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

| March 6, 2019
| 11 Comments
Categories: Guns

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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11 Comments

  1. Kenny

    One thing I hope someone can elaborate for me. I’m dutch and before the 2nd world war the Mannlicher M95 was our service rifle. But it was a normal bolt action rifle and not a straight pull. Are there 2 different guns from the same manufacturer with the same name or am I missing something?

    Reply
    • Ed Jones

      The Dutch rifle was a turn-bolt Mannlicher. It had the same Mannlicher clip system, but not the straight-pull bolt. Romania had a similar design.

      Reply
    • Chris.

      The Dutch initially commissioned their rifles from Steyr Mannlicher in 1895, which were turn bolts as per their request. Then before the out break of WWI in 1904, the Dutch fully took over production and produced the same gun in the smaller caliber of 6.5x53R instead of the more powerful and original 8x50R cartridge. What the Dutch gun really is, is a hybrid of a M95 and the 1888 ‘split receiver’ Mauser, with the magazine of the M95 essentially being welded to the receiver of an 1888 receiver.

      Reply
  2. Domenik

    Hello Mike, Thank you for the article on the M 95. I have a question, how difficult are the M 95 to re-barrel.
    Thank you,
    Domenik

    Reply
  3. Sean

    600 M battle sights? umm Our M1903 Springfields battle sight was 547 Yds adjustable up to 2,800 yds. And the button to send a clip sailing? M1 Garand clip latch does the same thing IF you ever handled one.

    My unit in Baghdad captured a M95 in 7.92 Mauser with a full length Sound suppressor replacing the barrel fitted with a scope base

    Reply
  4. jonathan nichols

    Like a previous comment on the ladder sight standing up move the slider up and you will find a 300 meter notch. The ladder flipped down is 500 meters.

    Reply
  5. chris

    Thanks for the work you put into this Mike. I appreciate the time you took to share your knowledge with the internet 🙂

    I just this week picked up an old Mannlicher in 8×57 at an auction and your thoughts don’t make me all warm and fuzzy! That said, I am excited to play around with the old girl as I have never fired one before. Hopefully it doesn’t fall to pieces!

    Anyway, thanks again for the info. Take care!

    Chris from Canada

    Reply
    • E. Robert

      I bought some in High School, the shortened AUstrian 8x57R, the ammo came wrapped in paper with a thin brown german labeled box containing 2 strippers. A norwegian professor that fought the Nazi invasion as resistance their read it for me and pointed out the austrian and nazi insignia and the ammo and clips are on par with the price of the gun. He offered me a case for an unissued Swiss k31 straight pull bolt, I bought another and obliged. I’t s all fmj naturally and mine cost around 59US when Turn m1938s were sellig at Dunhams for 30US olus tax and 8mmMauser is ubiquitous, I reloaded and the fine mauser sights give me great milk jug hits at 300 yards with no sight elevation every time, piles of deet. My steyr front sight is perhaps off or it’s an issusion due to the stacking rod. The loose action from wear might put a few miniscule powder sprinkles in your face, (or Austrian dust lol). I read that they were cut down from the MBR to be used as home gaurs (Like our Nat lGaurd or Reserves) and I know a man named Tibor Joos that said the civillians gaurding all german prisoners and pows or detainees were issued them. Mine shows good wear. Wouldn’t reccoment it, but I have less than intelligent neighbord that fire .30-.40 Krag ammo out of them instead of buying the wrapped Weatherby priced ammo. Keep the strippers, they are priceless with the markings and the brass is dateed with an Eagle with Swastika in it’s feel as March 1938, the Year moustache annexed the Sudetenland and Poland. Ya know, before Neville Chamberlain gauranteed :Peace in Our Time”. CAI imported the hell out of so much at rock bottom prices, my highschool routine was buying romanian double stacks and any other milsurp rifle Dunham’s could get. If you know of any other PA outlets like this, letme me know. Love that rifle.

      Reply
  6. John

    My shots were way high at close range too. Then I discovered if you stand up the ladder sight and slide the sight notch all the way up out of the way, you will find another fixed sight notch hidden underneath it at the bottom of the ladder. Use this and you will be on target at 100 yards.
    Also this ammo is insane. Do yourself (and your shoulder and eardrums) a favor and reload lighter ammo for this rifle. I have a good load using IMR 4198 but can’t recall it off the top of my head.

    Reply
    • E. Robert

      AM I incorrect in wondering if when you found the note that stated that it fired high with the grad sights starting at 6 (600) your friendly seller may have not noticed that the standard battle sight flips the graduated piece all the way forward laying flat, with a fine notch now facing the shooters eve with sight folded forward on the breech. It was thought that main battle would be within this 300yd/meter range and elevation was for (grandiosely overengineered) higher shots. I’m super curios, I’ve been touting this theory.!
      You answered it perfectly, I don’t get people that dont take time with weapons, do a little reading, and inspect and safely manipulate all moving parts before using, especially high tolerance milsurp battle weapons. If you cant take it apart and rebuild it, don’t buy it for a collectors piece. I just got my Enfield 5Mk1 Jungle Carbine together and it took a winter, very over engineered but I’ll never not know hoe a piece fits or in what sequence.

      Reply
      • 3l120

        My grandmother had a brother who served in the Honved. Met him once and my grandmother translated the conversation. Seems, among other things, the infantry was supposed to aim at the crotch and the hits would be in the chest. Sounds kinda suspicious to me but the conversation took place in 1963, when I was in my first year at ASU.

        Reply

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