The FN Model 1903 (M1903, FN Mle 1903) or Browning No.2 was a self-loading semi-automatic pistol engineered by John Browning and made by Belgian arms manufacturer Fabrique Nationale (FN). It was introduced in 1903 and fired the 9×20mmSR Browning Long cartridge. It should not be confused with the US-made Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless (in .32 ACP), nor with the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer (in .38 ACP). The FN Model 1903 is based on the same mechanical design as the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless, which Browning sold to both companies (and others as well), but enlarged to handle the more powerful 9mm Browning Long cartridge. Due to its reliability, accuracy, light weight, and quick reloading, the M1903 was an issued sidearm for many police forces and militaries. The pistol was initially introduced by FN as the Browning Modèle de Guerre (Browning War Model) or Browning Grand Modèle (Browning Large Model).
Browning No.2 was the second production blowback-operated pistol, designed by famous American arms designer John Browning by 1902 and patented in 1903. Also known as the Browning No.2 pistol, this design was a serious improvement over the older No.1 (FN - Browning M1900) pistol. At the same time Browning developed the recoil-operated M1900 for Colt. This design also was manufactured by the Colt Firearms Co of USA as the Colt M1903 pocket pistol, chambered in .32ACP (7.65mm). Both FN and Colt produced this design until 1930s. In Europe, The FN M1903 became a favorite police pistol, and also was adopted by several armies, included Belgian, Dutch, Turkish and Swedish ones, as well as by Imperial Russian police. It was manufactured in Sweden under license at Husqvarna Vapenfabriks from 1917 and until 1942, as the 9mm M/1907. In the USA, the Colt m1903 became popular as a civilian self-defense pistol, and also was issued to the senior army officers and generals as a standard self-defense weapon. FN built slightly less than 60 000 M1903 pistols, plus Husqvarna built another 94 000 pistols.
This pistol can be called as a forerunner of most semi-automatic pistols in the world, in one or another respect. Significantly underpowered by modern standards, it was, however, reliable, accurate and comfortable to carry and fire. It also offered much faster reloading procedure than any of contemporary military revolvers.
Pre-WWI production FN requested John Browning to prepare a prototype in 1901. FN manufactured a few samples for Norway and Sweden to consider as military weapons. Norway opted for the Colt M1911 pistol in the form of the Kongsberg M/1912, but Sweden ordered 10,000 pistols (designated m/1907) as standard military sidearms in 1907. The Ottoman Empire ordered 8,000 pistols for police use between 1908 and 1914, and the Russian Empire ordered approximately 11,000 with detachable shoulder stock holsters for their police forces during the same time period. An additional 9,000 pistols were sold commercially before production was discontinued when the FN factory was overrun by troops from the German Empire in August 1914.
Swedish production Sweden obtained a license to manufacture a variant of the design for domestic use as the Husqvarna m/1907 and began production in 1917 to meet both military needs and civilian demand. Husqvarna produced military pistols for Colombia when FN was unwilling to resume production in the 1930s. Sweden had manufactured 89,230 pistols when production ended in 1942. Early Husqvarna-produced pistols included the slide marking of either "Browning`s Patent" or "System Browning". This practice was discontinued after World War I at the insistence of FN, which had been granted the exclusive right to use John Browning`s name firearms marketing.
The Swedish military designation was pistol m/07 and it was the standard sidearm until the adoption of the Lahti L-35 (pistol m/40) in 1940 when it was declared substitute standard. The pistol m/07 was taken out of storage and pressed into service in the 1980s as the bolts of the Lahti L-35 pistols started cracking due to the use of a more powerful 9 mm P cartridge (9 mm m/39B, adopted as standard in the 1960s). This was an interim solution until deliveries of the new Glock 17 (pistol m/88) were complete.
Technical description The Browning M1903 (does not matter, if it was made by FN in Belgium or by Colt in USA), is a blowback operated, semi-automatic pistol. The recoil spring was located under the barrel, as in most modern pistols. The single action trigger unit has a concealed hammer (Colt also produced similar models with open hammers). The non-pivoting trigger is somewhat similar to the latter Colt/Browning M1911 trigger. Manual safety switch is located at the left side of the frame, above the grip panel. When engaged, it locks the sear and the slide. It also locks the slide in the open position for disassembly. Additional automatic grip safety locked the sear unless the gun is properly held in the palm. Barrel is locked to the frame by several radial ribs. To disassemble the pistol, one must retract the slide, lock it open with the safety, then rotate barrel out of engagement with the frame, and then remove barrel and slide. Automatic slide stop (hold open) device was also incorporated, with the visible lever located at the right side of the frame, above the triggerguard. Single stack magazine is inserted in to the butt and locked by the lever at the heel of the grip. Military issue pistols also had lanyard ring on the left side of the grip.
Post-war production Availability of surplus firearms caused very low demand for new pistol production following World War I. As demand increased through the 1920s, FN manufactured 4,616 pistols as the standard military sidearm for Estonia and several hundred for Paraguay and El Salvador. FN stopped production in 1927 after manufacturing a total of 58,442 pistols; but inventories were sufficient to continue commercial sales into the 1930s.
The Estonian pistols were sold to Spain in the 1930s where many saw use in the Spanish Civil War. Some of the Swedish pistols were used by Finland during World War II. Surplus pistols, primarily of Husqvarna production, eventually found their way to the United States where many were modified by the importers with a chamber bushing to fire the more common .380 ACP ammunition.
Used by - Sweden - Russian Empire - Ottoman Empire - Turkey - Estonia - Paraguay - El Salvador - Spain - Colombia - Finland
Wars - World War I - Spanish Civil War - World War II
No. built - 153,173
Small Arms of WWI Primer 056: Belgian FN 1903
Husqvarna m/07 pistol / FN 1903 (Inc. Field strip)
Weapontype: Semi-automatic pistol
Manufacturer: Fabrique Nationale (FN)
Operation: Single Action
Cartridge: 9x20mm SR Browning Long, 7.65x17mm SR Browning (.32ACP)
Weight: (Unloaded) 930 g (32.8 oz)
Length: 205 mm (8.07 in)
Barrel: 127 mm (5 in)
Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds (9mm) or 8 rounds (7.65mm)