Ever since 1814, the Swedes have practiced “armed neutrality” to dissuade potential invaders, and since the late 19th century they have maintained a strong military. Because of this, they were quick to take advantage of small-arms developments, and by the early 20th century and thanks to a strong industrial base, Swedish troops were armed with modern rifles, machine guns and semi-auto pistols. In 1908, Sweden adopted the FN Modèle 1903 pistol, known as the Automatisk repeterpistol m/07, and ordered 10,000 pistols from the Belgian firm Fabrique Nationale. WWI cut off deliveries from FN, so in 1917 local production began at Husqvarna Vapenfabriks, which produced 94,700 pistols by 1942. These blowback pistols were chambered for the rather sedate 9mm Browning Long cartridge.
With the threat of a resurgent Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, Sweden began a program to update its armed forces, which went into high gear when the USSR invaded neighboring Finland, setting off the Winter War (1939–1940). One of the army’s most pressing needs was for a pistol more powerful and reliable than the m/07. In 1939, the Walther P.38 was approved as the Repeterpistol m/39. But only 1,500 were delivered before Walther cancelled the contract so that its production could be directed to the Wehrmacht. During the Winter War, the 9,000-strong Svenska Frivilligkåren (Swedish Volunteer Corps) joined its Finnish neighbor in fighting the Soviets, becoming acquainted with Finland’s new service pistol, the L-35. When the Svenska Frivilligkåren returned to Sweden, many of its officers recommended the pistol for adoption.
Aimo Johannes Lahti (1896–1970) was Finland’s most prolific—and famous—firearms designer. A self-taught gunsmith, Lahti had obvious talents, which led to his being appointed master armorer of the Finnish army in 1921. During his tenure he designed a number of weapons for Finland’s armed forces: the Suomi M-31 submachine gun and the L-35 pistol…
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