The M1903 was the second production blowback-operated pistol, designed by famous American arms designer John Browning by 1902 and patented in 1903. Also known as the Browning No.2 pistol, this design was a serious improvement over the older No.1 (FN - Browning M1900) pistol. At the same time Browning developed the recoil-operated M1900 for Colt. This design also was manufactured by the Colt Firearms Co of USA as the Colt M1903 pocket pistol, chambered in .32ACP (7.65mm). Both FN and Colt produced this design until 1930s. In Europe, The FN M1903 became a favorite police pistol, and also was adopted by several armies, included Belgian, Dutch, Turkish and Swedish ones, as well as by Imperial Russian police. It was manufactured in Sweden under license at Husqvarna Vapenfabriks from 1917 and until 1942, as the 9mm M/1907. In the USA, the Colt m1903 became popular as a civilian self-defense pistol, and also was issued to the senior army officers and generals as a standard self-defense weapon. FN built slightly less than 60 000 M1903 pistols, plus Husqvarna built another 94 000 pistols.
This pistol can be called as a forerunner of most semi-automatic pistols in the world, in one or another respect. Significantly underpowered by modern standards, it was, however, reliable, accurate and comfortable to carry and fire. It also offered much faster reloading procedure than any of contemporary military revolvers.
The Browning M1903 (does not matter, if it was made by FN in Belgium or by Colt in USA), is a blowback operated, semi-automatic pistol. The recoil spring was located under the barrel, as in most modern pistols. The single action trigger unit has a concealed hammer (Colt also produced similar models with open hammers). The non-pivoting trigger is somewhat similar to the latter Colt/Browning M1911 trigger. Manual safety switch is located at the left side of the frame, above the grip panel. When engaged, it locks the sear and the slide. It also locks the slide in the open position for disassembly. Additional automatic grip safety locked the sear unless the gun is properly held in the palm. Barrel is locked to the frame by several radial ribs. To disassemble the pistol, one must retract the slide, lock it open with the safety, then rotate barrel out of engagement with the frame, and then remove barrel and slide. Automatic slide stop (hold open) device was also incorporated, with the visible lever located at the right side of the frame, above the triggerguard. Single stack magazine is inserted in to the butt and locked by the lever at the heel of the grip. Military issue pistols also had lanyard ring on the left side of the grip.