The Clair 1892 is a prototype French automatic pistol.
The brainchild of three brothers, Benoit, Jean-Baptiste and Victor Clair, the Clair was one of the first known automatic pistols. Many patents for the gas-operating system were submitted for the design from 1889 to 1893, with the three brothers claiming that it would work with practically everything from a pistol to even a gatling gun. The weapon was trialed against the Modèle 1892 revolver, but unfortunately for the three brothers, the Clair was deemed too heavy, too bulky, too complex to disassemble, and also suffered from many reliability problems such as failures to feed, failures to fire and gas leakage, and as such, was rejected. Less than 20 were made; no surviving examples are known to exist.
The Clair was one of the first automatic pistols that was made, and was also one of the most unusual; in fact, it is probably one of the most unusual pistols that were ever made. The Clair is a gas-operated pistol with the gas tube and piston assembly located underneath the barrel; the weapon's gas port was 7.8 centimetres (3.1 inches) behind the muzzle. The weapon was fed by a 6-round tube magazine which extended into the grip, with cartridges inserted nose-to-base.
The weapon's breech was locked by a pivoting wedge which would lock into a shoulder which was cut into the bottom of the frame, between the tube magazine and bore. When fired, the gas piston moves backwards, which allows said wedge to rise out of its locking shoulder and open the bolt in the process. The gas piston, when traveling backwards, also operated a cartridge elevator in the grip which pushed cartridges up into the chamber. A simple recoil spring assembly forces the bolt to close and then loads the next round into the chamber.
- While there is some contention that the Clair predated all self-loading pistols, this is highly unlikely; that honor could go to the Laumann 1891, where some proof marks on the Laumann show a date of 1891, with no evidence showing that the Clair existed before its 1893 patent date.