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The 1910 Dreyse 9mm Pistol
by Ed Buffaloe

 

J. Howard Matthews, in his book Firearms Identification, refers to the Dreyse 9mm pistol as the Model 1910, though an article in the 20 January 1912 Der Waffenschmied calls the gun a Model 1911. It is also known as the Dreyse Armeepistole. Like the Model 1907 Dreyse pistol in 7.65mm Browning, the Model 1910 pistol in 9mm Parabellum was designed by Louis Schmeisser for Rheinische Metallwaaren & Maschinenfabrik (RM&M). The exact date of the first design is not known, but it seems likely that Schmeisser began work on the more powerful pistol soon after production for the Model 1907 had begun, and clearly the larger gun was based on the earlier design.

Blowback Prototype

Unnumbered prototype w/ ejector screw.

ALFA Catalogue Image

1911 ALFA catalog illustration, w/ ejector screw.

Model 1910 Dreyse - SN1113 - production model

SN 1113 (early production version)

Blowback Prototype

Unnumbered in-the-white prototype.

1910 Dreyse - SN1027 - delayed blowback

SN 1027 - delayed blowback.

1910 Dreyse - SN1484 - delayed blowback

SN 1484 - delayed blowback.

Two versions of the Model 1910 were made, and a number of prototypes of varying design were created in the process. One of the earliest prototypes must be the unnumbered blued gun shown above with serrations at the front of the slide and a cutout area in the upper frame housing. This gun apparently has no lock or delay mechanism for the slide. The reason for the cutout is not apparent. Note that this gun has a screw to secure the ejector at the rear, and the rear grip-strap is
Unnumbered in-the-white Dreyse prototype

Unnumbered Dreyse prototype.

cut to accept a rifle stock.

Another early prototype is the unnumbered in-the-white one, shown above and at right. (In recent years this gun has been marked with the number 7B). The rear lever, hinged just above the breech, is held in place by a flat arm of spring steel, which must be removed in order to lift the lever and retract the slide. The mechanism is described by Göertz and Sturgess as follows: “A single specimen of a second delayed blow-back type exists, an in-the-white prototype utilising a long flexible steel spring arm over the bolt to load an angled cam against opening of the action; as with the normal production weapon, this can be lifted up when first loading the pistol to allow the bolt to be withdrawn.” However, this description is inaccurate. The gun has a straight blowback action with no delay mechanism, as can be seen in the photograph of it disassembled.

The “Delayed Blowback” Version

This version has a delayed blowback mechanism
1910 Dreyse SN1027

SN 1027

consisting of a swiveling rocker, with a short arm to the rear and a longer arm at the front. The rocker turns in a cut in the slide just above the barrel, and is visible externally on the right side of serial number 1027, though not in later versions which have the rocker pinned to the slide. When the slide is in battery, the shorter rear arm locks over a lug in the housing above the barrel. What look like slide serrations are actually a separate movable slide piece that can be drawn backward. An inclined surface on the rear of the serrated slide piece engages the long front arm of the rocker, forcing it down, which in turn raises the rear arm and unlocks the action so the slide can be retracted. When the gun is fired the force of recoil is powerful enough to overcome the locking action of the rocker, but the delay is sufficient to allow for a relatively light recoil spring.

The rocker bears a vague
1910 Dreyse SN1027

Slide & rocker - SN 1027.

resemblance to the triangular mechanism in a locked-breech rifle design patented by Louis Schmeisser in the United States in 1907, though the actual functionality is quite different. See U.S. patent 909233.

In his Deutsches Waffen-Journal article of 1989, Tillig states: “It is incomprehensible why Louis Schmeisser did not patent and manufacture this pistol.” Tillig briefly speculates that perhaps the patent was too similar to one held by Mauser, or possibly the system was not reliable enough for a military weapon. It does not appear that this version was ever tested by the Landsgendarmerie (see section below on the production version)the test notes, excerpts from which are provided in the Göertz and Sturgess book, do not mention this design.

1910 Dreyse SN1027 disassembled

SN 1027 disassembled.

