Unblinking Eye
The Clément Pistols

 

The Clement Pistols

by Ed Buffaloe, Bill Chase,
Dr. Stefan Klein, and Dr. Dirk Ziesing


Historical Background

Charles Clement

Charles Clément

Charles Philibert Joseph Clément was born on 16 May 1846 in Dour, Belgium and died on 13 May 1913 in Liège, three days short of his 67th birthday. Between 1883 and 1912 he filed 35 patents in Belgium for various revolvers, pistols, and rifles, as well as 14 utility models and trade names. We know that he became a senator in the Belgian legislature and was knighted by the Belgian king (Knight of the Order of Leopold).

In 1870 Clément was married to Jeanne Marie Flore Vignoul (1847 – 1871). In 1883 the widower married Marie Joséphine Eve Dolmans, born in 1855. The couple already had a son born in 1876.

Clément partnered with Alexandre Fagnus in 1879. Their guns were typically marked FAGNUS A. & C. CLEMENT. The partners manufactured double-action six-shot pin-fire and rim-fire revolvers in 7 mm, 9 mm, and 12 mm, marked “Guardian American Model of 1878”, the smaller guns having a folding trigger.

Clément started his own business in 1883 to make various center-fire revolvers, including a Velodog revolver with an internal hammer and a safety lever, a larger eight-shot Velodog with an external hammer, a postman’s revolver apparently made specifically for the Belgian postal service, a patented six-shot top-break revolver, and a mini-Bulldog revolver with a folding trigger and a button safety. He also manufactured a replica of the 1851 Colt cap and ball revolver. Typically, his guns were marked C. CLÉMENT over LIEGE. According to Alain Daubresse, in his book Les armuriers Liègeois, he made export revolvers marked “The English Bullock” and “The American Settler,” and others simply marked with his interlaced CC monogram with one of the letters reversed. Between 1883 and 1895 Clément also manufactured double-barrel shotguns in both hammer and hammerless versions. Clément is said to have manufactured shotguns for the U.S. retailer J. T. Randall.

According to John Walter in his Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers, there was a gunmaker by the name of Charles Clement listed in London directories for 1890 and 1891 at 63 Queen Victoria Street who is likely the Belgian Charles Philibert Clément, though there is no firm proof. A Charles Clement of Liege is listed in the Official Catalogue of the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893, as an exhibitor in the categories of military small arms and sporting firearms.

In May 1902 the Waffenzeitung reported that the Clément factory in Liege, with 250 employees, was destroyed by fire. The damage was estimated at 300,000 Belgian Francs. Depending on the method of calculation, this is the equivalent of somewhere between 2 and 3.5 million dollars in today’s money. This fire may have marked the end of one phase of his business and the beginning of a new one, as we will see below.

Alain Daubresse reports that “at the end of his life CLEMENT sold his revolver manufacture department to NEUMANN Bros, and focused only on semi-automatic pistols.” He does not provide a date for this sale.

This mark represents two letters C interlaced in the opposite direction with the words "molten steel", placed to the right and to the left.

Belgian Trademark No. 1134
5 March 1903
Acier Fondu = Forged Steel

A book on the former industrial zones of Liège states that Charles Clément owned three lots at 105, 106, and 108 rue Cadastre from 1901 until 1907. These lots included a steam engine with transmission, buildings, shop, sheds, a forge, and outbuildings at 108 rue Cadastre; a house, yard, and outbuildings at 106 rue Cadastre; and a house, yard, and outbuildings with more than 100 acres of land at 105 rue Cadastre. All of these properties were sold in September of 1907 to Henri Heuse-Riga, whose primary business was making Damascus barrels. Clément’s patents list his address as either 37 or 39 rue Cheri. A trademark card dated 5 March 1903 lists his business address as 60 rue Maghin, Liège.

On 27 September 1902 Julien Warnant-Creon was granted Belgian patent number 165988 for a “Pistolet à répétition” (see patents below). Julien Warnant was a brother of Jean Warnant, who is most famous for his design of the ingenious revolver lock consisting of only four components. The first Belgian patent dates from 1874, and many subsequent revolvers were based on it, e. g. the British Kaufmanns and the Swiss army revolvers.

Both Warnant brothers also had an interest in self-loading pistols. Jean Warnant later designed the self-loading pistol which was manufactured by Nicholas Pieper, the design for which Pieper also sold to Steyr and which became known as the 1908 Steyr-Pieper. After Julien married he changed his name to Warnant-Créon.

On 31 October 1902 Julien Warnant signed a contract to sell all rights to his new patent to Charles Clément for the sum of 8,000 Belgian Francs. He provided detailed drawings of the design, as well as a working model of the pistol. In addition, he agreed to transfer all future improvements to the pistol to Clément. So we see that after Clément’s gun factory burned to the ground in the Spring of 1902, in the Fall of the same year he bought the Warnant patent with the intention of manufacturing self-loading pistols.

Charles Clément died in May of 1913 and just before the end of the year, his widow, Joséphine, in conjunction with Victor Loiselet, filed a patent for a method of barrel retention. Within three weeks they filed a second patent for a mechanism to lock the transfer bar when the magazine is empty. Victor Loiselet was an artillery colonel active in late 1914 in the defense of Liège against the Germans. In particular, he was responsible for destroying bridges. In 1915, he was head of the group of Belgian armorers who went to Birmingham and began gun production in exile there. In 1919, he returned to Belgium and became director of the Manufacture d'Armes de l'Etat. Loiselet died in 1923 as a retired major-general.

Clément’s company name officially existed until 1954 when it was taken over by Neumann Frères. But these two companies had connections early on. For example, Neumann had purchased Clément’s revolver business, and in 1910, the Clément-Neumann self-loading carbine was the result of a joint-venture between the two companies. Likewise, Neumann and Warnant also had business connections going back to 1887 or ‘88. So, we see that Belgian gunmakers were sometimes partners as well as competitors.

Clement-Neumann-auto-carbine

Clement-Neumann Semi-automatic Carbine - Model 1910


The Clément Patents

In researching Belgian patents we have learned that patents were granted without examination in Belgium. Each patent file is accompanied by an affidavit that states: 

    This patent is granted to him without prior examination, at his own risk and peril, without any guarantee of the reality, the novelty or merit of the invention, or the accuracy of the description, and without prejudice to the rights of third parties.

The process typically took only a few days or weeks, whereas in other countries the patent had to be examined and approved and the process often took months or years.

