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Douglas "recoilless" submachine
In 1969, a Canadian designer, N. Clifford
Douglas, developed a highly unusual submachine gun which was billed as a
"recoilless" SMG. This gun was unique in several ways, and acted as a
testbed for some interesting concepts that were never fully fleshed out.
The method of eliminating the felt recoil of the gun was achieved by
having the bolt and barrel fixed together by a spring. When the gun was
fired, the bolt would blow backward as expected, and the barrel would blow
forward; the central spring connecting the two would then pull them back
together, meanwhile the gap that had temporarily been opened would allow a
new cartridge to be loaded into the breech from the magazine. Through this
system, the impact of the bolt was barely felt by the user due to the
force of the barrel acting against it. What the Douglas did not, and could
not, eliminate was the force exerted by the energy of the bullet as it
left the barrel, and thus there was still some "muzzle climb" with the
Douglas SMG. Therefore what the gun was really designed to achieve was
optimal comfort for the firer, rather than eliminating all recoil
outright. Indeed, the Douglas could be fired with one hand with
significantly greater ease than a standard blowback SMG or machine pistol.
The operating principle of the Douglas
The other significant feature of the Douglas submachine gun, besides the
unique operating mechanism, was the magazine. The Douglas employed a
"bullpup" layout in which the magazine was fed in from behind the trigger.
The magazine designed for the gun was a tubular helical type, of a similar
fashion to the much later Russian PP-19 Bizon SMG. However the magazine
was not operated by a spring and follower, but was driven by the movement
of the bolt (this can be contrasted to another Canadian experimental SMG,
the SAL Model 2). The cartridges in the magazine sat in a spiraling fluted
cylinder which was rotated by a sort of screw-type shaft protruding from
the front end of the magazine. When the bolt came back it would engage
with a series of "teeth" on the shaft and force a ⅛ rotation of the
cylinder. This would push a the current cartridge out of the magazine
opening and a new cartridge would be elevated to the top of the magazine.
When not loaded into the gun, the magazine shaft could be locked in place
by a latch to prevent it from rotating unintentionally.
The Douglas submachine gun was evaluated by the Canadian Army in the late
1960s or early 1970s, but it never advanced past an embryonic prototype
stage. One imagines that the system used by this gun, while technically
innovative, was probably not particularly reliable compared to a standard
(click to enlarge)