This well-known pistol is believed to have been designed by Karel Krnka on the basis of the Roth-Steyr 1907. A conventional full-slide contains the barrel, the components being locked together by two lugs on top of the barrel engaging recesses in the slide. The barrel is held in the frame by a helical lug beneath the breech, which engages a groove in the frame. Slide and barrel move back together for a short distance after the gun fires, drawing the helical lug through the groove in the frame to rotate the barrel through about 20Ã¸. This disengages the top lugs from the slide and, as they do so, a fourth lug under the barrel strikes a transom in the frame and brings the barrel to a stop. The slide continues moving back, extracting the empty case and cocking the external hammer, then returns to chamber a fresh cardidge from the magazine. Barrel and slide then move forward and the helical lug rotates the barrel back into engagement with the slide.
The magazine, integral in the butt, is loaded by pulling back the slide to open the action, inserting a charger and forcing the cartridges downward. A quick-release catch allows the contents to be ejected through the open action. The pistol chambered a powerful 9mm round specially developed for it, which has since become known as '9mm Steyr'. It was loaded with a 115-grain bullet to give a muzzle velocity of 1115 ft/sec. The dimensions almost duplicate the Bergmann-Bayard, but the Steyr round usually has a steel-jacketed bullet with a sharper point than other 9mm types.
Safeties: (a) A thumb safety somewhat like that on the Colt .45 auto will be found on the left side of the pistol just below the hammer. Turning this up into its notch in the slide makes the pistol safe. (b) An automatic disconnector on the right side of the pistol under the slide prevents this pistol from being fired until the action is wholly closed.
The Model 1911 was developed for military adoption, but was initially ignored by the Austro-Hungarian Army until 1914, when it was adopted as the M12. Regular units had the Roth-Steyr 1907 and the Rast-Gasser 1898 revolver, while the Hungarians were considering the Frommer Stop pistol for their forces. It seems as though small numbers of the commercial version of the Steyr pistol known as the M1911, were purchased by army officers. There is a claim that the first 500 pistols had adjustable rear sights, however a known example from that serial number range features the standard sights and no pistols with adjustable rear sight have been reported.
Ã–sterreichische Waffenfabrik relied on substantial exports to Chile (5000 guns) in 1912 and to Romania (25000-56000 guns, sources disagree) in 1913 to keep the production line in operation. It has been said that the Steyr pistol was adopted by the Landwehr (the Austrian reserve units) as the '9mm Repetierpistole M.12'. Other sources call the pistol: '9mm Selbstiade Pistole M.12'.
When the WW1 began, the Austro-Hungarian authorities predictably found themselves short of handguns. As series production of the Roth-Steyr had finished, work on the Steyr pistol was immediately redoubled. By the end of the war, approximately 300,000 guns had been made. 10,000 pistols had even been ordered by the Bavarian Army in 9mm Parabellum in 1916, with a similar contract in 1918 to offset shortages of Parabellums (P-08's). Bulgaria also ordered an unknown number of these pistols.
The Steyr pistol was extremely reliable and robust, deserving greater recognition than it received. As a pistol design, it must have been one of the strongest ever made. Many were held in store after the end of WW1. After the German unification with Austria in 1938, about 60,000 pistols were re-barrelled for the standard 9mm Parabellum cartridge. These weapons can be identified by the '08' stamped on the left side of the slide and Nazi Eagle stamped on the frame above the trigger. The official German designation: '9mm P12(o)'. These excellent pistols raise the question of how successful the Steyr Model 1911 might have been had it been chambered for the 9mm Parabellum ammunition from the start.
Country of Origin: Austria-Hungary
Caliber: 9mm (.35in)
Weight: .99kg (2.18lbs)
Overall Length: 216mm (8.5in)
Barrel Length: 128mm (5.03in)
Muzzle Velocity: 335m/sec (1100ft/sec)
Feed / Magazine: 8-round fixed magazine
Range: 30m (98ft)