Manufactured in Nepal in 1896/97 and looking as if it came off the pages of a Jules Verne's novel, the Bira gun was invented by Nepalese General Gehendra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana (1871–1905). The design was based upon the American Gardner gun that utilized reciprocating bolts but with notable differences such as the use of an overhead drum magazine that had more in common with the Lewis gun appearing two decades later and a hand crack handle that rotated counterclockwise which was considered more efficient than the clockwise rotation as found on Western designs. Each Bira gun was completely handmade with few parts being interchangeable from one gun to another. In fact, individual screws are often encountered numbered to specific holes. On the right side of the receiver is an oval plaque in Nepali that gives credit to the gun’s inventor, General Gahendra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana. The magazine held 120 rounds of .577/450 Martini-Henry and when fully loaded weighed in at a good 40 pounds. As those who have actually had the pleasure to fire these guns have noted, “Nothing on the Bira gun is lightweight.” Like most of the other components, the magazine was hand fitted to each individual gun. Turning the handle crank moved the bolts back and forth to fire the action as well as extract the spent case. The carriage is iron with brass wheel hubs, traversing and elevating wheels, and receiver clinometer without degree markings, and teak spike wheels. The diameter of the wheels measure about 36 ¼ inches. Total production is estimated at 50. These last of the hand crank guns arrived at a time when fully-automatic machine guns like the Maxim were being adopted. The first Bira guns arrived in the United States in the late 1970s through the importer Interarms, and in 2003 it was said that a limited number were found in the ancient palace of Lagan Silekhana in Kathmandu, Nepal, and arrived in the U.S. via International Military Antiques. A very rare gun to encounter in the U.S.
Very good with a classic as found appearance. The gun retains 70% period applied paint mixed with some areas of light surface oxidation. The carriage, including the wheels, retains half of the period applied paint. The feed tray is absent, as is common with early imported examples. Mechanically functions, but is very stiff and the mechanism is slightly out of time. A rarely encountered example of Victorian era firepower.
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