by Ed Buffaloe
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.
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:
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,
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.
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
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;
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:
Very early on, the word “PATENT” is dropped from the left-side inscription, so only the company name remains:
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.
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:
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
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.
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)
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 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.
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
Note: Depress the spring-loaded ejector in order to reinstall the slide.
* Please write to me with photographs and serial number of your gun.
Copyright 2021 by Ed Buffaloe. All rights reserved.