Unblinking Eye
Melior & Jieffeco Model 1920

 

The Model 1920 Melior, Jieffeco,
and Gladiator Pistol
«New Impoved Model» -1920

by Vaclav Vriesen


The Model 1920 Melior, Jieffeco, and Gladiator pistols in 6.35 mm are the second type of the Louis Robar pistols manufactured according to Belgian patents No. 259178 of 1913 and No. 265491 of 1914, the production of which began in 1914. We could refer to the Model 1920 as the “Model 1914 Second Variation,” except that the company itself referred to the gun as the Model 1920. The Model 1920 pistols continued the sequential serial number order of the Model 1914.

Instructions for 1920 Jieffeco Pistols

Instructions for 1920 Jieffeco Pistols

The appearance of the Model 1920 pistols is nearly identical to that of the Model 1914 first variation type 5, except for the attachment of the grip plates and the logo on them. The appearance of this model did not change until 1925, when a thorough modernization took place, reflected in the  third type, created on the basis of the patents, № 259178 and № 265491.

The grips on the pistols of the Model 1920 were fastened with two screws, and the letters RK denoting the name of the company L. Robar Fils & L. de Kerckhove were replaced by the capital letters of the names of the creators of this pistol Louis Robar and Edmond Tart—RT—these letters superimposed on each other form a strong union. Indeed, Edmond Tart remained loyal to Robard's company until the end of his life.


Model 1920, Type One

The earliest documented Model 1920 pistol with the trademark Jieffeco has the serial number 44344, and was sent to the English or American market. It has the upper line of the inscription on the left side of the slide in English and the additional marking "BELGIUM" at the front:

BELGIUM        AUTOMATIC PISTOL JIEFFECO DEPOSE
                           BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIQUE

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44344 Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44344

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44344

This is the only documented pistol of the 1920 model with an English-language export marking on the slide.

As mentioned earlier in the article about the Model 1914 Louis Robar pistols, the first synthesized image of a pistol with grips that are attached with two screws appeared in the instructions for Jieffeco pistols in 1920.

The earliest known image of the Melior Model 1920 pistol was published in the catalog of the Johnson Smith & Co. in Chicago in 1921.

The Model 1920 Melior pistols were sold by Johnson Smith & Co. until 1927.

The Model 1920 Melior pistols were sold by Johnson Smith & Co. until 1927.


At this time, only two Model 1920 Type One Melior pistols are documented; they have serial numbers 44797 and 45103. On the slides of these pistols there is a two-line inscription in French :

MELIOR
BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIQUE

Melior Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 45103 Melior Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 45103

Melior Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 45103

The Model 1920 Type 1 Jieffeco pistols with serial numbers 44875, 44991, 45934, and 46627, intended for the French and Belgian markets, have a two-line inscription in French:

PISTOLET AUTOMATIQUE JIEFFECO DEPOSE
BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIQUE

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44991 Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44991

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44991


These are the last of the documented Model 1920 Jieffeco pistols in which the word Belgium is written in the second line in French: "BELGIQUE". In the interval between serial numbers 46627 and 46839, the French spelling of the word "BELGIQUE" was replaced by the English "BELGIUM".

The Jieffeco pistol with the serial number 44991 has a fundamentally new technical solution for the ejection of cartridge cases. This is a high projection in the back of the frame located in the center, which replaced the cartridge ejector invented for the first model of 1914 in the interval between pistols with serial numbers 36953 and 38434. This protrusion formed a backstop for the striker spring and guide rod; the striker in turn pushed out the cartridge case and served as an ejector. This design made it possible to reduce technical operations in manufacture and thereby optimize production.

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 1 - SN 44991

Backstop for Striker Spring

Later, Robar returned to the previous design of the cartridge case ejector, due to the fact that this new design turned out to be less reliable. The impact of the slide on this backstop caused cracks to appear in the frame in some cases, as you can see in the enlarged photo.

