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The Austro-Hungarian Empire (Mannlicher designed) M1895

On 24 September, A. D. 2016 I found an M95 ‘stutzen’ rifle (explained later) with Budapest marking at a gun show and bought it. (I also found and bought another French MAB modele D, but that’s another story.) One week later, 01 October, A. D. 2016, I found – at another gun show – an M95 rifle and bought it as well. Then on 14 October A. D. 2016 a gun shop employee (we’ll call him “Bob”) who knows me and my weaknesses, handed me another M95 stutzen, this one made in Steyr, Austria.

So I have to file a report.

The arm itself:  Left side of arm.


There are three major ‘types’ of the M1895. The rifle, the carbine and the stutzen. There are commonalities to all three:

First and most obvious is the action. It is a manually operated rifle, and classifies as a ‘bolt action’ in that the operator moves the ‘bolt’ back and forth.

Designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher and adopted for use by the Austrian Army in 1895. (Mannlicher was famous for – among other things – the ‘all the way to the muzzle forend’ stock and a number of sporting rifles.) The M1895 which in three versions – rifle, stutzen and carbine – was a rather well developed specie of rifle. It employed a straight-pull action. It looks like a conventional bolt action rifle, but the bolt handle doesn’t ‘turn’ or lift in the normal manner, it simply pulls to the rear. This motion causes the bolt to turn and unlock and then open. Someone described it as a gas operated semi-automatic rifle with no gas operation or return spring. Once one gets the hang of it, it is really quite fast.

This action cocks on closing and features a checkered thumb ‘flap’ or cocking piece. I find it quite convenient to lower or cock the striker with the thumb of the right hand.

The manual safety is on the left side, rear of the bolt. The safety is ‘off’ when it protrudes from the left side of the bolt. The safety is ‘on’ when pushed into the bolt. On my sample one must push hard (it’s simpler to slightly pull the striker to the rear while pressing on the safety). The safety functions to block the striker in place and locks the bolt shut in place. It does not seem to affect the trigger at all.

Trigger pull is two stage, normal for military arms. There is a ‘take up’ first stage, then the ‘sear movement stage which one can discern. Trigger pulls vary from ‘nearly manageable’ to ‘horrible’. The pull gets progressively heavier and finally breaks around eight pounds or so. (I tried the trigger pull gauge several times, it varied ‘around eight pounds’.) The trigger has a bit of creep. (Just like the Dalai Lama is ‘a bit Buddhist’.) I rather imagine this was done due to manufacturing procedures AND as a ‘safety’ feature to prevent soldiers from prematurely firing their weapon. By no stretch is this a modern target trigger, but it was not intended to be such.

Loading the rifle is pretty simple. Ammunition was issued in groups of five rounds pre-assembled into an ‘en block loading device’. (Similar to the later U. S. Garand rifle.) The ‘clip’ resembles a stripper clip, but continues forward of the rim and head area, somewhat like the British ‘Enfield’ rifle. However, the device is NOT a stripper type and actually becomes part of the magazine and feed mechanism.

One opens the bolt, pushes the entire assembly of rounds and clip device down into the magazine section until the clip device ‘clicks’ into place, preventing the assembly from rising out of the magazine. As the rounds are rimmed, the loading device will only operate one way, there is an up and down; handling the assembled ammunition and ‘clip’, it is fairly apparent.
One notices a ‘bump’ in the forward edge of the trigger guard. It is the lower end of the ammunition container. When pressed forward – with the bolt open – all remaining cartridges and the ‘clip’ are forced from the top of the receiver by the follower.

The follower is built into the rifle and pushes up on the lowest cartridge; this of course passes the force to all the cartridges above AND to the clip device. Once the last round is pushed by the bolt out of the clip device, the follower touches nothing to hold the clip device in place and the clip simply falls out of the rifle – usually. (Some sources refer to this as ‘ejecting’ the clip, but there is no spring forcing the clip, it merely falls. Shooting the rifle upside down could be awkward. Of course, I find shooting any rifle while dangling upside down a bit awkward.)

The bolt does NOT lock open with the magazine empty. However, being manually operated the bolt doesn’t spring shut, either.

Sights are typical of the era. Primarily these sights were designed as ‘combat’ sights. There were intended to be used against human targets at unknown ranges. These were not target sights, intended to hit a relatively smaller mark – like a bullseye – at specific ranges, known to the shooter. More about this later.

Shooter's view of front sight. This photo is much bigger than appears at the end of the barrel

Shooter’s view of front sight. This photo is much bigger than appears at the end of the barrel

Front sight is a long, tapered shape which is wide at the base and comes to a somewhat rounded point. It is however, much taller in proportion than many sights of the same period. It is NOT close to an isosceles triangle shape; the tip is much more defined than some others. Not quite as useful or precise as a squared off post, but relatively better than the shorter triangle. Unfortunately the front sight tip is so thin as to be difficult to determine when shooting on the range. When shooting it, I kept losing track of the actual ‘tip of the front sight blade’. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be in actual combat.

Top view of front sight. Sight Blade mounted on lateral dovetail fitting. No idea what the “4” means.  Possible height measurement.

Front sight is mounted in a horizontal dovetail slot, presumably for installation and removal at need AND to adjust windage. Adjustment performed by either a screw and base type device similar to modern types used to adjust ‘fixed’ sights on pistols, or the traditional brass drift and hammer. (Calibrated in metric, of course.)

The base (with the dovetail) is mounted on the front of the barrel; the front of the base is roughly five-eights to three-quarters of an inch from the muzzle. The front sight base appears to be a band pressed onto the barrel (About where one would expect.)

The bayonet lug is under the barrel, part of the front barrel band. It is a rather ordinary “T” shaped in cross section and is where the base of the bayonet handle ‘snaps’ on. The forward part is a circular bit of the bayonet ‘hand guard’ (or would be on a knife) which slides over the barrel.

Also mounted on the front barrel band with the bayonet mount and front sight is a forward projecting doodad looking like a very short and non-whippy ‘whip antenna”. That is the stacking swivel, which allowed three soldiers to hook their arms together for quick use without laying arms flat on the ground. (Look it up, pictures are easier than words in this instance.)

Rear sight showing calibration marks. All numerals x 100, and all numerals represent 'paces', not yards.

Rear sight showing calibration marks. All numerals x 100, and all numerals represent ‘paces’, not yards.

Rear sight notch. Sight picture rather vague for my taste.

Rear sight notch. Sight picture rather vague for my taste.

The rifle’s rear sight is mounted on the barrel and is an ‘open’ sight, like the Springfield 1903 (not the ‘03A3 sight) or the Mauser 98. Like other European sights of the era, it has a “V” notch rear and inverted V or “^” front sight. (I find them hideous, personally, but nearly everyone and everyone’s dog in European military rifles had them for a long time. Even when my eyes were much younger, elevation hold was rather vague. It’s worse with older eyes.) The sight is an ladder type sight and flips up for ‘other than battle sight zero’ conditions. For battle sight zero use, the sight is left flat on the rifle barrel.

Your humble correspondent politely suggests the reader also read the prior article herein about ‘Battle Sight Zero’.

The ‘battle sight’ on both the rifle and short rifle is marked with the numeral “5”; examining the rest of the sight, one concludes that mean ‘500’. The sight graduations or markings are in ‘paces’. In German – the language of Austria when the M95 was adopted – the term used is “schritte” translated as ‘steps’. It was a formalized definition, actually, roughly twenty-eight inches. In dog years, 500 schritte is just shy of 390 yards where the projectile crosses the line of sight again, downrange. The bullet drop lower than line of sight gets to about twenty inches at 450 yards. So, by using the battle sight, the shooter can – presuming he or she can ‘hold and squeeze’ properly, score a hit on a enemy soldier out to 450 yards without changing the sights at all. (If the operator cannot shoot worth a hoot, the best sights in the world isn’t going to help.)

Tangential ‘facts’: The Russians – Czarist era – calibrated their rifle sights in arshini, the plural form of arshin, which is the same thing, a pace or step and is also roughly twenty-eight inches. After the Communists took over, reinventing itself as the Soviet Union, the ‘official’ measurement were all in metric, beginning in 1924.

However, when one considers the average person’s ability to measure distance, a “yard” in English measure, a “meter” in metric, or a “pace” (either version) all come out to be just about the same underlying idea. How far a human being can normally step. I do not know of any other language’s words on the subject, but I would not be surprised to find most all cultures have some form of distance based on a man’s ‘pace’ or stride. Probably most have updated to the meter for international trade, but the archaic forms exist somewhere. (See, you learned more than you expected!)

How to Use the Sights:

A word of explanation about sights from the First World War era. Line ‘em up and pull the trigger, right? Sort of. The sights on this rifle – and most of the era, including the 1903 Springfield – were made with a ‘battle sight” setting.

These rifles were NOT intended as target shooting rifles in the sense currently understood. They were intended as combat weapons. So the ‘battle sight’ setting was intended to cause the fired projectile to intersect with a human torso – presumably the enemy – as far as possible, considering the trajectory of the projectile of the rifle involved – WITHOUT changing the sight setting. Normally, the soldier aimed belt level out to a certain distance – varying with the cartridge trajectory – resulting in a hit anywhere on the silhouette from belt level to shoulder level. Past that ‘certain distance’, the soldier aimed shoulder level and the bullet trajectory would be ‘falling’, the projectile would strike from the shoulder level down to belt level at the maximum distance.

