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Old 09-16-2011, 04:23 PM
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Default An interesting gun designer - John D. Pedersen

I was doing research recently for an article on the Remington-UMC Model 51 pocket pistol, which was designed by John D. Pedersen. I was intrigued to find information on him, and thought I'd share what I found.

John

John Douglas Pedersen was born in Grand Island, Nebraska on May 21, 1881. His parents, Danish immigrants, were ranchers and John grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Young John traveled extensively, and proved to have a keen knack for mechanical things. His educational credentials are unknown, but in the second decade of the 20th Century, he went to work for Remington-UMC as a designer.

Pedersen is most remembered for inventing the top secret Pedersen device of WWI, which was a semiautomatic conversion for Model 1903 Springfield Mark I rifles. It utilized a .30 caliber pistol-sized round. These devices came on stream too late to be utilized for the war, and most of the 65,000 produced were later destroyed, making existing examples quite valuable.

He designed a number of sporting guns for Remington in addition to the innovative Model 51 pistol. These included the Model 10 pump shotgun and the Models 12, 14, and 25 pump rifles. He refined John Browning’s initial work to develop the Model 17 20-gauge shotgun, which served as the basis for the Remington Model 31, the Browning BPS, and the Ithaca 37. He also designed a .45 semiauto pistol based on principles used in the Model 51 pocket pistol. The resulting Remington Model 53 was accepted by the U.S. Navy for production, but when WWI started, the Colt/Browning Model 1911 became standardized, and his pistol was never produced.

During WWII, Pedersen teamed with the Irwin family of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who manufactured furniture. Their new company, the Irwin-Pedersen Arms Company, contracted to manufacture 100,000 M1 carbines. Due to many difficulties, the company manufactured only 3,500 carbines, none of which met military standards, and as a result, the facilities were taken over by the Saginaw Steering Gear division of General Motors. Irwin-Pedersen carbines are rarely encountered today and bring premium collector prices.

In the 1920s, the Army Ordnance Corps selected his .276 Pedersen cartridge to become the new combat rifle standard. However, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur nixed the idea in favor of keeping the older .30-06, a decision which helped streamline supply lines in WWII. Pedersen also designed a rifle that competed with John Garand’s prototype M1 rifle, utilizing a Luger-like toggle mechanism and waxed cartridges. It was tested by the British as well as in America; Vickers made a number under contract. Although this design was not successfully adopted, the Japanese copied it in 6.5mm caliber and made about a dozen rifles and an equal number of carbines, some of which were encountered by our troops on Okinawa. The Japanese apparently did not realize that the arm required waxed cartridges to operate correctly, and the rifle was a dead-end failure for Japan.

In his lifetime, Pedersen was granted over 70 firearms patents and was highly regarded in the arms industry. Although he finally maintained a home in Blandford, Massachusetts, he continued to travel widely. He died of a coronary at age 70 while visiting Cottonwood, Arizona on May 23, 1951. His son Eric served as a Marine officer in the Korean War. He was featured in the book Reckless: Pride of the Marines. Lieutenant Pedersen led a recoilless rifle platoon and had used his own funds to purchase a racehorse for ammunition-carrying duties. That horse, named “Reckless”, became the mascot of the First Marine Division, participated in an amphibious landing, and received the honorary rank of sergeant, living out her final days in Camp Pendleton, California.

John Browning, no slouch in the gun design field, told Gen. Julian Hatcher once that he thought John Pedersen was possibly the best in the world. That's a pretty high accolade!

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Old 09-16-2011, 04:46 PM
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Just got one of those pistol a few months ago.
A bit worse condition than the one pictured, but not bad.

I had never owned a .380 before. Always had .32 ACP pocket pistols.
Would have liked a .32 M51 also but have never seen one.
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Old 09-16-2011, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACP230 View Post
Just got one of those pistol a few months ago.
A bit worse condition than the one pictured, but not bad.

I had never owned a .380 before. Always had .32 ACP pocket pistols.
Would have liked a .32 M51 also but have never seen one.
Only about 16% of the roughly 65,000 Model 51s were made in .32 ACP caliber. Most of them were shipped to Europe, where that was a popular caliber. In the U.S., they were available pretty much only on special order. That's why they are so rare here today. They were made only from 1921 to about 1927, although a few may have been assembled and sold as late as 1935.

