Obscure Object of Desire: The Kongsberg ‘Colt’ Nazi 1911 Pistol

Nazi 1911 pistol

Courtesy Beetle

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. We know that the United States chose 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 an interesting and ironic story.

The Norwegian Military 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.

kongsberg colt nazi 1911

Courtesy Beetle

The Colt 1902 Military Model (bottom right) was determined to be one of the better designs over the Luger and the 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 already 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 M1902.

However, Colonel Krag (who was representing Colt) returned 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.

kongsberg colt nazi 1911

Courtesy Beetle

A new round of tests was 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 ACP for use by the Norwegian armed forces.

Norway production began at Kongsberg Vapenfabrik, 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 panel was cut out.

kongsberg colt nazi 1911

Courtesy Beetle

Kongsberg Vapenfabrik manufactured well over 20,000 units of what was called 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 the Armeoberkommando Norwegen (Norwegian Army Command). Most of these weapons were used by German or Norwegian Quisling forces (Norwegians who 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.

kongsberg colt nazi 1911

A WaA84 waffenamt was applied to the slide and barrel indicating that the gun passed inspection. (Courtesy Beetle)

Norway was liberated on May 8, 1945 bringing an end to German occupation. 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 Vapenfabrik was discontinued permanently.

In total approximately 32,000 Norwegian M1914 pistols were produced by Kongsberg, 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.”

kongsberg colt nazi 1911

Courtesy Beetle

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 that?

 

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 [email protected].

 

This post was originally published in 2014. 

comments

  1. avatar Sam I Am says:

    The design of the slide stop lever seems to be rather useful, vs. the “real thing”.

    These historical articles are always welcomed and enjoyed.

  2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    What a cool piece of history.
    Hope you still own it.

  3. avatar tdiinva says:

    This doesn’t even come close to this “nuclear”level irony. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project, was married to the cousin of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Nazi Germany’s equivalent of General George Marshall.

    1. avatar oldguy says:

      tdiinva – I know you meant equivalent in rank, but in terms of leadership and honor, there was not then and is not now anyone equivalent to George C. Marshall.

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        Yep. Just a note about his position in the hierarchy

      2. avatar Steve says:

        Lolol. Marshall was a globalist cuck who gave us communist China, the EU, and helped turn the american tax coffers into a trough for the rest of the world.

    2. avatar Eric Swalwell says:

      My source in the Communist Party (Wikipedia) tells me that it was Kitty Oppenheimer’s mother who was Keitel’s cousin.

      Speaking of nuclear weapons and the communist agenda: America has waaaaayyyyy too many legit nuclear weapons and Trump has waaaayyyy too many supporters. Problem meet solution….. just saying.

      Eric Swalwell 2020

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Giving nuclear weapons to Trump supporters? I like the way you think.

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    That is an interesting bit of history. I’ve said before that the idiosyncrasies of firearms is one of the things that make them so interesting. U.S. manufacturers of the 1911 should look at that slide release. Reminds me of a SIG decocker. The best out there.

    1. avatar Darkman says:

      Never got bit by the 1911 bug. They just never felt right for me even though it is an excellent design.
      Have to agree on the slide release. Surprised it hasn’t been adopted/adapted for those who have hand strength issues. Since numerous companies are attempting to address hand strength issues in present day semi’s.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Darkman, fun and very expensive. A friend just acquired a rare Navy marked 1911. He declined to say how much he paid, but I’m sure it was a whole heap-a-bunch and that’s a lot!

      2. avatar AdamTA1 says:

        I just bought my first (and likely only) 1911 just a couple months ago. I don’t have a 1911 bug but ever since I got into firearms I knew I would have to get one eventually. To “round out” my safe. Next will probably be a lever action rifle.

  5. avatar enuf says:

    Fascinating stuff. It would be fun to own a good example of 1911’s from each page of the design’s history. From earliest forms, the different countries that made it, the different companies too.

    Wonder how many companies that were in competition to sell their design to the US Army prior to WW1 ended up making the 1911 under contract for the war effort? A common example would be Remington, who’s model 53 is claimed to have surpassed the Colt design for reliability. But was too late as the Colt was already in production and no one wanted to invest in tooling up a factory for a second service pistol.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Most if the WW2 M1911A1 production was by Remington instead of Colt. And other manufacturers got involved too.

    2. avatar Aaron says:

      I believe the Singer sowing machine company made some very good examples, very small batch. Before making bomb sights.

  6. avatar GS650G says:

    The blue finish on those early 1911 is so gorgeous. A process lost today unfortunately.

    Nazi .45 ACP ammo made at the time would be another collectable rarity.

    1. avatar gus says:

      here is a link to another article that details the finishing process

      https://scducks.com/forum/showthread.php?153568-First-Year-of-Production-Colt-1911

      along with more pictures of the exact gun featured in the above article, serial number 936.

  7. avatar former water walker says:

    Cool! What would Browning think? Who knows. A lot of his technology was “borrowed” after his demise. Maxim is the real question. Maxim machine guns killed a helluva lot more than 1911’s…interesting how early various armies adopted semiautomatic handguns. After that “reasons to carry a revolver” fluff article😃😎😏😏😏

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Former, don’t forget all the Colt, S&W and Webley revolvers that were issued along with those semi-autos. They served well. Revolvers still do.

