Like most other manufacturers concerned with self-loading arms, Mannlicher realized that the future of such weapons lay with the military. Development then, had to be focused on weapons firing powerful cartridges from locked-breech systems that were magazine fed. The Mannlicher Model 1903, shown here, was an attempt at such a design.
It was cocked for the first shot by drawing back the bolt via a milled knob on top of the frame. When released, the bolt went forward, stripping a cartridge from the magazine and chambering it. When the bolt was fully forward, a bolt-stop rose from the frame and supported it while the round was fired.
When fired, both barrel and bolt recoiled for about 0.2 inch, after which the bolt-stop fell. At this point the barrel stopped, but the bolt continued backward to complete the recocking and reloading cycle for the next round. The pistol had an internal hammer which acted on the firing pin. It also had an external re-cocking lever on the right side of the frame above the trigger. The magazine was a box type and could be removed by pressing in a small catch on the front of the trigger-guard, which allowed it to drop down. The small milled catch at the back of the frame was the safety.
This weapon was similar to the Mauser design produced earlier in 1896, although it was smaller and lighter. Although it fired a cartridge of the same dimensions as the Mauser, because of its lighter stature the actual charge had to be less. So, the Mannlicher was not considered safe to fire the 7.63 mm round used in the Mauser self-loading pistol. Additionally, the magazine held only 6 rounds versus Mauser's 10 round magazine.