By: Peter Suciu
Any serious collector of Mauser rifles likely already has numerous books written on the subject, but those collectors – as well as any antique firearms enthusiast – should consider adding Luc Guillou's new work on the subject matter to the library.
Mauser Rifles Vol. 1: 1870-1918 (Schiffer Publishing) is by no means the final word on the topic of the German rifle, and anyone expecting it to rival Robert W. D. Ball's massive tome, Mauser: Military Rifles of the World, will be sorely disappointed.
Guillou didn't set out to write the ultimate reference book on Mausers, but much like the other books in Schiffer's Classic Guns of the World Series, which includes Guillou's German Submachien Guns: 1918-1945, the purpose of this title is to serve as a reasonable starting point on the subject. In that regard, Mauser Rifles Vol. 1 serves as an excellent companion to Ball's work, especially for the beginner to intermediate collector who could be easily overwhelmed or confused.
Additionally, whereas Ball is a serious reference work, and something even the most advanced or hardcore Mauser collector might not actually sit down to read, Guillou has approached the subject as a coffee-table book that has taken more of an article format for specific rifles. It may not be light reading for those who don't appreciate the Mauser, yet it still involves and educates those who may have thought they knew everything.
The book covers the early history of the development of Mauser, as well as the initial interest of the design by the Prussian Army. It then goes into the early black-powder Mausers; touches upon the "Kommission" rifle, the Mauser competitor from the late 1880s, and highlights the development of the class Gewehr 98, which remained in use throughout the First World War. Again, if Bell's book is "ultimate Mauser reference," then Guillou's work should be considered concise reading on the subject.
Yet, the 80-page book is far from light on information. Detailed information is provided on variants and derivatives of different models produced in this time frame. Great detail is spent on specific components of the rifles produced by Mauser. Moreover, as noted by the title this is actually the first volume, and therefore only covers the rifles up to the end of the First World War. In fact, in some areas Guillou has gone into far greater focus than other sources on the subject.
An entire section of the book is also devoted to the accessories that were developed during the First World War, including rarely seen bolt covers, sights and even accessories for launching rifle grenades. The book even includes photos of the extremely rare Model 1915 mount, which was used to launch grenades from the trenches. Great detail is also spent on the large-capacity magazine (Mehrlader), which was also introduced in 1915.
The book even features a brief section on the oversized Model 1918 anti-tank "Tankgewehr," rifle, and it is a good starting point on the subject. Moreover, there is also a section at the end of the book on the rifle's disassembly, something that could come in handy for those with limited experience with the Mauser rifles of the era – however, given that the book has such a nice presentation it would be a shame to have greasy hands turn those pages.
On the topic of presentation, this is where Schiffer's series on classic weapons does really shine. The books aren't the final word on the subject, but as noted, that isn't the point. However, they are extremely well formatted, easy to read and filled with excellent photos of various weapons. This is further complimented by the inclusion of literally hundreds of period photos, as well as a few postcards and other illustrations. Most of the images are sharp and clear, even if it is evident a few are clearly low resolution and appear pixilated.
That is a minor compliant for a book that is quite well executed. If there is an actual issue, it does show in the writing that Guillou's first language isn't English. While the translations are clear and there the awkwardness that one might expect, the book is a bit dry at times. Given that the author clearly has a real passion for the subject it is disappointing that the passion barely comes through as this work wasn't meant to be a textbook.
For those, however, who want to learn a bit more on Mauser rifles while flipping through the pages, Guillou has come as close to hitting the bull's eye as is even possible.
Publisher: Schiffer Military History (November 17, 2020)
Hardcover: 80 pages
Peter Suciu is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article photo: By Armémuseum (The Swedish Army Museum) - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Karabiner_1898a_noBG.jpghttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gewehr_98_noBG.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89796800