FN’s Millionth Pistol: Presented to John Browning; Saved by a Belgian Cop

Fabrique Nationale was formed as a consortium of small gunmakers to produce Mauser rifles for the Belgian Army, and when that work was complete the company basically had nothing else to do…until they met John Browning. Browning had a new pistols design and needed a manufacturer – and FN happened to be a manufacturer in need of a new design. The resulting partnership would last until Browning’s death decades later, and essentially created the modern FN that we know today.

FN produced its one millionth Browning pistol on July 15th, 1912 and decided to throw a huge party in recognition the achievement. It would take 18 months to get everything arranged, and the gala was held on January 31st, 1914. John Browning attended, along with his sone Val, several Belgian government ministers, and FN’s international sales agents. As part of the festivities, a number of Baby Browning pistols marked “Un Million” were presented to VIPs, and Browning himself was given this Model 1900 with a gold engraved serial number “1,000,000”. It’s worth noting that FN did not actually make a million Model 1899/1900 pistols – those only reached about 725,000. The one million number included production of later models, like the Baby Browning and FN 1910.

Browning was not particularly interested in commemorative guns, and gave the pistol to his notary in Bruges when he left to return to the US. It remained with that man until his death, when it because his widow’s property. When the Belgian government passed a gun registration law in 1945, she duly registered it – and that record remains. It was registered again in 1985 in the new computerized Belgian system (listed as a revolver; gun registries are always notoriously full of errors). In 2006 Belgian gun laws changed again, and many guns had to be surrendered to the police. This pistol was one of them; handed in for destruction to a local police office. Fortunately, the officer who received it recognized that it was a historically significant piece, and was able to arrange its preservation.

UPDATE: Since filming the video, arrangements have been made for this pistol (along with FN 1900 serial number 500,000) to be on display at the Grand Curtius firearms museum in Liege.


  1. Is there a base 1900 video? All I can find are either Chinese-warlord copies, or examples like this with a special provenance, but nothing discussing / assessing the fundamentals of the (somewhat groundbreaking) original design.

  2. There is a big gun turn in operation going on in France at the moment. But somebody got smart. The hand in spot is the Perfecture of each department and there will be experts there explaining if you can legally keep the gun or not. Plus historical pieces like this Browning will not be destroyed but given to museums
    Considering all the resistance in the Dordogne there could be a few interesting items. Wish I was an expert

    • Well, isn’t that thoughtful on the part of the fascists! Some ‘expert’ will tell you whether or not you can keep your own property, and if he/she/they says that you can’t, if it is deemed to have some historic value–like, it’s worth a sizeable amount, far more than the government will give you, if they give you anything at all because, after all, you can’t legally possess your own property any more–the ‘expert’ will take your property from you under threat of force and give it to a museum that may very well be government-operated, but at least is run by other elite ‘experts’ who will happily treat your ex-property as their own, because now it IS theirs.

      Gosh, there is just SO much that we can learn from Europe!

  3. You would need to know the use of language in Belgium fairly well to know if the registration as a “revolver” was really a mistake. Quite possibly the word “revolver” was commonly used as a generic term for “pistol”. This was the case in a number of countries in the 20th century. This came about because by the late 19th century virtually all pistols were revolvers, so the words came to be used interchangeably in common language even though the new automatic pistols were not technically revolvers.

    I understand that in Finland for example in the early 20th century even submachine guns were sometimes referred to as “fast firing revolvers”.

  4. I am glad this historic pistol was saved from destruction. I find it ironic that the excuse of a “fear of communists” was used to implement registration, leading as it always does to confiscation and destruction, which are all hallmarks of communist countries world wide.

    • The US Gun Control Act of 1968 was implemented for much of the same reasoning. Keeping guns out of the hands of
      “the wrong people “. Those mainly being African American civil rights groups or those left of center. When people scream about gun control being a commie plot it just ain’t that simple.