Clement Automatic Pistol Patents in Order by Date of Filing

Date Filed

Country

Patent Number

Date Granted

Patentee

Model

27 Sep 1902

Belgium

165988

15 Oct 1902

Julien Warnant-Créon

1903

5 Mar 1903

Great Britain

1903-5180

18 Jun 1903

Charles Philibert Clément

1903

3 Apr 1903

United States

786099

28 Mar 1905

Charles Philibert Clément

1903

23 July 1903

Belgium

171695

17 Aug 1903

Julien Warnant-Créon

1903

29 Apr 1905

Belgium

184363

15 May 1905

C. Clément

1903

27 July 1906

Belgium

193924

16 Aug 1906

C. P. Clément

1907

31 July 1906

Austria

28005

1 Nov 1906

Charles Ph. Clément

1907

28 Aug 1906

Belgium

194518

15 Sep 1906

C. P. Clément

1907

13 Apr 1907

Belgium

199496

30 Apr 1907

C. P. Clément

1907

12 Jun 1907

Great Britain

1907-13623

9 Jan 1908

Charles Philibert Clement

1907

24 Jun 1907

United States

885436

21 Apr 1908

Charles Philibert Clément

1907

12 Jul 1907

Germany

212735

9 Aug 1909

Ch. Ph. Clément

1907

27 Jul 1907

Austria

33467

1 Feb 1908

Charles Philibert Clément

1907

17 Sep 1907

Belgium

202749

30 Sep 1907

Charles Ph. Clément

1907

7 Jan 1908

Belgium

205326

31 Jan 1908

Charles Ph. Clément

1908

18 Nov 1908

Belgium

212168

30 Nov 1908

C. P. Clément

1909

28 Jun 1909

Great Britain

1909-14996

24 Feb 1910

Charles Philibert Clément

1909

9 Jun 1909

United States

941749

30 Nov 1909

Russell Wiles

-

20 Jul 1909

United States

970307

13 Sep 1910

Charles Philibert Clément

1909

6 Mar 1912

Belgium

243839

15 Mar 1912

Charles Ph. Clément

1912

13 Jul 1912

Belgium

249442

30 Sep 1912

Charles Ph. Clément

1912

9 Jan 1913

Germany

294811

26 Oct 1916

Charles Ph. Clément

1912

27 Dec 1913

Belgium

263467

31 Dec 1913

Joséphine Clément &
Victor Loiselet

1913

17 Jan 1914

Belgium

264039

31 Jan 1914

Joséphine Clément &
Victor Loiselet

1914

11 May 1914

Austria

81743

15 Aug 1915

Joséphine Clément &
Victor Loiselet

1914

11 May 1914

Great Britain

1914-11534

29 Oct 1914

Joséphine Clément &
Victor Loiselet

1914

11 May 1914

Great Britain

1914-18190

15 Apr 1915

Joséphine Clément &
Victor Loiselet

1914

Clément’s contract with Warnant stipulated that Clément would have the right to take out foreign patents on the invention, which he did, and that any improvements to the invention by Warnant would become Clément’s property without further compensation. The contract also stipulated that for the 20-year patent period Warnant would not create or manufacture any kind of similar automatic pistol that would compete with Clément’s pistol. We have no evidence of Warnant’s further involvement in subsequent patents filed by Clément, though the possibility cannot be discounted.


The Model 1902 Clément in 7.65mm (.32 caliber)

This early design saw limited production. We have chosen to refer to it as the Model 1902, after the date on Warnant’s original patent. It is a distinctly different pistol from the later guns in 5mm.

Belgian Patent 165988

BE165988-patent-drwg-S

Belgian Patent 165988

Warnant’s initial patent describes a striker-fired self-loading pistol with a barrel that screws into the frame or receiver. A rectangular reciprocating breech-block or bolt rides in the frame and is covered by a receiver housing which contains the recoil spring above the barrel. A conventional transfer bar connects the trigger and sear. Behind the trigger is a spring -loaded release mechanism which, as the patent says, “...after having moved the connecting rod 4, rises a little, following the rotating movement of the trigger 5.” This is not a true disconnector in the sense that it does not prevent the gun from firing when the breech block is out of battery, but it does require the trigger to be released and squeezed again for the next shot.

Clement filed and was granted similar but less detailed patents in Great Britain (1903-5180) and the United States (786099).

Be171695-pat-drwg-S

Belgian Patent 171695

Belgian Patent 171695

This patent, filed by Julien Warnant in 1903, represents an attempt to salvage his original design. The patent drawing shows a gun much like the one in the previous patent but with the upper receiver housing no longer held captive by the barrel, instead fixed by a screw at the front. This enables the housing to be removed without removing the barrel. Two V-shaped springs , one on either side of the frame at the rear, help buffer recoil from the reciprocating bolt.

The Original 1902 Design

7.65mm Clement Prototype - SN 332
7.65mm Clement Prototype - SN 332

Clément Model 1902 - SN 332
 in 7.65 mm (.32 caliber)

We have documented three early Clément pistols chambered for the 7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP) cartridge. Serial number 143 is in the collection of the British Royal Armouries; serial number 332 is in the collection of Bill Chase; and a third appears in Jaroslav Lugs’ Firearms Past and Present--we presume this third gun is somewhere in Europe, and we do not know the serial number at the time of writing. There may be other examples that we have not been able to document. These early guns are identical to the design shown in Warnant’s first patent (see above patent number 165988). Hogg lists the gun as being “...an intermediate stage between the 1903 and 1907 designs.” But from an examination of the patents as well as the serial numbers, this is clearly the primary design.

The Model 1902 is striker-fired and is made in four main parts: a frame, a barrel that screws into the frame, a reciprocating bolt or breech block with an internal extractor and a captive recoil spring held in place by a screw at the front, and a housing that covers the bolt and recoil spring. The reciprocating bolt has an extension on either side, flared outward and serrated, that allows it to be cocked and to chamber a cartridge. The rear portion of the upper housing is split so the bolt can move through it. The upper housing has a hole at the front, through which the barrel is attached, and is fixed to the frame by a screw at the rear.

Early-03-Clement-Diagram

Rearranged patent drawing to illustrate the primary components of the Model 1902.

The transfer bar is internal and runs from the trigger to the sear on the left side of the magazine. A small spring-loaded lever on the back of the trigger moves the transfer bar to the rear, then rises past it as the trigger continues to rotate, effectively disconnecting the trigger from the transfer bar until the trigger is released. The trigger is tensioned by a small flat spring. The ejector is press-fit into two holes in the left side of the frame. A checkered safety button is pushed out from the right side to block the transfer bar. To release the safety one merely presses down on the oval button on the left side.

7.65mm Clément Prototype - SN 332

Serial number 143, which is in the British Royal Armouries collection, has the magazine catch on the rear of the magazine itself, but serial number 332 has the catch built into the grip frame. It is a checkered lever that one squeezes toward the front of the gun to release the magazine, similar to the one on the Model 1899 FN Browning. The magazine baseplate extends beyond the front of the grip frame to assist in removal.

Clément Prototype SN 143 Magazine

Early M1902 Magazine
from SN 143

Warnant’s second patent (see above, Belgian patent 171695) shows a redesigned upper receiver or recoil spring housing which can be removed without first removing the barrel. This would allow the barrel to be cleaned without removing it from the frame. The design also features additional V-shaped shock-absorbing springs at the rear of the frame, indicating that excessive recoil was recognized as a problem. We have yet to document a pistol with these features.

All known examples are marked on the left side of the upper receiver housing in upper-case serif characters as follows:

FABRIQUE D’ARMES C. CLEMENT. LIEGE BREVETE S.G.D.G.

The “Breveté S.G.D.G.” is a standard marking which reads in full “breveté sans garantie du gouvernement,” meaning “patented without government guarantee”. The finish is rust blue with the bolt and trigger left unblued or “in the white.” The serial number is visible on the left side just above the bow of the trigger guard, and on the right side of the bolt on serial number 332, through the ejection port. There is no caliber marking. The grip plates are of checkered hard rubber with the Clement CC monogram at the top, turned vertically.

Early Clément CC Monogram

Early Clément CC Monogram

Why Clément did not pursue production of the Model 1902 is a matter for speculation. However, in disassembling serial number 332 we noticed that the heavy screw at the rear of the gun has been distorted by the powerful recoil. The bolt is too light and the recoil spring is not powerful enough to withstand the forces generated, which is almost certainly why Warnant filed his second patent with the buffer springs at the rear, and is likely the reason why Clément ultimately turned to the 5mm cartridge. Since we know that there is a serial number 332, we have to admit the possibility that Clément made as many as 350 of these pistols. But if so, the question remains, what happened to them? We can only document three in existence today. One possibility is that they essentially self -destructed due to the extreme recoil forces produced by the light bolt and inadequate recoil spring. It is also possible that Clément only made 10 or 20 of these guns, but quickly realized the design was not feasible. Warnant’s second patent was not filed until 23 July 1903, so it is clear that they were still trying to solve the recoil problem more than eight months after Clément bought Warnant’s first patent.

