Tag Archives: .32 ACP

The Last Savage

I should qualify the title. The pistol of which I write is the last production variation of the Savage Model 1907 pistol in .32 ACP. The Savage 1910 and 1917 were still in production until the middle 1920s or so and Savage continues to build rifles to this day. Savage made the Model 101, a single shot .22 pistol made to look like a single action revolver for about 10 years in the 1960s. They also made a Model 502 Striker pistol, which is a pistol length bolt action single shot in choice of .22 long rifle, .22 WRM or .17 rimfire something. It was a fairly recent arm, but is not on the Savage Arms site, so I presume it is no longer in production. (I don’t follow ‘new’ guns much.)

However, the Savage model 1907. variant 19, modification 2 was the last of the models 1907. According to the serial number, the one here was made in 1919. This seems to be the year more Savage 1907 pistols were made than any other. The 1907 ceased production in 1920. The 1915 and 1917 carried on longer.

Left side - rear - view of the pistol.  Very good condition.

Left side – rear – view of the pistol. Very good condition.

As Savage pistols (of that type and vintage) go, it is pretty much the same as all the other models 1907. It does of course have distinctives which distinguish it from other variations.

Probably the major telling differences between this variant and the earliest variants is the hammer is a spur type with the rear of the spur exposed, vice the burr version; and the small and more dense cocking serrations on the slide, vice the fewer and wider serrations of earlier versions.

This variant has no legend on the side of the frame proudly displaying the Savage name. (That marking seems to be a bit uncertain. Many of the variants did have the name either on the right or left side of the slide, just above the respective grip and many did not.)

Atop the slide is the usual legend of

SAVAGE ARMS CORP. UTICA N.Y. U. S. A. CAL. 32
PATENTED NOVEMBER 21, 1905 — 7.65 MM

This slide top legend also varies from variation to variation, but is consistent in message.

Grips are hard rubber – possibly gutta percha. They are black, tending to a very dark brown probably from ‘fading’; that may not be the correct chemical term, but it suits the common usage.The grips on this example are intact; they are not cracked or chipped and show no wear. Reportedly, the grips can be removed by gently prying each grip to bend the panel (fore and aft) which will release the grip panel from a groove arrangement in the frame. However, the material of the grips does not age well and tend to break when manipulated in such manner. If the grips are in good condition, don’t fool with them.

Finish on this variation is a matte bluing. It is not the bright bluing of the earlier models, nor is it the ‘paint’ finish attempted at one point. On this example, it is rather complete with a few spots of light rust over the pistol. There is some wear on the front muzzle and on exposed edges. The magazine is a double slot (for magazine catch) type and rather worn of bluing. I have a small suspicion the magazine may not be original; however, as the magazines were not serialized to the individual pistol, I cannot tell.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

The case hardening on the trigger is visible and not too badly faded.

The sights are the later type.

The rear sight is machined into the top of the slide. The rear sight ‘notch’ is an almost “U” shaped groove. The sides of the groove are slightly slanted outboard; giving the appearance of a compromise between a thin “V” and a “U”. The bottom is rounded.

The front sight is a separate piece, fitted into a mortice milled into the front of the slide, then riveted from the bottom; much like the front sight on a traditional Government Model. It is tapered, wider at the base, and does have a flat top. However, when aimed, the top of the front sight exactly fills the top of the rear sight notch. Consequently, the ‘windage’ is just a bit vague.

To be fair, this pistol was designed as a close use arm. I’d be willing to bet the sights are nearly unused.

The bore is in amazingly fine condition. Many of these pistols have bores ranging from ‘somewhat worn’ to ‘nasty’. No doubt some combination of corrosive primers (primers leaving a salt deposit, attracting moisture; therefore rust) and lack of cleaning (to remove those salts) are to blame for this condition. This example was obviously cleaned. Or perhaps never fired, just carried a bit. The breech face is also rather clean and fresh.

Shooting this pistol was rather ordinary. I chronographed five shots from my secret stash of Privi Partizan brand .32 ACP ammunition – that lot which I use only for velocity comparison between various pistols. Average velocity was 721 feet per second. (Advertised velocity for the .32 ACP is 900 feet per second; no pistol I’ve tested does that.)

I shot five rounds (not the velocity lot) slow fire at 10 yards for accuracy. The group was just under 2.25“ wide by just under 5 “ high. The group was centered to the left (from the shooter’s view) of the aiming point. As the accompanying photo shows, the group was neatly contained in the head of the target. Then ten shots rapid fire into the main area of the target, also from 10 yards, one handed;. I think I missed once – can’t find the tenth hole – but the nine hits measure seven inches wide by eight and one half inches wide, with one flyer another four inches out to the right. All were within the “C” area of the target, albeit centered lower than one would desire.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Ten rounds fired 'rapid fire' at ten yards.  One missing shot.  Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Ten rounds fired ‘rapid fire’ at ten yards. One missing shot. Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Savage used the marketing phrase “Ten shots fast!” in connection with the Savage pistols. It was more or less true. The M1907 (and the following M1910 and M1917) in .32 ACP utilized a ten shot, staggered magazine. (This was some twenty-eight years BEFORE the FN P-35 (High Power) was released with its thirteen shot magazine. It was also eleven years AFTER the Mauser Broomhandle with a staggered magazine, but since the Broomhandle was loaded via stripper clip and the magazine was not removable, I’m not sure it counts.)

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Savage M1907 is just a bit small for my hand. I quickly say, my hands are not large by any stretch. Holding the pistol in firing position I find my trigger finger extends through the trigger guard and my trigger finger rests with my first joint (from the tip) rather than the ‘pad’ of my finger on the trigger. Normally the pad of the trigger finger is to be on the trigger. (Of course, with the hideously heavy trigger pull, attempting a ‘target’ trigger pull with the pad of the trigger finger is quite difficult.)

Speaking of trigger pull, this example breaks at twelve pounds or so. Fairly normal for these pistols; they were not made as target guns, but for self defense. One presumes the heavy trigger pull was to discourage premature discharges and may owe some to the somewhat complicated trigger mechanism.

Again, I am amazed at the utility of this design. Okay, the trigger device – that is, the linkage between pulling the trigger and releasing the sear – is probably more complex than needed. (Which never seems to bother advocates of the FN P-35.) The sights, by modern standards, are rather small and not prone to quick acquisition and the caliber is, again by modern standards, pretty anemic. Still, it is very easy to use. The ‘delay’ device is functional and quite positive.

And it is a very good looking bit of ordnance.

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Colt Model M

The Colt Model M. The Colt M1903. The Colt Hammerless Pocket Pistol.
Model M 503,xxx prancing pony at rear of slide
As far as I can tell, these are three names for the same design. It is an early semi-automatic pistol, made by Colt and designed by John M. Browning.

In short, it was released by Colt for sale to the public in 1903 (which probably seems obvious from one of the names). The pistol was initially made in caliber .32 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) and was also designed – the cartridge, that is – by John M. Browning. The cartridge is also called 7.65 Browning by those of the metric persuasion.

In 1908, this design was somewhat modified and released for sale in caliber .380 ACP (European 9mm Short – or Kurz or Corto depending on language involved.) My interest and discussion is only in the .32 ACP version, the M1903. The .380 ACP is normally referred to as the M1908.

Colt introduced the M1903 (Pocket Hammerless) pistol in – taa daa – 1903. Don’t confuse this pistol with the 1903 Pocket Hammer – they are two different pistols. The Pocket Hammer pistol was chambered for the .38 Automatic or .38 ACP. Claimed (advertising again) more powerful than the 9mm Parabellum (9mm Lugar or 9×19). The .38 ACP was later ‘updated’ to the higher pressure Super .38.

The Pocket Hammerless was manufactured until just after the end of World War Two (one source says 1945, another says 1947; I wasn’t there.) According to one source, pistols were assembled from prior production until 1953. Production seems to have topped 570,000 or so. (I was there, but not watching.)

Although called “Hammerless”, there is actually a hammer in the design. However, one cannot see it, cock it or un-cock it. It is concealed within the rear of the slide. It cannot catch on clothing or a pocket or such. Popular opinion has it this title was a marketing device to advertise the convenience of carrying such a pistol. I think it may also have helped distinguish the “Pocket Hammerless” from the “Pocket Hammer” introduced the same year; the “Pocket Hammer” was in a different caliber and was a completely different pistol.

It should be noted the Model M is hammer fired and not striker fired. I’ve always suspected hammer fired handguns are more likely to ignite the cartridge than striker fired handguns. This is not widely accepted and probably doesn’t really make much difference.

There were five (manufacturing) “types” of the 1903.

Type I; serial number one to 71,999; 1903 to 1908.
The only version with a full four inch barrel. This type also had a separate barrel bushing similar to the Government Model or 1911 pistol.

Type II; serial number 72,000 to 105,050; 1908 to 1910.
This type still had the separate barrel bushing, but barrel length (and slide) was shortened to 3.75 inches.

Type III, serial number 105,051 to 468,789; 1910 to 1926.
Barrel still 3.75 inches, separate barrel bushing deleted, barrel bushing incorporated into front of slide.

