Mamba Pistol

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Type Semi-automatic pistol
Place of origin Rhodesia, South Africa
Production history
Designer Relay Products (Pty) Ltd.;
Salisbury, Rhodesia
Designed 1975
Manufacturer Viper Engineering (Pty) Ltd.,
a division of Sandock Austral; Boksburg, South Africa
Produced 1977
Length 218 mm
Barrel length 128 mm

Cartridge 9×19mm Parabellum
7.65×21mm Parabellum (Allegedly)[1]
Action Recoil-operated, SA/DA
Rate of fire Semi-automatic
Feed system 15-round box magazine[2]
20, 25, 30, and 40-round box magazines (Planned, but never produced)[1]
Sights Iron

The Mamba is a semi-automatic pistol developed in Rhodesia and later produced in South Africa, intended for military and police duty. It is named after the mamba.


The origins of the "Mamba" pistol date back to the mid-to-late 1970s in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Rhodesia in the 1970s was facing an outright rebellion against the illegal Smith Regime that at the end took the form of the Rhodesian Bush War between the white-majority Rhodesian government and two rival communist factions, ZANU and ZAPU. Due to the war, Rhodesia struggled for years against a UN embargo. In an attempt to procure war materials, Rhodesians bought weapons from illegal traffickers and sympathetic governments. They also exploited their small domestic industry as far as it could, having their engineers come out with many designs that were later developed into functional, commercially viable weapons. Many weapons were produced in neighbouring South Africa, which was about to have UN-imposed arms sanctions as well. The Mamba pistol is an example of this as it was developed in Rhodesia and later produced in South Africa, being intended for military and police duty.

The Mamba was a high-capacity pistol (15 rounds with possibility of one additional round in chamber), robustly made in stainless steel and with advanced design traits like a curved trigger guard and the highly effective grip. Prototypes were first produced in 1977.[1]

The pistol was a poor seller and with the original manufacturers about to be affected by the imposed arms sanctions in South Africa, the right to manufacturing the Mamba pistol was sold to the Navy Arms Company of the US in the early 1980s by Viper Engineering. The Navy Arms Company production of Mamba pistols only lasted a few years. The total production roll of this handgun, either in South Africa and the US, can be accounted to some hundreds of pieces. Navy Arms manufactured the Mamba Pistol in both 9×19mm and for countries where 9×19mm Parabellum ammunition was illegal for civilian use, 7.65×21mm Parabellum[1] (a.k.a. the .30 Luger).

Technical description[edit]

It is entirely made in stainless steel (a first for semi-auto pistols),[1] with polymer grips and high-capacity magazine. The Mamba works in semi-automatic, recoil-operated, locked-breech single/double action based on the Browning principle. Its only safety was a Browning-style frame mounted safety that locks the hammer and the slide. Like the M1911 and FN GP-35/Browning Hi-Power pistols, the hammer could be locked either in cocked or in lowered position, allowing the gun to be carried in "cocked and locked" state, with safety on. The Mamba doesn't have any decocking system, which is unusual for a SA/DA pistol. The similarities that this pistol bears with the Smith & Wesson series of full-size semi-automatic pistols are coincidental and superficial. The grip-mounted magazine release and the slide stop are placed only on the left side of the pistol, but the frame-mounted safety is placed ambidextrously.The standard magazine issued with the Mamba was a 15-round high capacity type with a single position feed. Also planned were 20, 25, 30, and 40-round high-capacity magazines, but none of these were actually produced.[1]

The Mamba's barrel has 12-groove 'button rifling', an unusual feature which is said to increase muzzle velocity by up to 10%. In addition to the rifling, instead of being supported by a bushing, the barrel is supported only by the machined hole at the front of the pistol's slide to increase accuracy.[1]

A select-fire version of the Mamba was planned and a prototype made, but it never reached production. The selector had semi automatic and three-round-burst settings. The select fire version has a cyclic rate of fire of 1800 rounds per minute on the three round burst setting.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kokalis, Peter. Mamba: Deadly Serpeant or Dangerous Fiasco?. Shotgun News, 2006, Volume 60 Issue 15 p. 10.
  2. ^ "Mamba". Security Retrieved 2011-02-12.