Austria’s Mannlicher M1895: no wonder they lost the war

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The Steyr M95 is a straight pull bolt action rifle designed by the Austrian engineer Ferdinand Karl Adolf Josef Mannlicher prior to the First World War.

World War 1 represented a tumultuous time in world history. Ancient empires were struggling to remain relevant and vassal states that composed those empires were yearning for self rule. Military forces were armed with a hodgepodge of rifles, machine guns, swords, pikes, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. The cavalry still charged on horseback in some corners of the globe while poison gas rained down on others.

From out of this mix came the Steyr Mannlicher M1895 rifle.

The Mannlicher M1895 was designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher.
The Steyr M95 rifle was an updated version of the previous Mannlicher 1890 carbine.

This article originally ran in November 2016.

Mannlicher M1895

The Mannlicher M1895 (Infanterie Repetier-Gewehr M.95) was designed by von Mannlicher as an improvement upon his original straight-pull action from the earlier Mannlicher M1890 carbine. This gave the M95 a higher rate of fire (30 to 35 rounds per minute) than a traditional rotating bolt action rifle.

We like to think of them as the poor man’s Schmidt-Rubin.

Typical of a Mannlicher design, these rifles are fed via an en-bloc clip as opposed to a stripper clip.

An en-bloc clip holds the rounds within the clip and it is inserted into the rifle from the top in the same manner as a magazine. When the last round is fired, the clip drops free through a hole in the lower receiver.

Think of the M1 Garand in reverse. Although if you have a loaded or partially loaded M95, you can push a button on the receiver and send a perfectly full clip of ammunition sailing through the air if you feel the need.

Fielded in the First World War by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Bulgarian military bought large quantities of them beginning in 1903. After the war ended and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved, the rifle continued to see use by the armies of Austria and Hungary but also in many of the Balkan states where the rifle was given to these countries as part of war reparations. Over 3 million of the venerable bolt action rifles were ultimately manufactured, roughly 3/4 of them at Österreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft, Steyr. The bulk of the remainder were produced at Budapest’s Fegyver és Gépgyár Rt.

Steyr M95 Mannlicher M1895 Action Illustration by BA Animations
Steyr M95 Mannlicher M1895 Action Illustration by BA Animations.

Steyr Männlicher: from 8x50mmR to 8x56mmR

Initially these rifles were chambered in 8X50mmR. This round was the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s first step toward a smokeless powder round, as the powder used was considered “semi-smokeless”. So when the M95 came out, they used true smokeless powder in the loading and achieved 2035 fps with a 244 grain round nosed bullet.

The Steyr M1895s were initially chambered in 8x50mmR but vast numbers were later re-chambered in 8x56mmR.
The Steyr M1895s were initially chambered in 8x50mmR but vast numbers were later re-chambered in 8x56mmR.

Some M95 rifles were converted to 8×57 Mauser (the German 7.92×57 ammunition. A couple of years later Austria and Hungary re-chambered the lions share of their rifles in the same cartridge as used in the Steyr-Solothurn light machine gun (MG-30, q.v.): 8X56mmR. To date no one we’re aware of has upgraded one to 6.5 Creedmore, but that’s probably just a matter of time.

The loading of the 8x56R round was similar but used a 210 grain conical or Spitzer bullet. Keep in mind that they did two things, they made a more powerful round while shortening the barrel.

3 decades after its introduction, many Steyr M95 rifles were rechambered in 8x56mmR, the same as the Steyr-Solothurn light machine gun.
The markings on the head make this ammo rare, as it is hoarded by freaks and weirdos into that sort of thing. Real Americans should just shoot it.

Mannlicher M1895 series sights

There was one other thing they did which makes us think that Hans and Klaus were very much asleep at the switch.

They changed the rear sight measurement from paces to meters.

Seems legit. Old action, new shorter barrel and a more powerful smokeless round, why would you not change the sights?

That’s what I thought; from their perspective it was 40 years ago when they were pacing toward the enemy in foppish uniforms with a five foot long rifle complete with a sword bayonet mounted on it. Now they were fielding something shorter and more powerful. Paces be gone! We need meters dammit!

Again, we go back to or arms engineers sleeping on fire watch.

When we picked up a Steyr M95 for the first time, there was a note on the side about how the rifle was hitting two feet high at 100 yards. It sounded like we had a shooter who was off to one end on some kind of spectrum so we took the Pepsi challenge and sure as hell, he was right.

Then we looked at the rear sight and shook our head thinking of the legacy of those early 20th century engineers whose descendants would produce the Glock, Steyr AUG, HK P7M8 and a plethora of Teutonic goodness.

The sight’s lowest setting is 600 meters and goes up. Not exactly something a Jerry should have been toting in either of the World Wars if they wanted a tactical advantage, if you ask me. But they didn’t, so there’s that.

Mannlicher M1895 sights flipped up for use.
At one point they changed the Steyr M1895’s sights from paces to meters – unfortunately.

In our estimation the sights are kind of on the small size for long range, too. I guess they were preoccupied with new strains of mustard gas and rocketry experiments to really notice.

Still, we use our M95 to ring the same steel we do with our M1A and open sights. It’s not nearly as accurate, kicks like two rented mules, but damnit, we hit about eight times out of ten.

A Steyr M95 rifle displayed on a grey rock background.
The M1895 doesn’t kick like a mule. It kicks like two mules.

You can find a more in-depth review on the Steyr M95 in a couple past issues of Legendary Arms, published by Inside Military Surplus. Check it out if you have some time.

The Mannlicher M1895s do represent a unique footnote in small arms development, especially in the realm of what not to do with sights.

-Mike

Addendum(s). 

Of the many versions of M1895 rifles that saw combat, one of the more unusual was a conversion to semi-auto (yes, semi-auto).

Another is a sniper model carbine.

Looking to know more? Go balls-deep with C&R Arsenal (see below). You can also find it on the Internet Movie Firearms Data Base IMFDB Mannlicher M1895 rifle page.

 

 

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Mike Searson

Mike “the Mook” Searson is a veteran writer who began his career in firearms at the Camp Pendleton School for Destructive Boys at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire life, writing about guns and knives for numerous publications and consulting with the film industry on weapons while at the same time working as gunsmith and ballistician. Though seemingly a surly curmudgeon shy a few chromosomes at first meeting, Searson is actually far less of a dick and at least a little smarter than most of the Mad Duo’s minions. He is rightfully considered to be not just good company, but actually fit for polite company as well (though he has never forgotten his roots as a rifleman trained to kill people and break things, and if you look closely you’ll see his knuckles are still quite scabbed over from dragging the ground). You can learn more about him on his website or follow him on Twitter, @MikeSearson. [huge_it_gallery id="19"]


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