 

The Model 1903 Clément

We have been unable to locate any instruction manuals, parts lists, parts diagrams, or exploded views for the Model 1903. There are no patents that show the exact design of the Model 1903. Clearly the design saw considerable evolution after the Warnant patents were filed. We do have brief instructions for cleaning and loading from an early advertisement. The Model 1903 designation was not bestowed until the Model 1907 appeared, but has been used for many years now.

We do not know exactly when production began, as we have no datable advertisements before October of 1906. Production may not have begun until the second half of 1903, but there is no firm evidence.

The Type I Model 1903 in 5mm Clément

Clément M1903 Type I - 5 mm - SN 1080

Clément M1903 Type I - 5mm - SN 1080

1903-1238-FS-det-T

M1903 Type I Partly Field Stripped

The Type I Model 1903 is smaller than the Model 1902, and is chambered for what was known in its day as the 5mm Charola y Anitua cartridge, but which later became known as the 5mm Clement. It appears that Alexander Stucki, in his 2001 article in Schweizer Waffen-Magazin entitled “Clement-Pistole Modell 1903,” may have been the first to point out that when the 5mm Clément pistol came on the market in 1903 it was the smallest self-loading pistol in the world.

In this design, not pictured in any patent, the front of the recoil spring housing forms a shroud that fits over the barrel. The portion of the recoil spring housing above the barrel is pinched such that the front of the recoil spring is anchored just behind this pinched area. The oval area at the rear of the recoil spring housing of the Model 1902 has been eliminated in the Type I Model 1903. The frame has a split post at the rear through which the bolt moves. Two screws at the rear connect the frame with the upper receiver housing and anchor the rear of the recoil spring guide rod.

The trigger and lockwork are the same as that of the Model 1902, with a small flat spring to tension the trigger. The rear sight is a simple V-shaped groove at the rear of the upper housing. The front sight is a low-profile half-moon shape. The safety lever has a checkered round gripping surface, and blocks the rear of the sear when engaged, preventing any movement of the sear and effectively locking the bolt. The safety lever also serves to lock the bolt open when turned upward to the safe position.

The external extractor is screwed into the right side of the bolt. The striker and its spring are captive in the bolt. The striker has a tail on it that serves as a cocked indicator. Like the Model 1902, the transfer bar is internal and runs from the trigger to the sear on the left side of the magazine. The ejector is press-fit into two holes in the left side of the frame.

Clément M1903 Type I - 5 mm - SN 151

Markings and serial number location are similar to those of the Model 1902 in 7.65mm. The safety lever positions are marked in French, FEU (Fire) and SUR (Safe). The finish is rust blue with the trigger and bolt left “in the white” and the safety lever in nitrate blue.

The 5mm Clément Cartridge

Charola sn2007 5mm-S

5mm Charola y Anitua Pistol - SN 2007

On 13 October 1898 Ignacio Charola registered a Spanish patent for a locked breech semi-automatic pistol with some similarities to the C96 Mauser design. This pistol was first manufactured by the firm Charola y Anitua of Eibar, Spain, and was chambered for a bottle-necked and slightly tapered 5mm cartridge that looked somewhat like a miniature 7.63mm Mauser cartridge. Late manufacture or assembly of the Charola pistol took place in Liege, so the 5mm cartridge became known to the Liege gunmakers, including Charles Clément, who decided to chamber his Model 1903 pistol in it.
Cartridge-Box

S.F.M. 5mm Clement Cartridges

Clément’s pistols were better made and better received than the Charola pistols, and so the cartridge has become known as the 5mm Clement, though it has also been referred to as the 5mm Charola-Anitua, the D.W.M. 484, the G. Roth #730 (5.2 x 17), and the 5mm Selbstlade-Pistolen.

The early cartridges were likely produced by Keller & Company of Hirtenberg, Austria. Other known headstamps include C.R.B. Liege (Cartoucherie Russo-Belge), D.W.M. (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken), G.R. (George Roth & Co.), and S.F.M. (Société Française des Munitions). Unmarked cartridge cases are also known. White and Munhall list bullet weights from 28 to 36 grains with a nickel -jacketed round-nose bullet, and a single 35.5 grain half-jacketed bullet with a soft nose.

The only ballistics data we have on the cartridge is from D.W.M., which reported that the 36 grain bullet had a muzzle velocity of 1030 fps from a 2.716 inch barrel, which would have resulted in a
5mm  6.35mm 7.65mm Cartridges

5 mm              6.35 mm             7.65 mm  
Clement            Browning            Browning 
  

muzzle energy of about 80 foot-pounds. This compares favorably with a typical 6.35mm cartridge, which with a 50 grain bullet and a muzzle velocity of 754 fps from a 3.149 inch barrel generates a muzzle energy of about 63 foot-pounds. We have also examined a C.R.B. cartridge which has a 28 grain brass- or copper-jacketed bullet over 1 grain of fine smokeless powder, but we do not have chronograph data available for it.

The 5mm bullet is said to be unstable in flight, tending to tumble, which might have contributed to its effectiveness for self-defense though perhaps not to its accuracy. The cartridge was listed by DWM until 1938. Bastié points out that it was still listed in the Fiocchi catalog for December 1961.

We have noted a few early grip plates of checkered horn with the Clément entwined CC monogram turned vertically, but most guns have checkered hard rubber grip plates with the same design. The serial number is stamped on the left side of the frame, on the right side of the bolt, and on the bottom of the barrel.

There are three variants of the Type I M1903.

Type I First Variant: The first variant has a magazine release like the one on the Model 1902 serial number 332, with a small checkered lever that must be squeezed toward the front of the gun (reminiscent of the Model 1899/1900 FN Browning). A concave area is milled at the rear of the frame base to allow the thumb to access the release lever. The magazine has seven holes on either side for viewing cartridges, and the cut on the back where the release holds it is approximately one inch from the magazine base. The baseplate on the magazine extends beyond the front of the grip frame to aid in removal, and the front of the grip frame is cut to allow for this extended baseplate. This first variant extends at least through serial number 1140.

The early guns, up to at least serial number 975, have a trigger guard that is machined separately, fitted into a slot at the front of the grip frame, and pinned to the frame above the bow of the trigger guard. The pin is visible just beneath the serial number on the left side. Later guns have the trigger guard integral with the frame.

Grip-base-V1

M1903 Type I - 1st Variant

Grip-base-V2

M1903 Type I - 2nd Variant

Grip-base-V3

M1903 Type I - 3rd Variant

Type I Second Variant: On the second variant, beginning somewhere around serial number 1200, the magazine release becomes a slightly concave serrated sliding button that is pushed to the rear to release the magazine. The magazine still has seven cartridge-viewing holes on either side, but the cut on the back where the release holds it is right where the baseplate meets the back of the magazine. The extended baseplate is eliminated and the magazine has a knob on the bottom to assist in removal. The second variant extends only to about serial number 1300, making it very scarce. It appears that this variant only lasted until existing frames were used up and production could be transitioned to the third variant.

