View Full Version : Dating an FN Browning...

September 13, 2009, 01:23 PM
I recently acquired a shootable example of Browning's svelte little police pistol, the 7.65mm FN 1910.

Judging from its appearance, I'd guess it to be interwar production, but Browning's website is of no help. The S/N is 1639xx. Anybody have any online sources that my Google-Fu isn't uncovering? Browning's commercial website has turned up bupkis.

EDIT: The proofmarks now have me thinking it might date to the early '50s, but S/N confirmation would be nice, if at all possible...

September 13, 2009, 07:53 PM
The reason it can't be found in the Browning listings is that the pistol isn't a Browning - It's a Fabrique' Nationale (FN) Model 1910.

The model, although invented by JB, wasn't produced as a Browning until 1955, when they were marked "BAC" and "Model 1955".

FN made a little over 701,000 of them in the 71 years of production (1912-1983), and I know FN was well into the 20,000 serial number range by 1914 - only two years after intro.


September 13, 2009, 08:56 PM
It's a Fabrique' Nationale (FN) Model 1910.

Yes, that would be why I said "7.65mm FN 1910". ;) :p

As you are no doubt aware, the Browning Arms Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fabrique Nationale. That's why when one asks about one of the FN-manufactured pistols colloquially known as "Brownings", some helpful poster always pipes up with a link to Browning's website. :o

This pistol was not sold stateside by the BAC, but rather in Belgium by FN, as the markings will testify. I believe the grips are not original, as they display the "Browning" sans-serif letters in place of the more usual "FN" monogram. It is almost certainly a privately-imported firearm, most likely in the early postwar period. But it would be nice to be sure...

September 13, 2009, 09:07 PM

Anthony Vanderlinden's new book, FN Browning Pistols: Sidearms that Shaped World History is a fabulous resource for any FN/Browning enthusiast or anybody at all who is interested in old handguns. I hesitated before spending the $70.00 for it, but am truly glad I did. It is a gold mine of detailed information about all the FN pistols - the 1899, 1900, 1903, 1905, 1910, 1922, High Power, Baby, etc., and it also gives the history of the FN firm and its relationship with John Browning.

The book is available here:


Concerning your gun: Looking at the chapter on the Model 1910, and knowing only your gun's serial number (pictures would be great - is that possible?), what I see and read in the book leads me to conclude that your 1910 was probably manufactured in the very early 1920s.

Vanderlinden does not give precise serial number/year ranges for this model, but he does show pictures of the different versions of the 1910's slide address from its introduction all the way to the '70s. Although pictures would be best, if that's not possible the answers to the following questions would let me narrow things down:

Firstly, the serial number definitely places the gun post-World War I. But exactly how many years after WWI is uncertain.

Whatever its year of manufacture, your 1910's slide address surely must read as follows: "FABRIQUE NATIONALE D'ARMES DE GUERRE HERSTAL BELGIQUE" and underneath, "BROWNING'S PATENT DEPOSE". The first important question is:

1) Are the letters of the slide address in Serif or Sans Serif font?

2) Is the "de" in the address uppercase or lowercase? I.e., does it read "...D'ARMES de GUERRE..." or "...D'ARMES DE GUERRE..."?

A slide address with Sans Serif type and lowercase "de" is from the earlier '20s, and an address with Serif type and lowercase "de" is from about 1925-1929,though I can't narrow things down any further from what Vanderlinden has written. Apparently the transitions between slide address characteristics did not take place very sharply or clearly.

September 13, 2009, 09:39 PM
Serif font and lowercase "de".

Neat! Thank you!

What threw me was the "D-star", which I had (via admittedly slender intertubes research) taken for a postwar proof, but the gun bears a certain patina of age that one begins to get familiar with after a while... It doesn't feel like a mere spring chicken of 50, knowhutImean?

The FN Browning book looks sweet. Right now, this is the only FN-produced JMB pistol I own; the rest are Colts. My home research library at the time is understandably heavily biased towards old military rifles and S&W revolvers.

September 14, 2009, 07:17 PM
Hi Tamara,

Gee, sounds like I was a little off with my estimation of age based on the serial number. I guess it appears to be a late '20s gun, then.

Anyway, about the "star-with-a-letter-under-it" marking - I myself had always wondered what the heck that signified, and it was particularly enigmatic because I noticed that the letters varied from gun to gun. I used to think, "Does it have something to do with the year of manufacture - is it a date code like those on Spanish guns?" However, with the acquisition of the FN book, it's a mystery (to me) no longer. Here's what Vanderlinden says in the Chapter "Proofs and Markings" (and I quote here, so nobody arrest me, please!):

Belgian guns are marked with inspectors' markings, these markings are usually the same for all parts but a variation can be observed in a correct matching gun...Each inspector has an identifying letter, this letter is assigned to them and has no relationship to their name. A few combination letters have been noted especially early on in the century, this was most likely done to differentiate inspectors with similar letters.

He then goes on to list a whole bunch of inspectors' letters and the names to which they corresponded, along with the years of the inspectors' employment at FN. The only "D" he has listed belongs to Rene Marechal, who worked from 1951 to 1968, so obviously your gun was inspected by a former, much older holder of that particular letter.

By the way, does your 1910 have any contract or police markings, issue numbers, etc.?

October 3, 2009, 10:09 PM
FN 1910 serial numbers had reached well into the 400,000's by the end of WW II. I owned a Japanese private purchase rig (Jap. marked holster, 2 mags) a while back that was a GI bringback (with "paper") and was well into the 400,000 range. Given that the finish was of commercial quality, in all likelihood it was probably a very late (1939??) pre-war purchase.