Dreams Come True (Living Vicariously) – Forgotten Weapons Disassembles the British Thorpe EM-1 Bullpup Rifle

Despite using the arguably backward L85A2 (which Ian did a great series on that Nathan S. covered), after World War II, the British were one of the foremost thinkers in terms of individual small arms. Almost immediately after the war, the British Army and start arsenals started development of various bullpup designs, which ultimately resulted in the adoption (briefly) of the EM-2 bullpup – an arguably fantastic weapon system especially if one likes the .280 British.*

*Of note, it’s interesting to see how the intermediate power ~6.5 to ~7mm cartridges are coming back into fad. The British were on the cusp of adopting an outstanding “all around” round until the US insisted on its home-grown SCHV project – the 5.56 NATO. Personal thoughts off…

Ian over at Forgotten Weapons has been able to go hands-on with the original EM-1 bullpup rifle. The rifle, who’s form inspired the EM-2, but the weapon operated using a combination gas piston and roller-locked bolt. The operating system had promise, but as Ian shows during the teardown of the weapon, it was entirely too complex for an individual soldier battle rifle.

The video is an aspiring weapons designers dream, as the EM-1 has only been shown rarely, and not in detail before. In the video, he shows how the weapon derived some of its inspiration from the German Gerat 06. For the full history of the rifle along with gratuitous details, check our Forgotten Weapons’ video on the Thorpe EM-1 below:


TFB’s FNG. Completely irreverent of all things marketing but a passionate lover of new ideas and old ones well executed. Enjoys musing on all things firearms, shooting 3-gun, and attempting to be both tacticool AND tactical.


  • Michael Boudreaux

    I think you mean .308 when you say “The British were on the cusp of adopting an outstanding “all around” round until the US insisted on its home-grown SCHV project – the 5.56 NATO.”

    • Anonymoose

      We were on the cusp of adopting an outstanding all-around round until MacArthur decided to stick with .30-06.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Except it turned out that the M1 Garands couldn’t use the stockpiled ammo without increaded wear and potential damage to the op rod, so they ended up creating an entirely new .30-06 variant, the M2 ball, just for the service rifle. The production lines were entirely separate from the machinegun ammo; and there was never a single documented case where the two were interchanged, even in desperation. So we saved absolutely zero money in canceling the .276, and got a rifle round that had more recoil (and harder sight reacquisition), was actually marginally less lethal, and had 20% less ammo capacity per clip.

        Way to go, MacArthur. At least he spent that money on those combat cars that we never used in combat.

      • DW

        But M1 carbine was also widely issued so it’s not a complete loss really.

  • CJS

    As far as I can remember, the EM-1 was a competitor to the EM-2 not its inspiration. Maybe getting mixed up with the previous Em-1 rifle, the korsac?

  • Dan

    Makes one realize what an amazing design the AR-10/AR-15 is. Stoner was a genius.

    • Budi Utomo

      H&K think so.

  • Kivaari

    A great presentation.

  • MarcoPolo

    Great design, only needs about 50 more parts to be perfect.


      50?! I didn’t know we were talking about the G11!

  • Edeco

    Hey it wasn’t us and the 5.56. British engineers gave up on their 280 when they couldn’t figure out a way to make it leak oil.

    • Black Dots

      Also, the wiring was awful.

      • Budi Utomo

        You don’t like the central locking opening and shutting doors randomly, or the the fun of your elec. window switch operating a surprise window? Yes, had an SD1. Not suitable for tropical rain or sun. Back in those days the roads were nearly empty. Gone are the days.

  • Budi Utomo

    Heresy! The LA80 was horrible, Everyone wanted the SLR back. Simple, good buttstock, a Westernized AK. As the British say: “squaddie-proof”. That’s why we use FALs and FNC’s.