1903- First Variant Magazine 1903 - Second and Third Variant Magazines

On the left is the First Variant magazine with extended baseplate and no knob. In the middle is the Second Variant magazine (missing the knob, but with a hole for it). On the right is the Third Variant magazine. Clearly, magazines are NOT interchangeable.

Type I Third Variant: The third variant has the magazine release mounted on the back of the grip strap, as shown in the 1905 Belgian patent 184363. It consists of a pivoting lever, tensioned by a flat spring, with a square checkered button at the top. The magazine has the cut in the rear enlarged and moved up slightly from the magazine base. The base of the grip frame is no longer cut to allow for the baseplate extension at the front of the magazine. The third variant begins at least by serial number 1331 and runs only up to about serial number 1650, where Type I production ends.

BE184363-pat-drwg-S

 Belgian Patent 184363

Belgian Patent 184363

This patent, filed by Clément in April of 1905, is for a magazine release mounted on the back of the grip frame. Warnant’s patents do not detail the early magazine release design. We have not found evidence that this patent was filed outside of Belgium.

The patent date for the magazine release on the back of the grip strap, 29 April 1905, enables us date the variants and get some idea of production numbers. Up to the end of April 1905 possibly only about 1500 Type I Model 1903 pistols had been made. Please contact us if you have a gun with a serial number in this range that might help us more precisely determine when the Type I ended and the Type II began.*

The Type II Model 1903

1903-10150-L2-S

 M1903 Clément - Type II -
SN 10150 - 6.35mm (.25 caliber)

The Type II Model 1903 begins at approximately serial number 1500 and is characterized by a redesigned upper receiver housing that eliminates the pinched area at the front of the gun, allowing the recoil spring and its guide rod to extend the full length of the gun. In fact, the forward end of the guide rod protrudes through a hole at the front of the housing, above the barrel.

The early recoil spring extending only over the breech block and chamber of the barrel was insufficient. Powerful recoil forces acting on the light breech block/bolt necessitated a longer and more powerful recoil spring. The earliest gun of this type we have noted is serial number 1677. Judging by the serial numbers and patent date, this change likely took place before the end of 1905.

Early markings remain the same as the Type I, as does the finish. Somewhere between serial number 2200 and 2400 the inscription on the upper receiver housing was changed to read:

- AUTOMATIC PISTOL CLEMENT’S PATENT -

and an additional inscription was added to the left side of the frame:

CHARLES PH. CLEMENT
LIÈGE

The top line of this inscription arcs in a curve over the city name.

Clement Model 1903 - Type II - 5 mm - SN 3265

Grip plates are checkered hard rubber with the Clément entwined CC logo turned vertically at the top. Toward the end of production, in the 10,000 series range, we begin to see grip plates with a horizontal CC monogram, though early grip plates continue to be used.

Late Clement CC Monogram

Late Clément CC Monogram

5mm and 6.35mm Barrel Comparison

Early 5 mm on left.
Late 6.35 mm on right.

Other than the change in the inscription and grip plates, the two main variants of the Model 1903 Type II differ only in their caliber. However, the caliber is not indicated on either variant, so the two are virtually indistinguishable. (The best way to test for caliber is to disassemble the gun, or lock the bolt open, and see if a 6.35mm Browning or .25 ACP cartridge will chamber.) We know that serial number 8776 is chambered in 5mm, and that serial number 8831 is chambered in 6.35mm. Please contact us if you have a pistol in this serial number range and can verify the caliber.*

We have observed some late 5mm pistols that were retailed by Manufrance (SN 7786 and 8138). These guns are marked on top of the upper housing in all capital sans-serif characters:

MANUFACTURE FRANÇAISE D’ARMES ET CYCLES-SAINT-ETIENNE.

The 1906 FN Browning was the first gun ever chambered for the 6.35mm Browning cartridge, and it was first marketed in July of 1906. We know from a brief review in the American Hardware Magazine of 10 April 1907 that the “.25 calibre” (6 .35mm) version of the Model 1903 Clément was already available, so Charles Clément must have decided to switch to the new Browning cartridge almost as soon as it appeared. No later Clément pistols were chambered for the 5mm cartridge.

Production must have been increased in the 1905 to 1907 period, as we estimate that approximately 7000 5mm pistols were made in about two years time. Then, after the 6.35mm version was introduced, probably sometime late in 1906 or early in 1907, approximately 2300 pistols were made in the new caliber before production switched to the Model 1907. It is possible that production of the Model 1903 and Model 1907 overlapped, or that Model 1903 pistols were still being assembled from parts when the Model 1907 began production.


The Models 1907 and 1908 Clément

In 1907, Clément introduced a new self-loading pistol as a redesigned pattern of his 1903 Model. The first three patents for this model were filed in July and August of 1906, so the gun was in the design stages well before 1907. The first two patents for the Model 1907 show a gun of the same size and with virtually the same frame as the Model 1903, but with a redesigned bolt and lockwork. By 1907 the patents begin to show a gun reduced in size.

Belgian Patent 193924

AT28005-pat-drwg-S

Austrian Patent 28005

This patent was filed by Clément in July of 1906. It shows a gun with the same external shape as the Model 1903 Clément and which retains the fixed barrel threaded into the frame, but which has a redesigned reciprocating bolt or breech block. The new bolt is stirrup-shaped. It has a rectangular breech block at its front, which contains the firing pin and internal extractor, and a rectangular opening at its rear to accommodate the hammer. Above the breech block, a rod stretches toward the front of the gun to attach the bolt to the recoil spring, which sits above the barrel and bolt. The opening at the rear of the bolt fits around a rectangular post at the rear of the frame. This design makes it easier to cock the gun by grasping serrations on the side of the bolt. The new design allows the gun to have an internal hammer. The powerful hammer spring also helps absorb recoil from the reciprocating bolt. The upper receiver housing, which holds the bolt in the frame and houses the recoil spring, also incorporates a shroud which fits around the barrel at the front. This patent was also filed in Austria in July of 1906 (patent number 28005).

Belgian Patent 194518

Austrian Patent 33467 composite patent drawing

Austrian Patent 33467 - composite patent drawing to show lockwork

This patent was filed by Clément in August of 1906, and covers the redesign of the lockwork necessitated by the new internal hammer. The patent illustrates but does not describe a coil spring and plunger in the rear of the grip frame which tensions the hammer. The magazine release, sear, and trigger and transfer bar are tensioned by flat springs also in the rear of the grip frame. The transfer bar has two branches at its rear. The upper branch engages the hammer and the lower branch engages the sear. When the gun is fired the lower branch trips the sear, releasing the hammer. As the hammer falls it forces the upper branch of the transfer bar down, causing the lower branch to disengage from the sear. The transfer bar cannot move up again until the hammer is cocked and the trigger is released. As in the earlier Model 1903, there is no mechanism to prevent the gun from firing when the bolt is out of battery, but the bolt must be far enough forward to allow the hammer to fall and the trigger must be released and squeezed again before another shot can be fired.

Subsequent foreign patents essentially combine elements of this Belgian patent with the previous Belgian patent, hence covering the redesigned breech block as well as the redesigned lockwork. These patents include British patent 13623 of June 1907, U.S. patent 885436 of June 1907, German patent 212735 of July 1907, and Austrian patent 33467 of July 1907. These later foreign patents show a gun with a shortened grip frame (reducing the magazine capacity from 7 to 6).

Belgian Patent 199496

This patent was filed by Clément in April of 1907 as an addendum to patent number 193924 of 27 July 1906. It covers the design of the ejector, which essentially consists of a square bar with a circular lug on the rear end. This lug fits into a hole in the frame. The ejector bar lays flat on top of the frame and rests in a groove on the underside of the bolt, which holds it in place. This patent is the first one to show the shortened and tapered grip frame which appeared on the Model 1907.

