Maxim-Silverman – A pistol ahead of its time

This display presents two of three known examples of Maxim-Silverman pistols.  One in 8.5 Borchardt and the other in .455 Webley.  The gun is known as the Maxim-Silverman Model 1896 semi-automatic pistol.  Named after two inventors Hiram Maxim and Luis Silverman.  Maxim is the famous inventor of the Maxim gun (first successful machine gun) and numerous other works in the automatic firearms fields.  Silverman was an early employee of Maxim and would act as both Maxim’s personal assistant as well as a foreman in his factory.  Silverman held a number of patents related to weapons design and other inventions on his own, both independently and as a Maxim employee.  In design, the 1896 looks quite distinct from contemporaries like the Mauser or Borchardt, with the sharp grip angle creating a profile akin to a later Ruger or a Japanese Nambu, and a beefy machined steel construction.  Operating on retarded blowback principles (a spring installed on the left side of the receiver provides additional resistance on discharge), the design integrates a full-length dust cover/fringe pin guide, an inertially reset firing pin, and a bolt with integrated sear and plunger ejector assemblies.  The plunger ejector was fairly ahead of its time and can still be seen on automatic and semi-automatic weapons today.  The sights are a simple blade front and notch rear assembly, the latter on the dust cover, a pair of vent holes at the breech, hard rubber grip panels with slots in the left panel to allow round counting, and a sheet metal magazine.  A novel design, the 1896 did not take off, with a few different potential causes.  From a user comfort perspective, the combination of caliber and mechanism resulted in a large pistol (nearly 12 ½ inches long). Historically, this period coincided with booming sales for Maxim’s machine gum and ownership shakeups at Maxim’s firm, which would have required his full attention, potentially making the pistol fall to the wayside.

  And personally, Maxim had a reputation for being unwilling to share credit, and may have been unwilling to make a design with a name other than his own famous; reportedly Maxim left Silverman and the 1896 pistol out of their biography, and a famous picture of Maxim showing future King Edward VII the ropes on a machine gun is sometimes edited to exclude a second man (claimed by some to be Silverman himself) assisting in the demonstration.  A Maxim-Silverman pistol (identified as a “Maxim 1897” in “8mm Schonberger) is featured in Plate VII (between pages 52 and 53) in Textbook of Automatic Pistols by Wilson.

The second pistol in .455 Webley is considerably larger than the 8.5 Borchardt.  The main reason being the cartridge is much more powerful and as such, more weight was necessary to insure proper function of this retarded blowback design.  The third known pistol (not depicted in this display), and of the original design is for the 7.65 x 25mm Borchardt cartridge and is a simple blowback design.

The Maxim-Silverman pistol presents the first semi-automatic self-loading pistol in .45 caliber and is a simplistic design that was well ahead of its time. This pistol was not presented for military trials. The Maxim-Silverman was produced at the Hiram Maxim facilities.

Video regarding Maxim-Silverman Model 1896 7.63 Cartridge

Video regarding Maxim-Silverman 455 Webley