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Alois Tomiška’s Little Tom Pistol

by Ed Buffaloe
Photographs by Roger Coole and James Johns

Wiener Little Tom - Photo by James Johns

Austrian-Made Little Tom

Alois Tomiška (also spelled Tomischka) was born in Pardubice in what is now the Czech Republic on 13 February 1867.  The name Tomiška literally means “little Tom.”  Tomiška was apprenticed to a gunsmith in Vienna, Austria in the 1890’s.

The earliest patent I have been able to locate for  Tomiška is Austrian patent 24415, which was submitted in 1905 and issued in May of 1906, for a rifle trigger mechanism.  The earliest patent I have located for what was to become the Little Tom pistol is British patent 13880 of 1908, which covers the double-action mechanism.  It reads, in somewhat stilted English:  “The pistol ... belongs to that class of self loading weapons having lock mechanism the hammer of which is cocked by hand or by means of the cocking trigger for the first shot only; the breech mechanism which is driven back by the gas pressure effecting the subsequent cocking operations.”  The illustration shows a cocking lever that is substantially the same as the one actually manufactured.  However, the recoil spring in the drawing is concentric around the barrel, whereas the Little Tom, as produced, has its recoil spring beneath the barrel.  The same patent with identical drawings was granted in Austria in 1909 (patent number 36387) and in Germany in 1910 (patent number 218897).

 

Tomiška invented a means of fitting the barrel to the frame, utilizing a lug on the underside of the barrel that mated with a dovetail groove in the frame, which is very similar to the method which was used in Beretta pistols for many years.  He was granted British patent 23927 in 1910,  French patent 421509 in 1910, and Austrian patent 53261 in 1912 for this mechanism.  The method of mounting the barrel required that the recoil spring be moved beneath the barrel, allowing the trigger spring to be eliminated, and these changes are reflected in the patent drawings, which show a gun much more like the Little Tom pistol as it was actually produced.

Hogg and Weeks state that Tomiška manufactured the Little Tom between 1908 and 1915, but this dating is incorrect.  R.J. Berger doubts that any but prototypes were made during this period.  According to Berger, Tomiška moved to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia in 1918, where he began production of the Little Tom by hand, producing just over 2000 pistols by 1921.  However, this chronology is belied by the proof dates on the pistols themselves (see below).

Top-Loaded Magazine

Tomiška partnered with Wiener Waffenfabrik in Vienna which, according to J.B. Wood, produced the Little Tom from 1920 to 1925, with a total production of approximately 28,000 pistols.  Wood states that Wiener sold the rights back to Tomiška, who produced the Little Tom in Pilsen subsequent to 1925.  However, the Pilsen-made gun shown in this article has a proof date of 1924.  I need to collect more information about the Little Tom guns and start a database in order to provide a more accurate production chronology.*

The Little Tom was made in both 6.35mm (.25 caliber) and 7.65mm (.32 caliber), though the .25s are much more common.  The gun has two unusual aspects, the first being that the magazine can be removed through the top of the gun with the slide locked open.  The design was intended to allow a new magazine to be inserted from the bottom, pushing the empty magazine out the top of the gun.  Berger states that a few are known to load from the bottom, but they are quite rare--I have been unable to verify this.  Berger states that the majority of magazines were made of brass, but again I have been unable to verify this.  Secondly, the Little Tom was apparently the first self-loading pistol to be double-action on the first shot.  The design did not require the hammer to be cocked to fire the pistol.  However, even if the hammer were cocked, a long trigger pull was required to fire the gun--cocking the hammer did not move the trigger to the rear to a “single-action” position.

Double-Action Lockwork

As stated above, a lug on the bottom of the barrel fits into a dovetail slot in the frame. The recoil spring, mounted beneath the barrel, also serves as the trigger spring.  The sear is fixed on the frame, near the trigger.  The connector, tensioned by a flat spring, pivots on the bottom of the hammer.  In double-action firing, the trigger pulls the connector bar forward, cocking the hammer, then pushes the connector upward to release the hammer.  In single-action fire, the trigger bar is already pulled forward, but the trigger is held in the forward position by the pressure of the recoil spring.

