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The Pieper Bayard Pocket Pistol

by Ed Buffaloe

“Model 1908” has become a standard designation for this gun, after the date the U.S. patent was issued, but it was not used by the Pieper company, which always referred to the gun as the Bayard Self-Loading Pistol, or simply as the Bayard Pistol.  After 1923, when it was superceded by a newer model, it was referred to as the “Old Model Bayard.” 

Historical Background

Henri Pieper was born in Germany in 1840 and died in Belgium in 1898.  He founded his company in 1866 in Liege, initially to make shotguns and rifles.  He was an early adopter of mechanized production methods for making interchangeable parts, and by the time of his death his company had grown quite large and had expanded into many different areas of manufacturing.  Walter, in his Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers, says that Pieper “...was one of the European pioneers of mass-produced sporting guns...” and was a founding partner of Fabrique Nationale.  When Henri died he was succeeded by his sons, Nicolas and Edouard Herman, who each ran separate branches of the firm, one manufacturing weapons (Nicolas) and one manufacturing bicycles and automobiles (Edouard) .  But the bicycle and automobile business did not do well, and in 1905 the company was liquidated and reorganized as the Anciens Etablissements Pieper.  In 1907- 1908 a new fully modern factory was built in Herstal, Belgium exclusively for the manufacture of firearms.

In 1909 Godfrey L. Carden, in his report entitled Machine Tool Trade in Belgium, states:  “There is no more important plant in Belgium for the manufacture of sporting arms than the Pieper works.”  He reports that, “...at the time of my visit fully 900 people were carried on the pay rolls.  Of this number about 200 were women;” and “[t]he Pieper works are engaged only in the manufacture of sporting guns, rifles, and automatic pistols, but the installation is now going forward which will very shortly permit this firm to undertake large ammunition-making contracts, involving cartridge supplies for both sporting and military rifles.  In the course of time Pieper will be enabled, it is declared, also to handle large military rifle orders.”

Bayard LogoBayardLogo-SbBayard, one of a number of trade names used by the Pieper company, was the name of the bay horse said to have been ridden by Charlemagne.  Legend has it that the Bayard carried multiple riders, understood human speech, and escaped certain death to attain immortality.  The horse Bayard and the chivalrous knight who rode him feature in a number of epic poems of the middle ages, and Bayard even appears as Troilus’ horse in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde.  Evidently the name came to be commonly applied to any bay horse.

The Patent

BayardPatDrwg-S

Patent Drawing

While Nicolas Pieper was working on his own pistol design in the first decade of the 20th century, the Bayard pistol was based on a design by a Pieper employee, Bruno Clarus.  Clarus first applied for a patent in the United States on 26 December 1906, and then in Great Britain on 26 March 1907.  British patent number 7237 was granted on 31 December 1907, and U.S. patent 898038 was granted on 8 September 1908.  The U.S. patent language emphasizes the small size of the weapon which is made possible by the position of the recoil spring above the barrel, the fact that the gun can be disassembled with no tools by removing the front sight which serves as an abutment for the compression of the recoil spring, and the buffer spring to reduce recoil.  The British patent more clearly describes the function of the pawl which locks the hammer when the slide is out of battery, which the company was to tout as an “automatic safety,” and the small attachment at the end of the connector bar which serves as a connector/disconnector (without, however, using that terminology). The patent drawing shows a connector, or transfer, bar angled sharply downward, whereas in the production gun the transfer bar runs horizontally.  The patent drawing also does not show the precise configuration of the buffer spring.  Nevertheless, in general the production gun is remarkably faithful to the design shown in the patent.*

Many guns in the era between 1900 and 1910 followed the general pattern of the 1900 FN Browning, with the recoil spring mounted in a tube above the barrel, including the 1908 Pieper Bayard, the Clement, the Frommer Stop, the 1907/1911 Melior, the 1907/1908 Pieper, the Owa, the 1908 Steyr (based on Pieper’s design), the .35 caliber Smith & Wesson auto of 1913, and more recently the Smith & Wesson Model 61 Escort.

Dating Production

In the first volume of his Firearms Identification, J. Howard Matthews states: 

    The Bayard pocket models were made by Anciens Etablissements Pieper (A.E.P.) and were produced in three calibers:    6.35, 7.65, and 9 mm. The first to be produced was the so called Model of 1908 which appeared in late 1909 or early 1910. The first advertisement of this pistol appeared in the April 1, 1910, issue of Schuss and Waffe. The design was based on patents taken out by B. Clarus from 1905 to 1907 and purchased by A.E.P. in 1907 or early in 1908.

