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Alois Tomiška’s
Little Tom Pistol

by Ed Buffaloe


Historical Background and Patents

Alois Tomiška, also spelled (and pronounced) Tomischka, was born in Pardubice in what is now the Czech Republic on 13 February 1867.  The name Tomiška translates from Czech as “Little Tom.”  Tomiška was from a family of gunsmiths, and took up the trade himself in or near Vienna, Austria in the 1890’s.  He probably helped found the Wiener Waffenfabrik (WWF) in 1911 in order to make his namesake pistol, and in a 1912 patent application he described himself as “Works Manager” for WWF.  From 1915 to 1918 he worked for the Oesterreichische Industriewerke Warchalovski, Eissler & Co. Aktiengesellschaft.  He moved back to Czechoslovakia near the end of World War I where he worked for Jihoĉeská Zbrojovka (later Česká Zbrojovka) for a time, and also started his own business. Tomiška died in Prague on 29 December 1946, just short of his 80th birthday.

Austrian Patent 36387 of 1908

Austrian Patent 36387 of 1908

The earliest patent I have been able to locate for Tomiška is Austrian patent 24415, submitted in 1905 and issued in May of 1906, for a rifle trigger mechanism.  The earliest patent I have located for  the Little Tom pistol is Austrian patent 36387, submitted on 7 March 1908, which covers Tomiška’s double-action trigger mechanism. A similar patent was filed  on 30 June 1908 in Great Britain. The British patent reads:  “The pistol ... belongs to that class of self loading weapons having [a] lock mechanism the hammer of which is cocked by hand or by means of the ... 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” or transfer bar that is substantially the same as the one in the Little Tom pistol.  However, the gun in the drawing has a fixed barrel with a concentric recoil spring, whereas the Wiener Waffenfabrik Little Tom, has its recoil spring beneath the barrel

A few prototypes of Tomiška’s first pistol design may have been made by the Genossenschaft der Büchsenmachermeister, or the Master Gunsmith's Cooperative, in the town of Ferlach in Southern Austria.  One such gun still survives in the British Royal Armouries collection, and is shown in Mötz & Schuy’s book Die Weiterentwicklung der Selbstladepistole, Volume 2.  The Ferlach Little Tom is larger than the Wiener Waffenfabrik gun and has a different profile; it has a double-action trigger and an external hammer, but lacks an external safety, and is chambered for the 6.35mm Browning (.25 ACP) cartridge.  Like the later Little Tom, it has a magazine with no baseplate extension.  The grip plate says “Little Tom.”  The gun is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital italic sans-serif characters as follows:

MECH. WAFFENFABRIK
D. BÜCHSENMACHER GENOSSENSCHAFT FERLACH
PATENT-TOMISCHKA

On the right side of the frame is a crown over a shield with the words AUTOM. FERLACHER-PISTOLE surrounding it.  The gun was proofed in Ferlach in 1910.

Tomiška later invented a means of fitting barrel to frame,
Austrian Patent 53261 of 1912

Austrian Patent 53261 of 1912

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. Like the Beretta, the slide is open on top, exposing the barrel.  This allows disassembly by removing the barrel through the slide opening then drawing the slide off the front of the frame.  Tomiška was granted British patent 23927 in 1910, French patent 421509 in 1910, and Austrian patent 53261 in 1912 for the mechanism.  The open-top barrel requires that the recoil spring be beneath it, which allowed Tomiška to use the recoil spring to tension the trigger.  These changes are reflected in the patent drawings, which show a gun nearly identical to the Little Tom pistol as it was actually manufactured.

There is little agreement on dating the Little Tom pistol in the English language literature, but Mötz & Schuy provide detailed information.  The first 150 Wiener Waffenfabrik Little Tom pistols were proofed in 1914, and small numbers continued to be proofed through 1917, but production must have been minimal during the war.  Serial numbering probably began with 1001.  None were proofed in 1918, though production picked up after the war and guns began being proofed again from 1919  through 1926.
Little Tom Pistol - Wiener Waffenfabrik - 1921 - SN 7041

Little Tom Pistol - Wiener Waffenfabrik - 1921

The height of production was 1922.  Sometime around 1926 or possibly 1927 the company went bankrupt and began to sell off its assets.  Little Tom pistols continued to be proofed in later years, but were mostly presented to the proof house by other firms. Liquidation of assets continued through 1929 when, according to Mötz & Schuy, 1154 pistols were proofed.  Small numbers of guns continued to be presented to the proof house in subsequent years, up through 1940.

