Reader A. E. Johnson writes:
Ever since the dawn of mankind we’ve been trying to kill one another. But it was only with the advent of gunpowder that we got really good at it.
Firearms have existed for centuries, and have been constantly evolving to become ever more efficient at what they do. Yet for every new, awe-inspiring innovation, there comes another not-so-amazing design. One that makes you shake your head that it ever managed to be produced. Sometimes this is due to poor quality materials, rushed production lines, or just plain old or bad designers who had no idea what they were doing.
So while it’s been difficult to narrow them down, here’s a list of some of the worst modern firearms designs (and by “modern” we’re looking at roughly the last century) ever put into production.
To be clear, we’re not including designs that were intended to be cheap and crappy from the start.
We’re looking at you, Saturday night specials.
Also, homemade, improvised, workshop-made or “one-off” weaponry is off the table. We’ll just be concentrating on production firearms here.
So without further ado, here are the five worst modern production firearms ever made . . .
Manufacturer: MB Associates, USA
The Gyrojet series — which looked like it was assembled with parts from an Erector Set — was developed by MBA in the 1960’s and was basically a handheld rocket launcher, firing 13mm propellant-driven projectiles. Various light machine gun and rifle variants were also planned, but few ever made it to the prototype stages. Despite this, there were cases of the pistols being used by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, with limited success.
Differing from most “traditional” firearms, the velocity of the Gyrojet rockets would actually increase after leaving the barrel. This may have been a plus when firing at distant targets, but made the Gyrojet lousy at close range…which, funnily enough, is actually an important requirement for a handgun.
The Gyrojet also featured a restrictive six-round magazine, had a clumsy reloading process, and featured exposed vent ports which would also interfere with loading and firing the gun’s unique projectiles. Given the fact that existing pistols already did a much better job (ie, actually had the ability to cause damage to targets within 10 feet), MBA eventually folded along with the Gyrojet design.
4) Glisenti Model 1910
Manufacturer: Metallurgica Brescia gia Tempini (MBT), Italy
The Glisenti Model 1910 has mainly been included on our illustrious list because it had an awful tendency to quite literally fall apart. That feature made Erector Set and Lego guns look like better alternatives, as at least they wouldn’t collapse quite so often when the trigger was pulled.
Being one of the first semi-auto handguns accepted for frontline service, the M1910 was introduced in (surprisingly) 1910 and saw use during World War I, all the way to World War II. For some reason.
This was a time when many militaries were starting to make the transition from larger caliber revolvers that were well-known and trusted by soldiers to new, untested semi-automatic handguns. While its 9mm rounds were similar to the renowned German 9mm parabellum cartridges, Glisenti ammunition had to have a reduced powder charge. The Glisenti simply couldn’t handle the higher pressures, as it had been flimsily engineered and lacked structural integrity.
It also had one particularly dubious feature; a takedown screw located on the front of the frame, designed to allow the left side of the gun to be exposed, and the gun disassembled. Unfortunately, the rickety design of the handgun often led to the screw loosening. That resulted in the frame and receiver assembly coming apart at inopportune moments. Also, if a poor Italian soldier who was issued a Glisenti made the mistake of loading it with more powerful 9mm parabellum rounds, there was a high likelihood that the gun would explode.
Fortunately, Italy could fall back on other domestic gun makers that actually knew what they were doing. The sorry Glisenti was eventually replaced with the excellent Beretta M1934. But that doesn’t mean we’re finished Italian guns just yet . . .
3) Breda Modello 30 Light Machine Gun
Manufacturer: Breda Meccanica Bresciana, Italy
Italy has produced many of history’s greatest minds and consumer products throughout its long history. Ferraris, opera, Armani suits, Leonardo da Vinci, and gelato come to mind. The Breda Modello 30, however, was not one of those things.
The Breda was a light machine gun used by Italy through World War II and utilized many unique design notes. One of them was a fixed magazine that opened via a hinge. One feature of this was that, if ever the gun’s fixed magazine or its hinge were damaged, the Breda became unusable.
