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The MAB P15 “Competition” pistol

Some post-World War II weapons, the manufacture of which ceased several decades ago, are almost now collector’s items. If their performance unambiguously classifies them in the category of contemporary weapons, we know that their manufacture can never be resumed as it was before for the same reason that once interrupted it: their production cost!

In France, some shooters call them “mythical weapons,” probably because, while most people have heard of them very few have had the privilege of being able to examine and try them, or even possess them. Without the shadow of a doubt, the MAB P15 “Competition” pistol can be classified as such a weapon.

History and development

Founded in 1920 by Léon Barthe in the French Basque country, the “Manufacture d’Armes de Bayonne” (abbreviated MAB) was a private company, even if its shortened name (MAB) could make it seem that it was a state weapon manufacture (like the MAS – “Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne”, the MAT – “Manufacture d’Armes de Tulle”, or the MAC – “Manufacture d’Armes de Châtellerault”).

The MAB flourished between WWI and WWII by manufacturing defense pistols in 7.65mm and 6.35mm caliber. It reached its peak by marketing the famous MAB D in 7. 65mm caliber, which was widely used by the French administrations (Police, Customs, Fire and Forests departments etc.) and that the company even had to continue to manufacture during WWII under Nazi Germany control.

After 1945, the manufacture of the MAB D pistol continued enthusiastically, always for the benefit of the Police forces, the French Navy, but also individuals who wished to acquire a simple and robust defense weapon.

Like any dynamic gunsmith company, the MAB explored the possibilities of creating a pistol that could be of interest to armies.

The first attempt was the MAB Model R in 7.65mm Long caliber (Pic. 1). Equipped with an external hammer, a slide stop and devoid of manual safety, the weapon fitted quite well to the characteristics desired by the French Army. The decision to adopt the MAT model 1949 submachine gun in 9mm Parabellum, put an end to any hope of official adoption of a handgun in 7.65mm Long caliber, the French Army having decided with common sense that the ammunition standard should be the rule between the SMG and the pistol. The 7.65mm Long cartridge was slowly pushed away and the adoption of the MAC 1950 semi-automatic pistol put an end to the project.

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    Luc Guillou

    Luc Guillou, 67, served until 2011 as a doctor in the French Navy where he specialized in diving medicine. Now retired, he is the author of numerous books and articles mainly devoted to the weapons of WWI and WWII. He regularly practices sports shooting with antique weapons and was vice-president of the French Union of weapons' Amateurs (UFA) until 2020.

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