 The Wiener .25s have hard rubber grips with a “WWF” monogram on the left side and a diagonal banner reading “Little TOM” on the right side.  The Wiener .32s have wooden grips with a brass medallion with the “WWF” monogram.  The Wiener guns have various inscriptions on the left side of the slide, including: “WIENER WAFFENFABRIK” on a single line, or “WIENER WAFFENFABRIK / PATENT”, on two lines in all capital sans-serif characters;

Czech-Made Little Tom

or “WIENER WAFFENFABRIK, PATENT, LITTLE TOM, 635m/m (25)” on a single line in serif characters.  The serial number is on the right side of the slide, beneath the extractor. 

Guns made by Tomiška in Pilsen have either plain wooden grips, or sport his “AT” monogram in a brass medallion.  They are marked on the left side of the slide in serif characters “ALOIS TOMISKA - PLZEN -PATENT-LITTLE TOM 6.35mm (.25)” or “7.65 (.32)”.  The serial number appears on the right side, beneath the extractor, and the words “MADE IN CZECHO-SLOWAKIA” may also appear.

There are a number of slight variations.  Some Little Tom pistols have a trigger guard in the shape of an elongated oval, whereas others have a distinctly egg-shaped trigger guard.  Triggers come in two styles, one very curved and the other only slightly curved.  The .25’s have no sights whatever, whereas the .32s have a tiny front sight and a groove down the rear portion of the slide.  The side plate on the .25s have two slots which fit over studs in the frame, whereas the .32 side plate is held on by screws.  Early safety levers were checkered, whereas later ones had milled grooves.  Most Little Toms have very shallow scoops in the rear of the slide to allow access to the hammer for manual cocking, but later .32s have deeper scoops that expose more of the hammer.  Early production pistols have 15 coarse slide serrations covering about 22mm, whereas later production pistols have 14 fine slide serrations covering only about 13mm.

J.B. Wood believes that the .25 caliber Wiener pistols began their serial numbers at 1 and ran up to 10,000, then jumped to 25,000.  He wrote to the Vienna Proof House and they indicated they had proved approximately 17,000 of the Wiener Waffenfabrik guns.  The highest serial number Wood observed is 43560.  I have since recorded a 52091 serial number.  Wood also believes that the .32 caliber production was given a block of serial numbers that began at 30,000.  Wood estimates the combined total production of both calibers from both factories to be less than 35,000.

To field strip the Little Tom: 

  1. Draw the slide back all the way and lock it open using the safety catch.  Ensure the pistol is unloaded
  2. Release the catch on the magazine and push it up, withdrawing it out the top.
  3. Push the barrel back till it releases and lift it straight up.
  4. Release the safety catch and draw the slide off the front of the gun.
  5. Remove the recoil guide and spring from the receiver.
  6. To access the lockwork, remove the side plate.  (You may have to remove the right grip panel on the .32.)

The Austrian-made gun shown in this article is owned by Mr. John James.  It bears the Imperial Eagle proof of the Vienna proof house and the Austrian NPV proof mark for smokeless powder.  It is dated 1921.

The Czech-made gun shown in this article is owned by Mr. Roger Coole.   The gun bears the double-tailed lion proof mark of the Prague proof house, as well as the NPP Prague proof mark for smokeless powder, on the left side of the slide.  Also on the left rear of the slide are two numbers:  24 and 1722.  I believe the 1722 is a proof number and that 24 stands for the year 1924



*  Please write to me with your serial number, slide inscription, proof information, and photographs if possible, and I will  publish the information here as it comes in.

References

Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols, by R.J. Berger.  Blacksmith, Chino Valley: 1989.
“The Little Tom Pistols of Alois Tomiska,” by J.B. Wood, Gun Digest, 1980.
NRA Book of Small Arms, Volume I, Pistols and Revolvers, by Walter H.B. Smith.  Harrisburg: 1946.
Pistols of the World, by Ian V. Hogg & John Weeks.  Arms & Armor Press, London:  1978.
The Standard Directory of Proof Marks, by Gerhard Wirnsberger.  Joles, Inc., N.D.
http://www.vestpockets.bauli.at/archiv/ltom1e.htm
http://www.vestpockets.bauli.at/archiv/ltom1z.jpg
 

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