For historical background on the Czechoslovakian-made Little Tom pistols, see the section below entitled “The Czech Little Tom.”

The Little Tom was made in both 6.35mm (.25 caliber) and 7.65mm (.32 caliber), though the 6.35s are vastly more common. Serial numbers of the 6.35mm guns run up to about 29,000, proofed mostly from 1920 to 1922, then pick up again at about 40,000, proofed mostly in 1925. The entire 30,000 range appears to have been reserved for 7.65mm production, most of which were proofed in 1929, with only a few in the 1922-1925 range.

The Little Tom Design

Little Tom magazine being removed from the top.

Magazine being removed from the top.

The Little Tom has two unusual aspects, the first being that the magazine can be removed or inserted through the top of the gun with the slide locked open.  The slide locks open on the back of the magazine follower. The slide can then be locked with the manual safety lever (to take the strain off the magazine follower) and a new magazine can be inserted from the bottom, pushing the empty magazine out the top of the gun.  For this reason, the magazine has no extension on its bottom plate and sits flush with the base of the gun.  A Little Tom manual states that removing the magazine through the top is safer since it prevents a cartridge being left in the chamber.

Secondly, the Little Tom was one of the first self-loading pistols to be double-action on the first shot.  The design does not require the hammer to be manually cocked in order to fire the pistol, however, cocking the hammer does not move the trigger to a rear “single-action” position as it does on most modern pistols.

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.  Double- and single-action sears are both attached to the trigger.  The transfer bar, tensioned by a flat spring anchored in the frame, pivots at the bottom of the hammer;
Little Tom Lockwork

Little Tom Lockwork

it has two notches on its underside which are for half-cock and full-cock.  In double-action firing, a hook (the double-action sear) on top of the trigger pulls the transfer bar forward, drawing the hammer backward, then pushes past the front hook of the transfer bar to release it.  The trigger can only reconnect with the transfer bar when it has been released to its forward position, allowing the double-action sear to re-hook the transfer bar.  In single-action fire, the transfer bar is locked forward on the full cock notch, but unlike most modern double-action mechanisms, the trigger is held in a forward position by pressure of the recoil spring.

The spring-loaded extractor on the right side of the slide is pinned from the top. The firing pin and spring are captive in the slide. The ejector in the left side of the frame is spring-loaded so it may be depressed in order to remove and reinstall the slide. The manual safety locks the trigger, but not the transfer bar and hammer. It is not safe to carry the gun with the hammer cocked and the safety on, therefore there is a half-cock position for the hammer. With the safety off, the gun may be fired double-action from the half-cock position, or the hammer may be manually cocked for single-action fire. The hammer has a rounded head with no spur, with horizontal serrations on top.

There are no sights on the 6.35mm pistol. The 7.65mm pistols have a tiny front sight and a groove down the rear of the slide. The finish is rust blue with the safety lever and hammer in the white. The side plate on the 6.35mm pistol fits over two studs with broad heads staked to the frame and held in place by the slide, whereas one the 7.65mm one of the studs is replaced by the upper grip screw.

Little Tom Markings and Variations

Variations in the Little Tom pistol are mostly in the slide inscriptions and serrations, though it is possible that minor internal changes may have been made that can only be ascertained by disassembly.

The earliest guns I have documented are marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters as follows:

WIENER WAFFENFABRIK
PATENT

Little Tom, SN 1571.

Little Tom, SN 1571.

The right side is marked with the serial number, just beneath the extractor, and below that the WWF monogram is stamped. The serial number is also stamped on the hammer, on the bottom of the barrel , and on the flat of the frame beneath the recoil spring. There are fifteen slightly angled triangular-cut slide serrations that do not extend all the way to the bottom of the slide. Grip plates are of checkered hard rubber, with a banner extending from upper left to lower right with the words “Little Tom.” The manual safety has a small round checkered gripping surface. The earliest magazines are made of steel, hold six cartridges, and have six staggered witness holes for viewing cartridges.

Very early on, the word “PATENT” is dropped from the left-side inscription, so only the company name remains:

WIENER WAFFENFABRIK

The early
LT-7041-R1-det-S

Little Tom, SN 7041.

“Little Tom” banner on the grip plates is soon replaced with the WWF monogram in an oval, and the WWF stamp on the right side of the slide is eliminated.  The later grip plates are slightly less wide and also slightly thinner. Eventually, the “Little Tom” banner is brought back, but usually (though not always) only appears on one side, with the WWF monogram plate on the other.  There continue to be fifteen triangular-cut slide serrations, but they are vertical and extend all the way to the bottom of the slide.  Somewhere in the 11,000 serial number range the magazines begin to be made of brass.

