By Dan Reynolds and Eduardo
LG de Oliveira
The Rifle Mauser 1908 is the Brazilian soldier's
soul. It is all that keeps him alive in combat ". These words
were spoken by Sergeant Durval of the Brazilian Army over half a century
ago to a group of young soldiers, among whom was P. R. G. Muniz, the noted
Brazilian expert on small arms. This beautiful rifle is greatly revered
by generations of Brazilians as the M1903 Springfield Rifle is in the United
States of North America.
The story of military small arms in Brazil
goes back to the period of Portuguese colonial times. Originally
all arms, spare parts and ammunition came from Portugal.
The French invasions in Rio de Janeiro city,
in 1710 and 1711 pointed out the need for facilities to store and maintain
arms, ammunition and war material, as well as for workshops for the repair
Captain-General Gomes Freire, the last governor
of the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo issued an
order to build an armory capable of storing, maintaining and repairing
this type of material. In literal translation from old Portuguese
it was known as "House of the Train" or in English military usage the "Ordnance
Depot". This facility was erected beside Fort Santiago in Rio de
Organized production of arms in this facility
began in 1762. Known by this time period as the Ordnance Arsenal,
it produced swords, lances, bayonets, dirks, shot and other weapons and
repaired small arms. It was enlarged between 1764 and 1766, by order
of the King's Viceroy, Don Antonio Alvares of Cunha, Cunha's Conde.
However, the scope of work permitted at this expanded facility was limited
by the colonial status of Brazil in this period. Colonies were to
supply the mother country with raw materials and agricultural products
and trade for industrial goods from the homeland. Thus the Arsenal
could repair firearms, but not manufacture new ones in order not to compete
with the Arsenal in Lisbon. Brazil remained a colony of Portugal
In 1783 the first bronze statues were cast
in Brazil in the foundry of this arsenal, and today, those statues are
in the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro. The Rifles of Brazil
During the Peninsular War, Napoleon's forces
compelled the Portuguese Royal Family to relocate to Brazil. In 1808,
a start was made to expand the scope of operations at the Ordnance Arsenal
and organize it similarly to Lisbon Arsenal. A Royal writ was issued
on March 1, 1811 creating the " Royal Army Unified Arsenal" which incorporated
factories and foundries necessary for arms production. Brigadier Carlos
Antonio Napion was the first commandant with the title Inspector of Artillery,
Factories, Foundries and Arsenals.
After 1811 a period of great progress at
the Arsenal began. In 1820 and 1821, the first pieces of artillery
were out shopped from the new foundry built in 1819. The expansion
of the works continued in 1822 and 1832, with new blacksmiths', tinkers',
carpenters', metalworkers' and other workshops. In 1832, it was removed
from the Unified Arsenal command structure and placed under its own management,
its name becoming "Royal War Arsenal".
In 1837, an apprenticeship program was introduced
which evolved into the Industrial School which was in operation until 1975.
In 1840, as integral part of the establishment, the Emperor's Military
School was created, where children of officers and enlisted men, especially
orphans and the poor from 6 to 14 years of age, could be schooled, and
upon graduation enter the Military Academy.
On December 19, 1865, the Museum of the
Arsenal of War, the first military museum of Brazil was established.
During the Triple Alliance's War (Brazil
- Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay) from 1864-1870 , the Arsenal
was heavily engaged in the support of Brazilian troops. The quantity
and variety of material produced reached record volume. It turned
out cannon as well as 78,303 cap lock rifled muskets, bayonets and other
At the end of the War of the Triple Alliance,
Brazil was fully aware that all muzzle loading rifles were obsolete.