John
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Old 09-16-2011, 10:53 PM
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I've got one of those early Irwin- Pedersen M-1 carbines that was assembled by GM at Grand Rapids from the existing IP parts. I believe they encountered some heat treating problems that would not let their initial test guns pass the sustain fire testing. I know the Army rejected all of their entire first order and that's when GM offered to take over the Grand Rapids plant. They were already heavily engaged in M-1 carbine manufacture in Saginaw, MI at the time. They quickly rectified the problem, used all the existing IP parts up first, and continued on. Legitimate IP carbines still carry a high premium price.
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Old 09-16-2011, 10:58 PM
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The gun genius Jhn Browning called Petersen the greatest firearms designer ever. Nuff said.
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:31 PM
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I love this forum. Ohhhhh for the information......................
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Old 09-17-2011, 09:46 AM
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I am especially fond of the trivia pieces-as is this one.
Good read and intersting information that is no worth a dime but is irreplaceable and just fun.
With this info and a buck and a half you can get a cup of coffee most places and have the most delightful time shareing it.
Blessings
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Old 09-17-2011, 09:56 AM
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Interesting indeed, thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-17-2011, 11:03 AM
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I don't have the info at hand, but as I recall Pedersen was ensconced at Springfield Armory at a very decent salary for some years, working on his rifle--which in the end, came to naught. John Garand also worked on his rifle, but was not nearly as high in the scheme of things. When Pedersen's rifle foundered, the Garand design supplanted it. In retrospect, I think most people would consider that a good outcome.

The .276 cartridge (minus the wax case lube) had merit, though.
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:34 PM
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Thanks for the great bio of Pedrson. I was totally unaware of most of it. I wonder if the fate of the Pederson rifle would have been different if the fluted chamber had been invented by that time. The Pederson 276 required waxed cases, but I understand the Garand 276s didn't.

The first rifle I know of with a fluted chamber was the Simonov Model 1936 (?). Is there some background to the fluted chamber that I don't know?

The 30-06 Garand certainly helped the logistics of WW II. However the 276 was ahead of its time as a medium powered round. It's case length, 51mm, is the same as the 7.62 NATO.
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Old 09-21-2011, 01:40 AM
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Thanks for the history lesson. I knew what the Pederson Device was, but I didn't know "the rest of the story."
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Old 09-21-2011, 01:57 AM
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This is another good read, thank you. TACC1
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Old 09-21-2011, 12:05 PM
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I saw a Pedersen Device listed in the upcoming James D. Julia auction.
Projected price is $15 to 20 thousand.

I never understood why they were destroyed in the first place.
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Old 09-21-2011, 03:48 PM
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MacArthur as Chief of Staff of the Army vetoed the adoption of the .276 cartridge on logistical grounds, and probably budgetary ones, remember that was in 1932, military budgets were VERY tight then. A wise call.
J. D. Pedersen spent a lot of time on the grip of his Model 51 to find the most comfortable-OK, ergonomic-shape, IIRC S&W copied it his design with the M-39.
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Old 10-26-2011, 02:31 PM
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I have two Pedersen designed guns, a 14 in 35 Rem and a 10A shotgun. I dread cleaning either one. I always tell people that Pedersen never used one part if he could make two do the same job. I like the guns but they are complicated, intricate designs.
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Old 10-26-2011, 06:08 PM
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He was the Rube Goldberg of the gun industry. He designed some interesting stuff, but most of it was quite complicated.
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Old 01-05-2014, 07:47 PM
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Smile Reintroduction of the Remington 51 in 9mm

I know this is an old thread but I thought I would ump it back up. There is a short Gunblast article about the new Remington R51 a plus P version of the decades old model 51. It is o start shipping in Feb. 2014; and yes it uses the Pederson design. Nothing is shown on the Remington site it is an interesting looking gun no polymer for you metal gun fans rigid barrel so it should be accurate. It will proably be introduced at shot show.
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Old 01-05-2014, 10:40 PM
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A 9mm version of the original model 51 ought to interesting. Only problem is, the reason the model 51 was discontinued was because it costs so much to manufacture and could not compete with the Colt model M (1903 & 1908). Plus the model 51 is a royal pain to field strip.
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Old 01-06-2014, 12:25 AM
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Thumbs up Model 53-45ACP

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Old 01-06-2014, 01:00 AM
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Default How many great people.....

How many great people and inventions were victims of bad timing. You never hear about the 'also rans'.

Super article.....thanks!
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Old 01-06-2014, 02:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Faulkner View Post
Plus the model 51 is a royal pain to field strip.
Actually, once you've done it a few times it's not all that big a deal. Certainly easier than field stripping and reassembling a Ruger .22 pistol. Never mind the MkIII version!

Not relevant to field stripping (unless you clean using a bore snake), but kinda cool and little published: Did you know that the slide is easily locked to the rear?

Or that the magazine safety is easily disabled?

But I figured we would never see a revival of the design due to manufacturing costs. Happy to be proven wrong!
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1911, 380, browning, cartridge, colt, fluted, garand, ithaca, military, model 10, model 17, model 1903, remington, springfield, umc, wwi, wwii

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