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What was the First Automatic Pistol?


Hi guys Thanks for tuning in to another video on forgottenweapons.com I’m Ian and today we’re going to take a look at the question of: “What was the first automatic pistol?” Now any time you you look at any question of “what was the first… *blank*?” The answers are gonna get kinda fractal in that the more detailed you get and the closer you look and the more you study The grey-er everything gets, because you get more and more questions and things become less clear. So for example The first commercially successful Semi-auto pistol is… almost universally considered to be the The C-93 Borchardt About 3,000 were made First developed, first introduced in 1893 That’s… There’s really no doubt about that But… What if you want to consider: “Well maybe what about guns that weren’t commercially successful?” ‘Cause there were a selection of them The closer you look… Now… You have to start considering Do you… What are your standards? Is this… Does this need to be a gun that was put into serial production? Maybe one that was offered for commercial sale, but wasn’t sold in substantial numbers? In which case the question is “What numbers are considered ‘substantial'”? Uhm… Would you consider a gun that was submitted to military trials and did decently, or did badly or what about a gun that wasn’t submitted? And ultimately you can get all the way down to this very granular level of: “Well this guy handmade this… thing that was allegedly semi-auto does that count?” So if you ask me “What is the first automatic pistol?” “Not necessarily commercially successful, just the first one that was built.” I’m going to ignore handmade one-off prototypes Because ultimately there’s no way to really track down all of them and figure out whose was the first and then there really is a question of… “does this thing really actually work?” Maybe it was luck. Maybe your idea was good, but your prototype was bad. There are a lot of variables there I would much rather look at ones… Set the standard at Making five or ten of them in series Like to the point they have serial numbers on them. I think that’s a pretty decent standard And maybe they didn’t pass military trials, or sell commercially and I wouldn’t necessarily expect that, because they’re very early guns Even if they work right they’re going to be complex, they’re gonna be heavy, they’re gonna be expensive, because they’re really bleeding edge technology So I don’t expect the first one to have been commercially or militarily successful I just wanna know if it actually worked Now when we get to that level We end up with two main competitors for the title of “first automatic pistol” One of them is the Salvator-Dormus And the other is the Schönberger-Laumann Now it’s actually… Or at least that’s what you would generally read In actual fact it’s not the “Schönberger-Laumann”, it’s just the “Laumann” We have two of the Schönberger-Laumann right here and they’re actually a pistol that comes a couple years later The Schönberger-Laumann is an 1894 gun So actually these Schönberger-Laumann are after the Borchardt Now we have a Dormus pistol here A Salvator-Dormus That particular gun was made in 1896 It’s not the first iteration of the Salvator-Dormus But When we look at what was the first Salvator-Dormus remains one of our legit contenders and the other is the Laumann automatic pistol Now unfortunately I don’t have a Laumann here to show you but I do have some pictures of one What we have here is a Laumann manually repeating pistol Because before we had semi-autos we had manual ring trigger activated repeating pistols The first of which, the kind of iconic one that people don’t usually associate with this sorta stuff is the volcanic which was invented back in the 1850s Now in Austria people in the 1880s… late 1870s into the 1880s were building these sorts of manual repeating pistols generally activated by ring triggers and those are the guns that developed into semi-autos People realised that “Hey, you know… if we turn this into like a blowback action this manual pistol can become a self-loading pistol.” and that’s pretty much what happened with the Laumann here This is a manual Laumann dating to 1888 and by 1891 Laumann had filed a patent for a semi-auto version of his gun Now within a couple years of that 1892, his gun was actually built By 1894 he was working with Schönberger and they were making improved versions which are these So the patent date on the semi-auto Laumann is November 25, 1891 and that’s an Austrian patent filed in Vienna I’m going with Austrian patents here, because that’s where these inventors were pretty much all located and that would have been the first place they patented their guns You’ll find these patents in other countries like the United States typically with later patent dates because either they were filed later, after the fact or they just took a long time to process through You have to be careful to look at patent application dates not patent granting dates in this case So November 25, 1891 is our current contender, that’s the Laumann However if we start looking at Dormus patents what we find is that the Salvator Dormus was also patented in 1891 It was also patented in November 1891 It was in fact patented on November 21st, 1891 So as I see it, the title of “first automatic pistol” Goes to the Salvator-Dormus by four days Really pretty cool it was that close to the wire What this practically means is that there were a bunch of guys in Vienna and in Austria who were working pretty hard on this problem of self-loading pistols that was really the nexus of development of early semi-autos Some into Germany as well, but primarily in Austria If you’re interested in this subject in more depth I would strongly recommend purchasing this book by Mötz and Schuy It is in german only, and it is an expensive book but it is a fantastically detailed book that will get into all sorts of minutiae about not just the early semi-auto pistols also some of the later semi-auto pistols that are actually well developed and a bunch of information on some of these manual pistols like this Laumann and this Bittner Hopefully you guys enjoyed the video I think we have an interesting take here, being able to actually look at all these examples We’ll be doing some videos on these guns individually and independently to get a closer look at them so make sure to tune back in for that And if you really enjoy this sorta content and would like to support the channel Please consider dropping in on my Patreon page and signing up there to help support That’s really what allows me to travel about and find guns like these to make videos for you guys Thanks for watching

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