A smokeless powder was introduced that provided its users safety from return enemy fire with its 7.92mm round, a rimless cartridge that allowed for smoother feeding for both rifles and machine guns. The initial bullet had a rounded head, while several redesigned versions, including the spitzer bullet and boat tail, brought the cartridge to its later potency. The Mauser 91 adopted a 7.65mm, round-nosed cartridge. Ironically, the 89 Mauser rejected by Germany in 1884 entered service in 1940, when it was issued to secondline German Army units in Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium.
The Model 1893 Mauser became known as “the Spanish Mauser” and was used by the Spanish Army against the Americans in 1898 at the Battle of San Juan Hill. The use of smokeless powder gave a serious advantage to the Spanish soldiers in Cuba, when they faced the American with their U.S. Army Springfield rifles.
That same year, the Imperial German Army of Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased the Model 98 Mauser design rifle that officially entered service as the Gew. 98 on April 5. “This remains by far the most successful of the Mauser designs, helped of course by the onset of two world wars that demanded vast numbers of rifles,” commented one arms expert.
The Mauser’s Wartime Service
Peter Paul Mauser died on May 29, 1914, just before the start of World War I that August. It was in large part the tragic events of World War I that helped immortalize both his name and the weapon that bore it. The Mauser Model 98 and its several variants included both a five-round and a 20-round box magazine.
Originally, the German Imperial cavalry used the shorter carbine versions, and by 1918, the new special storm troop trench units also employed Mausers. Both empire and republic came and went, and under the new Third Reich of Adolf Hitler in 1935, the Mauser Karabiner (Carbine) 98 Kurz (Short) was adopted as the standard German Army infantry rifle. It served in that capacity until the end of World War II a decade later. In 1941, the Mauser Company took part in a competition to re-equip the German Army with a semi-automatic rifle as well, but the Mauser-designed version failed miserably on testing and was cancelled after a short production run.
Surviving the War: The Mauser Company Legacy
Under the French Army, the entire factory at Oberndorf was dismantled, and all its records destroyed. In the initial postwar years, the Mauser Works made precision measurement instruments and tools, such as micrometers. Former company engineers saved what they could and founded the later famous firm of Hechler & Koch. Mauser continued to make hunting and sporting rifles, however, and in 1994 became part of Rheinmetal AG. In 1999, the civilian manufacture of hunting, defense, and sporting rifles was split off from Rheinmetall. Numerous Mauser surplus military rifles entered the peacetime civilian market, where they remain today.
Through the decades, the firm also made several military pistol models. These include the C1896 pistol; the Mauser 1910 and 1914 pocket pistols; and another such model 20 years later in 1934, under the Nazis; plus the 2008 Mauser M2 handgun.
In 1954, Mauser as a firm bearing that famous name was formally re-established. In 2004 it became a subsidiary of SIG SAUER firm, one of the largest firearms manufacturing entities in the world.
In 1985, both Heckler & Koch and SIG SAUER lost out to Beretta USA of Accokeek, Maryland, and Italy for a contract to build the U.S. replacement for the venerable Colt Model 1911 .45-caliber sidearm pistol. The initial contract was for $57 million, one of the largest handgun contracts ever.
This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.
Image: Mauser M1898 rifle at Yad Mordechai battlefield reconstruction site. Wikimedia Commons