Several types of current foreign breech loaders were purchased for evaluation
and limited issue. Among these were the British Enfield Snyder .577
conversion, the French Modelo 1866 Chassepot, and the .44 Winchester Modelo
1866 . The Winchesters were held in store and not issued out until
In 1873, the Brazilian Navy decided to adopt
the British Westley Richards in .577/450 while the Brazilian Army adopted
the Belgian 11mm Comblain rifle. The Comblain, a drop block action,
was cycled by pulling down on the trigger guard to open and up to cock
The Comblain was used in active service by
the regular Army until 1895. There were nine different models in
use over the years. The rifle models used the long 11x50mmR
cartridge while the carbines used the shorter 11x42mmR round which gave
less recoil in the shorter, lighter weapons. The first rifle issued
was the M1873, a copy of the Belgian model. The M1874 featured a
modified receiver and was known as the Brazilian Model. The M1878
and M1885 Rifles were based on the M1874 action. A final model rifle
was purchased as the M1889 and this was chambered for a new more powerful
The carbines were, the M1873 with the action
used in the first model rifle, the M1888, the M1892 both with the "Brazil"
action, all these in 11x42mmR .
There was then an effort to upgrade these
weapons to a modern small bore cartridge. Some M85 Rifles were converted
to a special 7.7mm cartridge in the 1890's. A carbine conversion
to 7x57mm used a Mauser M1894 barrel and was known as the Model 1895.
In 1893, Brazil purchased a quantity of German
Model 1888 Commission Rifles in 7.9x57mm from Steyr in Austro-Hungary.
These were not generally adopted but introduced the first modern smokeless
powder magazine rifle to Brazilian service. They were bought hurriedly
in several lots, to combat the many internal revolts that were happening
in Brazil during this period. Marechal Floriano Peixoto of the "Commission
Military Technicque" and the adviser Major Moreira Cesar were decisive
in choosing this model and wanted to manufacture it in Brazil. This
did not come about as there was not the time to develop a Brazilian production
model due the press of events and ultimately it was decided to standardize
on the new Mauser Modelo 1894 in 7x57mm.
With the proclamation of the Republic in
1889, the Royal War Arsenal was renamed the "Arsenal of War of the Capital".
In 1902, as consequence of urban development in the central area of the
city of Rio de Janeiro, there was not adequate room at the existing location
and the Arsenal began to transfer its activities to the place that it today
occupies, in the Cashew of Cajúúúúúúúú
(neighborhood). It was renamed in 1906 " Rio de Janeiro War Arsenal
", soon simplified Arsenal of War of Rio (Arsenal de Guerra do Rio - AGR).
In 1916 it began the assembly of Modelo 1908 Mauser rifles using German
During the period from 1938 to 1943, the
Arsenal underwent a period of extraordinary expansion which made possible
in the two decades following the production on a wide scale of heavy armament
and ammunition for the Army.
Today, it is the mission of the Arsenal
of War in Rio (AGR) to manufacture and to rework many items in use by the
military. Among those products: the heavy mortar of 120 mm; generators
of 5 and of 15 KVA, mounted on specialized trailers; specialized detonators
for explosives; replacement parts for communications devices; as well as
castings of artistic works such as busts and allusive plates. In
repair and rebuilding AGR employs complex technology in light and heavy
armament, communications and electronics equipment, and light and heavy
At the present time the Museum at AGR is
engaged in researching, to organize and to publish documents concerning
its valuable historical collection.
After the 7.92x57mm M1888 rifle was evaluated,
the 7x57mm Modelo 1894 Mauser rifle and carbine were adopted. These
were manufactured by both Loewe as well as FN in Belgium. The Modelo
1907 Mauser in 7x57mm was bought in small numbers from Oberndorf as were
trial numbers of competing designs such as the Haenel in 7x57mm.
In 1908, 7x57mm Modelo 1908 was adopted on
a large scale as standard. It was made as a long rifle and as a 21"
carbine which had a smaller rear sight with scaled down range on the tangent
sight leaf. These Mauser were marked as being made by DWM on the
side rail, but will be found with two different addresses. Most common
is Berlin where the DWM plant was located in a suburb. Oberndorf
is the other address, far less commonly found, indicating that these were
made by Mauser which was also part of the Ludwig Loewe controlled Mauser
Rifle Cartel. Other members were Steyr and FN at this point in time.
Loewe controlled the patents and owned DWM as well as Mauser Oberndorf,
but licensed the other two members to produce Mausers for the large export
market under an allocation system.
A Modelo 1910 Mauser Verguiero Rifle was
supplied to Federal police in 7x57mm by DWM. The arsenal at Rio began
assembling M1908 Mausers from imported German parts in 1916. Research
is currently underway in Brazil to learn if these rifles are marked in
anyway to identify them.
