Book Review: V23N3

By Dean Roxby

The Unappreciated SLR

The origins of the FN49 rifle go back to 1936, prior to WWII. The chief engineer at FN, Mr. Dieudonné Saive, designed a gas-operated semi-auto that used a tilting bolt method to lock the breech during firing. However, with the FN factory in Belgium captured by Nazi Germany early in WWII, the design that would become the FN49 would have to wait.

This book chronicles the development of this under-appreciated rifle in great detail, from the earliest attempts at self-loading rifles, to the end of production. Surprisingly, there was interest in self-loading battle rifles as far back as the early 1900s. In fact, in 1907, FN approached a German-born arms designer, Karl Brauning (no relation to John M. Browning). At the time, Mr. Brauning was working for the Dutch arsenal at Zandaam, Netherlands. He had recently patented a self-loading rifle that functioned by barrel recoil and locked the bolt by a pair of pivoting lugs that fit into recesses in the receiver. This rifle, as well as several other designs, took part in various arms trials in the following years. However, the start of WWI in 1914 interrupted this.

Following the end of WWI, work resumed in several countries regarding the adoption of a self-loading rifle. The U.S. chose the M1 Garand early enough to equip her army prior to entering WWII. Most other nations did not and had to go to war with bolt action guns.
The book takes a detailed look at the early military trials that featured the Brauning design, including a brief mention of the 1929 U.S. Trials at Aberdeen Proving Ground. An interesting photo from that time shows several inventors, including John Pedersen and John Garand with their respective designs.

Chapter 2 covers Saive’s time in England, during which he continued to work on his design. (He had escaped to England during the hostilities.)

Although Great Britain was in no position to completely rearm and retrain her entire military during the heat of battle, the experimenting and research continued. When Saive got to Britain, he offered his design and talent to the...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N3 (March 2019)
and was posted online on February 1, 2019


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