An Eisenwerke Gaggenau MF, or is it?

In this article I will try to unravel the identity of a mysterious new pistol recently acquired for Jimmie Dee’s collection. At first appearance, one could be mistakenly drawn to the conclusion that it is a Daredevil Dinkum, a later copy of Michael Flürscheim’s MF air pistol. However, as we shall discover together, a close detailed inspection throws much doubt about its identity….

The mystery air pistol

Not too long ago, I wrote about Michael Flürscheim’s life and his “MF” air pistol. We discovered that the MF was possibly Germany’s oldest production air pistol and how Michael Flürscheim built a significant business that is still in operation today. We also discovered that some of Germany’s most influential firearms designers and weapons of the 20th century owe their roots to this one man. It’s well worth the read if you haven’t already. [1]

Michael Flürscheim’s MF air pistol

Recently, Jimmie Dee’s Airguns acquired a very similar pistol. Almost identical in fact. At first it was thought to be the Daredevil Dinkum as the ornate floral pattern around the trigger housing was not present. This is considered to be the most important identifiable feature of the Daredevil Dinkum. The Daredevil is also known to have “Webster’s Daredevil Dinkum Pistol” stamped on the left hand side of the octagonal barrel housing. This can often be very faint. However, Jimmie Dee’s pistol has no such markings. In fact, it was clearly stamped “Brevet S.G.D.G.” on the left hand side and “PATENT” on the right hand side. “Brevet S.G.D.G.” means “Breveté Sans Garantie Du Gouvernement” or “Patented without guarantee of the government.” This could indicate that it was manufactured in Belgium or France perhaps. Certainly it is known that the Daredevil Dinkum was manufactured in Belgium. Perhaps there may also be a French or Belgian patent associated with the pistol. [2]

Stampings on the mystery pistol

In my Michael Flürscheim MF article, I mentioned that some MF pistols were also stamped “Brevet S.G.D.G.” on the left hand side and “Patent” on the right. Thus the mystery begins as the pistol appears similar to the Daredevil Dinkum, yet the stamps correspond to those found on some MF air pistols.

Comparing the two pistols side by side they are almost identical with respect to their dimensions. The only difference is that the barrel of the mystery pistol is wider than that of the MF. The rear sights are in the same position, but the foresights are not. However, the foresights are not part of the casting process and are added at a later stage. Although the foresights are not in the same position, they are identical in shape.

Side by side comparison. The mystery pistol on top and the MF below

The chequered grips are identical as is the trigger guard. However, the pull rod end has a flat flange just above the ball when compared to the MF. Other than that, there are no other obvious differences apart from the missing floral pattern and the additional stamps. The observant amongst you have probably noticed the ornate knob at the end of the bolt on the MF. This I believe is not an original feature as no other examples appear to have one. Instead, I think this was added along with a replacement bolt lever at some stage in its lifetime.

strip down

Of course a Jimmie Dee article wouldn’t be complete without a full strip down to reveal any further details about the pistol, but also to give it a clean and service to ensure its prolonged life.

Stripped to the bone!

Just like the MF, various components of the mystery pistol have been stamped with a letter. In this case “Z”. The frame, trigger, sear, trigger guard, bolt, piston head and the end cap are all stamped with the same letter. This confirms, at least in my mind, that they were all stamped to indicate they were made for this specific casting. I have no doubt that the pistol and all the components would have been machined and fitted to this specific frame. The frame and some parts would have then been sent for nickel plating. On return, they could be easily reunited with the other parts that had been specifically fitted to this frame.

It’s possible that this manufacturing process could have been copied by another manufacturer. It’s also just as possible that this pistol might have been made by Flürscheim’s factory. But why the French/Belgian patent markings? It is thought that Flürscheim’s MF was also produced in Belgium. Perhaps this pistol was produced there too. Or perhaps French or Belgian patents were filed for this design. Maybe I need to spend some time amongst the French and Belgian patent records. [2]

Comparison of trigger levers. Left – mystery pistol. Right – MF

A closer inspection of the components revealed further differences between the two pistols. First of all, the trigger levers are a different shape. This is because the trigger adjustment screw of the mystery pistol is on the sear lever rather than the trigger blade. This difference is more in-keeping with Flürscheim’s German patent than the MF air pistol itself! [3]

closely follows the patent

Flürscheim’s German patent [3]

The piston heads are also different. The MF was designed to include a leather seal held in place by rivets whereas the mystery pistol has no such provision. However, the piston of the mystery pistol has a step cut into its top edge. The purpose of which is unclear. The rear of both pistons have a collar on which the mainspring is located. Although the collar is much longer on the MF.

 

Piston comparison. Left – mystery pistol. Right – the MF

However, both pistons are broadly constructed in the same manner. The pull rod is hammered into place and both are stamped on the face of the piston with a letter. The exception is that on the pull rod of the MF, there is another stamp that is not present on the mystery pistol pull rod. Considering that the piston and rod would have been assembled just once, I am not surprised that there isn’t a stamp on the mystery pistol pull rod. If you recall from my MF article, the piston and pull rod stamp did not match the frame stamp. Perhaps these parts were swapped during production.

End cap comparison. Left – mystery pistol. Right – the MF

The compression tube end caps also show a difference. The MF end cap appears to have a lip whereas the mystery pistol end cap does not. Also, the mystery end cap diameter is slightly smaller than the MF example and thus it is not possible to swap the parts between the two pistols. Also, you might notice that the MF end cap profile is flatter than the mystery pistol end cap. This reinforces my theory that this part was shaped specifically for each frame it was destined to become a part of.

Comparison of transfer ports. Left – mystery pistol. Right – MF

Finally, there is one more subtle difference that almost eluded me. I recalled from my MF article that the MF had a recessed transfer port. I had surmised that this may have been to allow a small piece of leather to form a seal between the frame and the hollow bolt that carries the compressed air to the barrel. This is not present on the mystery pistol.

 

 

so, what is it?

So begs the question. What is it?

I very much doubt that it is a Daredevil Dinkum as the stamps are not consistent with that model. Is it an unknown Michael Flürscheim MF albeit without the ornate floral pattern and some minor differences in design? Perhaps it could be an unknown early variant of the MF. It is certainly consistent with Flürscheim’s patent illustrations except that the piston does not have a locating groove for the sear to engage. But why the French/Belgian patent stamps? This might indicate a later model that was not made in Germany.

In any case, it’s a mystery! I will leave you with a final image to enjoy…

Still a mystery

Until next time, happy shooting!

Jimmie Dee

 

References:

  1. The Eisenwerke Gaggenau MF (1878-1900) by Michael Flürscheim, Jimmie Dee’s Airguns
  2. The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, John Griffiths, ISBN 978-0-95595-160-2
  3. German Patent DE3960, “Neuerungen und Luftpistolen”, July 3rd 1878, German Patent and Trademark Office

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