The Bergmann and Lignose
I would not have been able to complete this article without the assistance of my friend and sometime collaborator, Stefan Klein, who has been most assiduous in researching German source materials for me. I would also like to thank my friend Ed Dittus for providing additional research materials and translating an article from the French.
Hugo Schmeisser left the Bergmann company after the war in 1919 as a result of disagreements with the company over the licensing of his machine gun designs to foreign firms. Schmeisser and his brother Hans formed their own company for a time, which made Diana air rifles for C.G. Haenel, but eventually the Schmeisser brothers became shareholders and full time employees of Haenel. Between 1919 and 1921, the Schmeisser brothers designed and patented the Haenel Schmeisser pistol.
After the war manufacture of military weapons and particularly fully automatic weapons was banned in Germany by the Inter- Allied Military Control Commission. The Bergmann company turned its attention to the manufacture of pocket and vest-pocket pistols, and was soon acquired by Aktiengesellschaft Lignose, which was a holding company in Berlin with interests in explosives and ammunition.
There are three patents relevant to this story:
Chylewski’s British patent references a German patent of 1914, which we have been unable to locate, however we assume it would be substantially the same as the second Austrian patent and the British patent.
The first information we obtained when we began to investigate these pistols came from Ian Hogg’s book German Handguns. Hogg says (p. 23):
Theodor Bergmann retired in 1910 and died in 1915. The business continued under the guidance of Hugo Schmeisser (the son of Louis, who had left the company in 1912), and in about 1912 Schmeisser began producing an automatic pistol which bore no similarity to the earlier Bergmann designs but leaned more towards the Browning 1906 pattern.
Hogg states that “Hugo Schmeisser left Bergmanns in 1919...”, and: “At the same time, the company acquired some sort of interest in a one-hand pistol developed by a Pole named Witold Chylewski...” (p.23). Joseph J. Schroeder, Jr. (p. 42) indicates that Bergmann did not begin the manufacture of its pocket pistols until after the war, and that “during this period, Bergmann purchased the rights to a one-hand cocking system developed by W. Chylewski...” However, Guillou states (p. 29) that “The firm Lignose also decided to exploit a patent granted to one Witold Chylewski which the Bergmann firm acquired in 1913.” The reader will note that the first Austrian patent was filed in 1913 but was not actually granted until 1914, about two months before the outbreak of World War I. It is not out of the question that Chylewski might have sold his first patent to the Bergmann company for much needed cash, since he still had another patent for a different mechanism in the works, but we have no certain indication of when or if this might have taken place.
Guillou also indicates (p. 29) that the Bergmann company was sold off to Lignose immediately after the war and that “Lignose used the prestigious name of Bergmann to market classic pocket pistols based on the Browning design.” This implies that the Bergmann company itself never marketed the gun, but that it was marketed by Lignose making use of the prestige of the Bergmann brand. We believe what follows disproves that.
We find no advertisements for Bergmann pocket pistols prior to World War I. The first ad for the Bergmann pocket pistols to appear in Der Waffenschmied (“The Gunsmith,” a newsletter for the German arms industry) was in the 25 August 1921 issue, and the last ad for the Bergmann pistols appeared in the 15 March 1922 issue.
The Bergmann was also advertised in the GECO catalogue number 30, which probably appeared about 1921.
This advertisement in the GECO catalogue states that the einhand pistol can be carried in the pocket or left on the bedside table in a perfectly safe condition, but can be cocked one-handed in an instant and be ready for use.
Der Waffenschmied for 15 February 1922 reports that the Theodor Bergmann company was sold to Lignose A.G., though the exact date of the sale isn’t given. The first advertisement for the Lignose pistols appears in Der Waffenschmied for 25 July 1922.
Advertising for the Lignose pistol in Der Waffenschmied ends in 1927. In the 10 March 1927 edition of Der Waffenschmied there is a notice that the firm Suhler Waffenfabrik Gebrüder Merkel has acquired part of the Lignose factory in Suhl, including the test ranges. And in the 28 September 1928 edition a notice appears stating that the focus of the Lignose Company is now the production and usage of chemical and technical products and all related domestic and foreign business.
The highest serial number we have recorded for a Lignose pistol is below 55000, and we know that serial number 42478 was proofed in Austria in 1927, so we can probably assume that production ended sometime in 1928. Whatever the case, the gun continued to be available for sale in various catalogues at least until the beginning of World War II.
To sum up, it appears likely that the Bergmann Company began design work on the pocket and vest-pocket pistols immediately after the war, and began to market them in 1921. It remains unclear whether the Chylewski patent was obtained prior to or after the war, but production of the einhand pistol did not begin until after the war. Lignose purchased Bergmann early in 1922. The highest serial number we have recorded for a pistol with Bergmann markings is 6825. The lowest serial number we have recorded for a pistol with Lignose markings is 6623, though most guns continue to be marked Bergmann until about serial number 6900, after which all we have documented are marked Lignose. Lignose may have continued marketing guns with the Bergmann slide inscription after they bought the company. They definitely continued to use Bergmann grips after they began using the Lignose slide inscription. Production probably ended by the end of 1928.