In other words, the battle sight ‘target’ is a rectangle roughly twelve to fifteen inches wide and twenty to twenty-five inches high. Therefore, a bullet strike five inches high at 100 yards is actually a ‘hit’. To properly evaluate a battle sight for accuracy, one should employ a silhouette target rather than a small bullseye type target.

To utilize the battle sights as intended, the shooter aims at the waistline of the target out to where the shots are striking the target at or near the waist level, then hold at shoulder level beyond. I do not know exactly the ‘change over’ distance for this cartridge and rifle, but some calculation indicates probably around 225 yards.

So, what about the long distances shown on the rear sight?

No. No one expected a regular soldier to estimate range, move the sights and pick off a single enemy soldier at upwards of 1000 paces, yards, meters or anything of the sort. Maybe a few with really sharp eyes could ding a belligerent over 1,000 etceteras, but not most of us mere mortals.

Go down to a busy street (do not take your rifle, you’ll get too much attention). Do some measuring or calculation and figure out how far away is 1,000 yards. Pick a place you can see people moving about or crossing the street. First off, see how many people you can recognize. Probably not many. Then hold a half-sharpened pencil out at arm’s length with the sort of blunt tip ‘up’ like a front sight. See how well you can line up the pencil point with anyone crossing the street. Likely, the pencil point will cover the person completely. Consider how to hold the (imaginary) sights to correct for that vagary in the aiming process. Unless you’re a supremely visioned person or someone with incredible self-deception abilities, you’ll quickly realize that sort of thing just isn’t done.

But there is a purpose. The ladder markings are designed for ‘area’ fire conducted by groups, not individuals. Something on the order of a squad or company would all fire – under direction of a supervisor of some level – at extended range concentrating on a particular ‘area’. This was essentially duplicating the effects of machinegun fire and the idea was to attack groups, either in motion or stationary.

Go back to that imaginary scenario of watching people at 1,000 yards. One rifleman probably cannot score a hit on a single target; however, with ten to fifteen other riflemen, one could probably keep pedestrians from crossing the street. THAT is the function.

There is at least two historic records of this happening, probably others not so celebrated.

The tactic isn’t used so much since WWI; most armies have enough artillery, mortar, aircraft and missile or drone support not to bother. The practice can use up a lot of rifle ammunition in short order as well.

Variations of the M95

M95 Rifle
The rifle is the longest version to probably no one’s surprise. The additional length is all in the barrel; from the butt to around the 18” mark of the barrel (which is not ‘marked” per se) they are the same. Barrel length of the rifle is (from the Wiki article) 765mm or 30.1 inches. I measured mine right here with my own cleaning rod and tape measure; it comes out to 30.75 inches or 781.5mm, breach face to muzzle with the action closed. Take your pick.

Total length of the rifle (mine at least) is fifty and one-half inches. Weight – according to my non-commercial kitchen scale – is about eight and one-half pounds. (Wiki says it’s 8.3 pounds.)

The rifle has not – seemingly – been converted to the later and more powerful 8x56R Mannlicher round. It lacks the “S” stamp on the top of the chamber to signify the change. The rifle is still in caliber 8x50R Mannlicher (not to be confused with 8×50 Lebel). As mentioned, ammunition for this caliber is even more difficult to find than the later ammunition, which is not common in itself. I may have to reload to find out how it shoots; a tale for another time as I don’t have reloading dies for it, yet.

A somewhat curious complication is the 8x50R Mannlicher rounds I found – collectable cartridges and NOT for plinking – will NOT chamber. I suspect a bit of broken case ‘stuck’ in the chamber and plan to do a chamber cast shortly. (Which means when I can’t think of an excuse to do something else instead.)

I had planned to compare velocities between the two barrel lengths. I suppose I still can, but since they are different calibers, it means far less.

The full length rifle has sling mounts fore and aft on the underside of the stock, as most rifles.

The rifle barrel and the sight radius is longer than the short guns. Sight radius is 26 3/16 inches or 59 centimeters. The folding leaf sight, similar to the Stutzen Model Barrel length is roughly two and seven-eighths inches or nearly 7.3 centimeters.

Carbine and Stutzen

The Carbine and the Stutzen both have 480mm long barrels. Mine measures nineteen and one half inches. Both Carbine and Stutzen are fitted with an abbreviated rear sight about an inch shorter than the rifle rear sight.

For the short versions, sight radius (from rear sight to rear edge of front sight) is just a touch over fifteen and three-quarter inches, or forty centimeters. The sight is the ladder type arrangement with a ‘battle sight’ notch when folded down. When raised, the ladder is calibrated from 300 to 2400 ‘paces’.

Originally, the Carbine was intended for cavalry troops. The Carbine did not have a bayonet mount. (I suppose the Austro-Hungarian Empire didn’t see a need for cavalry troops armed with bayonet equipped rifles.) The age of smokeless powder and consequent machine guns minimized the need or utility of (horse) cavalry, so all (officially) the Carbines were retro-fitted with bayonet mounts. One of the major indications a particular weapon was a carbine converted to stutzen is the forward part of the stock, forward of the second barrel band. The stutzen is forward exposed wood is seven inches long; the carbine exposed portion is only five inches long.

To add to the confusion, many of the rifles (long barreled) were converted to the stutzen configuration. The most obvious clue is the one time rifle still has the longer rifle rear sight. This and the length of exposed wood forward are mainly of interest to collectors.

The stutzen rifle is short like a carbine but has marked differences. It was issued to special troops (Austrian storm troops) during the First World War. ‘Stutzen’ is the German word for ‘clip’. I am presuming the stutzen is a ‘clipped’ rifle.

The stutzen rifle weighs 7.25 pounds according to my scale. Wiki says it’s supposed to be 7.1 or 7.2, depending on the exact model. Over all length is just shy of 40 inches. That’s nearly a foot shorter than the rifle version and probably more convenient – at least psychologically – to move around.

I do not have a carbine or rifle converted to stutzen, but from the photos on line, they seem to be the same length and weight as the stutzen. Weights given vary a bit, but that may reflect variations in the stock.

Sling mounts on the short rifles are mounted on the left side, not the bottom of the rifle stock. The rear swivel is mounted at the wrist of the stock and I find in the way of a shooting grip. Actually in shooting the carbine offhand the swivel is a nuisance. Obviously, no one in the Austrian or Hungarian Army was left handed. (Ahem.)

The original round for the M95 in all variations was “8x50R Mannlicher”. It fired – according to Cartridges of the World #14 – a 244 grain bullet (15.81 grams) at 2,030 fps (618.7 meters per second). After the First World War, the round was found lacking; probably considered too slow; the trajectory is reminiscent of a black powder cartridge. So in the 1930s they were all (offically) converted to fire a slightly longer and more powerful round, the 8x56R.

M1895 Mannlicher (AHE) en bloc loading device and 8x56Rmm cartridges. Note the cartridges loaded are PPU manufactured and are soft pointed.

The 8x56R (sometimes identified as “Hungarian”) round – also found in Cartridges of the World, fires a 208 grain bullet at 2,420 fps. The size of the case, and the level of performance is very close to the better known and slightly less powerful .303 British round (firing a 175 grain bullet at about the same velocity). The 8x56R is a full powered rifle round. Not currently used by any army – nor likely with the rim and all – it strikes me as a suitable hunting round for less dangerous game up to the size of the North American moose or so. It would probably kill a lion in the right circumstances – sneak up and shoot it while it’s not looking – but isn’t what I think of as ‘suitable’ for dangerous game that might attack. (Right out for larger bears, for that matter.)

An ‘odd’ quality of the round is the bore size. Although identified and named as “8mm”, the bore size measures .329 inches. The Mauser 8mm has a bore size of .323 inches and the earlier version of the 8mm Mauser measured .318 inches. The French 8mm Lebel is .323 inches. The 8mm Siamese round is .323 inches. As far as I can ascertain, no other rifle cartridge in the known Universe uses the same bore diameter. As a military cartridge, this might be thought desirable as no one else can use the rifle. It also means the nation has to make it’s own bullets. (Happily for reloaders currently, there are a couple of manufacturers who produce projectiles for reloading; however, they are limited.)

As an infantry cartridge, it is quite suitable. Except for possibly one little detail, noted in several places: it recoils abusively.

The M95 Carbine weights just under seven pounds, four ounces – according to my non officially calibrated nor laboratory quality scale. By all accounts, that 200 grain bullet kicks like a mule. Did I mention in true military fashion, the butt plate is steel?

By comparison, the British SMLE used from around 1895 to 1957 (in the military, also as a sporting round, still currently) fired a similar round as I mentioned, but the bullet weight (after a bit of changing bullets and settling on what seemed best) was 175 grains. The rifle weighs just shy of nine pounds. There’s a difference in recoil.

It is possible reducing the bullet to close to 150 grains in weight might have eased this problem. It never happened. Why? I have no idea. The sights would need replacing, I suppose. The shorter bullet length should easily stabilize in the twist for the larger bullet.

There are several sources of ammunition for this rifle in 8x56R. There is still surplus German (NAZI) produced ammunition – most marked 1938, oddly enough – available; sort of. I checked some of the online outlets for ‘surplus’ ammunition and there isn’t any cheap left over stuff left over. All that remains is going over over one dollar a round at the cheapest. Surplus ammunition is NOT a viable shooting alternative. At least not right now.

NAZI made ammunition (M30) has a 208 grain boat-tail bullet and a powder charge of 48.9 grains of unidentified small, flake powder; demonstrated in a YouTube video by Penny Pincher Firearms by disassembling a dud round.

