Salvator Dormus patent drawing
Although some references cite the Laumann Model 1892 as the “first” semi-automatic pistol, a review of patent applications suggests that the title should be granted to the Salvator Dormus, the patent for which was registered in Austria on July 11, 1891. This was an interesting 8 mm blowback pistol in many respects, differing from many others in that it had been designed from the ground up, rather than a modification of an earlier repeater. It also utilized a unique delaying system incorporating the trigger and resistance from the trigger finger in retarding the action. The gun was loaded through the top with a charger, had a hinged magazine door on the butt, and was fitted with a separate bolt release and safety. As expected, the Dormus went through a number of iterations, reaching its final form in 1895, at which point approximately 50 were completed. Of those, 30 were sent to the Austrian military in 1896 and tested the following year, explaining the “97” acceptance mark that appears on a number of pistols. The one on display is one of the 30 sent to the Austrian military trials. Unfortunately for the designers, the Dormus was rejected. Discouraged and bereft of funds, the project was abandoned, rendering the few surviving pistols as true rarities.