RIA: Stocked FN Model 1903

The FN Model 1903 was a Belgian-made scaled-up version of John Browning’s model 1903 pocket hammerless pistol. The pocket hammerless was made in .32 ACP and .380 calibers for (primarily) the civilian market in the US by Colt, and the FN model was chambered for the more powerful 9x20mm Browning Long cartridge, with military and police contracts in mind. The most common source of the FN pistols in the US is from the Swedish contract for the guns, but they were sold to a number of other nations as well.

This example is from the Russian contract, which included shoulder stocks with the pistols. Many military automatic pistols from this time were offered with the option of combination holster/stock units, which could be used to provide improved accuracy to the shooter. The stock for the FN 1903 is a bit different than most, in that it requires the use of an extended 10-round magazine instead of the standard flush-fit 7-rounder. As with most such original guns, these have been specifically exempted from NFA regulation in the US.


    • The Tokarev was a combination of three previous Russian issue arms;

      1. The ergonomics of the FN 1903 “Grand Model”

      2. The cartridge of the Mauser C/96 “Broomhandle”

      3. The locking system of the Colt M1911 .45 ACP

      I had a Chinese (Norinco) Tokarev in 9 x 19mm, and only its loose and not-too-reliable safety kept it from being a really good CC piece. Flat, relatively light, and hard-hitting. Later they came up with one with a 14-shot double-column magazine that practically made the “Tok” a P-35 “clone”.

      The shoulder stock setup of the FN is a much better one than practically any other stocked pistol. Most obviously because the stock wrist is below your hand, rather than attached to the rear curve of the butt, which means you don’t have to change your address to fire the pistol with the stock.

      (I worked rather extensively with stocked P.08s OUAT, and I always found having to “cant” my grip to accommodate the stock attachment adversely affected my shooting.)

      The 9 x 20SR Browning cartridge has never gotten the respect it deserves on this side of the Atlantic. Ballistically, it is at the low end of 9 x 19mm performance and outdoes the .380 ACP and 9 x 18 Makarov. Loaded with hollowpoints it would be a formidable personal-defense round.

      Fun fact; in the 1980s, the Swedish Army still issued their version of the Lahti M/40 9 x 19mm automatics to both the military and the police. But due to age and use, the M/40s began to develop cracks around the locking recesses in the barrel extension.

      Needing a stopgap until they could replace the M/40s, the Swedish army and police went back to their armories and degreased a bunch of M/07 automatics- their designation for the M1903 FN in 9 x 20 SR. They worked just as well as when they were new, and a lot of personnel who had never handled them before preferred them to the M/40.

      And why not? The FN is sleek, easy handling, accurate, reliable, decently powerful- and just plain good-looking. I think of it as the “Humphrey Bogart” 9mm.

      I’ve always wanted an FN M1903, so it’s probably just as well I can’t afford this one.




  1. Many years ago when I lived in Chicago, I used to occasionally go to an indoor range in Glenwood, Illinois.

    One night I saw a guy come in with a Browning M1903 with stock. I’d seen them in gun books before, but never in person. I didn’t talk to the guy, but it was interesting to actually see one.

  2. In any case, it fires a relatively powerful cartridge (at least the Swedish version is), and it is a slim, smooth pistol easy to carry concealed. In my view an excellent handgun.

    With pistol stocks I believe people tend to forget that handgun sights are not dimensioned for being so close to the eye. I see no real advantage in a stock on a handgun because of the sighting problem.

  3. For such relatively hefty round it looks that action should be locked. Prvi Partizan makes 9×20 ammo with 108gr(7.0g) bullet leaving muzzle at 114fps(350m/s), decidedly supersonic.

    The magazine loading idea is brilliant as far as I can tell.