Hornady manufactures soft point hunting ammunition (not widely distributed, mostly on line). It is a 206 grain soft point for hunting purposes. All the advertisements on the web show a price of $31.00 or over for a box of twenty rounds (over $1.50 a shot). Its better than no ammunition at all, Hornady makes quality hunting ammo and the cases are reloadable, but plinking ammo it isn’t. I didn’t buy or shoot any.

Privi Partizan Unize (PPU) makes both FMJ and soft point ammunition in limited quantities. One does not find this ammunition commonly. It is available on line for about a buck a shot, but it’s the best offer going. Additionally, PPU makes both FMJ and Soft Point ammo in the proper diameter (.329/.330 inch) for not outrageous prices. At last count, Graf and Sons has them. I did buy PPU ammo via SGAammo, which figure in this report. FMJ Bullets from Graf and Sons are on the way; which will hopefully become duplicates of the original military loading.

Other than some collector’s items, there is NO surplus 8x50R – the earlier chambering – ammunition extant. One or two custom type ammunition loaders make it up, mostly from 7.62x54R (.30 Russian) cases. Once can also resize and trim new 8x56R cases to function.

One can also trim and reform 8x56R cases to make 8x50R Mannlicher.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!  (Let the good times roll! or, shooting.)

Just for the record, the firing was done on two different days, about three days apart. Between daylight to shoot, putting the chronograph together, moving downrange to set up targets and other shooters, the process was a bit extended.

Shooting the rifle was fairly easy. After watching several videos, I was under the impression this is a hard recoiling rifle. It recoils about as much as any other full sized rifle round – .30-06, .303 British, .308 Winchester – in a like sized and weighted rifle. However, the rifle is fairly light, just over seven pounds. It most certainly has recoil, but not extreme by any stretch. Perhaps strong compared to ‘modern’ military rounds. I suppose I should admit here I was wearing a ‘recoil shield’ device over my shoulder. But a jacket would probably be adequate.

I mentioned the rear sling swivel earlier. Recoil does NOT make the placement of the swivel – on the left side of where one grips the stock and operates the trigger – any more convenient. Were this a ‘using’ rifle I would remove the swivel and remount it in a ‘friendlier’ place.

The straight pull action works fairly easily. I was expecting a bit more resistance in initial extraction of the fired round, but with the arm clean and not over heated – I didn’t fire a lot in a short period of time – the action was reasonably normal in operation. Oh, I didn’t throw any sand or dirt in the action, either.

I found the ejector is a fixed bar which contacts the fired case when the bolt is fully withdrawn. Which means, for best results, one should open the bolt with firm decision and alacrity. It is not required to abuse the bolt against the bolt stop, but briskly open the bolt all the way. When one opens and withdraws the bolt slowly, the fired case is not ejected smartly.

Getting the rifles on target was somewhat frustrating. From rifle “81” (identification of individual rifle based on serial number) rifle, I fired a total of ten rounds, all chronographed. All shooting was done assisted by a standing rest. This consisted of a camera tripod with a ‘bed’ of wood attached instead of a camera. The idea of a standing rest is to give greater accuracy AND allow the rifle to move in recoil much as it would ordinarily. The idea is to test the rifle, not the shooter.

Ammunition results are almost boring. They are just what they ought to be.

All velocities according to a Competitive Edge Dynamics (C. E. D.) chronograph. According to the advertising, it’s the absolute berries in home chronographs. I must say it works well for your humble correspondent.

The primary chronographing was performed using NAZI marked ammunition in original packaging and ‘en block’ loaders made in 1938. All ammunition fired on the first try, no hang-fires, no duds and no surprises. A couple of the en bloc devices didn’t fall freely as they should, but nothing’s perfect. Thirty seconds on a belt sander and all is well with the world.

According to internet lore, this ammunition (M30 ball) is a 208 grain jacketed bullet with a muzzle velocity – from the rifle version I gather – at 2440 fps. (Rifle barrel is 30.75 inches, stutzen is 17.875 inches. So the rifle barrel is nearly a foot longer.) (Except in millimeters.)

Very much in the .303 British ammunition category, except a heavier bullet.

Shooting was recorded at 33 yards or 42.5 schritte (our range did some ‘work’ and covered what should be the 25 yard line), 100 yards (129 schritte) and 200 yards (258 schritte). The sights are calibrated in schritte, but I simply refuse to set up targets accordingly.

Toradh (results):

“81” clocked ten (10) of the 1938 NAZI rounds at an average of 2340 fps. About 100 fps below the full length rifle barrel length. Stutzen “09” clocked the same at an average of 2317, just a bit slower. The two rifles average out to 2329 fps. Not bad consistency from two rifles made between 1895 and 1920, using ammunition made in 1938.

Stutzen “81” with PPU ammunition show a thirty round average of 2011, while “09” clocks 2019. Average of both rifles is 2015 fps. About 300 fps slower than the military surplus.

All shots from both stutzen rifles were on target at 33 yards. They were low, near the line of sight through the sights. (Look at the picture.) Both rifles register to the left of center.

Rifle “81” gave mixed results. The first five rounds of M30 surplus ammunition was fired at 33 yards – and the five shots held together in a two-inch group about 6.25 inches high and 1.5 inches left of the aiming point. Fairly encouraging.

Extending that to 100 yards, the group would be roughly six inches in diameter, striking about twenty inches high and four to five inches left of the aiming point. According to the rules.

The five shots at 100 yards – using a standing rest – resulted in no holes in the target. Not a one. More than likely, I was shooting over and somewhat to the left of the target. Which is just a bit embarrassing, as I was using a B27 (full sized silhouette) target and thought I could at least see my misses. I couldn’t.

In retrospect, my mistake was in not following what I already knew to be true. The rifle sights are intended to be used as ‘battle sights’. That is, the strike of the bullets will be well over the line of sight from somewhere in the seventy yard range out to 200 yards or so. All the rounds were going high, as I was aiming at the center of the target. This was corrected in subsequent shooting sessions. Nor did I – as was obvious – move the front sight to the left to correct the windage problem. (Such adjustments require a brass drift and a suitable hammer.) So at 100 yards the rifle was no doubt shooting considerably to the left.

At 100 yards both rifles still hit a bit to the left. Rifle “09” raised the strike of the bullets about five inches high and moved about three inches left from 33 yard. I didn’t fire any surplus ammunition at 200 yards.

At 33 yards with rifle “09” and PPU factory ammunition, the group was seven inches lower than the surplus ammunition (no doubt resulting from the lower velocity), but close to the center line; just a bit to the left. At 100 and 200 hundred yards, there were no hits on the target at all. I am presuming they are all off to the left. It could be me as well.

In summation of the initial shooting evidence, one should shoot at either a B27 or an IPSC/USPCA torso target for testing. Also, one should use the bottom edge – what would be the waist line of an adversary – as the aiming point.

(We will not discuss my shooting ability or my aging eyes any further, thank you very much!)

Examining the fired cases, I have good news. No signs of high pressure. All primers are flat, non-extruded, and show no cratering. No indication of case stretching. Measuring five unfired samples of each type of ammunition, and five samples of each type fired from each rifle, the largest expansion of the head area is .004”; which is indicative of full power, but not excessive pressure in this type of round.

This leads me to believe I can develop a safe load to duplicate the M30 round and ballistics. Speaking of reloading, the package from Graf & Sons just arrived. I have 300 bullets duplicating the original 208 grain FMJ. I’ll have to post a follow-up article.


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Zbrojpvka BRNO Mauser Commercial rifle 8x60mm

Manufacturer’s marking and location.

Zbrojpvka BRNO Mauser Commercial rifle 8x60mm

Allow me in introduction to say this is one of those rifles that give one a sensuous feeling just picking it up.  That feeling increases when shouldering the rifle.  (The reader should look up ‘sensuous’ if suspecting I am sexually aroused by a rifle.)  This simply feels like a rifle should.

This is it. A device of steel and wood with spirit.

This is a bolt action rifle.  The action is made by Zbrojobka Brno in Czechoslovakia.  By the way, “Zbrojobka Brno” are the Czech words meaning ‘firearms manufacturing company’ in Brno, Czechoslovakia.  Brno is the name of a town and is pronounced “Bruno”.  “Zbrjobka” is pronounced “szBro-yo-ka” (the first part of the first syllable is sort of a ‘hiss’) as best as I can type it here.  There is a video on You Tube with audio giving a better model.  The meanings of the words are my understanding of usage shown on the internet.  Here endeth the linguistics lesson.  I speak no Czech, I found the pronunciation on YouTube.


The stock is of classic style. No cheek piece in the modern sense; intended for use with iron sights, not telescopic sight. Checkering around the grip and a bit on the forend, where gripped by the supporting hand. Rear sling swivel on the bottom of the stock, near the butt. Front swivel on the barrel. Fairly short forend with a ceremonial schnable rather than a noted one. Other than decoration, my observation is the schnable or knob or end cap is to serve as a stop or warning to the support hand of the end of the forearm. A ‘positioner’ if you will, to indicate the forward most position of the support hand. (Of course, I could be all wrong.) On the bottom of the fore end, one finds a metal ‘diamond’ inset into the stock fixed with a slotted screw. Until I remove the action from the stock, I have no idea.

The stock has been used. There are a few ‘dings’ and scars, none serious. The finish is ‘flat’ rather than shiny. The finish and use marks give the rifle character rather than an abused look.

Speaking of the stock, I find forty-seven (47) notches on the bottom side of the butt stock. From one man familiar with the customs and practices of the area, they indicate game (he said ‘moose’) taken with the rifle. It would appear this rifle has been taken hunting in times past.

All those notches represent taken game. Possibly moose.