Standard grips changed to walnut in 1924. Before grips had been hard rubber or perhaps ‘gutta percha’.

Type IV; serial number 468,098 to 554,099; 1926 to 1941.
Barrel and bushing unchanged, magazine safety added.

Type V; serial number 554,100 to end of production; after 1941.
Improved (more squared off rear sight, serrated rear on forward sight) sights.

Serial numbers 554,447 to 572,214 were type V variation with parkerized finish.

For more details on changes in grips and the slide legend and address, I suggest one check on line at http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/1903C/1903c.html .

Among other brilliant work, the above website has a bibliography for more reference.

I currently own three Colt Pocket Pistols of 1903 in .32 ACP. They are part of my art deco pistol collection and are just marvelous little pistols in many regards. Two are type II and the third is a type III. (With the idiotic magazine safety.) I am planning on getting at least one variation of the other four types. Everyone has to have goals.

The one under discussion is the most recent acquisition; a type III. I purchased it outright at a local gun store. It has a bit of holster wear at the forward edge of the slide – where a pistol rubs on the leather entering or leaving the holster. There are a couple impact injuries, commonly called ‘dings’ on the pistol. I’m not sure how a collector grades ‘dings’ but it appears to have at least 90% finish left, perhaps greater.

Model M 503,xxx on box

The bore is very clean. The other two Models M I have both suffer from corrosive primers and poor cleaning. The bores are pitted, dark and ‘nasty’ looking. They shoot fairly well in spite. The bore in this last Model M looks new.Model M 503,xxx bore condition

This last Model M came with a box and papers. Frankly, the box looks suspiciously new and unworn. The documents inside are a mixed bag; some look freshly printed, some look folded and re-folded; taped and stained. Sadly lacking is a hang tag from the general mercantile or hardware store.

The serial number dates it as being made in 1930. (I hope I’m as functional in another twenty years!) It sports wood (walnut it seems) grips with Colt insets.Model M 503,xxx wood grips (left)
The earlier Models M I have come with rather marginal sights. The rear sight notch is a “U” shape. The later sight on the type III is a squared void, allowing an easier and more precise sight picture.Model M 503,xxx front sight

Model M 503,xxx rear sight

Of course I shot it. It’s not like it’s never been shot.

Trigger pull is at 5.25 pounds and releases well. Not a target modified trigger, but workable.

Chronograph velocity was 769 fps (243.3 mps). Despite the rather small sights (men and women just had better eyes on those days!) I managed to get five shots into the eight ring of a reduced “Prell” (NRA B-29) target at ten yards, one handed rapid fire. Then five shots into the group shown in the head of that same reduced target.
Model M 503,xxx slow fire group with ruler brighter

Model M 503,xxx rapid fire group 10 yards with ruler

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An Early Semi-automatic Pistol for Your Edification

Gentle Readers, one of John Moses Browning’s earliest semi-automatic pistol designs. In fact, the only earlier pistol design (actually manufactured) was this pistol’s older prototype, so to speak. That design was manufactured a mere year earlier, in 1899. Due to consumer and buyer feedback, this is the updated version; rather unimaginatively called the model 1900. It is in caliber 7.65mm (Browning) or .32 ACP, if one is from west of the Atlantic Ocean.

The pistol was made by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium. It is only the second pistol in history chambered in .32 ACP; the first pistol being the 1899 version. As the 1900 is more of a refinement of the 1899, one can argue this is – sort of – the first .32 ACP pistol. (One can also argue against it, but as I will probably NOT ever find a 1899 I can afford, I will argue for it.) (That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!)

This pistol was designed as a service sidearm. It was purchased by some European governments for army issue; the Belgian Army is listed as one of those purchasers. As I have mentioned before, the 7.65 mm or .32 ACP cartridge was considered a ‘serious’ caliber in Europe until the Second World War. Historically, the New York City Police Department was issued revolvers in .32 S&W Long at the behest of Teddy Roosevelt in 1896. Times change.

FN1900 pistol, right side

FN1900 pistol, right side


It is an ‘odd’ looking pistol. Not just by current standards and norms, but even at the time. Observe the pictures. It has the side rail guide thingies. No, the effect is not that of of incorrect perspective; the barrel is in fact beneath the recoil spring.
FN 1900, left side with slide open

FN 1900, left side with slide open


There is no slide hold open; neither on last shot fired or manually. If the reader carefully examines the photos, there is a coin (a U. S. penny) carefully place in the ejection port to hold the slide open.

I found this at a local gun show. One finds all sorts of things at gun shows if one looks. The same can be said of pawn shops and garage sales. I do far more looking and seeking than I do finding and buying.

Some of the features are rather expected. The sights are fixed and somewhat hideous. The front sight is what I’ve come to understand as the ‘razor blade’ style; the rear sight is the “V” shape so popular in Europe for far too long. Front sight blade; typical 'razor blade' style.FN 1900 rear sight (pistol cocked).  Front sight out of focus.

Upon intense scrutiny, I note the front sight is ‘bent’ (at the base, not in the middle) to the right a bit. This will addressed later.

The rear sight incorporates a cocking indicator. When the pistol is NOT cocked, a metal bar protruded up in the rear sight fixture and blocks the shooter’s field of vision. It is not a loaded chamber indicator as such. One can cock the firing mechanism without a round in the chamber and the device shows cocked. I have read this device was intended as an indicator of the gun being fired empty. However, the rather disappointing ‘click’ would – to me – be a fairly reliable indicator.

Trigger pull is between 9.5 and 10.5 pounds. Typical of the time. I don’t feel much creep, and as far as I can tell, the trigger breaks cleanly. On the other hand, were the weight something more manageable, I might notice more more detail. It works and does make the gun go bang when desired.

FN 1900 safety in 'safe' position.

FN 1900 safety in ‘safe’ position.

FN 1900 safety in 'fire' position.

FN 1900 safety in ‘fire’ position.


The FN 1900 has a manual safety. It is located on the left side, aft, and is suitable for thumb operation. It operates in the ‘normal’ (meaning what I’ve been taught and shown all my life) manner, up being ‘safe’ and down being ‘fire’. There is an internal spring which keeps the lever in place (where one left it last). It is marked in French; “FEU” meaning ‘fire’ and “SUR” which means ‘on’; possibly an abbreviation for ‘surete’ meaning ‘safety’.

The pistol is blued. (Stainless steel pistols didn’t become routinely offered until 1965; the S&W Model 60.) It is all steel except for the grips. The grips are either some early form of plastic or quite possibly gutta percha.

The grip angle is fairly shallow. It is not as extreme as the Luger pistol of some eight years later. In my opinion, it is even less than the Government Model – designed also by John Browning and adopted for use some eleven years later. The grip angle is radically less than common revolvers of the day. Part of this may be related to the magazine in the grip.

Some things are not functions or features of this pistol one has come to expect.

There is no slide lock. Neither an ‘automatic’ hold open of the slide when the last round is fired or a manual ‘lock open’ feature to clean, inspect or otherwise fiddle with the pistol. (Readers will note a penny inserted in the ejection port to keep the slide open.)

There is no magazine safety. I suppose this isn’t so surprising after all. The magazine safety wasn’t popular until the French Army decided such a device was required as their troops were not smart enough to operate a pistol without one. The Luger (of 1908 or so), the U. S. M1911, most of the early Beretta designs (until 1935 or so), and many other of the commercial pistols of the era did not have such a device.

The FN 1900 does NOT have a grip safety. I’m not a big grip safety fan, but the grip safety was rather widespread in the era in question. The 1908 Luger – and most variants – had a grip safety. The M1911 pistol had – still has – a grip safety. Not every pistol had such a device, but grip safeties were not rare in the time period. The FN 1900 does not.

An aside: As a philosophical exercise, does anyone have any information that would tend to justify or negate the existence of either magazine safety or grip safety? In other words, is there any real world reason to include such features, or are they the product of paranoia on the part of ‘administrators’ who have no clue about the realities involved but in no way actually trust rank and file soldiers, officers, operatives or whatever?

End of aside. Back to the pistol in question.

Already mentioned, the 1900 has the barrel installed UNDER the recoil spring. For most of us, that’s backwards – or reversed, if preferred. The principle reason for this was to lower the centerline of the barrel, reducing the tendency to raise the muzzle in recoil. The pistol has little in the way of recoil, being chambered in .32 ACP and steel framed. The lowered barrel cannot hurt the recoil signature.

I do not know of any other pistols built this way until 1970, when Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 61 “Escort”. The Escort was a .22 long rifle pistol, designed as a pocket defense pistol. Which rather nicely designed in the main, it was poorly thought out in terms of how to actually use it. It was discontinued in 1973. Smith & Wesson later introduced the concept again with the 422 (blue)/622 (stainless) .22 long rifle pistols. The 422 ran from 1987 to 1996 more or less and was intended to compete with the Ruger .22 Automatic in whatever variation existed at the time. Other incarnations of this design also by Smith & Wesson include the model 2206 and models 2213/2214.

I only list these so the reader understands the design was not new or ground breaking. The idea dates from 1899.