  4. I own a Swedish Husqvarna-made m/07, which was manufactured under license from FN when WWI interfered. FN production to 1927 totaled 58,442. Husqvarna manufactured 94,731 from 1917-42 (or 1908-43). It was patented 1900-01 in BE, 1902-03 in the US, and its patents were applied to many aspects of the subsequent pocket Colts. It is a fine weapon, easy to carry because it’s flat, rounded, and the only thing remotely able to scratch or gouge you would be the sights–and they’re nicely rounded to prevent that. The sights are minimalist and hard to pick up in normal lighting, but perhaps OK against a background of snow & ice!
    Swedish MILSURP ammo is available cheap from SAMCO; just use a dab of ammonia on a cleaning patch after shooting to neutralize the corrosive primer residue , then clean as normal. Load is 108g at nominal 1050-1114 fps, thus very close to low-end standard 9mmP 115g effectiveness. Function & accuracy are excellent, parts available here (mags, barrels, holsters from Sarco) and lots of parts available on-line at reasonable cost from Sweden (Stockholms Vapenfabrik). If you have a version altered to .380 ACP, just buy a new, unissued MILSURP 9mmBL barrel from Sarco for $40 and a new recoil spring from Sweden for about $20-30 including shipping (because the .380 versions had a number of coils cut off the recoil spring), and you’re in business with the original 9mm Browning Long. The .380 conversion shoots fine with warm .380 ammo, but weak stuff has trouble functioning service pistol-sized components. Both calibers are quite accurate.

    I wouldn’t divulge all of this positive info if I thought I could afford this auction 🙂

    As far as shoulder stocks, just remember that pre-WWI armies spent some time figuring out how to use handguns at 300 yds. and rifles to 2000 yds. or so, although not too many wartime conscript soldiers could do it–except probably against the massed formations of 1914-15. Stocked handguns were essentially an attempt to give cavalrymen, artillerymen, and support troops a carbine-type weapon with a range superior to a handheld sidearm & bulk less than an actual shortened & lightened, mule-kicking service rifle in carbine form. Personally, I’d call it 100m effective range against point targets, 200m against area targets, and expect aiming to be slow at those distances, as JPeelen indicated. Also, balance is likely quite butt-heavy, which slows the process in fast action. So, it has a rather specific niche, or engagement envelope.

    And no, I’m not affiliated with anybody, I just love this gun 🙂 Handloaded with JHP’s, it makes a nice carry weapon.

    • Well, nobody had developed a submachine gun at that time, so the stock thing is understandable. Today, the Personal Defense Weapon projects haven’t been very successful because most of them turn out to be way too complex for the intended role…

  5. Will the 10 round magazine work in the pistol alone? Does anyone know if the Russians paid for the complete contract? Unlike the US made Mosin rifles, Winchester M1895’s or S&W top breaks.

  6. I admire the FN 1903 as an example of human engineering. Nice balance, slim and convenient, easy to like. Another old example of an inherently likeable and user friendly gun is the 1894 Winchester and yet another is the Browning Auto-5 shotgun. Oh, wait. DO I detect a pattern here?

    We now have the fruits of lots of mechanical improvements, new materials and better manufacturing processes, but I wish the current designers would revisit the old masters in the matter of feel and friendliness.

    I would rather have a Glock in a fight, but shaking hands with the FN 1903 just feels better.

  7. The FN 1903 I fired had a trigger of doom on it, which made it impossible to shoot well.

    It was also rather lively in the recoil stakes, presumably due to being straight blowback.

  8. FN 1903 has one of the best grip safeties ever used in firearms. Combined with the sear, it only becomes visible when the gun is cocked and enables the user to manually retract the slide when the pistol is uncocked situation without the necessity to actuate the grip safety. The site “Unblinking Eye Gun Pages” has an excellent documentation about FN and Colt Model 1903.

  9. Cossack SOP with this weapon: Upon contact with the enemy, lure them into pistol range and fire seven rounds from short magazine. While enemy reels in confusion, drop magazine, attach shoulder stock, load long magazine. With the next ten shots, drive the enemy back and pick them off at long range while they flee. Dispatch enemy wounded with your sword while your servant reloads magazines, cleans gun, and pours you a vodka. Mount horse, pursue enemy, repeat.

  10. Hi…
    With all respect, As far as I know, russian contracted FN Mle 1903´s were stamped – with text or crossed rifles-stamp. This gun does not have any sort of stamp but commercial. So? It is possible that it cames from same serialnumber range as russian contract, but in case othervise proofed it is not one made after russian order. If there is some evidence that this gun was made for russians, please share this information. ( Stocked guns were also sold commercially – and are far more seldom seem seen than those of russian contract.

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