You likely aren’t familiar with the name Dieudonné Saive, but you are likely familiar with his work. It might be a little unfair to call him the Browning of Belgium since Browning did so much important work in Belgium for FN. Dieudonné Saive was a contemporary of Browning’s and worked on several of his projects during his time at FN as his assistant. Perhaps it was due to the fact he worked with Browning on so many projects that his name is often forgotten. Today we are looking at the firearms he helped design and examining his influence on firearms technology.
John Browning’s last design was the Browning Hi-Power. As we know, he famously passed away before the weapon could be complete. What’s not often talked about is how he was initially not interested in designing the firearm. The French requested a 9mm pistol that could hold 15 rounds.
Browning believes a single-stack magazine holding seven or eight rounds was enough. Dieudonné Saive wasn’t so reluctant. He went to work designing a double-stack magazine for the design. He looked at the SMGs of the time for inspiration. Saive would later meld his new double-stack magazine with a heavily modified FN Model 1903. Dieudonné Saive delivered the working magazines to Browning, who designed the initial Hi-Power.
After Browning’s death, his son Val offered the gun to FN, who were interested. Dieudonné Saive came in to refine the design and produce a finished version of what would become the Hi-Power. Later during World War 2, after Belgium was invaded, he worked with Enfield. He provided technical drawings to help the Brits make their own Hi-Power. He even designed the famous wooden stock for the Hi-Power for the Chinese.
The Baby Browning
The Baby Browning bears Browning’s name but was designed by Dieudonné Saive. Admittedly the pistol was more or less based on the massively successful Model 1905 Vest Pocket pistol. The Baby Browning trimmed about a quarter of the weight off of the Model 1905. Almost a half inch of length was trimmed, and the gun even had a slightly longer barrel.
The grip safety was eliminated, and the manual safety was placed on the grip for easier access. A cocking indicator was added, and a magazine safety was added. Much like the Model 1905, the Bbay Browning proved to be quite popular, so much so the Commandos of MACV SOG carried them as last resort guns.
The FN 49
One of Dieudonné Saive’s first breaks away from Browning came in the form of the short-stroke gas piston gun with a tilting bolt. The gun became the FN 49. This battle rifle was adopted by nearly a dozen countries, including Belgium. It had an excellent reputation for reliability and heartiness. In fact, it was often compared favorably to every other World War 2 battle rifle, including the Garand. Although by this era, most military forces were looking for modern rifles with removable magazines.
While the lifespan of the rifle was short, it was successful and well-made.
The FN FAL
I hope I’m not too bold in saying the FN FAL was Dieudonné Saive’s crowning achievement. It was the right arm of the free world and arguably the most successful battle rifle of the era. This rifle was adopted by dozens of countries and is still in use today. It’s extremely well made and a very capable weapon with its famed tilting breechblock design.
The rifle featured all the modern necessities, including a removable magazine, selective fire capability, and a modern 7.62 NATO chambering. More than once, both sides of a conflict utilized the FN FAL. That’s just how widespread it was. The Germans worked with the Spanish on the G3 since the Belgians, fresh from two World War invasions, refused to license the design to them. The untied States even considered it, but then we went with the abomination that was the M-14.
Dieudonné Saive – The Brownign of Belgium
Dieudonné Saive will likely never get the credit he deserves. He was an accomplished arms designer and survivor of two invasions. He was seemingly a brilliant man unafraid to do something different. Hopefully, more people will learn his name and give him the credit he deserves.