Unblinking Eye
Bergmann and Lignose Pocket Pistols

 

The Bergmann and Lignose
Pocket and Vestpocket Pistols
by Ed Buffaloe

Preface

Bergmann Modell 2, SN2218 - photograph by Stefan Klein

Bergmann Model 2 - SN 2216

I first wrote an article about the Lignose Model 3 in 2008.  At the time my primary source for information was Ian Hogg’s book German Handguns, where I also read about the smaller Model 2 as well as the Models 2A and 3A “Einhand” pistols.  Over time, people sent me photographs of the various models, I enlarged my own collection, and I continued to add new information about the guns as I gathered it.  So my article was patched together over the years, became rather poorly organized, and came to contain various innacuracies which I only recognized much later.  Now I would like to correct these deficiencies and errors (to the best of my ability) by starting afresh.

I would not have been able to complete this article without the assistance of my friend and sometime collaborator, Stefan Klein, who has been most assiduous in researching German source materials for me.  I  would also like to thank my friend Ed Dittus for providing additional research materials and translating an article from the French.

Historical Background

Bergmann Model 3, SN 82 - Photograph by Ed Buffaloe

Bergmann Model 3A - SN 82

Theodor Bergmann is often described as one of the early geniuses of automatic weapons development, having begun the manufacture of self- loading handguns as early as 1893.  However, Ian Hogg indicates that Bergmann himself was more of a businessman or entrepreneur, not a designer or inventor (at least of guns), and that the true genius behind the early Bergmann pistols was his employee, Louis Schmeisser (1848-1917).  Theodor Bergmann retired from business in 1910, and lived until 1931.  Louis Schmeisser’s son, Hugo, following in his father’s footsteps, worked with his father at the Bergmann company from a very early age.  Louis Schmeisser left Bergmann either in 1902 (Hobart, p. 116) or in 1905 (Handrich, p. 89) to work for Rheinische Metallwaren und Maschinenfabrik, and his son Hugo took over as chief designer for Bergmann.  Hugo’s primary work appears to have been the development of machine guns, though he and his father both worked on the design of the Bergmann Mars pistol.

Hugo Schmeisser left the Bergmann company after the war in 1919 as a result of disagreements with the company over the licensing of his machine gun designs to foreign firms.  Schmeisser and his brother Hans formed their own company for a time, which made Diana air rifles for C.G. Haenel, but eventually the Schmeisser brothers became shareholders and full time employees of Haenel.  Between 1919 and 1921, the Schmeisser brothers designed and patented the Haenel Schmeisser pistol.

After the war manufacture of military weapons and particularly fully automatic weapons was banned in Germany by the Inter- Allied Military Control Commission.  The Bergmann company turned its attention to the manufacture of pocket and vest-pocket pistols, and was soon acquired by Aktiengesellschaft Lignose, which was a holding company in Berlin with interests in explosives and ammunition.

Chylewski Patent Drawing - Austrian patent 68151

Chylewski Patent Drawing - 1913

Lignose Patent Drawing - German Patent 388458

Lignose Patent Drawing - 1921

The Patents

There are three patents relevant to this story:

  • Austrian patent 68151 - registered 6 October 1913, granted 1 June 1914 to Witold Chylewski in Lemberg.  The design is for a simple spring-loaded one-hand cocking mechanism that rests against two cuts at the front of the slide.
  • Austrian patent 69618 - Registered 24 March 1914, granted 1 February 1915 to Witold Chylewski in Lemberg.  The design is for a cocker that automatically releases the slide when it gets to the rear, then engages the trigger so that the gun may be fired without removing the finger from the cocker.  (This patent is more or less identical to British patent 100028 of 1916, which was registered on 21 January 1916 and granted on 18 January 1917; and also to U.S. patent 1224902, which was filed 22 March 1916 and granted 8 May 1917.)
  • German patent 388458 - registered 26 April 1921, granted 19 January 1924 to Aktiengesellschaft Lignose in Berlin.  The design is for a cocking mechanism similar to that in Chylewski’s first Austrian patent.  The text of the patent, however, appears to reference Chylewski’s second patent, stating that in “known” pistol designs the cocker comes in contact with the trigger and that this new invention has a retaining stop which prevents the cocker from touching the trigger.

