Yesterday’s Hopeful: The Orzel Machine Gun

    EnsignExpendable of the Soviet Gun Archives blog has found an interesting scrap of history regarding a machine gun designed by one Francis J. Orzel. In the document, Orzel is quite the salesman, attributing to his design magnificent characteristics such as it being “jam proof” and “designed to hold the barrel at constant temperature”. Despite the more colorful (and less substantive) language of the documents, there are still some interesting ideas contained there. One is Orzel’s “invention” of the “multi-caliber bullet for velocities up to 6,000 feet per second”. In fact, this appears to be an application of the Gerlich principle, whereby a bullet is squeezed down to a smaller size during firing. This does result in very high velocities, and was used during World War II in both German AT guns and Allied AT and tank guns, but Orzel himself did not invent it. The relevant documents are available in the slideshow below:

    Orzel machine gun

    The machine gun itself, which is implied to use Orzel’s proprietary rifling system (though not the Gerlich principle), is a svelte-looking but extremely long design. In the spec sheet, it is listed as being four feet long (though Orzel as working on a foot-and-a-quarter shorter variant)!

    Orzel imagined his machine gun design to spawn a whole family of weapons, from automatic rifle to heavy machine gun. He further envisioned the heavier versions to be equipped with an automatic traverse mechanism to create in his words “an overlapping machine gun barrage”.

    Orzel’s weapon never went anywhere, despite his unfaltering salesmanship. Whether more than the prototype shown in photographs in the slideshow were ever made is unknown to the author, as is the extent to which there was any interest in the design by military bodies at home or abroad.

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]