Metal work suggests more than merely utilitarian intent.  All the metal parts are surface finished.  That is, all parts are smooth and even.  No grinder or machining marks.


As mentioned, this is a bolt action rifle.  The size and general appearance suggests a basic 98 Mauser action.  (Presumably based on the VZ24 action.)  The action is commercial.  There are no charger clip guides and no left side thumb access.  Top of action has integral (milled into action) telescopic sight mounts.  The size of the integral rail is between the milled .22 long rifle rail on a .22 rifle and the outboard ridges of Weaver type mounts.  The space between the rails, the top of the action is handsomely milled in a ‘wave’ pattern.    One thinks this is more of a European design; your correspondent remembers no U. S. commercial or military rifle so equipped.

Hopefully the pictures give a better idea.

The forward top section of receiver showing scope mount rail.

Rear top of receiver showing details of scope rail. Also manual safety not of standard Mauser style.

On the forward portion of the action, the ‘top of the receiver’ where manufacturer, model designation and date of manufacture are found, there is a rather small logo featuring a stylized “CZ” on the grooved matte finish.  The “CZ” mark may indicate this rifle is a bit later than I originally thought, but is still a classic rifle.

One’s overall impression is this is not a reused military action, but manufactured as a commercial rifle action.

Bolt handle is the flat “spoon’ or “dog ear” type.  It is reminiscent of the Mannlicher-Schonauer rifles of the interwar period.  One finds no other features of the Mannlicher-Schonauer designed rifles.  The bolt shape feature draws one’s attention.

Bolt handle – Mannlicher look? – and manual safety.

As normal with ’98 actions, the magazine is fixed and non-detactable; capacity of five rounds. Also as usual, the floor plate of the magazine is openable to reload the magazine without chambering a round. This version has a lever on the floor plate to release the rear of the floor plate. A nice touch.

This lever allows magazine floor plate to be opened without high drama, but seems rather secure.

All metal parts are blued.  (There is wear from use, but nothing to suggest a poor job.)

Trigger is based on a military (Mauser, I presume) two-stage trigger.  Trigger pull  – after take up – is four and one half pounds (4.5 #) and rather clean.  I was rather surprised as this is rather light in relation to the military rifles I normally collect.  Happily surprised.


Iron sights mounted on the rifle are the traditional style European – including British – sights.  The receiver is drilled and tapped holes for scope mounts, but the stock puts one’s face and eye low for a scope.

Front sight is a standard post with bead – brass or gold faced – mounted on a transverse dovetail.  This is mounted on a ramp.  Front sight is installed by and ‘adjustable’ for windage by drifting at time of sight in.  It must be manually moved (commercial screw device or brass drift and hammer) and is not ‘adjustable’ by means of screw adjustments.

Front sight. Ramp with gold or brass bead. One can see the ‘hood’ groove; the hood is long gone.

Rear sight is an open top flat leaf.  The leaf portion is mounted in a dove tail, which is machined from a boss on the barrel, part of the barrel.  It too is drift adjustable for replacement and adjustment for windage.  It too is not readily adjustable by hand in the field.

Rear sight mounted in dove tail on boss integral with barrel.

Elevation is adjusted by either replacing the front sight with a higher or lower post; or filing down or replacing the rear sight leaf.

One observes this rifle – and sights – was intended for ‘standard’ factory loaded ammunition.  This did not consider various bullet weights nor alternate velocities as U. S. based reloader types might use.  The idea was to use one load of ammunition continuously.

Most military organizations have the same theory, if one considers the matter.

Originally the rear sight leaf had two leaves, one fixed for shorter ranges and one ‘flip up’ for longer ranges.  The ‘flip up’ sight has been lost.  I am searching for a replacement, but I imagine the leaf remaining will serve in nearly all cases, and all of my cases.

Trigger is based on a military (Mauser, I presume) two-stage trigger.  Trigger pull  – after take up – is four and one half pounds (4.5 #) and rather clean.  I was rather surprised as this is rather light in relation to the military rifles I normally collect.  Happily surprised.

Chambering and Ammunition

Caliber designation on barrel over chamber.

The caliber is 8x60mm S.  It is essentially a lengthened 8x57mm round.

8x60mmS loaded round. Believed to be 200 grain round nose soft point (expanding) bullet. Norma headstamp.


At the end of WWI, the Treaty of Versailles included a restriction on the Central Powers (the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires and their allies, vassals and such) from owning ‘military’ weapons.  However, ‘sporting’ – hunting – arms and personal defense weapons were allowed to be owned by civilians.  One presumes some local laws required registration of some sort.

As it happened, there were half-a-barn-door’s-full of hunting rifle – owned by civilians of course – in caliber 8x57mm.  That was the German Empire’s infantry rifle caliber.  (Much like the United States found the .30-06 Springfield cartridge to be handy for the same purpose.)

Some resourceful European gunsmiths came up with the idea of chambering the rifle a bit deeper.  This rather inexpensive modification changed the chambering and cartridge used by the rifle.

So, by deepening the chamber of a forbidden rifle in 8x57mm by three millimeters (two in the body and one in the neck) the rifle is now chambered for a ‘sporting’ cartridge, namely 8x60mm S.

Voila!  The rifle is no longer illegal!  I have no idea what rechambering a rifle cost in those days, but I’m willing to bet cheaper than forfeiting one’s rifle and buying another.

Barrels were unchanged, magazines (fixed and internal) were unchanged, bolt faces (the part that holds on to the cartridge) were unchanged, even the fussy bits inside the action funneling the cartridge into the chamber and removing it again – at the proper time, of course – were unchanged.  Sights didn’t have to be altered, and reloading components and equipment were the same.

Makers of sporting – hunting – rifles were manufactured in the ‘new’ caliber.  Well into the 1950s, if not later.

Does this sound familiar and absurd, like most gun control laws?  Nothing new, boys and girls.

By the way, the “S” suffix can mean one of two things, perhaps both.  “S” is a shorthand for Spitzgeschoss, Anglicized to ‘spitzer’ – pointed – bullet.

The “S” is also thought to be a designation for a .323 inch bullet (and presumed bore diameter) in a German designed 8mm rifle.

In point of fact, the 8×57 cartridge – then the German Empire’s issue rifle cartridge – changed the specifications in 1905.  What had been a 14.5 gram (224 grain), 8mm (.318”) round nosed bullet at about 2100 fps was changed to a 10 gram (154 grain), 8mm (.323”) pointed (spitzer) bullet at nearly 2900 fps.  The change from round nose to pointed bullet (S) happened at the same time the bullet diameter changed from .318” to .323” (S).

Then a longer range round was developed for machine gun use around the end of WWI.  This loading (version) of the round was a 196 or so grain pointed boat-tail bullet – known as the sS (“schweres Spitzgeschoss”) at a velocity around 2500 fps.  This is also identified as the “Ss” type bullet and loading.  To simplify supply chain demands, this loading was made the standard round for infantry rifles as well.  This was the cartridge and loading used in the 98K rifle of WWII.

In research, one finds a number of various specifications and precise history of developments.  They are all reported as Divine Truth.  Be flexible with other people.  One finds more than one explanation of the same phenomenon.

None of this directly applies to the 8x60mm cartridge, except as background to the loading of this ‘new’ cartridge.  Most of the commercial information relating to the 8x60mm suggest a 180 to 200 grain (at least in English translations) bullet, with velocities ranging from around 2500 to about 2700 fps.  (Comments on recoil will be mentioned later.)

The rimmed versions were typically loaded to a somewhat lesser pressure, as the hinged actions were not rated for higher pressure.  This ‘rule’ seems to apply to all such cartridges.

I will restate the rifle under discussion is a bolt action rifle.  The cartridge is the rimless version.  The barrel is the larger – .323” – bore.

The 8x60mm cartridge should be just a bit more powerful than the 8x57mm cartridge.  The case has somewhat more powder area.  I rather imagine the difference is more theoretical than actual.  The ’98 Mauser action tends to maintain a specific pressure limit for rifles; but one finds one gets higher velocities (at the same pressure) with larger powder charges.  However, this requires slower burn rate powders.  Such powders were not available in the past.

5th Edition Ammo Encyclopedia and Cartridges of the World list four variations:  The rimless type, the direct alteration of the 8x57mm round; the same with a rim for single, double and combination guns.  This is then doubled with both .318” and .323” versions.

A full loaded 8×57 round is a full charge rifle cartridge and easily competes with any of the full power rifles of the era up to current times.

The 8×60 S is a full sized, full charge rifle round – very similar to the 8x57mm round – suitable for harvesting any of the major sized animals of Europe or North America.  Personally, I think there are a few of the very large, dangerous bear with which one should be more careful.  In any case it will quite handily harvest anything which can be taken with .30-06 Springfield.

Recoil is based on velocity times bullet weight, divided by rifle weight (including scope, sling and attached good luck charm.  This rifle weights roughly six pounds, ten ounces.  In contrast, the 98K Mauser used in WWII weighed eight pounds, three ounces to nine pounds.

This rifle is ‘light’ and (to my thinking) recoil is restricted to what is suitable for the shooter.  I do NOT care to load this rifle to the absolute upper limit.

This 8x60mm rifle was not designed for casual plinking or an afternoon of groundhog shooting.  This is a ‘stalking’ rifle; carried a lot and shot seldom.

Think of shoulder pain.  Perhaps back pain.

A word of caution.  For those who find a rifle in this caliber, the 8mm caliber is either .318 or .323 inches.  The smaller bore size normally requires the correct sized bullet.  Firing the larger bullets in the smaller bore size is not a good idea.  Most likely, the rifle won’t blow up in a catastrophic failure, but over pressure is not good for the locking lugs and interior of the chamber and bore.  And it just might blow up.

