One of the characteristics that often leads me to be particularly interested in a given gun is a long and convoluted history. I really enjoy finding firearms that have found their way across the world and back. One entire category of rifles that did just that were the hundreds of thousands of rifles made in the United States during WWI under contract for the British, French, Canadian, and Russian armies.
The Mosin Nagant is the most numerous example of this sort of rifle, but far from the only one. Literally millions of Model 1891 Mosin Nagants were made in the US by Westinghouse and Remington, and those rifles proceeded to find their way into countless conflicts over the past hundred years. They passed through that hands of Russian, Americans, Brits, Finns, Japanese, Chinese, Czechs, and many others. Now THAT is some cool history.
The details of these contracts and how the rifles were made has been lost for a long time, but Luke Mercaldo’s Allied Rifle Contracts in America has put that history right at our fingertips again. The details of how the contracts were awarded, how production facilities were found and adapted, how the rifles were inspected and accepted or rejected, how the US firms made or lost money, and where the rifles eventually went is all here, and not just for the Mosin Nagants. Mercaldo also covers the Belgian 1889 Mausers made by Hopkins & Allen, the Remington Rolling Blocks made for France, the Winchester 1895s made for Russia, the Remington Berthiers made for France, the Savage 1899 lever actions made for Canada, and the Pattern 1914 Enfields made for England.
This is a definite must-have book for anyone who collects these rifles, and its a pretty cool collecting niche. The work was published in 2011 and is still readily available…but this is also definitely one of those books that is unlikely to be reprinted once the first printing sells out. So if you want it, get it now:
This is going to be a short post, as the 1899 Bergmann is the most difficult variant to find information on. In fact, the 1899 designation is really a catch-all for the experimental pistols Bergmann tinkered with between the 1897 No.5 design and Schmeisser’s invention of a new locking block mechanism in 1901. According to Ed Buffaloe, this series of experimental guns eventually led to the Simplex pocket pistol, although it seems more likely that the Simplex was a separate line of thought and the 1899 was yet another attempt to garner military interest.
We do know that the British government expressed an interest in the Bergmann pistol in 1900, but they did not actually acquire and test any examples until 1902. Whether those test pistols (which were in 9mm, 10mm, and 11.35mm cartridges) were late iterations of the 1897/1899 or early versions of the 1903 Bergmann-Mars is unclear. The most likely story seems to be that the first two British pistols were side-locking 1897 designs in 9mm and 10mm, and they were rejected for using small projectiles (the British military was adamant about maintaining a .455 bore). The followup pistol sent for British trials was in 11.35x23mm, and was likely an early 1903 model with the new locking system.
The pistol was also tested by the Swiss in 1900, who seem to have taken a crack at anything that came out of the Bergmann factory. It once against came up short in their estimation, though (spoiler; Switzerland never did adopt a Bergmann pistol).
Bergmann 1899, s/n 2 (photo from a private European collection)
We will continue on Friday with a detailed look at the Bergmann Simplex…
Thanks to a Pakistani reader named Adi who happens to own a 44-Bore rifle (an AK with the chamber reamed to accept 8×33 Kurz cartridges), we have some a bit more information on this interesting variation of the AK. Adi reports that his rifle uses standard 7.62×39 AK magazines, and he can load 28 rounds into a magazine. He says that feed problems are fairly rare, and when they do occur are caused by the short 8×33 case having extra space to travel to the chamber, since the gun was designed around the longer 7.62×39 cartridge. Here are a few photos he sent:
AK mag loaded with 8x33K ammo
AK mag loaded with 8x33K ammo
Rear view showing cartridge as it would be stripped off by the bolt.
I was curious to try this out firsthand, so I dug out some various AK magazines and some 7.92x33K cartridges to see for myself:
Adi in Pakistan also sent a couple photos of some of his ammo:
Note the MEN headstamp and NATO cross. This was originally a 7.62×51 NATO case.
Typical example of Pakistani 8x33K cartridge
My understanding is that local 8×33 in Pakistan is made from a variety of cases, primarily 8×57 and 7.62mm NATO. Both are presumably fairly common in military use, and close enough in case head dimensions to reform into 8×33. This particular round began life as German 7.62×51, with a Berdan primer. Based on the ejector mark on the case head, I suspect the round was initially fired from an HK91, which is a fairly common military rifle in the area.
