Photo courtesy of Leonardo Antaris
This earliest Mannlicher pistol was designed to be self loading and to use a special rimmed cartridge in 6.5mm caliber. The design represented an entirely new utilization of mechanical principles in automatic action called "blow-forward action". In the standard type of automatic action for low powered cartridges, the recoil (or blow-back) is utilized to drive back a moveable breech face or block, Mannlicher utilized the principle of a rigid standing breech with the barrel blowing forward to extract, eject, and prepare for reloading. The blow-forward principle is unique and has been utilized in very few firearms.
A special barrel housing which carries the sight covers the entire length of the barrel (6.49"/165mm) when the arm is closed. A heavy recoil spring is mounted concentrically around the barrel within this housing and is compressed between a shoulder at the forward end of the casing and a shoulder at the rear of the barrel.
An unusual element in this design is a three-armed "barrel-holding lever". It is pivoted above the trigger as shown in the drawing from page 188, Mannlicher Rifles and Pistols, Smith, 1947. Its bottom arm engages with the trigger. The forward arm holds the barrel forward for loading. The rear arm serves as a hammer catch.
To load this weapon the hammer is cocked. As the hammer rotates on its axis pin, it acts upon the trigger, and the sear snaps into the cocking notch, holding the hammer. The hammer axis pin also supports the center arm of the barrel holding lever, which arm emerges and is raised high enough by its spring to press into a slot under the barrel. The rising thumbpiece on top of the barrel over the breech is then pushed forward. The barrel moves forward until its muzzle emerges from the barrel housing, compressing the recoil spring. The barrel holding lever is snapped into the locking notch in the underside of the barrel, thereby holding it in forward position for charging as shown in the drawing from page 189, Mannlicher Rifles and Pistols, Smith, 1947.
The stripper clip (capacity 5 rounds) is inserted in the clip guide of the receiver and the cartridges are pressed into the magazine. (Note: the clip does not go into the action.) The cartridges are stripped off the clip and pressed into the magazine-well in the handle, compressing the spiral magazine-spring. A lip at the top prevents the cartridges from emerging. Drawing from page 186, Mannlicher Rifles and Pistols, Smith, 1947, illustrates this pistol with the magazine charged.
The preferred direction for holding this pistol requires that the index finger be positioned around the frame above the trigger guard, with the middle finger through the trigger guard and pressed against the trigger.
As the trigger is pulled, the sear is released of engagement to allow the mainspring to drive the hammer forward slightly, but the rear arm on the barrel holding lever catches in a notch in the hammer to hold the hammer in firing position. The lowering of the forward arm of the barrel holding lever frees the barrel, allowing the compressed recoil spring to drive the barrel back, stripping the top cartridge from the magazine, chambering the round, and pressing the cartridge head against the standing breech. The spur hammer may be manually cocked to fire, or the trigger can provide a double action movement to raise and drop the hammer.
As the propellent explodes and expands, the standing breech (a rigid, immovable object) acts to prohibit rearward movement of the cartridge and causes the expanding forces to move against the bullet (a somewhat more movable object), propelling the bullet toward the muzzle. The friction of forward motion of the bullet projectile against the inside of the barrel causes the bullet to act as a quasi-plug in the barrel. The barrel (a very movable object) is pushed forward by the motion and direction of the expanding gases against the friction of the the traveling projectile, until the bullet exits the muzzle, after which forward motion of the barrel is due to inertia. Forward motion of the barrel is arrested by the progressively increasing tension of the recoil spring, which is illustrated in the drawing from page 188, Mannlicher Rifles and Pistols, Smith, 1947. The recoil of this pistol is significant.
The extractor is mounted on the left side of the barrel extension. As the barrel moves forward the extractor draws the empty case from the face of the standing breech to eject it.
The barrel holding lever arm moves up by action of the trigger, and catches the barrel in forward position. The magazine spring, pushing against the follower, forces the cartridges up to present the next cartridge for loading. As the trigger is released and moves forward it acts on the bottom arm of the barrel holding lever causing it to pivot and its forward upper arm to release the barrel. The barrel is then driven back by the recoil spring to load the next cartridge.
