By Jean Huon
After multiple tests that started in 1921, France opened a competition in 1933 for the adoption of a new gun. Not having anything satisfactory, a new tender is opened in 1935. It is there that a new competitor appears: the Petter gun.
In 1934, Swiss engineer Charles Gabriel Petter developed an automatic pistol that was the subject of a patent application deposited on March 9, 1934 under number 782.914. This patent was delivered on March 25, 1935 and was notified on July 5, 1935. An additional patent is recorded on June 14th, 1935. In addition, the invention was recorded in the United States with the patent No. 2.139.203 of December 6, 1938.
Proposed to the French Army in March 1935, this weapon was adopted in 1937 as the automatic pistol Model 1935 A. Its manufacture was undertaken by the Société Alsacienne de Construction Mécanique (Alsatian Company of Mechanical Engineering). The SACM was established in Mulhouse (Alsace) prior to 1870 and, with its diversification of activities, built a new factory in Cholet (center of France, near the Loire River) in 1936. Here were produced barrels for rifles; in particular those that were assembled on Model 07-15 M 34 rifles. This factory also manufactured the new pistol Model 1935 and later developed the future submachine gun Petter M 1939.
The M 1935 A is organized in the same manner as that carried out by MAS (Model 1935 S) in order to satisfy the conditions that were set forth for the gun. It should be noted that though the gun was organized in the same manner that there does not exist any interchangeable part between the two weapons (even not chargers).
The frame of the pistol Model 35 A has a curved grip that has two Bakelite grip panels that follow the contours of the grip and also contains the trigger and stirrup at the rear.
The magazine is retained by a push pin and has 7 holes on each side of the magazine to show cartridge count. A safety prohibits firing when the magazine is removed. Some magazines are marked "35 A" on the floor plate.
The frame has guide rails that are cut slightly higher than the main part of the frame to correspond to the internal rails machined into the slide. The slide has an ejection port on the right side and a loaded cartridge indicator. The rear sight is an open U notch and the front sight is assembled with a dovetail. The vertical grooves for handling the slide are machined at the rear of the slide. The safety is organized in the same manner as that of the MAS Model 1935 S pistol.
The barrel is assembled and locked in the slide by two locking lugs on the top of the barrel. The barrel has two links that are articulated with the axis of the slide stop. Its calibre is 7.65mm (.30) and has four right-hand groves with one turn in 250 mm (9.84 inches).
The recoil spring is a little longer than that of the pistol Model 1935 S and is held captive by a guide rod.
The first Petter guns received a blued finish and some scarce models were parkerized. Almost the entire total production of the gun receives a black varnish cooked finish (Parkolac).
The first specimens were delivered to the French Army on October 23, 1937, but production started slowly because the first series of weapons presented manufacturing defects that were detrimental to their performance. The Commission of Experiments of the Infantry of the Camp of Mourmelon and the Technical Establishment of Versailles carried out a series of tests in order to define the remedies to be brought to these defects and in the summer of 1939 made recommendations with regard to machining, tolerances and heat treatments.
Five hundred guns had been produced when the establishments previously noted made their conclusions and recommendations. Except for the first weapons produced, all the parts of the pistol Model 1935 A are interchangeable.
The manufacturer then launched into mass production and by June, 1940, more than 10,000 guns had been made (but inevitably not brought into service). The Model 1935 A pistol is listed on the instruction manual Instruction sur l'Armement et le Matériel de Tir, edition of 1940 (National Printing Office) whereas the pistol Model 1935 S is not. During the occupation, 23,850 guns were delivered to the German troops between on October 15, 1940 and April 28, 1944 and carried the designation Pistole 625 (f), in the German nomenclature. The name of the manufacturer appears and no letter codes specific to the productions of the Third Reich. Only some Waffenamt marks can bee seen.
After the war, S.A.C.M. returned to manufacturing for the French Army and up until February 10, 1950, provided 50,400 guns. In 1957, forty thousand of these guns were still in service and the Châtellerault gun factory was charged to constitute a stock of spare parts to ensure five years of maintenance for pistol M 1935 A.
The total production of the pistol M 1935 is of 84,950 guns. The original pistol had no lanyard ring, but on some guns this accessory was added for police use.
The production is numbered per series of ten thousand guns with a prefix letter. This number is always followed of an A. The location of this number is erratic on the very first weapons. Later, the marks are concentrated on the left face of the frame above the trigger guard where one can read for example: Mle 1935-A F 8544 A S.A.C.M.
Guns manufactured under German control carry the punch of Waffenamt struck beside the serial number: WaA 655 for weapons whose serial numbers lie between B 701 and B 1250, then WaA 251 for those numbered of B 1251 to D 4550. According to the period, German markings can also be reproduced on the slide and the barrel, while the last two figures of the serial number are struck under the slide and the barrel.
There are some guns that have on the right face of the slide BAVARIA MUNICIPAL POLICE. Those belonged to a batch manufactured during the Occupation, seized by the Americans and provided to the Bavarian police force after the war.
The weapon functions by short recoil of the barrel. It has a slide stop, a magazine safety and can also be put in a safety position when the hammer is half cocked.
Put the weapon at safety. Remove the magazine. Check that the weapon is not loaded. Bring the slide rearward until its notch is opposite slide stop. The slide stop is driven out from right to left, which makes it possible to separate the slide from the frame. The barrel and the spring can then be separated while the lock work is extracted from the frame. Reassembly is carried out in the inverse order.
Characteristics Model 1935 A
Caliber: 7.65mm (.30)
Ammunition: 7.65mm Long
Overall length: 196 mm (7.71 inches)
Barrel length: 109 mm (4.29 inches)
Height: 126 mm (4.96 inches)
Weight: 670 g (1.48 pounds)
Magazine capacity: 8 rounds
At the time of destocking in the arsenals, some of these guns were sold on the U.S. market (one source estimates about 25,000 guns), where they were sold for $10-$20. Some of them were converted into .22 Long Rifle. The remaining weapons in the arsenals were destroyed.
In 1937, the Petter patent was acquired by the Swiss Industrial Society (SIG) of Neuhausen - Rhine Falls, for which it was used as a basis for the P 210 gun.
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