By Randy Rick

The Austrian Steyr-Hahn Pistol M1911/M1912

The Steyr-Hahn (hahn is German for hammer) pistol was first produced in 1911 with a fixed blade front sight, the model M11. It is an 8 shot top loader that is stripper fed, shooting the 9mm Steyr cartridge. The model M12 with dovetailed front sight is otherwise identical. The M12 was evaluated for military use, but was not adapted by the Austrian Army until the First World War began. The gun was produced until 1919 although it is believed that some were assembled from parts for several years thereafter. The Romanian police used the Steyr-Hahn and that version bears a Romanian Crest. The Chilean Army adopted the M11 and that model bears a crest also. It should be noted that serial numbers for the Romanian contract guns are directly continued into the guns produced for the Austrian Army, when the contract for Romania was discontinued. Guns with both Romanian contract parts and Austrian acceptance proofs are common for this transition period. It is estimated that about 300,000 were made in all.

A few Steyr-Hahns Model M16 in full auto with extended magazines were used in WWI and by early Austrian Nazis. The Czechs were known to have converted some military issue Steyr-Hahns to full auto with a similar mechanism as the factory produced weapons but without the extended magazine. A wooden shoulder stock/holster with a cup that accepts an unaltered Steyr-Hahn's frame about the grip is occasionally seen. These were used by early Austro-Hungarian aviators in very early versions of aircraft before aircraft-specific arms were developed. In some instances two M16 machine pistols were mounted together in a crude frame/stock for aircraft use.

The serial number typically appears in 3 places, the left frame above the trigger, and immediately above that on the left center slide. The serial number will also be on the barrel, sometimes without the trailing alphabetic suffix. Rarely the serialnumber will be on the grip's butt.

The grips are typically a brown stained wood with a raised crosshatch pattern. They are slid into cuts in the frame and secured with a single screw through the frame at the grip butt.

All parts show small proof stamps consisting of the initial of the person who proofed the weapon.


The final design was by Chief Engineer Konrad Murgthaler. It was based on earlier design work by Karl Krnka, Georg Roth, and Ferdinand Mannlicher. The Steyr-Hahn is a large frame semi-auto, single action pistol. The slide is retained on the frame by a keeper similar to that on the 1905 Colt. The action is that of a rotating barrel which is kept locked by the action of the bullet passing thru the bore. When the bullet has left the bore, the barrel is free to rotate and unlock the slide, which recoils to the rear. It is otherwise similar to other semiauto pistols with a recoil spring under the barrel which is retained by the keeper pin. It has an external hammer with a small spur. There is a safety on the frame, below the hammer, which locks into a notch in the slide. There is also a notch halfway along the slide which will hold the slide back with the safety. The slide will be held back after the last round is fired by the back of the cartridge follower from the magazine well. The trigger pull is transmitted via a transfer bar under the slide which pulls forward the sear, and releases the hammer.

To load, with the slide back, raise the safety into the notch in the slide to lock the slide back. Insert a stripper clip into the clip glide in the slide's ejection port, and strip the cartridges into the magazine well. Cartridges can also be single loaded in this manner. To unload the magazine well, lock the slide to the rear with the safety; then push down on the magazine release above the left grip.

Note: The rotating barrel design has been used by numerous other pistol manufacturers besides Steyr for the M1907 and M1911/12. Obregon, Colt M2000, Berreta Cougar and Px4, Grand Power, etc. John Browning designed and patented a M1897 pistol with rotating barrel (not made beyond possible prototypes) that may have inspired the engineers at Steyr.

Holsters: Examples of M1912 Holsters

The variations are considerable. A holster with shoulder strap and stripper clip pouch was common for Austrian guns.


Other Common Proofs:

The Austrian commercial proof NPv (Nitro Proof Vienna) is frequently seen on guns that were sold as surplus, or for other reasons. Steyr-Hahns which were issued to the Austrian Army in between the wars may carry a proof 'HV eagle XX' (xx=year). Police issued guns may carry the proof LGK-state or SW on the lanyard loop. Guns that were in Czechslovakia after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are frequently seen with Czech proofs (CSR, Czech standing lion, etc).


The 9mm Steyr is 9x23mm typically with a 115gr nickel jacket. Midway used to make boxer primed Steyr-Hahn ammo. Fiocci is currently importing it, but it is not common. A small quantity of modern manufacture Hirtenberg boxer primed ammunition was recently available. Pre-WWII surplus ammo is relatively common, and should not be too expensive. GECO, RWS, and DWM ammunition from the 1930's can be found in boxes of 50 cartridges, or boxes of 16, on 2-8round stripper clips. This 1930's ammo is non-corrosive, berdan, and shoots well. Look for the word 'Sinoxide' on the ammo box, that means noncorrosive. Surplus ammo from FN is also available, but it is not of the quality of the other ammo, and is corrosive. Pre-1930's ammo is very rare, and should be considered 'collectors ammo'. Examples of WWI ammo from Hirtenberg, Roth, Sellier&Belliot and others can be found. The 8 round stripper clips will typically have the stamp of the original ammo manufacturer who made them in the center of the back side. Clips were reused and may be found with later production ammo from other manufacturers.

use of Bergmann-Bayard and Largo Ammo in a Steyr-Hahn. Other comments on ammo criteria and durability of this pistol.


Steyr 9mm cartridges can be reloaded with 38super (or .38/.357) dies using a 9mm shell plate. A moderate 9mm para powder load for 115gr FMJs should be acceptable. Grafs has new manuf boxer cases of Hornady headstamp. One can also use 9x23Win cases loaded to 9mm Steyr levels.

Production Information for the Steyr-Hahn Production Estimates

The small letter proofs found on the Steyr-Hahn are the last initial of the person inspecting the part. The most common inspection stamp is the letter "K", the proof of Meister Josef Kogler.

Information Being Compiled:

I would appreciate receiving specific information on as many of these pistols as possible. Things I am interested in are serial numbers, all proofs & their locations, unit markings, unusual sights or other features. Also information on holsters or origonal photographs are much appreciated. Information gathered will be shared here.

Recommended as the most complete information on Austrian pistols are the books by Motz and Schuy. Motz and Schuy books