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Saturday, 21 January 2017

S&W's Very First Auto Pistol - And Its ".35" Half Mantle Bullets:

For many years (since 1856 - when the famous duo got together for the 2nd time) - Messrs. Smith & Wesson had only sold revolvers (plus the occasional single-shot) .. but then, leading up to  1913 - they noticed that Colts and Savage Arms were making a lot of money fast - from selling 'auto pistols'.

What to do? .. the answer was a deal with Charles P Clement of Liege in Belgium who was making his patented original version of an interesting and accurate 7.65 (.32" ACP) blow-back pistol that had its barrel solid with its frame.

S&W Model 1913 Auto Pistol - AKA Model 35.
 - That's A 'Squeeze Safety' In Front of The Grip.

The deal was that Clement and S&W refrained from exporting into each others territories while it licensed S&W manufacturing rights for the Clement design in US.( A similar deal to Colts arrangement with F.N. on the John Moses Browning designs.)

However - somebody at S&W made a 'cock-up' - well really a whole series of cock-ups - so nothing new there then.

The original blow-back Belgian Liege guns used jacketed ammunition - but the experts at S&W who were used to soft lead revolver bullets - decided that jacketed bullets would wear-out their barrels too quickly .. but appreciating that exposed lead noses would cause feeding problems - they developed their own new "Half -Mantle" bullet design for auto pistols that used a cupro-nickel cap or 'jacket' to cover the bullets tip and most of it's nose - while leaving the bearing surface that contacts the bore as exposed lead .. basically this is the reversed feature of a jacketed projectile:

The Cupro-Nickel "CAP" is Hard To See .. Being 'lead coloured'.

.. Now - don't ask me why - but some internal company expert decided to extend this redesign of the 7.65 mm / .32 acp 'all the way' - and to enlarge the half-mantle bullets diameter by .008" (eight thou.) so that their bullets would not fit into the other makers autos - while standard .32s would still go into and work in the S&W Model 1913 auto.

S&W then declared that their baby's feed was to be called a ".35 Automatic Smith & Wesson Pistol Cartridge."  - despite the fact that their bullet diameter was actually .320" - just .008" larger than the ,32 ACP whose bullets generally measure .312" (Don't ask!). Link:

- Then S&W further "enhanced" their proprietary round by giving it less velocity and less power than the standard .32" ACP.

.. And then they failed to offer their 'Half-Mantle' cartridge's "point of difference" design features for any other larger standard calibers (.45 acp?) where it might have proved popular.

Well S&W sold only 8,350 of their 'Model 35' despite its improved & extended life barrels that might last up to twenty times longer than any lands and grooves firing jacketed rounds.

Clement-Smith & Wesson 1913 Opened For Cleaning
 With a Pull Of The Trigger Guard.

The guns' design was fine .. so much so that after they ceased producing it in 1921 - they then re-introduced it only a few years later then chambered for the standard .32 ACP.

Short Lived .35 'Half-Mantle' Cartridges.


During my several online wanderings researching .32" caliber cartridges and guns - I have come-across 'expert' debate regarding the development of the 32 ACP .

 - Most references state that John Moses Browning himself originated the round in 1900 - but some authorities dare argue that Winchester developed the round starting from Brownings supplied prototypes - while making the very first production ammunition - and further, that F.N. and UMC were also involved in subsequent variations.

- My guess is that it is all true - just pick your pet version and be content - as history is a bit of a "moveable feast" - where dates & facts can change over time.

(I'm told that Christmas was originally set at March 25 or April 25th before being moved to the Winter Solstice date).

Be Happy,

Marty K.