Courtesy of Tactical Life

Bullpup rifles will never displace the AR as the modern American gun nerd’s go-to iron. Now that you can land a conventional low-end utility black rifle for around $500, no amount of whiz bang awesomonium is going to convince rank and file American shooters to bin their inexpensive Stoner guns in favor of something compact, backwards and spendy. However, as niche weapons, I believe bullpups will always have a robust place in the market.

The Origin of the Bullpup Species

It all began with English patent number 14,622 issued on July 18, 1901. On that date, the bolt-action Thorneycroft carbine first officially drew breath. Unconventional, unprecedented, and flat-out strange, the Thorneycroft was the world’s first bullpup weapon. This odd rifle fired the British standard .303 rifle cartridge through a five-round internal magazine. The gun’s retracted bolt was oriented in the rear of the stock behind the firing mechanism. This insightful design made the gun 7.5 inches shorter and 10 percent lighter than the standard issue Lee-Enfield rifle of the day. It also offered wretched ergonomics and simply brutal recoil.

The origins of the term bullpup have long been shrouded in mystery. After a literal lifetime of searching, I tripped over a reference that might finally address this etymological conundrum. During World War II, the Japanese produced an unconventional submachine gun chambered for the 8mm Nambu cartridge. The gun, called the Experimental Model 2, sported a telescoping bolt and 50-round magazine that fed through the grip. Despite these advanced features the gun remained unreliable and, as such, was produced in very small numbers.


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