Chylewski’s British patent references a German patent of 1914, which we have been unable to locate, however we assume it would be substantially the same as the second Austrian patent and the British patent.

The Chronology

The first information we obtained when we began to investigate these pistols came from Ian Hogg’s book German Handguns.  Hogg says (p. 23):

    Theodor Bergmann retired in 1910 and died in 1915.  The business continued under the guidance of Hugo Schmeisser (the son of Louis, who had left the company in 1912), and in about 1912 Schmeisser began producing an automatic pistol which bore no similarity to the earlier Bergmann designs but leaned more towards the Browning 1906 pattern.

Lignose Model 3, SN21200 - photograph by Stefan Klein

Lignose Model 3 - SN 21200

In reality Theodor Bergmann died in 1931, Louis Schmeisser most likely left Bergmann somewhere between 1902 and 1905, and the Bergmann company did not begin manufacture of its pocket and vest pocket pistols until after the war.  Hogg’s chronology has the basic pistol (Models 2 and 3) being produced as early as 1912, and the einhand (onehand) pistol (Models 2A and 3A) being introduced after the war.  However, modern internet technology has allowed collectors to put together a database of Bergmann and Lignose pistols which clearly shows that 2A and 3A einhand pistols were produced very early on in the serial number range (serial number 18 is a 2A and 82 is a 3A).  Below we present evidence that manufacture of all the pocket and vestpocket pistols almost certainly began after World War I.

Hogg states that “Hugo Schmeisser left Bergmanns in 1919...”, and: “At the same time, the company acquired some sort of interest in a one-hand pistol developed by a Pole named Witold Chylewski...” (p.23).  Joseph J. Schroeder, Jr. (p. 42) indicates that Bergmann did not begin the manufacture of its pocket pistols until after the war, and that “during this period, Bergmann purchased the rights to a one-hand cocking system developed by W. Chylewski...”   However, Guillou states (p. 29) that “The firm Lignose also decided to exploit a patent granted to one Witold Chylewski which the Bergmann firm acquired in 1913.”  The reader will note that the first Austrian patent was filed in 1913 but was not actually granted until 1914, about two months before the outbreak of World War I.  It is not out of the question that Chylewski might have sold his first patent to the Bergmann company for much needed cash, since he still had another patent for a different mechanism in the works, but we have no certain indication of when or if this might have taken place.

Guillou also indicates (p. 29) that the Bergmann company was sold off to Lignose immediately after the war and that “Lignose used the prestigious name of Bergmann to market classic pocket pistols based on the Browning design.”  This implies that the Bergmann company itself never marketed the gun, but that it was marketed by Lignose making use of the prestige of the Bergmann brand.  We believe what follows disproves that.

We find no advertisements for Bergmann pocket pistols prior to World War I.  The first ad for the Bergmann pocket pistols to appear in Der Waffenschmied (“The Gunsmith,” a newsletter for the German arms industry) was in the 25 August 1921 issue, and the last ad for the Bergmann pistols appeared in the 15 March 1922 issue.

BergmannAd-25Aug1921

Ad from Der Waffenschmied for 25 August 1921

The Bergmann was also advertised in the GECO catalogue number 30, which probably appeared about 1921.

GecoCatalogueBergmannAd-1921-22-No30

Ad from GECO catalogue no. 30 (circa 1921) - courtesy of Bob Adair

This advertisement in the GECO catalogue states that the einhand pistol can be carried in the pocket or left on the bedside table in a perfectly safe condition, but can be cocked one-handed in an instant and be ready for use.

Der Waffenschmied for 15 February 1922 reports that the Theodor Bergmann company was sold to Lignose A.G., though the exact date of the sale isn’t given. The first advertisement for the Lignose pistols appears in Der Waffenschmied for 25 July 1922.

LignoseAd-25July1922

Ad from Der Waffenschmied for 25 July 1922

Advertising for the Lignose pistol in Der Waffenschmied ends in 1927.  In the 10 March 1927 edition of Der Waffenschmied there is a notice that the firm Suhler Waffenfabrik Gebrüder Merkel has acquired part of the Lignose factory in Suhl, including the test ranges.  And in the 28 September 1928 edition a notice appears stating that the focus of the Lignose Company is now the production and usage of chemical and technical products and all related domestic and foreign business.