Clement M1907 - SN 773 - First Variant

Clément M1907 - 1st Variant
SN 773 - 6.35mm (.25 caliber)

The Model 1907 Design

The breech block or bolt (Belgian patent 193924) is redesigned to fit around the rear post of the frame instead of through it. The solid bolt on the Model 1903 requires a striker-fired mechanism, but the open center portion of the Model 1907 bolt allows for an internal hammer. The internal hammer and its spring help retard the blowback action of the bolt. The firing pin and internal extractor are retained in the breech block. The breech block cannot be locked open.

The trigger mechanism (Belgian Patent 194518) is also redesigned to work with the internal hammer. As the hammer begins to fall it pushes the transfer bar down, disconnecting it from the sear. Only when the hammer is fully cocked again can the transfer bar reconnect with the sear. The hammer is tensioned by a spring and plunger fitted into a hole in the rear grip strap. The method of disassembly remains the same as that of the Model 1903, although the 6.35mm Model 1907 has only a single screw instead of two. The 7.65mm Model 1907 retains the two-screw design.

Clement M1907 - SN 3944 - Second Variant

Clément M1907 - 2nd Variant
SN 3944 - 6.35mm (.25 caliber)

Instead of the press-fit ejector of the Model 1903, the Model 1907 has a square metal bar with a circular lug at the rear (described in Belgian patent 199496). This lug fits into a hole in the rear post of the frame and the metal bar simply rests on the left side of the frame and is held in place by a slot in the reciprocating bolt. The manual safety locks the sear but not the bolt, though the gun cannot be cocked with the safety on.

The Model 1907 was offered in both caliber 6.35 mm (.25 ACP) and 7.65 mm (.32 ACP). The 7.65 mm version was closer in size to the Model 1903, with a longer barrel and grip frame than the 6.35 mm version. The magazine capacity went from 7 on the Model 1903 to 6 on the Model 1907.

According to Gerhard Schönbauer, the Model 1907 did not sell well and thus Clément produced it only for a short period of time. It may be that competition from the 1906 FN Browning was a challenge. The lowest serial number we have recorded is 545, and the highest is 7424. However, we do not find any 7.65mm guns until approximately serial number 5000, and virtually all the late guns are in 7.65mm. Thus, it is likely that Clément started with the 6.35mm model and later produced both calibers with consecutive numbering.

We find the first advertising for the Model 1907 in the German magazine Waffenschmied of 10 July 1907, where it is listed as the “Modell 1906”, but by 10 October 1907 the advertisement is changed to read “Modell 1907”. A comparison of advertising dates with patent filing dates leads us to believe that production of the 6.35mm Model 1907 likely did not begin until June or July of 1907 and lasted only until the end of the year. Production of the 7.65mm version may have lasted into 1908.

We have documented at least three distinct variants of the Model 1907. However, there is no sharp serial number bound which distinguishes the variants; variants overlap when it comes to different calibers, and there is also a serial number overlap with the Model 1908. In any case, the Models 1907 and 1908 are essentially the same pistol with largely external changes. We might designate the Model 1908 as a Model 1907 Type II if the model nomenclature were not already firmly established.

The First Variant Model 1907

Clément 1907 SN 6366 - First Variant

Clément M1907 - 1st Variant
SN 6366 - 7.65mm (.32 caliber)

The Model 1907 bolt has a significantly enlarged gripping surface on both sides. The redesigned bolt addresses two issues with the 1903: first, the Model 1903 gripping surfaces are awkward to grasp, making the gun difficult to cock; second, the redesigned bolt on the Model 1907 allows for an internal hammer which helps retard recoil.

The serrated gripping surface on the first variant Model 1907 has a convex shape. The magazine release is located on the backstrap. We find this variant in 6.35mm caliber in the serial number range up to appoximately 2000 (last First Variant 6.35mm Model 1907 observed has SN 1935). The numbering of the 7.65mm models starts at approximately SN 5000 and ends at SN 7300 (the last First Variant 7.65mm Model 1907 observed has SN 7218).

The Model 1907 is marked on the left side of the frame beneath the serrations in upper-case serif characters as follows:

- AUTOMATIC PISTOL CLEMENT’S PATENT -

The serial number is visible on the left side of the upper receiver housing above the serrations, on the frame above the trigger and on the breech block left of the serrations. The pistol has no caliber marking. The safety lever positions are marked in French, FEU (Fire) and SUR (Safe). The finish is rust blue. A pistol with serial number 5973 is nickel plated, but we cannot be certain it is factory plated as we have found no advertisements for the gun in a nickel finish.

The grip plates are made of checkered hard rubber with the Clement CC monogram in a square cartouche. The magazine retains the knob on the bottom, and has five holes for viewing cartridges. The magazine release is a small lever on the backstrap of the grip. Schönbauer opines that this position is inconvenient, as one can easily release the loaded magazine while firing.

Clément 1907 SN 7396 - Second Variant

Clément M1907 - 2nd Variant
SN 7396 - 7.65mm (.32 caliber)

Second Variant Model 1907

Around serial number 2000, for the 6.35mm pistols, the convex form of the bolt serrations was flattened. This may have been done to simplify machining, or for aesthetic reasons. The magazine catch remains at the backstrap. The Second variant 7.65mm model starts at approximately SN 7300, with SN 7436 as the highest number we have recorded.

Belgian Patent 202749

This patent was filed by Clément in September of 1907, also as an addendum or supplement to patent number 193924 of 27 July 1906. It covers the design of the button release for the magazine on the lower left side of the grip. This button release is shown but not described in an earlier patent.

Third Variant Model 1907

Clément 1907 SN 5739 - Third Variant

Clément M1907 - 3rd Variant
SN 5739 - 6.35mm (.25 caliber)

With Belgian Patent 202749, Clement removes the magazine catch at the backstrap, redesigning the release as a button on the lower left side of the grip. For the 6.35mm Model this change appears at approximately serial number 4000 (earliest 6.35mm Third Variant Model 1907 observed has SN 4268). We have not recorded 7.65mm variants with the magazine button on the left grip and, based on serial numbers, we do not believe that they exist.

We have documented several second variant 7.65mm pistols (SN 7357, 7398, 7424) marked for export with BELGIUM in upper-case serif characters on the right side.

The Model 1907 appears to have its own serial number range. Serial numbers for the Model 1907 in 6.35mm begin, we presume, at zero and run up above 4200. Production in 7.65mm appears to begin around serial number 5000 and run up to almost 7500. In the high range, most guns produced are in 7.65mm, though we do see occasional guns in 6.35mm. But by this time, 6.35mm production was transitioning to the Model 1908. Please contact us if you have a serial number in this range.*

Belgian Patent 205326

This patent was filed by Clément in January of 1908, likewise as a supplement to the original 1906 patent (Belgian patent 193924). It covers an alternative design for the hammer spring as well as a removable backstrap. Instead of being a coil spring with plunger, as shown in the original patent, the design in this patent is for a flat spring attached by a screw mounted to the frame, which requires a removable backstrap for installation. This is the first appearance of a removable backstrap.

US 941749 Patent Drawing

U.S. Patent 941749

U.S. Patent 941749

This patent was filed by Russell Wiles of Chicago in June of 1909 and assigned to Clément. It shows a gun with a fixed barrel and the recoil spring over the barrel. The lockwork is virtually identical with that shown in Clément’s Belgian patent number 194518, and with the flat hammer spring and removable backstrap shown in Clément’s Belgian Patent 205326. However , the flat hammer spring was never adopted in any known production gun.
 

