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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
semi-auto history
I'm relatively new to the shooting sports. I got myself a GOSA (gas-operated semi automatic) and I get out with it about once a week.

I'm curious about the history and development of this style of gun. I assume that recoil operated semi's have been around much longer, and at some point, someone invented the GOSA.... then at some later point I suspect the GOSA was perfected (or improved), which accounts for its popularity today.

Anyone got the scoop on this? Are my assumptions correct? When (approximately) did the various semi's go into production?

Thanks for the education!

Frequent SW Visitor
Posts: 28
(9/12/02 3:17:16 pm)

Don't know about gas operated, but I can tell you that the Browning A-5 came into production in Belgium in 1903. By 1904 import duties were slapped on weapons imports, and Browning also assigned production rights to Remington and the gun became the Remington M-11 and production started in 1905, and ran for forty years.

Later, Savage, also, got production rights. When the patents ran out, other manufacturers used the design.

The Browning uses recoil to auto load. Even I was able to understand the explanation. Upon firing, the bolt and barrel stay locked together, and travel backwards into the receiver. Th the end of the travel, the bolt locks in place. The barrel thrusts forward, powered by its own recoil spring. The empty shell stays clamped to the bolt by the extractor until the ejector, on the rear end of the barrel extension, hurls it out into space. During all this, the next cartridge in the magazine has been riding along underneath. The bolt has a shell stop on its bottom, and that shell follows the bolt back under recoil. When the shell follows the bolt, its rim cams the lifter lock out of position, releasing the lifter, raising the shell and unlocking the bolt. Without a shell the bolt stays locked back. The barrel slams to a halt at the front of the receiver as the bolt is released. The forward moving bolt gobbles up the new shell, chambers it, closes and locks to the barrel.

No gases are released into the receiver.

Forum Owner
Posts: 775
(9/12/02 11:49:13 pm)

Re: From Gunsmithing: Shotguns
I was hoping that would have some information (wonderful site). They explained Silencer's, flamethrowers, revolvers and what happens to a bullet fired from a train that is going the same speed as the bullet, though.
Then I went to Google. I really love it when I enter a search term and is the fourth site listed
Unfortunately, I didn't find anything that provided a good explanation with diagrams. I'll keep looking.
Jay Gentry

Shotgun Expert
Posts: 193
(9/13/02 12:55:12 am)

Re: From Gunsmithing: Shotguns
I have a book copyright 1973, titled The American Shotgun, by David Butler, in the acknowledgments he gives thanks to the American Rifleman magazine for articles published in 1953, and to The Rifleman for his article The Design of Semi-Automatic Shotguns from 1967.

The book starts out with the early smoothbores, think Blundebust and true wicked or matchlock style, progresses through wheel locks, flintlock, single and doubles, then early repeaters-the revolving type, then there are diagrams of the various recoil and gas operated autos...the copy of the Oct 9, 1900 patent by a certain John Browning is included.

Briefly the auto shotgun derived from the full auto rifle that both the Europeans and Americans were interested in developing. The first world war and the other conflicts prior to the time were a great impetus for weapons development. A fella named Hiram Maxim invented a full auto, self powered machine gun in 1885, his success started an major effort to equip the worlds armies with this type of weapon. During the 1890's auto sporting weapons were being designed, but there was little interest.

This history continues with with the interaction of Winchester, Browning, Remington etc the purchase of other companies, sharing of patents and info etc. J.B. actually worked for Remington, Colt, he sold them his pistol patents, Winchester for which they purchased many of his new designs although they did not always bring them into production. Recall the very successful BAR, it is a gas operated machine gun and the fact that the man that devloped it was one of the most prolific gun makers. Everyone has heard of the Colt 1911, Browning had a part in its development. He attempted to convert a Win model 1837 into a semi-auto rifle, simply by placing a perforated cap over the muzzle of the barrel with a small hole for the bullet to pass through, an annular surface for the gas to impinge against, the gas imparted a fwd motion to the cup which was translated through the linkages to operate the lever action of the gun.

