in video is mentioned that Vz.24 (military) was in .32ACP which is not true. It vas Czech own variation of .38ACP. In .32ACP was made the following CZ.27 (civilian).

    • Al

      You are quite correct MPWS, the Vz.24 was manufactured in 9mmN, designated that for Nickl’s version of the .380 acp/9mm kurz.

    • Yes, I believe that’s true.

      • CommonSense23

        Have you thought about doing a article on the strengths of the rotating barrel. Advantages vs weakness compared to a more conventional layout.

        • Not really. It’s pretty much six of one, half dozen of another, IMO.

        • petru sova

          Gun authors cannot give critique’s of one pistol v/s another because it might hurt sales of currently manufactured weapons with similar systems. See my 2 posts for a hard hitting evaluation of the turn barrel pistols v/s Browning tilt-lock pistols.

  • 2wheels

    The only reason we even really discuss rotary barreled actions nowadays is because of Beretta, and even they seem to be moving from rotary and locking block actions. Their newest service sized polymer handgun is tilt locking.

    I suspect that for all the theoretical advantages, tilt locking is simply easier and cheaper to manufacture, not to mention manufacturers know it works reliably when done right.

    • greasyjohn

      Which is that? The PX4 is rotary locking.

      • 2wheels

        Their brand new APX, it’s their entry into the striker fired market. Not on the market yet as far as I know.

  • roguetechie

    Nathaniel,

    I’m going to have to tentatively disagree on the 6 of one half a dozen of the other comment based on the rotating barrel pistol that has fascinated and frustrated me on first sight and still does to this day.. The. Gsh-18!

    Here we have a pistol capable of firing rounds too hot for our pistols to handle yet can still reliably feed 115 grain fmj ammo at standard pressure!

    That alone would be enough to make it stand out! Then you see the bore axis 18 round true double stack magazine and…. Realize that the Trigger must be positioned for comfortable firing by Siberian giants…. Then one day you see a picture of one with a pmm makarov above it!

    It’s only then you realize that the odd proportions are a result of how incredibly compact the working parts of the pistol really are!

    Could it suck? Yeah it could… But considering the phenomenal test the grand power rotating barrel pistol endured to be accepted for service… And the rapidly growing roster of new pistols using the system I’d say it is probably a very effective and possibly superior way to do short recoil pistols… Only time can tell

    • MPWS

      You are right, they are capable of sustaining higher pressure rounds; mentioned Russian pistol uses over-pressure penetrator ammo resulting in higher velocity.

      It’s kind of similar to AR15 action.

      This is area, where rotary action can win some points.

      • petru sova

        I would have to disagree as the Browning tilt-barrel pistols are superior. The name “High Power” was not just an advertisement gimmick long ago but it was letting the buyer know that this pistol was designed for high pressure 9mm loads. I always have a good laugh when people on some forums like the snob sig forum with its foul mouthed moderator who try to claim that modern pistols are so much stronger especially when their favorite plasticky and stamped sheet metal Sigs have tilt barrel locking systems copied right from Colt and Browning and Mr. Saive of FN.
        When you experience the horrendous recoil of a French rotating barrel MAB P15 pistol its common sense to see it will not hold up as long as the Browning /Colt tilt barrel system. Hot rod any machine and it wears out especially with excessive recoil on the frame, slide and even the internal parts. The tremendous difference between the two systems is dramatic to say the least.
        Just remember we are talking about DELAY BLOW BACK ROTATING BARREL SYSTEMS NOT AR 15 LOCKED BREACH ROTATING BARREL SYSTEMS. THERE IS A HECK OF A DIFFERECE AS THE TWO SYSEMS ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOT TO MENTION THE GAS OPERATION OF THE AR 15 WHICH IS ANTHER FACTOR DAMPENING RECOIL AS WELL.

    • petru sova

      When speaking of plasticky pistols if they were originally designed for the 9mm as was the new Russian plasticky pistol as well as the Slovak Grand Power pistol they will have a shorter life span when re-chambered for more heavier recoiling cartridges. Even the so called prestigious H&K plasticky pistols in 40 S& W often crack right behind the trigger guard in 40 S&W because they were never designed to take that kind of recoil. Ditto for a lot of blow back .380 plasticky pistols as well. I have seen enough pictures on forums on the internet showing these frame failures. The more recoil, the sooner the failure so when a lock breach H&K platicky pistols fails the blow back and delayed blow back guns are going to fail sooner because of the increased recoil to these systems especially if they were designed for the 9mm cartridge.

    • petru sova

      The new Russian platicky pistol I was speaking of is the “Strike One” and it is a locked breach pistol with a moving locking block. Of course it is a different pistol than the rotating barrel Gsh 18

  • Zebra Dun

    This would seem to be more accurate as opposed to a dropping type barrel though more complicated.
    Beautiful old style pistol though.

  • petru sova

    I have never thought much of rotary barrel pistols. Those that I have owned or those that my colleagues have owed generally did not have as long a service life as the Colt-Browning design. The recoil also was very sharp and sudden and the recoil was more punishing even in the mild 9 mm Luger chambering. The only good thing I will say about them is that they tend to be very accurate as opposed to the Browning titling barrel pistols. Also they do seem to be very reliable, even more reliable with low powered ammo as opposed to the tilting barrel pistols.

  • petru sova

    On my French MAB P15 Rotary barrel pistol its recoil spring is very difficult to pull back on. I would imagine that women and also men with arthritis could not even begin to pull the slide back. I believe they made the recoil spring this heavy because it is basically a delayed blowback pistol.