Mannlicher 1894


"A journey into the prehistory of the semi-automatic pistol"

By: Luc Guillou and Hervé Matous

An article from the Gazette des Armes

From 1890 to 1900, the progress of metallurgy and the appearance of smokeless powders favored the birth of many inventions in the field of long guns and handguns. For the latter, the novelties appeared especially in the field of semi-automatic pistols because the gunsmiths and the inventors sought to replace the revolver by a thinner weapon and faster to reload. In a few years, we saw a multiplication of promising projects developed by Hugo Borchardt, Paul Mauser, Andréas Schwarzlose and by an extremely fertile and talented inventor, Ferdinand Mannlicher.

Austrian engineer Ferdinand Mannlicher had become famous for designing repeating rifles with a vertical magazine powered by an inserted blade-magazine. After the advent of smokeless powder cartridges, he set out to create semi-automatic repeating guns. Ferdinand Mannlicher is undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the automatic pistol because, between 1893 and 1905, he filed almost every year a patent for a model of automatic pistol.


The first DRP patent n ° 79090, registered on December 12, 1893, apparently did not materialize by an industrial manufacture and the "Mannlicher model 1893" does not seem to have passed the prototype stage.

However, the drawings of this patent show that this weapon worked in advance of the barrel at the start of the shot, under the effect of the friction of the projectile. This surprising operating principle will also be adopted by Andreas Schwarzlose for his model 1908 pistol. Power was supplied by a fixed magazine, placed in front of the trigger guard, as on the Mauser C.96.

A few months later, Mannlicher filed a new German patent covering the mechanism of a new pistol, still operating in advance of the barrel inside a fixed sleeve, but this time supplied by a magazine housed in the handle and no longer in front of the trigger guard: a provision which made it possible to reduce the total length of the weapon. The German patent was supplemented by the filing of several other patents in the United States, in Great Britain, then in the main European countries (France, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Hungary and Switzerland).
Unlike the previous pistol (sometimes called model 1893), the Mannlicher model 1894 was manufactured, which included several series. The pre-series models included a double column magazine containing 10 cartridges on two nested batteries: a unique feature for a handgun from this era. These weapons could be chambered either in 7.6 mm, or in 6.5 mm Mannlicher. Some pistols were delivered with a spare barrel, making it possible to pass from one caliber to another.
As the double-column magazine was probably not fully satisfactory, this provision was abandoned on the models of the first series production, in favor of a classic magazine of five cartridges arranged on a single column.
The Austro-Hungarian army carried out an evaluation of the 7.6 mm caliber weapon in the summer of 1894. The tests were however disappointing because the cartridges were then loaded with smokeless powders which were not not yet fully developed. After firing, the cartridges left a lot of unburnt residue, which ended up blocking the mechanism.

Proper operation was only obtained when the cartridges could finally be loaded with a new powder supplied by Dynamit Nobel. The good operating results obtained encouraged the Austro-Hungarian army to continue its assessments of semi-automatic pistols and to go from 1895 to the stage of troop corps tests and to publish a manual for the use of the weapon.

The Swiss army also took an interest in the Mannlicher model 1894 within the framework of the evaluations of semi-automatic pistols which it then carried out with a view to replacing its revolvers model 1882. For its tests, the Swiss army made manufacture a few tens of pistols Mannicher model 1894 by the arms factory of Neuhausen, whose mark was affixed on the right side of the casing of the weapon. The pistols tested by Switzerland were chambered in 6.5 mm caliber. Part of the pistols in the Swiss trials were fitted with a safety pedal placed at the rear of the handle.


To cock the pistol, the dog had to be cocked first, after which the user pushed the barrel forward, until hooked onto a barrel stop lever, located above the trigger tail. The shooter then inserted a magazine blade into the guide at the top of the case, then pushed the five cartridges of the magazine blade inside the magazine. Once the five cartridges were housed in the magazine, the barrel retaining lever disappeared and the barrel returned to its initial position, under the effect of the recuperator spring housed in the barrel sleeve. During the recoil movement, the barrel disrupted the first cartridge. The user then removed the empty magazine blade.
If he did not intend to fire immediately, he allowed the dog to return to the rest position by slowing his movement with the thumb. To fire, he had to either re-arm the dog, or exert a long pressure on the trigger, the weapon then operating in double action. Due to the great pressure that had to be exerted on the trigger, it was recommended to hold the pistol with the index finger in front of the trigger guard, to press the trigger with the middle finger and to firmly grip the handle with the last two fingers .
To fire, the dog was armed with the thumb of the right hand and a pressure on the trigger tail was enough to release it, so that it came to strike the primer of the first cartridge. The empty holster was extracted and ejected at the end of the forward movement of the barrel.