      • it just ain’t that simple

        Unless you can read and do math. Then you can see past the Lyndon “Great Society” Johnson / D House majority / D Senate supermajority’s notorious fear of “left of center”.

        • You didn’t mention the African American aspect. Why? Because in 1968 much of the southern states were staunchly Democratic Party supporters. And those politicians had rather adverse views towards African Americans. They were racist as all get out. ( they switched parties afterwards) Party affiliation means very little. It’s the sentiment that counts.

          • Because it was irrelevant to my main point – your self-parodying attempt to disprove “Gun Control = Leftist / Statist” by citing a law passed under the Administration and Congress that had moved the nation furthest left, from a party that had been welfare-statist since the New Deal. Were there a few exceptions / southern “DINOs”? Sure, and they were some of the biggest gun guys right up through the 80s.

            Since you brought it up a second time, though, the same Administration and Congress also introduced reverse discrimination in favor of the demographic you claim they were trying to disarm.

  5. …so the determined widow stashed the pistol during the German occupation! Most likely aware of the possible punishment, if discovered.

  6. as a European, I can tell sad stories how wonderful, historically relevant arms were thrown into the smelter.
    And in Germany, confiscated guns which carry a high value can be auctioned by the police. these auctions are not advertised, and typically consist of policemen and their friends with hunting licenses.

  7. It is quite common for people with a British background to call all pistols revolvers.

    I carried a Browning High-Power for some time in Australia’s Army, and had to teach it to my platoon’s diggers and to the rest of the company when I made it to CSM. But, I eventually decided that an Armalite was a better arm.

  8. The problem with pistols – for ‘British and Aussie’ soldiers – is that pistols are all but unknown to them. Australia just is not a very gunny culture.

    Getting them to understand how dangerous such a short (if heavy!) weapon a GP35 Browning really is. ? Too easy to point – without noticing WHERE – it’s pointing.

    • If you need to personally kill a bastard beyond arms length you use a rifle. Bayonet/boot/buttstroke for the grey zone. Then his pistol is yours. As for Aussies not being conversant with professional use of firearms, I shall refrain from expressing a digger’s opinion of yank infantry or your squandered freedom despite you having ample supplies to convincingly vote the bastards out and preserve dignity and civilisation. Now could you please clean up your own mess before making everyone else’s mess worse? (as an interesting aside, which of everyone else’s messes have you NOT had a hand in stirring up?).

  9. As a Belgian, I can confirm that the entry of the pistol as a ‘revolver’ is probay an administrative mistake. One of the qualities they look for in staff for the firearm-licensing departments is an almost pathological disinterest in weapons. If you show up talking about your gun collection you’re not getting the job, if you don’t know the difference between a rifle and a cat you’re hired on the spot.

    Also, Browning didn’t even make it out of Belgium before re-gifting his gift? That’s cold. The FN guys were probably still patting themselves on the back about their amazing, thoughtful gift when he dropped it off in Bruges 😀

  10. I live in Australia, and I am reasonably happy with the rules here.

    As a former ‘Marksman and Coach’ in our army, I became quite bothered by the stupidity of any person issued with a GP35 Browning. So, I spoke to my OC (company commander) who agreed with me. And out of that came a 3-day course. Mostly on, not pointing your pistol around, and 2nd on being able to hit a close-in target. Pistols were issued to the No.1 in an M60 GPMG team.

    The No. 2’s were – eventually – issued with an M16 / Armalite, instead of an SLR-L1A1 (aka FN-FAL). Given that they also carried – at least two – 100-Rd dis-link belts of 7.62 Nato, this was a good thing.

    When I got married in my late 20s my wife insisted that ALL my guns went. And, my hunting buddy had joined the Selous Scouts in Rhodesia, and I was aware that feral animal controls were being organised.

    Haven’t hunted since.

    I’m a very keen audio-phile – was even back then – and way into European and British renaissance, classical and early romantic music, including Anglican church music (choir / chamber / organ).

    Bit of a perfectionist? Yes!

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