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Introduction To The Bergmann Pistols

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by searcher, Jan 3, 2017.



  1. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Introduction to the Bergmann Pistols
    Forgotten Weapons



    Published on Jan 3, 2017

    Theodore Bergmann, despite having his name on a lot of different guns, was not actually a gun designer. Bergmann was a financier and industrialist, in many ways like Eli Whitney in the US decades earlier. Bergmann, like Whitney, would provide the capital to develop patents for their inventors.

    In the case of the Bergmann pistols, the original 1892 patent was brought to him by a Hungarian watchmaker named Otto Brauwetter. Bergmann acquired the patent and had one of his engineers, Louis Schmeisser, work on developing it into a viable commercial product. That pistol would ultimately his the market in 1894, with the 1896 model being the first reasonably successful model. Three versions of the 1896 were made in different calibers, designated the No.2, No.3, and No.4 - manufactured mostly under contract by V.C. Schilling of Suhl.

    Having failed to garner military interest in these blowback designs, Schmeisser would adapt a side-tilting bolt design for the No. 5 1897 design. This too would fail to find military acceptance, and Schmeisser refined it considerably into the 1903 Mars (no relation to the Gabbett-Fairfex British Mars pistol), having taken some time away to work on machine guns. The 1903 model would be adopted by Spain, and would lead to the 1908 model and adoption by the Danish military as well in 1910. With the Spanish adoption, Bergmann would relinquish manufacturing rights to the gun, to the Pieper concern of Liege, who would sell it commercially as well as supplying the military contracts.

    The Danes would make some additional improvements to the design after WWI, with the 1910/21 variant which they would produce domestically. The final evolution of the gun was done by Pieper in the early 1920s, by which time the magazine-forward configuration had become obsolete in military handguns.

    Over the coming two weeks, we will look at each of these models in detail, so stay tuned!
     
  2. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann No. 1 / 1894
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    Published on Jan 4, 2017
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    The initial patent for what would become the Bergmann pistols was actually a delayed blowback mechanism, and it was quickly revised to simple blowback by Louis Schmeisser. The first actual production pistols, designated the No.1, used this plain blowback system.

    This initial Bergmann-Schmeisser design's notable features include loading via 5-round Mannlicher type clip, a recoil spring located under the barrel, and a unique birds-head style grip. Note also the bolt guide rail on the left side of the pistol.

    Very few of the No.1 pistols would be made before a number of significant changes were made, resulting in the 1896 pattern, including the No.2, No.3, and No.4 pistols.
     
  3. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann No 2 / 1896
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    Published on Jan 6, 2017
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    The No.2 was Bergmann's first offering of a civilian pocket pistol, introduced in 1896 alongside the larger-framed No.3 and No.4 pistols. It was chambered for a truly anemic 5mm cartridge, using a simple blowback system simplified from the first Bergmann-Schmeisser design. It used a 5-round Mannlicher-style en bloc clip, and early examples did not actually have extractors. This was changed fairly quickly, however. The most notable factory option was a folding trigger, which was only available on the No.2.
     
  4. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann Transitional No 1/2 Pistols
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    Published on Jan 8, 2017
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    Today we have a pair of interesting transitional Bergman factory prototypes which fall between the early No.1 / 1894 design and the 1896 No2/3/4 commercial production guns. These are both in the white, and show features from the designs both before and after. An interesting look inside the developmental process!
     
  5. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann No. 3 & No.4 1896 Pistols
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    Of the three calibers available in the 1896 model Bergmann pistol, the 6.5mm No.3 was the most popular. Approximately 4,000 of these guns were produced, and they found a worldwide following. The No.3 pistol was pretty much identical in concept to the 5mm No.2 Bergmann, but scaled up for the slightly larger 6.5mm cartridge. The No.4 was on the same frame as the No.3, but chambered for a larger still 8mm cartridge, and only a few hundred of these were made.

    R.K. Wilson grants the 6.5mm Bergmann with “appreciable stopping power” (particularly with the lead bullets), and rates it much superior to the .25 ACP (which was not introduced until 1905). That may be setting the bar pretty low today, but it was a respectable achievement for a safe and reliable pocket pistol in 1896. In terms of design, the No.3 Bergmann did use a dust cover over the ejection port, which reciprocated automatically with the bolt. The smaller No.2 did not include this feature. In addition, shortly after the beginning of No.3 production the method of retaining the barrel was changed. Early examples use a retaining screw and a lug on the barrel, but the lug was changed for a fully threaded barrel fairly quickly. In these models, removing the barrel requires removing the retaining screw and then unscrewing the barrel. Since the retaining screw holds it in place and maintains headspace, the barrel does not have to be torqued down when installed – thus making is still easy to remove for cleaning.

    Bergmann was willing to accommodate quite a few design alterations, including different barrel lengths, different grips, shoulder stocks and even things like set triggers for target shooting. We will look at examples of all these features...
     
  6. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann No.5 / 1897
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    Published on Jan 12, 2017
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    The Bergmann #5 was the first pistol in the Bergmann line to have a locked breech action, taken from one of Schmeisser's machine gun patents. This model was introduced in 1897 using a more powerful cartridge than any of the previous Bergmanns, with the intention of finding military contracts. The new 7.8mm cartridge (actually .30 caliber, same as the 7.63mm Mauser) fired an 85gr bullet at 1300fps, which made it the equal of any other pistol cartridge at the time.

    In addition to the more potent round, the 1897 design also replaced the Mannlicher-style clips with detachable box magazines holding 10 rounds. The detachable shoulder stock/holster also became a standard accessory, made for every pistol (instead of an option as on the 1896 models).

    The No.5 was tested by Switzerland and England (and possibly other nations) but rejected by both. The English were not satisfied with the caliber (they wanted .45) and the Swiss found it too fragile and unreliable. In total only about a thousand were made.
     