This rifle uses bullet weights of from around 125 grains to 200 grains, easily.  The latest military loading of the 8x57mm round used the heavier bullet and it caught on with most everyone else.  In fact, the heavier bullet is defined in metric terms – grams – as 12.7 grams or 196 (actually 195.990951) grains.  In countries using English measurement, this is typically rounded off at 200 grains.    Loading data seems not to bother with the four grains or so of bullet weight.

Comparison: From right – .223 Annoyance, .308 Winchester, three 8x60mmS rounds.

Three headstamps for 8x60mmS. Norma, DMW, and an as yet unidentified cartridge.

Loaded ammunition is available from Privi Partisan.  Their website shows a 12.7 gram (196 grain) bullet at 780 meters per second (2559 fps) AND a 12 gram (185 grain) bullet at 800 meters per second (2625 fps).  No ‘light’ loads are shown.

Norma (of Sweden) manufactured it at one time, their website does not show such a product currently.  Precision Cartridge Inc. (PCI) sells one loading via Selway Armory.  The PCI ammunition features a 175 grain PSPBT bullet but does not specify the velocity.  Some other European munitions manufacturers once produced this ammunition, but don’t show it currently on their websites.

Privi Partisan sells unloaded brass made for Boxer primers.  Bullets, large rifle primers and powders of the ‘middle’ burn rate rifle use are fairly universal and available.  Regular 8x57mm loading dies work fine, but remember not to resize the cases full length and turn the 8x60mm case into a 8×57 case with a long neck.  8x60mm loading dies are available if you please.

I have settled on experimenting with bullet weights of 150 and 200 grains.  The fixed sights may force me to one bullet weight. I may do some experimentation with 170-175 grain bullets.

Allow me to point out this is not a long range rifle.  The rifle weighs – as noted – less than seven pounds.  Pushing a 200 grain bullet becomes problematic in recoil rather quickly.  The difficulty is not the strength and endurance of the rifle, but the strength and endurance of the shooter.  It kicks like a Missouri mule in a bad mood.  Combine this with iron sights and the aiming process, and one realizes a likely hunting range of 300 yards or meters at the furthest; more likely 200 yards or less.  This, in fact covers the bulk of North American game hunting.

Making ammunition

The easiest and most satisfactory solution of ammunition is to load it myself.

So far, according to the research I’ve done, the WWII 8x57mm round shot a 12.7 gram or 196 gram bullet at near 2400 fps.  The earlier 8x57mm round shot a 10.0 gram or 154 grain bullet at nearly 2900 fps.  The earlier loading was measured in a thirty inch barrel, the WWII loading was from a twenty-four (or so) inch barrel.  Commercial loads are typically low pressure. The existence of older action – particularly the M1888 Commission Rifle – and the uncertainty of .318″ bore diameters tend to make commercial loaders a bit leery to risk their good name and insurance coverage.

Therefore, I should be able – with modern powders – to get a 150 grain bullet to 2700 fps without straining too much and a 200 grain bullet to 2300 fps or better.  My shoulder will probably give up prior to the rifle.  (My fillings could come loose before I hurt the rifle!)

Initial loadings show IMR 4046 pushing the 150 grain bullet around 2800 fps; this load is derived from 8x57mm load information from Lyman #45 manual and is ‘cautious’ in pressure level.  The same powder pushes a 200 grain bullet at just over 2300 fps.  I shot that series of loads from a standing rest.  The recoil still pushed the comb of the stock into my right cheekbone rather briskly.

Reloader 15 (Re15) is in the same – more or less – burning rate as IMR 4064, but seems to be a little slower.  Preliminary experimentation gives me a 200 grain bullet at 2200 fps and still under maximum.

No.  I’m not being specific about loads.  I’m still in the research stage and will reserve specific information pending corroboration and certainty of my own finding.

I know modern rifles and ‘fashion’ (perhaps ‘fad’) tend to suggest rifles must shoot into the next county in order to properly dispatch game, but I disagree.  It will take a mighty big moose to shrug off a proper hit from a 200 grain bullet at 2200 fps.  And mule deer don’t get that big.

Besides, this rifle is cool.

Yeah. Cool.

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Yom Kippur

This year, the Jewish holiday (‘holy day’) of Yom Kippur begins today [Friday, 29 September] at sundown and ends tomorrow [Saturday, 30 September] at sundown. In the traditional Jewish calendar, any given day begins and ends at sunset. There is a reason, but is immaterial to this essay.

Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” and is the formal remembrance of each individual’s need to atone – make amends or reparation; and includes sorrow for committing deeds of hatred and bearing attitudes of hatred, greed or anything else to diminish either other persons or the Lord Most Holy by disgracing His reputation by one’s improper actions.

As I may have mentioned, I am a practicing Christian. As such, I must always bear in mind the Jewish background of Christianity. I also must constantly monitor my behavior and attitudes in light of what the Lord Most Holy expects of me.

So I don’t expect Yom Kippur to be incorporated as a regular Christian holiday. However, the essence of Yom Kippur is part and parcel of Christian doctrine (if nothing else, check Matthew 5:21-26 for Jesus’ directions about dealing with others in this light). Christians are expected to atone daily, actually ‘as needed’, not just once every so often. (I rather expect practicing Jews see this in a similar fashion.)

For my part, not all those I have offended, attacked (verbally, usually) or wished evil upon are close enough to personally apologize. But I would like to. So while I cannot remove all the harm I have done or intended, I can say I regret doing so. And I intend to make the attempt to live closer to what the Almighty orders in the future.

The Hebrew language word translated into English as “shalom” generally is thought of as ‘peace’. It is, but as so many foreign language words, it actually means more. It conveys the idea of peace, but more than just absence of conflict or violence. It also indicates contentment, serenity, prosperity (more than just money) and living in accord with the Lord Most High. Probably more than that.

Saying ‘shalom’ as a greeting actually means bestowing all those things on the recipient. (Not that mere humans can do such, but the speaker is petitioning the Almighty to bestow such on the recipient.)

Therefore, “peace” – in that sense – to you all.

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Rifle; caliber .22 short, long and long rifle; Winchester Model 67

Full view from right side

A rifle made for training.  From information of characteristics, it was made in November/December 1937.  No serial numbers were applied at manufacture (prior to 1968).

Action style:  Bolt action, single shot, striker manually cocked after loading and closing bolt.  Design was intentional to reduce possibility of inappropriate discharge for inexperienced shooters.

Barrel length:  27 1/8 inches.  Conventionally rifled, twist rate of one revolution in 16.25 inches.

Weight:  Five pounds, two ounces.  (Unloaded, of course.)

Sights are traditional rifle sights of the era.

Rear sight blade, U notch

Rear sight, entire view

Rear sight is a leaf sight with slide, adjustable for elevation by moving the slide to elevate or lower the rear sight.  The rear sight blade with sighting notch is flat topped with half-round notch measuring three-sixteenths inch in diameter.  The assembly is mounted to the barrel by a dove tail arrangement at the front of the assembly.  This allows for drifting the entire assembly (using a brass or other non-marring drift and small hammer) either left or right to adjust windage, or to remove the original sight and replace it with some more appealing to the owner.  Since this rifle hasn’t been manufactured since the 1960s, casual replacement of parts is not advised to preserve the collector appeal and value.

Front sight bead and base, slightly fuzzy

Front is a single post with a one-eighth inch bead.  The front sight is also mounted on a dove tail base.  Therefore, it also is drift adjustable for windage or replacement of different front sight entirely.



Actual sighting is addressed following.

Rifle is not equipped to casually mount a telescopic sight; no ‘grooves’ or drilled and tapped mounting sites.


Rifle fired on morning of 30 June 2017 at Four Rivers Sportsman’s Club (Hastings, Nebraska).  Sky was overcast but bright, temperature in the upper 60s to lower 70s, no discernible breeze.  All shots fired from a basic bench rest mechanism.  Shots and velocities timed on a C. E. D. chronograph.

Ammunition types used were CCI Standard Velocity (1070 fps advertised) and Norma USA match-22 (1100 fps advertised).  Due to the era of manufacture, I thought ‘standard velocity’ ammunition was more in keeping with the design of the rifle than any of the newer, ‘high velocity’ ammunition.  I also felt the sights where more suited to standard velocity ammunition.  I doubt modern loadings will harm the action or barrel, but no doubt someone will object to such practice.

Ten round velocity findings:

CCI Standard Velocity:  Average of ten shots, 1053 fps; spread of fastest to slowest shots, 105 fps.

Norma match-22:  Average of ten shots, 1033 fps; spread of fastest to slowest shots, 32 fps.

Both types of ammunition showed a more or less even spread across the range of velocities.   A better test would be one hundred rounds of each ammunition.  Expense and time tend to discourage me in this.

Accuracy testing:

Groups fired at fifty yards to provide adequate idea of accuracy.

Winchester 67: Five shots at 20 yards.

Winchester 67: Five shots at 50 yards.

Since I used five of the CCI shots to insure registration on target at twenty yards, the fifty yard group is only five shots and measures 2 inches high and 1.5 inches wide.  I held ‘center’ on the target and the group registered 4 inches high and 1 inch right of aiming point.  I point out the rear sight was moved to the lowest setting and registration was still some four inches high at fifty yards.







