Mars Pistol

Today’s post was written by reader Christopher Eger. Please check out his blog, Last Stand on Zombie Island. Thanks, Christopher!

Wool jackets, bowler hats, waxed mustaches and the pall of London’s thick coal-dust fog. All you, the discerning gentleman are missing, is a pistol to practice the manly art of self-protection.  You can choose any of the superb Webley products like the Bulldog or Ulster Constabulary style weapons; however, you are looking for something bigger, better. You ask yourself as you read the Times, what would define you as a man in modern steam-powered 1902 London?

Then you see it, the MARS pistol. A huge auto loading pistol with a 9.5 inch barrel (remember the Colt 1911 only has a 5-inch –what a mouse gun!). Weight is a robust 48 ounces (the puny Smith and Wesson 1899 .38 weighs but 34 ounces). However, the weapon by Mr. Colt holds an amazing 7-rounds you say? The Mars brings 8-10 rounds to the scuffle in an array of caliber choices to fit your needs. These calibers include the .450 Mars, .360 Mars, and .335 Mars. These unique cartridges pack a force of up to 969-foot pounds of energy after achieving a muzzle velocity of some 1640-feet per second.

All buff aside, the Mars was an interesting and forgotten weapon. Invented in 1899 by one Mr. HW Gabbett-Fairfax the huge weapon was submitted to the British Army’s Small Arms Committee in 1901 for review. In penetration tests against the Colt revolver (which pierced six wooden planks), the .30 Broomhandle Mauser (which pierced eleven planks) the Mars came out on top by penetrating sixteen planks with its bottle nosed cartridges. However the extreme cycling of the weapon (the bolt would pass halfway over the firer’s forearm), and the overly complicated design doomed it to be rejected.

Observers during the tests on board the HMS Excellent in Portsmouth noted that the weapon looked more like a firearm exploding than being fired. The excessive muzzle flash and dramatic cycling swore off even the volunteers from firing the weapon repeatedly.

Only about 80-examples were produced and very few survive.

We are fortunate to have a copy of an original manual and newspaper reviews of the Mars to share with you (also available on the Original Manuals page):

(1902) Mars Pistol manual (English)


  1. It’s a minor point, but HMS Excellent was no longer a ship by the time the Mars would have been under test. Royal Navy shore establishments are often named as if they were ships (“stone frigates”), and administered a bit like a ship, but you would’t say you were on board one, any more than you would be “on board” an ordinary house.

    • Ever seen _All At Sea_? Alec Guinness at his finest [long b4 anyone thought to call him Obi Wan…]

      I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon than firing a MARS off the end of a pier! ;-D

      • My e mail address Is About ten years ago I purchased a cardboard box for six hundred dollars. In this box was eight pistols. I took them around to several gun shops and purchased various shells to shoot in them. One of the guns was a German Mauser

        , one was a Nambu , one was a German two shot over and under derringer, and one was p a Mars 45 . I phoned a John Allen at The Blue Book Of Gun Values, and told him want I had found. He offered to buy it from me but I didn’t take his offer. I began getting calls from all over the states, but the one guy that impressed me the most was a guy named Joe Schroeder. I met with him in South Beloit, and sold him the Mars for a substantial sum, and he sat there and cried. He said he thought hed never actually hold one of these guns. He asked me why did I choose him to sell it to if I had bigger offers. Isaid I felt like I was bringing a little kid home where it belonged. he really teared up then. Ken Newman

  2. Not totally forgotten! One was sold for $35,000 in the US recently. Cartridges for these guns are ultra rare. I recently managed to obtain one after some years of searching!

  3. About15 yrs back I encountered a 8.5mm @ the Cleveland show priced then @ $25,000. I asked how much ammo came with it? Why NONE was the reply. How much is ammo? Why I Don’t know but Years ago it was $2000 a round ! So said Joe Schroder !

  4. a few years back I bought a card board box containing eight pistols. the seller acted really smart about it saying I want six hundred dollars and not a cent less. I looked at the guns, and couldn’t get the money out fast enough. in that box was a complete nambu, a german derringer, a mauser, and a mars .45 cal. pistol. I called blue book of gun values, and spoke with a john allen, who said I couldn’t possibly have a mars pistol because of their rarity. after describing the gun to him, he said jesus you do have one, he asked how much I wanted for it. I said I know they list for around 25.000 dollars. ill sell it for half that. he said he couldn’t go that high, but could he put some of his buddies in touch with me. I agreed. I got phone calls from as far away as texas. one guy that really impressed me was a joe Schroder. we met at his buddies house in south Beloit. when I pulled that mars out of my case I thought I saw him start to cry. I said if you give me 10.000 cash its yours. after we made the deal, he asked me, if you’ve had othe deal for more money, why did you sell it ro me for less I said cause it feels like I brought a lost child home. then I did see the tears come. its not always about the money hafcan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.