FN – John Browning and the American Design

Fabrique Nationale Model 1899

John Browning

John M. Browning, indisputably the best-known American designer, filed his first pistol patent in 1895. Patents pertinent to the Model 1899 were granted in 1897 with refinements approved in 1899. By that time, Browning had already demonstrated his prototypes to Fabrique Nationale of Belgium, which, with a great deal of enthusiasm, put the pistol into production. The Model 1899 was a compact, hammerless, single-action pocket pistol that was chambered for the new 7.65 mm Browning (.32 ACP) cartridge. Its blowback function acted via a separated recoil spring compartmentalized above the barrel, an unusual design that other manufacturers later copied.

It had a slide-mounted cocking indicator, a rotating thumb safety on the left frame and a detachable magazine that released at the butt. While the vast majority of Model 1899s were made for a seven-shot magazine, a small number of larger pistols, possibly for military trial consideration, were made to use an eight-shot magazine. According to FN Browning Pistols by Vanderlinden, about 14,400 Model 1899s were completed by 1901, before it was phased out in favor of the more frequently encountered Model 1900.

Although there were certainly a number of other semi-automatic pistols made in the 19th century, it is clear that most of the developmental activity took place in Austria and Germany, with the United States having little to no involvement, except as influenced by John M. Browning through FN.

The entire picture changed in 1900, when Colt unveiled its Browning-designed Model 1900 chambered for the new and powerful .38 ACP. To say that the gun was well-received would be an understatement. It took the world by storm, propelling Colt to reign as the undisputed king of U.S. pistol manufacturers for the next half-century. Just a few years later, Colt introduced the immensely popular Model 1903 and developed the M1911, arguably the finest and most copied military pistol of all time … but that is another story for another day.

Video regarding John Browning and FN production and the 1,000,000th pistol presented to John Browning

Video regarding Model 1899/1900