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7.65 X 54 MAUSER

This is a relatively large project, please bear with me for a while

On the page describing the history and development of the 6.5 X 52 Carcano and other 6.5mm’s, one name surfaces throughout the late 1880’s onwards in practically all facets of military rifle and cartridge research, development and manufacturing and that is the name of Mauser. The history of the 6.5mm developments only describes a small part of weapon and cartridge design in Europe and the world and the story would not be complete without this next chapter. All of this can basically be tracked back to one of those “lightbulb moments” in history when one man has a eureka moment that started off, in this case, with a simple, everyday tool called the push-and-turn-down, common door-securing bolt adapted to lock a cartridge in the firing chamber of a rifle. So secure was this new lock, that an entirely new form of military rifle was evolved from it which literally not only changed the face of war, it changed the world. The man who had this eureka moment was a German designer named Nicholas von Dreyse with his Dreyse needle fire cartridge and bolt design and how two brothers, Peter Paul and Wilhelm Mauser adapted that design into a rifle concept that is still considered virtually perfect even into the 21st Century.

Peter Paul Mauser was born on the 27th of June in the year 1838 in Oberndorf and was the youngest of thirteen children. He, his older brother Wilhelm, as well as five of the older sons, were trained by their father, who was a master gunsmith in the Government Firearms Factory housed in the former Augustine Cloister at Oberndorf. Paul started at the factory at the age of 12 and by 1852 when he graduated from school he already knew what his life’s work would be. He joined his father and brothers in the Government Firearms Factory and soon attracted attention by his unusual ability to develop new methods of work, new short cuts in manufacturing processes, and specialized tools which enabled him to produce faster and better than his older bench mates. At that stage conscription was mandatory and Paul was assigned to duty as an artilleryman at the arsenal at Ludwigsburg. In December 1859 he was assigned to the Royal Firearms Factory at Oberndorf. Both Paul and Wilhelm had extensive experience with the Dreyse rifle and they turned their combined efforts to ways to improve the locking and functioning of this new military arm, which was based on the locking principle of the elementary turning door-bolt. The army of their native Württemberg had but recently been equipped with Minié Rifles; and as the investment had already been made in those arms, that government was no longer interested in a new rifle, even though it was an admittedly superior design. The same went for the Royal Prussian Ambassador at Stüttgart. He was still too impressed by the Prussian successes in battle with the Dreyse Needle Gun at Alsen in 1864 and decided that the idea was not broken and therefore did not need fixing. Not willing to accept defeat that easily, they approached the Austrian Ambassador, who was considerably more receptive. He forwarded their new rifle to Vienna for tests, and that action started a new chain of events in the lives of the Mauser brothers.

It is an interesting fact that the first Mauser patent was not filed in Germany or Austria, but in the United States. It was as a result of their presentation to the Austrian Ambassador that put them in contact with Charles Norris, a representative of Remington. At that period of history, many countries in Europe and the Orient were considering equipping their armies with American rifles. Peabody falling-block breech loading rifles were also introduced in Europe, as well as Winchester repeating rifles in Turkey, as well as Remington rolling block rifles as far away as South America and China. Austria had but recently changed over to the Wänzl rifle and the manufacture was in such an advanced stage that, like Württemburg, Austria could not afford to bypass the Wänzl even in the face of an admittedly superior design. It was at the War Ministry that Norris first saw the Mauser rifle. The Austrian War Minister was quite frank with Norris in pointing out to him that only the financial commitments already involved in the Wänzl changeover prevented Austria from adopting this new German design. At that stage the French were interested in a system to convert their Chassepot rifles to a metallic breech loading cartridge and Norris hired the Mauser brothers to go to Lüttich in Belgium, then the seat of firearms design in Europe, where all facilities necessary for further development would be readily accessible, to perfect the design on his behalf. Norris tried a deal to get them into a deal that stipulated that patents should be taken out in his (Norris’s) name and that the Mauser brothers were to receive a royalty on the proceeds of weapons sold. That was the “Mauser-Norris” patent registered in the US. It was a deal that did not work out, but as fate would have it they insisted that Norris submit their rifle to the Royal Prussian School of Riflemanship in 1869. The results of this test was so impressive that Wilhelm was invited to the Arsenal at Spandau. The Institute at Spandau later produced the Royal Rifle Testing Commission, a body to which Paul Mauser submitted all his rifle designs from that period on.