For disassembly instructions, see the You Tube video by Midway USA on the pistol.

Shooting the pistol.

It shoots rather easily. Recoil is light. It’s enough to disturb sight alignment and sight picture, but not enough to hurt or intimidate the shooter. It is as loud as any pistol, therefore distracting and requires hearing protection.

I fired five (whole) rounds at fifty feet on a standard 25 yard center. Remember I mentioned the bent front sight earlier? The pistol grouped fairly nicely, but at fifty feet registered about six inches to the left (or 9 o’clock); centered in the 8 ring. I have a suspicion the bent front sight might be the problem. The grouping is roughly three inches from side to side and just over two inches top to bottom. Not a bad group, but just far enough off center to give misses. One of the shots is just off the edge of the center and not visible in the picture. You’ll have to take my word for it.
FN 1900 test target

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Astra 300

The little brother of the Astra 1921 model 400 and 600, this little pistol is in caliber .32 ACP. It was also made in .380 ACP. It is another of the rather decent pistols made by the Basque community of the Pyrenees.

Astra 300 left side with proof marks on frame and rear of slide

Astra 300 left side with proof marks on frame and rear of slide

This pistol is a model I’ve been seeking for – hmmpf! – several years. I had to drive out of state to get it. Then I had to wait nearly two weeks for it to ship and such. I took possession of it Thursday 26 February, in the year of our Lord 2015.

Astra 300 general right side

Right side with disassembly marks on slide and frame

It is a small pistol, as most .32 autos. According to my scale, it weighs one pound and ten ounces. According to my trigger weight scale, the trigger trips between 7.5 and 8.0 pounds. However, when dry firing, the trigger feels more like four pounds. (I was really surprised at how heavy it registered.) Looking at the pistol closely, it seems to have been ‘pounded’ externally. 
The finish is intact, with some minor rust spots. No serious or deep rust pitting or corrosion. Still, I get the feeling it has been ‘bounced around’ somehow. The surface does not appear to have been hit with a sharp edged metal object, but has tiny ‘flats’ like relatively soft metal objects jumbled together in a drawer or box.

Disassembly.
The slide is held back to a certain point and the barrel is then turned clockwise (from the rear facing forward) until the interrupted thread which holds the barrel to the frame releases and then the slide and barrel, et al, remove off the front. How far back to open the slide is questionable. I found it by trial and error. (As long as one turns the barrel by hand, it won’t break or open until it is in the right position. I’ve noted two marks on the right side of the pistol that ought to be disassembly marks. In any event, NOT all the way back.) I will not bore you with further details of take down. There are sufficient youtube videos extant.

This example is full of crud and surface rust. I estimate it was last cleaned when Franco was a Corporalissimo. I find bits of lubricant completely dried out and seriously stuck on various surfaces in the interior of the slide and barrel assembly. The recoil spring has ‘gunk’ – probably dust absorbed into whatever lubricant was there – on the barrel under the spring.

I find a great deal of rust, nothing deep, but wide spread on the interior of the slide assembly and top of the frame. One would suspect some water – at least moisture – collected inside the pistol at some point.

Removing the grips, I see more surface rust, but nothing seriously damaging.

On the other hand, the barrel is in excellent shape and the bore is nearly new. Rifling is sharp and clear. On the subject of ‘pounding’ the muzzle of the barrel has been some serious whacks. So severe the spring keeper (which fits behind the bushing) will not slide off the front of the barrel as normal. However, the bore has not been damaged, from the shooting results.

Friday afternoon, about 1800-1815; 27 February 2015, Four Rivers Sportsmen’s Club, indoor range. It is too cold to shoot outdoors. Temperature is around 15-20 degrees, with light wind. However, it is clear and the late afternoon sun is bright. Indoor, there is no wind, but still not warm. Overhead heaters feel good but don’t help my feet!

Sights look more crowded in person.

Sights look more crowded in person.

The sights tend to blend, front and rear. The sights are short, do not extend very far from the body of the slide. So, they tend to merge together and do not give as good a sight picture as they might. However, they seem ‘good enough’. Probably designed to point and hope more than aim. Or, men of earlier days had better eyes.

The recovered brass was intact. The only ‘blemish’ is a strong powder burn smear on one side of the case, from mouth to half or two-thirds back to base. On one side only and I cannot see anything in the chamber to identify which side. Comparing the smear with the ejector mark, it seems the smears all happen on the left side of the chamber, ahead of the ejector. But I still could not see anything obvious.

Fired cases slide easily into the plastic holder of the ammo box, indicating a tight chamber.

Extracted cases are flung right and forward. They all hit the wall about six feet to the right, so I didn’t know how far they really go. Chronograph shooting on the outdoor range had empties about twelve to fifteen feet to the right, and just forward of the shooting position. Ejection is positive and enthusiastic. Second five cases show same signs and ejection characteristics.

Primers show good impact and decisive ignition.

Recoil is quick, not abusive but disturbs sight picture.

All shooting at 10 yards. All shooting done one handed. Trigger pull seems heavier with live ammunition in the pistol. Don’t they all?

Five shot slow fire; one handed at ten yards.

Five shot slow fire; one handed at ten yards.


IBS multi-target at 10 yards. Five rounds slow fire delivered a good group. Just a bit left of the center of the bull, but on for elevation. Slow fire group is triangular (but not ovate). Measured from center to center, the slow fire group is 1.3 inches top to bottom and 1.25 inches side to side. It is displaced from the point of aim – the dot in the middle of the bullseye – 1.4 inches left and .5 inches high.

One shot each on five different targets.  Ten yards, as fast as I could hold and fire.

One shot each on five different targets. Ten yards, as fast as I could hold and fire.


Rapid fire group – one shot on each of five bulls – are all in the white except for one half-way in. The white section of the bullseye is four inches in diameter. So all shots are within two inches of point of aim. The lateral dispersion of shots is 1.24 inches and the height dispersion of all rapid fire (superimposing all the rapid fire shots onto one target) is 3.58 inches.

Also – on my word of honor (such as it is) these are the first ten shots I’ve fired from this particular pistol, and the ONLY ten shots I’ve fired from this pistol.

For chronograph testing, I used the same ammunition and lot of that ammunition as for all the other old .32 auto’s so far. This pistol delivers 854.5 fps with the chronograph about fifteen feet from the muzzle (about the same as all the others). This makes this WWII era Astra the second fastest pistol of my collection. It is less than 1% slower than an MAB Model D.

Seriously, for this category of pistol at ten yards, the accuracy is quite good for self-defense work. Which may sound a bit silly about a .32 ACP pistol, but it still shoots pretty good.

I did note the front and rear sight seem to ‘blend’ with one another when attempting to get a proper sight alignment. The front and rear sights are integral with the slide. They are not later added parts in the fashion of the Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol or (1911) Government Model. On the good side, they are wider and flatter on top than the Colt Pocket Pistol. They appear to be much closer to what are recognized as modern “Patridge” sights than the typical European triangular sights of the time period. However, they are cut so close to the slide, they blend with the slide and seem to be rather vague in sight alignment and sight picture. The results seem to indicate they are not as deceptive as I feared.

All in all, another rather nice pistol from long ago. It seems to be all machined, so in modern manufacturing, a CNC machine would be required. I suppose the basic shapes could be investment cast, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Not to mention there’s no stampings, sintered metal or plastic parts on the device. The kiss of death is that the pistol is a single stack, single-action-with-safety type design in .32 ACP.

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The Ortgies Patent Deutsche Werke Pistol

Another one of the European 7.62mm pistols of the early 20th Century is the Ortgies.  It is named after the designer of the pistol, Heinrich Ortgies.  The pistol was made from 1919 to 1924 or 1926 (depending on source) – a total of five or seven years.  Sources indicate new (manufactured but not sold) pistols were sold for some time after manufacture ended, perhaps into the early 1930s.

The history of the pistol is a bit involved, as Herr Ortgies died soon after production was underway and the design was taken by another manufacturer.  All this is available on line if interested.

My collection currently contains two examples of the Ortgies pistol.  They are both .32 ACP.  From what I can glean from the internet, there are SEVEN variations of the pistol.  All the variations are based on the ‘addresses’ roll-stamped into the slide.  The actual design and interior lock work never changed.  The two I own represent a ‘fourth’ and ‘fifth’ style address marking.

Ortgies Pistol serial no. 59000 series Fourth Address variation

Ortgies Pistol serial no. 59000 series Fourth Address variation

Ortgies pistol serial no. 104000  Fifth style Address line

Ortgies pistol serial no. 104000 series                    Fifth style Address variation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, I cannot find any information about the dates of manufacture for a specific serial number, nor can I determine the time periods of the various addresses displayed.  However, all of these pistols were manufactured in a fairly short time period.

One of my pistols has a serial number in the 59,000 range.  The other, later production obviously, is in the 104,000 range.  I shall use these numbers to identify the pistols as needed.

In addition to the address changes, the most obvious change – as production carried on – was the change of the manufacturer’s logo.  All the grip panels I have witnessed have been wood.  Rather plain, darker – possibly stained – hardwood with obvious grain patterns.  All of them have a metal insert – a medallion, perhaps – with the manufacturing logo.