The Model 1908

M1908 Rear Grip Strap with Springs

Clément M1908
Rear Grip Strap

The major innovation of the Model 1908 Clément is the redesigned backstrap containing the hammer spring, plunger, and a wire spring to tension the safety lever. The hammer spring and plunger are held captive by a small screw. The backstrap is removable, via two pins, making for easy installation and repair. The grip itself is no longer slightly conical in shape but now has the front and rear grip straps parallel. The steeper curve of the Model 1908 grip tang is more ergonomic and allows the hand to sit higher on the gun. The grip plates are checkered hard rubber and have the Clement CC monogram in an oval cartouche at the top. The magazine is identical to that on the late Model 1907.

The Model 1908 is marked on the left side of the upper receiver housing in upper-case serif characters as follows:

- AUTOMATIC PISTOL CLEMENT’S PATENT –

The serial number is located on the left side on the frame just above the trigger, at the front of the upper receiver, and on the breech block to the left of the serrations. On most early guns the safety lever positions are marked in French, FEU and SUR; however, most later guns (after serial number 8200) are marked in English, FIRE and SAFE. The finish is rust blue.
Clément M1908 SN 7037

Clément M1908 - SN 7037
6.35mm (.25 caliber)

Early guns appear to have blued triggers, but on later guns the trigger is unblued “in the white”. Some guns are marked for export, with BELGIUM stamped on the right side of the frame.

Like its predecessors, the pistol has no caliber marking. The lowest serial number we have observed is 7037, which appears to be a continuation of the Model 1907 serial numbers, with some overlap between the 1907 and 1908 ranges. The highest serial number we have observed for a Model 1908 is 10960. According to Schönbauer, this model was also made for just a short period and was replaced within one year by a new design, the Model 1909. However, Clement offered both pistols in parallel at least until December 1909, as an advertisement in Waffenschmied for 25 December 1909 shows.

The Model 1908 was never produced in 7.65mm. Instead, based on serial numbers, it is likely that production of the Model 1907 in 7.65mm continued in parallel with Model 1908 production, and Model 1909 production began with the 7.65mm version.

Field Strip the Model 1903, 1907, or 1908 Clément

  1. 1903-10150-L-LO20S

    Clément M1903 Locked Open

    Remove the Magazine and make sure the chamber is empty.
  2. After verifying the chamber is empty, pull the trigger to uncock the striker on the Model 1903.
  3. Press in on the rear of the bolt to take the strain off the screws, and remove the screw or screws at the rear of the frame.
  4. Draw the upper receiver (recoil spring) housing off the front of the gun.
  5. Lift the bolt and recoil spring assembly out of the frame.
  6. Note: To lock the bolt open on the Model 1903, draw it back and turn the safety lever up.


The Model 1909 Clément

The Belgian patent for the Model 1909 Clément was filed in November of 1908, but the gun was already on the market in January of 1909, as we discover from an advertisement in Waffenschmied, and so it must have been in development for some months prior. The problem that all earlier Clément pistols have is that they require a screwdriver to field strip. But the Model 1909 can be field stripped with no tools, hence the early advertisement touts the gun as “the safest and most comfortable for cleaning”.

Belgian Patent 212168

US 970307 - Patent Drawing

U.S. Patent 97037

This patent was filed by Clément in November of 1908. It is listed as a subsidiary patent to the main patent of 27 July 1906, but it represents a major design advance. The patent states: “The present invention relates to a pistol of the type [i.e., an automatic pistol] and its special purpose is to make its various parts more easily accessible.” The basic design of the Model 1907 has been adapted to simplify disassembly and reassembly.

Clément filed and was granted similar patents in Great Britain (patent number 1909-14996) and the United States (patent number 970307).

The Model 1909 Design

Clément 1909 - SN10655 - field-stripped

Clément M1909 - SN 10655
7.65mm - field-stripped

The barrel is now part of the upper receiver housing, which is hinged to the frame by the assembly screw at the rear. The bottom of the barrel has a locking lug on it which is held in place by an extension of the trigger guard, which is also hinged on a pin on the lower receiver to form a quick release for the barrel. Finally, the backstrap is hinged on a pin at the rear of the grip tang and held in place by a latch at the bottom of the grip strap (with the exception of some of the early 7.65mm models). The hinged grip strap is not strictly necessary, but does allow access to the internals of the gun for cleaning and lubrication. The wire spring that tensions the safety lever has been moved to the upper frame from the removable backstrap. The transfer bar has been redesigned slightly, but functions identically to that in the Model 1908.

The inscription for the Model 1909 is moved to the top of the upper housing. It remains the same as earlier pistols:

- AUTOMATIC PISTOL CLEMENT’S PATENT –

Clément M1909 - SN7811 - 7.65mm

Clément M1909 - 7.65mm - SN 7811 - early model with no latch on backstrap

The grasping surface for the bolt is checkered instead of serrated. Toward the end of production (around serial number 35800) we begin to see triangular-cut serrations again. Serial number locations remain on the left side on the frame and upper housing and just in front of the checkering on the bolt. The safety markings are in English. The finish is rust blue. Grip plates are in checkered hard rubber with the Clement CC monogram in an oval cartouche at the top. The 1911 Adolf Frank (ALFA) catalogue lists the Model 1909 as being available in a nickel finish, and also with mother of pearl grip plates; we have documented one such gun.

The magazine for the Model 1909 is virtually identical to that on the Model 1908, with five holes on each side for viewing cartridges, but the knob on the bottom has been eliminated. Most of the 7.65mm guns are stamped MADE IN BELGIUM on the right side of the barrel. Some of the 6.35mm guns are stamped BELGIUM or MADE IN BELGIUM on the right side of the barrel.

There are a few variations. As stated earlier, the early production
Clément M1909 - SN 37186 - 6.35mm

Clément M1909 - SN 37186 - with long barrel
 and German proofs - 6.35mm (.25 caliber)

7.65mm guns do not have the hinged backstrap with a latch at the bottom, up to at least serial number 8344. By serial number 8945 we begin to see guns that have the latch. Please contact us if you can help refine these figures.* In late production (35000 to 37000 serial number range) we begin to see a number of 6.35mm guns with extra long (117mm) barrels. We have documented five, and there are almost certainly more. We do not observe export marks on these guns with long barrels, but two of the five have German proofs on the right side instead of Belgian.

 

The Model 1912 Clément

The Model 1912 represents the abandonment of most of the design characteristics of the earlier Clément Pistols.

Belgian Patent 243839

Belgian Patent 243839 Patent Drawing

Belgian Patent 243839

This patent was filed by Clément in March of 1912 and marks a clear departure from his earlier designs. For the first time he places the recoil spring beneath the barrel instead of above it. Three possible methods of barrel retention are shown. Two feature the barrel retained at the front, one with a button release on the right side and the other with a hinged trigger guard (like that on the Model 1909) to release the barrel and slide. The third design shows a spring-loaded plunger that retains the barrel at the rear, released by a lever on the left side. Also detailed in this patent is a lockwork design that for the first time features a true disconnector that prevents the gun from firing when the slide is out of battery. The gun shown is striker-fired. An unusually-shaped wire spring tensions both the magazine release and the sear in this patent.

The Model 1912 Designs

There are three distinct types of the Model 1912 in three distinct serial number ranges, each with different design characteristics. We will describe them in the order of the serial numbers.