In 1890, Browning turns his attentions to auto loading shotguns. The shells of the time were black powder, weak when compared to rifle cartridges, and varied in power, and the powder fouled the actions. He developed a long recoil action, the bolt is locked securely to the barrel extension and barrel, through a vertically sliding lock. The barrel has a ring which encircles the magazine tube and drives a friction brake rearwards against the return spring. When the gun is fired, the gas pressure inside the case accelerated the shot and wad forward at about 1,100fps and sent the entire barrel extension and bolt assy to the rear at about 23fps to 34fps. As described in an earlier post, this is similar to the A-5 action.

Browning worked closely with Winchester on the design of the gun. The original design, developed in 1899 conflicted with a patent of a Hugo Borchardt from Nov of 1899, so back to the drawing board and on 1 Aug of 1900 Browning sent an improved model gun to Winchester, there were some minor things that were ironed out and with three patent applications, 4 pages of illustrations, and 9 pages of descriptions. Consider that in a normal patent app 6-10 unique claims would be excellent, in Brownings very detailed patent 36 unique claims are recognized, proof once again that he was a true pioneer in firearms. The firearm was ready for production by 1902. Here is where the earlier sharing comes up against the reality that Browning knows how succesful this design is going to be, he had a working agreement with Win where they bought outright his inventions. He received royalty payments from other companies and attempted to neg a deal with Win for royalties on this design, one T.G. Bennett made the decision to refuse the request. That one choice has cost Win untold millions!

So, why did Browning go to Belgium??
There is a fine line between a hobby and insanity.

Frequent SW Visitor
Posts: 30
(9/13/02 6:01:00 am)

I found a couple of things interesting about gas operated shotguns. First, Remington wanted to move away from Browning designs and spent the 50's developing gas operated shotguns. First, came the Remington Sportsman Model 58, and, then, the 878.

The 58 had a rotating cap on the end of the magazine to adjust the gas system between heavy and light loads. The 878 was self-compensating and could handle heavy and light interchangeably. (I never knew there was an 87 . Both were tough to clean and would gunk up to become single shot.

In 1961 Remington came out with the 1100 and they had good looking shotguns that cost less than anything else and they ruled the roost for 20 years.

To me, what was even more interesting is how "kick" really has come to rule the definition of the 12 *****. You see, the shotgun manufacturers, in order to make their shotguns more attractive, made their stocks essentially straight out, limiting drop, and, thus, limiting "kick".

So you are talking about a shotgun made for somebody 5'7" to 5'9" with a relatively short neck.

In the early days, there was a class of shotgun made for professional duck hunters, who were superb shots. The drop on these guns was 3 inches and even more, to accommodate a heads up shooting style, but the recoil (kick) was substantial.

I think so many women and men with long necks have a terrible time with clays (especially skeet) because the drop does not accommodate them properly.

I would like to see the drop on a Winchester Model 12, because I could shoot that gun very well....better than other guns.

Frequent SW Visitor
Posts: 6
(9/13/02 7:51:00 am)

Hey Remm.
I used a Remmington M11 for a few years, pick it up cheap at a gunshop. I swear I could hit just about anything my shot charge made it to (40 yds.). Man the old sucker was heavy but, boy did it shot nice. My Rem. 1100 20 ga. I have to work at to hit consistanly on the wing. Say is there anyway to up grade the stock to these old time dim.s ??

Frequent SW Visitor
Posts: 33
(9/13/02 9:10:13 am)

Many of the old Remington stocks can be purchased new at and they are very inexpensive, in my opinion. He has Browning A-5 stocks, also.

I hear what you are saying about the Remington 20 *****, and how you have to work at it, compared to how well you could shoot with the Remington M11, just naturally.

I recently had the good fortune to find a Beretta 303, 20 ***** that had not been shot!! It came with an English stock, as the gun is upgland game. However, like you say, with my long neck I have to work with it to shoot properly. I purchased a field stock for the gun, to custom fit a stock with sanding and spacers, and it is so beautiful that I hate to take sandpaper to it!! So I'm starting to fit the gun, and I put it up for sale at the same time. Whichever comes first will be what will be.
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