Mondragón rifle

The Mondragón rifle may refer to three rifle designs developed by Mexican artillery officer general Manuel Mondragón. The initial designs were straight-pull bolt-action rifles (M1893 and M1894); those rifles served as a basis for developing Mexico's first self-loading rifle, the M1908, which was also one of the first such designs to see combat use.

Mondragón rifle
Class Manportable
Type Rifles
Manufacturer Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG)
Production Period 1908 - 1910
Origin Mexico
Country Name Origin Year
Mexico 1908
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Germany 1915 1945 View
Mexico 1908 1923 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG) 1908 1910 View

Straight-pull bolt-action rifles

In 1891 Mondragón began working on a rifle design. During his stay in Belgium he filed a patent application for which he had received a grant on March 23, 1892 (No. 98,947). During the same year, on April 20, Mondragón received also a grant from the French Patent Office (No. 221,035). In the following year, on February 8, he also filed an application in the United States Patent Office (No. 461, 476) and received a grant (No. 557,079) on March 24, 1896. The rifle, referred to as M1893, was of a straight-pull bolt action design, chambered for 6.5x48mm cartridge (also developed by Mondragón), with a fixed magazine fed with 8-round en-bloc clips. The rifle had three settings: "A" - automatic, "L" - safe and "R" - rapid. The "automatic" fire setting allowed the rifle to fire a cartridge each time the bolt was manually cycled to closed position, in similar fashion to Winchester M1897 pump action shotgun. The rifle could be equipped with a knife bayonet. The bayonet measured 41 cm and weighed 575 g, the blade was 28 cm long. At the time Mexico had no manufacturers capable of producing such a complex design to the required tolerances, Mondragon with the backing of Diaz entrusted the Swiss Industrial Company (Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) of Neuhausen, Switzerland with the production of the rifles. SIG received the first order in 1893, for 50 rifles, and another one in 1894, this time for 200 rifles. The rifles from the second order were chambered for 5.2x68mm round and referred to as M1894 (to differentiate them from the ones chambered for the 6.5mm cartridge). The 5.2mm cartridge was developed by Swiss colonel Eduard Rubin.

Self-loading rifle

Mondragón continued his work, and on August 8, 1904 he filed a patent application (No. 219,989) for the new rifle, this time of a self-loading design. He received the patent grant (No. 853,715) on May 14, 1907.

The design was adopted by the Mexican Army in 1908 as Fusil Porfirio Diaz Sistema Mondragón Modelo 1908. The same year, the Mexican government contracted with SIG for the production of 4,000, M1908 rifles, chambered for the 7×57mm Mauser Mexican service cartridge. Due to the political instability of Mexico at that time (Mexican Revolution), by 1910 only 400 of the ordered rifles had been delivered by SIG. The rifle's inability to cope with ammunition of poor quality, and the high unit cost of 160 SFr per rifle, led to the cancellation of the order by the Mexican government.

Mondragón Modelo 1908 was a gas-operated rifle with a rotating bolt, and a cylinder and piston arrangement. This design is now common, but was unusual at the time. The bolt was locked by lugs in helical grooves in the receiver. There was a switch, located on the charging handle, which would disengage the bolt from the gas system, changing the firearm into a straight-pull, bolt action, rifle. The rifle had a non-detachable box magazine and was filled by two, five round, stripper clips. The Mondragón Modelo 1908 rifles were fitted with a bipod. In addition to the knife bayonet introduced with the previous rifles, Mondragón designed a spade bayonet for use with the Modelo 1908, for which he filed a patent application (No. 631,283) on June 6, 1911.

Use during World War I

In 1914 German Empire bought the remainder of the rifles produced by SIG that had not been sent to Mexico, which could have been as high as 3,600 rifles (assuming that SIG had finished their side of the deal before the cancellation). Germans tried to modify the rifles for 7.9×57mm S-Patrone (which was the service cartridge of Germany until the end of WWII), but their attempts were unsuccessful. At first the rifles were tested by the infantry, where they proved highly susceptible to mud and dirt in the trenches, a problem familiar even to less complex designs such as the Canadian Ross Mk III straight-pull bolt-action rifle. As aerial combat would provide much cleaner conditions, Imperial German Flying Corps (Luftstreitkräfte) decided to adopt the rifle, issuing two of them per aircraft crew. It was a significant improvement over bolt-action rifles (Gewehr 98) and pistols (Parabellum-Pistole), which at the time were issued to the crews. The rifle was adopted as Fl.-S.-K. 15 (Flieger-Selbstladekarabiner, Modell 1915 - Aviator's Selfloading Carbine, Model 1915) and issued with 30-round drum magazines. The drum magazine was made to Friedrich Blum's patents, which led also to the creation of 32-round drum magazine (Trommelmagazin 08) for the 1913 model of Parabellum-Pistole (LP 08). The corps used the Mondragón rifles until a sufficient number of machine guns equipped with synchronization gear became available to them. Very few of the rifles had survived the war. After the war some of the rifles were in use by Imperial German Navy.

Type semi-automatic rifle / straight-pull bolt-action rifle
Place of origin Mexico
Service history
In service 1908-1923 (Mexico)
1915-1945 (Germany)
Used by German Empire
Wars Mexican Revolution
World War I
World War II
Production history
Designer Manuel Mondragón
Designed ca. 1904
Manufacturer Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft
Produced 1908 - 1910
Weight 4.18 kg (9 lb 3oz)
Length 1105 mm (43.5 in)
Barrel length 577 mm (22.7 in)
Caliber 7×57mm Mauser
Action gas operation, rotating bolt
Muzzle velocity 760 m/s (2300 ft/s)
Effective firing range 800m (876 yds.)
Maximum firing range 2,000m (2,187 yds.)
Feed system The 1908 model utilized the standard Mauser 5 round "stripper clip". The 30-round drum was only used by the German flying corps.
Sights rear: ladder, graduated 400-2000 m
front: blade

End notes