    In 1911 the 9 mm. model appeared and was advertised in the May 1 issue of Schuss and Waffe in that year, and the 6.35 mm. model was introduced to the public in the August 1912 issue of the same publication. The proper model designations would therefore be: 6.35 mm., Model 1912; 7.65 mm., Model 1910; and 9 mm., Model 1911.

Matthews’ observations seem to be confirmed by advertisements placed in Der Waffenschmied, the German gun industry newsletter.  The ad below ran in March, May, August, and December of 1910.

BayardAd1910

A different advertisement, stating that “the powerful cartridge 9mm/.380 Auto is fired from the newest Bayard self-loading pistol” ran in Der Waffenschmied in January, February, March, and May of 1911, and again in February of 1912. 

BayardAd1911

I could find no advertisements that mention the 6.35mm Bayard in Der Waffenschmied.  The 1911 ALFA Catalogue of Arms and the Outdoors features both the 7.65mm and the .380 (9mm), but not the 6.35mm Bayard.  Curiously, however, the 1910 Deutsche Waffenfabrik Georg Knaak catalogue offers the Bayard in all three calibers.  I have been unable to locate an advertisement for the Bayard that appeared prior to 1910.

In 1914, with the German occupation of Belgium, the Pieper factory was taken over for the production of rifles and ammunition for German use.  Production of the Bayard pistol continued, but during the German occupation most guns received a German proof mark and were also stamped with the stylized German imperial eagle in place of the usual Belgian proofs.  All the German proofed guns appear to have been 7.65mm.

The Pieper Bayard Design

The Pieper Bayard breaks down into two large components: the slide and the frame; and three smaller components: the magazine, the recoil spring, and the front sight.  The breech block depends from the rear portion of the slide, both being machined from a single piece of steel.  The firing pin runs through the breech block and is held in place by a crosspin; the spring steel extractor is flush with the side of the breech block.  The portion of the slide above the breech block is hollowed out to allow room for the recoil spring tube.  The ejector is a rectangular projection from the left interior wall of the frame.

730-Components-R-SThe barrel, just above the trigger guard, is integral with the frame.  In the 7.65mm and .380 (9mm) versions the barrel is a rifled sleeve press fitted into a tube drilled in the frame.  On top of the frame is the recoil- spring tube, attached just above the chamber and extending toward the rear above the breech block.  At the rear of this tube is the recoil buffer, which consists of a flat coiled spring compressed by a disc of metal with a post on the front which fits into the rear of the recoil spring.  As the recoil spring reaches its maximum compression, it in turn begins to compress the buffer spring.  Bayard’s literature claims that the buffer “...cushions the momentum of the opening slide to such an extent that recoil is hardly felt.”  In their 1921 English language catalogue they referred to the buffer as a “shock absorbing device.”  The front end of the recoil spring abuts a downward projection from the removeable front sight, which serves as the take-down mechanism, the recoil spring and guide rod being removed through a slot in the top of the slide which is covered by the front sight.  The rear sight is staked into the slide and cannot be adjusted.

The Bayard has no mechanism for locking the breech, and does not incorporate a magazine safety.  The trigger is of the sliding type and connects to the sear through an integral linkage (transfer bar) on the left side of the gun.  At the end of this linkage is a tiny part (listed in the parts list as the “trigger sear”) which serves as a connector/disconnector for the trigger and main sear.  As the trigger is pulled to move the sear and release the hammer, the transfer bar moves past the bottom of the sear.  When the trigger is released, the “trigger sear,” which is tensioned by a tiny flat spring integral with the connector bar, is able to move down and out of the way of the bottom of the sear so that the trigger may return to its home position, whereupon the “trigger sear” pops back up and reengages the sear.

J.B. Wood opines that: “The disconnector system is a nightmare.  There is no direct slide-activated disconnection of the trigger bar and sear.”  Instead, there is a small rocker arm which locks the hammer when the slide is out of battery (this rocker arm is referred to in the parts schematic as the “automatic safety”).  When, during blowback, the slide is to the rear and the forward portion of the spring-loaded rocker arm is not depressed, its rear end is forced downward and serves as a pawl which engages a detent on the side of the hammer, preventing the hammer from falling.  However, this hammer detent is less than 1/16 inch deep.  Wood says: “When all parts are crisp and new, the system works fairly well.  When any of these things become a little worn, the gun often tends to fire more than one shot for each pull of the trigger.”3-Slide-Inscriptions-S

Markings and Variations

The definition of a variant is to some extent arbitrary, since most guns undergo small changes over time but, when a change makes a noticeable difference in the external appearance of a gun, we may consider it a legitimate variant.  In the case of the Bayard, there are two variants of the 7.65mm version as well as of the .380 (9mm) version, and the 6.35mm version differs substantially enough from the other two to be considered a variant in and of itself.

