Designed on the outset for military and police contracts in Europe just after the Great War, the FN 1922 went on to serve several flags in WWII.
An upgrade of John Browning’s FN Model 1910, the pistol that went on to become the Model 1922 was originally developed for a contract with the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes– the Balkan country whose name would be shortened to Yugoslavia after 1929. While Belgrade liked the FN 1910, which had a 3.5-inch barrel, they wanted something with a tad more accuracy.
This led FN to add a slightly longer barrel, shrouded by front cap and raised sight post, to the pistol, making it 6-inches long due to its 4.5-inch barrel. The concept won the day and the Kingdom ordered nearly 60,000 guns right off the bat.
Adding the FN 1922 to their catalog, the pistol, offered in a 9+1 shot 7.65 Browning (that’s 32.ACP on this side of the pond) or a 8+1 shot 9mm Short (.380ACP), won additional contracts in Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Mexico, the Netherlands, Romania, and Turkey through the 1930s. During WWII, with the Germans moving into Belgium and taking over the FN factory for their own use, they kept the production line going full steam.
Designated the Pistole 641b (with the letter for “Belgian”) in the .380 version and Pistole 626b for the .32ACP, the Germans produced something on the order of 400,000 FN 1922s during the war. These underwent a few variations as the line was tweaked to accommodate shifting raw material availability and to make production easier.
In 1942, the Germans substituted wooden checkered grips for the standard FN black plastic-type most commonly seen on Model 1922 pistols.
As the Allies advanced to liberate Belgium in the weeks immediately after the D-Day invasion, the Germans left the FN factory in Sept. 1944. Soon, the local staff was busy crafting guns that went on to be used by the rearming Belgian police.
Ironically, the Model 1922 proved so popular that even after the war, the German railway police and the Berlin police signed contracts with FN to buy new guns– this time made without the funny eagle markings. This came even as the factory moved away from such legacy designs and into the more contemporary Hi-Power. But that is another story.
Just as the FN 1922 and later the Hi-Power was widely loved and adopted in the 20th Century, today, FN’s line of modern handguns such as the FNS, 509, Five-Seven and FNX are leading the way in innovation and have seen widespread success.
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