October 28, 2020
The most compact, thin, and concealable .25 ACP ever made was brought into the world in 1918 by Fritz Mann of Mann Werkzeugfabrik in Suhl, Germany. Previously the firm had made parts and components for the gun trade in Suhl as well as miniature watches and lockets. Fritz Mann now set out to make the smallest .25ACP ever, and he succeeded with a design so advanced that it ran into immediate sales resistance.
The new gun was extremely ergonomic and easy to hit with, but it was shaped more like a T than a conventional Browning type vest pocket pistol. It was so thin it made all other .25 autos seem bulky and clunky by comparison. Only four inches long and weighing just 87⁄8 ounces, it stands 2.75 inches high and is only 0.56 inch wide at the slide and 0.74 at the grips.
Mann dispensed with the conventional bulky slide and used an internal bolt and an annular ring in the chamber to retard blowback, as there was insufficient bolt weight for a conventional blowback action. This made the Mann the only retarded-blowback action .25 ACP produced.
The gun is a natural pointer, and the Mann is one of the easiest .25 ACP pistols to hit with. There is a modern-looking gutter channel for sights and that is more than is adequate at the ranges you use a .25 ACP.
The extreme flatness of the Mann .25 ACP made it a natural for deep cover carry. In the 1920s the U.S. issued the big greenback dollar bills, and wallets had to be bigger to accommodate them. The little Mann was often found discreetly carried upside down inside the wallet. Many pants had a watch pocket inside the waistband where the little gun was carried and covered by the belt for additional cover. These rudimentary carry options meant people kept dropping the pistol and breaking the hard rubber grips, so Mann came out with aluminum grips.
Cleaning is easy. Just pull the bolt back and twist the barrel to take it out. Further disassembly gets hard, and the mainspring is a monster to deal with. A lot of folks took to just removing the barrel for cleaning conventionally and then just swishing the rest of the gun around in a pan of gasoline then drying and oiling it.
Fritz Mann’s design was everything he wanted it to be and far outclassed its rivals. Unfortunately the average buyer wanted something conventional and did not appreciate sweeping advances in firearms design. As a result the most advanced .25 ACP of all time went out of production in 1924, and the firm began making conventional appearing .32 ACP and .380 ACP pocket pistols that were still smaller than their rivals.
The depression in the Weimar Republic took its toll on sales across the board in Germany during this period, and the firm went out of business in 1929.