RIA: Little Tom – the World’s First DAO Automatic

The Little Tom pistols designed by Alois Tomiška are notable for two particular features: their unusual reloading system and for being the first commercial DAO automatic pistols. Made in both .25ACP and .32 ACP in the 1920s (the .25 versions are much more common than the .32s), these beat out the Walther PP as the first double-action automatics. Unfortunately for Tomiška, they would not prove to be nearly as popular as the Walthers, and total production was about 35,000 guns. Alois Tomiška would go on to work for the CZ factory, where he would have a hand in development of the CZ22/24/27 pistols as well as other projects.

32 Comments

  1. As far as I can see the big problem with this gun seams to be the lack of a safe decock mechanism. It’s NOT DOA as it clearly cocks the hammer, even if it requires the long trigger travel of a DOA gun. And the only way to decock and get to the “safe” travel half cock is via the trigger, unless the safety has a feature you didn’t mention.

  2. I would also not call it DAO.

    It wasn’t clear in the video but does the hammer stay back after a round is fired – Im going to guess no and that is why you called it DAO.

    In a strict sense it is not DAO because you can manually cock the hammer and have a lighter trigger pull.

    The primary method of use is DA but it is not DAO because that is not the Only way to do it.

  3. Agree with Mu. I would not characterize that as a DAO but DA/SA of a particularly complex trigger mechanism

  4. Nobody copied this cool magazine extraction feature (with another magazine), so what are the drawbacks of this? I mean, it seems you can reload faster this way.

        • Other drawback is that with each reloading next magazine jaw (not sure about American parlance – that end of magazine where cartridge goes out) hit now magazine floor, which might lead to deformations of first and therefore chances of jam become more bigger.

        • Well, for one thing it won’t feed, obviously. Also, since the magazine catch won’t engage it properly, it will either stick up far enough to keep the slide from going into battery, or simply fall out of the well when the pistol is upright.

          Other than a round on the follower, there is no tactile index of “which end is up”. Now imagine a fast reload under stress in a dark alley. The odds of getting it wrong are almost exactly 50-50.

          That’s one advantage to double-stack 9mm magazines like the Beretta M9’s or FN High Power’s. They only go in one way, and the taper at the top helps you get the mag in the well correctly even when it’s pitch-dark.

          A fumblesome reload procedure is an abomination on a personal defense sidearm.

          cheers

          eon

          • “one advantage to double-stack 9mm magazines(…)They only go in one way”
            Single-stack also will not if they have proper magazine floor plate (see TT-33 automatic pistol)

            “fumblesome reload procedure is an abomination on a personal defense sidearm”
            I agree, but it is interesting that probably designer want to achieve faster reload (one movement – inserting, instead of 2 – ejecting and pushing), but achieved better chance to fail

  5. I agree with all others, this a DA/SA system. An old gun-nut like Ian knows this and was somewhere else with his thoughts while saying/writing this. – Just guessing …

    I was looking at the recent RIA catalogue and found some guns which i am pretty sure that Ian will make interesting videos about.

  6. Though seeming simple outside, DA/SA trigger lockwork of this gun is complicated. DA construction appears as borrowed from early Ethan Allen Bar Hammer Pepperboxes. SA system needs a stationary sear pinned into the receiver and trigger reach for both action seems unchanged. A desirable feature for today’s same featured handguns. Disconnect system seems not in relationship with slide movement, therefore, being of effecting only one trigger pull, or being of escaping kind. Barrel attachment seems the forerunner of early Beretta blowback pistol’s. An interesting but “Not fully completed” looking gun.

    • Another point to fortyfie the “Uncompleted” feature; It seems, no element is provided to retain the barrel in its foremost location when the magazine is out.

  7. When talking about pushing one magazine out using a second magazine at about 4 minutes into the video you said, “There is a reason that nobody else has ever done that.” What is that reason?

    • I’m going to say that one will cite “inserting the next magazine wrong increases the likelihood that you’re dead when the other guy gets personal.”

  8. Yeah, Tomiska did work for CZ (and its predecessor Praga a.s.) with which he parted ways. Oh well ,strong character with his own views. I suspect he was not big fan of vz.22 and 24 pistols. On his own he did not do that badly either.

    • “strong character with his own views”
      If you implement your solution and goes your way (no-one make inserting magazine push out previous magazine at the time so far I know) you need strong character.
      Especially true for forerunners, which have not patterns to follow and must search and search and search what is working and what is not.

      • That has changed on later Tomiska’s designs; for example first pistol with CZ label (which he was co-founder of) on it from 1922 was more conventional as far as magazine insertion. In meantime there were introduced several pistols under Praga brand name starting in 1919 in which design he might have been involved.

        I have searched for more information, but just from net it is exceedingly difficult. That period was extremely busy in central European scene when comes to firearms. I also looked into some Czech based pages such as Valka.cz and Palba.cz (which you may be able to read) but not much about Tomiska is there. In one source which I cannot retrace at the moment was (if I recollect it right) that he passed away in 1926, which is kind of early given that he was born in 1867. Besides, there was a group of other new budding designers who made mark to firearms history in that period.

      • This is hardly as important as you say, unless meant ironically. I wrote it because it is so frequently repeated cliché, yet has not much to do with reality.

        The “Little Tom” moniker was apparently intended on English speaking markets. In fact and to my surprise I found quite a few present in NA area auctions and antiques re-sales.

        • Thanks Denny, I should have exegareted its importance since it is read on the pistol itself. The name should be intentionaly attained by the manufacturer. But it should be usefull to know the fact like knowing “Vzor” being not a brand.

  9. The key for a gun to qualify for the label “double-action only” is that the trigger, and only the trigger, cocks and drops the firing mechanism. If, like in this pistol, you can cock the firing mechanism with your thumb or if the action of the slide cycling the mechanism puts the gun in full cock, that means the gun is in single-action mode. The fact that the trigger mechanism is unsophisticated and has a mile of take-up when in single-action mode does not make the gun “double-action only.”

    Now, as a DA/SA pistol, does this qualify for any kind of “first”? Clearly not:

    https://youtu.be/h5ODa-TYaFw
    (Mannlicher 1894)

    ^__^

  10. I have one more question about loading this pistol: how to grab magazines without sticking out floorplate or cutouts in pistol’s grip when second mag isnt there?

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