Little Tom Pistol: First DA/SA Ever Made

The “Little Tom” pistols were offered in both .25 and .32acp starting in about 1909, and they stand in history as the first double/single action semi-automatic pistols ever made. This example is in .32acp and we do a bit of shooting with this early self loader, and showcase its unique loading system.

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Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys. This is Alex C with TFBTV.

Today, we’re taking a look at a very historically significant yet little known pistol.

This is the Austrian little Tom and it was the first semi-automatic double action single action pistol ever.

A man named Alois Tomischka started a company to manufacture the guns in 1909 and they were called little Toms.

Offered in 25 and 32 ACP, the guns were produced in Vienna until about 1925 and about 45,000 were made.

A gun was not a huge success and another strange feature is how the magazine is removed.

You must lock the action open and insert the magazine from the top.

In the early 20th century, the semi-automatic pistol had no definitive form yet and nearly every rifle in service loaded from the top so perhaps Tomischka did not see that as unusual.

After all, popular guns like the mouse or broom handle and various Mannlicher designs were top-loading as well.

Also unusual is that the little Toms magazine is brass and holds a total of nine rounds.

This assembly is also quite easy.

You simply lock the slide with the reel, push the barrel to the back, lift up and out and then once you remove the safety the slide comes off and forward.

You can also then remove the recoil spring and guide.

Loading the magazine is quite easy and you might think that it being brass seem quite delicate and brittle but it actually seems well constructed to me.

And you notice there is a cut for the magazine catch.

Although no matter how hard you try the magazine will not insert from the bottom of the gun.

So let’s load up a few rounds and see how this thing performs.

(reloading magazine) (barrel clicking) (gun reloading)` (gun shots) (gun reloading) (gun shots) – Alright, so this is where I was glad that the little thumb was a double action single action pistol because I did have quite a lot of trouble as far as the reliability went that day.

(gun shots) It did kind of function okay but it seemed like that the magtech ammunition had hard primers and the federal ammunition I brought just didn’t work at all.

Maybe some different ammunition will wipe this thing up a little better.

(hammer clicking) (gun shots) (hammer clicking) (barrel clicking) (gun shots) (barrel clicking) (gun shots) (gun reloading) (gun shots) Anyways, I hope you guys enjoyed this short video of a very historically significant yet relatively unknown little pistol.

It didn’t work as much as I’d like it to but hopefully I can get that worked out.

Big thanks to Ventura Munitions for supplying the ammunition.

We hope to see again next time.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • Nobody Inparticular

    Nice. Hadn’t seen that gun before.

  • Andrew Moursund

    Anybody notice that the guide rod seems to protrude when he pulls the trigger?

    • I see that you are a connoisseur of our fine wares.

      • Andrew Moursund

        No I just mean that I’ve never seen that before and he didn’t talk about it in the video.

        • I was referring to the number of TFB tabs you have open in that screenshot. ūüôā

    • iksnilol

      It’s… uh… a feature?

    • Wanderlust

      Taking a guess at this: The recoil spring on the slide doubles as a trigger return spring and the trigger pushes on the rearmost part of the guide rod to accomplish this task. The front of the guide rod peaks out due to the compression and the front of the spring is held back by the front of the slide? Just a hypothesis.

    • Poresz Poreszovics Poreszov

      It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: the recoil spring also serves as trigger spring.

  • gunsandrockets

    Nifty.

  • John

    Every time I see one of these videos I say “COOL, I want to own a piece of history!” Then I go online and see one in poor condition for about $2300.00 and I say “History belongs in museums!”

  • Red McCloud

    I remember hearing that you were able to load it from the bottom by pushing a new magazine through and shoving the old one out the top, and have actually seen people take the magazine out from the bottom, so IDK what to believe about this guns loading procedure.

    • Bob

      How are you suppose to take the mag out anyway? Alex, you did not show that part, tsk tsk.

  • Tritro29

    By far one of the most well finished gun of its era.

  • Julio

    An interesting pistol, a few unanswered questions, and a real puzzle: why would brass be considered brittle?

    • Anon. E Maus

      Well it’s not perhaps brittle, brass is softer than steel (which is why brass brushes are a good idea for steel surfaces), you’ll see this on ammunition as well, common brass cased ammunition goes for all our typical guns, but if you look at steel case ammunition, it puts more wear on extractors, as despite being annealed to be more comparable to brass cased ammunition, it will still be harder.

      These brass magazines would be easier to ding than regular steel magazines

    • Jerry_In_Detroit

      Modern manufacturers are no longer annealing the primer cups before final assembly?

  • mazkact

    Been a while since I have even thought about the little tom. It is an important step towards the CZ-75. Sorry for that , I always go CZ-75 in thoughts of handgun design. The Little Tom is truly a wonder for it’s time. Maybe if it had just a little more mass in the hammer it would have better ignition.

    • Anon. E Maus

      I figure it could also be that the ammunition quality was different in it’s own time, that the primers in use in that place of the world, at that time didn’t require as much force
      It could also be that the hammer spring has been worn out (and I also get the impression that MagTech is kind of a cheaper and
      chintzier brand of ammunition, which, in combination with any of these,
      could be a contributing factor).

      But I’m merely speculating. Sure is a neat little pistol though, unique reloading, good capacity for it’s caliber and size, and DA/SA is always a cool feature to me.

      • Jerry_In_Detroit

        Most likely this was due to springs long past the point where they needed to be replaced. Springs relax under tension. You’ll see this in automobile suspension springs. The same happens with guns.

      • Odds are Euro company 32 acp would fire. People seem to not realize that European and American ammo can have very small manufacturing differences that make the Euro stuff run in European made guns while American made ammo will not run reliably in European made guns,

  • Neat gun, you finally showed me a gun I knew nothing about. Good job Alex.

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    My grendel uses an m16 stripper and loads like this and costs $89

  • jay

    Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get the magazine to eject through the bottom, while dropping in a new one from above? Sure looked quick when you dropped a newly loaded mag into the top. And yes, I know you cut filming while you went through the laborious effort of removing the mag through the top, then only showed the new mag dropping in so effortlessly.

    • A.WChuck

      I’d buy a modern version of this IF it kept the top loading, but added bottom mag eject. Talk about fast reloads.

  • ColonelColt

    Can we get Ian in no this action?

  • Zenchan

    Hello Alex, nice liuttle film clip – but you should get your facts right:

    The Czech Alois Tomiska, born in 1867 in Pardubice geborenen died in 1946 in Prague, learnd his trade als a gunmaker in Vienna. BUT though he invented an patented his design for a DA pistol in Vienna up to 1909 and then established his “Wiener Waffenfabrik” together with Camillo Frank you will be hard to find many “Little Toms” build before 1919. With the end of World War One somthing drastic happened with the picturesque Danube Imperial Monarchy.

    The Empire disintegrated and the Czechs were finally freed from the inept and arrogant Austrian bureaucracy. They founded a nation of their own together with the Slowakians.

    That is why Tomiska left Vienna, selling his rights to the patents to the still existing but operationally not very effective company “Wiener Waffenfabrik” and joining forces in the Bohemian town of Pilsen with the Jihoceska Zbrojovka (south czech gun factory) which later became the Cesk√§ Zbrojovka (CZ). Until 1929 the Little Toms were made there under licence. Alois Tomiska later worked for Cesk√§
    Zbrojovka on the pistol designs for the vzor 1922, vz 1924 and vz 27 . In Vienna Little Toms were made only until 1925.