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.