Winchester 67: Eleven shots at 50 yards (benchrest)






As the rifle showed itself to be reasonably regulated, I fired the Norma group from fifty yards.  I fired eleven rounds of the Norma ammunition on the fifty yard target as one shot did not register on the chronograph.  Using a six o’clock hold, eight of the rounds grouped 1.25 inches high and 1.625 inches wide, roughly .5 inches below aiming point.  The other three shots were outside that cluster, expanding the total group to 2.25 x 3.25 inches, still about .5 inches below point of aim.

I hasten to add some of the ‘looseness’ of the groups are no doubt the result of my aged eyes and the rather imprecise nature of the open sights.

Both groups would be suitable for small game of squirrel or rabbit size at fifty yards and possible further with better eyes.

Sight picture is questionable.  Aligning the front bead centered in the semi-circular rear notch is intuitive; but positioning the front sight is debatable.  I achieved best results with the front (round) bead at the bottom of the target.  (Usually referred to as the “six o’clock hold”.)  A possibly more intuitive hold is to cover the target (a bullseye in this case), this is referred to as a “center hold”.  With the rear sight in the lowest position, a center hold results in shot holes roughly four inches above point of aim at 50 yards.

The arm functioned well.  The only ‘difficulty’ I found – and it’s so minor I hesitate to call it a ‘difficulty’ – is the extractor is somewhat in the way when inserting a new cartridge into the breech.  Merely pushing on the bolt causes the extractor to move (lower) out of the way and the cartridge chambers properly.

EDITED:  The final paragraph is amended.  In a late-breaking and chagrinning development, I was instructed correctly about removing the bolt from the action.

Clear and make safe.

Close the bolt.

De-cock the striker.

With the bolt closed, pull the trigger and keep it back.

Open and remove bolt.

Pull trigger and keep back to replace bolt (line up root of bolt handle with split in receiver.

NOTE:  Pulling trigger with bolt open will not allow removal of bolt.


All in all a useful rifle for the purpose intended.


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Life Imitates Art…

Most everyone of my age remembers the original “Star Wars” with Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford, of course Carrie Fisher and others. Many younger people are quite familiar with it as well. It is indeed a modern classic.

Harken back to a scene where Imperial Stormtroopers stop the small craft containing Luke Skywalker, the anonymous Obi-wan Kenobi and the two ‘droids (robots to me) C3PO and R2D2. Obi-wan performs a bit of Jedi mind control and the lead Stormtrooper parrots, “We don’t need to see his identification. These are NOT the ‘droids we’re looking for.” It is a funny scene, even if both Obi-wan and the Stormtrooper dangle a preposition. Sigh…

Now imagine this: A small craft of some kind carrying former Former Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, Representative Pelosi, Senator Chuck Schumer and Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. They are stopped by FBI Director James Comey. Director Comey says, “We don’t need to do any investigation. These are NOT the ‘droids we’re looking for.”


I probably have too much time on my hands… Oh. If I suddenly disappear or commit suicide, remember this.

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Some Notes on Transitional Cartridges

In the long ago and far away (not so far away for some), armies were armed with smoothbore, muzzle loading, black powder powered muskets. They were not ‘accurate’ in the modern sense. Therefore, the soldiers of one side all lined up and fired a ‘volley’ – everyone in the front line shot on command – in the general direction of the enemy who were similarly lined up some fifty or sixty yards distant. The theory behind this was someone was bound to be hit. When enough soldiers on one side or the other had been wounded or killed, the remainder either broke ranks – a disgrace – or surrendered.

In the middle of the 19th Century, rifling was made practical for most all rifles and cartridge ammunition was developed. (The concept was invented some time earlier, but wasn’t ‘practical’ for mass production.) Which are stories all their own. This story begins in the latter part of the 19th Century…

In the past 150 (as of this writing) years, there have been two existential changes in the philosophy and theory of cartridges for military use. The first was the change from Black powder to Smokeless powder; and the practical and design changes either required or made possible thereby.

The second change is the change from ‘full power’ rifle rounds to ‘intermediate’ rounds; this shows itself in changes to cartridge and firearm design.

This discussion is limited to mainly infantry type rifles. Sporting rifles have followed the developments and inferences are easy to make.

Traditional Gunpowder – Black powder, commonly – has been around since at least the 14th Century in Western Culture and probably longer in Eastern Culture depending on who is writing the story.

It had drawbacks, but that’s another story. We will also forgo the development of guncotton a ‘beginning’ to what we think of as smokeless powder.

In 1864, a French chemist named Paul Vieille found a way to alter organic substances – generally cotton or wood pulp – into what currently is known as smokeless powder. The result was a compound – powder, more or less – which burned rapidly only under compression, was manipulable, and had three times the gas expansion (or power in cartridge context) as Black powder. We are skipping the further research part, as well. The French Government paid Mr. Vieille (by the way, I have no idea of how to pronounce the gentleman’s surname) 50,000 franks as a reward.

The existence of the powder was a French state secret for some years, but they developed and adopted for Army use the 1886 Lebel rifle. This was the absolute first rifle used by any army in the world to use a rifle firing a cartridge designed to use smokeless power. (Remember that the next time one wants to make condescending remarks about the French.)

State secret or not, very soon after the appearance of the Lebel rifle, the knowledge of smokeless powder was noted and everybody and everybody’s dog started working on how to duplicate it. Since the essential process is pretty simple, pretty quickly everyone had it.

So what did they do about it?

When black powder is used as a firearms propellent, it has a relatively slow burning rate. (However, it burns at the same rate whether confined or in the open – this made black powder great as a general explosive and rather dangerous to carry around.) The muzzle velocity an arm can attain is limited by this and black powder weapons top out around 2,000 feet per second. (This gets argued sometimes, but it is limited.)
Actually, smokeless powder also has top velocity limit as well, due to the velocity of expanding gases. As I understand it the limit is close to 6,000 feet per second and it will be some time until we push past that with current technology.

One of the side-effects of a ‘maximum’ velocity limit is the amount of energy available from the bullet. Currently, to give a specific bullet weight more energy, we – whoever ‘we’ are – design a firearm to handle greater pressure and make the bullet go faster. The kinetic energy in a particular projectile increases with the square of the velocity; in short, a bullet going twice as fast has FOUR times as much energy, all other factors being equal (the same weight bullet, primarily). Obviously, with a relatively low top speed, one had to increase the size (weight and diameter) in order to get more energy. One could make a .22 caliber bullet weighing 500 grains, but it would rather long.

So all military types rifles were relatively large bore rifles. In the latter part of the 19th Century, nearly all the military rifles were between .40 and .50 caliber. Bullets were heavy.

As examples:

U. S .45-70 Govt. cartridge fired a 405 grain lead bullet at around 1300 feet per second (fps). (There was a lighter ‘carbine’ cartridge, I believe the bullet was around 350 grains.)

U. S .45-70 Govt. cartridge fired a 405 grain lead bullet at around 1300 feet per second (fps). (There was a lighter ‘carbine’ cartridge, I believe the bullet was around 350 grains.)

The 1871 Mauser (11mm Mauser) fired a 370 grain bullet at 1430 fps.

The 1871 Mauser (11mm Mauser) fired a 370 grain bullet at 1430 fps.

The Brits .577 Snyder used a 450 grain bullet at 1300 fps.

The Brits .577 Snyder used a 450 grain bullet at 1300 fps.

And so on. Please peruse the following comparison information:
.45-70 Gov’t fired a bullet of 458 caliber, weighing 405 grains at 1330 fps.  This developed 1590 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 10 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 24.37.
11mm Mauser fired a bullet of 446 caliber, weighing 386 grains at 1425.    This developed 1740 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9.92 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 25.9
.577 Snider fired a bullet of 570 caliber, weighing 480 grains at 1250.    This developed 1665 9.56 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 29.94.
.30-06 fired a bullet of 308 caliber, weighing 150 grains at 2740.    This developed 2500 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 8.7 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 15.93.
8mm Lebel fired a bullet of 323 caliber, weighing 198 grains at 2380.    This developed 2481 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9.2 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 17.54.
8mm Mauser fired a bullet of 323 caliber, weighing 154 grains at 2880.    This developed 2835 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9  pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 16.95.
.30 Army (Krag) fired a bullet of 308 caliber, weighing 220 grains at 2200.    This developed 2365 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9.3 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 18.37.
8mm Kurz fired a bullet of 323 caliber, weighing 125 grains at 2247.    This developed 1408 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 10 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 6.59.
7.62×39 fires a bullet of 311 caliber, weighing 122 grains at 2329.    This developed 1470 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 7.7 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 6.68.
.30 Carbine fired a bullet of 308 caliber, weighing 110 grains at 1975.    This developed 955 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 5.2 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 5.21.
.223 Remington/5.56 mm fires a bullet of 224 caliber, weighing 62 grains at 3100.    This developed 1325 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 7.18 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 3.77.
.375 Holland & Holland fires a bullet of 375 caliber, weighing 300 grains at 2500.    This developed 4160 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9 (Win Exp)  pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 42.64

Information comes from Cartridges of the World, Wikipedia (for arms weights), and recoil calculations from a friendly website.

Notice the heaviest recoil of any military smokeless powder rifle is less than the lightest recoiling black powder rifle. This is in connection with smokeless powder rifles are lighter – easier to carry – than black powder rifles.

Obviously, these are only a very few representative cartridges. They were all initially military, infantry calibers, except the .375 H&H, a sporting caliber.  (I put it in for comparison and as example of serious recoil.)

So when the various military designers thought about this new-fangled smokeless powder, they were still rather thinking ‘black powder’. Bullets were still round nosed and relatively heavy. The .30-40 Krag-Jorgensen was designed by the U. S. Government and adopted in 1898. It was a smokeless powder cartridge but had a 220 grain roundnose bullets and a velocity of 2000 fps.