The highest serial number we have recorded for a Lignose pistol is below 55000, and we know that serial number 42478 was proofed in Austria in 1927, so we can probably assume that production ended sometime in 1928.  Whatever the case, the gun continued to be available for sale in various catalogues at least until the beginning of World War II.

Lognose-Ad-Waffe-Werbung-1927

Lignose Ad from the Illustrierte Zeitung, Leipzig, 1927
“always uncocked in the pocket, ready at the moment of danger”

To sum up, it appears likely that the Bergmann Company began design work on the pocket and vest-pocket pistols immediately after the war, and began to market them in 1921.  It remains unclear whether the Chylewski patent was obtained prior to or after the war, but production of the einhand pistol did not begin until after the war.  Lignose purchased Bergmann early in 1922.  The highest serial number we have recorded for a pistol with Bergmann markings is 6825.  The lowest serial number we have recorded for a pistol with Lignose markings is 6900.  Lignose may have continued marketing guns with the Bergmann slide inscription after they bought the company.  They definitely continued to use Bergmann grips after they began using the Lignose slide inscription.  Production probably ended by the end of 1928.

SIG Chylewski - SN733 - photo courtesy of Bill Chase

SIG Chylewski - SN 733

The SIG Chylewski

While Chylewski may have sold his first Austrian patent (68151) to the Bergmann Company, he retained the rights to his second patent (69618), and made some sort of deal with the Swiss company SIG (Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft) to manufacture the gun.  According to König and Hugo (p. 162) as well as Dr. Erich Pappe (p. 76) the Chylewski einhandpistole (one-hand pistol) was produced in 1922 and 1923.  There were problems with the design (it was all too easy to have the gun fire unintended when the cocker hit the trigger) and SIG quickly ended production and sold off the remaining stock.  Many had their cockers disabled by the addition of a screw on the left side.  The general consensus is that less than 1000 were made.

The Bergmann and Lignose Models 2 and 3

The Model 2 was a Westentaschenpistole (vest-pocket pistol), holding six rounds in the magazine, about the same size as the 1906 Browning.  The Model 3 was a Taschenpistole (pocket pistol) with a barrel and slide identical to the Model 2 but with a longer grip, holding nine rounds in the magazine.  They are typical Browning clones, with an unlocked breach, the recoil spring beneath the barrel, and disassembly similar to the Browning (except the barrel turns in the opposite direction).  The pistols are often said to be based on the 1906 Browning, due to their size, but mechanically they more closely resemble the 1903 Browning, with an internal hammer instead of a striker.

Lignose Lockwork

Lignose Model 2

There is no grip safety or magazine safety but the manual safety lever locks the sear and  immobilizes the hammer.  The manual safety lever may also be used to lock the slide open for disassembly.  The safety lever is secured to the gun by a two-pronged flat spring mounted by screw to the right side of the grip frame.  Otherwise, coil springs are used throughout.  The trigger is of the rotating type and connects with the sear via an internal connector bar on the left side of the gun.  The disconnector projects upwards from the connector, but is a separate piece riveted to the connector bar.  A small spring-loaded brass pin protrudes from the rear of the frame to indicate that the hammer is cocked--it can be seen or felt.  There is no rear sight, only a groove along the top of the slide and a minimalist front sight.

The Bergmann is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters:

THEODOR BERGMANN GAGGENAU
     WAFFENFABRIK SUHL CAL.6,35 D.R.P.a.

The early Lignose (at least up to SN 21864) is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters:

AKT.-GES. LIGNOSE, BERLIN
ABTEILUNG SUHL - CAL.6,35 D.R.P.a.

The later Lignose (at least after SN 22148) is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters:

AKT.-GES. LIGNOSE, BERLIN
ABTEILUNG SUHL - CAL.6,35 D.R.P.

The “D.R.P.a.” in the above inscriptions indicates that a German patent had been applied for.  However, we have been unable to locate a patent in the name of the Bergman company.  Lignose did however apply for a German patent in 1921 and the patent was granted in 1924.  We can safely assume that guns marked with “D.R.P.” were manufactured after the patent was granted in 1924.
Bergmann Model 3 - SN4872 - photograph by Ed Dittus

Bergmann Model 3 - SN 4872

Cocked Hammer and Loaded Chamber Indicators

Left:  Cocked
Hammer Indicator

Right:  Loaded
Chamber Indicator

The serial number is stamped inside the grip frame at the base of the grip and on the right side of the slide.  It may also be found stamped inside the slide, on the barrel, and on other small parts.  The highest serial number we have observed for a gun with Bergmann markings is 6825.  The lowest serial number we have observed for a gun with Lignose markings is 6900.  Many of the early Lignose guns continued to have grip plates marked Bergmann.

