The Austro-Hungarian Pistols



by Cliff Carlisle

In 1867, after ruling Hungary for 150 years, Austria offered Hungary equal power in the Austrian Empire.  With the Settlement of 1867 the Austrian Empire became the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Austro-Hungarian Army was composed of 3 separate armies.  The Landwehr, the Honved & the Imperial.  The Landwehr was composed of Austro-Hungarian citizens of German & Czech extraction, the Honved was the Hungarian Militia & the Imperial the remainder of the Dual Empires soldiers.

Austro-Hungary adopted it’s first center fire pistol in 1870.  It was a very large revolver & was issued to noncommissioned officers.  This was the M1870 Gasser revolver chambered for the 11.25X36R Werndl Model 1867 carbine cartridge.  The pistol cartridge was loaded with less powder than the carbine round but the carbine round would fire in the pistol.  This did happen enough that in 1882 an improved M1870 Gasser revolver was adopted that used a shorter case preventing the accidents that occurred when the carbine round was fired.  This pistol was designated the M1882.

In 1874 the frame of the M1870 revolver was changed from iron to cast steel.  This was the only change to the pistol but the model designation was changed to the M1870-74.

In 1878 Johann Gasser & Alfred Kropatschek scaled down the M1870, chambered it for a 9X26R cartridge & submitted it to the Austro-Hungarian government.  It was adopted as the M1878 for issue to officers.

The last revolver adopted by the Austro-Hungarian military was the M1898 Rast & Gasser.  It was an 8 shot double action that fired an 8X27mm cartridge.

As in most of the other major countries of the word, Austro-Hungary started military trials of semi auto pistols in the early 1900s.

One of the pistols tested was the M1901 Mannlicher in 7.63X21mm Mannlicher caliber  produced by Waffenfabrik Steyr in Austria.  It was not adopted by Austro-Hungary but was adopted by the Argentine Army as the Model 1905.

In 1907, Austro-Hungary became the first major military power to adopt a semi auto pistol for her Army. Turkey had issued just over 1000 M1896 Cone Hammer Mausers in 1896 (the very first country to issue a semi auto pistol), Italy had issued 5000 M1896 Flatside Mausers to their Navy in 1899, Switzerland had adopted the Luger in 7.65mm (.30 Luger) in 1900 & Belgium the Browning M1900 in 7.65 Browning (.32 ACP) in 1900. Both Switzerland & Belgium were Neutrals and not major powers while Turkey & Italy just made minor issues. Switzerland had adopted the Luger in 7.65mm (.30 Luger) in 1900 & Belgium the Browning M1900 in 7.65 Browning (.32 ACP) in 1900 but both countries were Neutrals  and not major powers.  The pistol that was adopted by Austro-Hungary was for use by the cavalry and was designated the Repetier Pistole M. 07.  It was chambered for the 8X19mm Roth cartridge.  It was manufactured by both Osterreichische Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft, Styer (OWG) in Austria and Fegyver es Gepgyar Rezvenytarsasag (Fegyvergyar) in Budapest, Hungary.  During it’s 5 years of manufacture, approximately 60,000 were produced in Austria & 30,000 in Hungary.

The M1907 is a recoil-operated pistol that is unlocked by a rotating barrel.  Lugs are machined on both the front & middle of the barrel.  As the barrel & slide recoil together, cams machined in the barrel nose cap cause the forward barrel lugs to rotate the barrel.  As the barrel rotates, the middle lugs are rotated out of engagement with slots machined in the slide.  The slide is then free to recoil to the rear extracting the empty case & loading a fresh round as the slide is forced forward by the recoil spring.  Another interesting feature of the M1907 is the trigger mechanism.  The striker is only partially  cocked during the firing cycle.  After firing, the striker sticks out of the cocking knob about 7/16”.  When the trigger is pulled, it moves out an additional ” before being released to fire the cartridge.  This design was to make the pistol safer for the mounted troops to use but the required trigger pull for the final ” is very heavy.

In 1911 & 1912 OWG at Styer patented another auto pistol that was chambered for a 9X23 cartridge.  It was adopted by the Austro-Hungarian Government as the M1912.  However, production for the Austro-Hungarian military did not commence until 1914 after the start of WW1.  It was called the Styer Hahn (Styer Hammer) to differentiate it from the hammerless Roth Styer.  However, this was not an official name.  Like the Roth Styer it was locked by a rotating barrel.  In this case, the lug that rotated the barrel during recoil was located in the frame of the pistol.  Approximately 300,000 were produced for the Austro-Hungarian forces between 1914 & 1919.  The M1912 was also adopted by Romania and Chile.

In 1914 the Hungarian Honved (militia) adopted a Frommer Stop pistol in 7.65mm (.32 ACP) & 9mm (.380 ACP). The Frommer Stop was a long recoil operated pistol that used a rotating bolt head to lock the bolt to the barrel until the end of recoil.  The bolt head is then rotated to disengage the barrel & it is driven back to it’s forward position by the return spring.  When the barrel returns to battery the bolt is released to move forward, strip a cartridge from the magazine, chamber it & rotate the bolt into the locked position.  This is not required in a pistol chambered for the 7.65mm or 9mm (.380) cartridge.  It makes the pistol far more complicated than necessary.  One interesting feature is that the tube above the barrel contains 2 springs, one in front to operate the barrel  & one in the rear to operate the bolt.  Again, if it was designed as a blow back operated pistol there would have been no need for a barrel return spring.  After the end of WW1 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up, Hungary kept the Frommer Stop as their service pistol.  It was designated the Model 19 (1919) pistol.  Serial numbers as high as 329,000 have been recorded but the actual number produced for the Hungarian & Austro-Hungarian forces is not known.

From 1919 until Austria became a part of the Third Reich the M1912 Styer remained the Austrian service pistol.  When the Austrian army was incorporated into the German army they were issued German & Czech weapons.  The M1912 Styer was then used as a police or reserve weapon.  Some of them were converted to 9X19mm (Luger) by the Germans & issued to German police units.  These have an 08 (Pistol M1908 or Luger) & German acceptance stamps on them.

In 1929 the Hungarian military adopted a new pistol chambered for the 9mm Browning (.380 ACP) cartridge.  This was the first blowback, unlocked design adopted by Hungary.  It was designated the Model 29.  50,000 were produced between 1929 & 1936.

In 1936 the design of the M29 was modified to simplify the pistol.  The new design was adopted as the Model 37M in 1937.  Production was about 200,000 pistols.  Early in 1941 Germany ordered 50,000 37M pistols chambered for the 7.65mm (.32 ACP) cartridge.  By mid 1941 the Germans had requested that a manual safety be added to the pistol.  By the end of WW2 approximately 90,000 Model 37Ms had been manufactured for Germany.