Original Heinrich Ortgies grip logo

Original Heinrich Ortgies grip logo

The earlier examples display an intertwined “H. O.” at right angles one to another signifying the designer and original manufacturer, Heinrich Ortgies.

 

 

Ortgies 104 later Deutch Werke logo cat

Deutch Werke logo

 

The later pistols, after Herr Ortgies passed on, were manufactured and controlled by Deutsche Werke of Erfurt, Germany and the medallion logo changed to a stylized “D”, which upon close inspection is a cat in profile with the tail curving up past the head.  (See picture, it makes more sense that way.)  The cat strikes me as having a mystical Egyptian look to it, or perhaps a long necked leopard.  Probably, it’s just ‘artsy’.

I have seen photographs of plastic grips.  They are the rather unimpressive black plastic of the early portion of the 20th Century.  The logo is cast into the plastic in place of a metal medallion inset.  I cannot recall seeing an actual pistol so equipped, but that may speak to my limited range more than anything else.

Ortgies 59719 serial number redacted and country of origin mark

Serial no. marking (partially redacted) and Country of Origin

Ortgies 104 serial number redacted and country of origin mark

Second example of redacted serial no. and Country of Origin markings

The serial number is roll stamped – all the markings seem to be very carefully and properly done – on the frame, forward of the trigger guard, underneath and behind the muzzle.  Both examples I have bear “Germany” in English – as opposed to Deutschland.  This marking is the required ‘country of origin’ marking for importation into the United States.  I’m sure these pistols were both imported into the U. S. and sold commercially here in the 1920s or 1930s.  This would be prior to the leftist hoplophobic mania and anti-gun hysteria of later years, of course.  Ahem; I digress.

 

Ortgies 59719 magazine left side with 9mm (kurz) mark

Early magazine left side, marked 9 m/m with six observation holes.

Ortgies 59719 magazine right side with 7.65mm mark

Early magazine with faint 7.65 m/m and HO logo marking on right side.

Markings on the magazines changed a bit from beginning to end, but the magazine design didn’t change much.  The early magazines would interchange between 9m/m kurz (9 mm short, in English, or .380 ACP for the ‘west-side-of-the-Atlantic’ faction) and 7.65m/m (.32 ACP) without alteration or adjustment.  The early magazines are marked on the left side with “9mm” and have six holes in the side of the magazine, presumably for checking round count; while the right side of the magazine is marked“7.65mm” and has seven holes.

 

 

 

 

Ortgies 104 baseplate of magazine

Later magazine with caliber marking and “D” logo on base plate.

Later magazines – at least those for 7.65mm – have seven holes on either side, the “7.65m/m” and the manufacturing logo (the stylized “D” for Deutsche Werke) marking is on the base plate.  In complete candor, I do not know if the later magazines will function in a 9mm kurz pistol.  The magazines appear identical, but I haven’t had opportunity or reason to check.

The pistol is not a shocking departure in terms of design.  It is a simple blowback action, with a spring driven striker as the igniter.  The standard Ortgies was produced in 7.65mm or .32 ACP, and 9mm Kurz or .380 ACP.  Ortgies also produced a 6.35mm or .25 ACP pistol during the same period, which appears to be a smaller pistol.  Interesting to me, the only safety on the pistol is the ‘grip’ safety which is the moveable ‘bar’ on the rear of the grip.

Ortgies 104 grip safety extended engaged

Grip safety extended; safety engaged.

Ortgies 104 grip safety depressed disengaged

Grip safety depressed, safety disengaged.

When extended – safety engaged – the sear is blocked mechanically by some extension of the safety.  When depressed – safety disengaged – the firearm is free to fire when the trigger is pulled.  Unlike the grip safety on pistols made by Colt and other manufacturers, the safety does is not spring-loaded and does not automatically extend when not manually depressed.  The grip safety stays in the depressed condition until a ‘release’ button is pressed.  This button is mounted on the frame, near the rear of the slide, on the left side.  (That release button is also used to field strip the pistol.

I understand this type of safety is being re-introduced on the new Remington “51” pistol.  I haven’t seen a live example yet, so this may not be fully – or partially – correct.

The Ortgies pistol was designed and sold as a personal defense pistol.  .32 ACP was considered a normal defensive caliber in that time period.  Truth be told, I rather imagine the .32 ACP chambered pistol is still in reasonably popular use today, if for no other reason than many were bought in the past one hundred years, many were brought home from the Second World War – back when our government trusted servicemen to retain firearms as souvenirs of service – and they are all still around.  Also in the mix is the factors the pistols are usually easy to load, handle and fire and the recoil doesn’t intimidate many people.

Ortgies 104 front and rear sight

Rear view of front and rear sight.

Ortgies 104 sight picture

Sight picture. One should focus the eye on the front sight, a skill my camera lacks at present.

 

 

 

The Ortgies is not a perfect defense pistol by any stretch.  The sights are milled from the basic block of steel that forms the slide.  The sights are fixed, and rather small by today’s standards.

Lest anyone think sights were considered a mere obligatory addition, the sights on both Ortgies pistols I own shoot quite close to the sights.

 

 

These pistols were never adopted for use officially by the German military.  However, officers and probably enlisted men could purchase their own sidearm and some Ortgies pistols were so employed.  From the sources I can find, one does NOT find Wehrmacht acceptance stamps normally.  If a family legend has it that one of your forbearers acquired his example from a German soldier, it is quite possible.  (However, it will not usually have the ‘country of origin’ marking which is needed for importation to the U. S.)  For collectors of such items, U. S. soldiers should have had ‘bring back’ documents showing they acquired ‘souvenirs’ legally and properly.  Such documentation trumps any conjecture based on perceived markings or lack of markings.

The trigger pull is not so heavy; I have two Ortgies pistols, one with a trigger weight of just over 4.5 pounds, the other pull weighs in at 6.1 pounds.  Not as heavy as some, but they are long and creepy.  When I say creepy, I mean one can feel the sear sliding out of engagement with the cocking piece.  They are manageable however.  Certainly not the sudden ‘glass rod breaking’ feeling of a top grade target trigger, but capable of discharging the arm while not completely disrupting the sight picture.

Another not often mentioned phenomenon:  They bite.  Not in the sense of operate poorly, but the slide (in recoil when fired) can easily gouge the upper portion of the web of my hand.  I’ve found a number of pistols which share this trait.  Perhaps my hands are too fat.  Lord knows the rest of me is.

The pistols are all single stack type magazines.  These were made for personal defense as concealed carry arms.  They are made to fit into a pocket.  The 7.65mm versions hold eight rounds in the magazine (and one in chamber).  Further, this pistol employs a typical – for the time – European style ‘heel catch’ magazine retainer and release.  It is simple to use and make, but IPSC shooters are horrified at the difficulty of making a ‘quick reload’.  (I feel a rant about “… thirty round bursts …” coming on; I shall endeavor to avoid such.)

The grip length is long enough for a proper grip.  My hands are not huge by any stretch, but reasonably ‘average’, I should think.  (No one has yet said, “Gee Arch, you have little tiny – or great big – hands!”)  I can get a full shooting grip on the arm; at worst, my little finger somewhat straddles the forward lip of the magazine.  Recoil is not great enough to make that a problem.

I purchased these two Orgties designed pistols just over a year apart.  The first in December of 2012 and the second one – which is the earlier manufactured – in April of 2014.  For that reason I test fired them on two separate occasions.  However, I did use ammunition by the same manufacturer – Privi Partizan – and the same lot of ammunition.

I confess I failed to observe the same testing protocols.  I’m already dieting, don’t expect any massive penance in addition.  Feel free to pronounce ‘fie’ upon me; I’ll man up.

On the good side, I did test both pistols at an initial distance of fifteen yards.  Fifteen yards is probably ‘long’ for a personal defense pistol; personal attacks usually are measured in single digits of feet units, but I feel fifteen yards is not a bad distance to evaluate mechanical accuracy of the device, without being distorted by (aging) eyesight and such.  In a burst of confidence, I shot the earlier produced pistol at twenty-five yards with suitable results in terms of accuracy.

The later produced pistol competed in one of our local ‘combat’ matches – with my assistance.  While the pistol did well in terms of accuracy, hitting pretty much everything on the first attempt, the impact of the 71 grain FMJ bullets did NOT dislodge the plates from the ‘Texas Star’ device.  Nor were they impressive on the dueling tree.  How discouraging.

The shooting – as always – was performed (committed?) on the Four Rivers’ Sportsman’s Club near Hastings, Nebraska.  No one was occupying the outdoor range and I made myself at home.

Setting the CED chronograph, I did – on separate occasions, as mentioned – some velocity testing just as a base line for discussion.  Just for the record, from the 3rd Edition of Ammo & Ballistics published by Safari Press and authored by Bob Forker, the SAAMI standards for this round indicate a 71 grain FMJ bullet is ‘expected’ to have a muzzle velocity of 900 feet per second (fps) and an operating pressure of 15,000 copper units of pressure (CUP) or 20,500 pounds per square inch (PSI) by transducer measure.

