Book Review: Ott-Helmuth von Lossnitzer, Technical Director of the Mauser Company 1933-1945

Ott-Helmuth (Otto, after he emigrated to the US) von Lossnitzer was a remarkable firearms engineer. He served through World War One as a machine gunner, gaining extensive experience with a variety of different machine guns that were rebuilt in 8x57mm for German military use, and was called back into service with German ordnance during the 1920s. He became a recognized authority on small arms design and use, and in 1933 was approached by Mauser to head up their new R&D department. This job he held until 1945, when the war ended.

In 1947, von Lossnitzer emigrated to the US under Operation Paperclip, and went to work for Springfield Arsenal. In 1957 he was promoted to Supervisor Engineer of small arms R&D for Springfield, and he remained in that role until the Arsenal closed – being responsible for the 20mm Vulcan cannon among many other projects. He then spent 3 years working for Army Material Command, until the mandatory retirement age of 70. He followed this with a private job working on cartridge development, and in the 1970s dictated this memoir of his time at Mauser. The work was organized by Leslie Field, edited and fact-checked by Bas Martens, and ultimately published by Henk Visser.

Available from Mowbray, this memoir is a must-have reference for serious students of small arms development. Mauser was a hotbed of excellent engineering work during and before WW2, and Lossnitzer had an excellent memory of what the company did. From large scale projects like taped-bore antitank weapons to rotary aircraft cannon to small but essential work on spring testing machines and high speed cameras, the book is chuck full of fascinating data.

In total, its 380 pages are roughly one third memoir and two thirds supplemental documents, including a complete copy of the CIOS report on Mauser and translations of Mauser’s monthly research institute reports from October 1943 to February 1945. It is a detailed book with a pretty limited target audience, and once it is sold out I would be very surprised to see a second printing – publication was financed by Visser because of its historical importance, and not because it would be a profitable enterprise