The 7.65mm and .380 (9mm) Bayard Pocket Pistol

The Bayard was first produced in 7.65mm (.32 ACP)--this is the ammunition for which the design was originally intended, since Clarus filed his first patent before the 6.35mm Browning cartridge was available.  6.35mm ammunition came on the market late in 1906 with the advent of the 1906 FN Browning pistol; it was introduced in the U.S. in 1908 as the .25 ACP.  The 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP) did not appear until the advent of the 1908 Colt in .380 caliber.  However, it is likely that by the time the first Bayard pistol appeared in 7.65mm, Pieper was already planning to make the gun available in other calibers.  As stated above, the best evidence we have shows that the .380 (9mm) version became available for sale in early 1911.

765-Bayard2624-R-S

First Variant 7.65mm Pieper Bayard

First Variant:  I will define the early or first variant as the one having 30 square-cut plunge-milled slide serrations.  Additionally, most of the early variants have only a single long grip screw which passes through a hole in the frame behind the magazine.  The grip plates are made of horn, rounded on all four corners and checkered, with a diagonal banner containing the word “Bayard”.  The grip screw runs through the banner near the back of the plate.

The early variant guns are overall about 2.5 millimeters shorter than later production guns (see Table 1 below).  There is a single rail on the left interior wall of the frame that retains and guides the slide--on the early variant, this rail does not extend all the way to the rear of the gun.  A single small coil spring tensions both the sear and the hammer locking lever.

The manual safety appears to be made of stamped sheet metal with a round button soldered to the end, approximately 6.93mm in diameter, grooved, and peaked in the middle.  Beneath the safety is a semi- circular raised portion of the frame.  Probably before serial number 10000 the safety lever became a machined part with a round button approximately 5.66mm in diameter, similarly grooved and peaked, and the raised portion of the frame beneath the safety was eliminated.

767MagRelComp-S

  First Variant                  Second Variant

The magazine release on the early first variant 7.65mm Bayard is more pointed than rounded, activated by moving the thumb backward against it.  Later the magazine release was redesigned to be not quite flat, but slightly rounded, and wrap around the base of the grip slightly.    There is a semi- circular cutaway portion at the lower front of the grip to allow access to the bottom front of the magazine.  The early 7.65mm magazine is unmarked and has four offset slots in each side for viewing cartridges.  The magazine has a tiny slot at its foot (where the body meets the baseplate) to allow it to be grasped with a fingernail, and the baseplate also has a tab on either side to aid in removal.

The .380 (9mm) magazine is about two millimeters longer than the 7.65mm, and its tabs are thicker and slope upward from the base to the top edge.  The magazine extends out the bottom of the frame an extra 2 millimeters.  The magazine release had to be the flat style because the extra length of the magazine made it difficult to remove with the early style magazine release.  Both magazines hold five cartridges.  Extended magazines were available for both 7.65mm and .380 (9mm) that hold seven cartridges.

The 7.65mm gun is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital serife characters as follows:

CAL. 7.65 MODELE DEPOSE

The .380 (9mm) gun is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital serife characters as follows:

CAL. .380 = 9 M/M  MODELE DEPOSE

Both the 7.65mm and the .380 (9mm) are marked on the top of the slide in all capital serif characters as follows:

☼ BREVETE S. G. D. G. PATENTED SEPT. 8 1908 ☼

The above inscription is the date the U.S. patent was granted.  This was not the first patent granted, but it was the first patent applied for.

Both caliber guns are marked on the left side of the frame in all capital serife characters as follows:

ANCIENS ETABLISSEMENTS PIEPER
☼ HERSTAL-BELGIUM ☼

The Bayard logo of a horse with mounted knight is stamped on the left side of the frame above the grip plate.

At the front of the gun, on the right side of the frame and barrel are the various Belgian proof marks.

723-Bayard253469-R-S

Second Variant 7.65mm Pieper Bayard

Second Variant:  I will define the second variant as the one having 30, or sometimes 29, triangular-cut slide serrations.  Henrotin estimates that the second variant appeared somewhere between serial numbers 22000 and 23000.  The second variant has grip plates made of horn and secured by two screws, one at top center and one at bottom center.  The bottom corners of the grip plates are rounded, but the top corners are squared.  Late grip plates may have been made of hard rubber.

The barrel on the second variant is almost 3mm longer than that on the first variant, and the overall length of the gun is about 2.5 millimeters greater.  The recoil spring is also correspondingly longer.  The second variant is slightly thicker than the first, and weighs about 20 grams more.  There are two rather large internal coil springs, one to tension the sear and one to tension the hammer locking lever--these replace a much smaller single spring that tensioned both on the first variant.

