The M1912 Steyr
Text and photos by Jean Huon

The Steyr pistol was developed by Karl Krnka and introduced commercially in 1911. It was tested in 1912 by the Austro-Hungarian Army and adopted two years later. It was initially intended for Landwehr (Army Territorial Reserves), while the active troops continued to use the M1907 Roth-Steyr pistol and the M1898 Rast-Gasser revolver.

This model, also called Steyr Hahn (Steyr with hammer), was manufactured by Oesterreichische Waffenfabrik in Steyr, Austria and Fegyvergyar in Budapest, Hungary. In addition to its country of origin, it was also used by Albania, Bulgaria, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. Production was 250,000 specimens.


The frame holds the grip and it supports the barrel and the slide. The cartridges are contained in a magazine located in the grip. It does not use a detachable box magazine but is filled by a stripper clip. A button placed on the upper left side of the frame makes it possible to empty the magazine with the slide held in the back position by the safety. The frame receives the grips that are squared plates of wood. At the base, is a large rectangular ring for a lanyard.

The slide is guided on the frame by side grooves. The ejection and loading port are at the top and two serrated ears are located at the rear. The barrel is assembled with the slide by means of a helicoid cam and locked by two lugs. The calibre is 9mm and has four grooves with right hand twist. The recoil spring is made of flat wire and is located under the barrel. It has a guide at the rear and a bushing at the front. A flat assembly pin locks the slide on the frame and bears against the recoil spring. Sights are a rear V machined between the two rear ears and a front sight at the top of the slide.

M1912 Steyr pistol
Caliber: 9mm (.38")
Cartridge: 9mm Steyr (9 x 23)
Overall length: 216 mm (8.50"")
Barrel length: 100 mm (3.93")
Height: 129 mm (5.07")
Weight: 965 grams (2.13 lbs)
Magazine capacity: 8 rounds


M12/16 Steyr pistol: This model received an extension to the magazine raising its capacity to 16 rounds and a selector is placed on the right allowing full auto fire; the lever is marked 1-16. Only a few were made.

Pistole 12 (ö): At the end of World War I, the Germans had already ordered 10,000 M1912 pistols from Austria-Hungary. Following the Anschluss, which annexed Austria to Germany, many Austrian weapons (about 60,000 specimens) were integrated into the material of the German police force and Wehrmacht. The M1912 Steyr pistol, was renamed Pistole 12 (ö), after conversion to 9mm Parabellum (9x19). They are stamped P. 08 on the left side of the slide. However, this conversion creates some problems and accidents.

  • Open the bolt and hold it in the rear position with the safety lever located on the left side at the rear part of the frame. The hammer is cocked.
  • Place a loaded clip in the guide intended for this purpose.
  • Press down firmly on the column of cartridges to introduce them into the magazine.
  • Push down the safety hold-open latch to close the bolt. The bolt pushes a cartridge into the barrel, closes and locks.
  • The pistol is ready to fire.
  • The shooter presses the trigger, the hammer falls on the firing pin, which ignites the cartridge.
  • Under recoil, the slide goes rearward with the barrel. After a short way the barrel twists and unlocks the bolt, which continues to move back.
  • The empty case is extracted and ejected.
  • During the rear movement of the slide, the recoil spring is compressed and the hammer is cocked.
  • Bolt returns to the front position, loading, closing and locking.
  • The pistol is again ready to shoot.
  • To unload the weapon, move the slide to the rear position and lock it open. If a cartridge was in the barrel, it is extracted and ejected.
  • Push the cartridge stop button located on the left side and catch the cartridges in the palm of the other hand

Disassembly - Reassembly
  • Put the weapon on safe.
  • Open the bolt and lock it in the rear position with the safety-hold open lever.
  • Push the flat pin at the top of the slide, from left to right. Be careful about the sudden release of the strong recoil spring.
  • Take out the recoil spring.
  • Separate the slide from the frame.
  • Remove the barrel.
  • The reassembly is carried out in the inverse order. For the reinstallation of the slide on the frame, place the barrel in the rear position (unlocked) and mate the two lugs located on the front of the slide with the corresponding mortises in the frame.
  • A screwdriver is helpful to press back the recoil spring during the reinstallation of the cross pin.

  • Wooden shoulder stock-holster. It looks like that of the M1896 Mauser pistol, but is fixed on the weapon by a rectangular metal sleeve around the grip. A lever ensures locking.
  • Austrian rigid leather holster. With the cover reinforced by two straps it is similar to the holster for the M1907 Roth Steyr pistol, but has no external pouch for cartridges;
  • Austrian rigid leather holster, same as above but without straps on the cover;
  • Romanian maroon rigid leather holster, with one pouch for two clips under the flap;
  • German holster in the same style as those of the P 08 and P 38;
  • German soft leather holster, with a pouch for two clips under the flap;
  • Unidentified khaki fabric holster, with the borders covered with imitation leather;
  • Reproduction of the Austrian holster 2nd model.


At the beginning of the 20th century, most of the automatic pistols manufacturers attempted to create ammunition well adapted for their design of weapons. Osterreichische Waffenfabrik Steyr in Austria took the same path and developed for its M1912 pistol, a special 9mm cartridge, whose power was comparable with that of contemporary ammunition of the same calibre. The production of 9mm Steyr cartridges was primarily concentrated in Central or Western Europe and South America. With some exceptions, its manufacture was ended after WWII.

The cylindrical rimless case is made of brass. It generally has a Berdan primer. The cylindro-ogival bullet has a lead core and a gilding metal, brass, cupro-nickel jacket or copper clad steel jacket. Its weight generally lies between 7.40 and 7.65 grams (114-118 grains); it has a 340 to 360 m/s (1,118-1,184 fps) speed. This cartridge is not to be confused with the 9mm Bergmann-Bayard (so called 9mm Largo).

Bullet diameter: 8.95 to 9.05 mm (.352-.356")
Case diameter at neck: 9.45 to 9.70 mm (.372.-.381")
Case diameter at head: 9.55 to 9.75 mm (.376.-.383")
Case diameter at rim: 9.60 to 9.75 mm (.378-.383")
Case length: 22.70 to 23.20 mm (.893-.913")
Cartridge length: 32.81 to 33.30 mm (1.292-1.311")
Cartridge weight: 11.8 grams (184 grains)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (April 2013)
and was posted online on February 22, 2013


10-04-2017 12:10 PM

The 1912 Steyr

Wrong.  Karel Krnka had nothing to do with the design of the M1912.  Krnka, Steyr's patent attorney, had been terminated for some years, and by 1910 had been barred from Steyr property.

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