Peter Paul Mauser was born on the 27th of June in the year 1838 in the little town of Oberndorf on the banks of the beautiful German river Neckar. Peter Paul was the youngest of the thirteen children Merira Agatha Heim Mauser bore to Andreas Mauser of Sondheim.
Andreas Mauser himself was a master gunsmith in the Government Firearms Factory housed in the former Augustine Cloister at Oberndorf. This factory was originally established by King Frederick I by a Cabinet Decree of July 31, 1811. Originally located partly at Ludwigsburg and partly in Christophsthal, it was transferred to Oberndorf because of the fine facilities available there. The old Augustine Cloister, built from 1775 to 1788, had been vacated by virtue of the secularization in the year 1806; and in accordance with the history of such institutions from the earliest times, was found to be so well constructed and so ideally situated that its conversion to an arms factory proved to be a very logical move. It is indeed a strange coincidence that even in England, as far back as the year 1539, a convent which had stood since 1293 was taken over by Henry VIII; and under the name of "The Minories" became outstanding in the gun manufacturing trade in England. Throughout the course of recorded history men and women of peace have selected beautiful sites and constructed fine buildings only to have them eventually seized and turned to factories for war.
Peter Paul, to give him his full name, his next older brother Wilhelm, as well as five of the older sons, were trained by their father in the line of his interest. When he was only 12 Paul was already busy at the gunsmith's work bench. Throughout all the days of his youth, his family was financially poor and his meager earnings helped support the large Mauser family« In 1852 when Peter Paul was graduated from high school, his future life work was already decided. 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.
Europe was then, even as now, a Continent seething with discontent, fear and suspicion, and Germany employed a rigid system of compulsory military service. In 1859 Peter Paul was called up for military duty.
Since military systems throughout the world have always been noted for their prodigal waste of talent and ability, it is not surprising that Germany assigned Peter Paul, brillant small arms mechanic, to duty as an artilleryman at the arsenal at Ludwigsburg. In later years Peter Paul himself credited his study of the models he saw at Ludwigsburg, particularly of the new but highly imperfect breech loaders, with starting him on the development of rifles which brought fame and fortune to him and military might of ephemeral quality to his country. He lived to see his Germany rise in military might; he was fortunate enough to die before its star fell in disastrous defeat.
By December of 1859, Peter Paul had so impressed his immediate superiors that he was placed on inactive status and assigned to the Royal Firearms Factory at Oberndorf. Time had made inroads into the Mauser family. Father Andreas had died. Josef and Heinrich, the two oldest brothers, had married and had their own families to think about. Another brother Franz, had emigrated to America where he was to become an employee of the Remington organization, one of the great pioneers of American firearms.
And so it was that Peter Paul, faced with the desire to turn his creative energy to practical purposes that he might earn a better livelihood for himself and for his family, approached his brother Wilhelm, who was two years his senior, and asked him to work with him on the creation of a new gun in the evening hours after their day's work in the factory was done. Then, as in later years, the factory was a hive of industry. The hours were long, the labor was gruelling. Only a person with dogged courage, stamina and determination could summon up enough energy at the end of a hard days work there to put in long hours of home work, whatever the potential return. The energy, will and drive of Peter Paul Mauser were elements in his success throughout the entire course of his life. Whatever one may feel about the directions his boundless energy took, there can be no argument about its drive and intensity.
As the older of the two brothers, Wilhelm automatically assumed his father's place as negotiator in the contacts and dealings the Mauser brothers had with the factory. From the first his health was delicate and this, together with a natural ability as a salesman, spurred him on to take active charge of the presentation of their interests, while Peter Paul did most of the actual experimental, technical and development work.
The experiences of Peter Paul while in the artillery influenced his thought to such an extent that his first invention was a small breech loading cannon and a special steel projectile of unusual design for it. While he credited Wilhelm with part of the collaboration on the cannon itself, Peter Paul alone was the developer of the ammunition. Throughout his life he claimed to be the sole creator of the ammunition used and developed for Mauser weapons all over the world. This fact is of great significance in the development of firearms. The ability to develop not only the mechanical principles of a weapon but also the ballistically correct ammunition for the mechanical principles involved is a tremendous factor in the successful production of firearms.