Bergmann and early Lignose pistols (at least through SN 7894) have 12 coarse triangular-cut slide serrations at the rear of the slide.  Beginning at least with SN 8643 Lignose pistols have 15 fine triangular-cut slide serrations (there may be some exceptions to this, but we have not noted any as yet).

A few of the early Bergmann pistols have wooden grips with a “B” monogram in the grip medallion.  The wooden grips may have been available as a factory upgrade, though we have no documentation to verify this.  All early advertisements show checkered hard rubber grips with the Bergmann name angling down from left to right, and most production pistols have these same hard rubber grips.  While even the earliest Lignose advertisements show checkered hard rubber grips with the Lignose name on them, as noted above many early Lignose guns have been found with Bergmann grips.  Lignose A.G. was not inclined to waste anything.

Several Bergmann pistols have been identified with a loaded chamber indicator in the slide instead of the cocked hammer indicator in the frame.  There are probably others as yet undocumented, as the database has far fewer Bergmann than Lignose pistols.  Clearly the Bergmann company experimented with this feature and may have offered it as an option or upgrade but we have no documentation for this.  We have not observed a Lignose pistol with this feature.

The Bergmann and Lignose Models 2A and 3A, Einhandpistole (one-hand pistol)

The advertisement from the GECO catalogue number 30 (shown above) is sufficient proof that the one-hand pocket pistols appeared at the same time as the other more conventional pistols.  The einhand pistol had the front portion of the triggerguard removed, and in its place is a cocker shaped very much like a trigger.  The cocker fits against a shoulder on the front of the slide and can easily be grasped by the index finger to draw the slide back and cock the pistol.  The cocker has rails on the inside which fit into grooves milled in the frame.  The
Lignose 3A, SN18853 - Photograph by Ed Buffaloe

Lignose Model 3A - SN 18853

force of the recoil spring returns the slide and cocker.  The cocker is retained by a flat spring with two studs riveted to it.  This flat spring is secured to the frame beneath the barrel with a small screw at the rear.  The first and smaller of the two studs fits into a small hole in the bottom of the frame and serves to hold the spring in position.  The second and larger stud fits into a hole at the very front of the frame and serves to retain the cocker.  Depressing the stud with the slide retracted releases the cocker, allowing it to be removed.

Cockers on Bergmann pistols are made of steel.  Early cockers on Lignose pistols are made of brass (with a few exceptions) up until approximately serial number 17000, after which they are made of steel.

Markings and other attributes are identical to those on the Models 2 and 3.

The Models 4 and 5, or 4A and 5A

According to Hogg (p. 23) the Model 4 was an enlarged version of the Model 2 chambered for the 7.65mm (.32 caliber), with an eight round magazine.  The Model 5 was the same gun chambered for the 9mm Kurz (.380 caliber), with a seven round magazine.  J. Howard Matthews also lists the Models 4 and 5 in the first volume of his book Firearms Identification, giving dimensions and technical data for both pistols, with a note stating that the information comes from a Bergmann Manual.  We have seen only a single illustration of a Model 5 in an obscure volume by Dutch author P.B.W. Kersten entitled Wapens en Munitie, where it is listed as being available in both 7.65mm and 9mm K (p. 720), but the illustration looks like a Model 3 with the bottom of the grip cut off.

