I recently had a chance to examine 4 different examples of the 1894 Mondragon straight-pull bolt action rifle. These rifles were the predecessor to the self-loading Mondragon design which would be adopted by Mexico in 1908 as the first such rifle adopted as a standard arm by a national military. The 1894 also has a rather interesting and unusual feature in the form of a 3-position safety. It includes typical “safe” and “fire” settings, and also a third position in which the rifle fires immediately upon the bolt locking closed, without needing the trigger to be pressed. This was intended to provide a high volume of fire from troops advancing on an enemy line – although obviously it wasn’t widely accepted as a useful feature.
Anyway, while looking at 4 different examples of these rifles, a number of distinctive features became clear, allowing them to be divided into two distinct groups. In the interest of furthering understanding of these rifles, I would like to provide an explanation of those features, based on the 4 guns I just examined and three others which I have access to detailed photographs of.
So, when I list those features in the table, here is what I am referring to…
What can we learn from this about Mondragon development? Well, several things. These are not yet absolutely proven facts, but I would consider them pretty conclusive.
- SIG produced 1894 Mondragon rifles in two major variations, with separate serial number ranges.
- Early guns used a bolt cap which was overly complex, fragile, and expensive. It is faster to disassemble, but otherwise inferior.
- Late guns used a much simpler threaded bolt cap.
- At least 111 late-pattern guns were made.
- Judging by the opening in the magazine floorplates, the two variants used different clips.
- A solid metal bolt knob was tested at the beginning of the new pattern guns, but rejected quickly.
- At the same time, a locking catch was added to the new pattern guns to presumably prevent the bolt from being bumped out of battery.
- The initial 5.2x68mm cartridge was replaced with a larger 6.3x68mm cartridge in the new pattern guns.
- The old pattern guns use a rear sight with a folding leaf and separate battlesight notch, and this sight was replaced with a simple and more typical sight on the new pattern guns.
- Both patterns use the distinctive 3-position fire selector (I am leaving the Type I designation open in case I can find examples with 2-position safeties)
- Carbine-length examples were made of the old pattern guns. I have no example of a new pattern carbine, but examples might have been made.
- The rear tang marking was moved to the barrel shank on the new pattern guns.
- A Swiss-style stacking rod was fitted to the old pattern rifles, which was replaced by a cleaning rod on the new pattern.
In general, the design was simplified between the old (IIA) and new (IIB) pattern.
If you own a Mondragon bolt action or have photographs of one not included in this table, I would love to hear from you! I would like to add as many examples as possible to the table to further illuminate production changes. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will keep you thoroughly anonymous. Thanks!