FN Model 1922 pistol handgun
Travis Pike for TTAG
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I’ve become more and more of a fan of old guns. I cursed myself today when I was outbid on an Ithaca 37 Police, and it’s now going for higher than I’m willing to pay. What wasn’t selling for higher than my willingness to pay was an FN Model 1922. I think what attracts me to older guns is that I don’t know much about them, what makes them tick, or their particular intricacies.

If you showed me the latest wonder pistol from any big manufacturer, I’m likely to see a striker-fired, polymer frame, double-stack 9mm. They can often be neat, but they don’t capture me. They don’t get the blood pumping. Old guns do, at least they do for me. Today we are looking at one of the few classic guns I’ve picked up at a gun show for a decent bargain price.

The Origins of the FN Model 1922

The FN Model 1922 pistol isn’t necessarily an original design. Instead, it’s a (then) new take on the John Moses Browning-designed FN Model 1910. The Model 1910 was a tiny, very concealable pistol that came in either .32 ACP or .380 ACP.

FN saw dollar signs in military contracts and went after them. But the Model 1910 was too small for military use, so they amped up the size in all directions. The barrel gained an inch and went from 3.5 to 4.5 inches overall. The grip saw an extension to fill the hand and allow for a larger magazine. The larger magazine allowed two more rounds for each caliber. FN Model 1922 handguns in .32 ACP held nine rounds and .380 ACP variants increased to eight rounds.

This little guy was built to be a duty gun… an odd choice. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Clearly, what constitutes a duty pistol was different in those days, especially in Europe. The Yugoslavian military adopted the FN Model 1922, and so did police and military forces in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, and Turkey.

Under Nazi occupation, the Belgium firm continued to produce the pistols for the Wehrmacht, and those models are often considered valuable collector’s items. Fun fact: because of the occupation of Belgium in both World Wars, the Belgians would license the FAL design to them, which led to the G3.

It’s a bit weird looking, but kinda cute. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

My 1922 is pretty standard without any fancy provenance. After WW2, the pistols were spread everywhere, including West Germany.

At the Gun Show

I picked up the FN Model 1922 — just in time for its centennial — from the same kind fella who sold me the Astra 600. I got both guns for a heckuva deal. This was the first 1922 I’ve seen at a gun show in a decade. The pistol was advertised as a .32 ACP, so I ended up purchasing two boxes of .32 ACP for it. The magazine said 7.65 mm.

Did Browning love heel mag releases or did Europeans? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

When I got home and examined the pistol more closely I noticed the bore looked a little big for .32 ACP. I dropped a projectile down the barrel and quickly realized that what I actually had the .380 ACP variant.

That ended up being just fine since I had a few boxed of the ole 9mm Kurz in the closet. The rounds fit into the magazines without issue and the mags are likely identical between .32 ACP and .380 ACP pistols.

The little fella is a Borwning design and it shows. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The FN Model 1922 has Browning’s fingerprints all over it. I mean, FN chambered it in two cartridges, both created by JMB himself. Second, it’s a striker-fired gun, a popular choice Browning made. Don’t forget the necessity of a grip safety, a manual safety, and magazine safety. Check, check, and check.

Little at that dinky little thing. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Let’s describe the manual frame-mounted safety as dinky. The safety doubles as a slide lock…the slide won’t lock back on an empty magazine. We also get a Euro style heel magazine release to round things out.

The Triple Safe model is in full effect here. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The pistol is a little over seven inches long and weighs roughly 24 ounces. It’s very slim and would drop into an IWB rig quite easily.

At the Range

Unsurprisingly this is a blowback-operated gun. That’s quite common for handguns of the era. The original Model 1910 was the first gun to use a recoil spring wrapped around a fixed barrel. This design would later go on to become the standard for several blowback-operated pistols, like the Walther PP series.

Yeah look at hose little notches. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The FN Model 1922 retains that design feature. In .380 ACP and .32 ACP, the blowback action doesn’t tenderize the hand. It’s a stiff kick, but not unpleasant to shoot. The thin grip doesn’t do it any favors, though. However, I shot a box of fifty, and my hand felt a lot better than after I shot the Astra.

