13 of the Biggest Gun Fails in Recent Firearm History

These are just 13 of the many rifles, shotguns, and handguns that have backfired over the years

intro guns

A lot of weird guns have been made throughout the ages. Some were the product of innovative thinking that didn’t exactly pan out in execution. Other obscure models were developed to circumvent patent infringement. Many, however, were successful firearms with design flaws that weren’t considered prior to production. As we sit here and judge though, it’s important to remember that historical hindsight is always 20/20. There are too many quirky guns in existence to list them all—these are just 13 unlucky guns that might make you ask the question, “WTF?” or, “Why that firearm?”

13. Whitney Wolverine

In the post-World War II period, there was a race to create the most efficient synthetic gun. Some platforms, like the AR-15, were successful while others, like the Whitney Wolverine, were less fortunate. This gun was designed by Robert Hillberg (he will appear elsewhere in this list) in 1956 and manufactured by Whitney Arms. The gun was made from aluminum and weighed only 1.3 pounds. It failed in part due to unsuccessful marketing efforts, and little more than 10,000 were produced over two years. While this futuristic-looking design initially disappeared from the firearms scene, it was later given new life through Olympic Arms. You can read more about the Wolverine's rise and fall <a href="http://rockislandauction.blogspot.com/2014/05/rise-and-fall-of-whitney-wolverine.html">here</a>.

12. Dardick Revolver and Trounds

Like the Wolverine, designers were experimenting with new and different concepts in the post-World War II period. While many explored the world of synthetics, David Dardick applied that model of change to how the gun fired. Patented in 1954, Dardick’s triangular round, or tround, was a projectile encased within a blue, green, or white polymer. This type of ammunition would be paired with an open-topped pistol. Production ceased after less than a decade. The tround would resurface decades later with the U.S. Government Project SALVO, but it never met public acceptance. You can read more about the Dardick <a href="http://thearmsguide.com/4268/weird-gun-wednesday-the-dardick-1500/">here</a>.

11. Gyrojet

While the Gyrojet was the closest thing to a successful rocket pistol, that goal wasn’t necessarily a high mountain to climb. Developed in the 1960s by Robert Mainhardt and Art Biehl with the MBAssociates, this firearm fired microjets (tiny rockets). The lightweight build of the gun and its ammunition were an interesting combination that didn’t fully work. The neat idea was that the microjets burned rocket propellent, meaning the pressure was inside the projectile not the gun. The downside? Terrible muzzle velocity. However, that did increase the longer it burned. There were other issues with the Gyrojet in execution, and this is one of those guns that failed to become popular on the market. That said, it has become a curiosa item among collectors.

10. Winchester Model 1893 Shotgun

The Winchester Model 1893 was actually a good gun! But it was still one of the earliest product recalls in American history. It was Winchester’s first successful slide action shotgun, but it was invented at the wrong moment in history. This shotgun was made for black powder during the time of transition to smokeless. Winchester was worried that people would inadvertently put smokeless shells into the gun and in turn be injured, so they recalled the firearm and replaced it with their slide action smokeless shotgun: the Model 1897.

9. M60 Machine Gun

While the M60 Machine Gun was one of the most widely used machine guns in American history and well-liked by many, this is an example of a good gun with some features that make you go, “huh?” The M60 or “Pig” was manufactured starting in 1957 in 7.62x51mm NATO. While it was the first American machine gun to feature a quick-change barrel, changing the barrel was no easy task. The barrel, gas cylinder, and bipod were all attached. Also there was no carry handle to facilitate the barrel changes. The lack of handle forced the army to issue asbestos gloves. Another downside to the gun was that it frequently malfunctioned in the Vietnam climate.. It was not until the M60E4 came out more than 30 years later that they finally worked the kinks out; but it had already been replaced by most branches.

