The Mauser C78 zig-zag was a single-action revolver manufactured by Mauser during the late 19th century. It was chambered in calibers from 6 to 11 mm and is fed from a six-round grooved cylinder, hence the name of the revolver.
The original zig-zag revolver had a solid frame and loading gate. It was developed in 1878, and was the first German military handgun to fire modern brass cartridges. It replaced the earlier needle-fire and pinfire revolvers. The C78 was designed for the 1879 German trials to provide the first metallic cartridge handgun. The design evolved into a top break, and a swinging cylinder design and also include a rifle version. It performed well in the trials but was rejected for being too complex to manufacture. This was Paul Mauser`s first handgun design.
In 1886, an improved 9 mm version with a hinged frame was introduced.
In 1896, the C78 was replaced by the semi-automatic Mauser C96 "broomhandle", but many of the older revolvers remained in use until after World War I.
The Mauser brothers` first pistol design was developed to enter Germany`s trials for their first metallic cartridge revolver in 1879. Developed in 1878, just four years after the brothers had opened their factory. While best known for their rifle designs and the iconic C96 semi-automatic pistol the ambitious Mausers were searching for gaps in the market. Designed by Peter Paul Mauser, the single-action, 2ix-shot `Construktion of 1878` (C78) was intended to offer an alternative to the majority of contemporary revolvers with a supposedly simpler indexing mechanism which lined up the cylinder chamber with the breech more reliably. The C78 also has the distinction of being Paul Mauser`s first and only revolver design.
The revolver has a number of interesting features, including its unique cylinder indexing system. The `zig-zag` grooves cut into the cylinder which provided a channel for a sprung studded cam that moved forward when the trigger was pulled. This rotated the cylinder aligning the next chamber with the breach. This was intended to prevent the pistol getting `out of time` and failing to align a round properly.
The other features included a cylinder locking lever located ahead of the trigger guard which unlocks the barrel and cylinder assembly allowing them to be swung upwards to unload spent cases. In plater models ejection was aided by a star-style ejector that was actuated when the barrel was tipped up. The ungainly `tip-up` position of the barrel made reloading the pistol tricky when compared to contemporary top break pistols sold by Webley and Smith & Wesson (see image #3). There was also a safety latch on the left side of the frame (see image #1) that prevents the cylinder from rotating when engaged.
Chambered in a number of calibres ranging from 6mm to 9mm, to 11mm the pistol`s design also evolved with some later models replacing the earlier `tip-up` design with a solid frame with a hinged cylinder (see above) and some having a double-action. The C78 was entered into the 1879 German pistol trials and while it performed well enough it was rejected as its `zig-zag` cylinder indexing system was considered too complex. Eventually in 1883, a committee designed `Commission Revolver` was chosen, which was a wholly uninspired design when compared to Mauser`s C78.