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The Bergmann-Bayard pistol

Theodor Bergmann was one of the pioneers in the development of automatic pistols. Born on May 21st, 1850, in Sailauf (Germany), Bergmann became rich with the metallurgical industry by manufacturing various consumer goods (pots, pans, stoves, etc.), electrical appliances and even automobiles, which he produced in his company ” Eisenwerke Gaggenau“. As a person, Bergmann became passionate about semi-automatic repeating weapons, which were beginning to appear in the last years of the nineteenth century. After purchasing a semi-automatic pistol patent filed by Otto Brauswetter, he designed some of the very first automatic pistols and their ammunition, using his assistant: Louis Schmeisser (father of Hugo Schmeisser). Curiously, Theodor Bergmann did not attempt to produce the pistols of his invention himself. He preferred to entrust the manufacture in small series to an experienced weapons manufacturing company: V.C. Schilling & Co of Suhl (Germany), which made pistols of a perfect finish (Pic.02).

History and development

After a series of blowback operated pistols that fired weak ammunition, Theodor Bergmann tried to approach the difficult market of military weapons with his model 1897: a short-recoil operated pistol with a side lock, equipped with a removable magazine and firing a powerful 7.8 mm cartridge with a bottlenecked case very close to the 7.63mm Mauser (Pic.03). This weapon with a rather complex mechanism did not draw the attention of the military despite the tests in which it took part, especially in France, Great Britain and the United States of America.

Bergmann simplified the mechanism of his pistol by adopting a vertically moving mobile lock still operated by a short recoil of the barrel. He developed for his weapon a cartridge of 9 mm caliber, to which his name would remain attached thereafter (Pic.04). The first pistol in this series was the Bergmann “Mars” (Pic.05), whose name clearly underlines the military vocation! The Bergmann Mars, not to be confused with the “Mars Automatic Pistol” of the British firm Webley & Scott, was tested and adopted in 1903 by the Spanish army. But the order placed by Spain to Bergmann could not be carried out for lack of manufacturer. The firm Schilling & Co had just been absorbed by the company Heinrich Krieghoff, which, for a reason now ignored, did not want to continue the manufacture of pistols for the benefit of Bergmann.

Bergmann therefore had to urgently look for a new manufacturer. This is how he ended up concluding an agreement for the manufacture of his pistols with a Belgian gunsmith: the “société des anciens établissements Pieper” in Liège. The first pistols produced in Liège were improved versions of the Bergmann Mars, which were transported to Spain around 1905. These pistols are often called “Spanish Bergmann model 1905” by collectors (Pic.06). Unfortunately for Bergmann, the Spanish army, unwilling to continue its relations with a supplier that had failed it while its troops were engaged in cruel fighting in Morocco, denounced the contracts made with Bergmann and later turned to a weapon of national design, manufactured in Spanish factories: the Campo-Giro pistol model 1913.

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    Luc Guillou

    Luc Guillou, 67, served until 2011 as a doctor in the French Navy where he specialized in diving medicine. Now retired, he is the author of numerous books and articles mainly devoted to the weapons of WWI and WWII. He regularly practices sports shooting with antique weapons and was vice-president of the French Union of weapons' Amateurs (UFA) until 2020.

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