As you may know, World War II revolved less around “pink fluffy clouds” and more around “shit-encrusted hell-holes” and this proved to be problematic for this delicate Italian lady. In order to “help” the extraction of spent ammunition casings, a small lubrication device was built into each Breda. It oiled each round as it entered the firing chamber.
Combine that design with the many exotic locales the Breda found itself in (the deserts of North Africa, the Balkans, Greece) and fairly soon sand, dirt, dust and other debris was attracted to the well-oiled internal mechanisms. That resulted in frequent jamming unless the weapon was kept meticulously clean.
Not only that, but due to the closed bolt design, it wasn’t able to gain the benefits of cooling air circulation found in open bolt weapons. In the heat in North Africa, this mechanical issue sometimes caused rounds to prematurely “cook off” (fire unintentionally when the trigger wasn’t pulled) potentially killing or injuring the gunner…or any other Italian unlucky enough to be standing in front of the barrel at the time.
Also, the fixed-hinge magazine mentioned earlier had a slot at the top to allow the gunner to see how many rounds were left. It also was a great way to answer the question, “How many ways can we find to allow dirt to get into and screw up this gun?”
2) Type 94 Nambu Pistol
Manufacturer: Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company
As a Japanese World War II era pistol that fired 8mm Nambu rounds, the Type 94 was underpowered, cumbersome, awkward to use and disassemble, and very unsafe for the user.
The Type 94’s initial design was already flawed, but was made worse by interference by the Japanese Ordnance Department. The magazine size was a paltry six rounds, and the useless blade sights made it very inaccurate. Slipping late war production standards as Japan scrambled with limited resources further added poor workmanship and quality problems.
The main feature that puts the Type 94 on our list was its tendency to fire when you didn’t want it to. The external sear bar projected from the sides, and if it was depressed as little at 2mm, it could go bang. There are also claims that this little feature may have been used by IJA officers as a final “suicide shot” when handing the pistol over when captured. Scary stuff, indeed.
Manufacturer: Gladiator and SIDARME, France
Officially called “Le Fusil Mitrailleur 1915 CSRG” by France, and “a piece of merde” by likely everyone else, the Chauchat was arguably the most disastrous production firearm of modern times. The Gladiator factory in Paris (where the majority of the manufacturing was done) compiled an extensive rap sheet of shoddy workmanship where these guns were concerned, including use of substandard materials, improper heat treatment and myriad other factors that helped to put the Chauchat at number one on our hit parade.
Introduced during World War I, the woeful Chauchat was immediately tested in one of the most inhospitable environments of the last century — the mud-filled trenches of the Western Front. The Chauchat provided the role of a “light machine gun” which was a concept very much in its infancy during the Great War.
Designed to provide automatic fire, it would jam frequently and overheat, sometimes after only 100 rounds being fired. The firing mechanism would then lock in place for up to 10 minutes until the Chaucat cooled down. The long recoil mechanism also made it awkward to shoot. The poorly-made sights usually shot too low and to the right, which didn’t exactly lead to great accuracy. It also had a flimsy, crappy bipod. Seriously, there have been Happy Meal toys that were better made.
One of the worst flaws was its flimsy magazine, which had a measly capacity for a machine gun of only 20 rounds. The magazine springs usually weren’t strong enough to actually push new rounds into the chamber, so most Chauchat gunners “short-loaded” their mags (only loading 18 or 19 rounds) for increased reliability. Even then, first round jams were disturbingly common.
Even worse, the magazine was almost completely open on one side and exposed the gun and its ammunition to all the mud, slime and dirt and filth that the trenches could provide. In addition, the magazine feed lips were easily bent and the entire magazine could be easily crushed or deformed, rendering one of the most integral parts of the weapon useless.
After America decided to join the party over there, France was kind enough to manufacture Chauchats in .30-06 caliber for U.S. troops. And by “kind” we mean “provide even more crappy guns made even worse than had been before.” The new Chauchats suffered from incorrect chamber measurements for the American round, as well as all the above-mentioned design issues. American ordnance inspectors rejected as much as 40 percent of the .30-cal. Chauchats, and even then, the .30-’06 Springfield cartridge overpowered the flimsy weapon.