Farquhar-Hill rifle

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Rifle. .303 inch, Pattern 1918
Type Automatic rifle
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
Used by Royal Flying Corps
Wars WW1
Production history
Designer Moubray G. Farquhar
Arthur H. Hill
Specifications
Cartridge .303
Action Recoil (prototype)
Gas
Rate of fire 700rpm
Feed system 20-65 round drum magazines
Sights Iron

The Farquhar-Hill rifle, a British design by Moubray G. Farquhar and Arthur H. Hill, was one of the first automatic rifles designed in the early 20th century. It was first tested in May 1908, but had many failures. Several improved designs followed, none of which completely satisfied the Small Arms Committee. The Farquhar-Hill is long recoil operated automatic rifle of 0.303 inch caliber, which fed from a 20-round drum. Magazine variations included a 10-round truncated cone and a 65-round drum. Operation is automatic with a cyclic rate of 700 rounds-per-minute. It has a muzzle velocity of 732 metres-per-second (2400 feet per second) and is sighted to 1372 metres (4500 feet). One of the Farquhar-Hill rifles (or one similar to it) was tried in the United States late in the First World War using a drum type magazine.

The British Army appears to have adopted and ordered the Farquhar-Hill rifle in 1918, but the end of hostilities in Europe led to the cancellation of the order before any rifles were delivered. The rifle did see some use with British aviators, along the same lines as the Mauser M1916 and Mondragon rifles. For observers and gunners aloft, self-loading rifles were an enormous improvement over bolt-action weapons, and self-loading rifles saw brief use before the practice of mounting machine guns in aircraft took hold.

The Farquhar-Hill self-loading (semi-automatic) rifle, originally patented in the UK in 1908 and in the USA in 1909, was a long-recoil operated rifle with rotary bolt locking. The key feature of this firearm was the fact that an intermediate 'action' spring stored recoil energy. Upon discharge, the barrel recoiled back and forth while still locked with the bolt, compressing the intermediate spring on recoil. Upon return of the barrel into the forward position the energy stored in the intermediate spring cycled the bolt back and forth, extracting and ejecting the spent case and feeding a fresh round into the now stationary barrel. The main goal was to achieve smooth and reliable cycling of the bolt, but the design was very complicated and thus badly suited for a military firearm. By 1911, Farquhar and Hill revised their rifle, changing its source of energy from barrel recoil to more convenient gas operated action. This new weapon also utilized intermediate spring as a source of energy for cycling of the bolt, but the barrel was now stationary, simplifying design and making it potentially more accurate and reliable. During following years this design was further refined and tested by British Army on several occasions. This rifle was initially chambered for the new “.303 rimless” round, designed by necking up the 7.65x53mm Belgian Mauser case and loading it with British-issue Mk.VII bullet of .303 caliber. Later on this experimental loading was discarded in favor of the standard issue .303 British ammunition. After several trials, including troop trials at the Front, in 1918 the Farquhar-Hill rifle was found to be suitable for military use, and an official request was issued for procurement of as much as 100,000 of Farquhar-Hill rifles for British forces fighting on the Continent against Germany. Official nomenclature assigned to the military Farquhar-Hill rifle in August 1918 was “Rifle. .303 inch, Pattern 1918”. However, hostilities of the Great War ended before production facilities were allocated for this rifle, and in the view of an upcoming peace the requirement for manufacture of Farquhar-Hill rifles was dropped in 1919.

During the 1920s and early 1930s Farquhar redesigned this rifle into a light machine gun of lightweight design, fed from top-mounted pan magazines. On several occasions the British army tested this machine gun, known as the Beardmore-Farquhar, but ultimately rejected it for a variety of reasons.

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