Cracked frame with backstop for striker

On Model 1914 pistols, this middle part, slightly protruding above the frame, only serves as a guide for the breech block and is attached to the frame with two pins; whereas on the new design, this middle protrusion is attached with a single pin. These pins are quite noticeable on pistols, so it is easy to determine the approximate number of pistols of this experimental model by the number of pins visible in the frame.

It is reliably established that this early style of protrusion appeared from the beginning of production of the Model 1920, that is, in the interval between the serial numbers 44012 and 44344. The production of the experimental model with a protrusion occurred in the interval between  serial numbers 45934 and 46627.

Also, the Jieffeco pistol with the serial number 44991 has a milled depression in the frame beneath the barrel to reduce the weight of the pistol.

Lightened frame

Lightened Frame


Model 1920, Type 2

Of the investigated pistols, only two Type Two Jieffeco, with serial numbers 6109 and 46627, have a two-line inscription in French on two lines, and have an ejector of the early type.

These pistols are in the range of serial numbers 45934 variation 1 and 46839 variation 2.
The Jieffeco pistol with the four-digit serial number 6109 has the export marking "BELGIUM" in the front of the slide and a two-line inscription in French:

BELGIUM        PISTOLET AUTOMATIQUE JIEFFECO DEPOSE
                      BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIQUE

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 6109 Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 6109

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 6109


Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 6109

Presumably, the Model 1920 pistols, which began to be manufactured with the early type of ejector, up to serial number 46500, had four-digit serial numbers.

 

Slides «BELGIUM»

As mentioned above, the Jieffeco Model 1920 pistols after the well-known serial number 46839 have the word "Belgium" in English on the second line of the slide inscription, and the first line is written in French :


PISTOLET AUTOMATIQUE JIEFFECO DEPOSE
BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIUM

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 46839 Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 46839

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 46839

During the entire study of Model 1920 pistols, only five Jieffeco pistols with such an inscription on the slide were found. These pistols have serial numbers 46839, 46900, 47050, 47091, and 57899.

All Model 1920 Melior pistols, starting with the well-known serial number 46839, have the word "BELGIUM" in English in the second line :

MELIOR
BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIUM

Melior Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 47924 (photographs courtesy Patrick Denamur) Melior Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 47924 (photographs courtesy Patrick Denamur)

Melior Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 47924 (photographs courtesy Patrick Denamur)

The word "BELGIQUE" in French in the second line of the slide inscription was never used again.

As mentioned above, Melior pistols, starting with the well-known serial number 47924 , have an early ejector for extracting cartridges case , and this design not changed right up to the end of production.

Melior Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 47924 (photographs courtesy Patrick Denamur) Melior Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 47924 (photographs courtesy Patrick Denamur)

Melior Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 47924 (photographs courtesy Patrick Denamur)

Around the end of 1920 or early 1921, the main distributor of Louis Robar, the "Janssen Freres" company, ordered a large batch of pistols with its Jieffeco brand for the Davis-Warner Arms Corporation for export to America. For this purpose, a three-line inscription was used on the pistols :

AUTOMATIC PISTOL JIEFFECO MADE IN LIEGE-BELGIUM
BREVETS 259178-265491
DAVIS-WARNER-ARMS-CORPORATION NEW-YORK

Davis-Warner Arms Corporation Slide Inscription


Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 48407 w/ Davis-Warner Arms Corporation Inscription Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 48407 w/ Davis-Warner Arms Corporation Inscription

Jieffeco Model 1920, Type 2 - SN 48407 w/ Davis-Warner Arms Corporation Inscription

A total of 34 pistols with this marking on the slide were examined. Among these studied Jieffeco pistols that occur in the interval between the serial numbers 47924 and 49945, there is only one pistol with the trademark Melior with the serial number 48623. That is, presumably the number of pistols sent for the Davis Warner arms corporation was approximately 2000 pieces.

After this big American contract, almost all pistols of the 1920 model were released with the Melior brand, as well as one Jieffeco pistol with the serial number 57899 , which was mentioned above, and a pistol issued with the Gladiator trademark, which has the serial number 60927.


