The Dreyse pistols were designed by Louis Schmeisser, a designer-engineer in the employ of the Sommerda Division of the Rheinische Metallwaren u. Maschinenfabrik. This firm, originally bearing the name Nikolaus von Dreyse, was organized to manufacture a breech-loading arm invented by von Dreyse and adopted for German military use in 1841. Von Dreyse, the son of a master locksmith, was born in Sommerda in 1787 and died in 1867. For his distinguished services to his country he was made a „Geheimrat," a much prized German honor in the last century.
In 1889 Heinrich Ehrhardt bought into the company and by 1901 had acquired complete control. The name of Waffen u. Munitionsfabrik von Dreyse was dropped and the firm operated under the name Rheinische Metallwaren u. Maschinenfabrik. Presumably because of the length of this name, the firm was often referred to merely as „Rheinmetall" and, after about 1913, pistols bore the inscription RHEINMETALL ABT. SÖMMERDA in place of the full name of the firm. In 1935 this firm combined with A. Borsig, G.m.b.H. (Berlin) to form a firm known as Rheinmetall-Borsig, A.G. which was very active during the second World War.
7.65 mm. Dreyse-Schmeisser's first design was for a pistol using the Browning cartridge. The pistol dates from 1906, but appears to have been put into production in 1907, hence has become known as the Modell 1907. It was produced commercially from 1907 to 1914 (or 1915). Serial numbers started at No. 1 and went as high as about 250,000. Over this range of numbers the design was quite stable, the variations being only minor ones, such as the pattern of the serrations for the finger grips. These serrations are placed at the forward end of the slide, which makes it more difficult to pull back the slide. This difficulty is increased by the use of an unusually stiff recoil spring (Figs. 148 to 151).
Some of the early illustrations used to advertise this arm, such as that which appears in the 1911 ALFA Catalog, appear to be of a prototype form rather than of one actually produced commercially.
The illustration may be based on an early (1906) drawing. Whether any pistols of this exact form were ever produced is not known.
The Dreyse pistol was advertised as a Police Pistol. Whether it was actually so used to any considerable extent is not known definitely, but one specimen examined was marked K.S. GEND 170 and bore no other number. The number 170 also appeared on the trigger as well as in the customary places for serial numbers. The name Dreyse does not appear. The fact that the full name of the firm appears indicates that it was probably made before 1913. The pistol shows no unusual features of construction, other than having much higher sights than were ordinarily used. It would appear that this specimen was used for police work, if the word (or abbreviation) GEND is correctly interpreted.
6.35 mm. Dreyse-The 6.35 mm. Dreyse, also using the Browning cartridge, was designed by Schmeisser in 1908 and probably was not offered commercially until 1909 (or possibly 1910), as the patent situation was not cleared up until 1910. The serial numbering is stated to have started at No. 1, and while it is not known how many were made it is reported that production stopped with the beginning of World War I. It seems logical to assume that the total number produced did not exceed 100,000 and was probably less (Fig. 152).
This pistol is of the Browning 1906 type, but without a grip safety. It bears little resemblance to the more complicated and awkward 7.65 mm. model. The early 6.35 mm. pistols had two extractors, one on each side of the slide, but this practice was soon changed. Just when the change was made is not known, but the factory file of 1912 shows the single extractor type whereas advertisements of 1911 show the double type. From this it would appear that the change was made late in 1911 or early in 1912.
It is stated that manufacture of the 6.35 mm. model was resumed for a time in the 1920's by Rheinmetall, but no proof of this has been seen. It is true that both the 6.35 and the 7.65 mm. models were available for purchase at that time because both are advertised in the June 15, 1922, issue of the AKAH Catalog put out by Albrecht Kind, Hunstig bei Dieringhausen (Rheinland), Germany. Both illustrations used show the name Dreyse (rather than Rheinmetall) and the one for the 7.65 states that the model is that of 1907. The illustration of the 6.35 mm. model shows the double extractor. If these illustrations have any significance, it appears that the pistols offered for sale by AKAH in 1922 had been made prior to 1913 and were left-over stock.
9 mm. Parabellum Dreyse-The Parabellum Dreyse, also designed by Schmeisser, dates from 1909 or 1910 and seems to have originated more as a commercial venture than a military one. Only the very early (pre-1912) specimens have the full Dreyse markings. The later forms (1912 to 1915) vary in several minor points. There appear to have been at least three variant forms. Very few were made and the 9 mm. Dreyse is now a collector's item (Fig. 153).
Since the Parabellum cartridge is a powerful one for a blowback type pistol and since the original 7.65 mm. Dreyse had an unpleasantly stiff recoil spring, it was necessary to use a still stiffer spring, so stiff, in fact, that the slide could not be pulled back by one hand. The difficulty was solved in an ingenious manner which permitted „bypassing" the recoil spring. In other words, the pistol was so designed that' the slide could be disengaged, tilted up, and moved back without the necessity of compressing the recoil spring. Only the main spring was compressed and this required little effort. Once this had been compressed, the slide was moved back and re-engaged. While the solution was an ingenious one, practically it was not good. Construction was too complicated and insufficiently rugged.
7.65 mm. Rheinmetall-The Rheinmetall 7.65 mm. caliber pistol was copied after the Browning Model 1910, which it resembles, but does not have the grip safety. In appearance it bears no resemblance to the earlier 7.65 mm. Dreyse. Apparently the development of this model was still under way in 1921, as Bock states in the 1923 edition of his „Moderne Faustfeuerwaffen" that he had been permitted to fire a hand-made specimen in 1921. The pistol and a cross sectional diagram are shown in the 1923 edition of Bock. The illustration differs in some respects from a specimen examined (No. 255,290). The illustration shows a matted rib running the entire length of the barrel and fairly high sights, both of which are missing in the specimen examined. Both, however, are marked RHEINMETALL ABT. SOM-MERDA (Figs. 154, 1.55).
Presumably, the serial numbering began at 250,000, where the numbering of the 7.65 mm. Dreyse left off (approximately at least). No information is at hand concerning the total number made, but since it was apparently made for only a short time the total production must have been small. The scarcity of specimens bears this out. Neither the Dreyse (in any caliber) nor the Rheinmetall is mentioned in the 1941 edition of Bock.
An experimental 9 mm. Parabellum blowback (of the 7.65 mm. Rheinmetall type) marked with the Rheinmetall-Borsig emblem has been reliably reported. This indicates that it was made after 1935. It is very probable that it is only an experimental prototype made for possible military adoption and that it went no further.
It has been rumored that an experimental 9 mm. Browning Short was also made, but this report has not been confirmed.
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