Okay, here goes. A long time ago, the guys over at TFB got this ball rolling with “Dog and Gun #1,” which was a French Papillon with a French Berthier. Sacre bleu!
Well, zut alors, we can top that. Although those ears do match that magazine pretty well.
Back at you with Small Dog, a French Poodle, and a French M1935 pistol, two relative pipsqueaks in the world of firearms and the dogs that employ them.
Hey, don’t laugh about poodles. They’re pretty bright, as dogs go. And in Napoleon’s day, poodles — obviously bigger ones than SD there — were the war dogs of the great Corsican’s army. After one battle, he wrote of being moved at seeing a poodle licking the face of his dead handler, and howling in a very near approximation of human grief.
This soldier, I realized, must have had friends at home and in his regiment; yet he lay there deserted by all except his dog. I looked on, unmoved, at battles which decided the future of nations. Tearless, I had given orders which brought death to thousands. Yet here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog.
Small Dog would totally do that. In fact, he’s a tough little guy and is always proving his readiness to lick anyone. And if bad guys see him and don’t see the gun, like this:
They shouldn’t feel emboldened. He’s just carrying concealed.
You can laugh at the dog, but you needn’t laugh at the M1935, although it is kind of comical due to its small size, its small, goofy 7.65mm Long (7,65 longue) cartridge, and the crude French implementation of the parkerize-then-paint that became a standard western European finish for military firearms after the war. The finish of this French pistol seems closer to the engineering that brought you the three-lug Renault wheel than, say, the Mirage III or the Paul Doumer Bridge. And the less said about the hammer-block safety, the better: its contemporary, the Tokarev TT33 has a better safety, and it hasn’t got one at all.
But the design of the gun, by Charles Petter, is jewel-like. It gives you a feeling — to steal another expression from French — of dejà vu; and that’s Petter went on to develop it into the delectable Sig 210, which is basically this firearm scaled up to 9mm, and finished by sober Swiss Calvinists rather than Frenchmen whose minds were on love, not the factory floor.
Petter is an interesting character. A native Swiss, he was trained as an engineer and after his military service as a lieutenant of Infantry around the turn of the century, worked for many years for Krupp in Essen, Germany. By 1914, he had left Krupp’s employ and was working as an engineer for a Belgian mining firm. The outbreak of the war was accompanied by a barrage of stories of German atrocities in Belgium; it is unknown whether this was one of Petter’s motivations, but he took the train to Paris and joined the French Foreign Legion as a Legionnaire — the LE’s equivalent of a slick-sleeve private. He fought in many of the campaigns of the early war, and survived, and rose in the ranks; unusually for a foreign-born Legionnaire, he was elevated to officer rank, and at war’s end was a captain. He was awarded two high decorations, the Croix de Guerre and membership in the Legion of Honor. (He was awarded French citizenship by Presidential decree in 1916). A Legion veterans’ group maintains a biography for him, drafted with the cooperation of noted French gun historian Jean Huot, which was the source of most of this biographical information.
After the war, he headed the French Lewis Gun firm for some years, but the company failed in 1933, and with his new pistol design joined the Alsatian Mechanical Design Company (SACM in French abbreviation) in Cholet, where he brought this pistol to reality and through French acceptance trials, and where he also designed a submachine gun candidate that was not successful.
The design of the weapon is fairly conventional, with a Browning drag-link locking action, the Colt 1902/05/11 type, not the later P-35 cam type that everyone copies today. The slide-rails-inside-frame-rails design was unusual for its day, now it’s less exotic thanks to the SIG and the CZ-75. It disassembles much like a .45, too, although there’s no barrel bushing. The sights are the typically useless nubbins of the period. The pivoting trigger is weird-feeling, spongy and pretty dreadful — not one of the more inspired departures from Browning’s canon.
This particular example is, apocryphally, a Vietnam bringback, although there are no papers with it. That seems unlikely as, like the majority of M1935A production, it was made during the Occupation and bears a Waffenamt marking.
Apart from the crude finish, the manufacture of the gun is extremely fine. And it sure does look good with Small Dog there.
Who else has a gun and dog pair? (Of course, there’s a reason this doesn’t catch on. Most of us have a lot of guns, and only one dog at a time. We’d need a Russian wolfhound, some German dachshunds and shepherds, an Afghan hound, and a lot of American mutts… and they hate it when you lock them in a safe).