(Editor’s note: This is the first story from Ed Dittus. Ed’s a good friend, scientist, marketing guru and owner of a 37mm launcher manufacturing firm. He also has the most unique collection of firearms I’ve ever seen.)
The Bergmann and Lignose companies of Germany produced a series of pocket pistols between the years 1921 and 1928. They produced two models, the Model 2 was a Westentaschenpistole (vest-pocket pistol), the Model 3 was a Taschenpistole (pocket pistol). Each model was produced in two configurations: the classic Browning style pistol and the Einhand (one hand) version which allowed for the loading and cocking of the weapon with, well, one hand. The Einhand versions of each size pistol were identified with an “a” following the model number (i.e. 2a and 3a). The Bergmann models are indistinguishable from the Lignose models. The only variation over the run is that somewhere around serial number 10000 the cocker material changed from steel to brass. This probably reflected a better material cost to the manufacturer.
I personally find these things interesting as a collecting objective inasmuch as they begin with serial number 1 and end at ~55000 with a small number of variations. These pistols have the common courtesy to end their run and not rattle on with many manufacturers and thousands of variations like some less mannerly weapons that I could name (cough Luger cough). Also, there is no evidence of a cottage industry devoted to faking them.
I became interested in these pistols some time ago and compiled a database of serial numbers and other information from various sources. I thought that it might interest the readership if I shared some general findings that I gleaned from this information.
These data must be viewed as what is called a convenience sample, cases that were obtained opportunistically as opposed to being collected in a formal, structured fashion. This type of data is all too common when one does not have factory data at one’s disposal. The danger is that the data might well be unrepresentative of the true population and so implications drawn might be misleading. That said, the general findings seem reasonable and provide insight into the life of these interesting weapons. Bear in mind, too, that if we do a simple validity check one gets some comfort. Consider that about 55,000 pistols were likely produced by both companies. The lowest serial number found for the Lignose Company is 6900. This suggests that about 12% of the total pistols manufactured were made by Bergmann. This compares fairly well with the 9% of Bergmann examples in the data base and gives some support to the idea that the data represents reality.
The database contains 375 entries of which 360 are for complete pistols which allows for a deeper level of analysis.
As shown in Table 1, Bergmann examples are fairly rare. Note that “pure Bergmann” examples are somewhat less common than that inasmuch as after Bergmann’s acquisition various Bergmann parts were sold with Lignose grips and, presumably, other Lignose manufactured parts.
Incidence of models
Table 2, below, shows the percent occurrences of each model by manufacturer. Interestingly, the Bergmann Company’s sales were of the classic pistol design ie. not Einhand (81% vs. 19%) while the reverse was true for the Lignose Company (75% Einhand vs. 25%). Whether this reflects marketing direction or production issues is unknown.
Table 3 shows the overall incidence of Model by Manufacturer. Here we see that while Bergmann manufactured pistols are somewhat rare, their Einhand models are quite scarce, followed closely by the larger, non Einhand, #3.
While the Lignose models are generally far more common, their #3 model, too, is scarce. The reasons for this are open to speculation but it seems that the consumer benefit of a larger, non Einhand, pistol is not terribly apparent compared to the other models.
These data are summarized in Chart 1.
A question that is worthy of exploration is what, if any, pattern existed for production of the various Bergmann/Lignose models. A casual examination of the data suggests that there was no particular system to production. To examine this a bit more objectively I simply plotted each model by it’s serial number.
Up to approximately serial number 30000 it appears that all models are represented. After that point the non Einhand models seem to have been de-emphasized. In fact, Model #3 appears to have not been produced from serial 30000 until near the end of the run of these pistols. The reasons for this change doubtless have some roots in the dynamics of the civilian pistol market in Germany which leads us into a world of speculation.
Another variation that will confront the collector is the material from which the “cocker” is fabricated. Both brass and steel examples are to be found. The photo shows a steel cocker. Note the serial number (554).
In the graph, above, “None” indicates the non-Einhand #2 and #3 models. One might speculate that since about mid-way during the production life of this weapon, at about the time brass was supplanted by steel as the cocker material, Germany’s hyperinflation was peaking and that cost had an impact on the choice of material.