I cannot measure pressure with my equipment.  However, my chronograph does a fair job of bullet velocity.  The ammunition used in the testing is Prvi Partizan brand.  It bears no particular ‘item’ number but is described as “32 Auto” and “FMJ (full metal jacket) bullet, 4.6 grams/71 grains”.  The box has no printed claim to velocity.  The end flap interior has a stamped number of 1103, which I presume to be the manufacturing lot number.

According to the chronograph, pistol ‘59’ fires the ammunition with an average velocity of 666 fps.

Pistol ‘104’ runs the same lot of ammunition at an average of 701 fps.

So much for the anticipated 900 fps.

Both pistols using the same ammunition work very well.  Ejection and cycling is subjectively positive and regular.  The rounds register on target close to point of aim (where the sights line up according to my eyes).

In shooting, I find this pistol to be rather comfortable and ‘ergonomic’, even if that word was NOT in common use when the pistol was designed and made.  The tiny sights are a bit difficult to obtain rapidly, but the pistol seems to shoot to the sights.  I have complained in the past about the ‘issue’ sights on the Colt Government Model.  They are small.  The Ortgies sights are ‘tiny’.  Plus, as the photos demonstrate, the rear sight on the Ortgies is a narrow ‘V’ shape while the front sight is an inverted ‘V’ or pyramid shape.  (These sight profiles were popular in Europe on rifles as well as pistols.  I have heard them referred to as ‘barleycorn’ sights.  My personal conjecture is they were devised with assistance from “John Barleycorn”.  I could be mistaken.)

The groups derived are indicative of repeatability; that is, the shot holes are in an actual group and not just ‘on target’.  One has confidence the next shot will go in about the same place.  That’s a good feeling in any arm of consequence.

I have attached some photos of the results of the shooting tests.  They pretty much speak for themselves, but since I’m blogging, I’ll explain them anyway.

Ortgies 59 target 15 yards enhanced

Fifteen yard target

The multiple target (six targets) shows a single, ten shot slow fire group; the lower right hand corner.  From the picture, one can see the pistol tends to register on the right side of the target.  This group was fired two handed, deliberate aim and trigger pull.  I was trying to get all the accuracy from the arm possible.

The five targets with single shot holes was a somewhat rapid fire sequence.  I fired one shot at each target in turn, from top left to bottom right (down the left side then down the right side).  I did fire this string one handed, for reasons I cannot recall.  I note the shot holes are much more centered firing one handed.

Ortgies 59 target 25 yards enhanced

Twenty-five yard target

 

 

The twenty-five yard target is nothing remarkable, save it was fired with a .32 ACP pistol with really tiny sights.  The pistol tended toward the right side of the target, but are all on the scoring rings.  I did fire this two handed and as fast as I could get a sight picture and trigger release without moving the sights.   The target shown is NOT a standard NRA B27 target for 50 yards.  It is the reduced size which simulates a 50 yard target at 25 yards.

 

 

These little pistols never fail to amaze me.  All my life I was told how poorly they worked; how impossible they are to fire with any degree of accuracy; and they have no real world use.  Which just goes to show one should ‘trust but verify’ in many areas of life.

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The Italian Candidate

An ‘icon’ is a picture or representation of an object or person which typifies a concept.  The term originates in the religious paintings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  The word has broadened in meaning to include a general representation of a class by a single example.

Such is the 1935 Beretta.

“That” Pistol

See?  Most people recognize this, saying something on the order of “Oh, yeah; ‘that’ one…” even if they can’t remember the exact details.

The pistol is more easily recognized – if not exactly identified – thusly:

1935 Beretta pistol

Many folks will think of it as ‘James Bond’s gun’.  It wasn’t, but why destroy a perfectly fine fantasy?  Since I’m already off on a tangent, this pistol was featured in the original ‘The Saint’ television series (1962-1969) with Roger Moore as Simon Templar.

Title card from “The Saint” television program starring Roger Moore

  But I digress…

In fact, this pistol is the model 1935 Beretta, in caliber .32 ACP – or for the Europhiles, 7.65 mm (Browning).  I find the derivation of this particular model interesting, as it is an exact duplicate of the model 1934 Beretta, except the ’34 model was in caliber .380 ACP (9mm Corto [short in Italian]) and represents a downgrade of power.  Oddly, the pistol was originally designed as a pocket pistol, and was then used as a uniform belt gun.

The configuration was developed at the behest of the Italian Air Force in the period between the First and Second World Wars.  All jokes about the Italian Armed Forces and air forces in general aside, .32 ACP was considered a ‘proper’ handgun cartridge for personal defense in those days.  The cartridge was quite common in Europe for both military and police use until the middle 1960s and wasn’t quite gone until the late 1970s or so.  (It may still be in use – as an official sidearm – in some areas.)

The pistol itself is marvelous in design and execution.  It is simple, elegant in function and appearance and soothingly ergonomic to the hand.  The single flaw in the design is the rather horribly designed ‘safety catch’.  It is located on the left side of the frame and must be rotated 180 degree from ‘Safe’ to ‘Fire’.  This cannot be done with the firing hand with the pistol gripped in firing position.  With that exception in mind, this pistol is at the apex of small pistol design.

Safety lever and slide markings. Safety lever is in ‘fire’ position.

Following the days of World War II and ‘Il Duce’, the pistol remained in production as a commercial offering to those who felt the need for a personal defense weapon.  The example pictured in this report is such a pistol showing a proof date of 1952.  The finish is exemplary and the bluing is both excellent and present.

However, it isn’t ‘perfect’.  Somewhere along the line, the trigger/hammer interface has developed a glitch.  When the trigger is pulled, the hammer can be observed to ‘cock further’.  What causes this is a mis-shaping of the sear hook (the ‘shelf’ portion of the hammer which is engaged by the sear to ‘cock’ the pistol).  The sear hook on the hammer is not cut exactly perpendicular to the centerline of the hammer pivot.  In effect, the release edge of the hammer hook is ‘higher’ along the plane of movement of the tip of the sear.  The sear must then ‘climb’ out of the lower area and one can see the hammer move when this happens.

The net result is what I call a “Michael Moore” trigger pull:  too heavy and lots of creep.The trigger pull breaks – releases the sear and drop the hammer – about 9 ½ pounds as best as I can tell.  This can be ‘fixed’ by re-cutting the angle of the hammer hook.  That is currently beyond my ability, so I’ll live with it.

The sights are typical of the era, fixed, the front sight blade milled into the slide, the rear sight being mounted on a dovetail and adjustable for windage.  The only elevation adjustment is to carefully file down the rear blade to lower point of impact or remove a bit from the front to raise the impact (or purchase a ‘higher’ rear sight).  Since the sights are regulated pretty well to begin AND I have no intention of using this pistol for serious work, I’m not going to alter anything.  These sights are small and discrete.  This is a small pistol and not intended for formal target work, so the sights are ‘reasonable’.

Front and Rear Sights

The front sight blade is squarish, slightly narrower at the top, the rear notch a flat bottomed  “V” shape.  Both would be better if square on all corners and flat on all sides.  These sights are functional as is.

Sight Alignment – the view from the shooter’s perspective

With a box of my Prvi Partizan ammunition and a B27 target, off to the range…

I had planned on sticking with my standard programme of shots on a B27 target.  However, Murphy struck and I had to improvise just a bit.  For clarity, all groups except as noted are fired two handed and slow fire; the goal is to get the highest level of accuracy possible.

The first five shots – without any preamble or warm up – were fired at the upper numeral “8” in the scoring rings from a distance of seven yards.  (I gave up firing at three yards as it is just too close and invariably shows good results.)  The picture (enhanced only to show the bullet holes) shows the group is on for windage and centered about one and one half inches low.

Seven yard group of five shots

From fifteen yards, five shots at the small silhouette in the upper left corner of the target sheet.  (In the past I have directed this group at the lower numeral “8” in the scoring rings, but I felt this group tends to blend in with the final rapid fire group and confuses the matter.)  This group is three inches high by two inches wide; centered three inches low and two inches to the right of the aiming point.  This is acceptable accuracy for a defensive gun.  If desired, the sights could easily be modified to regulate shots exactly.

Fifteen yard five shot group

At twenty-five yards, five shots at the center of the head portion.  The center of the group is roughly five and one half inches low and three and one half inches right.  The group is just over five inches wide – a bit loose in my mind – and three inches high, which is acceptable.  One notes the five shots seem to form two sub groups; I’m not sure why this occurred.  (It could just be me, I suppose.)

Twenty-five yard group of five shots aimed at center of head portion

Returning to ten yards, I fired five rounds in point-shoulder rapid mode.  Shots were ‘pointed’ rather than aimed at the X ring.  The group is comfortably in the more-or-less center of the target but I find myself throwing shots to the low and left.  I need to work on that.

Ten yard group of five shots, rapid fire from point shoulder position

Firing five shots over the chronograph, the Beretta 1935 gets an average of 735 f/s from the Prvi Partizan ammunition.  (This is the same ammunition as used in all the testing of the .32 ACP pistols in this blog.  I bought it all at once just to remove variables as much as possible.)

