December 2019 Rock Island Premiere Firearms Auction is the last large American auction of the year. As always, when its online catalog was published I started browsing it to put together one of TFB’s articles about the rarest and most unusual firearms seen in the largest US auctions. I ended up with a list of lots that I considered most interesting and then realized that my list mostly consists of prototype and experimental firearms. While there are such guns in any Rock Island Premier auction, this one has a notoriously large amount of them many of which are really unique. That’s why I decided to write this article as a bit of a departure from what we normally cover in our series (rare and unusual guns in general) and dedicate it to telling about the experimental and prototype firearms seen in December 2019 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction catalog.
The list presented below goes in no particular order. The model names are linked to the corresponding Rock Island Auction pages where you can find more and higher resolution images as well as more detailed descriptions of the lots.
Fort Ellis is the name that Wilfred Ellis, a master gunsmith from Abington, Pennsylvania, gave to his …home shop! Designed in 1986 in “Fort Ellis”, this rifle is a Frankengun composed of a number of borrowed parts and design ideas from other firearms some of which are modified to serve other roles. For example, an AR-15 trigger is used as a charging handle. The XR86 hass an M60 muzzle device, AR-15 bolt carrier group and barrel nut, M14 gas piston assembly, M16 pistol grip and buttstock, and a trigger designed for 1911 pistol double action conversions. The rifle is chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and fed from AR-15 magazines. The magazine is attached from the left side of the rifle and the ejection port faces downward. The gun has no iron sights but it features an accessory rail section on top of the carry handle.
Estimated Price:$3,500 – $5,500
The model name and origin of this duck foot pistol are unknown due to the lack of markings. Compared to the relatively more common percussion duck foot pistols this one has a harmonica-type 5-round magazine and it’s chambered in .32 Rimfire. The similarity to percussion duck foots is that this pistol also fires all five cartridges simultaneously. Such a pistol design could have an advantage in very specific scenarios. If you are facing a bunch of enemies and need to do as much damage as possible, then you could hit up to five targets at once at close distances. However, if there are people or objects in the area that you don’t want to damage, then shooting such a pistol is a recipe for a disaster. Also, despite having 5 rounds you have only one shot before a need to reload. This particular duck foot pistol was probably an attempt to solve the latter issue by having some sort of a magazine that could be reloaded relatively quickly. Having a barrel centered in the middle should also be an advantage compared to four-barrel duck foots in that it will allow hitting a single target which may be a challenge with the 4-barrel duck foot pistols that lack a centered barrel.
Estimated Price:$5,500 – $8,500
This pistol was designed in 1938/39 in Gustloff Werke in Suhl, Germany. It has a zinc alloy frame with an aluminum trigger guard and dust cover portion of the frame. The slide is made of steel. The pistol is chambered in .32 ACP and has a direct/simple blowback operation mechanism. It is a hammer-fired pistol with a single action trigger mechanism and an internal hammer. This pistol was designed to be a new police handgun but it was never adopted.
Estimated Price:$3,000 – $4,500
A bullpup over and under 10 gauge shotgun – if that doesn’t sound interesting enough, then what if I tell you that its barrels are also curved. The two barrels are straight in the front portion but somewhere in the middle, they curve down to fit the angle of the stock. That’s a really interesting experiment and I am pretty sure it could work just fine without any negative effect on the shot pattern. As with other bullpup firearms, the main advantage of such a layout is to have a much more compact overall length at a given barrel length. The hinged breech block of this shotgun is located at the very end of the buttstock and adds only 1 3/4″ to the 33.5″ of barrels’ length.
Estimated Price:$1,800 – $2,750
Colt T-12 single shot pen gun was presumably developed for OSS/CIA agents. This is a single-shot firearm and in order to load it, you need to unscrew the barrel insert the cartridge, screw the barrel back, cock the striker by pulling the brass knob back and either fix it in the safety notch of the L-shaped slot or release it to fire the gun. Although the way it functions is similar to many other pen guns, what sets this one apart is its size – note how small it is compared to a penny. The overall length is two inches and this miniature gun fires .12 caliber cartridges. Now that’s a real-world James Bond gun.
Estimated Price:$2,750 – $4,250
Last in our list is a steampunky triple-barrel muzzleloading shotgun. It is hard to tell whether the clockwork was supposed to remain exposed or if the final version would have at least some of the guts covered. The two side by side barrels of this shotgun are fired by a pair of normal percussion hammers and the third bottom barrel is fired by an underhammer mechanism. What looks like a trigger guard is actually the trigger for the bottom barrel. Another interesting design element is that the buttstock is hinged and can move up and down. Whether this was meant to be a stock with an adjustable drop or it was purely a prototype feature to determine the desired drop is also hard to tell because there is virtually nothing known about the origin of this gun.
Estimated Price:$2,500 – $4,000
And that’s the list of most interesting prototype and experimental firearms seen in the December 2019 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction catalog. As I mentioned above, this is not the full list of such firearms in the RIAC catalog. These are just my picks. There are also a couple of Colt Woodsman pistol prototypes, six Winchester rimfire bolt action pistol prototypes, several prototype lever-action Winchesters and many other experimental guns. And as usual, the catalog is also full of fascinating firearms that are rare, historically significant or are unbelievably well preserved. The December 2019 Rock Island Premier firearms auction will take place on December 6, 7 and 8. Stay tuned to learn about the top most expensive lots sold during this auction which we’ll present you shortly after the auction ends and the list of prices realized is published.