The gun-dealing thing started for me in the early 1980s. I see a lot of guns. It is a rare day when something crosses my path that I have not encountered before. Well, this is not one of them. I did see two Sjogren shotguns in my life before I bought the one shown here.
One was on the shelf at a Ft. Worth, Texas, gun shop in the early 90s, the other I can’t remember where. I recognized the one in Ft. Worth as something I had seen before, somewhere. Probably a pawn shop I stopped at on one of my gun-buying trips. Of course I had no idea what I was seeing; just a funny looking 12-gauge semi-auto shotgun. So, when I see some guy trolling this thing around at a Ft. Wayne, Indiana, gun show in November, 2008, I had to chase him down.
He had no idea what it was. Just a 12-gauge that he said shot OK but he wanted a newer pump shotgun. He wouldn’t set a price, wanted to trade. I rarely have current production shotguns in stock so he moved on. A couple hours later I see he is still carrying the gun. He told me nobody knew what it was nor would they make an offer. I did. And I was the new owner of a Sjogren 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun. (Don’t ask me how that is pronounced: sho-gren is what I have been calling it. Never heard anybody else say it. Could also be so-gren or jo-gren.)
The Sjogren shotgun is a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun made in the first decade of the 20th century. It was actually on the market before the Browning Auto-5, making this the first self-loading shotgun commercially offered. (At least I can’t find any indication of an earlier model). The Sjogren is not listed in Standard Catalog of Firearms, yet. Nor is it included in the Blue Book of Gun Values.
My research on this gun found very little information besides a booklet I am using as reference for this column. “The Weapons series No. 6 The Sjogren Shogren Shotgun and Sjogren Military Rifle” by Roger Marsh, copyright 1947. This seven-page booklet appears to be self-published. I also found reference to an article in a Danish gun collector’s magazine called Vapentidningen no. 7- 2000 by Jens E. Perto. I was not able to find that article, just a few quotes from an Internet message board.
Swedish inventor Carl Axel Theodor Sjögren had three Swedish patents from 1900, 1903 and 1905 linked to the gun. A Swedish businessman called A. Karlsson ordered 5,000 guns from Töjhusafdelningen och Haandvaabenverksäderna in Copenhagen, Denmark in August, 1907. Only 12-bore guns with 70-centimeter 3/4 choke barrels were made, but an extra 500 60-centimeter-long barrels with cylinder choke were also made.
The last gun was manufactured in 1909. Serial numbers range from 1001 to 6000. My Sjogren has pre-WW I German commercial proof marks. It is probably a vet bring-back from WW I or WW II. The gun shown in the Marsh book has English proofs from the same era. Additionally, US patent 954,546 was issued to Carl Axel Theodore Sjogren on April 12, 1910, but I found no record of commercial importation or sale in the U.S.
The Sjogren system has a fixed barrel and a fully locked breechblock. It utilizes what is called inertia driven operation to extract and eject the fired shell, then reload the next shot. The recoil (or rearward inertia) of the whole gun operates an internal locking block that stays forward at the moment of rearward recoil, this allows the bolt to open as breech pressure drops and extract the fired shell. A similar system is currently in use in the Benelli M-1 shotgun.
I have an idea how this works but I’m having a hard time putting a description of this operation in words. Normally, I will just take an unfamiliar gun apart so I can see how it works. However, the disassembly instructions in the Marsh booklet convince me that this is one gun on which I will forego my usual exploration. There are too many odd shaped springs and parts that appear somewhat fragile. Breaking a part on a rare gun can really reduce its value. So I will simply quote Mr. Marsh’s description of the gun’s operation:
“With the bolt fully forward and locked, the gunner presses the trigger, drawing down the connector and with it the sear, which is mounted in the inertia block. The firing pin drives forward to strike the primer. As it does so, it jams the locking block into the locked position by interposing the firing pin between a ledge on the locking block and the bolt body.
“As the gun fires, we find that the inertia block, true to its name tries to “stay put” when the gun recoils. Initial recoil of the gun exceeds initial recoil of the inertia block by about 1/16th inch, thus compressing the accumulator spring between the recoiling gun and the nearly non-recoiling block. In effect, the block moves forward in relation to the gun during initial recoil. The accumulator spring then asserts itself and throws back the inertia block. The sear carries the firing pin back so that it no longer jams the locking block. As the inertia block continues to the rear, the fingers of the assembly key strike the levers of the locking block rotating it to the unlocked position and carrying the whole assembly to the rear, extracting and ejecting the fired shell.”
Still can’t figure this one out? Sorry, I can’t help you. Not much more I can say about how the Sjogren functions.
I usually try to test fire unusual guns when I write columns about them but as with the disassembly, I just don’t feel comfortable shooting this thing. When firing, the whole bolt assembly slides to the rear towards the shooter’s face. There is a large steel block at the back but…no. Even though the person I bought it from said he used it I’m not going to try.
Sjogren also made some prototype military rifles in a 7.6mm cartridge that utilized the same mechanism but they never got beyond that. One was reportedly tested at Bisley, England, but did not perform well in those trials.
The Sjogren was not manufactured after 1909. Apparently the sportsmen of the world were not ready for this interesting design. The Browning A-5 of the same era was a success so we must conclude that the Sjogren did not fail due to its semi-automatic function. It probably did not hold up with heavy use.
Several have made their way to the U.S. in the last century, despite there being no commercial importation when new. Some were undoubtedly “war trophies” brought home by U.S. serviceman from WW I or WW II. In the last decade numerous used sporting guns have been imported from Sweden due to increased gun control laws there. Mixed in with these have been a few Sjogrens. The Simpson Ltd. gun collector’s website listed two of them for sale at the time I wrote this column.
The asking prices were $1295 for a 90 percent piece with a cracked buttplate and $500 for 60 percent gun with a repaired buttstock. They have been up there a while with no takers.
This article appeared in the December 6, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to learn more about this issue.
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About the Author: Phillip Peterson is a federally-licensed firearms dealer with more than 20 years' experience in buying, selling and trading antique and collectible military weapons. He is also a popular columnist for Gun Digest the Magazine.
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