By Beetle

The turn of the century into the 1900s was an interesting time in firearm development.  The invention of smokeless powder and Hugo Borchardt’s first semi-automatic pistol caused the world’s armies to re-examine their sidearms. Switzerland and Germany adopted the Luger pistol.  We know that the United States choose John Moses Browning’s Colt 1911 pistol.  The Kingdom of Norway also conducted pistol trials during this time.  Their decision along with subsequent history leads us to today’s interesting and ironic story . . .

The Norwegian Military of Defense established the Permanent Rifle Commission in the 1880s to evaluate all types of small arms.  The commission tested all of the commercially available semi-automatic pistols of the time, including the C93 Borchardt, C96 Mauser, the Luger, FN Browning, and the Colt 1902.  In 1904 the commission decided that an automatic pistol should not be adopted as they considered the designs to be not fully developed.

The Colt 1902 Military Model (bottom right) was determined to be one of the better designs over the Luger and earlier Borchardt.

In 1909 another commission was formed to study small arms calibers. The Pistol Caliber Commission of 1909 determined that 9mm or .38 was the best caliber for military sidearm use.  Therefore new trials were ordered by the commission focusing primarily on 9mm or .38 caliber pistols.  These trials included the Colt 1902 Military Model, Roth-Steyer 1907, and updated designs from Fidejeland, Krag, and other Norwegians.  The Colt 1902 Military Model was the clear winner, as all other designs had some inherent weaknesses.  Troop trials were ordered to begin in 1911.

Norway began negotiations with Colt over the possibility of licensing the Colt M1902 design.  Rather than purchase directly from Colt, Norway wanted to manufacture its own pistols and pay a royalty to Colt.  However, the situation was further complicated because John Moses Browning had licensed his designs outside of the United States to Fabrique Nationale.

The matter was referred to an international patent arbitrator.  Colt hired Colonel Ole Herman Johannes Krag (of Krag rifle fame) to represent them.  Ultimately the arbitrator decided that Fabrique Nationale held the rights to the Browning Design.  Norway negotiated with Fabrique Nationale and secured the rights to manufacture the 1902 Military Model pistol at a cost of 25,000 Norwegian Kroner.

While all of this legal maneuvering was taking place, Norway ordered and received 25 Colt 1902 Military Model pistols from Colt’s London Agency.  The pistols were issued to a Field Artillery unit for trials.  The pistols performed extremely well and the commission decided that they could not be improved.  Thus it appeared that Norway was all set to go with the 1902 Military Model. However, Colonel Krag (who was representing Colt) returned back from the United States with interesting news. He informed the commission that the United States had just adopted a brand new pistol, the Colt 1911 chambered in .45ACP.  The commission decided to hold off on the 1902 design until this new pistol could be tested.

The Commission again reached out to Colt’s London Agency to procure a Colt Model 1911 Government Model.  Colt sent them serial number 976, which was manufactured exactly 40 units later than my 1912 Colt Government Model, serial number 936.

A new round of tests were ordered with this pistol.  The Colt M1911 was tested against offerings from Webley & Scott, Mauser, Schouboe, and various other Norwegian designs.  The Norwegian trial closely mirrored the trials held by the United States.  Only the Colt passed the test without breakages or stoppages.  On September 24, 1914 the Norwegian Minister of Defense officially adopted the Colt Government Model automatic pistol, caliber .45 for use by the Norwegian armed forces.

Norway production began at Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk, the government weapons factory in Kongsberg, located about 45 miles from Oslo.  The Norwegians redesigned the slide stop to make it easier to operate with one hand.  To accommodate this change a small section of the left grip was cut out.

Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk manufactured well over 20,000 units of the M1914 in the period between 1914-1940.  Early examples had a nice blue finish (although nowhere near as fine as Colt’s finish on early Government Models).  However by 1938 the clouds of war had gathered in Europe and Kongsberg switched to a faster and less labor intensive phosphate and enamel finish.

In 1940 the Germans invaded and quickly occupied Norway.  The factory was captured and kept in operation to produce weapons for Nazi use.  M1914 pistols and Krag rifles produced at the factory were transferred to Armeoberkommando Norwegen (Norwegian Army Command).  Most of these weapons were used by German or Norwegian Quisling forces (Norwegians that collaborated with Germany).  The M1914 pistol was designated as the Pistole 657(n) by the Germans.

By 1945 the end was near.  The German Army Weapons Office (Heereswaffenamt) ordered the Kongsberg factory to gear up for the final Allied invasion as no resupply from Germany was possible.  Even though M1914 pistols had been produced for the German war effort since 1940, it was only in 1945 that the Nazi waffenamt was added to the stamps.

A WaA84 waffenamt was applied to the slide and barrel indicating that the gun passed inspection

Norway was liberated on May 8, 1945 bringing an end to German occupation in Norway.  After the war a few hundred additional pistols were manufactured, but without the Nazi waffenamt.  In 1947 the production of the M1914 pistol by Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk was discontinued permanently.  In total approximately 32,000 Norwegian M1914 pistols were produced, 8,223 during Nazi occupation.  Of the 8,223 made for the Germans, only 920 had the waffenamt applied – marking the gun as a Nazi “1911.”