Somewhere between serial number 200000 and 250000 the circular cut at the front base of the grip (for access to the front of the magazine) was eliminated.  (If you have photographs or other information that can narrow this gap more precisely, please write to me.)

Markings on the second variant are identical to those on the first variant.

At some point the magazines begin to be marked as to which caliber they are for, but I have been unable to determine exactly when this was.  Late magazines have four holes in each side, instead of slots, for viewing cartridges.

The 6.35mm Bayard Pocket Pistol

727-Bayard33292-R-S

6.35mm Pieper Bayard

The 6.35mm Bayard barrel is integral with the frame--it it not a rifled sleeve pressed into the frame, as on the 7.65mm and 9mm versions.  The front portion of the trigger guard curves back somewhat before mating with the underside of the barrel.  Most of the upper portion of the slide is more narrow than the lower portion where it mates with the frame.  The 6.35mm Bayard is just over an ounce lighter than the second variant 7.65mm or .380 (9mm) versions.  Since there is less room on the barrel portion of the frame, the inscription was moved to the rear of the frame, over the grip plates, and the horse and rider logo was moved forward so it is just above the rear of the trigger.

I have not encountered a 6.35mm Bayard that has the circular cut at the front base of the grip for removing the magazine, but my database for these guns is limited.  The magazine is the same size as those for the 7.65mm and .380 (9mm) cartridges, but is stepped near the top and indented at the rear to fit the smaller cartridge.  There is no fingernail slot at the foot of the magazine.  The magazine holds 6 cartridges and has four holes in each side for viewing cartridges.  It is marked with the caliber designation.

The 6.35mm gun is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital serife characters as follows:

CAL. 6.35 MODELE DEPOSE

All other markings are identical with the earlier guns, with the exception that the left side frame markings have been moved to the rear as described above.

TABLE 1

Serial Number

Caliber

Weight

Overall Length

Barrel Length

Slide Length

Frame Width

Slide Width

2624

7.65 mm

440 g

123.4 mm

53.95 mm

122.46 mm

14.1 mm

17.23 mm

253469

7.65 mm

461 g

125.82 mm

56.91 mm

125.1 mm

14.79 mm

17.56 mm

73635

9 mm

466 g

126.04 mm

57.12 mm

125.07 mm

15.09 mm

17.74 mm

33292

6.35 mm

428 g

126.29 mm

56.48 mm

124.47 mm

15 mm

17.72*

*  The width given is for the step at the bottom of the slide where it mates with the frame.  Most of the slide is actually 15.82 mm wide.

Evaluation and Handling Characteristics

I bought the 1908 Pieper Bayard because it has a unique and interesting action.  Once I took it apart, I was impressed by the quality of manufacture and the very precise tolerances throughout.  I love the way it dissassembles by sliding back the front sight, beneath which there is a slot through which the guide rod and mainspring can be removed.  The gun is a marvel of the machinist’s art.  The advantage of placing the barrel below the recoil spring is that the barrel sits very low in the hand, which may reduce felt recoil; however this is outweighed by the disadvantage which is that the pivot point for the hammer must necessarily also be low, forcing the grip tang lower and making the gun less comfortable to grip.

In his 1921 book Automatic Pistols H.B. Pollard says:  “The Bayard pocket model is a very good Belgian pistol of extraordinary compactness, made by Piepers, of Liége.  ...  These pistols were rapidly rising in public favour before the war, for they were well made and powerful, and despite the light weight and heavy charge were not unpleasant in the recoil.”

The NRA Book of Small Arms, by W.H.B. Smith, says:  “This Bayard is one of the smallest pistols ever built for its cartridge and suffers from heavy recoil.  It is not a particularly sturdy weapon.”  He says pretty much the opposite about the .25 version, stating that the gun is an “excellent Belgian variation of the Browning,” and also: “The Bayard 1908 is of original design. ... It is an exceptionally sturdy weapon of its class.”  In the entry for the .380 caliber Bayard, Smith says:  “The Bayard is produced by one of the best European manufacturers, the Anciens Etablissements Pieper at Herstal, Belgium.  ...  The weapon is noteworthy as being the smallest, most compact, and lightest .380 caliber automatic pistol ever built.”

