No markings, no problem part deux. Unique 17

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  • mawkie

    C&R Whisperer
    Sep 28, 2007
    -Hmmm, have been down this rabbit hole recently with a very rare Czech Vz.24 and here I am again with a French Unique Model 17. Ran across this one and was totally perplexed. The lack of any markings was a complete mystery. Just an odd 4 digit SN. No proof marks or caliber markings on the barrel. Totally convinced that I'd seen these grips before but couldn't remember where. The holster paired with it was a classic German Occupation holster. The auction house listing guessed that the slide was a replacement.
    -My first thought was maybe a smuggled pistol, not unlike the "sterile" MAS 36 rifles that were smuggled out of the factory for the French Maquis. But this pistol had a SN, and one that didn't follow previous French or German SN ranges with French 6 digit and German 5 digit numbers. Or not have one at all. But not an unknown range.
    -So dived deep into the 'net to find something and finally hit paydirt from Bob Adair, the author of the only reference book in the Unique pistol company (Would kill to get a copy of this out-of-print book). Here's his explanation from a thread on Lugerforums...

    Yes, Kriegsmodels were assembled too, but not as many. Factory records were destroyed after the company closed, and the serial number records were forwarded to French police archives where they are now locked up and basically impossible to access. The last foreman of the company did share company notes and some invoices with me concerning wartime and post occupation pistols, but these notes did not cover this strange block of pistols.

    Basically, a block of Unique pistols exist, with a four digit serial number on the right tang, the highest one observed was in the 44xx range. Most are Model 17 style pistols but a handful of Kriegs were also observed. What they have in common besides the serial number block is that they are all mixed up parts wise. Slides could be blank, three line, two line, or one line. I have even seen a slide from a pre-war "Le Basque" trade pistol, with angled serrations used. Safeties are a mixed bag too. Many early safeties are seen, but some transitional and the low profile German style too, as well as trade pistol safeties like "Le Basque." Mag releases follow in a similar manner. Grips could be any that were ever used. Lanyards may or may not be present, with holes predrilled or blank. On the Kriegs, they have the later German long extractor.

    The above mentioned factory sources state the Kriegs production continued after the Germans left and was immediately sold to the new French authorities. I have a pistol from the first invoice sold to the French, it looks exactly like the German pistol except for the German stamps and the short extractor, which is why I conjectured the long extractor was forced upon them by the Germans.

    Since the records do not address these oddball parts pistols, I had to make an educated guess concerning them. Based on the fact that they are all in a small serial block that matches nothing else that Unique made, and they are made up from parts that range from pre-war through the German occupation (often all mixed on the same pistol), it is apparent that the block dates from at least during German production. Many of the parts date from late German production, so I believe these guns were made right after the Germans left, as they certainly would not have approved of such a motley mess of things. The very last German pistols made, the ones they threw into the river while retreating, looked like every other one they made, except not all were German accepted. I suppose that the supply of materials and parts were disrupted during this timeframe and for a short while, a month or two worth's of production, the supply of old and rejected parts was raided and used to make this small batch of pistols.

    This is supported by observations of individual pistols I have seen that are certainly GI bringbacks. I have seen one pistol from block that matched the last version of the German Model 17, but with a transitional safety, and RF grips. It had a safety rivet, making it likely at one time that it saw French military service.

    -This explained this queer duck perfectly from the lack of markings, the pre-war grips that might be from another model as the mounting holes don't line up and the odd non-standard SN. And the holster now makes sense as I'm sure there were plenty about the factory without the correct WaAD20 German inspector mark.
    -A neat aside, when it arrived today I noticed that one mag was unmarked, as the German issued. But the other is pre-war French issue, with a SN in the range of the French military contract that Unique was working on when the factory fell. About 300 before my French Contract 17 SN.
    -Even before finding this info I was all-in and while it wasn't cheap, paid a little less than a German occupation 17 would fetch, it was worth it to me as someone who appreciates the odd and rare bits of history. I'm still on the prowl to ID the grips. It's the OCD part of me.


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