While Chylewski may have sold his first Austrian patent (68151) to the Bergmann Company, he retained the rights to his second patent (69618), and made some sort of deal with the Swiss company SIG (Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft) to manufacture the gun. According to König and Hugo (p. 162) as well as Dr. Erich Pappe (p. 76) the Chylewski einhandpistole (one-hand pistol) was produced in 1922 and 1923. There were problems with the design (it was all too easy to have the gun fire unintended when the cocker hit the trigger) and SIG quickly ended production and sold off the remaining stock. Many had their cockers disabled by the addition of a screw on the left side. The general consensus is that less than 1000 were made.
The Bergmann and Lignose Models 2 and 3
The Model 2 was a Westentaschenpistole (vest-pocket pistol), holding six rounds in the magazine, about the same size as the 1906 Browning. The Model 3 was a Taschenpistole (pocket pistol) with a barrel and slide identical to the Model 2 but with a longer grip, holding nine rounds in the magazine. They are typical Browning clones, with an unlocked breach, the recoil spring beneath the barrel, and disassembly similar to the Browning (except the barrel turns in the opposite direction). The pistols are often said to be based on the 1906 Browning, due to their size, but mechanically they more closely resemble the 1903 Browning, with an internal hammer instead of a striker.
The Bergmann is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters:
THEODOR BERGMANN GAGGENAU
The early Lignose (at least up to SN 21864) is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters:
AKT.-GES. LIGNOSE, BERLIN
The later Lignose (at least after SN 22148) is marked on the left side of the slide in all capital sans-serif characters:
AKT.-GES. LIGNOSE, BERLIN
The serial number is stamped inside the grip frame at the base of the grip and on the right side of the slide. It may also be found stamped inside the slide, on the barrel, and on other small parts. The highest serial number we have observed for a gun with Bergmann markings is 6825. The lowest serial number we have observed for a gun with Lignose markings is 6900. Many of the early Lignose guns continued to have grip plates marked Bergmann.
Bergmann and early Lignose pistols (at least through SN 7894) have 12 coarse triangular-cut slide serrations at the rear of the slide. Beginning at least with SN 8643 Lignose pistols have 15 fine triangular-cut slide serrations (there may be some exceptions to this, but we have not noted any as yet).
A few of the early Bergmann pistols have wooden grips with a “B” monogram in the grip medallion. The wooden grips may have been available as a factory upgrade, though we have no documentation to verify this. All early advertisements show checkered hard rubber grips with the Bergmann name angling down from left to right, and most production pistols have these same hard rubber grips. While even the earliest Lignose advertisements show checkered hard rubber grips with the Lignose name on them, as noted above many early Lignose guns have been found with Bergmann grips. Lignose A.G. was not inclined to waste anything.
Several Bergmann pistols have been identified with a loaded chamber indicator in the slide instead of the cocked hammer indicator in the frame. There are probably others as yet undocumented, as the database has far fewer Bergmann than Lignose pistols. Clearly the Bergmann company experimented with this feature and may have offered it as an option or upgrade but we have no documentation for this. We have not observed a Lignose pistol with this feature.
The Bergmann and Lignose Models 2A and 3A, Einhandpistole (one-hand pistol)
The advertisement from the GECO catalogue number 30 (shown above) is sufficient proof that the one-hand pocket pistols appeared at the same time as the other more conventional pistols. The einhand pistol had the front portion of the triggerguard removed, and in its place is a cocker shaped very much like a trigger. The cocker fits against a shoulder on the front of the slide and can easily be grasped by the index finger to draw the slide back and cock the pistol. The cocker has rails on the inside which fit into grooves milled in the frame. The
Cockers on Bergmann pistols are made of steel. Early cockers on Lignose pistols are made of brass (with a few exceptions) up until approximately serial number 17000, after which they are made of steel.
Markings and other attributes are identical to those on the Models 2 and 3.
The Models 4 and 5, or 4A and 5A
According to Hogg (p. 23) the Model 4 was an enlarged version of the Model 2 chambered for the 7.65mm (.32 caliber), with an eight round magazine. The Model 5 was the same gun chambered for the 9mm Kurz (.380 caliber), with a seven round magazine. J. Howard Matthews also lists the Models 4 and 5 in the first volume of his book Firearms Identification, giving dimensions and technical data for both pistols, with a note stating that the information comes from a Bergmann Manual. We have seen only a single illustration of a Model 5 in an obscure volume by Dutch author P.B.W. Kersten entitled Wapens en Munitie, where it is listed as being available in both 7.65mm and 9mm K (p. 720), but the illustration looks like a Model 3 with the bottom of the grip cut off.
If these models were ever manufactured, there ought to at least be a prototype in a museum somewhere, but we have not been able to locate a single photograph of one. Gerhard Bock, in his 1923 book, Moderne
Interestingly, SIG manufactured at least one prototype 7.65mm Chylewski einhand pistol. It is illustrated in Dr. Erich Pappe’s article in the Deutsche Waffenjournal (p. 77).
Shooting the Lignose
Field Stripping the Model 2 or 3:
Field Stripping the Model 2A or 3A:
Copyright 2015 by Ed Buffaloe. All rights reserved.