Shooting The Pedersen Rifle (The Rifle That Almost Became the M1)

    With special guests Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons and Nathaniel F. of our own TFB, Alex and Patrick take a look at a rare Pedersen model PB Autoloader. This rifle almost beat the Garand to become the US military service rifle of WWII, and would have changed the evolution of military firearms for decades to come. This is the first time a video Pedersen being fired had been published online!

    The Pedersen’s unique action is quite an oddity within semi-automatic rifle design, but the real question is how does the gun shoot? We do our best with some 80 year old ammunition in tow to find out if the US Army made the right choice when they selected the M1 Garand over the Pedersen.

    This video was recorded in 1080p/60. Click the little cog icon below the video to change your Youtube settings to view it in 60fps (if you computer and internet connection can keep up).

    UPDATE: Watch Ian’s take on the Pedersen here.

    As always, a big thank you to our sponsors Grizzly Targets & Ventura Munitions.

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    The full transcript of the video is below …

    – Hey guys, this is Alex C. with TFB TV and we’ve got a very special rifle today, along with some very special people.

    We’ve got Nathaniel F., one of our writers out of Louisiana, and we’ve got Ian McCollum our friend from Forgotten Weapons, all the way from Arizona.

    He came out and both these guys were lured by this Pedersen model PB.

    Now you two probably know more about this history of this rifle than I do, and I must say I’m actually looking forward to shooting it.

    We’ve got about 60 rounds of ammunition and Ian, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you know about the rifle.

    – I’m really excited to shoot this as well.

    The Pedersen was the main competitor to the M1 Garand.

    John Pedersen was kind of a famous well-known, you might say a rock-star of a gun designer in his day.

    1920s is when he designed this rifle.

    It’s a delayed blowback with a toggle action that looks very much like a Luger.

    Should be very interesting to see how it actually handles.

    We’ve read a lot but, you know, I don’t know anybody who’s actually shot one of these.

    – Absolutely. So this should be a very great range day.

    Patrick, what you are your general impressions about handling it? – It’s very handling-friendly, I guess.

    [all laughing] – It handles well, it’s light, it’s thin.

    – Yes, yes. It handles very well.

    There are a lot of things about it that I like about the rifle but there are a lot of things that I don’t from a social perspective.

    A lot of things that I think could go wrong.

    We’ll get into that a little bit later.

    – That’s interesting, we’ll evaluate that for sure.

    I’d like to hear what you have to say there.

    – A little complex.

    – Let’s get Nathaniel, I know Nathaniel’s a big John Pedersen fan, you’ve probably read quite a bit.

    What do you think so far just by handling and looking at it? – I mean I’m really excited to shoot it, absolutely thrilled to be out here, you know, I’ve written a lot about the Pedersen and one of my Light Rifle articles deals with John Pedersen and sort of his, we’ll talk more about that later, but his trials and tribulations trying to get this rifle adopted.

    This is the first self-loading rifle ever approved for adoption by a U.S. Infantry board.

    – So it was a viable rifle? – Oh yeah, they thought so and we’ll see today.

    – [Alex] Absolutely. – [Ian] It came really close to beating the M1.

    – It did. It came very close.

    – All I know guys is I’m looking forward to shooting this gun so what do you say we get to it? – [All] Absolutely, absolutely.

    – Alright.

    – Let’s start.

    (gun fires) – Woo! – I’ve been selected to do the accuracy test of the.276 caliber PB Pedersen rifle.

    Targets are about 50, 60 yards out there.

    I’m going to be shooting two five-shot groups of them.

    Let’s load the clip and get started here.

    We did not get a round in the chamber.

    (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) (gun fires) – Haha, I blew that bottle right off the backstop.

    (gun fires) – We just shot some groups through the Pedersen PB rifle and.276 caliber and what’d you think, Ian? – About what I was expecting, frankly.

    So, about 60 yards, 50 or 60 yards, I had these three shots plus I had two more about here.

    You had these four, and we should actually say we were both shooting this way.

    The rifle shoots a little bit high.

    It’s got 1920s styled sights, zeroed for probably something like 250, 300 meters.

    – Yeah.

    – Or yards. So anyway, you had a fifth shot just up above the paper.

    We both had about a three to four inch, – Three to four inch group, which with 85 year old ammunition is not bad at all.

