Tuesday, March 30, 2010

History of Mauser Firearms

The company which would later become known as Mauser was started on July 31st in 1811 when Friedrich I of Wurttemberg founded a weapons factory in the small hamlet of Oberndorf deep within the Black Forest of Germany. Commissioned as a royal weapons forge, the factory opened the next year with 133 employees.

The forge was moderately successful throughout the 19th century. Then, in 1867 Wilhelm and Paul Mauser devised an ingenious rotating bolt system for breechloading rifles. Their new system was extremely simple to operate, making it much faster and more reliable than comparable systems of the same era. The advantages of such a system were soon made evident. By 1871 the most recent version of the bolt system was utilized in the standard issue German battle rifle. Designated the Gewehr 71, the rifle was chambered for a massive 11x60mm blackpowder cartridge. In 1888 the Germans adopted the 7.92x57J cartridge which, with minor modifications, would later become the well known 8mm German cartridge around which almost all Mauser rifles were later designed. Improvements to the rifle included a box magazine introduced by Vetterli, and a newly modified extractor that did not rotate with the bolt and which helped to prevent double feeds.

With the introduction of the Model 93, a smaller cartridge was introduced: the 7x57mm. Stripper clips were used to quickly load the five round box magazine of the M93. The 7mm Mauser as it became known was widely adopted by Spain, Chile, Argentina, and a number of other Latin American countries. The rifle made its claim to fame in the historic battle of San Juan Hill where 700 Spanish soliders held off an attack of over 15,000 US troops for more than twelve hours. Naturally, the United States recognized the inherent advantages of the Mauser design and incorporated many of its characteristics into the 1903 Springfield.

The Americans weren't the only ones who noticed the incredible performance of the M93 Mauser. Soon after the Cuban battle of San Juan Hill, militaries throughout the world began flooding the Mauser factory with orders for the rifle. More versions of the rifle were quickly developed for Turkey, Brasil, South Africa, Iran, China, and Sweden. The South Africans again proved the worthiness of the Mauser design in their confrontation with the British during the Boer war, prompting the United Kingdom to develop what would eventually be the SMLE - the standard of British infantry units until the 1950s.

But rifles weren't the only arms manufactured by Mauser. The company pioneered the autoloading pistol market with their "broomhandled" Mauser pistol. The C96 as it was designated was produced between 1896 and 1936 and saw action throughout World War I and II. By the time it was discontinued, over 1,000,000 pistols had been produced. The Mausers were finally given control of the factory in 1897, naming it Waffenfabrik Mauser AG.

Finally, in 1898, the most famous Mauser design was released: the M98. This design was the pinnacle of Mauser rifle design and included all of the previous improvements that had been made to earlier models. The German military adopted the rifle designating it the Gewehr 98. Carbine models of the M98, the K98, were brought online in the beginning of World War I, but saw little service and are still rarites that are highly sought after by collectors. An extremely short carbine referred to as the Karabiner Kurz (short carbine), or K98k, was used as the primary German infantry weapon from 1935 through the conclusion of World War II.

At the end of World War II the Mauser factory was seized by Allied forces and eventually placed under French control. The factory was completely dismantled and all records destroyed. Mauser engineers Edmund Heckler and Theodor Koch along with Aled Seidel recovered what they could and later founded German arms manufacturer Heckler and Koch. Allied forces maintained control of the Mauser factory until 1952 when Mauser was finally allowed to resume manufacturing firearms. Mauser continued to manufacture military rifles with varying degrees of success. A focus on NATO heavy arms soon became their new focus. In 1999 SIG purchased a stake in Mauser, and the civilian firearms porion of the company was spun off to form Mauser Jagdwaffen GmbH

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