This past weekend was another 2-Gun Action Challenge Match, and this time I decided to shoot my Hakim in it. The Hakim is an Egyptian license-built copy of the Swedish AG-42 Ljungman (you can find more info on the Hakim and other Egyptian rifles here), chambered in the standard 8×57 Mauser cartridge. The Hakim has a 10-round detachable magazine, but was meant to be reloaded using stripper clips (and it has a pretty neat system for doing so). It’s a fairly long and hefty rifle (some might use the word “oar”), but I found it pretty nice to shoot. The match this month was all about 12-round strings of fire, so I did a lot of loading 7 rounds in the mag to start and then reloading with a 5-round clip. Have a look:
With the failure of the No.4 Bergmann 1896 to attract military interest (which couldn’t have been too difficult to predict), Bergmann and Schmeisser realized that the straight blowback mechanism of the 1896 model pistol would never allow for a sufficiently powerful cartridge. The solution was to redesign the pistol to use a locked breech system, which would allow it to handle the higher pressure required for a military cartridge. This redesign came in 1897 with the No.5 pistol and cartridge.
Bergmann No.5 / 1897 pistol (photo from James Julia Inc)
First, let’s look at the cartridge. It was called the 7.8mm Bergmann, although it actually used the exact same size bullet as the 7.63mm Mauser of the newly-available C96 Mauser pistol. Like the Mauser round, the 7.8mm Bergmann was a bottlenecked cartridge. It propelled an 85 grain bullet at about 1300 fps (400 m/s) – very similar performance to the 7.63mm Mauser. The two rounds are very similar in appearance, although they can be distinguished by the longer neck of the Bergmann (this also prevents them from being interchangeable).
Bergmann cartridges. From left to right: 5mm (No.2) with and with extractor groove, 6.5mm (No.3) with and without extractor groove, two 7.8mmx25 (No.5), 8mm (No.4)
The locking system designed for the 1897 Bergmann was one of the few ever made using a laterally-pivoting bolt (another is the Czech ZH-29 rifle). The bolt had a pair of 3mm deep locking lugs on the left side of the bolt, and a flat spring on the right side to keep them engaged in the matching cutouts in the side of the barrel extension. Upon firing, the bolt and barrel would remain locked together and move backwards about 6mm. At this point a camming surface on the rear locking lug would force the bolt to the right, unlocking it from the barrel extension. The barrel would then stop, and the bolt would travel the remaining distance back under inertia. The empty case would be ejected, a new round fed from the magazine, and the bolt would lock back up with the barrel extension and both would return to their fully forward position. In other words, it was a standard short-recoil mechanism, with the detail of the bolt moving laterally to lock, instead of the more typical vertical movement.
Bergmann 1897 locking mechanism (click to enlarge)
The magazine was also redesigned in the 1897 model Bergmann, with the 5-round Mannlicher-type clip finally replaced by a conventional double-stack, double-feed box magazine. The standard magazine would hold ten cartridges (although other capacities are sometimes found), and was provided with a set of witness holes on each side so the shooter could see how many rounds were remaining. Of course, the magazine well would cover these holes, so matching sets were drilled in both sides of the magwell. The magazine could be reloaded via stripper clip while in the pistol, or exchanged for a second pre-loaded magazine.
Note matching witness holes in magazine well and magazine (photo from James Julia Inc)
The Bergmann 1897 pattern was tested by at least two nations for military use – Switzerland and England. The Swiss did their testing informally in 1897 and 1898, and appear to have found the gun too fragile or temperamental for service use. The British (who did not test it until 1902) thought the gun had potential, but they wanted a larger and heavier bullet weight than Bergmann could provide (something that would be equivalent to the .455 Webley round).
Shoulder stocks were again offered with the 1897 No.5 pistols. While this was an option apparently seldom chosen by buyers of 1896 model guns, it was expected to be common enough on the 1897 that I believe all of them were made with stock mounting slots in the grips (such attachment slots were made specially on 1896 models only when the gun was to be sold with a stock). As was typical of the era, the shoulder stock doubled as a holster.
Bergmann No.5 pistol with shoulder stock (photo from James Julia Inc)
One other new feature to the 1897 was a rear sight adjustable for range. Again like the other selfloading pistols of the day, the sight was calibrated out to a very optimistic 1000 meters (with additional markings at 100, 300, 500, 700, and 900 meters). The inside surface of the sight had machined notches matching these range markings, and a spring loaded button just ahead of the sight allowed it to be adjusted without slipping or moving when fired.
Bergmann No.5 1897 adjustable rear sight
Elements that remained the same as the earlier 1896 and 1894 designs included the overall layout, disassembly process, simple single-action trigger mechanism, exposed hammer, sliding dust cover over the ejection port, and manual safety lever on the right rear of the frame.
Sliding dust cover. This particular one is inscribed to Bergmann’s agent in Switzerland (photo from James Julia Inc).
In all, about 800 No.5 Bergmann pistols were manufactured. They failed to attract any serious military interest, and most were sold on the commercial market.
