David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

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81police
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David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by 81police » Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:45 am

David Marshall “Carbine” Williams is known mostly for his input in the development of the M-1 Carbine. He built a lot of rifles, but one rifle he used as a host to demonstrate his “floating chamber”. This concept would later progress into the Colt Ace 1911 among other firearms. Supposedly this rifle, a Remington Model 8, was part of a selection of guard’s rifles.

This particular Model 8 was fabricated by Williams while he was incarcerated in Caledonia Prison Farm (Halifax Co, NC) in 1924. In Ross E. Beard, Jr.’s book “Carbine”, the following quotes were taken by Mr. Williams regarding this modified Model 8,


“this rifle is the actual rifle I made on Caledonia…it was used, of course, years later by MGM making the movie Carbine Williams. Jimmy Stewart, who played my part, used it in the movie. He shot in some of the scenes or, at least, one of the scenes. The M-1 Carbine was developed from it. People don’t generally know that this is the original carbine” (p.155)



Image



The rifle was converted from long recoil to Williams “floating chamber” action. This means the entire barrel assembly was replaced along with many other components. The barrel is now stationary. Carbine is again quoted with the following modifications and source of materials used,

“This chamber is made from a part of a Model-T crankshaft, the throw is part of an old main bearing” (p.155)

According to Mr. Williams records the following parts were involved in modifying the Model 8,

“The receiver was made from a Fordson tractor axle; the barrel band from the tractor axle; the barrel from a drive shaft; the cocking arm from a Model-T magnet; the buffer from a tractor axle; the bolt from the rear axle of a Model-T Ford; the movable chamber from a rear axle; the extractor right & left from magnets; and the operating handle from a drive shaft. The guard was made from a tractor rear axle; all small parts in the guard from a magnet; the striker spring plug from an axle; the striker from a magnet; and the sear lever, sear, and cocking lever from magnets. The closing spring was made from music wire; the stock carved from a walnut fence post; the cap pistol grip made from an axle.” (p. 158-160).

There is a possibility David Williams got the description of this rifle confused with another he made. Comparing this rifle to his account, it can be pointed out that the receiver, operating handle, barrel extension, bolt carrier, trigger plate (guard), magazine, and safety lever are factory Remington items. Furthermore, Carbine’s records indicate the rifle has a “cap pistol grip” and barrel band none of which this Model 8 carbine has.


The last we know of David Williams working on this rifle is on January 5th and 9th, 1952 during the filming of “Carbine Williams” his diary reads,


“MGM Studio – Scenes on Caledonia – Also I worked on movable chamber 35 cal. rifle for use in picture.” - Jan. 5
"MGM Studio - Caledonia Prison Farm - This included Stewart shooting the .35 calibre moveable chamber rifle, it worked good" - Jan. 9


The original Model 8 carbine currently resides in the North Carolina Museum of History.
Many thanks to Eric Blevins, NC Museum Photographer.

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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by imfuncity » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:42 am

Very cool - thanks for posting, never get tired of the history.
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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by DWalt » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:19 am

The M1 Carbine does not use the Williams floating chamber, but a gas-operated tappet piston at about the midpoint of the barrel which acts upon an operating rod. The American Rifleman had an article about the carbine several years back, in which it was stated that Williams had very little to do with the actual design and development of the M1 Carbine. He had an abrasive personality, was apparently extremely difficult to work with, and things went much better when he was not around to annoy other members of the Winchester carbine development team.

In addition to the Colt Ace pistol, the floating chamber was used in the Remington Model 550 .22, in my opinion perhaps the finest .22 semiautomatic rifle ever made. That design feature allowed .22 short, long, and long rifle to be used interchangeably. But it did complicate the design. They are not often seen these days. Another one of the long string of guns I had, but sold, and regret doing so.

There was also a floating chamber conversion of the M1919 .30 machine gun which allowed .22 LR to be fired in it for training. I have never seen one, only read about it. I have never been able to get my mind around how that could have been done.

The movie Carbine Williams was shown once on the Turner Classic Movies channel about 2 years ago. I recorded it at the time. It was described as being one of Jimmy Stewart's few box office flops, as it was not the type of role he usually played, and audiences did not like it very much. They were expecting an action movie, and got only a romanticized biopic with no action. Probably another contributing reason for its failure is that most of the viewing public had never heard of David Williams. A movie about an unknown gun designer? What a great concept.

I have often wondered just what cartridge the Williams prison-made carbine fired? Probably whatever caliber the prison guards used, but I have never seen anything about it.

By the way, the Williams floating chamber design is still around, at least sort of. Many of the training weapon conversions used by both the military and law enforcement use ammunition (brand name Simunition, and others) in which the floating chamber is made a part of the ammunition rather than the gun. It works very well. in both semi- and full automatic. I have fired thousands of such rounds and still have many rounds stashed away in my garage. These do not use conventional lethal bullets, but rather marking bullets that leave a mark on the human target.