In a few early examples we find MADE IN AUSTRIA stamped on the right side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters.  Somewhere in the 24,000 serial number range the gripping surface on the manual safety is grooved rather than checkered.

Grip-composite

 Early Little Tom Grip

WWF Monogram Grip

 Later Little Tom Grip

Somewhere in the 26,000 range we begin to see new slide inscriptions.  The left side is stamped in all capital sans-serif characters as follows:

WIENER WAFFENFABRIK
MADE IN AUSTRIA

The right side is inscribed in all-capital serif characters as follows:

WIENER WAFFENFABRIK, PATENT, LITTLE TOM, 635 m/m (.25)

7.65mm Little Tom pistols appear in the 30,000 serial number range with the following inscription on the left side in all-capital serif characters as follows:

WIENER WAFFENFABRIK, PATENT, LITTLE TOM, 765 m/m (.32)

The right side is marked in the same fashion:

MADE IN AUSTRIA

LT-32188-L-S

7.65mm Little Tom, SN 32188

The 7.65mm Little Tom pistols all have the grooved manual safety lever, and the frame is marked F and S to indicate the “Fire” and “Safe” positions, whereas the 6.35mm guns are not marked in this way.  The grips of the 7.65mm guns are made of wood with a gold WWF medallion about a third of the way from the top.  About halfway through production, the 7.65mm Little Tom was given a trigger with a sharper curve to it.

According to Mathews, there are two variants of the 7.65mm Little Tom: “In one, the rear end of the slide has been cut away to expose more of the hammer, in order to provide a better grip.” I have not examined enough of these guns in person to comment in this regard. The serial number range of 7.65mm Little Tom pistols I have documented extends from 30151 to 34054, indicating that about 4000 were made.

765-trigger-comp-S

 Early 7.65mm Trigger (SN 30984)

Late 7.65mm Trigger (SN 32255)

At around serial number 40,000 the 6.35mm Little Tom pistols began to be marked in a similar fashion to the 7.65mm, on the left side in serif characters as follows:

WIENER WAFFENFABRIK, PATENT, LITTLE TOM, 635 m/m (.25)

LT-52091-R-det-S

Little Tom, SN 52091.

and on the right side:

MADE IN AUSTRIA

Somewhere in the early 40,000 serial number range the slide serrations are made much finer and reduced to fourteen. The curvature of the top of the slide appears to be altered slightly to give a more square look to the gun. The trigger also becomes more sharply curved.

The serial numbers I have documented for 6.35mm Little Tom pistols extend from 1571 to 28106 and from 41634 to 52293. If there were no gaps in the numbers, this would indicate a possible production of around 38,000 pistols, but there are significant gaps, and Mötz & Schuy give a precise figure of  27,846.*

The Czech Little Tom

In Czechoslovakia,
LT-1132-L-S1
LT-1132-R-S

Czech-made Little Tom, SN 1132

Tomiška began making Little Tom pistols himself, though the information given in various sources is sometimes contradictory and confusing.  R. J. Berger, in his book Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols, says: “In 1918 ... [Tomiška] moved to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, and in a small shop started hand-production of Little Tom pistols.”  Berger further states: “Very few pistols were made in Pilsen.  Known serial numbers only reach the low 2000 range...”  I would add that serial numbers likely started at 1001, and so probably fewer than 1000 were ever made.

The Czech author, Jaroslav Lugs, in his section on Česká Zbrojovka, states that the company had an establishment in a rented mill in Pilsen in the period 1919-1921; and in reference to Tomiška’s Fox pistol he states: “About 20 workers and four other employees worked there under the direction of Alois Tomiška, who was the designer of the pistol and himself a gunsmith.  The pistols were made by hand until 1920, when the plant was equipped with machine tools...  At the end of April 1921 and before the new factory was completely ready, production was transferred from Pilsen to Strakonice.”  In regard to the Little Tom, Lugs states only that a few pistols bear the inscription “ALOIS TOMISKA - PLZEN-PATENT-LITTLE TOM 6.35mm (.25),” and he does not speculate as to when or where they were made.  If Lug’s dates for the Pilsen factory are accurate, then the Little Tom might have been made in the period between 1918 and April 1921, more or less as Berger stated, however Lugs refers only to Fox pistols in this time period.  It may be significant that both Lugs and Berger mention that pistols were made by hand, though Lugs is referring to the Fox and Berger to the Little Tom.

