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!