More Mexican Mondragon rifle photos

This may come as a surprise to some folks, but the first semiautomatic rifle adopted for military use was the M1908 Mondragon rifle designed in Mexico by Manuel Mondragon.  He was granted a US patent on the design in 1907, and the variants of the rifle were purchased by the Mexican military starting in 1894. Mondragon’s development process began with the initial idea in 1891, and reached its peak in 1915 when the German military adopted it in 1915 as a rifle for use in observation aircraft (as the Flieger-Selbstlader-Karabiner 15, or Aircraft Self-Loading Carbine Model 1915).

The Mondragon has one particularly notable feature – a manual operation latch on the bolt handle which would cut off the gas system and make the gun into a manual straight-pull action. This was an idea in the tradition of magazine cutoffs in early bolt action rifles. Commanders and military bureaucrats were concerned about soldiers wasting ammunition through rapid fire, and wanted a way to force a slower rate of fire. The idea on the Mondragon was that the rifle would be used manually except in emergencies, at which time you could throw the switch and blaze away (at least until you emptied the 8-round magazine).

Mondragon gas cutoff
Selector on the Mondragon bolt handle to switch between manual and semiauto firing

We have a new gallery of photos of a Mondragon rifle on the Mondragon page of the Vault, as well as a much-expanded history of the piece, a few photos of a 20-round box magazine, and a copy of Mondragon’s 1907 patent.


  1. If I remember my Mexican history correctly, Pancho Villa was assassinated with several Mondragon Self Loaders in 1923…

  2. That’s right. According to what I read, at least one Mondragón was used in the ambush against Pancho Villa.
    Btw, period photos of Mexican regular troops (or else rebels, for that matter) must be excedingly rare. I never saw one, in many years researching the subject…

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