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The military and police handgun cartridges of Belgium: from 9.4mm to 5.7mm.

In 1830 the, predominantly French-speaking southern provinces of the Netherlands broke away to form an independent state--the Kingdom of Belgium. In 1839 the kingdom was declared "perpetually neutral" by an agreement between Britain, France, and Germany. This new, if small, country was blessed with large coal and iron reserves which, when combined with the enterprising nature of the inhabitants, resulted in Belgium becoming one of Europe's primary centers of firearms manufacturing.

Located in western Belgium, the city of Liege had been a center of firearms production since the 18th century, the products of Liege had helped equip many 18th and 19th century European armies. In the 1870s several Liegeois manufacturers began producing metallic cartridge revolvers and these revolvers would dominate the European military and commercial markets until 1914.

In 1859 Emile and Leon Nagant established a metalworking firm. The company's first foray into revolver production was in 1874 when it subcontracted to manufacture revolvers for another Liegeois firm, Fabrique d'Armes Charles Francois Galand.

In the early 1870s the Belgian army adopted the Francotte-made Revolver de Cavalerie Mle. 1871. Due to its size and weight, this revolver was unpopular, especially with officers.

* 11mm Cartouche a Balle Mle. 1871--the Revolver Mle. 1871 fired a cartridge with a straight-walled, rimmed case 17.5mm long, loaded with a 165-grain lead bullet that a charge of black-powder propelled to about 600 fps.

In 1872 Nagant entered a pistol in the trials for a new handgun for the Belgian Gendarmerie. This was a double-barreled pistol with a single Rolling Block-type breechblock, dual hammers, single trigger, and chambered for a 9.4mm cartridge. Nagant's design won and the factory received an order for two thousand of the Pistolet de Gendarmerie Mle. 1877.

* 9,4mm Cartouche a Balle Mle. 1877 et 1878--consisted of a slightly tapered, rimmed case 22mm long loaded with a 186-grain paper patched lead bullet traveling at 650 fps.

These trials resulted in the Nagant revolver being adopted as the Revolver d'Officier Mle. 1878 which was chambered for the same cartridge as the Gendarmerie pistol. Over the next two decades Nagant produced a series of revolvers for the Belgian army that would remain in service until the outbreak of the Great War. In 1886 the Belgian government purchased a quantity of Nagant revolvers chambered for a 7.5mm cartridge for issue to prison guards and police.

* 7,5mm Cartouche a Balle Mle, 1886--used a rimmed, straight-walled case 22mm in length topped with a 101-grain paper-patched lead bullet at a velocity of 730 fps. * 9,4mm Cartouche a Balle Mle. 1899--was dimensionally and ballistically identical to the Mle. 1877/1878 cartridge, but was loaded with smokeless powder.



The firm of Fabrique Nationale d'Armes de Guerre (FN) was founded in the early 1890s to produce rifles for the Belgian army. In 1897 the firm signed a contract with John Moses Browning to produce his new semiauto pistol and two years later production of the 7,65mm FN Pistolet Automatique Mle. 1900 began. It was immediately adopted by the Belgian army and police. Armies and police forces around the world took it into service and its popularity was such that the word "Browning" becoming synonymous with "pistol" in many parts of the world.

* 7,65mm--Browning would become one of the most popular pistol cartridges of all time. Based upon a straight-walled, semi-rimmed case 17mm long, it was loaded with a 71-grain full metal-jacketed bullet that was propelled to approximately 850-900 fps.

FN began receiving requests for a more powerful military pistol, and so JMB designed the Pistolet Automatique Browning Grand Modele ("Large Model"). It was taken into service by the Belgian army in 1903 and was also sold to the armies and police forces of Turkey, Russia, Peru, Serbia, Denmark, Sweden and Paraguay.

* 9mm Browning Long--the Mle. 1903's cartridge used a straight-walled, semi-rimmed case 20mm long topped with a 110-grain round-nosed FMJ bullet that was propelled to 1100 fps.

In 1910, FN introduced yet another Browning design, the Pis tolet Automatique Mle. 1910. Intended for concealed carry, the 7.65mm model (it was also available in 9mm Browning Court (.380 ACP) was widely used by Belgian police and high-ranking army officers. During the Great War, most of Belgium was occupied by the Germans, but those Belgian army units that managed to avoid capture or surrender continued to hold onto a small corner of their county Cut off from their primary source of arms at FN, the Belgians were supplied with arms by their French allies, among these the Revolver d'Ordonnance Mle. 1892.


* 8mm Cartouche Mle. 92--consisted of a 27mm straight-walled, rimmed case whose 120-grain FMJ bullet moved along at a leisurely 740 fps.