Other developments in Europe included the 8mm Mauser. Initially using a smokeless powder loading, it used a bullet of around 230 grains at 2100 fps. Later, the Germany armed changed this to a lighter bullet and a faster velocity. That lighter bullet weighted 154 grains and left the rifle at 2880 fps. Also, making use of other developments, they made the new bullet a streamlined shape. The term they used was ‘Spitzgeschoss’ which means ‘pointy bullet’, more or less. In the United States, we still use the term ‘Spitzer’ for a projectile coming to a point, with ogives shaped as ‘radii’ instead of straight sides (spire point).

Since most everyone likes pictures, I have attached a few photos of various cartridges under discussion. As I write these lines, I realize readers would probably appreciate photos of the firearms as well. Sadly, I don’t have many of the rifles being discussed.

Somewhere during this period, both upper echelon officers in various armies and (cartridge and arms) designers realized infantry rifles could shoot faster in both muzzle velocity and rate of fire. Therefore, ‘lighter’ bullets could be just as effective as the older, heavier black powder era bullets on either enemies of the republic or Mr. Bear.

So bore diameters were reduced. Typical bore diameter for military rifles dropped from between 40 to 50 caliber to near 30 caliber (some smaller yet).

Because bores were reduced, the ‘bottleneck’ cartridge was developed.

Since smokeless powder was far cleaner – relatively – than black powder – the arms didn’t require extreme simplicity to keep them functioning.

Since smokeless powder generates less smoke when firing, repeating arms and even machine guns became practical. The man or men operating such weapons were no longer enveloped in a cloud and unable to see. Nor did the smoke cloud invariably and instantly give away one’s position to the unholy. (Just to clarify, ‘smokeless’ powder does generate some smoke. However, relative to black powder, smokeless powder is ‘miraculously’ less smokey than black. Smokeless powder does leave some residue in the arm. Again, relative to black powder, it isn’t so much. And ‘corrosive’ ammunition since the advent of smokeless powder derives much more from (now obsolete) primer compounds that left ‘salts’ in the bore and workings which attract water; ergo rust. The primers didn’t have a direct corrosive effect on steel.)

Due to the proliferation of semi and fully automatic arms, the cases themselves needed to be re-designed. Rims and highly tapered cases were now a liability. In the ‘old days’, case bodies were nearly the same diameter from top to bottom. A ‘rim’ or ‘flange’ (as the Brits call it) keeps a cylindrical case from falling through the chamber and barrel. But a bottle neck case has a shoulder to stop the case from moving further forward, AND with the motion of moving through an automatic process of loading, rims became a problem. Better off without rims.

Highly tapered cases were useful with black powder. if the chamber was getting dirty from the black powder residue, a tapered case was easier to force into the chamber – especially in the heat of battle. Also, removing a tapered case is easier to extract after firing; as moving the case even a small distance removes the case from rubbing on the walls of the chamber. But a heavily tapered case is awkward to place into a magazine. Look at an AK-47 round and magazine sometime; note the taper of the AK-47 round and the curvature of the magazine, especially an extended version.

Over a period of time – fairly short, really – nearly all military rifle cases were relatively un-tapered (there’s still a bit) and rimless. Except of course, for the Russian/Soviet/Russian again 7.62x54R

Somewhere in the transition, bullet technology had to improve. Cast or swaged lead bullets worked well with the low velocities of black powder. They probably leaded, but as one had to clean the bore religiously, leading didn’t build up as much. However, with smokeless powder not leaving as much deposit in the barrel AND velocities being over twice the former velocity, lead bullets just didn’t work in rifles. I’m going to skip over the details, but jacketed bullets became the norm in just over twenty years. As it happens, a fully jacketed bullet is less prone to deform when being moved through the action of a rifle, let along semi or full automatic weapon, also a good characteristic.

Yet another benefit of jacketed bullets is the jacket holds the rifling better, which produces better accuracy. The higher echelon military leaders and thinkers and the designers quickly realized the new technology rifles could shoot both farther and more accurately than before. (What wasn’t realized is the distances of separation of hostile troops didn’t get much bigger. Fire-fights were still fairly close up and personal interchanges. That is a different story, however.)

At this point, the concept of “keeping up with Jones’ ” came into play. Since the French had smokeless powder, ‘we’ – whoever ‘we’ were – had to have smokeless powder as well. If ‘their’ rifle could theoretically hit a belligerent at XX yards, ‘our’ rifle had to hit a belligerent at XX and fifteen yards. If ‘their’ rifle could hold five rounds, ‘ours’ has to hold seven to ten. If ‘their’ rifle could be reloaded ‘instantly’, ‘ours’ has to be reloaded ‘instantlier’. Etc.

One notes nearly all the early smokeless powder cartridges featured (relatively) ’heavy’ bullets. Nearly all of them fairly quickly lightened the bullets used. With a lighter bullet, velocity and range was extended. This is a direct consequence of smokeless powder. Remember black powder can only push a projectile within limits. So does smokeless powder but the limit is three to four times as great.

In some instances, the government in question developed a ‘heavier than the infantry load, but lighter than the original load’ for use in machine-guns. Whereas a lighter bullet can be driven faster and therefore develop greater kinetic energy at ‘closer’ range, a heavier bullet will normally carry further and maintain velocity better.

The U. S. Government introduced a 220 grain bullet with the 1903 Springfield, then dropped the bullet weight to 150 grains in 1906. Then later developed a 174 grain bullet and load for use in medium and heavy machine guns.

The French did about the same thing with the 8mm Lebel round in roughly the same era.

Machine guns are currently utilized mostly direct fire mode. That is, machines are used much like rifles and fired directly at hostiles forces in line of sight.

Initially, machine guns were often used in indirect fire mode; very similar to artillery. The machine gun was fired at a high angle at areas unseen by the gunner to deny movement to hostile forces and cause casualties in the belligerent forces. That technique required ammunition to be capable of going a long way and still be effective.

The upshot of all this was rifles could now (back then) accurately disable or kill an enemy soldier out to a whole lot further than before. As a result, the sights on most rifles were refined quite a bit. The rifle sights of the First World War were predominantly ‘open’ type sights. The rear sights were some form of notch – usually a “V” or “U” shape. Front sights were either a post, squared off at the top, or a pyramidal shape.

The U. S. Rifle, Model of 1917, or ‘Eddystone’ (the one with the ‘bent’ bolt handle) was one of the first military rifle to feature ‘aperture’ sights. The front sight was a squared off post and the rear sight was a disc with a small hole (the aperture) in it. By the Second World War, nearly everyone had aperture – or ‘peep’ – sights.

By this time, most infantry rifles could – depending on the soldier – incapacitate a hostile out to possible 500 yards (or meters or paces, depending on where one’s rifle was made and how they marked them). Effective range became a matter of national pride.

However, it must be noted that armed encounters between armies (or more often, squads) were often much closer to each other than several hundred yards. Depending on terrain and plant life (trees, for instance), ranges of encounter could be quite short. In the battle called the Battle of Belleau Wood, fighting was so close shotguns were employed as assault weapons. So long range rifles were not always needed.

Now we mentally jump ahead to the Second World War. Gone is the trench warfare of much of the First World War, where one sat in trenches – some of the time – and ranges were perceived to be longer. In WWII the fighting was much closer and personal. Europe has – had, perhaps – much forested land and combatants could get much closer to one another. There were more trucks and troop carriers to get combatants to the ‘front’ as well as move laterally or forward in support.

There was lots of fighting in towns, cities and more or less ‘urban areas’. Both sides were fighting from house to house. Not much need for a five hundred yard rifle. But the rifle still had to have the power to incapacitate an enemy.

In 1943, the NAZI Army introduced the Sturmgewehr (StG) 44, also known as the MP43 and MP44. It was a breakthrough in design for several reasons.

Aside: The Soviet Union claimed they were working on a similar concept prior to the StG44. Truthfully, I don’t know if they were. History records the StG44 (in 1943, oddly enough) first. The finished Soviet project rifle, the familiar AK-47, was adopted and issued in 1947. So the STG44 gets the ‘honor’, as it were. End of aside.

The StG44 was one of the first actual rifles to be fully automatic – upon demand by moving the ‘selector’- hand held and issued to practically everyone. In the First World War, the U. S. had the Browning Automatic Rifle, but it was issued only to a limited number of troops (one per squad as I recall) and it weighed nearly twenty pounds. The StG 44 weighed – loaded – less than 11.5 pounds. The Garand rifle of the U. S. was about the same weight.

The StG 44 had a detachable box magazine holding thirty rounds. The Thompson submachine gun had magazines holding twenty or thirty rounds. Typically the twenty round magazines were used for convenience. The StG 44 had a bit further range and a bit more kinetic energy.

The StG 44 had a ‘new’ cartridge, the intermediate class round. Physically, it was the full size 8x57mm Mauser (actually 7.9x57mm) round shortened to 33mm, using a 123 grain (or so) at a muzzle velocity of around 2,250 fps. It is called – and I’m not sure who named it – the 7.9x33mm Kurz. (Kurz meaning ‘short’; go figure.) Here was a fully automatic rifle that could be (more or less) controlled by a soldier and didn’t hamper him.

The StG 44 had a bore diameter exactly the same as the standard 98 Mauser and machine-guns of the Reich. So existing machinery could be used. Additionally, the cases are very similar to the case of the 98 Mauser and that machinery also could be employed. No point in re-inventing the wheel.

