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Guns of the Mexican Revolution: you may think of the Frito Bandito or sepia images from your local taco stand, but civil war in Mexico was real war with machine guns, artillery and mass killing. Men, women, children: every hand held a rifle.

South of the Rio Grande, what most of we Norteamericanos know as the Mexican Revolution is referred to as la Revolucion de 1910. The reason for the differences in terminology is easy to understand when you consider that this internal conflict was not the first revolution to have swept Mexico, but the one that began in 1910.

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In fact, the 1910 Revolution had its origins in 1863 when, for the first time since the destruction of the Aztec empire by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1521, Mexico once again had an emperor. The fledgling Republic of Mexico had been heavily in debt to a number of European nations, and in 1862 Britain, France and Spain sent troops to occupy Mexico's ports until payment was made. The United States, embroiled in its own civil war, was unable to prevent this intervention, but under diplomatic pressure, the British and Spanish eventually withdrew their troops.

The French, meanwhile, decided this would be a perfect opportunity to create a sphere of influence in the Western hemisphere. They deposed the Mexican president, Benito Juarez, and set up a puppet emperor in the person of an Austrian archduke, Ferdinand Maximilian. Needless to say, except for a small group of wealthy sycophants, church officials and army officers, Maximilian had little support among the Mexican populace and only maintained power thanks to a contingent of the French Foreign Legion.

Nationalist forces under Juarez and Porfirio Diaz battled the French occupiers, and in 1867 captured Mexico City and the erstwhile emperor--who was executed. After the war, Juarez and Diaz became political opponents and, with Juarez's death, Diaz had himself declared president in 1876.

To obtain badly needed hard currency, Diaz welcomed foreign investors, who gained control of Mexico's railroads, mines, ports, agriculture, cattle, petroleum and other industries.

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Corruption became rife, with Diaz's cronies in the bureaucracy, business community and army accumulating wealth and influence while in rural areas, owners of large haciendas (hacendados or patrones) expropriated land from the peasants, who then became campesinos (sharecroppers) tied to the land by debt.

Diaz addressed the problem of internal security by hiring the most notorious bandit gangs and forming them into the Rurales (Rural Police), a paramilitary force that was better trained and paid than many of the army's unenthusiastic conscripts. Not only was banditry reduced, but the Rurales also served as an effective force against the periodic peasant uprisings and labor strikes.

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Diaz did not run for reelection in 1880, but his handpicked candidate, Manuel Gonzalez, won and business continued as usual. Gonzalez proved even more corrupt than Diaz, so when Don Porfirio ran for reelection in 1884, the people were almost glad to see his return to power. Diaz continued to be reelected to office until 1910.

Provincial leaders and intellectuals formed the Anti-Reelectionist Party headed by Francisco Madero. In 1910, the 80-year-old Diaz once again ran for reelection and Madero announced he would run in opposition on a platform of agrarian reform and democracy. After winning the election, Diaz ordered Madero imprisoned, although he managed to flee to Texas and organized a revolt that quickly gained support among much of the population.

In different sections of the country, popular leaders raised forces to support Madero. In the northern state of Chihuahua, the primary rebel leader was a former bandit and horse trader, Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula--better known by his nom de guerre Francisco "Pancho" Villa--whose irregular cavalry forces, la Division del Norte (Division of the North), would become legendary.

SPECIFICATIONS

FUSIL MAUSER MEXICANO MO. 1895

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser

OVERALL LENGTH: 48.6 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 29 inches

WEIGHT: 8.75 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, charger-loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 300 to 2000 meters

BAYONET: Knife-style with 12-inch single-edged blade

SPECIFICATIONS

CARABINA MAUSER MEXICANO MO. 1895

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser

OVERALL LENGTH: 37.25 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 17.25 inches

WEIGHT: 7.5 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, charger-loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 300 to 1400 meters

BAYONET: None

In the south, the Indian peasants of the states of Puebla, Morelos and Chiapas were led by the charismatic Emiliano Zapata, whose Ejercito Libertador del Sur (Southern Liberation Army) came about as close to revolutionary purity as did any force in the struggle. As Zapata and Villa's victorious forces moved across Mexico, they began appropriating haciendas and redistributing land to the peons.

