Watch: Super-Powerful Mars Pistols From the Early 1900s


Watch: Super-Powerful Mars Pistols From the Early 1900s

This massive handgun was created by Sir Hugh Gabbett-Fairfax (he was British, in case you couldn’t guess) in 1898, and only about 80 of them were ever made. Ian of Forgotten Weapons takes us on a tour of this interesting old pistol, which he calls “a phenomenally powerful and ridiculously complex handgun.”

They have a long recoil action and 4-lug rotating bolts, which make them “weird to start with,” says Ian.

Mars handguns were chambered for four cartridges–all of them designed by the gun’s inventor and quite powerful–8.5 mm, 9 mm, 45 short, and 45 long. Again, these cartridges are NOT the same as those for any other firearm, in spite of their names’ similarity with other cartridges.

Flinging a 220 grain bullet at 1200 fps is pretty impressive, and that’s exactly what the 45 long version could do. And this was around 1900, so… yeah.

The ammo is fed in an odd way; each round is stripped from the detachable box magazine and pulled to the rear before being lifted up–by the hammer spring!–and then shoved into the chamber. In the photo above, the magazine’s rear is towards the top of the pic.

Two Mars pistols are featured in the video: One in 8.5mm Mars and one in 45 Long Mars.

Towards the end of the video, Ian calls them “fantasically complex and very steampunkish pistols.”

The crazy complexity and troubles with getting consistent ammo both contributed to its failure to sell; since no known examples have proof marks, it’s a virtual certainty that none of these firearms were ever sold commercially.

But that doesn’t stop me from loving them.

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Editor & Contributing Writer Russ Chastain is a lifelong hunter and shooter who has spent his life learning about hunting, shooting, guns, ammunition, gunsmithing, reloading, and bullet casting. He started toting his own gun in the woods at age nine and he's pursued deer with rifles since 1982, so his hunting knowledge has been growing for more than three and a half decades. His desire and ability to share this knowledge with others has also grown, and Russ has been professionally writing and editing original hunting & shooting content since 1998. Russ Chastain has a passion for sharing accurate, honest, interesting hunting & shooting knowledge and stories with people of all skill levels.

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