Prvi Partizan Uzice Ammunition, as marked

The failings of the pistol – the sights and trigger pull – are typical of the era, rather typical of all contemporary pistols.  (The U. S. Government Model of 1911 had hideously small sights and trigger pulls between six and twelve pounds.)  The awkward safety is probably worse than most.  The Colt 1903 and the Savage 1907 pistols had a very usable and positive manual safety.  However, the safety is probably no worse than other common European manual safeties up to the time of the Walther PP.

Overall, the pistol handled very well.  There were no malfunctions or misfires during the twenty-five rounds fired.  I don’t recall getting ‘bit’ by the slide or hammer – this time.  The fired rounds went pretty close to where I thought I pointed them.  Recoil was enough to disturb the sight picture, but not abusive by any stretch.  Muzzle blast is sufficient to destroy one’s hearing – not all at once, but cumulatively.

I like it.  It strikes me as the perfect pistol to carry as a gentleman walking the streets of Roma in the evening.  Which reminds me, I need to put on the Dean Martin disc.

For the children, this is Dean Martin. This is an album cover featuring the song, “On An Evening in Roma”

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The Savage Firearms Company Model 1917 Pistol, Caliber .32 ACP

1917 First impressions first. All my shooting life I’ve been warned of and suffered from ‘hammer bite’ while shooting a Government Model Colt or any of the copies or clones thereof. I’ve been ‘bitten’ by a Beretta 418 pistol, when the slide rails nicked the web of my shooting hand. I even heard ‘Beretta bite’ mentioned on a television program – the same day, in fact. I’ve never heard of “Savage bite’ – but it occurs as well! Not serious, but enough to get one’s attention, the slide rails again dug into the web of my shooting hand enough to draw blood. Sigh. Photo of wound incurred included.

The Savage autopistol is one of those near genius designs. It is a retarded blowback action, claimed in early advertising to be ‘locked’ at the moment of firing. The short version is, the barrel must be rotated a few degrees in order for the slide to move in recoil. The bullet travelling down the barrel, being spun by the rifling in the barrel is rotating the same direction the barrel must turn, imparting a radial momentum preventing rotational movement of the barrel. So until the bullet leaves the bore, the barrel cannot turn to unlock the slide. Or so the advertising says.

The system worked well enough to allow a pistol chambered in .45 ACP to function properly and pass the first set of trials for the ‘new’ Army pistol – which resulted in the adoption of the M1911, designed by John Browning and built by Colt Firearms (and others). Savage had a chance to be the M1911 pistol, but didn’t want to commit the money and machinery to build more pistols for testing.

The series of pistols known as the Savage autoloading pistols began in 1907, utilizing a patent granted in 1905. It was designed by a gentleman named Elbert Searle, who was not at the time part of the Savage Firearms Company. It’s a somewhat complicated story and not in the scope of this report, so I refer the reader so interested to the book Savage Pistols, by Bailey Brower, Jr.

The first pistol was called the model 1907. There was a design revision which concealed the manually controllable striker called the model 1915 and finally the model 1917, which brought back an exposed ‘hammer’ attached to the striker.

The pistol being the subject of this report is a model 1917. The biggest single identifier of the model 1917 is the near triangular grip profile. I must say the grip is very comfortable. One feels a grip which affords ‘total control’ over the handling and recoil of the pistol. (Just for comparison, my hands are just big enough to fully grip a Colt Government Model pistol. I can shoot a Government Model one-handed and feel in control of the pistol. I feel my grip is rather ‘incomplete’ shooting most double stack magazine pistols. Including Glocks. Don’t ask.)

This particular pistol found its way into my life and collection in a gun show in Orlando, Florida. It was just sitting there on a table with a modest price tag. It is in fairly good shape, not perfect, not in box, but in fair finish, a shootable bore – some dark in the grooves – and complete. The grips are very sharp in the fine detail; one can read the ‘trade mark’ legend in the now politically incorrect American indigenous native logo. Of note, the grips are not broken or cracked. There is some bluing loss and a bit of ‘freckling’ on the top of the slide. Most of the frame is quite well preserved and there are no gross bumps, bruises or dings, save one bit of rub wear on the right side of the slide near the muzzle; not normal holster wear. It came with one magazine which if anything, is a bit more worn than the pistol proper. One never knows, but I conjecture the original was lost and replaced.

With a box of my standard Prvi Partizan ammunition, chronograph and a B27 target, off to the range.
In spite of the over eight pound trigger pull, it shoots fairly well. The trigger pull is about 8.25 pounds, according to my trigger gauge. I noted the trigger travels about 1/8th inch of slack, then about 1/16th inch to release the sear; over travel is minimal. Sadly, the sear is unreliable and will be explained later.
As with all pistols of this era, the sights are rather small and unobtrusive. As is the norm with this class of pistol, the sights are fixed and in the case of the Savage, are milled from the same stock as the slide. One can do some minor adjustments for windage by carefully filing out the rear notch but I’m not going to do that.
The three yard group was fired at the upper “8” in the scoring rings and is encouragingly tight and on target.
The seven yard group was fired at the lower “8” in the scoring rings. This grouping is also encouragingly tight, and just a bit removed to the left; not enough to cause concern.
The fifteen yard group was fired at the “X” and is all within the “10” ring. Sufficient for self-defense use, I should say. This group shows a bit of leftward incline, but is still sufficiently centered.
The five shot group fired from twenty-five yards is nicely contained on the head of the target. Frankly, I was just a bit surprised it grouped as well as it did. To be fair, this was fired (as all other groups) outside in broad daylight. I could find the sights and line them up properly. Of all criticisms of this pistol, accuracy is not a concern.
The ‘point shoulder’ group was fired at ten yards. There were only two shots fired, both off to the left and low – no doubt a result of my clutching the pistol as the shots were delivered. Still on the target.
This brings up a troubling development.
While shooting the previous groups, I noted the pistol would end on occasion with the hammer down on the empty chamber following firing the last round in the magazine. When I charged the chamber for the last string of ‘point shoulder’ shooting, the pistol discharged when I let the slide go forward. For some reason, the sear is not consistently engaging. Upon inspection, I found the hammer to follow when the slide was dropped on an empty chamber. So I’m looking into the matter and not shooting this pistol further. Happily, I had already fired the five shots over the chronograph – without incident, I add.

Chronograph results of five shots gave me an average velocity of 755 feet per second. According to Savage advertising of the era, the ‘locked breech’ action gives all the power available from the cartridge. It is not notably ‘faster’ – more efficient – than other .32 ACP pistols I have examined. So much for advertising claims.

Other than the mechanical deficiency noted regarding the sear, this pistol is a well built and useful pocket pistol. The safety mechanism (thumb operated analogous to the Colt type) is positive and can be easily applied and released. Accuracy is quite good, in spite of small fixed sights and a heavy trigger. Were the sear reliable – I’m sure they normally are – and I had more confidence in the power of the cartridge – which I do not – this would be an excellent carry pistol. It does pretty much what is needed and without extraneous frills and doodads.

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The Art Deco .32 Automatic pistol collection: The MAB modele D

One of the latest additions to my Art Deco .32 ACP collection is a French pistol. The MAB (Manufacture d’Armes de Bayonne) [Bayonne (France) Arms Manufacturing] model D, in the popular European caliber 7.65 Browning, or as it is known in the United States, .32 ACP.

The model D with thumb rest grip.

MAB opened in 1920, survived the Second World War and was finally taken over by Fabrique National (FN) of Herstal, Belgium in the 1970s. The last plant was closed in the 1980s. The model D was made by MAB from 1933 to about 1963 (exact dates seem to be missing). The pistol was used by several French agencies (Customs and National Police) after 1945. In my internet research, I could not find any information on manufacture dates; so I don’t know when mine was made.

The pistol I have was imported to the United States by Federal Ordnance, Inc. It comes in a cardboard box printed up with a drawing of the pistol, a rendition of the Eiffel Tower and a drawing of a perceived French police officer holding such a pistol in a ‘firing position’. Also on the cover of the box is the legend, “1 each certified French Surete Pistol”; which reminds of the “Genuine Hopalong Cassidy” cap gun I had as a kid. The box also has a marking showing Federal Ordnance’s 20th anniversary in 1986. So the pistol was imported no earlier than 1986. Also shown is the stock number of the item and the pistol’s serial number, hand written in the pre-printed space provided.

The sales box also includes a safety warnings booklet dated 1984 (?), a limited warranty card warning against the use of reloads by anyone or anything, an exploded diagram with parts list, and a post card for information for the National Rifle Association. No historical information provided. Sigh.

Comparative size of MAB ‘D’, Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol and Walther PPK/s

The pistol itself is a medium sized handgun. It is somewhat longer and taller than a Walther PPK/s, and is very nearly the same size as a Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol. The Model D has a lanyard ring on the heel of the butt, and was carried often in a belt type holster as part of a uniform. It is not a particularly small pistol, and does not have the rounded off look of the Colt Pocket Pistol. It is just less than two pounds in weight. It is just a hair over 6 3/4ths inches long, 5 inches high counting the rear sight and lanyard mount, and about an inch thick if the thumb rest is ignored; counting it broadens the horizon to about 1 5/8ths inches. Barrel (from breechface to muzzle) is 3 15/16ths inches. According to one article, the barrel is 101mm long in Metric. I’ve never understood why makers didn’t use ‘even’ numbers.