We have photos of two prototype, non-standard No.5 Bergmann pistols. The first comes from Reinhart and am Rhyn, and is a pistol that was sent to Switzerland for trials:
(photo warped, sorry – click to enlarge)
This pistol includes several feature distinct from the standard No.5 pistol. It has a full-length barrel shroud, and a tangent style rear sight (the actual tangent blade of which is missing). These are changes that are understandable from a Swiss military perspective, although the gun failed to win them over even with those elements.
Second, we have photos from James Julia of a prototype No.5 pistol sold from the Sturgess collection. This one bears a lot of resemblance to the 1896 pattern, has no serial number, and appears to be an experimental transition model.
Note pivoting bar on the upper receiver, which is spring loaded and acts to hold the bolt in its locked position.
Note non-standard magazine (single stack) and lack of adjustable rear sight.
The only marking on the gun – indicating manufacture directly by Bergmanns Industriewerke
Shotguns are a subject I don’t cover much, and I’ll admit that’s because of a prejudice on my part. I just don’t find most of them to be particularly interesting…but then I had the chance to take a look at a collection that included a bunch of mechanically unusual and pretty fascinating shotguns. The owner is planning to drag me out to the range for some trap & skeet lessons, and I realized that I really should pay more attention to these guns. I wound up getting a couple (like my .410 SMLE, and a Spencer-Bannerman pump that will be in an upcoming video), and I also started looking for good reference books on them.
Swearengen’s book is dated (it was published in 1978), but it does a very good job of covering a wide variety of shotguns, from single shots to mag-fed aully automatic designs. It includes, for example, the 14ga Greener police guns (built on Martini-Henry actions), Spencer-Bannermans, Ithaca Auto & Burglars, High Standard bullpups, and the AA-12. Plus, of course, the more typical WWI and WWII trench shotguns, and a bunch of Philippine guerrilla kludges (I was a bit disappointed to see that the SMLE conversions are not included, though).
The book is very much out of print, but used copies to come up. There are two sets of listings on Amazon (one of them has misspelled the author’s name), and you can also keep and eye out on eBay and at gun shows. At the time of writing, there are a handful on Amazon for about $50, which is about as low as you’ll probably see them there:
With the Bergmann No.3 proving to be a popular pistol and commercial success, Bergmann and Louis Schmeisser made another attempt to break into the military market. This was done by adapting the No.3 to use a larger 8mm cartridge. This modification was fairly simple, requiring basically just a new barrel. The 8mm was based on the 6.5mm case, using the same head diameter and virtually identical overall length. This allowed the same boltface to be used, and the same size magazine. One side effect was that the No.4′s cartridge was much less tapered than previous Bergmann cartridges (and not bottlenecked), but this does not appear to have caused any reliability problems.
Only a one or two hundred No.4 Bergmann pistols were made (and they were numbered in the same series as the No.3, making an exact count impossible), as the new cartridge was still too weak to interest military commissions. I have been unable to find bullet weight and velocity specifications on the round, although you can see dimensional specs at Municion.org (and also specs on an even rarer 7.5mm variant). The small production of No.4 pistols makes it a very rare cartridge, and further confuse issues, it appears to have been capable of using the later 8mm Simplex cartridge as well. The original No.4 cartridge used a 22mm long case, while the later Simplex used an 18mm case. When the 8×22 ammunition was no longer produced, it is likely that pistol owners would have switched to using the slightly more available 8×18 cartridges. At any rate, based on the other Bergmann ammo and the size of the 8×22 case, it is a reasonable supposition that the 8mm Bergmann would have been roughly equivalent to the .32 ACP in power.
Beyond these cartridge changes, the No.4 was identical to the No.3 Bergmann. When it became apparent that the design would not meet military requirements, development proceeded on to the No.5 design, which would introduce a locked breech to allow a significantly stronger cartridge.
Caliber: 8x22mm Bergmann
Clip Capacity: 5 rounds
Overall Length: 10.0 in (255mm)
Barrel Length: 4.5 in (114mm)
Weight: 33.5 oz (950g)
Action: Straight blowback
We have photos of two No.4 pistols, one from James D Julia and one from Horst Held. In addition, I found reference to two others, with serial numbers 2437 and 3125. Note that in both photographed examples here, the barrels are marked “156/14″. As with the similar markings on the No.2 and No.3, I do not know the significance of these numbers. They do seem to make a good way to identify caliber without having to measure the muzzle, though…
Here is the Julia pistol, from the Schroeder collection. This is a late production pistol, and the backstrap of the grip is slotted for a shoulder stock:
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. We have examples below of guns sold to Thailand and through the English Westley Richards company, for example.
