The Clement pistols were produced by Charles Ph. Clement of Liege, Belgium. Although their manufacture has long since ceased and covered only a short period of time (1903 to ca. 1914), they are nevertheless of interest historically because they represent an original and unique design which was produced at a relatively early date in the development of pocket automatics and also because specimens are still frequently encountered.
Modele 1903-The first Clement pistol to be produced actually had no model designation at the time it appeared. Later on, when a new model was produced (1907), the designation Modele 1903 was applied to distinguish it from the new model.
This first pistol was designed to take a 5 mm. cartridge which had been developed in Spain for the Charola-Anitua automatic. The Charola was also made for a time in Belgium, as was also the cartridge. The pistol was of poor design and did not long survive, but the cartridge survived because of the relatively greater success of the Clement and became more generally known throughout Europe as the Clement cartridge. In fact, the distribution of the 5 mm. Clement pistol must have been considerable, because the cartridge was still available as late as 1932-25 years after production of the pistol had ceased.
The 1903 Clement was very much like the models which succeeded it, and which will be described briefly later, but it differed in some features. Like the models of 1907, 1908, and 1909, it was a simple blowback type, with fixed barrel and sliding „bolt" (or breechblock unit). The short barrel housing and the long housing for the mainspring and spring guide were an integral unit. The shorter barrel housing was below the spring housing, which extended the entire length of the pistol. This whole unit could be removed by removing screws at the rear end, where it was attached to the frame, then the breechblock could be removed. In this earliest model the breechblock did not extend all the way from the barrel to the rear end of the frame, as it did in the later models. The magazine release was unique, in that it consisted of a small rectangular button located centrally on the back strap of the frame at a point about one inch from the bottom. Pressure on this button released the magazine.
The monogram on the grip pieces consisted of two interlocking capital letters C, one of which faced to the right and the other to the left. This monogram was used on later models, but with an important difference. In the later models the letters are placed so that they read crosswise of the grip whereas in this first model they read lengthwise (i.e., they are turned 90°).
The serial numbering began with No. 1 and was evidently limited to this model. Figures as to total production are not available.
Modele 1907-In 1907 a new model was introduced. The principal change was that the bolt assembly, while operating in the same manner, had a vertical slot at the rear end extended all the way around the pillar at the back of the frame, to which pillar the barrel and spring housing section was attached by a single screw. The bolt section was 70 mm. (23/4 inches) in length, and about 65 mm. of it was covered with vertical serrations to provide finger grips. The serrations for the finger grips on the 1903 model covered a length o€ only 10 mm. and did not provide a satisfactory hold. The peculiarly situated magazine release of the earlier model was continued, as was the method of disassembly (Figs. 139, 140).
The 1907 model was made in both 7.65 and 6.35 mm. calibers, the 7.65 appearing first. Evidently a new numbering series was started for this model, but whether both calibers were numbered in the same series is not known, although it seems unlikely. The highest observed number (on a 7.65 mm. specimen) is 7263, but there may have been many more. Production of this model continued well into 1908, at which time certain modifications were made and a new model designation assigned.
Catalog data for the 6.35 mm. Mod. 1907 are as follows: total length, 115 mm.; barrel length, 50 mm.; weight, 350 gm.; and mag. cap., 6 ctges. Data for the 7.65 mm. gun are as follows: total length, 150 mm.; barrel length, 70 mm.; weight, 600 gm.; and mag. cap., 6 ctges.
Modele 1908-In the 1908 model the magazine release formerly used was discarded and a new form consisting of a push button located at the bottom of the grip frame, near the rear edge, was substituted. Pushing this button in releases the magazine. Specimen No. 6168, which in all other respects is a Mod. 1907, shows this change and represents a transitional type. Evidently this specimen was one from the later production of the 1907 model which, as already stated, continued well into 1908. The most notable change which characterized the 1908 model was the change in the shape of the grip. Instead of being stubby with sloping sides, the sides were squared up, with parallel sides, which not only improved the appearance but also furnished a much better hold.