While this breech loading cannon was of general interest and was later preserved at the Royal Army Museum at Stuttgart, the difficulties of producing it with any hope of profit very soon taught the brothers a much needed lesson. Since their finances were limited, their activities must needs be funneled into channels where large sums of money were not involved in experimentation, initial production and selling.
Both brothers of course were thoroughly familiar with the Dreyse Needle Gun then in German military use, and after its outstanding military success at Alsen in 1864, 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.
For a time there was a dangerous rift in the friendly and fraternal relations of Wilhelm and Peter Paul, and for several years they went their separate ways. Finally Peter Paul succeeded in creating a turning-bolt lock which by a simple cam action during opening and closing of the breech mechanism would cock the mainspring.
Wilhelm was so impressed with this development that he again entered into business relations with his younger brother, and he was so successful and so forceful in presenting this new development to the military authorities that the government granted the two brothers several hundred florins with which to purchase machinery for further development work. The brothers later were able to repay this loan, but without it they could never have completed the experimental work so essential to the development of the arm on which they were engaged.
The first Mauser developments were connected with rifles using the needle principle, in which the needle at the forward end of the striker was driven for ward through the powder charge to hit and discharge the percussion or priming charge at the base of the bullet. Soon, however, they produced an advanced form of arm using a needle-percussion action.
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 financial commitment was too great to warrant a changeover.
The brothers next turned to the Royal Prussian Ambassador at Stuttgart with their new arm. That official, impressed by and glorying in the Prussian successes in battle with the Dreyse Needle Gun, decided arbitrarily that the Dreyse was so excellent that no change could even be considered.
Undaunted, the brothers next 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.
Few arms enthusiasts know that the first Mauser rifle patent was taken out in the United States, That rather strange development was a direct outgrowth of their initial presentation of the new weapon to the Austrian Ambassador.
At that period many countries in Europe and the Orient were considering arming with the then famous American Remington rolling-block rifles. That was the heydey of breech loading rifle development in the United States. Peabody had developed a fallingblock breech loader which was being used, modified or adapted in great numbers throughout Europe; the Winchester repeater was making itself felt as a force in Turkish military life; and from Norway to Egypt, from Spain to Turkey, and even in far away South America and China the Remington rolling-block was being considered for military service.
Representatives of American firearm manufacturers were persona grata in all corners of the world. It is not strange then that Mr. Charles Norris of the Remington Company should be calling on the Austrian Minister of War at Vienna. 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. Norris, a true Connecticut Yankee of story-book type, at once grasped the possibilities of a fine business opportunity at practically no cost or risk. The French assured him they would be interested in a system to convert the Chassepot to a metallic cartridge rifle; and Norris travelled to Oberndorf with the sole idea of tieing the Mausers up in a contract which would give him control of a Chassepot conversion. His classic contract and his own story will be found at the close of this chapter.
Norris hired the Mausers to go to Liittich in Belgium, then the seat of firearms design in Europe, where all facilities necessary for further development would he readily accessible, to perfect the design for him. Norris also stipulated that patents should he taken out in his name and that the Mauser brothers were to receive a royalty on the proceeds of weapons sold. Designers and inventors from the earliest ot times have been subject to this type of promotional contracts, which very seldom work in actual practice. The rifle, called the "Mauser-Norris" was duly patented in the names of Norris and of the two brothers in the United States. The Remington firm, justifiably incensed at the action of their European representative, were sold an interest in the Mauser contract by Norris. They failed to push the new bolt action rifle, however.
At that time, the Royal Firearms Factory at Oberndorf, being in the process of reconverting from the Minié muzzle-loading rifle to the more successful breech-loading needle gun, was forced to lay off a great number of workmen, including the Mauser brothers. And so it was that early in 1867 the Mausers, glad of any work which would pay their expenses, moved to Liittich in Belgium. For two years Peter Paul and Wilhelm worked incessantly at further developing their rifle. Their stay was mentally stimulating at least, as it brought them in contact with many of the outstanding experts and manufacturing geniuses in the European armament industry then situated in Liittich.
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