Unblinking Eye
Simson Pistols

The Simson Model 1922 and 1926
Vest Pocket Pistol

by Ed Buffaloe

Today the Simson company is better known for shotguns, rifles, rare P-08 Parabellums, and post-war motor scooters than for vest pocket pistols.  The family business was founded around 1856 by two brothers, Löb and Moses Simson, in Suhl, Germany.  Initially an ironworks making carbon steel axes, chisels, halberds, and pipe, they soon began subcontracting to make gun barrels, bayonets and ramrods.

Simson Logo

The logo that appeared on the Simson pocket pistols was three triangles with an ‘S’ in the center.

After the death of Löb, Moses partnered with a mechanic and gunmaker, Karl Luck, to found Gewehrfabrik Simson und Luck, which manufactured rifles.  After the death of Moses Simson in 1868, the company continued in business under Simson’s widow, Luise, and Karl Luck.  Karl Luck left the company in 1884 and its name was changed to Simson & Companie.  Frau Simson turned over management of the company to her sons, Moses and Gerson.  When gun sales waned, the company undertook the manufacture of bicycles (from 1896) and automobiles (from 1911 to 1934), as well as shotguns, hunting rifles, bayonets, swords, and scabbards.  Simson built the first production engine ever to have 4 valves per cylinder.  During the Great War (World War I), Simson made carbines, machine guns, light cannon, aircraft engines, and an ambulance.

Following the treaty of Versailles, the Inter-Allied Disarmament Commission  banned the manufacture of military weapons in Germany, except for export, and between 1919 and 1924 supervised the destruction of millions of small arms in Germany.  In the early 1920s the German military and police requested permission from the Commission to obtain parts for the repair of P -08 Parabellum (Luger) handguns, and to manufacture new guns.  While agreeing to the request for parts as well as for new pistols, the Disarmament Commission insisted that the old arsenal at Erfurt (where military Lugers had previously been made) remain closed, and ordered that Erfurt’s Parabellum manufacturing equipment and spare parts be shipped to the Simson factory in Suhl.

In 1925 Simson was given a government contract to manufacture 10,000 P-08 pistols.  Subsequent conspiracy theories suggested collusion between Jewish members of the Commission and the Simson family to give the contract to Simson.  In fact, the Simson Company was hesitant at first to accept the contract, but ultimately submitted the lowest bid.  As a result of its successful fulfillment of the contract, Simson  became the leading weapon maker in Central Germany (Thuringia) and the only licensed maker of machine guns and military pistols.  Simson’s success aroused the resentment of other gun makers in Thuringia.  In March of 1933, after Hitler became Chancellor, the Association of Zella-Mehlis Gun Manufacturers, led by Fritz Walther, sent Hitler a letter complaining that Simson held a monopoly that was forcing them out of business.

Because he was a Jew, Arthur Simson (the grandson of the company founder, Moses Simson) and several of his employees were eventually jailed by the Nazis in 1935.  After seven months in prison, Simson was forced to admit evading income taxes and to sign the rights to his company over to Nazi Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel.  A few months after his release on bail, Simson fled to Switzerland and eventually to the United States of America.  Sauckel renamed the company Berlin-Suhler Waffen- und Fahrzeugwerke (BSW), but after the assassination of the Swiss Nazi Party leader Wilhelm Gustloff, Sauckel renamed it Gustloff Werke.*  The P-08 Parabellum machinery in the Simson factory was removed to the Heinrich Krieghoff Waffenfabrik, which was also located in Suhl.

The Model 1922

Early Model 1922 Simson with no grip screws.  Spring clips secure the grips.  This gun, serial number 102, is likely a prototype.

The earliest Simson pistol, known as the Model 1922,  was marked on the left side of the frame with the Simson logo and the inscription “WAFFENFABRIKEN SIMSON & CO. SUHL,” and on the right side of the slide “SELBSTLADEPISTOLE SIMSON D.R.P.” in all capital serif characters.  The exposed portion of the barrel was marked “CAL 6.35”.  The serial number is located on the front of the grip strap.  The earliest examples had 12 relatively fine triangular-cut slide serrations.  The prototype shown has concentric circles on the safety lever, but virtually all other known specimens have checkered safety levers.  Not many of the early variants were made (please contact me if you have one so we can try to estimate production).

The production Model 1922 had a grip plate that appears to be hard rubber (though it may be an early form of plastic) with a single screw at the bottom and the name Simson in script at an angle of about 40 degrees across the grip.  Before the serial numbers reached 1000, the slide serrations were reduced to 7 and were made more coarse.  The circular grooves on the safety lever were replaced with fine checkering.  The timing of these changes is not known precisely.

The lockwork of the Simson vest pocket pistol is unusual.  The sear and transfer bar are integral, the transfer bar being stirrup-shaped like the Browning, with a lobe on either side at the top which serve as a disconnector.  The sear is attached to the rear of the stirrup-shaped transfer bar and moves between the arms of a T-shaped rail at the rear of the frame, referred to in the manual as the slide guide.  The trigger pushes the front portion of the connector up, causing the sear to tilt downward, releasing the striker to fire the gun. 
Simson Model 1922 photograph copyright by Gary Bausman
Simson Model 1922 photograph copyright by Gary Bausman

First Variant Simson Model 1922

Slide/barrel assembly and receiver
Simson components

Model 1926 Field Stripped

As the slide recoils it pushes against the disconnector lobes on top of the transfer bar, forcing the bar and sear backward and out of contact with the trigger .  When the slide is at its furthest point to the rear, the striker re-engages the sear, forcing the transfer bar forward and into contact with the trigger again.  When the safety is turned backward a full 180°, exposing the ‘S’ on the left side of the receiver, the transfer bar is disengaged from the trigger, and the sear and firing pin are prevented from moving.  There is no magazine safety.

