Military Wiki
File:Mamba (pistol).jpg
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 9x19mm Parabellum
7.65x21mm 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 the Republic of South Africa, intended for military and police duty. It is named after the mamba, an African snake known for its deadly venom that leaves little to no chance of survival for victims of its bite.


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 that at the end took the form of a civil war between the white-dominated Rhodesian government, and two rival African 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 interesting 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 (Pty) Ltd. 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 9×19 mm and, for countries where 9 mm parabellum ammunition was illegal for civilian use, 7.65×21 mm Parabellum[1] (a.k.a. the .30 Luger).

Technical description

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 S&W series of full-size semi-automatic pistols are coincidental and superficial. The grip-mounted magazine 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]


The Navy Arms Company launched the Mamba Pistol with a vigorous marketing campaign but was hampered by rumors of poor workmanship. Poor quality construction and poor alignment of the magazine with the chamber could result in feeding problems. The magazine also featured a slide hold-open latch, but it was unreliable as well. Of the 80 Mamba pistols imported into the US, 25 were built for Navy Arms. Navy Arms models have a serial number that begins with the NA prefix followed by a 3-digit serial number and the slide is engraved on the left side with "N.A. Co. Ridgefield, NJ" in cursive script. Although Navy Arms had purchased the right to manufacture the weapon themselves, the Mambas sold in the US may have been made in South Africa.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Kokalis, Peter. Mamba: Deadly Serpeant or Dangerous Fiasco?. Shotgun News, 2006, Volume 60 Issue 15 p. 10.
  2. "Mamba". Security Retrieved 2011-02-12. 

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