Mötz & Schuy state that: “On July 1, 1923, Tomischka resigned from the South Bohemian arms factory [Jihoĉeská Zbrojovka]...,” and they imply that it was only after 1923 that Tomiška founded his own company in Pilsen.  Proof dates on the known Czech Little Toms tend to support this implication.  If Lugs’ information is correct, Tomiška was making Fox pistols for Jihoĉeská Zbrojovka in the period from 1919 until he resigned in mid-1923.  An advertising pamphlet in the Czech language for the Little Tom pistol, headed “Alois Tomíška, Plzeň,” states: “By the end of 1924, over 60,000 pieces had been sold.”  The quantity indicated is clearly an exaggeration, but the date is important, indicating the pamphlet was likely printed in 1925.  I conclude that the Czech Little Tom pistols were most likely made in the period between 1923 and 1928, but I cannot completely rule out an earlier date.

WWF-AT-comparison-3-S

Top: Wiener Waffenfabrik Little Tom
Bottom: Czech-made Little Tom

I have only recorded seven Little Tom pistols marked with the name Alois Tomiška and labeled “Made in Czecho-slowakia.”  Three are shown in Mötz & Schuy’s book, one in Lugs’ second volume, and a 7.65mm example in Berger’s book.  The one shown in this article (serial number 1132) was proofed in Prague in 1924.  Mötz & Schuy believe that some Czech Little Tom pistols were made with parts imported from Vienna, citing an import document for 7213 kg of hardware that was dated 13 September 1928; however, all of the Pilsen-marked Little Tom pistols I have documented appear to have been proofed earlier than 1928, or to remain unproofed.  Nevertheless, the gun they display (in Vol. 2, page 290), with a 1926 proof and with Tomischka’s AT monogram grip plate, appears to have been made from WWF parts and actually bears a WWF serial number (43179) as well as Tomischka’s number 1536 stamped at the front of the slide. I would very much like to hear from anyone who owns one of these pistols.*

Externally, the Czech gun is quite similar to the late Austrian Little Tom, with fourteen fine triangular-cut slide serrations and the grooved safety lever. The guns made in Pilsen show subtle differences in the shape of the slide and frame, and internally there are minor differences in the design of the lockwork components. I have not been able to examine one of these guns in person, so I cannot provide further details.

Grip plates are of wood with a gold AT monogram medallion in the center.  Wooden plates are also known without the medallion both on 6.35mm and 7.65mm guns.  The magazine is made of steel.  The guns are marked on the left side of the slide in all-capital serif characters as follows:

ALOIS TOMISKA - PLZEN-PATENT-LITTLE TOM 6.35mm (.25)

The 7.65mm version is marked:

ALOIS TOMISKA - PLZEN-PATENT-LITTLE TOM 7.65mm (.32)

The right side of the slide is marked:

MADE IN CZECHO-SLOWAKIA


Field Stripping the Little Tom

  1. LT-7041-FS-S

    Little Tom Disassembled

    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 is free 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. On the 7.65mm version you must remove the right grip to access the screw that holds the side plate.

Note:  Depress the spring-loaded ejector in order to reinstall the slide.



*  Please write to me with photographs and serial number of your gun.

References

  • Berger, R.J., Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols.  Blacksmith, Chino Valley: 1989.
  • Hogg, Ian V. & Weeks, John.  Pistols of the World.  Arms & Armor Press, London:  1978.
  • Klein, Stefan. Alois Tomischka, Little Tom.
  • Lugs, Jaroslav. Firearms Past and Present. Grenville, London: 1973. (Original edition, Prague, 1956.)
  • Mathews, J. Howard. Firearms Identification, Vol. I. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison: 1962.
  • Mötz, Josef & Schuy, Joschi. Die Weiterentwicklung der Selbstladepistole: Österreichische Pistolen, Vols. 1 & 2, Gesamtherstellung: 2007, 2013.
  • Smith, Walter H.B. NRA Book of Small Arms, Volume I, Pistols and Revolvers, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 1946.
  • Wood, J.B., “The Little Tom Pistols of Alois Tomiška.,”Gun Digest, 1980.

https://www.cz-parts.com/early-history-of-cz
http://www.vestpockets.bauli.at/archiv/ltom1e.htm
http://www.vestpockets.bauli.at/archiv/ltom1z.jpg

Thanks to Stefan Klein for telling me about Mötz & Schuy’s book.
Thanks to Glenn Stanley, Ed Dittus, John James, and Bill Chase for sharing information and photographs.

Copyright 2021 by Ed Buffaloe. All rights reserved.

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