It is reported that Brazil bought Modelo
1894 Mausers from FN again in 1919, and in 1922 they purchased some very
light, short '98 type carbines with straight gripped stock from FN in Belgium,
the Modelo 1922. In the 1930's a quantity VZ24 rifles in 7x57mm were
purchased by elements seeking to stage a coup, but these were taken over
by the Army. These do not bear the National Crest on the receiver
ring as do other Mausers. A few years later Brazil bought Modelo 08/34
short rifle from CZ at Brno with the Crest of Brazil on the receiver ring.
At this time a program began to rebuild
the original Modelo 1908 rifles. Many long rifles were cut down and
the bolt handles bent down to match the carbine configuration, except these
retain the long rifle rear sight. These are also called Modelo 08/34.
They differ in detail from the Brno 08/34 and the front sight guard on
the CZ Mausers is the easiest recognition factor from a distance.
Brazil also reportedly purchased some small ring VZ33 type carbines in
7x57mm but I have never seen one of these, if they exist.
In 1935, new long rifles were purchased from
Mauser Werke in Oberndorf as the Modelo 1935 in7x57mm. Reports that about
15,000 of this type, which is essentially similar to the Modelo 1908, were
acquired. Some Standard Model 7x57mm carbines were also purchased
at this time, also said to be called Modelo 1935.
During WW2, the U.S. supplied .30 Garand
M1 rifles and .30 M1 Carbines to Brazilian troops serving in Italy with
the Allies. They kept these weapons when they returned home in 1945.
By the early fifties, rifle production and
rehabilitation seems to have become centered on Fabrica de Itajubáááááááá
located in Minas Gerais State. From 1948 into the 1950's this arsenal
produced completely new Mauser rifles. In 1953, using a captured
German Walther K43 in 7.9x57mm as a basis, Brazil developed a .30-06 semi-auto
rifle which was made in limited numbers, as the Mq S/Auto .30 M954, at
the Fáábrica de Itajubáá.
They also began producing a new Mauser variant
known as the Mauser Mq .30 M954 in .30-06. This used reworked 1908
receivers, had a stamped cup shaped Mauser 98k type butt plate with a trap
for a cleaning kit in it, an extra reinforcing bolt in the stock and the
barrel was threaded for a muzzle break. It is reported that at least
some of these have brittle receivers as in the case of the low numbered
M1903 Springfields. The original 1908 receivers were made on the
soft side with a high grade steel of the period. Rockwell hardness could
range as low as c10-c14. Over years of hard use they tended to stretch,
as headspace grew beyond tolerance and they became unserviceable, but they
did not shatter. The ordnance people felt that the .30M2 cartridge
pressure curve was too much for these actions to maintain headspace within
specification for a reasonable period in issue. They decided to reheat-treat
them before rebuild and this made some, at least, overly hard and brittle.
In 1968 another Mauser variant in 7.62mm
NATO was produced. This rifle is configured in some respects to the
Spanish FR8 Mauser of a similar time frame and was produced for similar
reasons. The idea was to make use of existing assets to arm service
and reserve troops with a low cost rifle while the Army was in transition
to a new type of ammunition and slowly producing an expensive new automatic
rifle, the FN FAL. Commonly called the Mosque-FAL, this Mauser bolt
action rifle is officially called the Mq 7.62 M1968. Development of this
design is credited to both the arsenal at Itajubáá and Arsenal
General Camara located in Rio Grande do Sul. The rifle has Heckler
& Koch G3 type sights and an FN FAL type flash suppressor. According
to Mr. Joãã Felipe Cââmara, the great grandson
of General Camara, for whom the arsenal in Rio Grande do Sul is named,
these rifles were made using existing parts salvaged from DWM, FN, Czech
ZB, and Mauser Werke rifles. Barrels in caliber 7x57mm were rebored,
re-rifled and altered to the new pattern. These rifles are not currently
in issue, but held in storage at various arsenals.
Research continues on these subjects in Brazil
by Eduardo LG de Oliveira and we hope to continue updating this page.
If anyone can contribute information, please e-mail us.