An Exceptionally Rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) Ten-Barrelled Centre-Fire Mechanical Gun

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Lot 141S58
An Exceptionally Rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) Ten-Barrelled Centre-Fire Mechanical Gun
No. 163, Circa 1884

Sold for £ 81,250 (US$ 111,999) inc. premium
An Exceptionally Rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) Ten-Barrelled Centre-Fire Mechanical Gun
No. 163, Circa 1884
The barrels in horizontal line and each of hexagonal section at the muzzle to allow removal, and rifled with eight spiral grooves, the rifling in good condition, the iron side-plates each stamped 'RA' in a circle and carrying the forward bracket securing the muzzles and incorporating a front sight on each side, brass breech-plate also stamped 'RA' in a circle on each side (sliding cartridge-carrier replaced), serial numbered flat iron action with narrow pivoting cover at the rear secured by a threaded screw with knurled head and opening to allow the removal of the firing pins, recessed at the front to allow the spring-held black-painted replacement ammunition hopper to be fitted from the left side, sprung dry-firing and oscillation levers each with knurled circular handle, the action operated by a replacement lever on the right side moving back to lock the action, and forward to fire sequentially from right to left and automatically oscillating the barrels from left to right, pivoting safety-hook engaging with the operating lever, adjustable back-sights, one serial numbered and calibrated in white-metal from '1' to '9', the other calibrated to 250 metres, and each with circular elevating wheel, on U-shaped iron yoke mounted on a green-painted iron riveted cut-out carriage expertly constructed after an original and with bronze windage and elevation wheels, the trail with centrally mounted tool chest with hinged lid opening to form a seat, manoeuvring handles, axel of square section, and cambered spoked wooden wheels with iron rims and retaining pins
31⅞in. barrels, 105½in. overall, 70⅞in. wide


  • Provenance
    Acquired in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2001
    Sold in these Rooms, Antique Arms, Armour and Modern Sporting Guns..., 1 December 2009, lot 462

    The Nordenfelt mechanical or machine gun was designed by the Swedish engineer Heldge Palmcrantz in around 1873. It consisted of up to twelve barrels arranged in a line. The mechanism is gravity-fed from a hopper, the ammunition dropping into a carrier-block. When the lever is pushed forward the carrier-block moves in line with the barrels chambering the cartridges which are subsequently discharged in sequence. On pulling the lever back, the sequence is reversed and the fired cases extracted, at the same time moving the carrier across to accept more cartridges. Depending on the speed of the operator, an average rate of fire was in the region of about 100 rounds a minute per barrel.

    In 1878, in order to finance production, Palmcrantz approached Torsten Nordenfelt (1842-1920), a Swedish banker, based in London, who was importing steel into Britain. The original British patent was granted to J.H. Johnson on behalf of H. Palmcrantz, J.T. Wimborg and E. Unge on 13 May 1873 (no. 1739). On 17 September 1878 a further patent was granted to T. Nordenfelt on behalf of Palmcrantz which appears to have protected the overall design. Subsequent patents were granted on 18 December 1882 (no. 5324) and 11 May 1883 (no. 2401). Nordenfelt promoted the design widely, including the British military machine gun trials of 1879, and founded the Nordenfelt Gun and Ammunition Company with factories in Stockholm, Erith in Kent, and Spain. In a trial held at Nordenfelt's grounds near Dartford, Kent in July 1883 (as reported in the Times on 28 July), he trialled numerous firearms and ordnance of his own production in front of 'a very large company, composed of members of the army and navy, and representatives of foreign powers'. According to the same news report, 'The ten-barrelled gun, mounted on a field carriage, ... gave 900 rounds in the minute, fired 100 rounds with spreading motion in seven seconds, 200 rounds at 30° of elevation in 13 seconds, and a like number at 30° of depression in 11 seconds'.

    The British Navy appear to have used examples in Egypt in 1882, and some also accompanied General Hick's expedition to the Sudan the following year. They were still in service in 1889 at the battle of Wad al-Nujumi at Toski, although a quote from a subaltern of the IXth battalion of the Egyptian army suggests that by this time they had acquired a reputation for jamming. The British army had phased the Nordenfelt out of service by 1891 in favour of the Maxim gun, although a photograph of the Machine Gun Course at Enfield in 1905 suggests that they were still available for issue to the Army Ordnance Corps.

    In 1888 Nordenfelt was forced to merge his company with that of Hiram Maxim, possibly with the coercion of Sir Basil Zaharoff (who had previously been promoting the Nordenfelt in competition with Maxim), forming the 'Maxim-Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company'. Following a personal bankruptcy in 1890, Nordenfelt left the company and moved to France, starting the Société Nordenfelt, which was responsible for creating the eccentric screw-breech used on the French 75mm gun. In 1903 he retired to Stockholm, where he died in 1920

    Only two other ten-barrelled Nordenfelt's appear to be recorded, one on display at the Musée de l'Armée, Paris and the other at the Amsterdam War Memorial, Victoria, Australia (no. REL/05627)
An Exceptionally Rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) Ten-Barrelled Centre-Fire Mechanical Gun
An Exceptionally Rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) Ten-Barrelled Centre-Fire Mechanical Gun
An Exceptionally Rare Nordenfelt .43(Spanish) Ten-Barrelled Centre-Fire Mechanical Gun
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Lot symbols
S58 Section 58 obsolete calibre

Lots are obsolete calibres and no licence is required unless ammunition is held.