An incredible piece of history

Another piece of history has come into the shop. This is a Belgian-made FN model Icebox Armory - Blog Image 31910/22, or what some call a model 22. It is a 7.65×17 mm (.32 auto in the US) caliber pistol designed by John Moses Browning. The original design in 1909 with a 3.5″ barrel was offered to Colt by Mr. Browning, but they declined to take it. He sold the rights to FN as he did with many of his later pistol designs. The original variant is the gun that started WW1 by being used to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand; one was even used to kill Louisiana Governor Huey Long.

After WW1, several European countries wanted a gun like this one for service use, but wanted a longer barrel. In 1922 FN obliged by adding the muzzle extension to the slide, which is evident in the picture, and lengthened the barrel to 4.48″. When the Germans occupied Belgium they continued FN manufacturing of the gun and put inspection/quality control markings on what they made. This is one of those Nazi-produced guns. They were typically issued to Luftwaffe pilots as most .32 auto caliber pistols were, however this one is nickle-plated and no pilot would have gotten this, his would have been in a blued finish.

This is fartoo fancy and was most likely belonged to a government official or a higher-ranking officer in the SS. Unlike many wartime firearms which have mixed parts from several guns, this is a 100% original piece. Every part has the same serial number on it and inspection stamps. Variations of this firearm were made right up into the 1980s. The bore and outside finish are extraordinary in that it is almost perfect. What a find!

Made in Norfolk, CT

As an amateur historian and curator of the things I collect, I feel a bit of a responsibility to try not just to take care of those relics, but whenever possible, share them and return some to where they rightfully belong. This is such an item.

The town of Norfolk has been a wonderful place in which to work and operate a firearms dealership. The customers and the political leaders of the community have been welcoming and friendly to me, as well as supportive of my efforts to operate a store here. I feel a sense of obligation to the town in that when I found out that there was a certain relic of the past available for purchase in Waterbury I went out of my way to acquire it not only for myself, but long term for the town of Norfolk. This pistol was made sometime around 1867 or so in Norfolk, and is so marked on the barrel. It is a pocket revolver in .28 caliber and is significant not only for where it was made, but how it operated in its day.

Icebox Armory - Blog Image 4At a time when muzzle loading of ball and powder was still common this pistol utilized a cup primed, cased cartridge. The first use of metallic cartridges in America was by Smith and Wesson in 1857 with .22 caliber rimfire cartridges. This was an extrapolation of that with a front loaded cup primer cartridge which the hammer impacted through a small space at the rear of the cylinder. Once fired, there was a small hook shaped extraction tool which attached to the screw below the cylinder on the right side of the firearm. This has since been lost. The gun, however, is intact and still functions. It has a 3″ octagonal barrel roll stamped on top, “Conn. Arms Co.; Norfolk, Conn.” The frame is brass and still retains a small amount of the original silver plating it had. The blueing of the barrel is gone and replaced by a brown rust patina. 

I felt it important to bring it back “home” and you can find it on display at the shop. Eventually, it will be turned over to the town historical society. In the meantime an effort will be made to determine exactly where in town it was manufactured.

An update. I have been informed that the manufacturing site was located at what is now the location of the town sewer plant about 1/4 of a mile east of the shop on Rt 44. There are no remnants of the structure however I swear that the old sluice way for the water powered equipment is visible parallel to the river in the woods when the leaves are off the trees. I understand that no casting was done on site so these would have been subcontracted.