the last two decades of 19th century the major powers begun to
examine the possibility to increase the rate of fire of their field guns. The
concept of a quick-firing or quick-loading gun was already known at that
time, having its origin in the naval field. To defend major ships against
torpedo boats, small-calibre guns had been mounted on warship, firing fixed
ammunition (fuze, shell and charge put in a metal case with the detonator
attached). Vertical or horizontal wedge breech blocks with automatic cocking
and ejector mechanisms allowed shortening the process of loading and
unloading, thus increasing the rate of fire. It seemed possible to make the same
with field artillery, by simply placing such quick-firing guns (37mm to 57mm
calibre) on field carriages.
were carried out in several countries, but soon first problems arose.
Although the rate of fire of these guns greatly exceeded that of traditional
field guns, their accuracy was unsatisfactory at long range due to the low
weight of the projectiles, and the maximal range itself was judged too short.
Also the great increase of shells intake made more difficult supplying the
1891 the publication of the study Das
Feldgeschütz der Zukunft by German major general Richard Wille opened an
intensive discussion on the possible appearance of the field gun of the
future, where the major artillery experts of every country took part with countless
articles and memorandum. At the same time the major weapons firms began
drafting the first plan for quick-firing field gun of large calibre (over
57mm) field guns were carried out. Nevertheless, the problem could be solved
only with the 75 mm
field gun mle. 1897, devised by the French Army Arsenal of Puteaux.
the Bulgarian Army dealt with the question, and to test a quick-firing gun the
Edict N° 28/5
February 1889 commanded “to order directly to the producer for
test one automatic machine-gun type Hiram Maxim and one quick-firing
non-automatic gun with all its fittings”. In all likelihood this gun should
be identify with the 6 pdr Nordenfelt with a calibre of 57mm, which was
tested, but no additional order was placed afterwards. During the Balkan War
and the World War I it was assigned to the coast artillery and placed near
22 and 24 June 1891
in the proving ground of Sofia
at Yuch Bunar severe tests
were made with a 53mm Fahrpanzer built the German firm Grusonwerk of
Magdeburg. A similar test had been made in Belgrade in May, and was repeated at
Hademköi, near Istambul, in December 1892, this time with a 57mm gun. The
work schedules were prepared by the Bulgarian War Minister, col. Mihail
Savov, and were aimed to appreciate the effect of a quick-firing light
calibre gun against both animate and inanimate targets. The result were
regarded as satisfactory, but the Bulgarian Army decided to adopt the more
powerful 57mm gun, that had proved to be as much satisfactory in the tests
performed at Tangerhütte in 1891 and at Hademköi in 1892.
1 and 2 October
1892 another test was made at Yuch Bunar, this time with a 47mm
QF gun and a 8mm machine gun, both manufactured by the Austrian firm Skoda of
Pilsen. The Bulgarian NCOs, who served the gun for the first time, fired for 1’ 30, shooting the target
placed 400 m
away. The breech lock was judged solid and easy to handle. Also the machine
gun, after some initial mechanical faults, worked satisfactorily. The
Bulgarian Army nevertheless decided to not adopt these weapons.
these initial trials the Artillery Inspector, col. Boncho Balabanov, decided
to form a special commission to deeply investigate the whole matter, going to
the major artillery firms of the Westerner Europe to test the gun in loco. The Inspector himself joined
the commission that should visit the firms Schneider, Canet and St. Chamond
in France, Armstrong in Great Britain, Cockeril in Belgium and, obviously, Krupp in Germany.
Till now I have been not able to know which firms were actually visited, but
in 1896 the Artillery Committee presided by col. Balabanov decided to improve
the existing field and mountain guns, without adopting for the moment
quick-firing guns, and to purchase modern heavy howitzers and long guns for
the fortress-siege park.
May 1897 a
representative of the Maxim-Nordenfelt arrived at Sofia to carry out trials
of a 37mm quick-firing gun, hoping to receive an order from the Bulgarian
government, and according with Jonathan A. Grant, “the efforts were rewarded
when Maxim Nordenfeldt received and order worth about 1 million francs” (Rulers, guns, and money…, p. 99).