Staff Writer (Updated: 5/9/2016):
Master gunsmith John Browning developed his Model 1910 to improve upon his previous - and essentially his first successful - handgun attempt, the Model 1900. The Model 1900 became the first of his creations to be produced by the Belgium firm of Fabrique Nationale and featured a recoil spring fitted within a cylinder mounted above the barrel assembly, making for a unique though rather clumsy-looking gun. However, this served the pistol well in that it kept moving parts to a minimum and forged the beginning of what would become a long-lasting and flourishing venture between Browning and FN. Up to this point, Browning leaned on both Colt Firearms and FN to produce his guns in the United States and Belgium respectively but, after Colt declined to produce his new Model 1910, Browning took his development to FN to market the type to European interests. The now-FN Model 1910 was offered in both .380 ACP (9x17mm Browning) and .32 ACP (7.65x17mm Browning Short) caliber forms and production of the new sidearm began in 1910.
While appearing as early as 1910, the Model 1910 was not introduced to market until 1912, resulting in the gun sometimes being referenced as the "Model 1912". One major improvement of the new design over the previous Model 1900 was in the mounting of the recoil spring set around the barrel assembly, this helping to streamline the overall appearance of the gun and making for a lighter and more compact design to handle. The Model 1910 took on a conventional look, with the magazine well doubling as the angled pistol grip. The solid trigger unit was set within an oblong trigger ring while a safety lever was mounted within easy reach, its placement just aft of the grip near the thumb. If chambered for the .380 ACP, the magazine could accept up to 6-rounds in the spring-loaded magazine. If chambered for the .32 ACP, the magazine could accept up to 7-rounds of ammunition. The magazine was inserted into the base of the pistol grip and spent shell casings were ejected from a right-mounted ejection port just above the trigger unit. The Model 1910s system of operation was "blowback" as a semi-automatic, self-loading design. Along the upper portion of the grip was the identifiable "FN" company logo (or "Browning" depending on marketed model). Sighting was accomplished by way of notch and post iron sights. Overall length of the Model 1910 was 153mm with an unloaded weight of 590g.
The Model 1910 was branched out into one other major variant known as the Model 1922 (or "M1910/22") and targeted to military and security forces of the time. The Model 1922 was essentially an "upsized" version of the original with a longer barrel system and slide but still chambered for either .380 ACP (now 8-rounds) or .32 ACP (9-rounds). The hand grip was also noticeably lengthened downwards from the Model 1910's design and this helped to increase the noted internal magazine ammunition capacities for each respective caliber. Overall length of the new sidearm became 178mm with an unloaded weight of 700g. Model 1922s remained in service long enough to see action in World War 2. After the German occupation of Belgium, FN facilities outputted Model 1922s for German forces and were specifically marked on their sides as such.
After the war, production out of FN Herstal continued by Belgium and the pistol was selected for service by several European powers thereafter. It was not until 1955 that the Browning Arms Company brought the pistol to the United States under the new apt designation of "Model 1955". These forms were exported into the country from Belgium though very little differentiated them from their European counterparts apart from the "Browning" company logo on the receiver sides above the hand grip. Importing of the Model 1955 ceased in 1968 following the "Gun Control Act of 1968" (signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson) in the United States which set about regulations on the firearms industry and firearm owners. An attempt by Browning to market the pistol to comply with these new restrictions resulted in the "Model 1971", these models being given an even longer barrel and slide component, a larger hand grip and adjustable sights.
Browning's Model 1910 proved such a world-renowned success that other gun firms were not shy about copying the design outright - or at least borrowing from its successful elements. Despite her 1910-origins, the Model 1910 continued production up until 1983.