At least five Dreyse 9mm pistols are known to have the rocker delay mechanism for the slide: serial numbers 1027, 1034, 1461, 1484, and another gun with the number 15 on the right side of the frame just behind the bow of the trigger guard. (Please write to me if you know of another.*) The earliest numbered gun, 1027, is in the collection of Gregor Wensing of Germany. Serial number 1034 is shown in Tillig’s article of 1989. Serial number 1461 is in the Belgian Army Museum, and has had the backstrap cut to accept a Mauser C96 type of holster stock. Serial number 1484 is pictured in the Göertz and Sturgess book. Numbers 1034, 1461, 1484, and the one numbered 15 have the rocker pinned into the slide for greater ease of assembly. These guns (especially serial number 1027) look very much like an oversize Model 1907. None of the delayed blowback guns has an external ejector lever.

The Production Version

 German patent number 54361 patent drawing

German patent number 54361.

What Schmeisser ultimately patented was a gun with a recoil spring so powerful that it required a mechanism to disconnect the spring from the slide in order to cock the gun and chamber the first cartridge. The delay mechanism was abandoned entirely. German patent number 54361 was filed on 27 June 1910 and was granted on 10 July 1912.

According to Göertz’s and Sturgess’ book Borchardt & Luger Automatic Pistols, the German Rural Constabulary (Landgendarmerie) were already familiar with the Model 1907 Dreyse, and decided to test the 9mm Dreyse against the P08 Luger and a modified “self-cocking” or double action Model 1883 Revolver.

The Model 1910 Dreyse was tested in December 1910 and again in March 1911, and the gun tested was likely very similar to that shown in the ALFA catalog of 1911, with a screw on the left side of the upper housing to hold the ejector in place.  However, the heavy recoil of the gun caused the screw to come loose, so later versions of the design have the ejector press-fit into the housing.

During testing by the Landsgendarmerie, a number of changes were made to the design, including upping the barrel rifling lands from 4 to 6 to increase accuracy, heightening the front sight, widening the trigger, eliminating the ejector screw, redesigning the pins at the pivot points so as not to work loose under recoil, strengthening the walls of the magazine, and increasing the power of the magazine spring.  During testing late in May of 1911, four jams were noted, which were attributed by RM&M to faulty ammunition. Göertz and Sturgess comment: “There was no suggestion that the deformation of the cases was caused by the unsupported parts of the case being subjected to excessive internal breech pressures because of the early opening of the blowback action, but...the Dreyse view was that the cases should be reinforced to counter this problem.”  RM&M stated they would make their own ammunition for the pistol in future, and a few rare boxes of this ammunition have apparently surfaced in the cartridge collecting community (see RM&M 9mm Ammo).

Ultimately the Dreyse was recommended for adoption by the Landgendarmerie over the P08 Parabellum (Luger) pistol. It was noted that while both guns were complicated to disassemble, the men were already familiar with the 1907 Dreyse. The safety of the Dreyse was considered superior, as were the safety markings, and the magazine was reported easier to load. The double-action M83 Reichsrevolver was given short shrift.

Model 1910 Dreyse - SN1396

SN 1396

Donald Maus, in his book History Writ in Steel, says: “A 1912 Thuringia Arms Industry annual report states that 5,600 9mm Dreyses had been ordered by the Imperial Prussian Landgendarmerie. However, no police-marked 9mm Dreyses have been observed and evidence suggests that none of these [were] delivered.” A number of specimens in the 1300 serial number range have a bright area on the left side where something was likely ground off. A case could be made that some guns were delivered to the Landgendarmerie and were stamped “LG,” but the stamp was ground off when the guns were not accepted. It is not known for certain what, if anything, was removed from the guns. However, I have it from two independent sources that there are Model 1910 Dreyse holsters stamped “LG.”

Göertz and Sturgess state: “In the 1912 edition of the annual “Thüringschen Waffenindustrie” it was reported that nearly all police forces in Germany were going to buy the pistol, and that the Prussian Finance Ministry had ordered 2700 of them to equip the Border Customs officers. However, as it turned out, the Rheinmetall company at Sommerda...were unable to produce any significant numbers of working pieces, causing the Gewehr-Prufungskommission in 1913 finally to declare the whole design not to be war-worthy.” The gun appears in the 1913-14 AKAH catalog as well as in the 1914 GECO catalog, which were likely already in preparation by the time the gun was determined to be unworkable.