The 1894 was originally classed as a "half automatic or semi-automatic pistol".The overall length of the 6.5mm model displayed in the photo illustrations on this page is 8.46" (215mm), dry weight is 30oz (850g).
There were several modifications of this pistol during its production until 1897. In some, the barrel catch does not operate during firing movement, so that the pistol closes to become fully self loading. In no models, however, does the automatic action extend to cocking the self-loading pistol. In all variations the hammer must be cocked by thumb to fire or must be cocked and dropped in double action mechanical fashion by a pull on the trigger.
Experimental versions of this arm were also manufactured with a single action movement in which it was necessary to cock the hammer by thumb for each shot. Other types also used experimental forms of grip safeties. Late versions of these pistols were made to shoot a special 7.8mm rimless cartridge with a straight sided case.
Click HERE to view the blueprints for this pistol.
REPORT OF PRINCIPAL OPERATIONS AT SPRINGFIELD ARMORY DURING THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1898
Tests Not Yet Completed:
Mauser self-loading pistol, submitted by Chief of Ordnance, U.S.A.;
2 Mannlicher pistols, calibers 6.5 and 7.6, submitted by F.S. Pegram, New York, N.Y.
ISAAC ARNOLD, Jr.,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Ordnance Department, U.S.A.
The Chief of Ordnance, U.S. Army,
REPORT OF PRINCIPAL OPERATIONS AT SPRINGFIELD ARMORY DURING THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1900
Report of Board of Officers on Tests of Automatic Pistols:
.........................The board were informed that three automatic pistols would be submitted for test, viz:
The Mauser self-loading pistol, caliber 7.63 mm.,
the Mannlicher automatic pistol, caliber 7.6 mm.,
and the Colt automatic, caliber .38.
The last-named pistol was not submitted for test until the middle of January, 1900.........................
.........................The test of the Mauser pistol having been completed and the Colt automatic pistol not being ready for trial, the board, on December 5, 1899, communicated with Mr. Fendall S. Pegram, the representative of the manufacturers of the Mannlicher pistol, and requested him to state when he could be present for the test of that arm. No reply was received from him, but his business partner, informed the board that he was absent from home, and that the letter had been forwarded to him. After waiting a number of weeks, the board again addressed Mr. Pegram, and informed him that it would be necessary to proceed with the test, whether he could be present or not. No reply to this communication was received, but the Colt automatic pistol having been received in the meanwhile, the test of that arm was begun on February 6, 1900, all the members of the board being present..........................
.........................The test of the Mannlicher automatic pistol caliber 7.6 mm., was then taken up.
This pistol differs from the Mauser and Colt in that the operations of loading and ejecting the empty cartridge case are performed by a backward and forward movement of the barrel, while the former are recoil-operated arms. It consists of a frame which contains the lock mechanism and the magazine, a sliding barrel, and a cover or casing in which the barrel slides.
The magazine, which holds 5 cartridges, is of the fixed-box type and is within the handle or stock.
To fill the magazine, the barrel must be held in its forward position with one hand, while the cartridges are inserted singly with the other. When the magazine is full, the top cartridge is held in such a position that the barrel, when allowed to go back to its firing position, slips over it, and the pistol is loaded, ready for firing.
The lock operates in a manner similar to the lock of an ordinary double-action revolver.
When the pistol is fired, the friction of the bullet as it passes through the bore carries the barrel forward against a spiral spring, where it is held by a stop, which continues to act until the trigger is released. The empty cartridge case is held to the rear by two ribs on the rear of the frame, which engage the rim of the cartridge case.
As the barrel approaches its extreme forward position, the extractor throws out the empty shell and allows another cartridge to come up from the magazine.
When the trigger is realeased, the barrel spring forces the barrel back to its firing position over a fresh cartridge, and the pistol is again ready for firing.