The .32 ACP chambering probably seems odd to the American shooter, but most European countries considered a .32 ACP pistol a normal pistol round. (In one publication I read .32 ACP was part of the NAZI German supply chain, whereas .380 ACP was not.)

The external and some of the internal design is similar to the Browning pistol of 1910/1922. At least one source cites the model D was loosely copied from the 1910 Browning. It is a simple blowback, semi-automatic pistol. It is internally striker fired and in that has the trigger and firing characteristics of a single action pistol. The internal firing mechanism of the MAB is unique to the company. It is a fairly simple design with few moving parts. There is a manual safety catch and slide lock, inconveniently located forward of the left grip panel, and the ubiquitously French magazine safety.

My particular specimen has an ‘adjustable’ (windage only) rear sight which fits loosely in the dovetail slot – about 3/32th inch of horizontal play – and MAB marked plastic grips with a thumb rest on the left grip. My understanding is the ‘adjustable’ sight was added onto the pistols imported to the U. S. in an attempt to portray them as something special. Heaven help the poor soul issued a pistol with such a sight. The sight notch is narrow and tends to blend with the front sight while taking aim; not the best of possibilities.

The thumb rest grip is also not the usual grip on this pistol. I’ve found some photos of others, but all in conjunction with the ‘adjustable’ sight. The thumb rest grip is not uncomfortable, but makes the pistol awkward, if not uncomfortable, to shoot left handed. Not a brilliant move for a police or military sidearm. To clarify, the standard issue Model D had fixed sights and normal flat grips on both sides.

MAB front sight blade

Sights are the small, unobtrusive, frustrating to see sort. (I’ve secured and replaced the ‘adjustable’ sight with a standard fixed rear sight. Happily, it doesn’t shift.) The front sight – which seems to be milled from the stock which formed the slide – is narrow; about 1/16th of an inch. The front sight reminds me of the original G. I. sights on a Government Model.

MAB fixed rear sight

The rear ‘adjustable’ sight has a notch of about the same width. The result is, when aligned, there is a bit of light on either side of the front sight, but not much. I’ve noted pistols with wider front sight blades and wider rear sight notches are much easier to sight quickly. I gather in Europe as in the U. S. during this period, people had much better eyes than currently. Or they didn’t bother with sights. (Except for men like Ed McGivern, et al who were considered absolutely amazing.)

Sight alignment, or, the view from the control end

The trigger breaks with comfortably excessive travel – by my measurement, the trigger travels at least 1/16th of an inch to release the sear and a total of nearly 1/4th inch after sear release before it stops – and takes about 6 pounds of force. Not as bad as some is the nicest thing I can say. Creep and a sluggish let off come to mind. For all that, it is controllable.

Overall the pistol is pretty good looking from a manufacturing standpoint. The flats are smooth and finished. The checkering on the magazine release is sharp. The serrations on the barrel bushing and the slide are even, straight and clean. The factory applied roll stamps and identification marks are clean and neat. The bluing is done well. All this, of course, allowing for the dings and scratches of outrageous fortune that have beset this particular pistol since manufacture. (It has been dropped or dragged on something at least once.) It was made with some care; no grinder marks or file marks. The only bits of ‘cheap’ I see are the later added importation marks hand stamped to comply with U. S. importation regulations and that idiot rear sight.

For testing purposes, I found a ‘deal’ on Prvi Partisan ammunition (manufactured in Serbia, according to the box). This is the ammunition that used to be imported and marketed under the ‘Hansen’ brand name. It is brass cased, boxer primed, and of seemingly consistent quality. There’s an outfit on line at http://www.sgammo.com who does good prices and availability for those who buy ammo to shoot. (Of course, the anti-gun faction wants to put them out of business.)

And so it was I went to the range. I took the pistol, both magazines, a fifty round box of Prvi Partisan .32 ACP ammunition, an NRA B27 target and the assorted paraphernalia pertaining to shooting a pistol at the range.

In order to be thrifty and only use one target for testing, I came up with the clever idea of using various aiming points to test a particular pistol or ammunition.

All groups are five rounds, fired deliberately to obtain best accuracy from the pistol.
First at the upper numeral “8” of the scoring rings at three yards.
Second at the lower numeral “8”, seven yards.
Third at the “X”, fifteen yards.
Fourth at the center of the head, twenty-five yards.
A final group of five shots fired point shoulder from ten yards. But after marking the other groups.
Hopefully, none of these groups overlap too much and one can discern sight regulation (where the sights actually point) and the pistol’s inherent tendency to either group or scatter shots as the case may be.

Remember I mentioned the ‘adjustable’ rear sight was loose in the slot? I attempted to correct for this by pressing the sight to the right prior to each shot. It didn’t work. The three yard group wasn’t bad, but the seven yard group was far looser than I thought it should be and the fifteen yard group was ‘vague’ at best. I packed up my stuff and went home.

The fixed rear sight arrived from ‘Gun Parts Corp’ – known to some of us as ‘Numrich Arms’. I installed it, centered it as best I could and was off the range again.

The three yard group – in the yellow circle about the numeral “8” – was pretty acceptable, except one sees the sights are regulated to the left. I will accept responsibility for not perfectly centering the rear sight (as noted, I replaced the adjustable sight with a fixed version) but the adjustable sight shot left as well.

The five shot group on the X ring was fired at 15 yards, and does pretty well. In all likelihood, this is the maximum effective range for this pistol in terms of accuracy. The power level being rather low, closer is better. Note the tendency to shoot left is increasing.

Five shot group on the lower numeral “8” fired at seven yards. Not bad, off to the left.

The five shot group at the head from twenty-five yards is curious. When I get sloppy, I normally shoot a group stringing from high right to low left; this group is opposite, so I think I can avoid responsibility. The shots were aimed at the lower right hand corner of the head portion, where I marked in an ‘X’ (after I shot). One notes one shot hole is very close to the X aiming point. I must have thrown that shot – considering all the other careful shots were high and left of the aiming point. (Tsk.) There are then three shots on the left side and just left of the head portion. All things considered, they are fair at best. If I center up the rear sight and file a touch off the top of the rear sight, I think registration would be better. But if I do all that, I’ll be tempted to open up the rear sight some and square it out… and I want to maintain the basic configuration as much as possible.

The remaining five shots at about seven o’clock in the seven ring are the result of ‘point shoulder shooting’ from about ten yards out. Just for the record, ‘point shoulder shooting’ in this instance indicates the pistol is extended in front of the body and the eye roughly lines up the slide and target. That they are low and left are indicative of my natural tendency to ‘milk’ my shooting hand and give such shots. Still, if centered on the target, all shots would have been suitably on target.

At the risk of offended the spirit of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the MAB model D is not a seriously precise pistol. It is not as bad as some I’ve shot (I remember shooting a much-fired WWII era High Power that would group nicely on a full sized refrigerator at about fifty yards… it was worn severely) but it is no big prize in the accuracy department. Perhaps I’m sounding too critical. The accuracy is ‘adequate’ in terms of defense. It will stay on a human silhouette out to twenty-five yards. However, the limited horsepower it presents demands very precise shots in order to be effective. I could not imagine shooting small game at any distance exceeding five to seven yards. Part of the problem is the small, narrow and just plain difficult to see sights. Remember, all the groups I fired were slow fire, with deliberation and attempting to give the best results possible.

Just to be ‘fair’, perhaps I should adjust the sights and re-try the accuracy testing. I’ll keep in touch.

On the plus side, the pistol worked well. All shots went off on schedule, function was excellent and both magazines performed as they ought. Just for the notes, all ejected cases were neatly on line with the position of the pistol – perhaps a bit to the front – and hit the ground roughly five feet away. It is a reliable pistol, and that speaks volumes when carrying a defensive pistol.

MAB Model D, manual safety & slide lock and magazine release – slide markings

The one insufficient feature is the combination manual safety and slide lock, located on the left side of the pistol. Instead of being located aft, where it could be operated by the right hand thumb – as in the case of the Government Model, Browning High Power, most Walther and S&W products, it is located at the rear of the trigger area. My thumb won’t even reach it, let alone operate it. It has to be manipulated by the left hand; end of discussion. I find that unsuitable. If carried with a round in the chamber, both hands are required to get the pistol into firing mode. As a mechanical note, the manual safety engages the trigger transfer bar and prevents it from being ‘pulled’. This does not – as far as I can tell – block movement of the sear.

The magazine release is a button at the rear of the trigger area, much the same as the Government Model or PP/PPk pistols. I was expecting the heel of the butt sort of slider, common to European pistols.

There is a grip safety incorporated. Rather than just block the trigger, it forms part of the firing assembly and the trigger does not make contact with the sear without the grip safety being depressed.

The magazine safety – so loved by French pistols designers – also interrupts the trigger transfer chain when the magazine is removed. It works smoothly and without bother, but I personally cannot see the need for such a device.