Serial numbers began with 1001. Most known specimens have serial numbers between 1001 and 1531, with a few in the low 3000’s. Hence total production is estimated at less than 600 guns. I would very much appreciate hearing from readers who own these guns, so that I can collect more serial number information and more accurately describe known variants.*

Description of the Production Mechanism

Model 1910 Dreyse - SN1116

Serial Number 1116

Like the Model 1907, the 9mm Dreyse has a slide that reciprocates atop the barrel, and a breech block that depends beneath and behind the slide. The 9mm Dreyse’s concentric recoil spring is held captive in the upper receiver housing by a bushing at the front of the barrel. The recoil spring bushing extends backward from the front of the barrel and has a lug that projects upward at the rear. The recoil spring disconnector mechanism is in the form of a flat slide retractor plate that extends across the top of the slide from front to back and is hinged at the front. The slide retractor plate snaps in place on top of the slide and forms a sort of cover for it. The retractor plate has a lug on the bottom, about two inches back from the front of the gun, which engages the lug of the recoil spring bushing when the retractor plate is engaged with the slide. To retract the slide, all one has to do is lift up the retractor plate and draw the slide and breech block to the rear against the negligible resistance of the striker spring.

There is a second lug on the bottom of the retractor plate which engages a spring-loaded plunger in the top of the breech block. This plunger locks the striker when the slide retractor plate is open–this prevents the gun from being fired when the slide retractor is not locked in place on top of the gun.

Like the Model 1907, the upper receiver housing is hinged at the front and can be lifted up from the lower receiver. However, the 9mm does not have a latch at the back to unlock the upper housing.  The pistol has stout pins that secure the upper receiver to the lower receiver both front and rear.  The pins have a built-in spring to retain them. A similar pin at the front attaches the slide retractor plate to the slide.

Model 1910 Dreyse - SN1116 - field stripped

Serial Number 1116 field stripped.

Once the upper housing is hinged upward, the retractor plate can be opened and the slide can be drawn backward slightly to remove it, the breech block, and the retractor plate as a unit. No further stripping is necessary in order to clean the gun. Like most of the Model 1907 pistols, the 9mm requires the striker to be cocked before it will fire, but pulling the trigger draws the striker back a little further before releasing it to deliver a slightly more powerful strike on hard military primers.

Sights are integral with the slide retractor plate. Ejection is to the right through a port in the upper receiver housing.  The extractor is made of spring steel and fits in a slot on the right side of the breech block. The ejector is press fit into the left side of the upper receiver. On the exterior the ejector forms what looks like a lever, but it is not movable and serves no apparent purpose. A rotating manual safety lever on the left rear side of the upper receiver locks the sear when engaged.  A pin on the back of the striker protrudes through a hole in the back of the receiver when the striker is cocked. The slide locks open on the last round–held open by the magazine follower–but the slide is released when the magazine is withdrawn. There is a lanyard loop at the base of the left grip.

The left side of the upper receiver housing is marked in sans-serif characters as follows:

Rheinische Metallwaaren- & Maschinenfabrik
ABT. SÖMMERDA

The right side is marked just above the ejection port in serif characters:

DREYSE

Serial numbers are found on the bottom of the breech block (visible when the slide is locked open) and on the frame just in front of the front hinge. Some magazines are numbered to the gun, and some are not.


* Write to edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com.

References

  • Görtz, Joachim and Sturgess, Geoffrey.The Borchardt & Luger Automatic Pistols. Brad Simpson, Galesburg, IL:  2011.
  • Hogg, Ian. German Handguns.  Greenhill, London: 2001.
  • Matthews, J. Howard. Firearms Identification, Volume I.  Thomas Books, Springfield, IL: 1962.
  • Maus, Donald. History Writ in Steel: German Police Markings, 1900-1936. Brad Simpson, Galesburg, IL: 2009.
  • Schroeder, Joseph J.,editor.  Arms of the World--1911, the ALFA Catalogue of Arms and the Outdoors.  Follett, Chicago: 1972.
  • Tillig, Hans-Joachim. “Sammlernotizen: Die Selbstladepistolen Dreyse und Rheinmetall.” Deutsches Waffen-Journal, August 1989.
  • Wilson, R.K. Textbook of Automatic Pistols.  Arms & Armour Press, London:  1975.

Special thanks to Bob Adams for allowing me to examine his guns, and for providing photographs
and information. Thanks to Dr. Stefan Klein, Gregor Wensing, and Bill Chase for research assistance and photographs.
 

Copyright 2011-2020 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.
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