Ahead of Its Time: British Fosbery Pump-Action Shotgun with “Stoner” Bolt

By Jonathan Ferguson
Armament Research Services (ARES)

George Fosbery is best remembered for his Webley-Fosbery “Automatic” (self-cocking) revolver and his “Paradox” shotgun rifling system. He arguably also deserves credit for one of the most significant firearms design elements in history; the multi-lugged rotating bolt with integral claw extractor and plunger ejector. This is usually credited to Eugene Stoner as part of his revolutionary design for the ArmaLite AR-10 (1956), which of course evolved into the ubiquitous and important AR-15 pattern, but in actuality, Stoner borrowed from Melvin Johnson’s 1941 rifle bolt. This bolt and barrel extension solution allows for a consistent and accurate lock-up and a lightweight receiver, since the extension and bolt bear the pressure of firing and no additional locking surfaces or over-building are required. The vast majority of modern self-loading rifles utilize either this system or the AK twin-lugged bolt and trunnion approach.

Clearly in 1891, when Fosbery first patented this design, he was not anticipating today’s trends in rifle design, but it is intriguing that he arrived at the same solution to the problem of locking mechanisms as Johnson (1939) and Stoner (1956). Even more interestingly, whereas Johnson machined an ejector groove in his bolt (for a receiver-mounted ejector), Fosbery’s bolt has the later Stoner-type plunger ejector built into it. The designs are so similar that it is tempting to imagine the involvement of a DeLorean somewhere in the design process!

As an important caveat, it is quite possible that Stoner or Johnson never saw Fosbery’s patent or his gun. The two designs are not in fact identical; the Fosbery having six radial lugs, Johnson and Stoner opting for (effectively) seven. Fosbery also placed the extractor within a lug, rather than omitting that lug as modern Stoner bolts tend to. The lugs themselves also differ in profile, although there is a reason for this and another interesting historical “echo” to note. In recent years, Knight’s Armament Corporation developed a radiused bolt lug profile similar to that seen in the original Fosbery bolt. This was done to meet a specific...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N9 (November 2018)
and was posted online on September 21, 2018


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