The Model 1926

In 1926 Simson updated the gun to make it easier and cheaper to manufacture, and the new version is known as the Model 1926.  It is sometimes referred to as the Model 1927.  The two guns have similar markings, and are identical in mechanical function.  The frame was milled flat on the sides all the way to the front, and on the later production guns the slide serrations were increased to 8 (some early Model 1926 guns still have 7).  I note a single example with 15 slide serrations, a presentation pistol dated 1938, after the company was taken over by the Nazis.  There is a small cutout milled on each side of the upper slide where the pin for the extractor goes.

Both models are scarce in the U.S., but through the power of internet networking, we know that serial number 2226 is a First Variant (Model 1922) and serial number 2271 is a Second Variant (Model 1926).  Further data is welcomed.  The Second Variant serial numbers run from at least 2271 almost to 5000, then there is a large gap and the numbers start up again in the 20,000 range.  I estimate that probably less than twenty-thousand pistols were made, in total.  (If you have a Simson, please send me the serial number and I will update my list here.*)

The Simson 6.35mm pocket pistol is a simple unlocked breech blowback design with the extractor and ejection port on top of the gun.  The take-down latch is on the forward portion of the trigger guard, and the gun is much easier to disassemble than the Browning pocket pistols of similar size.  One simply has to remove the magazine, pull the trigger (after ascertaining that the gun is unloaded), press the latch, and draw the slide forward off the receiver.  The recoil spring guide rod is removed from the rear of the barrel lug, and then the spring and barrel are easily separated from the slide.  The transfer bar is pressed backward with a finger and the safety latch is rotated downward to the vertical and pulled out the left side of the gun until held in place by a spring -loaded plunger.  Then the slide guide/sear support block is pushed forward slightly and hooked out of the receiver along with the transfer bar.  The transfer bar and slide guide can then be separated.  The gun’s only screws are the two that hold the grips on.

The quality of manufacture appears to be quite high.  There are no machine marks on the interior or exterior of the gun.  The slide is almost circular in section and the receiver is shaped to fit it precisely.  The forward end of the slide has a downward projection that supports the end of the guide rod, and the barrel lug supports the rear portion of the barrel/slide assembly.  The only true rail is at the rear of the gun, as part of the sear support.


*  The Nazis made an example of the Simson Company.  ‘ ...Wilhelm Gustloff ... was an ardent Swiss Nazi shot dead in Bern by a Jewish student named David Frankfurter on 4 February 1936.  To honor Gustloff, the Nazis had given his name to one of the first “Aryanized” companies of the Reich, in this case a firm formerly owned by the Jews Arthur and Julius Simson.  The Simsons’ company, the Suhler Weapons and Vehicle Works, had received the dubious privilege of being the only Jewish firm to receive contracts from the German army after the Treaty of Versailles.  That Jews should be entrusted with defense contracts, of course, enraged the Nazis.  The national press had pilloried the Simsons since the 1920s, accusing them of embezzlement and demonizing them as the spearhead of a world Jewish consipracy to emasculate the German armed forces.  By 1935, the Gauleiter of Thuringen, Fritz Sauckel, finally succeeded in throwing the Simson brothers in jail and appropriating their company.’  --The Business of Genocide, p. 191.

Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel, who was in charge of the Nazi slave labor program, was hanged for war crimes in 1946.  Arthur Simson died in Los Angeles in 1969.  The Simson family eventually received partial reparation for their losses from the German government.


Please write to me if you can share information about your gun.  I have recorded the following guns:

Model 1922 or First Variant:  Serial numbers 102 (prototype), 158, 396, 444, 477, 485, 488, 554, 644, 661, 695, 727, 918, 947, 1028, 1055, 1079, 1117, 1182, 1207, 1291, 1324, 1338, 1415 (in Springfield Armory Museum), 1598, 1734, 1762, 1794, 2019, 2068, 2226.

Model 1926 or Second Variant:  Serial numbers 2271 (w/7 slide serrations), 2434, 2713 (w/7 slide serrations), 2727 (w/7 slide serrations), 2771 (w/7 slide serrations), 2774, 4035, 4189 (w/7 slide serrations), 4201, 4257 (w/7 slide serrations), 4460, 4847, 4935, 20379, 20557, 20559, 20814, 20891, 20930, 21585, 21752, 22262, 22269, 22327, 22479, 22791, 22870, 23009, 23577, 23718, 24061, 24463, 25408, 25908, 26133, 26316, 26595, 26740, 27118, 27191, 27250, 27270, 27302, 27466, 27718, 28076, 28423, 28640, 28937, 28957, 29242, 29453, 29732, 29766, 29870, 30144, 30616, 31376, 31789, 32001, 32251, 32467, 32490, 32640, 34645.


The American Rifleman, August, 1976, p. 52.
The Borchardt and Luger Automatic Pistols, by Joachim Gortz and Dr. Geoffrey Sturgess.  Brad Simpson Publishing,
Galesburg, Il:  2010-2011.
The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and the
Concentration Camps
, by Michael Thad Allen.  UNC Press: 2002.
Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers, by John Walter.  Greenhill, London:  2001.
The Famous Automatic Pistols of Europe, compiled by John Olson.  Jolex, Paramus, NJ:  1976.
German Handguns, by Ian V. Hogg.  Greenhill, London:  2001.
Handguns of the World, by Edward C. Ezell.  B&N, NY:  1981.
Simson Lugers, by Edward B. Tinker and Graham K. Johnson.  Brad Simpson Publishing, Galesburg, IL: 2007.
Standard Catalog of Luger, by Aarron Davis.  Gun Digest Books, Iola, WI:  2006.

Copyright 2007-2021 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.
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