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Thread: The German Navy's first pistol

  1. #1
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    Default The German Navy's first pistol

    A while back I posted a thread on The German Navy's First Repeating Pistol

    But it was the German Navy's first repeating pistol, not the Navy's first pistol. That honor goes to an earlier pistol.

    The modern German navy dates its founding to 14 June 1848, the date the Frankfurt Parliament voted to establish the first all German Navy.

    Since its creation in 1815 the German Confederation, while fielding formidable land armies, had no need for an independent Navy. Instead, it could rely on the large naval forces of three members: The King of the Netherlands commanded the Royal Dutch Navy, the Duke of Holstein was commander of the Danish Navy, and most powerful of all was the King of Hanover, William IV.
    As he was also the King of the United Kingdom he commanded the British Royal Navy.

    But this arrangement fell apart as first the King of the Netherlands left the Confederation. Then, when William died in 1837 his successor Queen Victoria could not replace him in Hanover since the succession laws prevented a female from inheriting his title. Finally, Denmark and Germany fell out over a territorial dispute that turned into the First Schleswig War in early 1848 and the Danish Navy blockaded all German trade in the North Sea and Baltic. At the same time the fires of revolution in France were spreading into the German states, where local uprisings lead to the establishment of the democratically elected Frankfurt Parliament. A month later, on 12 June 1848, the Diet of the German Confederation turned its budget over to the parliament. Two days later the German Navy was born with the decision to spend six million Reichsthaler on a new Navy. The new Reichsflotte grew to consist of two sail and three steam frigates, one sail and six steam corvettes and twenty-seven gunboats and was the first Navy to operate under the Black-Red-Gold flag of Germany. Here are the Ensign and Jack of the new navy.

    Ensign.jpg Jack.jpg

    Today, historians seem to have settled on Reichsflotte as the name of this first German Navy, although it was also referred to as the Bundesflotte, Bundesmarine or Kriegsmarine at one time or another.

    And, thanks to Wikipedia Commons, 1849 paintings of the fleet and the first two frigates.

    Reichsflotte des Deutschen Bundes 1849.jpg SMS Eckernförde (left), & SMS Deutschland (right) in 1849.jpg

    In addition to ships, the fledgling navy was also in need of small arms. From December 1848 to February 1849 the Marine Commission was hastily accumulating samples of sabers, cutlasses, muskets and pistols, with a goal to obtain at least 1,200 muskets and 1,000 pistols. At the time, Europe was still in the midst of changing from flintlock to percussion weapons. The Prussian government plants were all devoted to the conversions, while simultaneously trying to finalize the design of what would become their 1850 pistol. The Marine Commission turned to the German commercial arms manufacturers of Suhl, who had ample capacity to meet the Navy's requirements. Negotiations with the Suhl manufacturers started on 10 March 1849 and resulted in a sample pistol being delivered by Spangenberg & Co. in only four weeks. Based on the sample a contract was signed for the production of 1,000 pistols on 19 May 1849 with three companies: Spangenberg & Co. (S&C), Valentin Christoph Schilling (V.C.S.) and Gottlieb Haenel (G.H.).

    The resulting M1849 Marine Pistole has a lock mechanism similar to, but smaller than, the Prussian M1839 Infantrie Gewehr. The steel barrel is 236mm (~ 9 5/16") long with a 15mm (0.59") bore. The furniture (trigger guard, butt cap and left sideplate are brass) while the stock is European walnut. The loading rod is permanently attached via a jointed swivel, while the left side had a belt hook. The pistols were originally browned, although the finish is long gone except in a few protected areas on virtually all examples. Since the new Navy had no inspectors of its own, the pistols were inspected by the existing Prussian Army inspectors, resulting in several Crown/letter inspector's stamps on various parts. Those stamps do not imply Prussian ownership of any individual pistol. The pistols are identified as Navy property by the Reichsflotte's double-headed eagle, the same one that appears on the Navy Jack, on the lock, the top of the barrel and on the stock. This is not the same as the Austrian or Russian eagle. On the lockplate the Eagle appears over SUHL, the maker's mark and an Anchor.

