As the Gewehr98.com’s first blog post, I thought we would start with a very interesting, and little known piece of Mauser history shared with me by Jon Speed, who found the story within the Hans Lockhoven files.
Sometime between 1908 and 1911 the Vatican contracted with Mauser Oberndorf, through an intermediate in Düsseldorf, for the purchase of 200 Gewehr98 rifles. These were commercial production rifles, but have the appearance of your typical Gewehr98. In 1989 the commander of the Paepstliche Schweizergarde (Swiss Guard) wrote a letter to Hans Lockhoven and included pictures of one of these 200 rifles, in this case a Mauser Oberndorf / 1908 serial number 77357. Note the condition and the commercial trade marks of Mauser on the stock, the wrist marking (WM) and trademark on the buttstock are commonly found on commercial rifles of this period. The rifles do not seem to be specially marked, or even used to any appreciable extent.
Jon Speed also discovered the recording of this sale in his bound books, dated July 1911, so the delivery was probably sometime after that but certainly during 1911. One can only wonder what purpose these rifles were intended to serve, but the Gewehr98 was the standard service rifle of the period, the Gewehr98 in its prime, so it makes sense the Vatican might want to have the most modern arms possible for their small armed guard.