I mentioned last week that I was tired of heavy rifles and yearned for something lighter, but that wasn’t completely true. I’ve found a very heavy rifle I do want — so heavy, in fact, that it’s mounted on a carriage!
It’s actually pretty rare these days that I come across a gun that really pushes my buttons. In fact, I’ve gotten so jaded that the opportunity to shoot a new gun isn’t all that appealing any longer; there are just very few things that intrigue me to the point that I feel any desire to pull a trigger, literally or figuratively.
Over the weekend, though, Ian at Forgotten Weapons posted a video that inexplicably made me salivate just a bit. He got a chance to examine a very rare 37mm semi-automatic cannon from World War 1, and it intrigues me to no end — partly because no one seems to know very much about it!
The cannon was made by Bethlehem Steel for the French army. Designated the 37mm Mark A, Model I, 200 were made to fill a French contract, their army at the time being desperate for arms of all types. It was not quite what they needed, however, because the French rejected the gun outright after only 15 were delivered. There is no record of it being used it in combat.
Those guns were eventually returned to the U.S., and combined with un-shipped remainder all were apparently sent out to either National Guard units (and apparently some American Legion posts, which was not uncommon for the time) for training, ceremonial or decorative purposes. It seems that the U.S. military had no more use for it than did the French!
Beyond that the trail gets very hazy. The Historic Reproductions site has perhaps the most accurate information available, but even that is sparse. I found a fellow on a specialty arms site who, in 2009, had catalogued 22 of them still in existence, most of those being outside display pieces. There are many pictures of the gun on the ‘net labeled “unidentified”, and even one in a museum bears a plaque indicating the curator didn’t know what it was.
The shell it fired is even more enigmatic: near as I could determine, it used a high velocity 37 x 136 rimmed shell (some sources indicate 37 x 137R) that fired a one-pound projectile. I have been unable to source a reliable picture.
All this intrigue just makes me even more, umm, intrigued. Watch Ian’s video, imagine how much fun it would be at the range, and then you’ll know why I want one!
-=[ Grant ]=-