Model 1920, Type 3

Model 1920 Type 3 pistols do not have a milled groove on the frame under the barrel. The lightweight frame was not made in the interval between the serial numbers 50948 and 60927.

Model 1920 - Type 3

The pistol of the third variation of the 1920 model with the serial number 60927 issued under the Gladiator trademark has a two line inscription on the slide :

GLADIATOR
BREVETS-259178-265491-LIEGE-BELGIUM

Gladiator - Model 1920, Type 3 - SN 60927 Gladiator - Model 1920, Type 3 - SN 60927

Gladiator - Model 1920, Type 3 - SN 60927

This pistol does not have a milled groove on the frame under the barrel, and all pistols of this type are made with a heavy frame until the end of production.

It is not yet known exactly who registered the Gladiator trademark in Belgium, but in Italy, the Belgian double shotgun with the same name was sold by the company "Sindacato Anglo-Italiano di Armi e Sports" in 1911 and 1912. And in America, the Belgian double shotgun with the same name was supplied to the company "Meriden Fire Arms" and was presented in the catalog of the trading company Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1918.

Catalog of the Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1918 Catalog of the Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1918

Catalog of the Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1918


It is quite possible that these guns with the Gladiator trademark were manufactured by Louis Robar's company, because in addition to pistols, Robar's company produced Double Shotgun and cane guns with the Melior trademark. On December 22, 1923, Louis Robar and Edmond Tart received Belgian Patent No. 314881 for a hammerless double shotgun.

Belgian Patent 314881

Belgian Patent 314881

Pistols of the 1920 model of this variation, starting with the well-known serial number 65505 , do not have the "Perron" sign, which marked the barrels of the frame and the slides of the pistols. This change occurred in the range of serial numbers 64300 and 65505.

Melior - Model 1920, Type 3 - SN 65505 Melior - Model 1920, Type 3 - SN 65505

Melior - Model 1920, Type 3 - SN 65505

The "Perron" is the city symbol of Liège. The Perron proof was used on pistols until 1924. On barrels, this indicates that the barrel locking mechanism was not weakened during manufacture. On frames and slides, this indicates that the fit and function are accepted. In the frames and slides, the "perron" proof complements and completes the "PV" proof. This proof was used between 1903 and 1924.

Perron - Symbol of the city of Liège

The production Model 1920 pistols ended in the range of serial numbers 66195 and 66396. Starting with the well-known serial number 66396, the production of the third variation of pistols created under the Belgian patents № 259178 of 1913 and № 265491 of 1914 began.

Melior Model 1914, Third Variant

Melior Model 1914, Third Variant
Created under the patents of 1913-14.

 

Related Articles of Interest

The “Old Model” Pistols:
The Robar & de Kerckhove Melior and Jieffeco Pistols Model 1907 & 1911
The 7.65mm Melior and Jieffeco Pistols Model 1907 & 1911
The Model 1911 Melior & Jieffeco Pistols in 6.35mm
Patents, Technical Data, and Advertisements for the Model 1907 and 1911
The Rebirth of the Phoenix

The “New Model” Pistols:
History and Development of the Model 1914 Melior and Jieffeco Pistol
The Model 1922 Melior, Jieffeco, and Record Pistols in 7.65mm

References

  • Johnson Smith & Co. Catalog, up to 1927
  • The L.C. Smith Collector’s Association
  • Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalog, 1918
  • Vanderlinden, Anthony. FN Browning Pistols, Side-Arms that Shaped World History.  Wet Dog Publications, Greensboro, NC:  2013.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Ed Buffaloe for his help in editing and translating the article into correct English, as well as for providing old advertising! Many thanks for the photos provided to Patrick Denamur and Ashley Smith. Thanks also to Anthony Vanderlinden and Stefan Klein. And thanks to Marianna Lepina for her help with photographic editing.

Copyright 2021 by Vaclav Vriesen.  All rights reserved.

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