Revolutionary 1884 Nordenfelt Machine gun will go under the hammer
• 141 rare firearms of all sorts up for sale in magnificent Daedalus Collection
• The Nordenfelt model was used by the British navy in Egypt in the late 19th century and was capable of shooting up to 1,000 rounds per minute
• Highlights also include a Borchardt patent self-loading pistol, a buffalo hunting rifle and an 1873 Winchester rifle believed to be surrendered by an American Indian warrior at the Battle of the Little Bighorn
The magnificent Daedalus Collection of antique and vintage firearms illustrates the span of American and European technical advances in firearms design and innovation during the 19th century, and will be offered for sale at Bonhams Knightsbridge on 1 December. The collection was carefully gathered together with an emphasis on condition.
An exceptionally rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) ten-barrelled centre-fire mechanical gun, estimated at £50,000-70,000
The highlight of the sale is a Nordenfelt .43 mechanical gun, one of the very first machine guns, of which only two other examples of these guns are thought to exist. One in the collections of the Musée de l'Armée, Paris and the other at the Amsterdam War Memorial, Victoria, Australia.
The gun was designed by the Swedish engineer, Helge Palmcrantz, in around 1873. The gun, with ten barrels in a horizontal line, is mounted on a green-painted carriage with bronze windage and elevating wheels, and is manoeuvred via spoked wooden wheels. The mechanism is gravity-fed from a hopper, the ammunition dropping into a carrier-block. Depending on the speed of the operator, an average rate of fire was in the region of about 100 rounds a minute per barrel. The British Navy used this model in Egypt in 1882, and some of these guns accompanied General Hicks' expedition to the Sudan the following year. They were still in service in 1889 at the battle of Toski in Egypt, although by this time they seem to have acquired a reputation for jamming. The British army phased the Nordenfelt out of service by 1891 in favour of the Maxim gun.
A very fine 7.65x25mm Waffenfabrik Loewe C-93 System Borchardt Patent self-loading pistol, estimated at £15,000-18,000
The Borchardt was the first commercially successful automatic pistol, and may be held under both categories of s.7 Heritage pistols in the UK. This particular pistol is in excellent condition, retaining virtually all of its original finish, the wooden grip still with its crisp chequering. The Borchardt pistol was tested by the U.S. Navy and Army from 1894 onwards. Although it was accurate and its rate of fire was rapid, it was expensive to produce and unwieldy to handle due to its almost vertical grip and distribution of weight. Furthermore, its recoil was found to be unexpectedly powerful - criticisms that were noted in the Swiss Army field tests. Surviving examples in fine condition are extremely rare.
A .45 Sharps 1874 Model breech-loading centre-fire sporting or buffalo rifle, estimated at £2,000-3,000
Sharps rifles of this type were the weapon of choice for professional buffalo hunters at the height of the 19th century in Midwestern America. They were used at very long range so as to prevent the herds from stampeding. Heavy barrels, which made for steadier aim, allowed for faster shooting.
An 1873 Winchester rifle
This 1873 Winchester First Model rifle is recorded as having been acquired by a gold miner, blacksmith and engineer named Moses A. Welch (d.1913) who whilst working at 'the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Montana Territory and got the gun after it was surrendered by an Indian warrior that helped kill Gen. Custer and his men'. The rifle remained with his descendants ever since. The lot is offered with a quantity of Welch's correspondence, related paperwork, and its contemporary American Indian fringed buff leather slip.
"This is a collection put together with scholarship, care and passion," said David Williams, Bonhams Director of the Antique Arms and Armour Department. "Not only are many of the pieces imbued with a rich history, but the Collection as a whole is testament to the collector's inimitable eye for condition."