    M1849.JPG Lock.JPG Mark.JPG

    The Reichsflotte had a short life due to ongoing political upheaval in Germany. In April of 1852, the newly appointed Bundestag decided to eliminate the fleet with two frigates to be turned over to Prussia and the remaining ships to be sold commercially. On 31 March 1853 the Reichsflotte officially ceased to exist. It is generally accepted that the two frigates were turned over to Prussia with all their associated weapons, while the arms of the other ships went into a Federal fortress in Mainz where they remained until they were finally sold on 2 January 1861. Since they were no longer intended for use at sea, it is generally assumed that the pistols in Mainz had their belt hooks cut off, thus explaining why the ones with belt hooks are seldom found today. Although there is no supporting physical evidence, it is likely that the pistols, like many of the muskets, found their way to the US around the beginning of the Civil War. Muskets are frequently found with US markings, and a number of pistols have turned up in the US as well. I found mine in Texas.

    The remaining M1849 pistols continued on in the service of the Prussian Königliche Marine, where they were later joined by the Colt Revolvers of my previous thread.

    I hope you find this article interesting, albeit somewhat off topic in the Luger forum. I'm doggedly searching for the pistol I need for the next installment. Stay tuned.
    Mike C.

    Member: NRA, NAPCA, N-SSA(Veteran)
    Life member: OVMS, VGCA
    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  2. #2
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    Hi Mike,
    Very interesting post on early German Naval history, thanks for the presentation.
    Best regards, Norm

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    Thanks much Mike! Good research.
    Tim
    When a nation is in decline, its politics becomes theater.

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    Thanks Mike,
    good info and a scarce pistol for sure!
    03man - Don Voigt
    Luger student and collector
    Looking for DWM mil.side plates- 14,17,45
    Art. luger rear sight slide # 03

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the positive feedback! I've always enjoyed historic firearms, and especially enjoy learning more about the historic context of items in my collection.

    In this case I, and the rest of the collecting community, owe a considerable debt to the extensive research in the German archives by Hans Reckendorf and his 1983 self-published book Die Handwaffen der Königliche Prußischen und der Kaiserlichen Marine and to Heinrich Harder and Jens Alles who expanded our knowledge further in their excellent book Faustfeurwaffen der deutschen Marinen 1849 – 1918. The latter is still in print and available for purchase on line.
    Last edited by m1903a3; 11-23-2016 at 06:28 PM.
    Mike C.

    Member: NRA, NAPCA, N-SSA(Veteran)
    Life member: OVMS, VGCA
    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  6. #6
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    I recently acquired another M1849 Marine Pistole, this one from Valentin Christoph Schilling (V.C.S.). It's of interest because it has the Gurtelhaken (belt hook), indicating it was most likely from one of the two warships the Prussian Navy bought. With the exception of the maker's mark, the various markings are the same as the Spangenberg & Co. (S&C) pistol in the original post. Like the other one, with the exception of a couple of the smallest screws, every part as a two digit assembly/batch number. This one is 28. I'm including additional photos so you can see the internal bits of the lock and the marks that are not visible when the pistol is assembled.

    Assembled Lock.jpg Left Side.jpg Lock.jpg Right Side.jpg Top view.jpg

    Belt Hook and Side Plates.jpg Breech Bottom.jpg Breech Side.jpg Breech Top.jpg Breech.jpg
    End Cap.jpg Hammer Bridle and Tumbler.jpg Lockplate inside.jpg Lockplate outside.jpg Rammer Tip.jpg
    Screws.jpg Trigger Guard.jpg Trigger.jpg


    Mike C.

    Member: NRA, NAPCA, N-SSA(Veteran)
    Life member: OVMS, VGCA
    Si vis pacem, para bellum

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    This month I finally managed to get an example of the third and final maker of the M1849 Marine Pistole, Gottlieb Haenel. The pistol differs only by the makers initials "G.H." on the lockplate below the two headed Reichsflotte eagle and "Suhl" stamps.

    IMG_1532.jpg

    There was another single shot percussion pistol, the M1852, used by the German Navy before they started using percussion revolvers. Sadly, I have a better chance of finding a set of unobtainium shoes for an albino unicorn than finding an M/52. The only known example is one that was converted to flintlock for the African trade.
    Mike C.

    Member: NRA, NAPCA, N-SSA(Veteran)
    Life member: OVMS, VGCA
    Si vis pacem, para bellum

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    Hi Mike, Your dedication in pursuing pistols of the early German Navy is exemplary, a true scholar's effort. Well done!
    As to unicorns, like 'Big Foot', perhaps there's one out there somewhere - cheers!

  9. #9
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    Nice work Mike! Don't give up on the M/52, they may be others out there.
    Best regards, Norm

  10. #10
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    Amazing determination, and a nice set of pistols to show for it.
    If two is a "brace", is three a "thrace"?
    03man - Don Voigt
    Luger student and collector
    Looking for DWM mil.side plates- 14,17,45
    Art. luger rear sight slide # 03

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