Mars pistol: The first pistol with the magazine located under the chamber.

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

I recently wrote about the new Boberg XR9 pistol which features the magazine beneath the chamber. Dr. StrangeGun discovered that the Gabbett-Fairfax Mars pistol was the first pistol to feature this configuration.

High tech and ugly (Photo from Horst Held)

From wikipedia:

The Mars Automatic Pistol was a semi-automatic pistol developed in 1900 by the Englishman Hugh Gabbet-Fairfax. It was manufactured by Webley & Scott and distributed by the Mars Automatic Pistol Syndicate. The Mars Automatic Pistol is famous for being available in a variety of 8.5 mm, 9 mm and .45 calibres. These were all bottle shaped cartridges with a heavy powder loading, making the .45 version the most powerful handgun in the world for a time. It used a unique long recoil rotating bolt action which ejected spent cartridges straight to the rear.

The Mars Automatic Pistol was rejected by the British War Office as a possible replacement for the Webley & Scott Revolver, then in service with the British Army, because of the unacceptable large recoil, muzzle-flash, and mechanical complexity. It has since become a collectors item because of its rarity and as an example of the earliest developments in semi-automatic pistols.

I dug up the pistols’ patent. The patent drawings show how the rear ward feeding works.

Although the pistol was not practical back in 1900 it was an ingenious design.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

More by Steve Johnson

Join the conversation
2 of 12 comments
  • Roger Roger on Oct 26, 2012

    I had a chance to buy one Mars in 1996 for a good price. I didn't and regretted it ever since.
    Early 1900's Hungarian Frommer stop pistol has a rotating bolt just like an AR or M16 rifle.

  • Motoguzzi Motoguzzi on Aug 12, 2014

    One of the period reviews of the pistol said something like, "every man who fired the pistol showed little interest in firing a second round." It has been a long time since I read it but it has stuck with me,.