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Mauser Bolt-Action Rifle Prototype
This is the earliest known rifle to be produced by the Mauser brothers. In collaboration with their partner, American inventor Samuel Norris, they converted the French Model 1867 Chassepot needle-fire rifle into a bolt-action arm capable of utilizing base-primed metallic cartridges. These experimental rifles were also significant due to their self-cocking and primary extraction features which later became standard on all Mauser rifles. This particular example served as the model for U.S. Patent No. 78,603, which was granted to the trio on June 2, 1868.
The Norris-Mauser Model 67/69 was the result of a collaboration between Samuel Norris, Remington Arms Company's corporate representative in Europe, and the Mauser brothers, Wilhelm and Paul. The Mausers were the sons of Master Gunsmith Andreas Mauser, who was employed at the government small arms factory in the town of Oberndorf, Germany. Paul, the youngest of the Mauser clan, was one of six of the thirteen Mauser children to follow in their father's footsteps.
At an early age, Paul showed a great ability for developing new methods and techniques, as well as improving existing methods and designing new tools that would improve worker efficiency. While serving as an artilleryman at the arsenal at Ludwigsburg, he closely studied models of breech-loading field pieces. He would later cite his experiences during this time as a major influence on his ideas regarding the design of breech-loading small arms.
After completing his military service, Paul returned to work at the Royal Firearms Factory in his hometown, where he devoted his spare time to the development of new firearms designs. Older brother Wilhelm handled business matters, while Paul devoted himself to technical concerns. Among Paul's interests was the improvement of the Dreyse Needle Gun, which was then the standard of the German Army. Nicholas Dreyse's design incorporated a turning-bolt locking system, which Paul modified so that a cam action also cocked the mainspring when the bolt was operated.
Although government officials provided funding for additional development and for the purchase of machinery, German military commanders had no desire to replace their recently-purchased Dreyse rifles at that time, despite the superiority of the Mauser-designed bolt. The Dreyse-Mauser rifle came to the attention of Samuel Norris when Wilhelm submitted it to the Austrian government for consideration. Although Austria followed Germany in its unwillingness to adopt the new system, Mauser's work deeply impressed Norris.
The three formed a partnership that was based in Liege, Belgium, in which Paul and Wilhelm Mauser supplied their technical expertise, while Norris provided financial backing and held claim to any patents arising from this arrangement. Their work with the French Model 1866 Chassepot rifle earned U.S. Patent Number 78603, which was issued on June 2, 1868 and covered both the new Mauser-designed action, as well as the conversion of the Chassepot for use with center-fire metallic cartridge ammunition.
Later designated the Norris-Mauser Model 67/69, this rifle was not adopted by the French government for both political and economic reasons, but it was the starting point for what would become the most widely-copied bolt-action rifle design in the history of the world. The example seen here is the prototype model submitted to the U.S. Patent Office to verify the operation of the Mauser-invented bolt system, as well as a demonstration piece for various governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Never intended to be fired, the Norris-Mauser rifle did not chamber any specific cartridge, but castings reveal a shouldered chamber with no throat reaming with a caliber measurement of 10.8 mm.
As in the earlier Chassepot-Mauser design, the bolt incorporates a self-cocking feature actuated on closing the bolt, a flat mainspring, and an extractor for removing spent cartridge cases. Design improvements include a rotating bolt head and a receiver-mounted ejector. The Norris-Mauser weighs 9.4 pounds and is 52 1/2 inches in length. The barrel is approximately 40 inches in length and features 4-groove right-hand rifling with one twist in 30 1/2 inches. As with the Chassepot-Mauser, this rifle has no safety, but the firing pin may be lowered on a live round by partially retracting the bolt and pulling the trigger.