The Type I Model 1912

Clément M1912 - SN 13031 - 7.65mm

Clément M1912 - Type I - SN 13031
7.65mm (.32 caliber)

The first type of the Model 1912 is found in 7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP) caliber and is easily recognized by the milled area on each side of the frame above the trigger guard. It is the first Clément pistol to have the recoil spring beneath the barrel instead of above it, and also the first Clément pistol to have a slide, and to have a true disconnector that prevents operation of the sear when the slide is out of battery. The disconnector is just to the left of the sear, and when pressed down by the recoiling slide it prevents the transfer bar from reaching the sear. The gun is striker-fired. The safety lever blocks the sear, when engaged. There is an external transfer bar that runs under the right grip plate.

The Model 1912 is unique among the pistols of its day in that the locking mechanism for the barrel
1912-13031-R-field-stripped-S

Clément M1912 - Type I - SN 13031
7.65mm (.32 caliber) - field-stripped

and slide is at the front of the barrel instead of the rear. (Some pistols have release mechanisms at the front, but the actual connection between barrel and slide is at the rear.) A T-shaped lug depends from the front of the barrel, is fitted into an appropriate recess in the front of the frame, and is held in place by a spring-loaded plunger. The plunger on early guns is flat on the bottom, but is angled on later guns to allow for easier reinsertion of the barrel lug into the frame.  Pressing upward on a small button or screw at the front of the barrel lug releases the plunger and allows quick removal of the barrel and slide. The rear of the barrel simply rests on the upper portion of the frame and is held in place by the slide. The barrel incorporates a small cartridge guide lug above the chamber.

The gun is marked on the left side of the slide in two lines of all-capital sans-serif characters as follows:

MODELE 1912. BREVET 243839

--LIEGE--ACIER GARANTI--

The finish is rust blue. There are 9 plunge-milled flat-bottomed slide serrations at the rear. The safety lever has a checkered gripping-surface, and the safety markings are in French: FEU and SUR.

The serial number is on the right side, above and behind the trigger, and is also stamped on the bottom of the slide. The last three digits are stamped on the bottom of the barrel. Beneath the serial number on the right side are the maker’s initials: C.P.C. The grip plates are of checkered hard rubber with the Clément CC monogram in an oval cartouche at the top.

The magazine release is a grooved lever on the base of the grip, nearly identical to that on the 1903 Colt or the 1906 FN Browning. The standard box-type magazine holds six cartridges and has five holes in each side for viewing them. There is no magazine safety.

We have only recorded three serial numbers for this type: 12077, 12800, and 13031. Please contact us if you have one of these guns.*

Belgian Patent 249442
Belgian Patent 249442 Patent Drawing

Belgian Patent 249442

This patent was filed by Clément in July of 1912 as an addendum to the previous patent. It details a method of barrel and slide retention that fixes the barrel at the front, with a button release on the front of the gun. It also details the transfer bar, trigger, and sear. A flat spring tensions the sear and another tensions the manual safety lever. A plunger mechanism trips the sear but immediately releases it, requiring the trigger to be released and pulled again to move the sear a second time. An identical patent was filed in Germany in 1913 (patent number 294811).

The Type II Model 1912

Clément M1912 - SN 38341

Clément M1912 - Type II - SN 38341
6.35mm (.25 caliber)

The second type of the Model 1912 is found in 6.35mm Browning (.25 ACP) caliber, and is easily recognized by the flattened area at the rear half of the top of the slide. The design shows clear influence from the Walman pistol manufactured by the Spanish company F. Arizmendi y Goenaga. The Walman was patented in 1908 and appears in the Adolf Frank (ALFA) catalogue for 1911 along with the Model 1909 Clément. Like the Type I, this gun also has a slide and barrel that attaches to the frame at the front. The patent for this design (Belgian patent number 249442) shows the barrel release effected by a lever or button, or by a pivoting trigger guard, but the production gun uses a simple screw on the right side.

This Clément design does not have a true disconnector, but instead has a spring and plunger
Clément M1912 - SN 37914 - Enigma

Clément M1912 - Type II- SN 37914
6.35mm (.25 caliber) - marked ‘Enigma’

release mechanism that trips the sear one time when the trigger is pulled and requires the trigger to be released and pulled again for a second shot. The transfer bar, like that on the Type I, runs under the right grip plate. The manual safety locks the sear. There are 17 triangular-cut serrations on the slide. The magazine holds 6 cartridges and has 5 holes on each side for viewing them.

The finish and grip plates are the same as on the Type I, but the magazine release is a button on the lower corner of the left grip (like the Models 8 and 9). The slide inscription is identical to that on the Type I:

MODELE 1912. BREVET 243839

--LIEGE--ACIER GARANTI--

In addition, some guns are marked “Fulgor” in script on the left side of the frame above the bow of the trigger guard. Fulgor is Latin for “flash” or “lightning”. We have observed one specimen marked “Enigma” in script on the left side of the slide with ACIER GARANTI (Guaranteed Steel) beneath.

The earliest serial number we have recorded for the Type II is 36403, and the highest is 38341. Please contact us if you have one of these guns.*

Clément M1912 - SN40780 - marked Fulgor

Clément M1912 - Type III - SN 40780
6.35mm (.25 caliber) - marked ‘Fulgor’

The Type III Model 1912

The third type of the Model 1912 is found in 6.35mm Browning (.25 ACP) caliber. It is nearly identical to the Type I, retaining the nine flat-bottomed slide serrations, except that it is slightly smaller in all dimensions, does not have milled grooves on either side of the frame, and has a button magazine release on the lower left grip. Two of the five specimens we have observed have barrels that extend past the front of the slide. Most observed specimens are marked the same as the Types I and II:

MODELE 1912. BREVET 243839

--LIEGE--ACIER GARANTI--

though one observed specimen is unmarked. One specimen is marked “Fulgor” on the frame.

The earliest serial number we have recorded for the Type III is 40780, and the highest is 45080. Please contact us if you have one of these guns.*
 

The Model 1914 Clément

The Model 1914 is likely a prototype for a gun that was never manufactured commercially. The last time one was sold it was listed as a Model 1912, primarily due to its resemblance to the Type I Model 1912, with the milled groove on the frame. However, the patents clearly indicate a manufacture date in late 1913 or early 1914, and internally the gun is quite different from the Model 1912. We know of two examples: serial number 6, shown here, and serial number 13, both in private collections. There may well be a few others. It has been suggested that the Model 1914, and possibly some late Model 1912 pistols, may have been made by Neumann Frères, with which Clément had had a long-standing business relationship, but there is no firm evidence. An advertisement from the 1920’s states that Neumann Frères is the successor to Clément and lists Clément’s old address at 39 Rue Chéri, which leads us to believe that Clément’s factory may have continued in operation long after his death, likely under Neumann’s management.

Belgian Patent 263467

German Patent 294812 Patent Drawing

German Patent 294812

This patent was filed by Clément’s widow, Joséphine, and Victor Loiselet in December of 1913. The patent is for a method of barrel retention with an under-barrel release button. It also describes the internal hammer and sear mechanism with a lobe on the transfer bar that forces the bar downward and out of contact with the sear when the trigger is all the way to the rear. As in several previous patents, there is no mechanism to prevent the gun from being fired when the slide is out of battery, but the design requires that the trigger be released and pressed again in order to fire another cartridge. The patent also describes a mechanism that locks the slide and the trigger when the magazine is empty. When a full magazine is inserted the mechanism releases the slide lock so the slide can close and chamber the first cartridge in the new magazine.