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. There were a few differences, which we will discuss in a moment. First, though, let’s take a look at the 6.5mm Bergmann ammunition. Like the 5mm variety, the 6.5mm was initially produced without an extractor groove, as the first several hundred No.3 pistols were made without extractors (see the article on the No.2 for more explanation of this). In addition to having a significant taper to the case body, the 6.5mm was also a bottlenecked design. Because of the popularity of the No.3 pistol, the ammo was manufactured by several companies – Wilson lists loadings by Eley, DWM, a company called Deutsche Metallpatronen Fabrik, and a couple not identified by maker. These ranged from DWM’s 65 grain bullet at 722fps (220 m/s) to an 81.7 grain bullet at 775 fps (236 m/s). Compared to other cartridges of roughly the same diameter like the 6.35mm Browning (.25 ACP), these were unusually heavy bullets, and thus unusually long. Consider that 80 grains was a standard bullet weight for the 7.63mm Mauser.
6.5mm Bergmann cartridges (with and without extractor groove) compared to a modern .22LR for context.
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, and even things like set triggers for target shooting. Here, for example, is a target model of the No.3 in 6.5mm, complete with improved sights, a 7.25 inch long barrel, and set trigger:
(Two additional photos of this pistol are posted below)
Loading the No.3 was a process identical to the earlier pistol variants – see my article on the No.2 for details. The clips, of course, were larger to accommodate 5 rounds of 6.5mm ammo, and not interchangeable with other calibers of Bergmann.
On all the versions of the 1896 Bergmann you will find a maker’s mark showing a bearded miner holding a pickaxe. There are two versions of this mark, however. The basic one has just the miner inside an oval, and this was used on pistol manufactured at the Bergmanns Industriewerke. As time went on, though, Bergmann’s own factory began tooling up for automobile production as well, and Bergmann (ever the business-minded industrialist) outsourced production of pistols when he ran short of factory floor space. The company the built them on contract was V.C Schilling or Suhl, Germany (a name which will be recognized by anyone interested in German arms). The guns made by Schilling use the same miner emblem, but with “GUGGENAU” above his head and “V.C.S. SUHL” below his feet. As best I can tell, there is no particular difference in quality or mechanical detail between the two types.
Bergmann logo as used on pistols made under contract by V.C Schilling. (photo from Unblinking Eye)
Bergmann logo as used on pistols made directly by Bergmanns Industriewerke (photo from Unblinking Eye)
There are references made in print to combination holster/stocks being available as a factory option for the No.3, but these are very rare.
I noted in my article on the No.2 Bergmann that virtually all of those that I have seen are marked “611″ on the rear left side of the barrel. Well, the No.3 pistol exhibit a similar trend, with roughly 75% of the ones I have seen having a “278″ stamped in that same location (the ones that do not have it are blank, not stamped with any other number there). Again, I do not know the significance of this, although it is seen on pistols with both the early and late type of barrel removal.
Now, how about some photos of different variances of the No.3? These pictures all come from the James Julia auction house, which sold a significant number of Bergmann pistols (from the Schroeder and Sturgess collections) in a September 2013 auction.
It may seem sometimes that I’ve never met a gun I didn’t like…but I can assure you that isn’t the case. The Streetsweeper, for example, is a pretty terrible gun.
Originally designed in 1980 by a Rhodesian man named Hilton Walker, the Striker shotgun was refined and manufactured in South Africa before making its way over to the US. Its claim to fame was a 12-round capacity in a fixed drum magazine, which was significantly larger than magazine capacities available in other shotguns at the time. Today, of course, there are several magazine-fed shotguns that can give the same capacity without all the negative features of the Striker/Streetsweeper (primarily the Saiga-12).
The more refined South African Striker guns used the vertical front grip to load and wind the drum and featured automatic ejection of spent shell cases, but the version built in the US and marketed as the Streetsweeper (could they really have picked a worse name?) was a simpler and cheaper design. The Streetsweeper has a winding key on the front of the drum, and shells must be manually ejected with a rod much like a Colt Peacemaker revolver. It also “features” a nice cylinder gap, and sprays gas and particulates for out the front of the drum onto the shooter’s forearm and out the back into the shooter’s face. The trigger is a double-action type similar to a revolver’s, except that the first stage releases a catch and allows the drum to rotate one position under spring tension, where a revolver rotates with pressure supplied from the trigger mechanism. The second stage of the Streetsweeper (I feel dirty just typing that name) trigger releases the hammer to fire a round.
In 1994, the Treasury Department issued a finding that the Striker-12 and Streetsweeper shotguns did not have a sporting purpose. Since they have bore diameters over .50 inch (as do all 12ga and 20ga shotguns), this redefined them as Destructive Devices under the NFA. As such, existing ones had to be registered with the ATF, and sale of one today requires a $200 tax stamp and the standard NFA transfer process. The side effect, however, is that barrel length of destructive devices is unregulated, and to the guns can be cut down to 12″ (the shortest convenient length, given the handguard) barrels without any other paperwork or legal issues.
I got my hands on an example of the Streetsweeper with its original 18″ barrel, and took it out to the range for a spin: