Bira Gun

     Notes: In the early 1900s, the Nepalese Army asked the Indians and the British (they were not a colony of Britain, but had exclusive arms contracts with the British) for some of the then-new machineguns.  The British and Indians feared that the Nepalese would copy any machineguns they supplied the Nepalese with (as they did with almost every weapon the British had already supplied them).  This would not cut into arms sales to Nepal, but the British also felt that these machineguns would proliferate to Northern India, various Himalayan nations, Tibet, and possibly China herself.  Britain and the Indians would therefore lose a great deal of money, even if the sale to Nepal was only a small one.

     The Nepalese then tried to buy Gardner and Nordenfelt guns from other sources, but they were unsuccessful.  Undaunted, they then began work on their own rapid-fire weapon.  Though they did not have the facilities or expertise to build an actual, self-loading machinegun, they took a cue from the American Gatling Gun and designed a very large crank-operated machinegun, using two barrels and fed by a pair of pan magazines mounted above the receiver, and mounted on a large, wheeled carriage.  (The whole affair was absolutely huge!)  The Bira Gun even got the US Army and Marines interested; not trusting self-loading machineguns yet, they looked at the Bira Gun closely, to the point of buying a Bira Gun and testing it.  A then-new company, Pratt & Whitney, also tested it and told the Army that it was much better than their Gatling Guns, but in the end the Army and Marines decided to keep the Gatling Guns.  The Bira Gun was named after King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah, who reigned in Nepal at the time of the Bira Gunís design.  It is believed that only 50 were manufactured, as no Bira Gun with series markings higher than 50 have ever been encountered.

     Several Bira Guns were bought in the 1970s by Interarms, but these lacked their feed blocks.  Since then, the remaining Bira Guns were acquired by International Military antiques in 2003, and these are complete.

     The Bira Gun is obviously based on the Gardner Gun, especially in the internals and feed system.  It is a crank-fired weapon, so it has a rate of fire that depends on the soldier doing the cranking. The rate of fire for the Bira Gun in sustained fire operations is one-third the Strength rating of the operator; this may be quickened to one-half the Strength rating of the firer for 20 minutes, or 3/4 the Strength rating of the firer for 10 minutes.  Firing at a normal rate does not count as fatigue, but firing at a rate of fire 1/2 the firerís strength counts as one level of fatigue, and firing at 3/4 of the firerís strength counts as two levels of fatigue.  Willpower skill may affect this.  Recoil for ďautomaticĒ bursts is equal to 1.5 times the amount of rounds which are fired.  Unusually for the time, the crank turns counter-clockwise. It is mounted on a large, wheeled, heavy carriage reminiscent of the later DShK; the carriage weighs an astounding 365 kilograms, with the gun itself weighing 43 kilograms with the two magazines loaded.  (It was employed by the Nepalese sort of like an artillery piece.) Since the Nepalese had a large amount of Martini-Henry rifles and even more ammunition for them, the designers decided to chamber the Bira Gun in the Martini-Henryís caliber (therefore, despite the large-caliber rounds it is chambered for, it is still firing rifle-caliber rounds).  Parts are almost all massive, and this largely causes the gunís heavy weight.

     Construction of the gun is largely of iron and steel, with the carriage having wooden, iron-shod wheels.  The wheels controlling windage and elevation were made of brass, as were the gears operating those components. The sights were also made of brass. Bira Guns could not interchange parts with each other, since they were essentially hand-made. In most cases, even the screws holding the gun and carriage parts together had to be labelled for the place in the gun where they were used, as the screws could not even be interchanged within the gun itself. Spare parts were usually made for each Bira Gun at the time they were needed.  The Bira Gun has twin barrels 41.3 inches long, giving the Bira Gun pretty good range for its cartridge.  The barrels are tipped with rudimentary, essentially useless flash suppressors.  The gun is fed by twin pan magazines, an idea borrowed from the then-new Lewis Gun.  They were mounted one above another, and the feed mechanism was almost Rube-Goldbergian.  Fire came through the right and left-hand barrels, with the barrel fired alternating after each shot. That said, the Bira Gun is simple for the soldiers to operate and reload, and the guns were generally accompanied by several pre-loaded magazines.  The sights are also easy to use; two sights are mounted on the gun, one for point-blank fire, consisting of a simple rear groove and front blade, and one for long range, which used the same front blade and another graduating blade at the rear, acting as sort of a leaf sight.

     The only known combat use of the Bira Gun was in the 1897 war with Tibet, though some remained in the Nepalese Army inventory until the 1920s.

     The firing stats below are based on an average-quality gunner with an STR of 8 at a normal rate of fire.






Bira Gun

.577/450 Martini-Henry

427 kg

2x120 Drum











Bira Gun

3 (x2)