The Kongsberg M1914 (Pistole 657n) as seen here with its WW2 “brother from another mother,” the Colt M1911A1.  In a strange twist of irony America’s iconic 1911 ended up being used by the Nazis as well.  I wonder what John Moses Browning would have thought of this situation?

 

Beetle is an amateur collector, writer, and photographer. His favorite FFL had this to say to him: “you like all the weird stuff.” He can be reached at beetle@vintage1911s.com.

60 Responses to Kongsberg Colt – The Nazi 1911

  1. Please don’t post any more pictures of those year one 1911’s, every time I see one I cringe because I can’t afford to get one right now. They are just works of art, absolutely stunning.

    • Now people should understand what I mean when I say that today’s gun buyers are basically getting ripped off. You can’t buy that kind of finish except on a custom pistol.

    • I love the look of that pistol. It is the pistol’s pistol. I would carry it on my hip, every day, all day, just because it’s pretty. And that’s even considering how much I already like my all-stainless with the fleur-de-lis Alumagrips.

  2. He was too satisfied watching Nazi aircraft being downed all over Europe by his 50BMG to notice….

    I’ve also heard the North Vietnamese captured 1911 sidearms and attempted to copy the design. Imitation is the the highest form of flattery…

    And yes I know JMB died in 1926 RIP.

  3. Great write up!

    While I ‘get it’ as far as the never ending battle to push back against the anti’s fictional reality, it is refreshing to see more content dedicated to the unique history behind some of the people of the guns’ favorite pieces (and less dedicated to preaching to the choir).

    More like this, please!

  4. I love these lessons in history and technology. Keep them coming!

    I still dream of that blued finish from the early 1911 Government models since you wrote about how it was done back in the day. They just don’t make them like they used to…maybe we can start whale farms to obtain the oils essential for this process.

    • We have whales washing ashore at Farewell Spit all the time, here in New Zealand. Local Maori get their bones for carving, maybe you could ask the Conservation Department if you could have some whale oil. Or join the Japanese fishing fleet off Antarctica, who keep killing whales despite international condemnation. I think the Inuit also have traditional whale hunting rights.

  5. We have one of these in my family. It currently resides in my father’s gun vault. My grandpa brought it back with him after his time in WWII. In his infinite wisdom, he took an electric etching tool and inscribed his last name and SSN onto it; just like he did with everyone of his other weapons, tools, boats, and any other expensive item. He didn’t have to live through the time of expansive identity theft. He wanted to make sure he had the best chance to get his stuff back if it was ever stolen. Thats ok, because the emotional sentiment to the gun is wayyyyyy more valuable to me than the market value. It’s something that my father would never sell, and when it comes time for the weapon to be inherited by me, it’s something I will never sell. My grandpa was a D-Day invader in the Airborne. That gun, and a couple of Nazi officer’s swords are beautiful war trophies that I truly value as a sentimental link to him.

    • I need to correct myself, we don’t have the Norweigan model in our family. Now that I think about it, we have a Fabrique Nationale from when they were under Nazi control during the war. It has all the third reich eagle stamps on it like the ones in the pic above.

  6. Takk skal du ha! Seems like the Norwegians like to license firearms and manufacture their own versions. I know they made and used their own version of the HK G3 for a long time, AG3. Now I want to get a Norwegian made 1911… Crap, this list keeps getting longer.

  7. For what’s it’s worth, I believe that Fabrique Nationale under occupation was also making “Colts” for the wehrmacht.

    Popular gun. Kinda reminds me o’ how every major belligerent in WWI shot Maxims at one another.

    • Fabrique Nationale had the rights to John Moses Browning’s designs in Europe. That is why Norway had to pay Fabrique Nationale to manufacture the 1911. However, to my knowledge Fabrique Nationale never actually manufactured any 1911s.

      Instead, they asked John Moses Browning to design a new gun based around the 9mm round that would have high capacity and would not violate Colt’s patents. That gun is the High Power and it shares a similar story with the Norwegian M1914. During WW2 Belgium was also occupied and like the Kongsberg Factory, Fabrique Nationale also manufactured arms for the German war effort. Unlike the Norwegian M1914, almost all of the High Powers manufactured for German use have the Waffenamt applied.

      • Beetle, I believe you are correct. The Nazi Fabrique Nationale that is in my family is of the high power version. It has the Nazi emblem (I can never remember the term for that third reich eagle) stamped on all of its parts. I can’t help but feel the connection to my grandpa everytime I handle that weapon. I always wonder what it was like for him parachuting in behind the lines that early early morning. It makes me appreciate his service and makes me reflect on my service so far. I wish he wouldn’t have died when I was only 5. It would have been nice to talk to him about his experience when I was older and could have understood it better.

