The Decisions of the 1899 Pistol Testing Commission

The Commission took the following decisions:

  • The pistol must be fully automatic. The Roth pistol was only semi-automatic, the shooter being responsible of arming the hammer himself after each shot.
  • The weight of the weapon must not exceed 1,000g.
  • The calibre must be between 7.5 and 7.65mm.
  • The length must not exceed 275mm.
  • The bullet weight must be at least 5.5g.
  • The loader must be able to hold between 8 and 10 bullets.
  • The kick must be as limited as possible.

After having been able to test each pistol, the following was decided:

  • Further tests would be performed on the Borchardt-Luger, and with the Mannlicher as well,
  • The other pistols would be discarded - the reasons of the elimination would be communicated to their respective inventors.
  • Professor Amsler and the weapons factory would be in charge of a more detailed study, especially in respect of the manufacturing process of the two remaining pistols.
  • The technical section would lead further precision tests, as well as additional ones for the initial speed and penetration of the selected pistols, and
  • The commission would convene at a later date to examine the results.

The second series of tests

On the first of May, the commission gathered once again in Thoune, Switzerland, to perform yet another series of tests with the two remaining pistols. Since the first contest had taken place, two new pistols had been presented to the commission, one from Hauff in Berlin, Germany, and the other from the national Belgium weapon factory in Herstal, Belgium (Browning system). These two offers were however not taken into account - the first needing further study, and the second, for not having the breechblock coupled to the cannon.

The commission proceeded to a second testing phase with the two selected pistols, but with the following alterations to the procedures:

  • Length of test - 500 instead of 400 shots were carried out.
  • The rancid oil was discarded.
  • Shots were fired with cases that had cuts.
  • Penetration tests took place against pine trees and beeches.

The noteworthy results comparing the two pistols were as follows:
Shooting speeds - The Borchardt-Luger (executed by Mr Luger) fired 48 shots in 28 seconds (or 103 shots per minute), without any problem in any mechanism, the extraction of cases being steady. The Mannlicher achieved 48 shots in 49 seconds (or 59 shots per minute), however the case extraction was very unsteady - to the front, side and back - with powder burns all over the weapon.

Precision shots* were then performed by Lieutenant-Colonel Brunner producing the following results at 5O% dispersion:

Borchardt-Luger 1882 Revolver Mannlicher
Height 4.17 6.5 8.0
Side 2.8 3.0 6.3
Radius 5.3 8.0 11.7

Duration Test - 500 shots were fired by the commission members - no cleaning took place during this process. The results were as follows:

Borchardt-Luger: After 500 shots, the pistol shooting state was the same as before the test - precision had not lessened. Equally there was little, if any clogging. The breechblock did not have to be pushed forward a second time, and no additional comments were recorded in regard to the function of the ammunition.

Mannlicher: Two stops occurred during the loading, due to two bullets overriding each other. After 175 shots, the pistol was out of working order and had to be stripped down and reassembled; again, two bullets had not popped out of the pistol during the shooting. Irregular extraction of the bullets was noted, as well as significant clogging. Remarks were also made that the pistol did not feel right in the shooter's hand whilst being fired.

For both pistols, the following quality tests were then carried out:

  • A 15 shot firing test with reduced loading (10%), followed by 47 shots with 20% load reduction: both pistols worked correctly.
  • 32 shots with no grease in the breechblock: both pistols ok.
  • Tests with cut cases and limited in length, side-wise, and obliquely. The Borchardt-Luger worked correctly, while for the Mannlicher, two shots out of six where the breechblock did not open at all, one case split.
  • Tests with sand and water: 16 shots were fired with heavy dust on the weapons, and 16 other shots were fired after the pistols were soaked with water. Both weapons functioned correctly.
  • Penetration tests: shots were fired 10 metres away from a metal sheet (0,8mm to 0,9mm), and then against boards of pine wood and beeches, which were 30mm thick. In all tests, the Borchardt-Luger shots penetrated deeper than the Mannlicher's.

Following those tests - in which the Borchardt-Luger proved to be more powerful - no doubts remained to which pistol had to be chosen.

After a much more detailed review of all the characteristics of both pistols, the commission unanimously chose to abandon all further tests with the Mannlicher, and push the envelope a little further for the Borchardt-Luger, on a wider scale. 20 pistols were ordered along with ammunition. Some special modifications were requested to the manufacturer of the Borchardt-Luger (not covered in this work).

1,2,3,4,5,6, Next: The 1901 Swiss Military Report