We can see from Table 4 that the majority of Einhand pistols were constructed using steel for the cocker. I have not noted any observations as to the serviceability of brass used in this application. I own a number of pistols with brass cockers and they work as well as the steel examples with no particular troublesome patterns of wear. Perhaps there was an opportunistic purchase of a large quantity of brass material. There is no obvious answer. The division between models is reasonably even within material. This simply suggests that the manufacturer switched over to steel from brass without regard to model. The counts within manufacturer are too small for any meaningful comparisons.
The final variation that the collector might come across is the presence of either a loaded chamber or “cocked” indicator. This indicator consists of a pin that extends from the back of the slide or frame and provides a tactile indication of the given condition. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of entries in the database do not capture this piece of information. Only seven examples are reported with a loaded chamber indicator. Six of these are of Bergmann manufacture. The one that is found on a Lignose pistol is on the example with the lowest Lignose serial number. This raises the possibility that the slide with the indicator was a left over from Bergmann manufacture and which was sensibly used by the new corporate masters. Waste not, want not. While the number of examples is small and are extrapolated from at great risk, they are nevertheless summarized in Table 5. In any event, the author would very much like to hear from anyone that has pistols with the loaded chamber indicator. Please respond to the email at the top of this article.
A new variation
I recently bought a Bergmann #2 sn5xx. When I examined it I noticed a slot in the rear of the frame and slide.
The picture shows this feature on the right, next to an unmodified frame.
The slot is filled with an elongation of the ejector.
And what is the purpose of this modification? I think that this was done to ease reassembly of the pistol. Models without this feature require the slide to be positioned so that the extractor is cleared before the slide can engage the rails on the frame. A bit tricky since the recoil spring has to be maintained in position during this process.
The modified pistol allows the slide to engage the rails in a forward position allowing for the recoil spring to sort of sit naturally as the slide engages. The slot on the slide allows the ejector to enter the frame and that funny little extension on the rear of the ejector simply fills the opening when the pistol is assembled.
So what I think we have here is a factory mod that might have been implemented on a limited test basis. It was non-trivial inasmuch as the frame did not receive the cut out required for the other models and the slide was machined with that rear slot.
Possibly a bit of Germanic over engineering that addressed a problem that might not have been as compelling as was thought.
I would like to know if anyone else has an example showing this modification. I suspect a few more were made, whether they survived is another story.
The Lignose Company, after ceasing production of pistols, became involved with the motion picture industry from a technical standpoint. The history of this company, as with so many other modest concerns of the period, remains to be explored.
Note: The original version of my piece appeared in the September 2020 issue of Automatic Magazine, the Journal of the National Automatic Pistol Collectors Association. If you have an interest in this area I suggest you check them out and join. See them here: napca.net
Shameless plug: Remember to check out ExoticAmmo.com for all of your 37mm launcher and ammo needs.
Ed Dittus is a longtime gun aficionado and collector. He specializes in pre-WW2 German pistols. single shot pistols, Remingtons and Glocks.
Ed is CEO of The Ordnance Group, LLC in Florida. He established Ordnance Group in 2013 to manufacture and distribute 37mm weapons to law enforcement and civilians. For a number of years, he attended local Florida gun shows as a vendor and enjoyed meeting his customers and learning firsthand about their needs. Since then, Ordnance Group has grown substantially and has secured contracts with domestic police departments, and international military organizations. Most recently, Ed established ExoticAmmo.com, an on-line store, to sell his 37mm launchers, as well as other related products, directly to consumers.
Prior to this venture, Ed was founder and Chief Executive Officer of Media Marketing Assessment where he created and commercialized advanced analytical tools that allowed advertising expenditures to become, for the first time, accountable, from a financial standpoint. Ed has been recognized as a pioneer in this industry, the segment he created now accounts for spending in excess $1billion.
Ed began his career in advertising at Young and Rubicam in NYC; developing media and marketing tools, and consulting on their implementation.
On a lighter note, while Ed holds an advanced degree in Physiological Psychology, he is also one of the Producers of the remake of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” entitled “Grave Robbers from Outer Space.” Ed lives in Florida with his wife and two cats and spends his free time writing for gun-related journals and studying historical firearms.
Ed is a member of the following organizations: Benefactor Member NRA, Life Member Ordnance Society (UK), Life Member 2nd Amendment Foundation, Life Member GOA, Member NAPCA, Member German Gun Collectors Association.