On 20 November 1911, Villa and Madero's forces inflicted a crushing defeat upon Diaz at the Battle of Ciudad Juarez. With revolt spreading, and the army unable--or unwilling--to do anything about it, Diaz's advisors convinced El Presidente to flee the country. Madero was reelected president in November of 1911, although this was hardly to be the end of la Revolucion de 1910.

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Despite his revolutionary credentials, Madero was a member of the Mexican intelligentsia and did not desire to see the society he knew and loved disintegrate. Most of his administration was made up of the wealthy and educated elite and many of Diaz's high ranking officers were allowed to retain their commands.

When Madero called upon revolutionary forces to surrender their weapons and for most of the appropriated haciendas to be returned to their owners, Zapata responded that, if the people could not win their rights now, when they were armed, they would have no chance once they were unarmed and helpless. Para ser libre, un hombre debe tener tres cosas. la tierra, una education y un fusil. Siempre un fusil! (To be free a man must have three things: land, an education and a rifle. Always a rifle!).

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When negotiations between the two sides collapsed, the Zapatistas retreated into the mountains of Puebla, where, under the banner Tierra y libertad they became the most zealous of the revolutionary forces in Mexico. Zapata rallied his forces with such rhetoric as Hombres del Sur! Es preferible morirse de pie que vivir de rodillas! (Men of the South. It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!)

SPECIFICATIONS

CARABINA REMINGTON MO. 1897

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser

OVERALL LENGTH: 40 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 20.5 inches

WEIGHT: 6.5 pounds

MAGAZINE: Single-shot

SIGHTS: Front- Blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 200 to 1600 yards

BAYONET: None

RIFLES OF THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION

Whenever the Mexican Revolution is mentioned, the image that immediately comes to my mind is that of a sombrero-wearing Villista or Zapatista with his chest crisscrossed by bandoliers of rifle cartridges. As in most military conflicts before the late 20th century, in the Mexican Revolution the most important weapon was the rifle.

At the time of the revolution, military small arms were in a state of flux. Only two decades earlier, most of the world's major powers had begun the process reequipping their armies with the new breed of smallbore, smokeless powder, repeating rifles.

Until the 1890s, most Mexican soldiers were still armed with an assortment of blackpowder rifles. Many of these, such as the Remington Mo. 1871 Rolling Block, Peabody, various models of the U.S. "Trapdoor" Springfield and Whitney-Laidley M1872 were all single-shot designs.

But the Mexican government had also obtained limited numbers of repeating rifles for the troops. Most common among these were the various products of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, including Model 1873, 1876 and 1892 leveraction carbines and rifles (in both sporting and musket configuration), the bolt-action M l879 and M1883 Hotchkiss. In 1893, a quantity of Mle. 1893 Pieper Revolving Carbines were purchased to equip Porfirio Diaz's Presidential Guard.

When the Mexican government decided to reequip with the new rifles, they approached both old and new suppliers. In 1895, they placed an order with the Ludwig Loewe Company (later Deutsche Waffen-und Muntionsfabriken--DWM) of Berlin for 50,000 Mauser rifles and carbines chambered for the then-revolutionary 7x57 cartridge.

Because DWM could not fill the Mexican order fast enough, a second contract was placed with the Spanish government arsenal Fabrica de Armas Oviedo. Reportedly, the Spanish-made Mausers differed slightly from those produced in Germany, being closer to the Spanish Mo. 1893 pattern.

While awaiting the arrival of the new Mausers, it was decided to place a third order with the Remington Arms Company for a 14,000 M1897 and M1902 Rolling Block rifles and carbines chambered for the 7x57 cartridge. It appears that most of these were issued to the Rurales.

