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The MAB Model F Pistol
by Ed Buffaloe

MAB Mod. F, Type I - Scott Frandsen

MAB Model F - Type I

Prior to 1950 the Manufacture d’Armes de Bayonne (MAB) had produced only guns intended for self-defense, all on a very similar pattern, primarily based on Browning’s 1903, 1906, and 1910 designs as manufactured by Fabrique Nationale and/or Colt’s.  But, whether due to a change in ownership or simple economic necessity, after this time the company began to produce several new guns intended for target shooting and military use.  The Model F was the company’s first target pistol.  Production began on 26 April 1950.

A passing resemblance to the Colt Woodsman has been noted by Josserand, but the resemblance is primarily external and almost certainly due to the Woodsman’s iconic status.  Both guns have internal hammers, but little else is the same.  I see a greater resemblance to the Star Model F of 1928 which, though it has an external hammer, is like the MAB Model F in that it has a flat -sided barrel, an open-top slide, and the recoil spring beneath the barrel.  The open-top slide design originated with the 1900 Steyr-Mannlicher, and was perpetuated by Star, Walther, and Beretta, among others.  MAB’s Model B, which was based on the Walther Model 9, also had the same basic design, as noted by Hogg & Walter.

LockworkThe MAB Model F is a blowback-operated self-loading pistol chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.  The lockwork is mounted on the left side of the frame and is covered by the slide and left grip panel.  The Model F features a top-mounted connector or transfer bar which is pulled forward to trip the sear.  A lobe of metal extending up from the transfer bar serves as a disconnector--when the slide moves to the rear the lobe and transfer bar are pressed down and out of engagement with the sear.  A simple but effective magazine safety consists of a spring-loaded lever on the left side of the frame which moves down to block the front of the sear when the magazine is removed.  The manual safety is a rotating lever which, when engaged, locks the hammer back, disengaging it from the sear.  The manual safety lever, when engaged, can also be used to lock the slide back when the slide is pulled all the way to the rear.  The recoil spring guide rod has a small spring-loaded plunger set into its rear--this plunger tensions the trigger when the hammer is not cocked.  The Model F does not have a rebounding or inertial firing pin.  The extractor is internal, mounted on the right side of the slide.

There are two types of the Model F.

Type I Model F

MAB Mod. F, Type I - Scott Frandsen

MAB Model F - Type I

I have not been able to examine a specimen of the Type I in person, but I do have some excellent photographs provided by Scott Frandsen from which to work..  The Type I is distinguished from the Type II by its lack of a locking lever on the left rear of the slide.  There is a screw on the back of the grip tang, off-center to the left side, which holds in the spring and plunger that tension the manual safety lever.

As best I can tell, not many more than 2500 of the Type I Model F’s were made, and there may be a number of minor variations, not all of which I have been able to document.  (If you have an early gun, please email me with any additional information you can provide.)  I do know that the early guns had  a square-cut cover on the right side of the frame, with an angled section at the top, where the trigger is installed.  This cover had a hole in it for easy removal.  The square-cut cover was present at least through serial number 1644, and was replaced by serial number 2301 with a half-round cover, with no hole, that was probably easier to machine.  This change would probably have taken place sometime in 1953.

The front sight on most Model F’s is, according to my friend Nick Stroebel, a Redfield Sourdough sight dovetailed into the barrel.  This was a common target sight for rifles in the 1950s.  It  looks a bit over-large on a pistol.  I have seen at least one early specimen with a different front sight, but I do not know if it is original or not.  The manual I have seen, which was included with serial number 2301, shows the Redfield Sourdough sight.

Type II Model F

MAB F w/ Silencer - J-P. Attwood

MAB Model F - Type II - with suppressor

The distinguishing feature of the MAB Type II Model F is a lever on the left rear of the slide, just above the manual safety, which serves to lock the slide--and hence the breech.  The lever rotates a wedge of steel down into a v-shaped cut in the back of the frame.  This enables the breech to be sealed when a round is fired, giving maximum velocity.  It also enables the gun to be very effectively suppressed.  Not only will little sound escape from the breech, but there will be no sound of the action working, and no cartridge ejected.

By serial number 4149 the screw at the back of the grip tang was eliminated, enabling the grip tang to be extended by making a cut at the rear of the frame and pinning a separate “tail” onto the gun.  The hole for the safety spring and plunger was drilled from the top, down to below the level of the safety--the spring is inserted first, then the plunger, then the safety is installed from the side, the tension from the spring and plunger retaining the safety, and the safety preventing them from escaping.  This is by far the most common configuration of the Model F.  I have thus far documented two specimens without the screw that do not have the “tail,” (please write if you have one).