I found most of the fired cases. (The firing area has been recently graveled, and while it is nice and flat and doesn’t muck up, small fired cases tend to blend in pretty well.) All but one of the cases shows a lusty and deep firing pin indentation. Most of the cases have the ‘burnt powder smear’ signifying some blow back of powder. No cases are dented, mashed, clawed or deformed to any serious extent.

In conclusion, this is an interesting pistol of historical value. It is not suitable – in my not so humble opinion – for a dedicated self-defense arm for citizen or law officer. It is superior to a Nagant revolver or a top break Iver-Johnson, but that is somewhat akin to the compliment of ‘For a fat girl, you don’t sweat much’. It is reliable and – other than the manual safety and thumb rest – rather user friendly. It is modestly accurate, enough for short range defense. The main drawback of course is the limited power of the cartridge it fires. Even with multiple shots, it is not a proper fight stopper.

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Harrington & Richardson Self Loading .32 [ACP] Caliber Pistol

The Harrington & Richardson (H&R) ‘Self Loading 32 Caliber’ pistol was manufactured from 1914 (or 1916) to 1924. There were – according to one set of records – a total of 34,500 such pistols made in that period. These pistols were not designed by H&R, but were manufactured by license from Webley of England.

The pistols made by H&R were somewhat different from the Webley version. The most obvious difference is the concealed hammer; the Webley has an exposed hammer, while the H&R version has a striker fired ignition system. According to the Gun Digest Book of Automatic Pistols Assembly/Disassembly, the pistol was designed for Webley by William J. Whiting. No comment is made regarding the change from Webley to H&R design.

I have one of the H&R Self Loading 32 pistols now. In my constant prowling of various Gun Shows, this one showed up in Grand Island, Nebraska, near where I live. I am fascinated by early 20th Century .32 Automatic pistols and this one fits that description quite nicely.
My example is in the high 17xxx serial number range; about halfway through the serial number range. According to the Gun Digest book, this pistol weighs 22 ounces, is about 6 3/8 inches long, 4 ½ inches tall and carries eight rounds in the magazine. By my trigger weight device, the trigger pull is close to 11 pounds, with a bit of creep or slide which makes it feel a bit lighter. Dry firing, the trigger pull seems to break cleanly without disturbing the sights.

The sights are fixed – the standard for most of these types of pistols; the rear sight is a milled V notch in the backplate at the rear of the slide, the front sight is part of the barrel. The sights are a bit better than many sights of the era in terms of visibility. Shooting will determine how well they work.

Manufacture was a bit complicated. The slide has a separate breech block and backplate, which keeps the recoil and striker springs in place. The entire pistol is obviously machined from solid pieces of steel. Disassembly past the field strip level requires punches and such; I will not outline the process. The field strip procedure is much like the Walther PP or PPk; one pulls the trigger guard down to unlock the barrel. As far as I can tell, the H&R or Webley design is older than the Walther.

Grips are made from either gutta percha or hard plastic. They are black, checkered, and feature the H&R logo. The grips on my example screw on with a single slotted screw on either side.

There is a manual ‘thumb’ safety mounted on the frame on the left side of the pistol (presuming users are right handed). The manual safety disconnects the trigger from the sear mechanism. The pistol also has a magazine safety, which also disconnects the trigger from the sear mechanism. The safety is ‘odd’ in that the ‘up’ position is the ‘fire’ position and ‘down’ is ‘safe’. Most all modern designs tend to be ‘down’ to fire.

The frame, slide and barrel seem robust. The internal parts seem to be machined and with the exception of springs, seem to be stout and not likely to fail.

All in all, this is a solid feeling pistol. Of note, this pistol design was built in a larger frame size, incorporated a locked breech, and chambered for both the .380 Webley and the .455 Webley rounds. The .455 Webley version was adapted for use by the British Army.

Harrington & Richardson Self Loading Pistol, Colt Pocket Pistol and Walther PPK/s

It looks blocky. The grip angle is close to perpendicular to the slide; it is considerably less than the Colt Government Model. The barrel is exposed and fixed to the frame. In comparison to current semi-automatic pistol design, it is ‘odd’ looking. However, holding it in the hand is neither uncomfortable nor awkward. One also notes it is rather large for a modern .32 ACP semi-automatic pistol. It is about the same size as a Walther PP (not PPk). It was probably considered a pocket pistol when made; gentlemen’s trouser pockets were more generous in that era. It is about the same size as a Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol. The Colt seems more streamlined to the eye and is probably easier in and out of a pocket. It does share the ‘Art Deco’ look of the Walther PP – PPk, the Colt Pocket Pistol and the Savage semi-automatic pistol. Probably another reason I like these little pistols.

As always, shooting it turned up some interesting findings.

A full magazine is somewhat tricky to seat properly. As in all semi-automatic pistols, the top round in the magazine must ride against the bottom of the slide. If it did not, the cartridge would not be in position to be elevated into the path of the slide and then stripped from the magazine when the slide closes to chamber the next round. I do not know if this is endemic to the design, or just an idiosyncrasy of this particular pistol.

Ejected cases go straight up; when shooting two handed. The extractor is of the ‘top dead center’ persuasion, so it’s not a surprise. What was a surprise is, from the five shot groups I shot, nearly all were close to me, all in front, and typically no less than three empty cases were literally at my feet. This is even more a surprise as it happened on an indoor range with a concrete floor. My experience is brass cases tend to bounce on concrete. Not only do the cases eject straight up, they come pretty much straight down as well. One landed on top of my head. It makes a nice change from searching all over heckengone. When shooting one string of one handed rapid fire, the empties ejected up and forward, bearing to the left. This obviously was in reaction to my grip and hold; I hope I wasn’t overly moving the pistol while firing. The grouping of that string of fire might indicate I was so moving.

The sights, as expected (feared, perhaps?) are somewhat vague. Not when one can see them clearly and clearly silhouetted against the target, but when light changes or the sights blend into the target – which in the indoor range I use is common. I found sight pictures and groups much beyond seven yards to be vague.

The manual safety is prone to ‘bump’ on when handing and loading the pistol. I noted two or three times the safety had been moved by manipulating the pistol. Since this was an accuracy and function test, I did not use a holster. (Nor do I possess a holster fitting the pistol properly. I suppose I may have to make one.) For that reason, I saw no need to execute any ‘cocked and locked’, firing from holster drills. However, moving the safety from ‘safe’ to ‘fire’ can be done with the thumb of the firing hand. But it takes a little practice. Also, if the safety is up just a bit from the fully ‘fire’ position, the pistol will not fire.

Firing this pistol with Fiocchi ammunition gives snappy recoil. It isn’t terribly harsh or painful, but it is abrupt. The action of the pistol is firm and quick.

I fired twenty-three rounds in my evaluation. Three rounds did not fire on the first strike. Two of the three fired on the second strike. (The second strike required me to reload the same round back into the magazine and attempt to fire it a second time.) The third round would not fire during three attempts. At this point, I am unsure if the problem lies in the ammunition or the pistol. I suspect the pistol, as the ammunition works as expected in a Colt Pocket Model I have in my collection. My next venture will be to disassemble and clean the firing pin and striker spring. A bit of congealed oil will soften a striker fired pistol blow.

In addition to the misfires, I had two stoppages. One occurred when the round being fed into the chamber nosed up and the tip of the bullet proper was wedged against the hood of the barrel. With no slide hold open, the magazine is difficult to remove. The top – stuck – round is holding on to the magazine. It took me about a minute to clear the stoppage. Of course, I was being gentle, not wanting to damage the sole magazine I have for the pistol.

The second stoppage occurred on the last round of a string of shots. Similar to the first stoppage, the bullet nosed up, but instead of catching on the barrel hood, the round pointed straight up out of the ejection port. That one was easier to clear.

As for shooting: I fired strings of shots of mostly five rounds each. One string at seven yards aimed at X-ring, a string at ten yards aimed at X-ring, a string at twenty-five yards aimed at the head and finally a full eight round magazine fired high chest with one hand in rapid fire at seven yards.

Combined groups of seven and ten yard strings

Deliberate fire groups show a decent degree of accuracy. The groups at seven and ten yards – even with the barleycorn sights and rather heavy trigger pull – were nearly all in the ten ring of an NRA B27 target. One round at the ten yard line was in the nine and one in the eight ring. I will call those shots deficient due to my old eyes and the lighting conditions. (This is an evaluation of the pistol, not of me.) The sights are very light dependent; more so than modern patridge sights of larger size.

Four of five shots, aimed center head at twenty-five yards

I attempted five head shots at twenty-five yards with conditional success. The impacts were all high on the paper, over the silhouette head. Had I aimed center mass, all rounds would have been on target.

For a pistol design just over one hundred years old, and considering the pistol is over ninety years old, this is a pretty sound pistol. Not the most powerful of handguns, but much more effective than a hopeful smile. As nearly all the small, .32 ACP – or 7.65 Browning – pistols of the era, it is a fascinating example of design and machining. A bit of history one can hold in the hand. And fun in the bargain.

 

Slide Markings on left side of slide over trigger

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