A pistol is a small weapon that is held in the hand. The first automatic pistol was developed by the Austrian inventor Joseph Laumann in 1892. It was designed so that the explosion of the cartridge in the chamber blew back the bolt against a spring. The spring then returned the bolt, loading a new cartridge and leaving the pistol cocked and ready to fire. The Laumann pistol was made by the Steyr factory in Austria. In 1898 George Luger developed a pistol that was later to become a very popular weapon with German officers.

In the First World War, the pistol was the standard weapon for officers in all combatant armies. They were also issued to members of the military police, aircrew and the personnel of tanks, armoured cars and other military vehicles.

The most popular pistols in the German Army were the Luger or the the Beholla 7.65mm automatic. The Austro-Hungarian soldiers relied mainly on the Steyr automatic, but the Hungarian Army used the reliable 7.65 Fegyvergyar.

The British Army had over 300,000 Webley MkIV revolvers. Soldiers in the US Army were issued with Colt automatics and Smith & Wesson revolvers. The French Army had the impressive 8mm Lebel Revolver. The Belgian Army was supplied with licence-produced versions of the US 7.6mm Browning. One of these pistols was used to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914.

The 8mm Steyr used by the Austro-Hungarian Army
The 8mm Steyr used by the Austro-Hungarian Army