Despite claims to the contrary, I can vouch for the fact that the .32 Bayard has considerable recoil.  Being a relatively light blowback operated pistol with minimal grips, this isn’t unexpected.  In comparing the .32 Bayard with the P-32 Kel-Tec,  the Kel -Tec is slightly larger in all dimensions, though they look almost identical when you put them side-by-side.  Note that the Kel- Tec P-32 is almost a third the weight of the Bayard, but its perceived recoil is considerably less, probably due to its locked breech design and slightly better ergonomics.  I can only get one and a half fingers on the grip of the Bayard, whereas the Kel- Tec will accommodats two (though just barely).  The angle of the tang down to the grip strap on the Bayard interferes with instinctive pointing.  The Kel-Tec tang doesn’t look all that different, but the gun feels much better in the hand.

Interestingly, when I was able to purchase a .380 Bayard I was surprised that the recoil seemed to be less than that of the .32.  Also, the trigger pull on my .380 is considerably lighter than that on my .32.

Kel-Tec P-32 and Bayard 1908

The Kel-Tec P-32 next to the 1908 Pieper Bayard .32.

Despite its ergonomic shortcomings, my Bayard has functioned flawlessly from the first day I bought it.  It has never failed to feed or eject.  It is a beautiful piece of machinery and an engineering marvel.  It is a single-action-only pistol  and, perhaps due to the design of the trigger bar, has an unusually heavy trigger pull.  The first time I tried it, I thought I must have left the safety on. 

 

1908 Bayard

Kel-Tec P-32

Cartridge

7.65mm / .32 ACP

7.65mm / .32 ACP

Magazine Capacity

5 rounds

7 rounds

Overall Length

4.96 inches / 126mm

5.1 inches / 129.5mm

Overall Height

3.23 inches / 82mm

3.5 inches / 89mm

Barrel Length

2.25 inches / 57.15mm

2.7 inches / 68.58mm

Slide Width

.7 inches / 17.8mm

.748 inches / 19mm

Weight Empty

16.9 ounces / 428.8 g

6.6 ounces / 186 g

Ir would appreciate hearing from anyone with a 1908 Bayard pistol in order to collect photographs and serial number information that will further our knowledge of these unusual pistols.  I am particularly interested in any guns that might be transitional between the two major variants, and information that might more precisely determine when various changes were made.  Please write to edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com.

Field Stripping

  1. Remove the magazine.
  2. Draw the slide back to cock the hammer.  Make sure there is no cartridge in the chamber.
  3. Push the front sight back slightly and lift it up.
  4. Withdraw the recoil spring and guide.
  5. Draw the slide back and lift it up out of the receiver.

Note:    Wood says that a couple of the smaller springs in the Bayard are easily broken, and that the spring steel extractor is most often broken when it is removed and so should not be removed unless absolutely necessary.


* Hogg and Weeks describe the Bayard as having a suspended hammer with rollers on the side, which is ludicrous to anyone who has actually examined a Bayard.  The gun they describe is another design patented by Bruno Clarus in 1907 but never, to my knowledge, produced.

Copyright 2007-2014 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.

References

  • Arms of the World 1911:  The Fabulous ALFA Catalogue of Arms and the Outdoors, edited by Joseph J. Schroeder, Jr.  Follett, Chicago: 1972.
  • Automatic Pistols, by H.B. Pollard.  A reprint of the 1921 edition.  W E, Greenwich, Connecticut.
  • Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers, by John Walter.  Greenhill, London: 2001.
  • Famous Automatic Pistols and Revolvers, Volume 2, by John Olson.  Jolex, Oakland, NJ: 1979.
  • Firearms Identification, Volume I, by J. Howard Matthews.  Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, IL: 1962.
  • The Gun Digest Book of Firearms Assembly/Disassembly, Part I: Automatic Pistols, 2nd Edition, Krause Publications, Iola, WI: 1999.
  • Machine Tool Trade in Belgium, by Godfrey L. Carden.  U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Manufactures; Government Printing Office, Washington: 1909.
  • The NRA Book of Small Arms, Volume I:  Pistols and Revolvers, by Walter H.B. Smith, 2nd Edition, copublished by the NRA and The Military Service Publishing Co., Harrisburg, PA: 1948.
  • Pieper Bayard Model 1908 pocket pistol explained; ebook by Gérard Henrotin.
  • Pistols of the World, by Ian Hogg and John Weeks.  Arms & Armour Press, London: 1978.
  • Troubleshooting your Handgun, by J.B. Wood.  Follett, Chicago: 1978.
  • “The Ultimate Holdout Gun--Lichtman’s Model 2,” by Jan Stevenson, in Guns magazine, Vol. XX, No. 4-5, May 1974.

Parts in the First Variant 1903 Bayard .32
Parts in the Second Variant 1908 Bayard .32

Special thanks to Stefan Klein for his research assistance.

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