The M1905 Mannlicher

By Jean Huon

The last quarter of the 19th century and the beginning of 20th were marked by considerable progresses as regards light weapons. The discovery of guncotton and then smokeless powder made it possible for most inventive researchers to realize their dream: the design of weapons with automatic loading, using part of the energy of the preceding shot to rearm the mechanism and to reload the weapon, without intervention of the shooter.

Multiple inventions were born and were applied to handguns, shoulder weapons and machine-guns. Varied ways were employed in the operation of these weapons: blowback; delayed blowback; gas action; short recoil; long recoil; and blow forward.

Ferdinand von Mannlicher was probably one of the most inventive engineers of this period. He was born in Mainz (Germany) in 1848. He left for Austria after the death of his father and undertook studies in engineering and mechanics. He worked initially in the railroads. Following travel to the United States in 1876, he became interested to small arms. He developed several devices, and was engaged by the Steyr Weapons Factory as chief of the research department. He remained there from 1877 to his death in 1904. He invented a great number of mechanisms for repeating rifles, semiautomatic rifles and machine guns. His name is associated with a clip feeding system in which the clip is retained in the magazine. He received the highest decorations of the countries that adopted the weapons that he conceived; as well as the title of Knight (Ritter).

M1894 Mannlicher Pistol

The M1894 Mannlicher pistol was unique in its operation. The friction of the bullet in the barrel forces it forward up to a shoulder arranged in the tube which functions as a guide. During this time, the trigger mechanism is disconnected and becomes operational again only when the barrel returns to its initial position. The recoil spring is located in the front part of the barrel and the cartridge is loaded when the barrels goes rearward.

The weapon has a thickset shape, more like a revolver than a pistol. The grip is short and the frame contains the magazine, which is placed near the grip, as well as the trigger mechanism with its external hammer. The mechanism is single or double action, but it is necessary to use double action to obtain semiautomatic operation because otherwise no part of the mechanism re-cocks the hammer.

The frame is open at the top to permit ejection of the empty case and loading. It is prolonged by a tubular sleeve containing the barrel and the recoil spring. The prototypes shot an 8mm cartridge used with the Salvator-Dormus pistol manufactured by an Austrian railways company. The next models shot 6.5x23R or 7.6x23R cartridges, built by Dreyse in Sommerda (Germany) or Österreichische Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft in Steyr (Austria). Other models were made in Switzerland by the Bern Federal Small Arms Factory.

M1896 Mannlicher Pistol

The M1896 Mannlicher semiautomatic pistol was derived from a repeating pistol developed the same year. As many of its contemporaries, it has a magazine located in front of the trigger guard.

The weapon is delayed blowback. Two ears are located at the top that are used to open the bolt. The hammer is located inside the frame and an external lever placed on the right makes it possible to cock it or to uncock it.

This model was perfected and became M1897, M1898, M1899, M1900 and finally M1903 Mannlicher pistol. It uses a more powerful cartridge and it works by short recoil of the barrel. This Mannlicher pistol was also produced in a carbine version. Both shot a 7.63x25 cartridge; not to be confused with the 7.63mm Mauser or 7.62mm Tokarev cartridges (same dimensions, same weight bullet but lighter powder charge).

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Saint Etienne Small Arms Factory produced a copy of this gun, shooting a 10x25 cartridge.

M1900 Mannlicher Pistol

Derived from a patent granted in 1898, this weapon has blowback operation with a friction delay against the slide. The recoil spring is located horizontally under the barrel at the front part of the frame.

The shape of the pistol is very graceful and the grip is furnished with squared side plates. The magazine in the grip is fed by means of a stripper clip. Two dismountable side plates give access to the mechanism. It uses a 7.65mm (.32 cal.) rimless cartridge. Four Mannlicher pistols of this model were tested in France between September 15, 1900 and June 27, 1901.

M1901 Mannlicher Pistol

To follow the requests for modifications of the French Army and perhaps also to improve the model, Ferdinand von Mannlicher modified his patent and presented eight specimens to France on October 31, 1903. To answer the wishes of the commission, the inventor mounted a stronger spring to prevent the firing pin from striking the primer during closing of the bolt; the trigger pull became softer, the profile of the grip was redrawn and a safety was added. Other minor modifications were also made to this model.