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SPECIFICATIONS

FUSIL MAUSER MEXICANO MO. 1912

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser Tipo S

OVERALL LENGTH: 49 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 29 inches

WEIGHT: 8.75 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, charger-loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by tangent from 300 to 2000 meters

BAYONET: Knife-style with 12-inch single-edged blade

At this time, advances in small arms were coming at a rapid rate and in 1902 the Mexicans placed another order with DWM and Osterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft of Steyr, Austria for additional Mausers using the improved 98-type receiver. Other than that, the Fusil Mauser Mexicano Mo. 1902 was dimension-ally and cosmetically identical to the Mo. 1895.

As far as rifles are concerned, the Mexican Revolution is unique as it was the first time that a semiautomatic rifle was used in combat. Invented by Gen. Manual Mon-dragon, it was a gas-operated weapon that used a novel eight-round, en bloc clip. Lacking facilities to manufacture his rifle in Mexico, Mondragon arranged for it to be produced in Switzerland by the Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft (SIG). In a blatant attempt to obtain government acceptance, the Gen. christened his rifle the Fusil Automatico de 7mm "Porfiro Diaz" Mo. 1908.

SIG produced approximately 3,500 rifles, but only 400 were delivered to Mexico before the fall of Diaz. The remainder were sold to Germany in 1915 where they were used by aircraft pilots and Zeppelin crews as the Flieger-Selbstlade-Karabiner M.1915.

Wishing to have a local manufacturer of military equipment, in 1906 the Fabrica Nacional de Cartuchos was established, followed shortly afterwards by the Fabrica Nacional de Armas (FNA) in Mexico City. In 1910, the latter facility began manufacture of an exact copy of the Mo. 1902 rifle, known as the Fusil Mauser Mexicano Mo. 1910. A Carabina Mo. 1910 was also manufactured in limited numbers and production continued until 1934, with about 40,000 rifles and carbines being produced.

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SPECIFICATIONS

MOSQUETON MAUSER MEXICANO MO. 1912

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser

OVERALL LENGTH: 41.7 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 21.5 inches

WEIGHT: 8 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, charger-loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 300 to 1400 meters

BAYONET: Knife-style with 12-inch single-edged blade

Due to the inability of the FNA to produce sufficient rifles, another contract was place with Steyr in 1912. Except for its rear sight, and being chambered for the 7x57 cartridge, the Fusil Mauser Mexicano Mo. 1912 was very similar to the German Infanteriegewehr 98.

Smaller numbers of Steyr-made Mo. 1912 short rifles were also obtained.

The outbreak of the Great War cut off Mexico's supply of European-made Mausers, forcing them to look elsewhere for rifles. As they had in the past, they looked to yanqui arms makers and both the Federal and state governments began purchasing Model 1894 rifles and carbines from Winchester. Several American companies produced the .30-30 WCF cartridge with a 150-grain FMJ bullet for sale to Mexico, and other the Latin American nations, who issued M1894s to their armies and police.

In 1913, the Huerta government (see below) found itself in need of more weapons, but U.S. and European dealers were loath to sign contracts with the regime. In what some consider a sign of desperation, it placed an order with the Japanese government arsenal at Koishikawa for 75,000 Type 38 Arisaka rifles and carbines. These were identical to the Japanese issue rifle except they were chambered for the 7 x 57 cartridge and took the standard Mo. 1895 Mauser bayonet.

Only about 15,000 were delivered before the order was cancelled with fall of Huerta government and the remainder was stored until 1915, when the Japanese sold them to the desperate Russians.

In general, the revolutionary armies used the same rifles as the Federales, obtaining them by capture, from troops changing allegiance or buying them from corrupt officials and army officers. They obtained additional weapons from American and European arms dealers, revolutionary supporters and friendly governments while others were via the services of gun runners. Mexico's geographic closeness to the USA meant most of the arms thus obtained were American sporting type rifles.

