Serial # 4
The Mexican government, under President Porfirio Diaz, initially ordered 4,000 of these autoloading rifles designed by General Mondragon and manufactured by SIG in Switzerland. The Mexican government cancelled the order after the 400 were delivered citing improper heat treating of parts, they found fault with the poor quality locally produced ammunition which caused jamming of the gas system or the government ran out of money and couldn’t pay for the rest….. pick your favorite excuse. Either way, only 400 were issued and SIG got stuck with the rest.
Here are some telegrams from SIG requesting the Mexican government to “pay up”.
Original bolt and charging handle of the Model 1908.
All Model 1908’s are in 7mm Mauser. Most all model 1908’s were converted to the German FSK 15 or Swiss Model 1917. Very few original Model 1908’s exist today.
The Mexican Mondragon Rifle
The Model 1908 was a culmination of what was learned from the manual breech loading bolt action and the Model 1900 semi-automatic rifle. After several modifications, the Mexican army re-designated the Model 1900 to the Model 1908. Around 1911, it was issued to the Mexican army’s 18th Infantry Battalion making them the first army unit in the world to be issued an auto loading battle rifle.
The Mexican version is easy to identify. It came with its own bipod, has the Mexican coat of arms over the breech and is in 7mm Mauser.
This is an article on the Mexican version of the Mondragon rifle in a French magazine.
I wish I could read French!
Colonel Mondragon is on the left.
The reason I am mentioning the 400 Mexican version model 1908 rifles separately, is they all disappeared, none of the issued rifles have ever been seen again. (I did find a single presentation model to General Amaro, serial number #10, in a Mexican museum!) I wonder where the rest went?
I found this lithograph in the Osprey Publication of “The Mexican Revolution 1910-1920”, page E. The description simply says, “Zapatistas, 1911-1919, 3: Officer, 1914”. You will notice that the officer on the right is holding a Mondragon rifle. This could be an exercise in creative lithography or propaganda. But, if this is a copy of an actual photograph, one could conclude there was a battle where the Federal army actually engaged the rebels and at least one soldier lost his rifle which became a war trophy of this particular Zapatista officer.
Note: The “Zapatistas” followed General Emiliano Zapata during his military campaigns against the government in Central Mexico. Zapata was later assassinated as was the famous Pancho Villa. The assassinations are generally believed to be the work of the federal government under Carranza. Speculation is that the new government did not want to see the revolution start up again.
Courtesy of Osprey Publications
Specification Sheet for the Model 1908
Country of Design: Mexico
Designer: Manuel Mondragon
- Caliber: 7x57mm Mauser
- Type of reloading mechanism: Semi-automatic, gas operated
- Magazine capacity: 10 rounds (loaded with two standard 5 round clips inserted above magazine)
- Quantity: 4000 (only 400 delivered to Mexico)
- Years made: Around 1908
- Manufacturer: Swiss Industrial Company (SIG), Neuhausen, Switzerland
- Entered service: 1911 with the Mexican 18th Infantry Battalion
- Serial numbers; One would assume that the first 400 would be the answer, but no.
- Weight: 9lbs 12 oz
- Barrel length: 27 inches
- Total length: 47.5 inches
- Sights: 400-2000
Known examples…………………………………. 8