Following a very thorough trial run, the commission recommended the adoption of this weapon for the French Army. This report/ratio is certainly most favorable of all those which were seen on automatic pistols tested in France before 1914. In spite of that, no decision was made to introduce this type of weapon within the French armed forces.

M1905 Mannlicher Pistol

Slightly modified once again, the Mannlicher pistol was adopted in 1905 by Argentina. The tang of the grip is higher and the grip plates are vertically serrated. Production of M1900, M1901 and M1905 Mannlicher pistols is approximately 10,000 specimens including 6,000 sold in Argentina. Some others were used by Paraguay.


The M1905 Mannlicher pistol is a weapon entirely built of machined steel parts. This weapon has no box magazine, but a magazine is located in the grip and loaded with a clip like a Mauser rifle. To empty the magazine it is necessary to open the bolt and to press the cartridge stop button located on the right side above the grip plate.

The frame is also used as the grip and is hollow to contain the magazine. It has a detachable bottom on which is assembled a broad rectangular ring for attaching a lanyard. It contains the follower and its spring. The grip receives two wooden plates vertically serrated, each one attached by a screw.

The barrel is fixed and is mounted on the frame. It is bored to 7.65mm (.32 cal.) and has four grooves, right hand turn. The firing mechanism is mounted on the left face of the frame. It consists of the trigger, bar, sear, their common spring and a hammer. The hammer spring is a V blade located on the right side of the frame. A plate closes the sides of the frame. It is provided with an extension – the front of which is bearing the recoil spring.

The slide is composed of a cylindrical bolt with two rear ears provided with vertically striated ears for gripping and contains the firing pin and carries a right-sided safety and on the top the extractor. It has also a clip guide for loading the magazine. Two arms guide the slide and actuate the recoil spring, which is located under the barrel and has a short guide rod. Sights are a rear V notch located over the rear ears and a front sight mounted by a dovetail assembly at the top of the barrel.


M1905 Mannlicher pistol
Caliber: 7.65mm (.32)
Cartridge: 7.65mm Mannlicher (7.65x21)
Overall length: 243 mm (9.57 inches)
Barrel length: 160 mm (6.30 inches)
Height: 151 mm (5.94 inches)
Weight: 940 g (2.07 lbs)
Mag capacity: 10 shots




The Argentine M1895 Mannlicher pistol rides in a “ham” shaped holster, similar to that of the French M1892 or Type 26 Japanese revolvers, also early Nambu pistols. It is made in two brown leather parts, with a cover locked by the combination of a brass loop and rivet. On the back side there is a belt loop and two loops for a shoulder strap.

Some copies of the Mannlicher M1905 pistols were made in Spain and sold as Lira or Triumph. They fire the .35 ACP cartridge and are fed from a conventional removable box magazine.

The M1905 Mannlicher pistol is a superb weapon and it is a representative example of the world technological patrimony and history.


This cartridge, developed in 1898, is called 7.63mm Mannlicher in Germany and 7.65mm Mannlicher elsewhere. It was cataloged by several European cartridge factories up to WW II, and it was produced in Argentina up to 1958. The case is 21 mm (.826”) long and is slightly conical. The cylindro-ogival bullet weighs 5 to 5.8 grams (77 to 90 grains). It has a lead core and a gilding metal or cupro-nickel jacket. Muzzle velocity is 312 m/s (1.023 fps).

Bullet diameter: 7.65 to 7.82mm (.301”-.307”)
Case diameter at neck: 8.28 to 8.45mm (.326”-.332”)
Case diameter at head: 8.73 to 8.85mm (.343”-.348”)
Case diameter at rim: 8.75 to 8.85mm (.344”-.348”)
Case length: 20.8 to 21mm (.818”-.826”)
Cartridge length: 28.15 to 28.70mm (1.108”-1.130”)
Cartridge weight: 9.3 grams (145 grains)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V17N4 (December 2013)
and was posted online on October 18, 2013


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