An incredible piece of history

Another piece of history has come into the shop. This is a Belgian-made FN model Icebox Armory - Blog Image 31910/22, or what some call a model 22. It is a 7.65×17 mm (.32 auto in the US) caliber pistol designed by John Moses Browning. The original design in 1909 with a 3.5″ barrel was offered to Colt by Mr. Browning, but they declined to take it. He sold the rights to FN as he did with many of his later pistol designs. The original variant is the gun that started WW1 by being used to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand; one was even used to kill Louisiana Governor Huey Long.

After WW1, several European countries wanted a gun like this one for service use, but wanted a longer barrel. In 1922 FN obliged by adding the muzzle extension to the slide, which is evident in the picture, and lengthened the barrel to 4.48″. When the Germans occupied Belgium they continued FN manufacturing of the gun and put inspection/quality control markings on what they made. This is one of those Nazi-produced guns. They were typically issued to Luftwaffe pilots as most .32 auto caliber pistols were, however this one is nickle-plated and no pilot would have gotten this, his would have been in a blued finish.

This is fartoo fancy and was most likely belonged to a government official or a higher-ranking officer in the SS. Unlike many wartime firearms which have mixed parts from several guns, this is a 100% original piece. Every part has the same serial number on it and inspection stamps. Variations of this firearm were made right up into the 1980s. The bore and outside finish are extraordinary in that it is almost perfect. What a find!


Made in Norfolk, CT

As an amateur historian and curator of the things I collect, I feel a bit of a responsibility to try not just to take care of those relics, but whenever possible, share them and return some to where they rightfully belong. This is such an item.

The town of Norfolk has been a wonderful place in which to work and operate a firearms dealership. The customers and the political leaders of the community have been welcoming and friendly to me, as well as supportive of my efforts to operate a store here. I feel a sense of obligation to the town in that when I found out that there was a certain relic of the past available for purchase in Waterbury I went out of my way to acquire it not only for myself, but long term for the town of Norfolk. This pistol was made sometime around 1867 or so in Norfolk, and is so marked on the barrel. It is a pocket revolver in .28 caliber and is significant not only for where it was made, but how it operated in its day.

Icebox Armory - Blog Image 4At a time when muzzle loading of ball and powder was still common this pistol utilized a cup primed, cased cartridge. The first use of metallic cartridges in America was by Smith and Wesson in 1857 with .22 caliber rimfire cartridges. This was an extrapolation of that with a front loaded cup primer cartridge which the hammer impacted through a small space at the rear of the cylinder. Once fired, there was a small hook shaped extraction tool which attached to the screw below the cylinder on the right side of the firearm. This has since been lost. The gun, however, is intact and still functions. It has a 3″ octagonal barrel roll stamped on top, “Conn. Arms Co.; Norfolk, Conn.” The frame is brass and still retains a small amount of the original silver plating it had. The blueing of the barrel is gone and replaced by a brown rust patina. 

I felt it important to bring it back “home” and you can find it on display at the shop. Eventually, it will be turned over to the town historical society. In the meantime an effort will be made to determine exactly where in town it was manufactured.

An update. I have been informed that the manufacturing site was located at what is now the location of the town sewer plant about 1/4 of a mile east of the shop on Rt 44. There are no remnants of the structure however I swear that the old sluice way for the water powered equipment is visible parallel to the river in the woods when the leaves are off the trees. I understand that no casting was done on site so these would have been subcontracted.

Once in a while…

Icebox Armory - Blog Image 1Once in a while, something unusual comes through the door. This is a rather uncommon one. Custom-made 1911 frame pistols are very popular because of the quality of construction and their resultant accuracy. This is a VERY lightly used Les Baer PREMIER II. Not fully broken in, it is unbelievably tight – not mention, all hand fit, right down to the takedown pin. This is at the top of the list when it comes to my favorite pistols from the mind of J. M. Browning.

Holding a piece of history on Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and when you work in a gun store you are sometimes confronted directly with pieces of history which bring home the fact that men used some amazing tools to protect our rights to live as free men and women.
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These are two such pieces, handled by real people who spent a part of their lives defending ours. The upper piece is a WW 1 Smith & Wesson Model of 1917 in .45 ACP. If one knows their guns, they know ACP means Auto Colt Pistol. It was created in 1905 for The 1907 semi-automatic following dissatisfaction with the Model 1905 .45 Smokeless Rimless round. But all of that is another story. (Believe it or not Winchester almost started 1911 production but the war ended earlier than expected so…). Being 1917, Colt’s patent on the 1911 was still in force. No one else could make it without permission and tooling which would take time to make, so the government ordered revolvers that headspace with the case length not relying on a nonexistant cartridge rim. Ejection of empties was facilitated with the use of steel half-moon clips, holding the cartridges thereby providing a rim for ejection. Of course, these clips were more than a pain and further in a muddy trench often were lost. The average soldier carried a small stick or used the tip of a rifle cartridge to push out the empties. Colt made just such a revolver too in conjunction with the fully taxed 1911 production line.
The second gun is WW 2 vintage from roughly 1943. It is a Smith & Wesson hand ejector .38 special. This gun debuted in 1899, and has only had minor engineering changes since. It is still made as the Model 10. It is the single most produced handgun in history.
During the war, revolvers of this type were issued, mostly stateside, to low priority people like factory guards and such in order to free up 1911s for soldiers in the field (there’s the 1911 again). After the war, the government brought them back.
In 1946, it was decided that German police in the occupied American section of West Germany would be issued these leftover guns instead of semi-automatics. The average German hated revolvers (quick, name a German revolver maker! You cant either, eh?), and typically did not take care of them. This one was issued to the Bavarian Rural Police (State police) along with about 1199 others. It is so stamped on the left side of the frame and was returned in incredible shape. A little bit of history for your Memorial Day weekend. Just a little bit of why I enjoy firearms. It is a fantastic way to hold “history” in your hand, and sometimes even get a feel for what the time was like. Important.