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In 1874, before the great names of Maxim and Vickers began to dominate machine-gun technology, an unheralded Swedish munitions designer, Heldge Palmcrantz, invented a naval weapon which anticipated the age of ‘gunboat diplomacy’.

The Palmcrantz & Windborg M1876 was manufactured in Stockholm as a close range defence against the new menace of light torpedo boats. Its patent rights were acquired by Thorsten Nordenfelt in 1879 and the gun was successfully distributed to the major European navies during the early 1880s, principally as a one-calibre weapon with options of two, four or five barrels.

As often happens in the arms trade, the recently christened Nordenfelt was quickly rendered obsolete by the introduction of the Maxim Gun in the mid 1880s and manufacture ceased after Nordenfelt’s sales agent, Basil ‘Merchant of Death’ Zaharoff, brokered the company’s merger with Maxim in 1888.

It is for this reason that Nordenfeld survivors are exceptionally scarce, and the twin-barrelled example, illustrated above, discovered in the basement of a retired British naval officer’s house and consigned to the Birmingham salerooms of Weller and Dufty on May 27, 1999, attracted immense interest despite missing its sights and magazine, selling to a collector at £10,000 (plus 15 per cent buyer’s premium).