    – And you know what, we’re shooting, we were using kind of an improvised rest and we have a black sight on a black dot.

    I think, I am very impressed with the practical accuracy that I’ve gotten out of this rifle.

    – Oh yeah. It points well, it handles well.

    Everything in terms of like, I want to hit that thing over there, it allows you to do that. – [Ian] Boom. I hit it.

    – [Nathaniel] Yeah, exactly.

    – [Ian] The peep sight works great. – [Nathaniel] Yeah, it’s wonderful for that.

    – [Ian] I was a little concerned about the peep sight when we started, I thought, it fuzzes out.

    It kind of disappears on you.

    Turns out with a little bit of practice, it’s a really nice sight.

    – I think it is a really nice sight.

    The Americans did a lot of work to make their sights really good.

    And I think Pedersen obviously picked up on that.

    – Yeah, now it does not, it’s not quite as instinctively adjustable and easy to adjust as the M1.

    – I would agree, yeah.

    – It does have windage and elevation adjustments but the M1’s a little bit more, frankly it’s more American.

    It lets you do individual fraction of a minute clicks.

    – It’s what we think of as American now.

    – True. This is kind of more British where you have range settings.

    – Yeah. Absolutely. The rifle’s really well balanced.

    I really, really liked the way it felt and pointed.

    The recoil’s not bad at all.

    You can get right back on target.

    It doesn’t really move off the target Especially if you’re on a support.

    – Yep.

    – And this is really what we expected with that ammo.

    The ammo quality wasn’t that good to begin with and it’s been 85 years.

    – Yeah.

    – So, you know, yeah this is quite a great group.

    – Alright guys, so I’m going to go ahead and do a little bit of rapid fire.

    (gun fires many times) You know, after shooting the Garand a little bit quick, Garand, rather.

    After shooting that quickly I think that this would be really fieldable.

    It’d be really controllable and I think the 10 rack capacity would’ve been a huge asset to soldiers.

    But one thing that I don’t like about this rifle is it is really complicated for the soldier to go ahead and maintain in the field.

    I see there being a lot of issues with jams and reliability problems with the dirt and grit that comes with being in the field.

    But all in all it’s a great shooting rifle.

    – Alright guys, now it’s my turn to give it a go.

    I’ve been looking forward to this all day.

    (gun fires many times) You know, it’s got a very funky recoil.

    It kind of, it bumps up a little more than you think, obviously as a result of toggle kind of bringing the gun upwards, it’s a very interesting mechanism.

    It’s almost like shooting a KRISS Vector upside down.

    But it’s still very pleasant to shoot and I’m very happy with this gun.

    All in all, John Pedersen did a fantastic job with this rifle.

    It’s a shame there aren’t more of them.

    (gun fires) Hit that one.

    (gun fires many times) Waha! (gun fires) I’m out of targets.

    (gun fires) (gun fires) I love this thing. This is a freaking awesome rifle.

    – [Voiceover] Here we see a top view of the rifle.

    You can see the toggle action opening and loading a new round.

    We have another view here of the toggle action opening.

    You can see the spent brass and the en-bloc clip being ejected.

    You can see that it has a different shape than your standard Garand clip and it makes a different noise when it’s ejected.

    We want to thank Ian from Forgotten Weapons for lending us his high-speed camera for this shot.

    We really do appreciate it, Ian.

    – Alright, so one of the complaints that came up with the Pedersen rifle, and we don’t know if this is realistic or not, is that this toggle popping up would actually hit the soldier’s campaign hat or Brodie helmet.

    So I don’t have one of those hats but I do have a ballcap that sticks about as far forward as a campaign hat.

    So I think I can make this hit my hat.

    Let’s find out.

    (gun fires) Yeah, that could hit your hat, that said, I don’t think that was a very significant issue for the gun.

    You really have to crawl forward on the gun to do that.

    It might happen to soldiers inadvertently a couple of times.

    But frankly once you get used to handling the gun, that’s going to be a non-issue.

    – Alright guys, so we’ve been able to put about 60 rounds through this Pedersen rifle, and I think we’ve all kind of come to the same conclusion.

    What do you reckon, guys? – It was a treat.

    – If I gave you my true opinion you’d have to bleep it out.

    (Alex laughs) – This thing is fantastic.

    – Yeah, it really is a fun rifle.