You won’t see your sights in a gunfight. At least not these sights. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The sights are very small, as was the tradition of the time. Guns like this make me realize why people claim, ‘you’ll never see your sights in a gunfight.’ If I was in a gunfight with the FN Model 1922 in my hand, I doubt I’d see the sights, either.

With careful aim and a good sight picture, the gun is surprisingly accurate. The trigger would probably be better without that magazine safety, but it’s better than you’d expect.

The slide can be locked back manually, but won’t when your gun runs empty. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Is fifty rounds much of a test? No, but I’m not going to burn the gun down. In those fifty rounds, the gun almost always went bang. Almost. When my lovely wife tried to shoot the gun, it failed to fully cycle a couple of times. Blowback guns are more prone to limp-wristing than other designs, and that was what got her. I didn’t experienced the same failure when shooting the gun.

A True Classic

The FN Model 1922 was never widely popular here in the states. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made importing them difficult, but FN produced an adjustable sight model that apparently had enough ‘points’ to make it importable. I can’t afford the nicer surplus pistols out there, and it’s nice to see some affordable options are around. FN Model 1922 pistols don’t seem to really inspire collectors, and that’s just fine with me. It’s affordable, reliable, and fun to shoot, and that’s all I need an antique like this to be.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. What I love most about guns like that is that there are gun-making skills present in that metal that don’t exist anymore.

    And that makes me very sad.

    But holding an example like that makes me glad, for awhile, anyways… πŸ™

  2. “the mags are likely identical between .32 ACP and .380 ACP pistols.”
    How is that possible?
    I can understand using the same magazine for 9mm and .380 (my ProMag 9mm magazines are actually more reliable in my .380 LC380 than in my 9mm LC9). but .32 and .380 are entirely different in both length and girth.

    • They’re identical in both case length and OAL.

      .380 is very straight-walled (significantly smaller rim compared to the tapered 9×19) and .32 is semi-rimmed (disproportionately larger rim), so they actually aren’t very far apart in rim diameter. That might explain the choice to use the same mag.

      • Also always possible with a gun this old someone got a mag and tweaked the feed lips and the body width is the same to save money.

        • You’re probably right. Otherwise, why would a major manufacturer like FN stamp the wrong caliber (not both) on a pistol chambered in .380?

  3. there are gun- making skills present in that metal that are no longer lucrative for large scale production.
    there are still skilled hands out there, and they are adaptable.
    sadly, no longer widespread.

    • “there are still skilled hands out there, and they are adaptable.
      sadly, no longer widespread.”

      …and they are gonna cost you *dearly*… πŸ™

  4. I have a great love for those older pocket or near pocket pistols. I really spend too much time reading about the history of firearms. Germany had a great need for pistols during the war. Hitler had militarized the nation to the point that even civilian jobs, like mailman and meter reader, required uniforms and sidearms. All the clerks and typists that made the machine work in occupied countries had pistols for self protection from the natives.

    In a shoebox under his bed my older brother has a S&W lemon squeezer revolver. I have a standing offer on it. Nickle plated from the factory and what looks like real ivory grips.

  5. Firearm reviews are always a much anticipated event on TTAG.

    However…..

    That is one plug-ugly pistol.

  6. New springs do wonders for older semi autos. The spring kits are available. One of the problems with European 9MM Kurz guns is that the European ammo packed more punch.
    Wolff Gun springs can fix you up.

  7. quote——————–The FN Model 1922 was never widely popular here in the states. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made importing them difficult, but FN produced an adjustable sight model that apparently had enough β€˜points’ to make it importable.———–quote

    Here the Author is confusing the Model 1910 with the 1922. It was only the 1910 that was banned by the 68 Gun Control act not the 1922 which was plenty large enough to meet the import restrictions on size.

    The Author further confuses the 1910 with the 1922 when he mentions an adjustable sight model 1922. There was no such model. In fact FN modified the 1910 not the 1922 by putting adjustable sights on it and lengthening the slide which became the model 10/71. Both the Model 1910/1955 and modified new Model 10/71 had one piece slides, the 1922 had a two piece slide or rather an extension of the original 1910 slide to make it longer for the new model designation the 1922.