SPECIFICATIONS

FUSIL JAPONES MO. 1913 (MEIJI 38TH YEAR TYPE)

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser

OVERALL LENGTH: 50.2 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 31.5 inches

WEIGHT: 9 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, charger-loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 300 to 2000 meters

BAYONET: Sword-style with 12-inch singleedged blade

As they had been popular south of the Rio Grande since the 1860s, the most common non-military rifle used by Mexican revolutionaries were various Winchesters. Photographic evidence seems to support the fact that the most common of these were the Model 1892 and 1894, with carbines being more common than rifles.

But other brands saw service with Marlin and Savage lever-action, Colt pump-action and Remington semi-auto rifles all in evidence. In general, it appears that the revolutionary forces used anything that produced a satisfactory bang, as long as sufficient ammunition could be obtained.

Numbers of ex-U.S. Model 1895 Winchester muskets turned up in Mexico during the revolution. These Spanish-American War relics had been supplied by the U.S. to the Cuban Guardia Rurales in the early 1900s but had been replaced by Krag-Jorgensen and, later, M1903 Springfield rifles. Apparently someone in the Cuban government, sympathetic to the revolutionary cause in Mexico, arranged for their transfer to Villa's forces. (1)

SPECIFICATIONS

FUSIL AUTOMATICO DE 7MM "PORFIRO DIAZ" MO. 1908

CALIBER: 7mm Cartucho para Mauser

OVERALL LENGTH: 42.1 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 24.4 inches

WEIGHT: 9.4 pounds

MAGAZINE: Eight-round, clip-loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 300 to 2000 meters

BAYONET: Trowel type blade

Commercial Model 1895 Winchester carbines were also widely used. It seems that once the American government decided to back the government of Presidente Venustiano Carranza (see below), that ex-U.S. army weaponry, uniforms, supplies and other goodies--including surplus Krag-Jorgensen rifles and carbines--began showing up in the hands of el Ejercito de Constitucion

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I have seen a photo, which I was unable to obtain for this article, of a group of Villa's elite Los Dorados, several of whom were armed with the German Karabiner 88. Whether these were German surplus carbines in 7.9x57, or those produced commercially by C.G. Haenel of Suhl in 7x57, is unknown.

When the U.S. armed forces became involved in Mexico, their standard rifle was the M1903 Springfield. In fact, this was the first time outside of the Philippine Islands, and some gunboat diplomacy episodes in Latin America, that the M1903 had seen actual combat. It quickly earned a reputation for ruggedness and accuracy that would make it the favorite of the American regular soldier and Marine until 1940.

SPECIFICATIONS

WINCHESTER M1894 CARBINE

CALIBER: 30-30 WCF

OVERALL LENGTH: 38 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 20 inches

WEIGHT: 6.9 pounds

MAGAZINE: Six-round, tubular

SIGHTS: Front-Blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 100 to 600 yards

BAYONET: None

SPECIFICATIONS

WINCHESTER MODEL 1895 MILITARY RIFLE

CALIBER: .30 Army

OVERALL LENGTH: 45.6 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 28 inches

WEIGHT: 9 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, manually loaded

SIGHTS: Front- Blade

Rear- V-notch adjustable by leaf from 100 to 2000 meters

BAYONET: Knife-style with 10-inch single-edged blade

In March 1913, a short-lived counterrevolution led by Pascual Orozco, Emiliano Vasquez Gomez and Zapata was crushed by Villa and federal forces under Gen. Victorian Huerta. In the finest tradition of the Latin American caudillo, Huerta then overthrew Madero--who was murdered by the Rurales--arrested Villa and, with the apparent approval of the U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, declared himself provisional president.

