Rare Bira Gun For Sale With Its Own Rolls Royce
Built for fabulously rich Indian nobility in 1925, one of the world's rarest mechanical machine guns is being auctioned off. The gun is so nice that it is pulled, not by a tractor or jeep, but by its very own custom made Rolls Royce.
The package deal
In Las Vegas, Nevada, the annual Barrett-Jackson Auction Company's three day automobile auction is turning a few heads with not only rare car collectors, but with those who would collect rare guns as well. You see they have an immaculate Rolls Royce, owned formerly by India's Umed Singh II. This ruler was the Maharaja of Kotah for over fifty years from 1889 until World War 2. Besides luxurious cars, Singh apparently also had a passion for tiger hunting in style, and with some serious firepower.
Built by hand by the Nepalese General Gehendra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana (household name right?) because the British would not give the Indians access to machine guns in the 1890s, the Bira is a work of steampunk art. Completely mechanical in design it uses a reciprocating double-bolt mechanism, very similar to the unsuccessful 1870s-era American Gardner gun, to fire and reload automatically when the gun was cranked, kind of like a Gatling gun but with just two barrels.
Firing huge cigar sized .577/450 Martini-Henry rounds at a rate of about 200-rounds per minute, it could be devastating. The gun was made of iron, steel, and brass, and weighed in 1000-pounds, requiring it to be mounted on a two-wheeled carriage. It was fed from a 120-round pan style magazine much like that of a Lewis machinegun (which came fifteen years later), that weighed in at another 40-pounds.
These guns were slow to make, and since each one was built by hand and custom-fitted, parts are not interchangeable. Fewer than 25 were believed made. IMA bought a few from Nepal in 2003 who kept them in arsenal storage until that late date, but the Maharaja's gun was his own.
It was just the thing for tiger hunting.
Pulling the exotic Bira gun is a Rolls-Royce Phantom I Maharaja "tiger car". Ordered in 1925 especially by the Maharaja who contacted Barker and Co., Ltd. of London, the special coach maker too much of the royalty in the world, the elegant coach was to be fitted to the body of a Rolls-Royce New Phantom. Money was not a question and the car was equipped with "a searchlight mounted to the front and rear of the car to startle big game, a nickel-plated snake horn, extra-tall tires for better ground clearance, and lockable gun racks."
On the Bira gun, since it is a pre-1898 antique gun for which ammunition is a problem (how often have you seen .577 Henry on store shelves); it is not a big ATF hassle.
The auction is expected to reach upwards of a cool million for the package deal.
Tigers not included.