Bernardon-Martin: France’s First Commercial Semiautomatic Pistol

The Bernardon-Martin was the first commercially viable semiautomatic pistol manufactured in France; a .32ACP (7.65mm Browning) striker-fired pocket pistol competing with the FN Browning 1899/1900. The first model was introduced in 1907 with a fixed magazine, which rather quickly was changed to a 7-round detachable box magazine. In 1909 a few structural changes were introduced to the gun, including substantially grippier slide serrations and the addition of a lever on the front of the trigger guard to lock the slide open. However, the gun simply could not compete against the other designs in the market and the company was liquidated in 1912.

For more details on the Bernardon-Martin, I recommend Ed Buffaloe’s article on them.


  1. “first commercially viable semiautomatic pistol manufactured in France”
    Its fate is not uncommon for pioneering designs – becoming outdated, not due to own design, but introducing of other better designs, against which it is unable to compete.

    I want to note that it is neutral name for automatic pistol – inventor name. Not so long time after Le Français automatic pistol appeared in France (in 1914). Sadly, I do not know français and thus I am unable to detect if it is sign of RiseOfNationalism era xor only marketing gimmick, but judging from fact it was produced until 1968 I lean toward second option.

    • Well, originally, the pistol was called “Le Français” as a sort of “short form” for the company name;,em>Manufacture Française d’Armes et de Cycles de Saint-Étienne.

      This was enough of a mouthful even in French that it was later shortened to simply “Manufrance”.

      It had less to do with La Patrie than simple conversational sanity.

      And ad column space.



    • What happened with Gunlab? Turned into “This Old House” as far as I could ever tell… Home repairs and construction to install machinery within…

      • Hah, that is unfortunately very much true.
        Dont know if Ian is really in recent contact with “OldHouseLab” Chuck.
        I thought that with years these two online “projects” will merge, but seems like one took off and second kinda slowly died

  2. “… there really isn’t much information …”
    “… Bernadon might have been a gun shop owner …”

    For what it’s worth there was a later Italian arms business with a Bernadon in it by the 1950’s – I have an original old calling card of “Angelini & Bernadon – Armi, Munizione, Explodenti” of Via S. Nicolo, Trieste.

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