A Look At The Mondragon Rifle

Rock Island Auction time means we get to look at a bunch of really neat guns, thanks to Forgotten Weapons’ Ian. Today he examines one of the most important early selfloading rifles, the model 1908 Mondragon:

The Mondragon is widely recognized as the first selfloading rifle to ever be adopted by a military. As Ian notes, there are a couple predecessors, most notably the 1896 Danish Madsen-Rasmussen rifle. However, the Mondragon was really the first to be adopted and mass produced in large numbers. It would be another thirty years and more before the selfloading rifle concept met with real lasting success, with the perfection of the gas port modification to the M1 Garand rifle.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • DiverEngrSL17K

    There have been various articles and discussions on the Mondragon from time to time on FW over the last few years. It is really great to see Ian and historical weapons like this ( and their designers ) receiving much wider exposure to firearms enthusiasts and the shooting public, thanks largely to TFB and other web sites.

    Good post, Nathaniel.

  • Don Ward

    Hecho en Mexico!

    It would be curious to see to what extent the Mondragons were used in Mexico’s Revolution(s) at the time and how they fared when compared to contemporary Mauser bolt-actions and Winchester 94 and 95s used by the belligerents.

    • erwos

      The Mondragons were built in Switzerland by SIG. But I find the intro to the video misleading:
      1. The Mondragon is actually considered the first assault rifle design.

      2. It was never made in great numbers – at most, 4000 units.
      3. It was never “adopted by a military” as a general issue service rifle. The Mexicans got 400 of them. The Germans got the rest, and they were used by the Navy, where they saw very little use.

      • mosinman

        wouldn’t have to be select fire to be considered an assault rifle?

        • erwos

          They were!

        • Zebra Dun

          And a flash suppressor, Pistol grip and over ten rounds in the detachable magazine!

      • Would you say…. “Hecho en Switzerland”? 😀

  • Many of the earlier rifles I mention were essentially handmade toolroom prototypes, so it’s not entirely redundant in context. But thanks for the feedback.

  • Camilo Emiliano Rosas Echeverr

    You can mass produce something in small numbers: build a factory and then build ten pieces. There you are.

  • noguncontrol

    yes! another under the barrel gas system, just like the garand. i prefer under the barrel gas system. all new guns nowadays use the over the barrel gas system, which is a shame really.

    • Tom

      I have always thought that over barrel system look better on pistol gripped rifles whilst under barrel systems look better on more traditional rifles.

  • Don Ward

    Now can you look up the word “pedantry” on Wikipedia?

  • Zebra Dun

    OK So it’s Mexican, made in large numbers, given in small numbers to Mexico usage unknown and undetermined, the bulk went to the German Navy who apparently stored them.
    Showing the Mexican’s and German almost beat the Danes and the Americans in building and produce “THE WORLDS FIRST SELF LOADING ASSAULT RIFE” or words to that effect.
    So, where did they all go?
    Is this something Mexico can say they beat the Anglo at?
    What assaults did this rifle participate in?
    Has anyone ever shot one in modern times?
    Have you the author shot one?
    What caliber was it? (I assume it was 8 mm Mauser or some such)
    It looks like those old Springfield toy drilling rifles that were sold at one time and came with broom handle wood stocks and a rubber bayonet.

  • Zebra Dun

    Mass produced firing pins is a standardized product.

  • Zebra Dun

    Look up discussion first Bubba.