Book Review, February 2001:

Mauser Military Rifle Markings
by Terence W. Lapin
Hyrax Publishers, LLC, 2000, softcover
139 pages
ISBN 0-9676896-1-9
Mauser Military Rifle Markings
Mauser military rifles are some of the most sought after on the firearms market.  More accurately, some Mauser rifles are among the most sought after items on the market.  They are also some of the most common.  Literally hundreds of millions of Mausers have been made and used by over a hundred countries since 1871.  Unless you happen to be a walking compendium of Mauser knowledge, identifying an individual rifle, differentiating one from another, or separating the rare from the common can be difficult.  Doing it when time is of the essence, at the point of sale, at a gun show or a shop that you happen to stop by can be impossible.  Part of the problem is that the majority of books on the subject are either too large and cumbersome, focused on the technical history of the rifle, lacking in detail, or a combination of all three.  Happily for both the novice and veteran collector alike, there is a solution.  Terence Lapin's new book, Mauser Military Rifle Markings, is a remarkably complete guide to the symbols, crests, and letters that identify Mauser rifles.  Moreover, it's a lightweight paperback so one never has to be without a reference in time of need!

Mauser Military Rifle Markings is very well organized and thorough. In less than 140 pages it manages to educate the reader about a number of foreign languages, non-Roman alphabets, calendars and dating systems around the world, and many tidbits of history that clarify much of the mystery surrounding Mauser rifles.  Be that as it may, the book's real strength is as a portable reference.  To this end, great care has been taken with the organization of the data within, so as to make the required information useful and accessible.  Chapters include:

Additionally, there is a gazetteer, which provides information about the various places associated with Mauser rifle design and production.

Each chapter contains nation or language specific sections and annotated tables that illustrate the various markings.  Each of these sections ranges from one or two paragraphs to three pages in length and is a marvel of concise writing, setting out the necessary information in a manner that is all at once comprehensive, easily assimilated, and brief.  Within the amplifying text on Turkish Mauser markings, within the space of three pages, Mr. Lapin manages to explain the difference between Turkish script and Farsi, the intricacies of the Sultan's caligraphic markings (the toughra and the ünvan), provide a table that sets out the name, dates of power, title in Turkish, and english translation for each sultan of the Mauser era (1861  - 1922), discuss individual sultans' names, and later Turkish emblems.  It's a whirlwind tour through a very small but fascinating part of history, made pleasant and interesting by the medium of Mr. Lapin's cogent and lucid writing.  An excellent example is found in the discussion of the toughra:

The calligraphic design commonly found on Turkish Mausers of the Ottoman period is the toughra (in Turkish tuđra).  This is an ornate design individual to each sultan and consists of the title khan, the sultan's name, the Arabic word bin ("son [of]"), the sultan's father's name, and the title muzaffir da'ima ("the always victorious").  The mix of languages shows the eclectic nature of the Ottomans and their empire: khan was originally a Mongol title meaning, approximately, "ruler," and the latter title is Arabic.

The toughra is supposed to have originated with Sultan Murad I who, when signing the Treaty of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) in 1365, dipped his fingers into an inkwell and scrawled a signature.  This design developed into a standardized form having three vertical lines and a swirl of calligraphy ending in a flourish to the left.  As they are written in Arabic script toughras are read from lower right to upper left.  Although toughras of many of the sultans look alike at first glance, patience and a good magnifying glass or jeweler's loop can sometimes be used to untangle them.

A smaller calligraphic device is sometimes found above and to the right of the toughra.  This consists of an additional title or attribute (the Turkish term is ünvan, from the  Arabic word 'unwaan, meaning "address" or "title), which is unique to each sultan, although not every sultan had one.  The ünvan can be quite useful for sorting out the six Mehmets, five Murads, four Mustafas, etc.

As can be seen, in three paragraphs, Mr. Lapin completely demystifies both the nature and the significance of the toughra, information sorely lacking in many, if not all, of the works that are considered dispositive on Mauser rifles.  This is not to say that Mauser Military Rifle Markings attempts to displace other works on the subject.  Indeed, as Mr. Lapin notes in his foreword, the "book is neither a history of Mauser rifles nor a catalogue of their many types and variations."  Instead, it is a mandatory supplement to the histories and variations by authors such as Olson and Ball that covers, in great detail, an important aspect of Mauser rifles that those volumes lack.

Mauser Military Rifle Markings is much more than a supplement, however, having  an enormous amount of value and merit on its own.   The book is what we affectionately refer to as a "working volume," one that belongs in the gun room, dog eared from extensive use, and smeared with cosmoline from constant reference while cleaning the newest Mauser to enter one's collection.  In a nutshell, Mr. Lapin's work is one of the most truly useful gun books to come on the market in many years, and one that no aficionado or collector of Mauser rifles can afford to be without.

Mauser Military Rifle Markings is available from Hyrax Publishers, LLC.  Click on the image to order:
Mauser Military Rifle Markings

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