Blow-Forward Schwarzlose 1908 at the Backup Gun Match

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The Schwarzlose 1908 is the only blow-forward firearm ever to see real commercial sale. It is a compact pocket pistol chambered for .32 ACP, with a 7-round magazine. They were sold by Schwarzlose in Germany and also assembled and sold in the United States in a slightly altered form by the Warner Arms Company. I’ve long wanted to try one out in a semi-practical environment, and the Backup Gun Match provides a perfect venue, as its stages are designed around 5-round revolvers.

The Schwarzlose has a number of deficiencies as a practical gun. It is small and narrow for good conceivability, but that narrow backstop really concentrates the recoil. You would not expect much recoil from a .32, but the blow forward action magnifies it almost to the point of the gun being snappily unpleasant to fire. The sights are small and completely non-adjustable. Most significantly, however, are the potential safety hazards of the blow-forward action for basic handling. The gripping surfaces on the slide are not great and the recoil spring is fairly stiff, and it takes a lot of care and attention to not muzzle one’s own hand. This is particularly worrying when clearing malfunctions, which I had two of during the match. This is definitely a pistol that should be appreciated for its history and mechanical curiosity only!

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