The Model F was available in a number of different barrel lengths, from just over 2-1/2 inches to just over 7 inches.  Most of the ones I have seen have had a rather long barrel, but Model Fs are so scarce I haven’t observed that many.  The barrel on my gun is 173 millimeters long.

Date Manufactured

Barrel Length (mm)

Barrel Length (inches)

Starting Serial Number

26 April 1950

153

6

1

26 December 1950

104

4

301

26 December 1950

180

7

338

25 June 1951

185

7.28

821

24 September 1951

150

5.9

1023

3 March 1952

115

4.5

1642

7 July 1952

173

6.8

1861

5 March 1954

68

2.68

4924

The Model F is marked on the left side of the slide in sans-serif characters:

PISTOLET AUTOMATIQUE MAB BREVETTE
MODELE
F

My gun is marked for U.S. importation on the right side of the slide:

MADE IN FRANCE     FOR    W.A.C.

The “FOR W.A.C.” portion on the gun in my possession was obviously hand-stamped at a later time than the “MADE IN FRANCE” portion, as it is much deeper.

The last two digits of the serial number are stamped on the underside of the slide, and the breech block and slide lock have assembly numbers stamped on them.  But there are no proof marks of any kind on the gun.  The early Type II shown here is serial number 4532.  We have observed serial numbers for Type II Model Fs as low as 3678 and as high as 117XX (the owner didn’t wish to reveal the entire number).

According to Huon, production ended in October of 1963.  Total production is not known, but was probably less than 30,000.  The highest serial number I have encountered was in the 11,700s.  Please email me if you have a high serial number.*

MAB Mod. F, Type I I - ComponentsField Stripping

The slide can be locked open by rotating the manual safety lever all the way to the rear and drawing the slide back, but the gun should be properly field stripped so the barrel can be cleaned from the rear.  The gun probably originally came with a tool to operate the take-down latch, but I didn’t get one with my used gun.  It requires a tool with a rounded point, about a millimeter in diameter, or perhaps a tad smaller, and 3.5 to 4 millimeters long.  You may be able to use a paper clip or a slim drift punch.

  1. Insert the tool in the hole in the latch on the left side of the slide and move the latch upward.
  2. Pull the slide to the rear and lift it up out of the frame rail.
  3. Carefully ease the slide off the front of the gun.

Range Report

The trigger on the Model F is not nearly as good as a target trigger should be.  It is a little rough and the let-off is not crisp.  It might be possible to polish some of the lockwork parts, but I’m loath to take the gun apart sufficiently to try it.  I found that at 10 yards (about as far as I can see well enough to shoot with open sights) I could occasionally shoot 1.25 inch groups (gun grip resting on bench, but no barrel rest).  Several times I got a cluster of shots about 3/4 inch across, but it would always be marred by flyers.  I’ll try again later with a sandbag to rest the barrel on.

I ran muzzle velocity tests with the breech locked and unlocked, using two different kinds of ammunition.  The result was an average 8% to 9% increase in muzzle velocity with the locked breech.  With the seven-inch barrel, Winchester Xpert High Velocity ammo with 36 grain hollow point bullets had an average muzzle velocity of 1248 ft/sec with the breech unlocked; with the breech locked the same ammo averaged 1350 ft/sec.  John-Paul Attwood, who owns the silenced Model F shown above, says that the gun is significantly quieter with the breech locked.  I found that with the breech locked, the gun shot consistently about an inch-and-one-half lower at ten yards.


* I would like to hear from anyone who has a Model F.  I’m particularly interested in collecting serial numbers and knowing whether your gun is a Type I or a Type II.  There may be more types than I know, so if your gun differs in any way, please send photographs.

Type I:  1644, 2301
Type II w/ no tail:  3678, 4074
Type II w/ tail:  4149, 4532, 4578, 10836


References

The Handgun, by Geoffrey Boothroyd.  Bonanza, New York:  1970.
Les Pistolets Automatiques Francais:  1890-1990, by Jean Huon.  Histoire & Collections, Paris:  1995.
“The M.A.B. Pistols,” by Michel H. Josserand.  The American Handgunner, May/June 1979.
Pistols of the World, by Ian V. Hogg & John Walter.  Krause, Iola, WI:  2004.

English language manual for MAB Model F, Type I (large file, loads slowly)

Special thanks to Scott Frandsen and John-Paul Attwood for sharing photographs,
and special thanks to Bill Kelsey for sharing information and expertise.
 

Copyright 2010-2011 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.
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