The Guns Of John Pedersen At RIA

My favorite firearms designer of all time is James Paris Lee, because of his sheer inventiveness and forward-thinking edge that was still grounded in what was practical at the time. My second-favorite firearms designer is David Marshall Williams, because he was totally mad, with a bio that reads like it was ripped straight from a film script (this isn’t hyperbole – Hollywood thought so, too).

Who is my third-favorite firearms designer? I don’t have a quick answer, but a very strong candidate is the (today) highly underrated (then) rock star of gun design, John D. Pedersen. Who was he? I’ve mentioned him before in some of my other articles, but Forgotten Weapons has helped answer that question much more totally with their recent video, on the guns he designed:

One reason Pedersen could take the number 3 spot is that my current collection does not include any rifles by either of my two favorite designers, but it does include the nicest example of any Remington 51 I have ever encountered in pictures or in person. Owning and disassembling a Model 51 makes it clear that not only did Pedersen possess great genius, ambition, and a cunning for what would appeal to his investors and customers, but also that he was near-obsessed with surface grinding. Remington has taken on a daunting challenge, in trying to bring a revitalized 51 to the market, and I sympathize greatly with them and their initial failed attempts to control the tolerances for what is a very intolerant design.

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


  • roguetechie

    Nathaniel he’s probably one of my all time favorites as well.

    Matter of fact if they made a model 53 (One of the more glaring US procurement gaffes is that THIS GUN isn’t the platform of choice for 45 acp aficionados.) I’d probably own and carry one occasionally! (Now if someone later built a 53 with double stack mag and chambered in 7.62 tokarev it would for sure be my go to option!)

    Throw in the Remington model 10/29 (Ithaca 37 & Stevens 320 too!!!) and the rest of his stuff and anyone who doesn’t love this guy is crazy…

    Oh and your comments about surface grinding just got the wheels turning… My wife hates you guya for the “inspiration” you provide btw…

    • It would be a very different world in handguns, I think, if Pedersen’s 51/53 had really caught on. Manufacturers would be much better at surface grinding for a start. 😉

  • Riot

    Pederson was a good designer – especially will blowback imo.
    But he does seem to have been slightly arrogant and over sure of himself – his rifle submission for army tests and the shoddiness of his factory stand out for this.

  • A

    I’m almost finished with my masters degree in mechanical engineering, and maybe it’s my 21st century eyes that make me feel this way, but Pedersen guns seem to have been consistently over-complicated and not rugged. I can’t see that toggle lock rifle being a very successful battlefield implement, and those spiral flutes can not have been very cheap to make.

    I’m not very knowledgeable about mr Pedersen, and I feel bad for coming down on him with my limited knowledge, but when Ian said that Pedersens shotgun had to be simplified by Browning to be successful, it fits the image in my head.

    • Pedersen was a great salesman, idea man, and showman. I think he lost to Garand in part because Garand had the better head for what a real military rifle needed to be.

      • Tom

        Full credit to Garand not just for a great rifle but he also designed the tooling to manufacture it at an acceptable price point.

    • Buck Clarke

      Why should a helical tubular magazine need to be manufactured from solid? I’m only a machine designer with 40 years of design background and not a Master Mechanical Engineer but it seems to me that with modern manufacturing methods this should be trivially easy and very practical to allow cartridges such as .223 or even the venerable .22 Hornet in a lever gun. I’d LOVE to have a Hornet 1892 lever-action! You could even use 3D printing or an aluminum extrusion would work fine, too for those that prefer metal parts for durability.

      This is a good idea and only requires a little American ingenuity and innovation to be a practical product. Make em to retrofit existing lever guns or sell it to Henry Rifles! The extrusion would be practical because a very few tubes would fit a huge number of cartridges. How ’bout a 12″ barrel Josh Randall style ’92 lever gun in .22TCM.

      Innovate — 🙂 That’s what Nathaniel likes about Pederson — he was INNOVATIVE.

  • JC in NC

    I am distantly related to Carbine Williams, I have seen his grave in the church cemetery with my ancestors…..we’re all crazy in NC!

  • Tassiebush

    If i recall correctly Pedersen was behind the helical flute spiral tube mag idea for spitzer bullets! The spirals being to keep the points off primers. It would be great to see one of the levergun makers introduce this again so we could have chamberings like. 223, 7.62×39, 5.45×39 etc in that platform. Perhaps it’d be easier to mass produce the tubes nowadays.

    • Southpaw89

      Browning offers the BLR in .223, it feeds from a box mag though so capacity is likely less than a tube could do.

      • Tassiebush

        True it looks like a great gun but the price difference is pretty huge. I was thinking how good the cheapness of a traditional levergun coupled with cheap ammo would be. This idea is probably a bit Australia-centric too since we don’t have cheap surplus semi autos or low end ARs so it’d be a good carbine option.

        • Southpaw89

          True enough, I got my BLR (30-06) back in 08 for roughly 800 USD, they’ve shot up considerably since then. Maybe if Rossi, Mossberg, or Marlin tried it they could make it work for a decent price. And considering the leverguns history in the states maybe there’d be a market for one here. I’d certainly go for it.

          • Tassiebush

            down here a BLR would be north of $1600! I was thinking of those brands as good candidates for the spiral tubes too. It seems almost crazy that it hasn’t been tried recently in some ways.

      • Tassiebush

        actually a savage 99 in those rounds would also be awesome!

  • Southpaw89

    One of my useless fantasy devices is a Pedersen device in .32acp for my M44.

  • Zebra Dun

    The Pedersen device that was to insert into a rifle would have been better served by simply issuing every assault infantry man a 1911A1 Pistol in my view.