  8. But it was always the quality of the men behind the guns that made the difference in the end. And we must remember that Russia killed 9 out of every 10 Germans killed, and that China killed 9 out of every 10 of Japanese killed, during the late unpleasantness.

    The real story of WWII has yet to be told. Then we might have a little more respect for the sacrifices made by the invaded peoples, and the heroic struggles of their armies to repulse the invaders.

  9. Browning probably would have looked at it like Kalashnikov did when reflecting on terrorists using the AK: “They aren’t stupid, they know what a good weapon is.”

    • I was so proud when my Niece came to ask me about guns. She wanted to know how they worked, how they were made, and the history behind them. She read every book on firearms I have. Many will argue about which is better AK or AR, M14 or M16, 1911 or Plastic Fantastic, 9mm or .45 ACP. What most completely ignore is the how they are built, the genius behind the designs, and what circumstances called for the designs in the first place. What book did my Niece first read? A book on the 1911 as it was the first pistol she shot that gave her confidence because it fit her hands and in all steel form she had little problems with recoil.

      When I kick off she will get everything gun related I own. She recognizes the history and sentimental value that they hold. Thank you for the article Beetle, I’ve really missed them. It was one of the reasons I started coming to this site. My Dad, Mom, Sister, and Niece are also loyal readers after I introduced them. We need these kind of articles, it can’t be doom, gloom, and poking fun all the time!

  10. Norway was liberated on May 8, 1945 bringing an end to German occupation in Norway.

    No. The final surrender of German occupied Norway (a weather station on Bear Island) did not occur until September, 1945.

    That might look like a quibble, but it isn’t; it has a bearing on the legal defence of Germans seconded to Japan, who were treated as war criminals for continuing to serve (in China, I think) after the formal end of hostilities with Germany. But, as the last German forces didn’t surrender until even later, it was inconsistent to treat the earlier surrendering group as war criminals but not the later surrendering group.

    • I had never heard of this so I looked it up. Very interesting. While you are indeed correct that the 11 men did not surrender until September 1945, it was not from lack of trying. Apparently they were marooned in the arctic and could not “surrender” until they were rescued 🙂

      From http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/6-soldiers-who-refused-to-surrender

      “World War II’s Operation Haudegen was a German expedition to establish a meteorological station on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. In September 1944, an 11-man crew journeyed to the blustery island of Spitsbergen to gather data on North Atlantic weather patterns. Their mission was top-secret—so top-secret, in fact, that after the collapse of the Nazi government the men were accidentally abandoned on the island. While the crew received a message in May 1945 telling them the war had ended, they subsequently lost all contact with German forces.

      Marooned in the Arctic Circle with no sign of help, the men of Operation Haudegen spent the next four months battling subzero temperatures, high winds and the constant threat of polar bear attacks. Rescue finally came in September 1945, when the Norwegians overheard one of the expedition’s distress calls and dispatched a seal hunting boat to the island. In laying down their weapons, the weather technicians became the last armed German soldiers to capitulate during World War II. By all accounts, the surrender was a friendly affair—the Germans were reportedly so relieved to be rescued that they treated their captors to a celebratory feast.”

  11. That’s pretty cool. I’d never heard of that before.
    Just like I’d never seen how awesome those first-year pieces are until your article on yours.
    Keep ’em coming, please.

  12. Have been reading this site with interest I will be selling or possibly auctioning my 1941 made Norwegian Kongsberg .45 auto in the near future.

  13. Interesting website!

    Overall – very fine production. I really can SEE the difference between the NORGE production and those other manufacturers. Although i would go for a slightly other type of handpistol, that would feature the 1911’s character, but would be a custom-made type, that is more lightweight – and of course overall much slimmer, with material – that is worth a pistol. But to honour the NORGE-productions, i guess not only “Vidkun Quisling” – is somehow proud of that.
    I – for my own idea – again want to state my idea of such a “standard”-handgun – is much more sneak, slim – reliable – outdoorprooved – and of course performant!

    You just have to think – that there are several types of hands – this 1911 design – i only take from NORGE, or with my own customised design.

    HAVE PHUN – and heavy thanks to the KONGSBERGRS for building this.

    thank you

    Rüdiger Müller
    rm1911/meesdorfrangers

  14. I have a M/1914 that I inherited from my dad. He died in 1983 and I remember him telling me that he brought it home from Germany in the 1940’s while serving in the US Army. Based on the serial number, it was made during the German occupation. I look forward to giving it to my grandson when he’s mature enough to appreciate it.

  15. 9 out of ten soldiers killed by Russia and by China. How many of the German POWs the the US(or US allies) captured after D Day lived to return to Germany? While Germany was treating POWs from the US and France better and mostly allowed Red Cross rations in (Geneva Convention), they did so to keep Vichy France supplying food and Did not want retribution from the US and its many german speaking citizens.
    The Luftwaffe POW camps treated the downed airmen somewhat well because they expected(and got the same) for thier crews.
    After D day, this changed. The slave labor and deaths were more prevalent amonst German POWs then, not to Soviet standards, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *