SOLD FOR: $8,627.50

Elbert Searle Prototype Savage .32 ACP Semi Automatic Pistol

Make: Elbert Searle, presumably for Savage Arms

Model: Prototype Semi-Automatic Pistol

Serial Number: None.

Year of Manufacture: Ca. 1905-1907

Caliber: .32 ACP

Action Type: Striker-Fired Semi-Automatic Magazine Fed Pistol

Markings: None

Barrel Length: 3 1/4″

Sights / Optics: The front sight is a short blade integral to the slide, the rear sight is a “U”-notch dovetailed to the slide.

Stock Configuration and Condition: The grips are two-piece smooth black synthetic panels. The grips have scattered minor nicks, scuffs and scratches. There are no chips or cracks. Overall, the grips are in Very Good condition.

Type of Finish: None.

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is bright with sharp rifling. There is no erosion in the bore. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates a 10 out of 10.

Overall Condition: There is scattered minor surface oxidation and some surface erosion in the grip areas. The action shows light operational wear. The screw heads are sharp. Overall, this pistol is in Good-Very Good condition.

Mechanics: The action functions correctly. There is a safety lever on the left of the frame. We did not fire this pistol. As with all used firearms, thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance requirements.Box, Paperwork, and Accessories: This pistol includes a single 9-round magazine.

Our Assessment: Savage Arms Company’s semi-automatic pistols have a very interesting history which starts entirely outside of Savage. While the company was busy manufacturing its rotary magazine lever-action rifle, three men in Philadelphia were laying the groundwork for what was likely the most promising competitor to John Browning’s Model 1911. William Condit was a businessman who opened a machine shop in Pennsylvania in 1903 and employed two inventors, Morris Smith and Elbert Searle. Of these two, Elbert Searle was the man who developed the mechanism for the quite successful Models 1907, 1915 and 1917 pistols which Savage Arms Co. produced.Elbert Hamilton Searle was born in east Hampton, Massachusetts just before the end of the Civil War. Prior to the Great War, Searle traveled to Berlin, Germany to patent his handgun designs in Europe where he met Elizabeth Fix, an office clerk who Searle fell in love with and convinced to come back with him to Los Angeles, California and be his wife. Arthur Savage had similarly relocated to Southern California and had continued interest in improving upon the Searle pistol design. Searle would eventually relocate again to the Sacramento River delta area where he pivoted from firearms and mechanical design to rice farming, though he did keep his hand in mechanical design, making instruments for the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He lived to the age of 71 and raised a daughter, Marguerite who was born in 1912. His grandchildren would describe him: “Elbert Searle was the epitome of an ‘old-school’ craftsman, dedicated to the transcendence of cutting-edge, exquisitely finished work. Although my brother and I never had the honor of meeting him, we continue to feel privileged to have grown up in his shade.”This Searle prototype is fascinating as it has features consistent with Searle’s 1905 patent drawings which were dropped during the development of the Model 1907. The slide serrations wrap all the way around the top, the magazine release is immediately below the trigger guard, and the grips are secured by screws. Significantly, as seen in the patent drawings, the slide is secured to the frame with a sprung latch in front of the trigger guard, a feature which would be extensively re-designed for the production models. It was found by one of Searle’s descendants in his desk and is an intriguing and Rare piece to add to any collection. It represents the first pistols designed by Searle for Savage, the first commercial double-stack magazine pistol, as well as the greater landscape of automatic pistol development in the early 20th Century. This pistol will be the envy of any Savage pistol collection. Please see our photos and good luck!