Shocked by this, a number of Madero's former supporters--and foes--banded together to oppose Huerta. Led by Venustiano Carranza--who called for the reinstatement of the Constitution of 1857--Gen. Alvaro Obregon, Zapata and Villa (who had escaped from prison and fled to Texas) united their forces to form the Ejercito de Constitucion (Constitutionalist Army).

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SPECIFICATIONS

U.S. MAGAZINE: RIFLE, CALIBER .30, MODEL OF 1898

CALIBER: .30 Army

OVERALL LENGTH: 49 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 30 inches

WEIGHT: 9.4 pounds

SIGHTS: Front- Blade

Rear- U-notch adjustable by tangent from 200 to 2000 yards

BAYONET: 12-inch single-edged blade

Despite the freelance actions of Ambassador Wilson--who was quickly replaced--the U.S. government condemned Huerta's coup and instituted an arms embargo against his forces while, at the same time, allowing supplies to flow freely across the Texas/Mexico border to equip the Ejercito de Constitucion.

Relations between Washington and Mexico City became increasingly strained and when it was discovered that a German ship, the Ypiranga, was on way to Veracruz with a large supply of munitions for Huerta, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ordered American naval forces to blockade the port to prevent the delivery of munitions. (2)

SPECIFICATIONS

U.S. MAGAZINE: CARBINE, CALIBER .30, MODEL OF 1899

CALIBER: .30 Army

OVERALL LENGTH: 41 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 22 inches

WEIGHT: 7.8 pounds

SIGHTS: Front- Blade

Rear- U-notch adjustable by ramp & leaf from 100 to 2300 yards

BAYONET: None

SPECIFICATIONS

U.S. MAGAZINE: RIFLE, CALIBER .30, MODEL 1903

CALIBER: .30 Caliber, Model of 1906

OVERALL LENGTH: 43.25 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 24 inches

WEIGHT: 8.8 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, charger-loaded box

SIGHTS: Front- Blade

Rear- U-notch battle sight set for 545 yards. Fold up leaf with U-notch and adjustable from 200 to 2800 yards.

BAYONET: Sword-type with 15.5-inch single-edged blade

On 21 April 1914, 800 U.S. Marines and sailors landed and, after overcoming light local resistance, occupied Veracruz and its surrounding environs. Within a short time, U.S. reinforcements swelled their numbers to almost 7,000 troops, including the future Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

SPECIFICATIONS

KARABINER 88

CALIBER: 7.9mm Patrone 88 (7x57?)

OVERALL LENGTH: 37.6 inches

BARREL LENGTH: 17.1 inches

WEIGHT: 6.9 pounds

MAGAZINE: Five-round, Mannlicher-style clip

SIGHTS: Front- Inverted V-blade

Rear- V-notch fixed for 250 meters, a fold up leaf for 350 meters and a fold up leaf adjustable from 500 to 1200 meters.

BAYONET: None

On 15 July 1914, after being informed of the hopelessness of his situation, Gen. Huerta fled the country and Venustiano Carranza was appointed primer jefe (First Chief) by his fellow revolutionaries. But the U.S. troops in Veracruz did not depart until November, a hesitancy which angered many Mexican nationalists and did little to improve relations between the U.S. and new government in Mexico City.

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Next month (10/20 issue): Pistols and machine guns of the Mexican Revolution.

Thanks to the following for providing information and photos used to prepare this article: John Wall, Dan Reynolds, Randall Bessler, George Layman, Bob Hunnicutt, Doss White, Francis Allan, Robert Ball, Bob Caulfield, Roy Marcot, David Squier, Georgina Marie Scarlata (my Spanish language expert), the Robert Runyon Collection of the University of Texas and Rock Island Auction Company (www.rockislandauction.com).

(1) By some roundabout path, some of these ex-U.S./Cuban/Mexican Model 1895 Winchesters ended up in the hands of Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

(2) The Ypiranga sailed to another port and unloaded its cargo.

Photos by James Walters
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Title Annotation:PART ONE - THE RIFLES
Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Sep 20, 2010
Words:3259
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