That act in 1869 culminated on the 2nd of December 1871 when the Mauser M71 rifle was adopted as the first official German service metallic cartridge rifle. While the genesis of the turning-bolt action lock is usually credited to Dreyse, and the overall form of that first Mauser rifle is often thought to resemble closely that of the French Chassepot, the truly revolutionary features in the design are strictly those of Peter Paul Mauser. The next step for them was the adoption of the Mauser rifle in 1881 by the Serbian Government for their 10.15mm cartridge. The Henry-Winchester system of carrying cartridges in a tube below the barrel where they compressed a spring which thrust them successively back into a carrier for individual loading in the chamber was a very successful design and was adopted by most of the important military nations in Europe. In the winter of 1880, Mauser applied this cartridge carrying principle to his original M71 Single Shot Rifle, a very important development as it permitted the use of standardized machinery and enabled the conversion of the single shot design to repeating rifle design at a minimum cost. At the Württemberg Industrial Exposition in 1881 Paul was permitted to demonstrate his new magazine rifle to His Imperial Majesty Wilhelm I (1799-1888). This test was very successful and lead to an order of 2,000 test rifles that were put into the field by the Prussian High Command for complete testing under field conditions. The rifle was shortly thereafter adopted under the official designation of “Infantry Repeating Rifle Model 71-84, caliber 11mm.” the Serbs immediately placed an order for 4,000 rifles and 4,000 carbines of the improved design for their 10.15mm Serbian Mauser cartridge.

This was also the beginning of a period of giant technological strides in arms development in Europe. The game changer came courtesy of a French chemist named Paul Marie Eugène Vieille. He was a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, and the inventor of modern nitrocellulose-based smokeless gunpowder in 1884. The new smokeless powder was three times as powerful as black powder for the same weight and paved the way for lighter, smaller caliber rifles. His invention was applied not only to small arms but also to the full range of artillery ammunition. The French introduced their 8mm Lebel with vastly improved ballistics that seriously upset the apple cart in virtually all European nations.

Paul Mauser wasted no time to experiment with this new smokeless powder invention and found that he could achieve better ballistics from a 7.65mm bullet than an 8mm bullet and he designed a rifle with a jacketed barrel with a 5-shot magazine below the receiver that could be loaded through an open action. He thus basically created the first truly successful modern military bolt action rifle. In 1889 the Belgian Government, after intense testing adopted the 7.65mm Mauser as it’s official military rifle. The Belgian Ministry of War ordered several hundred thousand of these new Mauser rifles with the stipulation that they be manufactured by the Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre, at Herstal near Lüttich. This plant was established by a Lüttich syndicate with Ludwig Loewe & Co. of Berlin as a partner. These rifles were also made by the Fabrique d’Armes de L’Etat at Lüttich. With the Belgians completely rearming after these intensive tests and with the adoptions of smaller calibers by most of the European countries, the Turkish Government felt impelled to change to the smaller rifles with their improved ballistic performance.

Thus after Mauser had produced 220,000 of the rifles in caliber 9.5mm, Turkey formally adopted the new Model 90 in caliber 7.65mm Turkish. By the Fall of 1893 Oberndorf had provided 200,000 rifles and carbines of this model to Turkey.

The Argentinians were also very interested in what was happening in terms of military developments in Europe and approached Mauser to manufacture a rifle of the same general type as the Turkish design but with a heavier bolt for their army. The order for 180,000 rifles and 30,000 carbines was carried out in Berlin by Ludwig Loewe & Co. to Mauser’s specifications.
Source: Smith W.H.B; Mauser Rifles and Pistols 1958.