Grades: 7.6 or 6.5 mm
Cartridges: 7.6x24R or 6.5x23R Mannlicher
Total length: 230 mm
Barrel length: 185 mm
Mass: 960 g
Magazine capacity: 5 cartridges
Classification: category D


Austro-Hungarian tests, like the tests carried out by the Swiss army and, later (around 1900), by the American army, ended in the rejection of the 1894 model. It seems that around 200 Mannlicher model 1894 were produced around 150 by the Österreichische Waffenfabrik Steyr and the rest by the Swiss industrial company Neuhausen am Rheinfall (SIG).
As early as 1895, Ferdinand Mannlicher gave up the principle of advance operation of the barrel and patented a new model of semi-automatic pistol comprising a fixed barrel and an unstalled movable breech. Finally, in 1896, he had a new semi-automatic pistol manufactured: the 1896 model, on which many archaisms had been eliminated, the supply of which was ensured by a fixed magazine placed in front of the trigger guard, for which he had a throat cartridge developed, promised for a certain future: the 7.63 mm Mannlicher.

The authors would like to thank the VASARI AUCTION 86 Cours Victor Hugo 33000 Bordeaux for the provision of the Mannlicher 1894 pistol and photos.
And Vasari Auction thanks them in return for having kindly published this beautiful article!

"Vom Ursprung der Selbtladepistole" by Joseph Mötz and Joschi Schuy - edited by the authors.

LEGENDS TO ILLUSTRATIONS from the original article in the Gazette des armes

1 / The Mannlicher model 1894 pistol: a rare weapon, which belongs to the highly sought-after category of the first semi-automatic pistols.

2 / Ferdinand Mannlicher (1848-1904). This extremely fertile inventor was knighted in 1892 by Emperor François Joseph and then became "the chief engineer knight von Mannlicher" (Oberingenieur Ritter von Mannlicher). This ennobling, prior to his work on semi-automatic pistols, rewarded the development of Mannlicher rifles and carbines which were legal in the Austro-Hungarian army.

3 // Mannlicher model 1894 seen from the right side.

4 / Drawing in section of the Mannlicher model 1894 pistol. The lever used to immobilize the barrel, when in the front position, is shown in red.

5 / Case seen from above. The arrow indicates the part used to push the barrel forward. At the rear of the case, there is also a guide for the magazine blade, the rear sight (white polish) and the dog.

6 / Weapon in loading position with the barrel pushed forward.

7 / The store elevator.

8 / A 7.6 mm cartridge magazine blade.

9 / View of the weapon with barrel hung in the front position.

10 / The Steyr arms factory around 1905. This enormous establishment, founded by Alfred Werndl, produced at that time many types of weapons for the Austrian army, for export and for civil use.

11 / The dog, here in the armed position, had to either be rearmed with the thumb between each shot, or activated by double action (like that of a revolver).

12 / The barrel of the Mannlicher model 1894 is housed in a sleeve which houses the recuperator spring and carries a handlebar with a machined crescent rear face, while the handlebars of the pre-series models had a semi-circular shape.

13 / The arrow indicates the spring actuating the barrel stop lever.

14 / The short handle of the Mannlicher model 1894 was uncomfortable for double action shooting. It was therefore advisable to enclose it between the little finger and the ring finger, to activate the trigger with the middle finger and to stabilize the weapon using the index finger, placed in front of the trigger guard.

15 / The magazine is integral with the cover plate and the left handle plate. Once this part of the mechanism has been dismantled, the parts of the plate are widely exposed.

18 / Detail view of the elevator and the upper part of the store.

17 / The arrow designates the rear of the barrel stop lever, whose interaction with the trigger can be seen here. The carcass bears the number 10, which is found on all the parts of the weapon.

18 / The Mannlicher model 1896 concretizes the abandonment by Mannlicher of the principle of the fixed magazine and the advance operation of the barrel in favor of a feed by magazine and an operation using a movable breech. (Photo: James Julia Auction)

Translated by Google. 

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