Directions for dismounting and assembling and for operating the pistol were submitted by the manufacturers and are inclosed with this report.
The weight, principal dimensions, and other characteristics of the pistol are as follows:
Weight of pistol complete, 2 pounds 2 ounces.
Caliber, 7.6 mm.
Length of barrel, 7 1/4 inches.
Number of cartridges carried, 5.
Weight of cartridge, 171 1/2 grains.
Weight of bullet, 112 grains.
Weight of powder charge, 4 grains.
Velocity at 53 feet from the muzzle, 798.6 feet per second.
After an examination of the pistol it was subjected to the following tests:
1. Time to dismount and reassemble. The recorder of the board dismounted the
pistol in three minutes one and one-eighth seconds and reassembled it in seven
minutes and 51 seconds.
2. Twenty rounds were fired into sand butt to observe action of pistol. The pistol
3. Velocity at 53 feet (mean of 5 rounds), 798.6 feet per second.
4. Accuracy and penetration at 25 yards (mean of 5 rounds):
Mean horizontal deviation, 1.3 inches.
Mean vertical deviation, 1.25 inches.
Mean absolute deviation, 1.96 inches.
Penetration in white pine, 6.3 inches.
(Note: the pistol could not be clamped securely enough to prevent movement
during the firing, so that it was necessary to sight it for each shot. Once during the
firing of these 5 rounds the empty shell was not thrown out.)
5. Rapidity with accuracy. Thirty rounds were fired at a target 6 by 2 feet;
distance 100 feet. Time, four minutes one-half second. Hits, 19. One shell was not
efected. It was noticed that the barrel did not always come back entirely to its
firing position. The rib on the rear of the stock hurt the hand somewhat in firing.
6. Endurance. Five hundred rounds. Pistol cooled for each series of 50.
At the eleventh shot the pistol missed fire, but the cartridge was exploded on the second trial. The same occurred at the forty-third round and again at the eighty-fourth round.
During the firing of the third series of 50 rounds the pistol 3 times failed to eject the empty cartridge shell, and once a cartridge jammed against the barrel and had to be freed before the pistol would load.
At the one hundred and fifty-first round the pistol failed to eject the empty cartridge shell.
At the one hundred and eighty-second round it missed fire, but the cartridge was exploded on second trial. This occurrred again at the two hundred and twentieth, two hundred and thirty-fifth, two hundred and fifty-ninth, and two hundred and seventy-fourth rounds.
At the two hundred and seventy-ninth round the pistol failed to eject the empty shell.
At the two hundred and eighty-first round there was an unusually loud, sharp report, and the pistol was jammed so that it could not be operated. Upon examination it was found that the barrel had burst.
During the firing of this endurance test the rapidity of fire was tested twice. The first time it required four minutes and forty seconds to fire 50 rounds, and the second time it required five minutes and twelve and five-tenths seconds to fire the same number.
The action of this pistol during the test not being satisfactory to the board, it was decided not to request the makers to submit a new barrel to replace the burst one, and the test was discontinued..........................
.........................Mannlicher pistol - While this p[istol is very simple in construction the operation of loading is very tedious and slow, and would be almost impossible for a man to load it while on horseback. The muscular exerts practically the same as for an ordinary double-action revolver, while the rate of fire is much slower.
The board does not recommend the adoption of this pistol for service..........................
‡ Data, paraphrase, and quotes are from Mannlicher Rifles and Pistols, by Walter H.B. Smith, The Military Service Publishing Company, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1947
‡ Quotes from Arsenal of Freedom THE SPRINGFIELD ARMORY 1890-1948, by Lt.Col. William S. Brophy, Andrew Mowbray INC., Publishers, Lincoln, Rhode Island, 1991
‡ Additional background information provided by Ron Wood
‡ Photographs of 1894 Mannlicher 6.5mm serial #47 manuf. by FAB.D'ARMES Neuhaussen, Switzerland, courtesy of Leonardo Antaris