By Gorazd Tomic
German pistols are well known all round the world, especially if we bear in mind the historic DWM, Walther, Mauser and Sauer models. Besides models for military and police use, there were also older German less known civil pistols, like the Dreyse, Ortgies, Haenel, Lignose and Kommer pistols, the latter being the subject of this article. These oldies are rarely used for their original purpose today and most of them can be found in museums and collections.
Beginning with .25 Caliber
After the First World War the Treaty of Versailles forbade German industry production of all kinds of military weapons, including some sorts of handguns. Only small pistols and sporting guns were allowed for manufacture. Concerning pistols, .25acp (6.35mm in European designation) models were in accordance with the then ideas about defensive handguns. Such pistols were small, light, simple to manufacture and consequently inexpensive, and the efficiency of ammunition used was then (at least for non-military weapons) not rated as important as it is currently. Furthermore, in many European states, gun laws were significantly less restrictive in the case of small caliber handguns, which was an additional marketing advantage. Moreover, quite a significant number of small pistols were carried by European officers as a second (back-up) handgun. Such pistols were not part of official equipment, but were of private ownership.
It is hard to find a European gun manufacturer who did not have at least one .25 caliber model in production between the two World Wars. Big factories, like FN, Mauser and Beretta produced small pistols in huge numbers; smaller manufacturers were more modest. But this does not mean that their pistols were poor or uninteresting. This is especially true for German products.
One of these German manufacturers was Theodor Emil Kommer, living in Zella-Mehlis, the historical German gunmaking centre in Thuringia. He was born in 1866, a son of gunsmith Johannes Kommer (1829 - 1896) and after his education in local gun shops, he started his own business in 1889. He started with small-caliber sporting rifles and fine single shot pistols, the categories that were quite popular on the German civil market. In 1920 he developed his first semiautomatic pistol, a compact 6.35mm gun, named Model 1. In this case the “development” was actually limited to simplifying the design of John M. Browning’s FN M1906 pistol, which was then a bestseller in Europe. Kommer dropped Browning’s grip safety and significantly simplified the frame of the pistol. Thus, the Model 1 was born, soon to be followed by Model 2 and, about 1927, the Model 3. The difference between Model 1 and 2 is only in grip size and in the form of the front part of the slide/frame. The Model 1 magazine capacity is 8 rounds, while the shorter grip of the Model 2 consequently has a 6-round magazine. The difference between Model 2 and Model 3 is in the grip only, which is again higher capacity with Model 3. There is absolutely no difference in the workmanship of all three guns. For the presentation of the 6.35mm Kommer family, the Model 2 is described closely in our text. The last in the line of Kommer pistols is the Model 4, which differs from the afore mentioned three models in caliber and design characteristics.
6.35mm Model 2
The pistol is a small and handy civil weapon, striker fired, with single action trigger and blowback operated. The main part, the frame, is recessed on the left side of the magazine cut-out. On the top of the frame there are longitudinal guides for the slide, and above the trigger there are three transversal grooves for fixing the barrel. In the front part of the frame (and beneath the barrel) there is a place for the recoil spring with its guide. Because the firing mechanism follows the M1906, the relative frame mounted Kommer parts are simple too. The M1906 has a solid double bar, which surrounds the magazine, while the trigger bar of the Kommer is made as a simple flat piece, passing beside the left side of magazine. The disconnector is built as a nose on the upper part of trigger bar, matching with the niche inside the slide. When the slide moves to the rear, it interrupts the connection of the trigger bar with the sear, and consequently, prepares the sear to catch the striker in its rearmost position, notwithstanding if the trigger is still pressed. The typical disconnector (as on the FN M1906) breaks the connection between the trigger and sear as soon as the slide starts moving to the rear, while the Kommer mechanism reacts only after the slide’s movement of about 15 mm. Firing is possible with the slide not completely closed and can be rated as a design fault.
The manual safety is built as a rotatable lever at the left rear part of the frame. To change from “fire” (front) to “safe” (rear) position it must be turned 155 degrees. When in the safe position it can be used to retain the slide in the correct position (9 mm to the rear) for separating the barrel from the frame. The magazine retainer is located at the bottom of the grip, which is not appreciated today, but it was completely acceptable on civil pistols decades ago. The pistol is not equipped with an automatic magazine safety, so the gun may fire without a magazine being inserted. Black plastic grips are fastened to the frame by a single long screw. The 6-shot magazine is actually the same as with FN M1906 pistol, and magazines are interchangeable in both models.
The slide follows Browning’s shape, with just dimensional adaptation and slight form retouch. The striker with mainspring is located in the rear part, and on the right side there is a common type extractor. Sights are small, but sufficient for the intended purpose of a compact pistol.
The barrel is again close to the FN M1906, with the only difference of a knurled collar around the muzzle, which facilitates the disassembly of the gun. Barrel rifling consists of four right-turn grooves.