  7. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann Transitional No 4/5 Pistols
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    Published on Jan 13, 2017
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    Another pair of transitional Bergmann transitional prototypes today, this time ones that sit between the 1896 and 1897 designs (No2/3/4 and No5). One of these is basically an 1896 frame with an 1897 upper assembly and locking system, while the other is basically an 1896 action with an 1897 grip frame and stock attachment socket. Their serial numbers indicate that they were actually part of standard production, although they do not conform to the standards of the 1896 and 1897 models.
     
  8. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann Mars 1903 Pistol
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    Published on Jan 15, 2017
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    The military breakthrough for Bergmann finally came in 1903 with a new locking system for the pistol, designed by Louis Schmeisser (who had also designed the previous Bergmann handguns). In 1901, Schmeisser developed the new lock, and it was patented by Bergmann (his employer) primarily for use on heavy machine guns. It was used in these (and Bergmann HMGs saw some use in WWI), but it was also scaled down for use in the 1903 pistol. The new system used a square block that encircled the bolt and could travel a few millimeters up and down. This system externally looks very similar to the C96 Broomhandle Mauser, but is mechanically reasonably different.

    This new locking system was more cost effective to manufacture and more reliable than the side-tilting bolt of the 1897 Bergmann, and it was also quite strong. Bergmann exploited this strength by introducing a new cartridge for the 1903 model – the 9mm Bergmann (clever name, eh?). Thanks to the Spanish, we know this round today as the 9mm Largo. It was a 9x23mm case, firing a 135 grain FMJ bullet at 1060-1115 fps (325-340 m/s) depending on the loading. This was the most powerful production pistol cartridge designed in continental Europe at the time, and had performance very similar to Browning’s .38 ACP.

    Bergmann’s first major break came in 1905 when a Spanish testing board officially recommended the 1903 for military purchase and use. On September 5th of that year Spain placed and order for 3,000 Model 1903 pistols, chambered for the 9x23mm cartridge. This brought along a new problem for Bergmann – how to actually make them. Since 1896, Bergmann pistol production had been subcontracted out to V.C Schilling in Suhl, and Bergmann’s own industrial works were not tooled up for pistol production. In 1904 Schilling was taken over by the Krieghoff company, which decided to end the factory’s relationship with Bergmann.

    The cost of setting up a pistol production line is quite significant, and Bergmann knew that his previous pistols had never managed to bring really significant sales numbers. Being the intelligent businessman, he was hesitant to make the investment in tooling and jigs for the 1903 without having more than the relatively small Spanish order. His solution was to use the facilities he had already set up for making the various prototype 1903 pistols. This allowed some production, but not at a very fast pace. In addition to the Spanish order, this production had to include commercial sale guns and samples for other testing (like the US trials). Bergmann’s own plant produced less than a thousand model 1903 pistols in total, and only a small number of these were sent to Spain by 1908.
     
  9. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Magnificent Engraved Bergmann Pistols
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    Published on Jan 16, 2017
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    Today we are taking a brief side trip in Bergmann development to look at a couple of magnificent engraved Bergmann pistols - specifically, a pair of model 1896 No.3s, a Bergmann Mars 1903, and a model 1910. One of these (the 1910) was done by an outside engraver, and the others are examples of Bergmann factory engraving work. The Bergmann style is one of very fine banknote style scrollwork with gold accents - I think it is beautiful, and really highlights the skill of the engraver.

    The 1910 is an interesting piece both for its style and for the gold Arabic phrase on the side of the slide, which is an excerpt from the Hadith and translates to "Verily, strength lies in shooting". A pretty apt martial exhortation for a pistol! Examples of several of contemporary examples with the same engraving pattern do exist in museum collections to this day, which hopefully I will be able to examine in the future.

    The best of these guns, of course, is the immaculate 1896 in its presentation case. Like a true time capsule, it shows the full quality one would have received from Bergmann in the late 1890s.
     
  10. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann 1908, 1910, and 1910/21 Pistols
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    Published on Jan 18, 2017
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    By the time Bergmann found a production subcontractor in AEP for the Spanish order of 1903 Bergmann pistol, the Spanish had added a few new changes to their order, which became known as the Model 1908. In addition to filling the Spanish production, AEP also sold the guns on the commercial market fairly successfully, under their Bayard trademark.

    In 1910 an order was placed by the Danish government, with a few additional changes to the design (improved mainspring, magazine well cutouts to better grip the magazines, larger grips, etc) which became the Model 1910. AEP would institute these changes into their commercial guns as well as producing 4800 for Denmark. Production continued for civilian sales during German occupation in World War One, but ended after the war due to a lack of demand.

    When Denmark began to run low of spare parts and wanted more pistols in 1921, they made yet more changes (primarily a much better set of grips and a non-reversible locking block to simplify reassembly) and put the new Model 1910/21 into production domestically. These would be the highest production evolution of the design, and are very nice sidearms, despite being bulky, heavy, poorly balanced, and low capacity in comparison to the other handguns then available on the market.
     
  11. searcher

    searcher Mother Lode Found Site Supporter ++ Mother Lode

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    Bergmann 1920s Experimental Military Trials Pistol
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    Published on Jan 20, 2017
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    This was, as far as I can tell, the final iteration of the Bergmann pistols, developed by AEP in Liege for potential military contracts. It retains the locking system of the 1910 pattern pistol, but with a simplified disassembly method reminiscent of the C96 Mauser. The barrel was lengthened, the rear sight replaced with an adjustable leaf type, and the magazine capacity increased to 15.

    This model appears to have been tested by the French in 1923, and probably by other nations as well. However, by this time the magazine-forward configuration was decidedly obsolete for a military sidearm, and no contracts were to be found.
     

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