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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by 81police » Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:30 pm

the prison Model 8 carbine is chambered in 35 Remington. Large JPEG's confirm this as stamped on the barrel extension.
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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by Rem8&81 » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:23 pm

Having a limited comprehension of how the model 8 actually functions, I am really confused how the modified carbine actually works as a semi-automatic. However it looks cool.
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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by DWalt » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:48 pm

I would like to see a detailed drawing of the workings of the actual prison carbine, not necessarily a generic patent drawing. I would think that the entire chamber would have to float, as the floating chamber principle depends on gas from the case mouth forcing the chamber rearward against the bolt. In general the floating chamber design works only with a blowback action having a fairly heavy bolt or slide. I don't think any blowback action would hold up to a .35 Remington, unless somehow there was something else locking the bolt in place which was unlocked by movement of the chamber. I can't visualize how the prison carbine functioned. but evidently it did. Judging only from the picture, it was not recoil operated. I had always assumed that it may have been chambered for a much lesser caliber, maybe a pistol round like the .38 Auto, as that made more sense.
-----------------------------
I'll make one more comment about the floating chamber of possible interest. When I went to Ohio State, I was on the Navy ROTC rifle and pistol team. The only pistols we used were Colt Service Ace .22 pistols, not the most ideal target gun around - but that's what we had and that's what we used. There was actually a difference between the Colt Ace and Service Ace, in that the Service Ace had the Williams floating chamber, and the plain Ace did not, just normal blowback operation. As the Service Ace had a heavy slide that was actuated by the floating chamber, the effect of recoil was created which much more closely simulated the feel of shooting a .45 Auto than any .22 conventional blowback with a light slide could. We had Winchester Model 52 rifles (the C model, I think) which we shot in competition with other colleges, but used the Service Ace pistols only for competition against others on the R&P team. I guess you would say intramural competition. Nonetheless it was fun while it lasted. I miss those days. You had all the ammunition you wanted to shoot. Problem was finding the time to do it. Nothing was too good for the Navy - I think ammunition was all Western Super Match Mk III.

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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by 81police » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:00 am

Dwalt, thanks for that little bit of background on the floating chamber concept. As far as I know no such drawings exists of the action. This was a one-off prototype built in a prison and now resides indefinitely in a museum. It fires the 35 Remington cartridge.
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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by DWalt » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:08 pm

Out of curiosity, I did some web searching to see if there was any solid information on Williams and his guns. While there is some, much of it is of about the level of detail to be found in Wikipedia, and fairly vague. However it does seem that while he was in prison, he made at least four different guns, not just one. There is no information I can find on the particulars of any of those. I continue to have problems in believing that the one seemingly using the M8 action in .35 Remington could have used a floating chamber. One or more of the other prison-made Williams guns may have used the floating chamber principle in another caliber, but I can find no information about that.

Williams held about 50 patents, two of which are the most significant - the floating chamber and the short-stroke piston used in the .30 M1 Carbine. If I were to guess, I'd say the prison carbine in .35 Remington that Jimmy is holding was more likely to have been a modification of a Model 8 using the short stroke piston to replace the long recoil principle, and not a floating chamber. By the way, it was later demonstrated that Williams was not the first inventor of the short-stroke piston principle. I see no reason why the short-stroke piston principle would not work successfully within the M8/81 envelope, with the possible exception of those in .300 Savage, due to the higher pressures involved.

The American Rifleman article about Williams was in the February 2009 issue. I do not have it, and I could not locate it on the American Rifleman website or elsewhere on the web.

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Re: David Williams & The Original Model 8 Carbine

Post by 81police » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:47 pm

I've read the American Rifleman article. This rifle is definitely not long recoil. I'll let David Williams own words answer your question...

Carbine, being the perfectionist that he was, carried the .35 caliber rifle to the workbench on the west side of his shop...then laid the New Service Ace on the other workbench. "OK REB (Ross E. Beard, the interviewer), which one you wanna talk about first?" I selected the .35 caliber rifle.

"It was in 1931 that I went to the Ordnance Department with this very rifle with a moveable chamber," Carbine said, pointing to the .35 caliber rifle. "The moveable floating chamber gives it the power to operate this heavy mechanism. This is not what you call a .22 caliber mechanism. It's a heavy mechanism and, without the moveable floating chamber, it wouldn't operate" - p.160-161

"This first rifle utilizes my floating chamber, which only moves to the rear about a fifteenth of an inch as this high-powered cartridge is fired. The moveable chamber operates under maximum pressure, which is around fifty thousands pounds per square inch. This short rearward thrust of about a sixteenth of an inch under this pressure gives sufficient energy to the breech mechanism to open the gun, and the action, in turn, is closed by the closing spring" - p.252

For anyone wanting to read more please refer to "Carbine - The story of David Marshall Williams" by Ross E. Beard, Jr.
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