During the conflict, the Belgians also purchased a quantity of Colt Model 1903 pistols in 7.65mm (.32 ACP) for issue to officers.

In the aftermath of the war, FN began producing pistols again and in the early 1920s released the Pistolet Automatique Mle. 1910/22. Little more than an upsized Mle. 1910, it saw service with the Belgian army and police and was sold widely around the world.

John M. Browning went to work for FN in the postwar years, becoming its chief engineer and in 1921 was tasked with designing a large-capacity 9mm pistol for upcoming French trials. After the trials, which they did not win, FN appointed Dieudonne Saive as the engineer in charge of the pistol program. Saive, a gifted engineer in his own right, modified and improved Browning's design and in 1935 it was introduced on the market as the Pistolet Browning Grande Puissance, better known as the High Power (HP).

It was immediately adopted by the Belgian army as the Pistolet Automatique Mle. 1935 and sold to armies and police forces around the world.


* 9mm Cartouche Mle. 1935--the Belgian army's version of the 9mm Parabellum used a slightly tapered rimless case 19mm in length topped with a 124-grain FMJ bullet with a muzzle velocity of l200 fps.

In 1940 the Germans conquered Belgium, although numbers of Belgians managed to escape to England where they were formed a Free Belgian unit known as the Brigade Piron to continue the fight against Nazi tyranny. The Brigade was equipped with British weapons, including the No. 2 Enfield, Webley Mk. IV, S&W Victory model revolvers and Inglis-made High Power pistols.

* SA, Ball,.380 inch Mark 2 & 2z--was an updated version of the venerable.38 S&W cartridge. It used a straight-walled rimmed case 0.775 inches (19.7mm) long loaded with a 178-grain FMJ bullet moving at 700 fps. The Mark 2z was loaded with nitrocellulose powder instead of Cordite.

The various British.380 revolvers remained in service with the Belgian army well into the 1950s.

During World War II, the Germans continued production of the Mle. 1910/22 and High Power pistols at FN.

In the postwar years, FN began production of the High Power again and it went on to become the most popular military handgun in the world, outside of the Soviet bloc.

During World War II, the Belgians obtained some M1911A1 pistols from the British and USA which saw limited use. Reportedly they were popular with troops stationed in the Belgian Congo where they saw use in the brutal fighting that occurred before and after the region was granted independence.

* 45 ACP--rused a straight-walled, rimless case.90" (23mm) long topped with a 230-grain FMJ bullet with an approximate muzzle velocity of 850 fps. During the latter half of the 20th century, unlike most of their European counterparts, most Belgian police forces replaced their 7.65mm pistols with revolvers, in particular the S&W Model 10 and Model 64.


* 38 Special--known in Europe as the 9x29R, this round is based upon a straight-walled, rimmed case 1.15 inches, or 29mm, long. In Belgian police service it was most commonly loaded with a 158-grain lead, round-nosed bullet traveling at approximately 750 fps.

While uniformed officers usually carried.38 revolvers or High Powers, plainclothes personnel were armed with a variety of pistols including the aging Mle. 1910/22. In the 1990s a quantity; of Beretta Model 84 pistols were obtained for issue to detectives.

* 9mm Browning Court--the European designation for the.380 ACP. It uses a straight-walled, rimless case 17mm in length with a 95-grain FMJ bullet that attains a velocity in the area of 950 fps.

In common with most police forces around the world, those in Belgium began transitioning to 9mm semiauto pistols in the early 21st century. As local police forces can adopt whatever they find best suits their needs (or budgets) quite a variety are seen including the ubiquitous Glock 17/19, Jericho 941 and the Swiss-made AT2000PS.

FN still produces the High Power pistol and it remains standard issue with the Belgian army to this day.

* Cartouche 9mm OTAN--Belgian forces use the standard NATO version of the venerable 9mm Partabellum. It is loaded with a 124-grain FMJ bullet moving in excess of 1250 fps which is the equivalent of a commercial +P loading.

In the 1980s FN developed a new small caliber cartridge for use in the P90 PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) which was adapted to a pistol--the Five-sevenN--in 1995. This polymer-framed handgun has been taken into service with Belgian army special forces, the air force and by police tactical units (Unites Speciales).

* 5, 7 SS190--the Five-seveN is chambered for a rimless, bottle-necked cartridge with a case 28mm long. Its 31-grain FMJ bullet reaches a velocity of 2350 fps and was designed for penetrating Kevlar body armor at distances out to 200 meters.

By Paul Scarlata Photos by: Nathan Reynolds & Lou Behling (unless otherwise indicated)
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:4EUBL
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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