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Oh I know a bit about The Great War. Even had 2 uncles who went “over there”. Both nearly died from Spanish Flu. Just a jab at TTAG for posting a pro-revolver article. Kinda on the same thought as “semiautomatic shotguns suck” but somehow pump doesn’t. Unless you short stroke. Or aren’t forceful. Never had a malfunction with any(10 & 1 was a Keltec!) semiautomatic pistols but did with a revolver (cylinder problem). YMMV

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Former, it wasn’t just the Great War. I was post Vietnam and I I saw revolvers issued. Mostly rotorheads when they were giving us a hop. But revolvers were/are still around. Always will be. BTW, I got the jab you were giving TTAG. If we don’t mess with each other; what’s the fun in this?

      2. avatar jwm says:

        It was a numbers game during both world wars. No one on either side could keep up with the demands of the militaries. As late as ww2 even black powder revolvers were still being issued to rear area troops that needed some form of weapon but were not expected to go toe to toe with the red army.

        The US issued colt and s&w revolvers to a lot of non front line folks to free up 1911’s for front line use.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          Stateside “low number” Springfield rifles were used for Guard duty. Even Krags were issued in places. Overseas other guns were used to free up M1s for frontline use. I have a photo in a magazine of M17 Enfields being used by a unit on the Normandy beaches.

        2. avatar former water walker says:

          Pretty much EVERYONE knows about the rifle shortage southern cross…

        3. avatar gus says:

          aren’t 1911’s easier and cheaper to make than revolvers?

        4. avatar jwm says:

          Gus. If you are already set up in your factory to make 1911s, yes. But if you have to shut your factory down and retool and retrain and then restart production, all the while a major war is raging, then it makes sense just to continue the revolver production to meet demands. Of all the kit a soldier needs the handgun is the least important. And honestly, for what a soldier uses them for any decent quality handgun will do the job.

          The brits designed a new anti tank gun during ww2 to replace their older less capable 2 pounder AT guns. But because of the disaster at Dunkirk the brits could not afford to shut down 2 pounder production in favor of the new 6 pounder gun. Their soldiers lost nearly all their AT guns in leaving France and had they stopped production to make the change over their army would have had almost no AT guns.

          Eventually they were able to make good the losses and start making the newer, more capable gun.

  8. avatar jwm says:

    Germany occupied Norway for 4 years. The Norwegians produced a total of 8,200 versions of the 1911 for their german overlords. In 4 years.

    If the french had been half that dedicated to fucking with the germans the war may have been shorter.

    1. avatar enuf says:

      The tenacity and courage of the Norwegians was exceptional. They fought hard and even after defeat never stopped resisting. Constant sabotage of manufacturing slowed the Nazi plans. Norwegians lives were lost in the destruction of heavy water production. The government in exile ran the merchant marine fleet in support of the Allies thru-out. About half of Norway’s commercial shipping was sunk during the war, but they rebuilt it all and more within five years. After the war the Norwegians showed no tolerance for collaborators. They tried and executed the 25 worst and imprisoned 19,000.

      Norway can be rightly proud of how well they stood up to evil in that time.

  9. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    In other words, a second nation put the 1911 through a competitive test against other pistol designs, and found the “unreliable 1911” (as Interwebz gun experts claim) was, in fact, reliable.

  10. avatar gus says:

    Bertrand Russel said something once about the atmosphere at the turn of the century. I can’t find the quote right now and that’s too bad because it was a good one. he said it was an exciting time to be alive, full of invention and ingenuity. indeed it was in the world of firearms. what a time!

    1. avatar Miner49er says:

      Bert was an astute observer of human society, he was one of the first to speak against American involvement in Vietnam:

      “He began public opposition to US policy in Vietnam with a letter to The New York Times dated 28 March 1963. By the autumn of 1966, he had completed the manuscript War Crimes in Vietnam. Then, using the American justifications for the Nuremberg Trials, Russell, along with Jean-Paul Sartre, organised what he called an international War Crimes Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal.”

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Which had all the validity of a bunch of good old boys deciding on a lynching. In case I’ve forgotten lately, thank you for making Trump president and fighting so hard to ensure that he gets a second term.

        You and your old white billionaires made it possible.

  11. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

    Thanks for the history lesson. I enjoyed it.
    Not something I would have looked up on my own.

  12. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    That’s pretty darn cool

  13. avatar FirstBubba says:

    Though I haven’t spent my lifetime frequenting gun shows, I’ve seen Colt 1911’s marked, “Singer” the sewing machine, “Int’l Harvester”, “Remington-Rand” the typewriter and various other manufacturers that were pressed into service to manufacture firearms.

  14. avatar DavidT says:

    Another, ever rarer pistol that went the other way (German design tested by the US) was the .45 Luger, of which only 2 originals exist. Obviously it was never adopted but an interesting concept nonetheless.

  15. avatar Alan says:

    Interesting article. Once upon a time, back in the 1960’s, while working in Virginia, I had purchased Norwegian Colt 45 ACP pistol, Didn’t pay much for it at the time, kept it for a number of years, still have small scars from “hammer bite”. Eventually sold it for a lot more than I had paid for it, using the profit to pay for a 70 Series pistol that I fired in IPSC competition for years. Some purchases turned out to have been smart, or perhaps lucky. I wonder what one of these pistols would bring in today’s market.

  16. avatar Fun Gunner says:

    “Ve haf vays of killing ze soul with von shot.”

    -Some Nazi with a 1911

  17. avatar Harold LeRoy Harker says:

    I thought I read a while back that the U.S. was going back to the .45 ACP because they considered the 9MM to be too weak.
    But my latest look indicated they are still using the 9MM but just a different gun than the Berretta.

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