The Rhodesia Mamba: Big Hype and a Big Flop

The Mamba was originally conceived in a 1970s Salisbury, Rhodesia barroom bull session about the best elements of semiauto pistols. The project would wind up being pushed by an American expat named Joe Hale, and production of parts was contracted out to a South African engineering firm.

The Mamba was hugely hyped at the time as being the best service handgun ever developed. It was an SA/DA system based on the Smith & Wesson Model 59, with ambidextrous safety, all stainless steel construction, and nary a single stamped part. Probably less than 100 were ever made (definitely not more than 200), as a result of massive technical problems. Many of these were ultimately because of an improper heat treating regimen insisted upon by Hale, but poor quality control in the manufacturing process didn’t help anything. When the South African manufacturer bailed on the gun (having gotten a lucrative armored car contract from the South African government instead), the parts and IP were purchased by Navy Arms of the US. A small number of guns were assembled in New Jersey from South African parts, but there the project died.

Today, the Mamba is a vary scarce pistol, for all the obvious reasons. Many thanks to the South African collection who provided this one for filming!


  1. Dearest sir, In this particular video my eyes were drawn too, and positivley locked onto, the pistols mounted on the wall behind you. Forgive my ignorance, but are all of those various and sundry pistols fitted with various and sundry muzzle devices?! Muzzle breaks? Flash hiders? Threadings for various attachments?!! Has this already been addressed in previous comment threads/patreon content?!

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