If these models were ever manufactured, there ought to at least be a prototype in a museum somewhere, but we have not been able to locate a single photograph of one.  Gerhard Bock, in his 1923 book, Moderne
Illustration from page 720 of P.B. W. Kersten's Wapens en Munitie

So-called Bergmann Model 5

Faustfeuerwaffen und ihr Gebrauch, mentions that Lignose had plans to produce 2A and 3A pistols in  7.65mm and 9mm Kurz but there is no mention of them in the 1941 edition of the same book.  J.B. Wood, in his 1972 article in Guns magazine (p. 61), mentions that he has heard of a prototype 7.62mm einhand pistol and another with an external hammer being manufactured by Lignose, but was unable to verify their existence.  Guillou says (p. 31):  “Lignose studied the possibility of adapting Chylewski’s system to weapons of larger caliber (7.65 mm and 9 mm short) but these plans were abandoned because the strength of the springs used for these calibers made it too difficult to work the action using one’s index finger.”  Whether it was the Bergmann or Lignose company that made the decision, this latter statement is almost certainly true.  Even the 6.35mm einhand pistol can be difficult to cock for someone with small or weak hands.

Interestingly, SIG manufactured at least one prototype 7.65mm Chylewski einhand pistol.  It is illustrated in Dr. Erich Pappe’s article in the Deutsche Waffenjournal (p. 77).

Shooting the Lignose

Lignose Model 3 Schematic - from the German manual

Schematic for the Lignose 3A

My Lignose Model 3 has definitely seen better days.  It is deeply pitted all over, has no blue left on it, and the right grip is cracked.  Nevertheless, it is one of the best-shooting .25 caliber pistols I own.  It simply never malfunctions.  The quality of workmanship on these guns was very high-- Bergmann and Lignose were made in the same factory in Suhl, probably by the same old-world craftsmen.  The deep grip on the Model 3 makes it fit my hand better than most pocket pistols, and the grip angle is such that it points very naturally.  I don’t shoot my Bergmanns, due to their collector value, but if you have a Lignose that is not in perfect shape, I see no reason to forego the pleasure of shooting it.  Parts are unavailable, but there is very little to go wrong with these guns other than that the left grip, which is unsupported underneath and has only a single screw, tends to break easily.

Field Stripping the Model 2 or 3:

  1. With the safety off, remove the magazine and retract the slide to clear the gun and cock the hammer.
  2. Pull the slide back and rotate the safety upward to engage the notch in the slide which holds it back.
  3. Turn the barrel 180° (counter-clockwise as you face the front of the gun).
  4. Release the safety and ease the slide and barrel forward until the rear of the slide is just above the safety lever, then lift slide and barrel straight up off the gun.

Field Stripping the Model 2A or 3A:

  1. With the safety off, remove the magazine and retract the slide to clear the gun and cock the hammer.
  2. Pull the slide back and rotate the safety upward to engage the notch in the slide which holds it back.
  3. With a small blade or other tool depress the spring-loaded retaining stud and slide the cocker forward off the frame.  (The slide must be retracted to get the recoil spring out of the way in order to remove or install the cocker.)
  4. Grasp the barrel and turn it 180° (counter-clockwise as you face the front of the gun).
  5. Release the safety and ease the slide and barrel forward until the rear of the slide is just above the safety lever, then lift slide and barrel straight up off the gun.

References

  • Guillou, Luc.  “Les pistolets Lignose ‘einhand’”.  Gazette des Armes, no. 380, October 2006.
  • Handrich, Hans-Dieter.  Sturmgewehr! From Firepower to Striking Power.  Collector Grade Publications, Cobourg, Ontario:  2004.
  • Hobard, F.W.A.  Pictorial History of the Sub-Machine Gun.  Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York:  1973.
  • Hogg, Ian V.  German Handguns.  Greenhill Books, London:  2001.
  • Hogg, Ian V. Hogg & Weeks, John.  Pistols of the World.  Arms & Armor Press, London:  1978.
  • Kersten, P.B.W.  Wapens en Munitie.  A.W. Suthoff’s Uitgeversmaatschappij N.V., Leiden:  1946.
  • König, Klaus-Peter & Hugo, Martin.  Taschenpistolen,.  Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart: 1985.
  • Matthews, J. Howard.  Firearms Identification.  Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois: 1962.
  • Pappe, Dr. Erich.  “Die Einhandpistole Chylewski von SIG 1922-1923”, Deutsche Waffenjournal, January 1981.
  • Schroeder, Joseph J. Jr.  “Bergmann Automatic Pistols.”  American Rifleman, October 1966.
  • Wood, J.B.  “The Lignose Einhand Pistols.”  Guns, Nov. 1972.
  • Wood, J.B.  Troubleshooting Your Handgun.  Follett, Chicago:  1978.

Copyright 2015 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.

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