8. Liberator Pistol/Shotgun Concept

The Liberator idea—to arm rebels with firearms to rise up against their tyrant governments—may have been a good one, but it was never fully executed. During WWII, the single-shot FP45 pistols were made to be dropped into enemy territory. However, we don’t know of any documentation that this was implemented. The idea was revived by Robert Hillberg (remember him? See #13). After the 1959 firearm confiscation in Cuba, the Liberator Shotgun was devised to be dropped into Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion. It was a four-barrel shotgun that cost less than $20 to produce. While the Mark I came out too late for the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Winchester did agree to test it in 1964 for Vietnam. Unfortunately the Liberator never saw productive use, but it’s still a pretty badass-looking gun.

7. Villar Perosa

The Villar Perosa has been accurately called “impractical” all over the internet. It's a weird-looking gun that was used and adapted in many different ways because of its inability to be used for a one primary role. Invented by Revelli in Italy 1914, it was used by the military in 1915. It was essentially a pair of submachine guns mounted side by side with a rate of fire of 1200-1500 rpm. It was intended for many things, but failed: an aircraft weapon, ground machine gun, and infantry rifle. It was later modified to improve its efficacy, but it was not until Italian alpine troops used it that it found some success. It’s still not a well-known firearm. And not many models have survived, since many were broken down to be made into the Model 1918 submachine guns.

6. Colt Revolving Rifle

In 1836, Samuel Colt took out his first revolving patent in America. Many people remember the Colt Paterson and its shortcomings, and Colt’s Revolving Rifle endured similar scrutiny. His Model 1855 was the most widely produced rifle. In comparison to the revolvers, the problem with the rifles was that if the gun chain fired, your face was dangerously close to the cylinder. Additionally, the rifle would spray lead into the wrist of the users, which was not a problem for the revolver since both hands were behind the cylinder.

5. Cochran Turret Gun

The Cochran Turret Guns were produced with a horizontally-seated cylinder. In 1836, Samuel Colt took out one of the first revolving patents in the United States (see #7). As a result, no one in America could produce a revolver in that configuration. Around the same time, John Webster Cochran set out to develop a turret revolver, and the chambers were bored into the horizontal disk. While a unique idea, the Cochran guns were actually pretty dangerous. The exposed chambers could spell disaster for the shooter and anyone around that person if the firearm malfunctioned or chain fired.

4. Porter Turret

The turret guns of the 19th century had their issues. Like the Cochran, the T.P. Porter designs had similar problems. In the 1850s the gun had exposed chambers on a vertically seated cylinder. Other Porter designs had a canister ball magazine that sat on the top of the breach, obstructing sightline down the barrel. The Porter guns that ended up being relatively popular worked out these kinks before production.

3. Japanese M1 Garand

Historically, wars fuel creativity for new weapons. But sometimes they can also stunt research that’s in the works. For Japan, the onset of WWII stifled their semi-automatic technology development. They tried to make a comeback in 1945, but at that point, it was too late. By the end of the war, Japan produced a copy of the United States’ M1 Garand. Some of the differences include: a Japanese caliber, 10-round internal magazine fed by a 5-round stripper clip, and an Arisaka-style sling swivel. Only 100 are believed to have been made. While a copy of the “Greatest Battle Implement Ever Devised,” the Japanese M1 Garand had faulty machining and represented an unsuccessful last-ditch effort at the conclusion of WWII. It was an invention of desperation.

2. Japanese Type 94 Nambu Pistol

This gun has been called many names, usually starting with, "the worst military pistol" and ending with some variation of, "ever." The Japanese government wanted a cheap pistol fast and, well, you get what you pay for. Manufactured in 1935 by Kijiro Nambu, this gun had some structural similarities to the Type 14. The main issue that everyone talks about, however, is the exposed trigger bar on the left side of the frame. Imagine being left handed and using proper handgun handling with your trigger finger along the frame. Just when you think you're following safety procedures, <em>BAM</em>. The depression of the exposed bar would fire the gun, and you had discovered a secret trigger.

1. Chauchat Machine Gun

The Chauchat has been called “The Worst Gun in History.” Named after Colonel Louis Chauchat, it was the machine gun used by France during World War I. This gun was used en masse and hundreds of thousands were produced. While it was one of the earlier light machine guns, the fatal flaw proved to be its magazine. The half-moon magazine was no match for the muddy trenches of the war, and the open mag below the firearm would fill with mud in the trenches and no longer function.