    I noticed that everybody handled it very well.

    The handling characteristics were praised by all four of us, actually.

    – Yes.

    – It’s worth noting we experienced no malfunctions aside from a trigger reset which we couldn’t have really known about.

    Ian, you experienced that and it was a product of circumstance, really.

    – You know, it could be the design in general.

    It could be just this rifle.

    Certainly it didn’t quite happen to everybody.

    It was only intermittent and I think that’s a lot of just personal handling characteristics.

    – Right, I think that you know, different shooting habits bring that out.

    – And when I was rapid-firing it I was taking my, because I saw you experience that, I was taking my finger almost all the way off the trigger in order to try and not allow that to happen, so.

    – I’ll be honest, I was shooting it just as I would shoot any other rifle and I didn’t experience that reset issue at all.

    And that just may be, you know, the way I handle a gun, I don’t know.

    – Nathaniel, what did you think? – I thought that the gun handled really well and I think that compared to, it’s very obvious that compared to everything that came before this, total knockout.

    Absolutely, you know, 100 percent total knockout.

    – Yeah, when you put in the period of, you know, that it was invent in, it definitely is a fabulous rifle.

    – And you know, a part of me expected something to fail, like something simple, a firing pin breaking or some metal fatigue setting in on a spring.

    – Oh I was sure we’d have something that would cause this to go completely awry.

    – Absolutely. You know, it’s not like you can file a warranty claim with Vickers and get a part, so.

    So I’m actually glad we didn’t have anything happen, but all in all it was a real pleasure having you, all of you guys out here.

    Patrick, I see you all the time, but nonetheless, also always a pleasure.

    – We’ll tolerate you.

    – And of course it was a treat to have Nathaniel all the way out from Louisiana. – [Nathaniel] Happy to come out.

    – [Alex] Ian, all the way from Arizona.

    – This is fantastic. I’d do this anytime.

    – Before we close the video out, I do want to ask all you guys, do you think we should have adopted this rifle? – I think that the ammunition issue, the thirty-aught-six versus the.276 is the reason that the – Remove that from the equation.

    Do you think that that design was viable? – Yeah, I think if it had been in production simplified.

    Viable, definitely.

    – I think it’s viable. It would be really interesting to experiment with a.276 caliber M1.

    – I agree.

    – That would be the real test.

    – I agree with both of these guys.

    It needs a little bit of refinement.

    There’s some features like not being able to eject the clip that I find a little sketchy, although they did fix that in the Pedersen PA model.

    – Right, in that very next version they fixed that issue.

    – So it had a little bit of ironing out but that happens to every rifle.

    So I think, yes, it possibly could have had a good run at being an actual service rifle used by the United States.

    – You know a lot of rifles of this era were clunky.

    They just had this obvious not quite all the way finished feel to them.

    – Absolutely.

    – And the Pedersen is an outlier in that.

    The Pedersen just feels like a fantastic, polished, great rifle.

    – It’s got like a strange finesse to it almost.

    – Yeah, yeah.

    – And it’s kind of hard to put this in the video, but there’s just some je ne sais quoi about it that it’s so pleasurable to shoot, the recoil’s low, it’s endearing because the toggle comes up and kind of gives you a nice gentle bump upwards but not enough to throw you completely off target.

    – You’re waxing poetic in French now.

    That should say something.

    – Yeah, well, I’m trying. But like I said guys, we’d also like to thank our sponsors, Ventura Munitions and Grizzley Target.

    – Absolutely.

    – Also, check Ian’s channel. He’s actually got a fantastic video on this rifle with great slow motion footage coming out.

    Ian, tell us a little bit about that.

    – Yeah, if you want a little bit more of the technical and the historical detail, if you don’t mind sitting through a bit more dialogue about the gun, then check out my video.

    You’ll also be rewarded with a little bit extra slow motion footage.

    – Absolutely. And yeah, you also have some really great videos on some other forgotten weapons out there, pardon the pun.

    – Thank you. That’s what I try to do.

    – Anyways, guys hey, this is Alex C. with TFB TV.

    Thank you very much for watching. We appreciate it.

    – Thanks guys.

    – See ya.

    – Bye.

    – [Voiceover] As always we want to thank our sponsors, Ventura Munitions and Grizzly Targets.

    Alex C.

    Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.