The Danes Scrambled to Keep Their Pistol Factory Out of German Hands
The Bergmann pistol served Denmark for three decades
by MATTHEW MOSS
The pistol — named for industrialist Theodor Bergmann — certainly wasn’t the best in its class, mostly owing to its clumsy ergonomics, but it was hardly the worst. Denmark adopted the weapon and managed to keep producing it despite the World War I German invasion of Belgium, where the Bergmann was originally built.
The Swiss government tested the first Bergmann pistol in 1893. A series of improved designs followed. These included the Model 1897, the Bergmann Simplex and the 1903 Bergmann Mars.
The Spanish ordered 3,000 Bergmann Mars pistols. But the Bergmanns Industriewerke factory in Switzerland lacked the manufacturing capacity to fulfill the order and thus sold the production contract and the pistol design to Belgian company Anciens Établissements Pieper, or AEP.
In 1907 the Spanish requested some changes to the weapon. These resulting pistol became known as the Bergmann Bayard Model 1908 — “Bayard” being an AEP trading name.
AEP delivered around 4,000 Bergman Bayard pistols to the Spanish military, which used them until the Campo-Giro and subsequent Astra pistols became available.
AEP marketed the pistol to the civilian market while searching for fresh military contracts. The U.S. Army trialed a Bergmann Mars Model 1903 chambered in .45 ACP during its pistol selection process in 1906. The U.S. Ordnance Corps rejected the pistol when it failed to function properly, and the U.S. Army eventually adopted a Browning-designed Colt pistol as the M1911.
Following examination of some sample pistols, the Danish army requested a few changes and subsequently ordered 4,840 Bergmann pistols. This pistol became known as the Bergmann Bayard Model 1910. It had a simplified disconnector, altered grips, a cut out in the magazine housing to help the shooter pull the magazine free and an S-shape mainspring.
Production of the Danish pistols was underway when World War I began and Germany occupied most of Belgium. Work halted at AEP and the Danes scrambled to set up a new factory in Denmark. While the Danes established production, engineers made several more changes to improve the Bergmann Bayard’s design. They added wider plastic grips, which improved control of the pistol when firing.
This new iteration became known as the Bergmann Bayard Model 1910/21— the ultimate Bergmann pistol. The Danish army retrofitted many of the original M1910s with the new improvements. Danish factories manufactured a further 2,804 M1910/21s between 1922 and 1924, stamping them with the distinctive marks “HÆRENS TØJHUS” and “HÆRENS RUSTKAMMER.”
The pistol used a short recoil and locked breech action and fed from a six-round, detachable, single-stack box magazine. The spring-loaded magazine release lever was located in the font of the trigger, while the safety was on the rear of the receiver. The pistol chambered the able nine-by-23-millimeter Bergmann cartridge. The gun’s 2.2-pound weight helped to mitigate recoil.
The M1910/21 was predominantly issued as an officer’s sidearm and briefly saw action during the German invasion of Denmark on April 9, 1940. The Danish resistance also used the pistol.
The Bergmann pistol served Denmark well for more than 30 years before the greatly superior SIG P210 replaced it in 1949.