A simplified version of this patent was also filed in Austria (patent number 81743), Germany (patent number 294812), and Great Britain (patent number 1914-11534), leaving out the description of the lockwork, hammer, and transfer bar release mechanism.

Belgian Patent 264039

This patent was filed by Clément’s widow, Joséphine, and Victor Loiselet in January of 1914 as an addendum to the previous patent. It is for a mechanism that locks the transfer bar when the magazine is empty.

This patent was also filed in Great Britain (patent number 1914-18190).

The Model 1914 Design

Clément M1914 - SN 6 - 9mm Browning Long

Clément M1914 - SN 6 - 9mm Browning Long

The Model 1914 Clément is chambered for the 9mm Browning Long cartridge. It has an internal hammer tensioned by a coil spring and plunger built into the backstrap of the grip. The grip backstrap is hinged on a pin and swivels outward just like that of the Model 1909. A lever about 30mm up from the base of the grip, on the left side, locks the backstrap in place. The magazine release, which also serves as a small lanyard ring, is at the base of the left grip. There is an external transfer bar that runs under the right grip plate. The transfer bar has a semi-circular lobe on its upper edge, which forces it down and out of contact with the sear as the trigger moves to the rear, requiring the trigger to be released and pulled again for the subsequent shot. The manual safety locks the hammer and the slide. The slide lock mechanism shown in the Belgian patent is not implemented in this example.

Clément M1914 - SN6 - Field-stripped

Clément M1914 - SN 6 - Field-stripped

The finish is rust blue, and the grip plates are of checkered wood. The magazine has a long slot on either side for viewing cartridges. The slide extends several inches past the front of the frame, and on its underside, just in front of the frame is a button which, when pressed, retracts a small plunger in the lug on the bottom of the barrel and allows the barrel and slide to be removed from the frame. The barrel itself extends several inches beyond the front of the slide. The grip is cut for a shoulder stock. We know that serial number 13 has a shoulder stock, but we do not have photographs of it at this time. Please contact us if you can provide photographs of the shoulder stock.*

Markings are similar to those on many of Clément’s earlier pistols. The gun is marked on the left side of the slide in all-capital serif characters:

- AUTOMATIC PISTOL CLEMENT’S PATENT -

and on the right side of the frame, “C.P.C.” The serial number is stamped on the base of the grip and on the base of the magazine.

The cartridge chosen, the size of the weapon, the lanyard ring, and the shoulder stock all add up to a pistol designed for military use--plus we must take into consideration Loiselot’s military connections. We have been unable to identify a military trial that the gun might have been intended for, but in any case the war intervened in August of 1914 and that was apparently the end of the story for this pistol.
 

The Smith & Wesson .35 Caliber Auto Pistol of 1913

In 1909 Joseph H. Wesson, son of Daniel B. Wesson, bought the rights to Clément’s patents. He seems to have started with the design of the Model 1909 Clément in 7.65mm and quickly began to file a series of patents that represent improvements to that design. It is not our intention to go into any great detail here, other than to note that Wesson’s primary improvements consisted of a grip-safety and a mechanism to disconnect the bolt from the recoil spring so that the gun could be cocked with relatively little effort.
Smith & Wesson M1913 - SN 558

Smith & Wesson Model 1913 - SN 558

He retained the hinged trigger guard but not the hinged backstrap, and chose to chamber the pistol for a proprietary .35 caliber cartridge. The pistol became known, informally, as the Model 1913, after its first year of production, and by 1922 about 8350 of them had been made. At that point the pistol was redesigned and chambered for the .32 ACP cartridge, but the new version did not sell well either. The .32 model was discontinued in 1937 with only 957 made. The Smith & Wesson auto pistol was exquisitely crafted, but was considerably more expensive than similar guns made by competing companies.

 


* If you have photographs or information to share, please write to edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com.

 

Selected Photographs
Use the arrows at the bottom of each page
to navigate to additional photographs.

Clément Documents and Advertisements
Data Sheet for Clement Auto Pistols
Model 1902
Model 1903 Type I
Model 1903 Type II
Model 1907 - 6.35mm
Model 1907 - 7.65mm
Model 1908
Model 1909 - 7.65mm
Model 1909 - 6.35mm
Model 1912
Model 1914

 


References

  • Bastié, Jean-Pierre. “Un pistolet Clément.” La Gazette des armes, no. 300, June 1999.
  • Calvó, Juan L. & Méruelo, Hector J. Spanish Handguns 1875s-1950s, Part Three, Semiautomatics and Automatic Machine Pistols. www.catalogacionarmas.com.  2013
  • Cercle Hístorique de Fléron. Ancienne zones industrielles du Pays de Liège: Les usines hydrauliques. 40th Anniversary Publication: June-September 2000.
  • Daubresse, Alain.  Les armuriers Liègeois a travers leurs réalisations.  Alain Daubresse: 2014.
  • Daubresse, Alain.  littlegun.be
  • Erlemeier, Hans A. and Brandt, Jakob H. Manual of Pistol and Revolver Cartridges.  J.E. Erlemeier Verlag, Wiesbaden: 1967.
  • Fox, Steven B.  “The Charola y Anitua.”  Gun Collector’s Digest.  DBI Books, Northbrook, IL: 1985.
  • Handy, M. P., chief editor, World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893, Official Catalogue.  W. B. Conkey, Chicago: 1893.
  • Hogg, Ian V. and Walter, John. Pistols of the World, 4th Revised Ed. Krause Publications, Iola, WI: 2004.
  • Hogg, Ian V. and Weeks, John. Pistols of the World. Arms & Armour Press, London: 1978.
  • König, Klaus-Peter and Hugo, Martin.  Taschenpistolen: Taschen- und Miniaturpistolen, Eine Auswahl aus 100 Jahren.  Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart: 1985.
  • Lugs, Jaroslav.  Firearms Past and Present.  Grenville, London: 1973.
  • Matthews, J. Howard, Firearms Identification.  Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois: 1962.
  • Scarlata, Paul. “Smith & Wesson’s .35 Automatic”.  Shooting Times, 3 January 2011.
  • Schönbauer, Gerhard.  The Vestpocket Pistol Collector.
  • Schroeder, Joseph J. Jr., Editor.  Arms of the World 1911: The Fabulous ALFA Catalogue of Arms and the Outdoors. Follett Publishing Company, Chicago: 1972.
  • Simmons, Donald M. Jr.  “Smith & Wesson 35 Auto Pistols: A History for Collectors.” Gun Digest, 1976.
  • Stucki, Alexander. “Clement-Pistole Modell 1903.” Schweizer Waffen-Magazin. October 2001.
  • Traister, John E.  Antique Guns: The Collector’s Guide.  Stoeger Publishing, Accokeek, Maryland: 1994.
  • Walter, John.  Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers.  Greenhill/Stackpole, London/Pennsylvania: 2001.
  • White, Henry P. and Munhall, Burton D.  Pistol and Revolver Cartridges. A.S. Barnes & Co., N.Y.: 1967.
  • Ziesing, Dr. Dirk. “Selbstladepistole Clément-Warnant Modell 1903: Guter Kauf.” Deutsches Waffen- Journal, July 2011.

There is considerable information about the various Clément pistols thanks mostly to a group of collectors on the luger.gunboards.com forum who have been documenting serial numbers and sharing photographs and information about them for a number of years. This article would not be possible without the information they have so generously shared.

Special thanks to Vaclav (“VAC”) of the luger.gunbaords forum, and to Alexander Stucki, Roland Adam, and Leonardo Antaris for their assistance and support.
 

Copyright 2018 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.
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