One of the most appealing automatic pistols I have ever handled, the French 1935A is one of those almost “mystery” guns about which little is really known. We do know that the pistol was developed in France at a national arsenal in the early 1930s. It was designed to be-and was-the French service pistol from ’35 until France was invaded in 1940.
After the big war, the French went back to this slim little pistol until they had a chance to come up with a 9 mm in 1950. In the 1930s, France was actively working to upgrade all its armaments and the 1935A was the result. By any standard, the main fault of the design was the cartridge-a rimless .32 called the 7.65 mm Long. In years past, many nations have seen the pistol as much a badge of office as a weapon and, therefore, settled for some pretty anemic calibers. Where the small bore service cartridges are concerned, this French number was actually pretty zippy, falling just above today’s .32 H&R Long and well short of the newer .327 Magnum. However, nobody goes armed these days with anything less than a 9 mm/.357 bore pistol.
For its day, the ’35A was a pretty advanced pistol. Although it was not much larger than a host of European blowback pocket pistol designs, it was a locked-breech, recoil-operated semi-automatic. Much of the design work came from Charles Petter, a former officer of the French Foreign Legion. Like the later SIGP210, the little French gun had its lockwork (trigger, sear, hammer, etc.) mounted on a plate which came out of the gun as a single unit. This made maintenance and repair much easier.
Although the little .32 Long pistols were finished rather crudely, they were generally reliable and accurate. Quantities of the gun came into the country in the 1970s, along with small amounts of the original ammo. To this handgunner, the best feature of this little service pistol was the ergonomics. The French 1935A had the best shaped butt of any single column semi-automatic I have ever handled. The contours are reminiscent of the Models 51 and 53 Remington. If there is a designer of a new automatic pistol about to sit down with the proverbial blank sheet of paper, he would be well advised to look at this almost forgotten little gun.