Specimen No. 10,414 is typical of the Mod. 1908 and is shown partially disassembled in the photograph, Fig. 141. The upper section shows the housings for the barrel and spring and guide. The spring and spring guide have been removed and are shown below. The bolt, or breechblock section, has a long vertical slot back of the breech face to permit the bolt to slide back past the post to which the housing section is pivoted. The narrow bar extending to the left of the bolt has a slotted pillar into which the forward end of the spring guide fits. When the gun is fired the bolt moves back and pulls the spring back, thus compressing it.
The extractor is located in the customary position, alongside the breechblock. An ejector on the left side ejects the shell to the right. A spring-loaded firing pin, 30 mm. in length, is mounted in the rear of the breechblock and the point of the pin is held out of contact with the cartridge until it is struck by the hammer which is mounted in the lower section. This hammer is actuated by a flat spring. A thumb safety is located near the rear end of the frame, on the left side. The location is the same for all models. Unlike most modern pistols, removal of the magazine does not prevent firing. All of the foregoing models have a knob on the lower end of the magazine to assist in its withdrawal.
The serial numbers on specimens examined suggest that they are a continuation of the numbering series used on the 1907 model. No specimens of the 1908 model in 7.65 mm. have been seen, nor have known advertisements of this model suggested that it was available in this caliber.
Modele 1909-This model represents more of a change in design, particularly in the method of disassembly. Instead of being disassembled by the removal of a screw at the rear end, as in previous models, this pistol has a trigger guard which is pinioned at the front end. By springing the rear end out of its socket and pushing it down, the section containing the barrel, spring, and guide is unlocked and the forward end can be tipped up. The breechblock assembly can then be removed. To disengage the barrel and spring section completely (rarely necessary) the screw at the rear end has to be removed; otherwise, no tools are necessary except for the removal of the single screw in each grip piece (Fig. 142).
The thumb safety lever and the magazine release button are like those in the 1908 model. Unlike the preceding models, however, observed specimens do not have the knob on the bottom of the magazine.
Catalog data for the Mod. 1909 6.35 mm. are as follows: total length, 115 mm.; weight, 350 gm.; and magazine capacity, 6 ctges. (The barrel length, measured by the author, is 51 mm.) Data given for the 7.65 mm. gun are as follows: total length, 150 mm.; weight, 600 gm.; and magazine capacity, 6 ctges.
The data above are for the standard production model. Experience has shown that the above data are subject to some variations from specimen to specimen. One specimen (No. 36,571) having a barrel length of 115 mm. and a total length of ca. 185 mm. has been measured. Whether other specimens with long barrels were made is not known.
The serial numbering is presumably a continuation of that used on the 1907 and 1908 models. Production of the 7.65 mm. model is said to have continued well into the year 1913, while that of the 6.35 mm. model may have continued into 1914, as the pistol was still advertised for sale in that year.
Specimen No. 33,353 (as shown in the Pistolen Atlas), in 6.35 mm. caliber, is exactly like measured specimen No. 16,410. Specimen No. 7601 (as shown in the Pistolen Atlas), in 7.65 mm. caliber, is similar to the 6.35 mm. model in all respects with the important exception that it does not have the little lever under the left grip piece for disassembly of the rear end. It does, however, have the pivoted trigger guard. This specimen seems to be a transition type between the 7.65 mm. Mod. 1907 and the 7.65 mm. Mod. 1909. Its serial number suggests that it was probably a specimen of the late Mod. 1907 production, actually manufactured in 1908, and that there was no 7.65 mm. pistol with the (official) designation of Mod. 1908.
Patents on Clement pistols were taken out in the U.S. on April 3, 1903, and June 24, 1907, (both by Charles Ph. Clement), and on June 9, 1909, (by R. Wiles).
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