Ian from Forgotten Weapons presents a look at the first ever semi-automatic pistol. He says whenever the question of which model came first comes up, there’s always going to be a divisive opinion and there will always be a grey area.
However, gun experts agree that the first commercially successful pistol ever made was the C93 Borchardt. Around 13,000 were made, first introduced in 1893. But what about guns that were not commercially successful – there are quite a number of options and definitions that not everyone agrees on. Ian said that handmade guns are not included in the running, because ultimately, there’s no way to track down all of these and figure out which one came first.
Before self-loading pistols were invented, there were manual repeating pistols with magazines, such as the 1850s Volcanics. These pistols were developed in Austria in the 1880s, and a large number of them were manufactured. The pistols led directly to the first blowback automatic pistols, such as the Laumann and Schonberger-Laumann.
There were two contenders for the title of the first blowback automatic pistol ever made. One of them was the Salvatore Dormus and the other was the Schonberger-Laumann. But these all came after the C93 Borchardt. Ian explains how these early guns worked, the first one of which was the Volcanic in the 1850s. From this, people realized that it was possible to make blowback, self-loading pistols, and one thing led to another.
Laumann began making these kinds of pistols, working with Schonberger. They filed patents for their designs in 1891, the same year the Dormus was also patented. But when it comes to the actual dates, the Dormus wins by four months, according to the patent applications. What this means, however, is that there were a bunch of guys in Vienna who really took it upon themselves to make firearm history.