    The 1910/1922/1071 all had very stiff grip safeties making it very tiring when shooting a full box of 50 rounds. Of course the stiff grip safety was made that way on purpose to help prevent accidental discharges.

    All three of the above mentioned models had “full cock” strikers which made the ignition system far more reliable than the modern Glock style preloaded striker systems that are known to be vastly inferior in striker energy. So much for modern pistols always being superior to older designs. And before some loud mouth starts screaming that the Glock pre-loaded striker fired pistol is nothing new I will agree it does date back the original 1907 Roth-Styer 8mm pistol which was unique until Glock copied it decades later.

    All three of the above FN pistols had a straight inline feed making them far more reliable than the later invented and popular Walther PP series of pistols which had a steep feed ramp . I cannot remember ever having a single jam with hollow point or soft point bullets with the FN pistols and they shoot lead hard cast round nose bullets just fine as well.

    Accuracy is outstanding due to the barrel with does not tilt.

    Beware of shooting the FN produced military pistols or any FN military gun made during WWII as the employees of FN often sabotaged their weapons being made for the Nazi War Machine. Their favorite trick was to play with the dials of the heat treatment of the weapons.

    I was lucky enough to pick up two FN 1922 pistols in .32 acp all in one day at one gun show. One was a WWII Nazi Stamped gun and the other was a FN post war stamped U.S. occupation zone gun made for the Railroad police in brand new conditions. Needless to day every collector I showed it to offered to but it off of me.

    MY OBJECT OF DESIRE has always been the super rare FN 1910 European contract gun made with 1922 style fixed sights (FN1910 guns generally had very small sights that you needed a magnifying glass to see making them totally useless for actually aiming). They were sunk down in a channel in the slide.

    The only real criticisms I can find were one. All 3 guns was the manual safety that was practically useless as the detent spring was so weak that the slightest brush against the safety caused to move down into the fire position. More than once when I checked my 1910 that I used to carry I often found that the safety had moved to the fire position after holstering it.

    All in all I like the small size of the 1910/1955 as its one of the few that are snag free and small enough to fit in a lot of coat pockets. Many people for safety’s sake carry them with the chamber empty because of the safety being too easily accidently moved to the off position and the fact that they are full cock striker design even though the striker has a deep cocking notch.

    I think today if the 1910/1955 gun was still being made and if it had a more positive manual safety and a decent set of fixes sights it would be a real winner of a carry gun. And all steel gun feels like a “real gun” in the hand, not a cheap piece of shit made out of plastic.

  8. God made man.
    Samuel Colt made all men equal.
    John Moses Browning made some men more equal than others.

    You will notice that John Moses Browning gave this pistol not one or even two, but three safety mechanisms. JMB would be spinning in his grave if he saw all of the polymer frame, striker fired, DAO pistols on the market today whose only safety is a little lever on the trigger.

  9. I have no guns, not one. I have however fired a browning hi-power in 9mm. I have fired a lot of guns. Pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, air guns and such.
    This is the sweetest combination ever.
    God Bless John Browning

  10. Actually my house did burn down and I was involved in a serious boating accident.
    You been watching me ??????

    Have a Nice Day

    • Now if your wife leaves you for your best friend and your dog gets run over you’d have the makings of a Country Western hit.

    • I think someone’s making aluminum frames for the SIG P320 and maybe 365 now. But I know what you mean.

  11. While I do appreciate the technical advances in the latest and greatest, truth is that old guns have character to them. The mechanical feel of them is different, works of art and brilliance from an era when the designer couldn’t see the thing on a computer screen in animation before it was made. It had to be held in the mind’s eye to see it work, in the designer’s imagination entirely, before a craftsman could with great care turn the paper and ink of it into something real.

    So, yeah, special place in my gun appreciation for Oldies But Goodies!

    • “…truth is that old guns have character to them.”

      Agree, revolvers have never looked right, or interesting, since the the Colt SAA was abandoned for more “modern” configurations.

  12. That’s why I say we have no hope for change except by force. This country has been taken over by corrupt politicians for over 45 years. Everyone one that in government from the past 45 years has baggage. They all need to be put on trial and investigated.i do home work ….. 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐀𝐬𝐜π₯𝐒𝐜𝐀.𝐜𝐨𝐦

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