Welcome to today’s Photo of the Day! This is a long one in a number of ways. This is the Maxim-Silverman and its story is fascinating. A man by the name of Louis Silverman stepped into the role of shop supervisor at Maxim. With his exceptional engineering prowess, Silverman was a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, Maxim failed to appreciate his talents, downplaying his invaluable contributions. In 1896 Silverman endeavored to create a pistol. This pistol was efficient and a marvel by the day’s standards. Alas, a fly in the ointment—the choice to cram it with high-powered cartridges, wreaking havoc on its delicate blowback operation was its demise. It proudly flaunts its .455 Webley chambering, distinguishing itself from the other two run-of-the-mill Maxim-Silverman pistols which were in minuscule proprietary 8mm cartridges.
“One of three known examples, and the only one known in .455 Webley revolver cartridge, this is an extremely rare prototype for the Maxim-Silverman Model 1896 semi-automatic pistol. Of the two inventors, Hiram Maxim needs no introduction. The second, Louis Silverman, was an early employee of Maxim, and would act as both Maxim’s personal assistant as well as a foreman in his factory. Silverman held a number of patents related to weapons design and other inventions on his own, both independently and as a Maxim employee. In design, the 1896 looks quite distinct from contemporaries like the Mauser or Borchardt, with the sharp grip angle creating a profile akin to a later Ruger or a Japanese Nambu, and a beefy machined steel construction. Operating on straight blowback principles, the design integrates a full length dust cover/ firing pin guide, an inertially reset firing pin, and a bolt with integrated sear and plunger ejector assemblies. The plunger ejector was fairly ahead of its time, and can still be seen on automatic and semi-automatic weapons today. The sights are a simple blade front and notch rear assembly, the latter on the dust cover, hard rubber grip panels with slots in the left panel to allow round counting, and a sheet metal magazine. A novel design, the 1896 did not take off, with a few different potential causes. From a user comfort perspective, the combination of caliber and mechanism resulted in a heavy pistol (this example weighs 3 pounds 9.6 ounces empty, about 5 ounces shy of a Mark VII Desert Eagle). Historically, this period coincided with booming sales for Maxim’s machine gun and ownership shakeups at Maxim’s firm, which would have required his full attention, potentially making the pistol fall to the wayside. And personally, Maxim had a reputation for being unwilling to share credit, and may have been unwilling to make a design with a name other than his own famous; reportedly Maxim left Silverman and the 1896 pistol out of their biography, and a famous picture of Maxim showing future King Edward VII the ropes on a machine gun is sometimes edited to exclude a second man (claimed by some to be Silverman himself) assisting in the demonstration. “
Lot 1592: Extremely Rare Prototype Maxim-Silverman Model 1896 Pistol – Extremely Rare Prototype Maxim-Silverman Model 1896 Semi-Automatic Pistol in .455. (n.d.-q). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved June 19, 2023, from https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/82/1592/extremely-rare-prototype-maximsilverman-model-1896-pistol.