The Mann Pistol Model 1920/1921
by Stefan Klein
The Fritz Mann Feinmaschinen – Waffen – und Werkzeugfabrik (Machinery, Guns and Tools Factory) was founded 1896 in Suhlerneundorf, Thuringia. Later, in 1925, the company operated under the name of Fritz Mann Maschinenfabrik Suhl -Neundorf. The Mann family, the brothers Fritz and Otto Mann and one of Fritz’s sons Willi, were talented inventors and dealt not only with guns but also with other machinery: ski bindings, buzz saws, two-stroke engines, and crash-helmets. However, by the late 1930s the Manns were focused on other things besides their gun and machinery business, and in 1938 the company was liquidated.
What are the innovations of the .25 ACP Mann Pistol? It is simple physics that you need a certain mass of breech block in a blow-back operated gun. If you do not want to use a mechanical breech locking mechanism, you must slow the extraction of the empty case to control the point in time when the gun opens. Fritz Mann chose a circular chamber groove. Here the pressure of the discharged cartridge, for a short moment, forces the brass of the cartridge case to flow into the groove and thereby delays the opening of the breech. This groove allowed for the elimination of a heavy slide to contain the breech block. Instead, the breech block, or bolt, screws into the knob at the rear of the gun, as does the recoil spring guide rod. The recoil spring is located above the barrel.
The barrel retention method was very innovative (see figure 2). It made it very easy to disassemble the barrel for cleaning purposes. A 4 mm caliber barrel for indoor training ammunition was available. Additionally Peter Dannecker reports that a 150mm barrel was available for target shooting. Other than an advertisement in a Waffenschmied journal in 1920 there is no other proof of the existence of such a barrel--no reference sample is known.
The Mann pistols Model 1920 and Model 1921 have a loaded chamber indicator on the left side of the gun. With a cartridge in the chamber, a pin on the exterior of the ejector, protrudes through the frame. If the manual safety is in the ‘Safe’ position the pin protrudes behind it and makes it more difficult to move to the ‘Fire’ position. If the manual safety is in the ‘Fire’ position, the pin can be felt to verify that the chamber is loaded. The Model 1920 has an additional loaded chamber indicator on the right side of the gun. It is a spring-loaded vertical bar of metal which stands out from the frame. When there is no cartridge in the chamber this bar can be pushed inside otherwise it is blocked and does not move. So by pushing that bar the operator could easily check if there is a cartridge in the chamber.
The magazine holds 5 rounds and the release button is at the front of the frame. This is not a very comfortable position but a logical consequence of the desire to keep the gun slim. The magazine has four holes drilled on each side which allow a visual check of the number of cartridges. The baseplate is held in position by flanges which are bent over from the sides, similar to the Ortgies magazine.
The Mann pistols Model 1920 and Model 1921 have only minor differences in the form and checkering of the safety lever, the cover plate and the position of the grip screw. The loaded chamber indicator on the right side of the Model 1920 was eliminated in the Model 1921.
I have three Mann pistols - a model 1920 (serial number 2800) with aluminium grips and two model 1921 (serial number 18768 and 32838) with rubber grips. The serial numbers are stamped on the front of the frame below the magazine release button. Behind the serial number you can find an additional number which are the last two digits of the model year. The milled frames have plain flanks which form a triangular area at the back of the gun. The size of that area differs on all pistols, but I can not assess if this can be used as a criterion for model determination.
We can at least assess that there have been aluminum and hard rubber grips and perhaps wood. Nearly all Model 1920 Manns I have found have aluminum grips excepting a very early gun which has wooden grips. Those wooden grips might be later replacements. The Model 1921 guns have hard rubber grips. Aluminium and rubber grips show the word “MANN” in an oval.
Hermann Historica, an auctioneer in Munich, is a great source for vest pocket pistols in excellent condition. They have a great archive of previous auctions which is always worth investigating. My three Mann pistols have slightly different inscriptions and in the Hermann Historica archive I found a very early nickel plated gun with SN 188 and wooden grip plates which should represent the very first style of inscription. The more guns I observed the more different inscriptions I found. As the guns do not differ very much, I arbitrarily named them as first, second, third variant and so on. By presenting the serial numbers which I found for each variant we can see that there are sometimes only a few hundred guns with certain inscriptions. If someone has a .25 ACP Mann pistol which has another inscription, I will gladly add more variants.*
Jn & Auslands-Patente
Fire and safe position are marked with the german words FEUER and SICHER in sans-serif characters.
JN & AUSLANDS-PATENTE
Fire and safe position are marked identical to the previous variant.
Fire and safe position are marked identical to the first variant.
FRITZ MANN, SUHL – PATENTE
The safety is marked with capital letters S and F. In the back there is a stylized MA in a circle which is the trademark of the Fritz Mann company.
MANN’S – PATENTE
Safety marking and trademark are identical to the previous variant.
In a nutshell, Fritz Mann produced a very interesting vest pocket pistol with unusual features. The idea of hampering the case extraction with a chamber groove was a milestone but it did not achieve acceptance – perhaps due to safety issues. Later his idea–slightly different and in combination with other features–proved to be reliable enough and was found especially in automatic guns (e.g. Heckler&Koch G3). The interesting fact is that this idea was “reinvented” several times, and Fritz Mann did not win any laurels for his patent.
Having read Rieger’s article about the exploded gun I was first dubious about taking my Mann pistols to the range. But I
wanted to provide information about both the reliability and precision of the Mann. So I test fired a few magazines out of one
of my pistols. What should I say? The gun worked without mailfunctioning and although the barrel seems to be not the best I
was able to hit a rectangle of 1 foot by 1 foot at seven meters. Balance in the hand is okay, but the sights are terrible and no real help for aiming.
Stripping the Mann Pistol:
* If you can provide photographs, serial number and model information, or any other information about the Mann pistol, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.