7.65mm Model 4
The latest and the biggest of Kommer pistols is the Model 4, caliber 7.65mm, coming out in 1936. It is not a larger variation of 6.35mm models, but a separate design. Again, it is not an original development, but it owes a lot (if not the most) to another Browning masterpiece, the FN Model 1910. This Belgian pistol was highly popular in Europe and it was copied in smaller or greater extent by several gun manufacturers all over the world. Theodor Kommer chose the same way, as he did successfully with 6.35mm pistols – he just simplified the original. The automatic grip safety was again omitted and several parts were adapted for simpler manufacturing. The frame, as main and for manufacturing the most demanding part, is simplified in the same way as with 6.35mm pistols. This means that the frame is open on the left side from top to bottom so the magazine cut-out is covered by the plastic grip only.
On the top of the frame there are longitudinal guides for the slide, and above the trigger there are four transversal grooves for fixing the barrel. The firing mechanism follows the M1910 and the trigger bar and safety mechanisms are simplified in the same way as with 6.35mm pistols. The disconnector is built as a nose on the upper part of trigger bar, and contrary to the smaller model, it interrupts the connection of the trigger bar with the sear as soon as the slide starts moving to the rear. Consequently, firing is possible only when the slide is in the correct forward position. There is no automatic magazine safety, so the Kommer 7.65mm may fire without the magazine inserted. As already mentioned, the German pistol is also without automatic grip safety, and the manual safety is slightly different as on the Browning FN M1910. It is located on the left rear part of the frame and is rotatable for 155 degrees between the safe and fire position. When in safe (rear) position, it can be used to retain the slide in the correct position (20 mm to the rear) for separating the barrel from the frame. The magazine retainer is located at the bottom of the grip as usual with several European civil pistols.
Grip plates are made from black plastic and are secured by one long screw. Contrary to smaller models, both plates are not decorated with the manufacturer’s logo; they are only chequered.
The slide is again very similar to Browning’s design, only the front bushing is different with the sole purpose of simpler and cheaper production. While Browning’s bushing is connected with the slide by a self-locking bayonet arrangement, the Kommer´s bushing is just screwed in, without a positive lock. The return spring is mounted around the barrel. At the rear part of the slide there is a place for the striker and its spring with guide. The simple extractor, its spring and retaining pin are on the right flank of the slide.
The barrel is simple and contrary to the 6.35mm models, the recoil spring is wrapped around it. The barrel is rifled with six right-direction grooves. The magazine is of a normal box type, with a fixed bottom. On the right side there are six control holes and the magazine has a seven round capacity.
Disassembly and Reassembly
Kommer pistols are simple to operate and all models are disassembled and reassembled in the same way as the corresponding Browning designed FN Models 1906 and 1910. After customary safety procedure - removing the magazine, cycling the slide, inspect the chamber to be empty, and dry firing the gun - the procedure is as follows:
- retract the slide slightly to catch it on the safety in “on” position,
- rotate the barrel for 1/4 of turn in clockwise direction (seen from the front side of the gun),
- release the safety and ease the slide with barrel forward and off the frame,
- turn the barrel again and pull it forward and out of the slide,
- remove the striker, mainspring and recoil spring with its guide.
- unscrew the barrel bushing (carefully, it is under pressure of the recoil spring),
- retract the slide 20 mm to the rear to catch it on the safety in “on” position,
- rotate the barrel for 1/4 of turn in anti-clockwise direction,
- release the safety and pull the slide with barrel forward and off the frame,
- turn the barrel again and pull it forward and out of the slide,
- remove the striker, mainspring and recoil spring.
Reassembly of all Kommer models is in the reverse order.
Markings and Proofs
Markings on Kommer pistols consist of the manufacturer’s name and location, model and caliber designation, proof mark, serial number and additional assembly number. All these data are not present on all Kommer models and variations, especially 6.35mm pistols, which are known for their inconsistent markings. Typical markings are shown on photos of our two pistols.
Two types of German proof marks may be found on the Model 2, 3 and 4 pistols: crown over N (old nitro proof) or eagle over N (nitro proof used from April 1940). Only the crown over N is present on the Model 1, because its production ended about 1927. Proof marks are located on frames, slides and barrels.
Serial numbers of all Kommer pistols known to the author are below 20,000, which is in accordance with available data about the extent of production in the small Kommer factory. Most of the Model 4 pistols have additional assembly number present on internal surfaces of the frame, slide, barrel, barrel bushing and firing pin. The most frequent numbers are 11 and 77, while the examined pistol with serial number 11509 has assembly number 2.
Because of their rarity and good quality, Kommer pistols are liked by gun collectors, although the Kommer name lacks the glory of the well known Walther or Mauser factories. Production of all Kommer models ended in 1940, and Theodor Kommer died two years later. Several armories from Thuringia survived the war and later continued the production under new authorities of East Germany or they moved to the West and started production in West Germany. In contrast to them, the “Waffenfabrik Kommer” died for ever.
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Kommer pistol model 1
I really enjoyed the article on Kommer pistols Mr. Tomic.I collect Kommers and just got a model 1 after much searching.One thing I discovered is that the model 1 differs internally from all other models in that it uses an internal swinging hammer to strike a floating firing pin unlike the other three models.Disassembly for a model 1 also requires the safety lever must be used to further move the cocked hammer down in the frame to allow the slide to push off the frame.I like the Kommers the best of all German pistols for the ultimate in simplicity which makes them look great and function perfect.
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