Sadly for ‘them’, (good for the free world) it was too late to effect the war much. But it did start a new ‘transition’ in rifle ammunition. When the Second World War was over, the 7.9×33 Kurz was done. There are some rifles chambered for it as a curiosity, but no one mass produces rifles – either full or semi-automatic – for it anywhere. The accuracy and range limits are not well established and rather immaterial at this point.

Next in this cavalcade of intermediate rounds came the Soviet 7.62x39mm round. It also fires a bullet of 122 grains (both this and the Kurz round were designated in grams, so they don’t seem ‘even’) at a muzzle velocity of nearly 2,400 fps. It is more powerful than the U. S. .30 Carbine, but just a bit less than the .30-30 Winchester round.

The Soviet round is another short cased round. The then current Soviet rifle was the now familiar Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifle. The 7.62×39 round uses the same bullet diameter so the same machinery for boring and rifling barrels can be used; and the same machinery to manufacture bullets can be adjusted and used to make ammunition.

Currently, the AK-47 rifles and the round do not enjoy a positive reputation for accuracy. They do enjoy a great reputation for reliability and functioning under adverse conditions, like mud and dust. However, there are reasons for both these reasons and they are much the same. I’m going to let that lie for this essay.

Both the NAZI and Soviet round have an outside range of about 300 to 350 yards. Which actually covers most current fighting around the world. Maybe. (Wait for it…) Both rounds are suitable for shooting hostile combatants, but have little margin for error. However, they were designed to be light and shoot a lot. Both rifles employ loaded cartridges lighter than the full sized rifles preceding them, so number of rounds carried can be increased for the same weight.

Aside: The U. S. did have an ‘intermediate’ round already. The .30 Carbine was adopted in 1942. However, it was never employed as a primary combat weapon officially. It was to replace the pistol, rifle and submachine gun for non-front line troops. The round is not as powerful as either the 7.9mm Kurz or the 7.62×39 Russian cartridge. The .30 Carbine is not classed with the ‘intermediate’ cartridges for these reasons. End.

So, once again military cartridges have ‘transitioned’ from one ‘form’ to another. What is interesting is the change from fairly short range to long range back to short range. Another interesting thought is military theory and tactics with firearms began with our side firing a huge number of shots at their side with the expectation (hope?) of hitting some of them. Then military theory and tactics went over to the idea of shooting at a specific enemy ‘target’. Now ‘we’ (most of humanity) is back to the fire a huge number of shots at their side and expect (hope?) some of them get hit.

Humanity will have more wars and armed conflict in the future. Someone will see it and write a semi-cynical essay about it.

Left to right: 8x50 Lebel, .303 British, 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser, .30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester (7.62x51 NATO) 8mm Kurz, 7.62x39mm Russian, 5.56mm NATO, .375 Holland & Holland.

Left to right: 8×50 Lebel, .303 British, 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, .30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester (7.62×51 NATO) 8mm Kurz, 7.62x39mm Russian, 5.56mm NATO, .375 Holland & Holland.

Cartridges shown in photo:

8 x 50R(mm) Lebel 232 grain flat nose bullet 2060 feet/second Rimmed case
Adopted in 1886, this is the first smokeless powder cartridge ever used by a military in the world. By modern standards it looks ‘crude’, but at the time, it was ahead of anything else. The cartridge in the photo is the original loading, the “Balle M”; the bullet (balle) weighs fifteen (15) grams or 232 grains, has a lead core, a cupronickel jacket and a wide flat meplat (the very tip) for use the 1886 Lebel rifle with tubular, under barrel magazine. Muzzle velocity – so I am told – was 628 meters per second; in dog years that’s 2,060 feet per second.

In 1898 the round was changed to the “Balle D” configuration. The “Balle D” was a light 12.8 grams (198 grain) spitzer – boat tail type bullet made of mostly brass. Muzzle velocity was 700 meters per second (2297 fps). The “D” was the first time a military power used a spitzer – boat tail officially. So the 8mm Lebel was in fact a real trend sitter.

For the record, there are several other varieties of 8mm Lebel ammunition. Do a web search. (This applies to all the other ammunition listed and most that isn’t listed here.)

.303 British 175 grain bullet 2440 feet/second Rimmed case
Adopted in 1888 as a black powder cartridge with 215 grain (round nose) bullet at 1850 feet/second. Updated in 1892 to use cordite (smokeless) propellent – with the same bullet – for 1970 feet/second. Updated again in 1910; bullet weight dropped to 174 (or 175) grain bullet at 2440 feet/second. This last loading was used until 1957 when the cartridge and rifle were replaced.

6.5 x 55mm Swedish Mauser 139 grain (9 grams) bullet 2625 feet-second Rimless case. It was adopted in 1894 as smokeless powder round. Initially loaded with a 156 grain (10.1 grams) bullet at 2370 feet/second, it was updated in 1941 to the lighter bullet giving higher velocity.

.30-40 Krag or .30 Army 220 grain bullet 2200 feet/second Rimmed case
The first U. S. smokeless powder cartridge adopted (1898), the rifle showed to be overloaded with issue ammunition and was replaced in 1903 by the Springfield.
.30-06 Springfield 150 grain bullet 2740 feet/second Rimless case
The ’06 cartridge is a re-work of the original .30-03 cartridge. The ’03 cartridge used a 220 grain bullet at 2300 feet/second. In 1906, the cartridge and loading was altered; the case was shortened by .07 inches and the load updated to 150 grain bullet at 2740 feet/second. This was far more ballistically advantageous and shows the advantage of smokeless powder over black powder as a propellant. The ’06 round was also loaded by the U. S. Government with a 172 or 174 grain bullet at 2640 for machine gun use. This change extended the range of the machine gun a good deal, as the heavier bullet would carry further.

308 Winchester or 7.62 x 51(mm) NATO
Adopted in 1957, the 7.62 x 51 NATO essentially duplicated the ballistic ability of the .30-06 Springfield infantry round with a case about .5 inches shorter. Additionally, the case was altered internally, making the head and web area stronger for use in machine-guns and semi-automatic rifles. This was not actually a transitional round and is included only for comparison. Also used in light and medium machine-guns, this is probably the last ‘full charge’ rifle round designed for military rifles. Note: The two cartridges are the same dimensionally, internally and pressure limits. The only potential difficulty is using commercial .308 Winchester ammunition with bullets heavier than those used in semi and fully automatic arms. The extra bullet weight somewhat retards the pressure curve and may transmit too much pressure to the operating system. The heaviest bullet used in military M-14 rifles is a target load, with a 172 to 174 grain bullet; much like the old 30-06 machine gun round.

7.92 x 33mm Kurz
Historically the first intermediate infantry cartridge (argued by the Soviet government). This round could almost be considered experimental, but it was used by the NAZI Army in WWII in the Sturmgewehr (44) rifle. It is a shortened 8 x 57mm case shortened to 33 mm and uses a lighter (125 grain) bullet at 2247 feet/second. This physically began the transition from ‘full charge’ rifle rounds to ‘intermediate’ rounds which are easier to control in fully-automatic, hand held weapons. As it happens, it is the same length as the .30 Carbine round.

7.62 x 39mm Russian
Adopted by Soviet Union in 1947 with the AK47 and arguably the best known military rifle in the world. Designed as an ‘intermediate’ range infantry cartridge, rather than a ‘full charge’ rifle round, it was employed in various rifle and machine-guns in the Warsaw Pact (Soviet Bloc) nations. Like the 7.92 Kurz, this was never a black powder round, but is transitional from ‘full charge’ rifles and loads to the intermediate level infantry rifles.

A further ‘transition’ occurred in 1974 when the Soviet Union adopted the AK-74, using the 5.45x39mm Soviet round. It seems to be the 7.62x39mm cartridge necked down to accommodate .221 or .222 inch projectiles of roughly 55 grains. The ‘smaller’ round became ‘smaller’ still.

5.56mm NATO
Sometimes referred to as the 5.56x45mm NATO rifle round. It is also – somewhat inaccurately – called the .223 Remington. They are exactly the same size and dimension, but they are NOT interchangeable. (They’re sort of interchangeable; the commercial .223 Remington can be safely fired in 5.56 NATO chambered rifles, but the military (5.56 NATO) round develops higher chamber pressure AND the U. S. military rifles have somewhat different chamber and throats than sporting rifles.

The 5.56 NATO round was invented (designed?) in the middle 1950s and adopted for use in 1964, along with the M16 rifle. The round and rifle do not match the power of earlier rifles, like the .30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester. However, it is lighter and suitable for ranges of 350 yards and less. And one can carry two or three times the number of rounds for the same weight load.

Something curious and perhaps ironic about this cartridge: Remember all the early smokeless powder rounds began with very heavy bullets and then reduced the weight of the bullet? The 5.56 NATO reversed that action. The first accepted round for the M-16 (5.56 NATO) was the M193 round, using a 55 grain bullet at muzzle velocity of 3250 fps. In 1980, NATO changed the official round to what they called the SS209 round. It uses a 62 grain bullet at 3100. The U. S. identifies the SS209 round as the M885.

Changing the bullet weight required re-barreling all extant rifles and fitting new rifles with barrels of faster twist to stabilize the longer bullet. Just for the record, the heavier bullet can be safely fired in the slower twist barrels, the pressure is not changed; but if a particular bullet isn’t spun by the rifling enough, the bullet is not stable and will ‘wobble’ in flight and be inaccurate.

The heavier bullet was desired to give the round more distance and retain more energy at distance. Even with the heavier bullet, the rifles so employed recoil much less than any of the older, more powerful rifles.

.375 Holland & Holland
This is sporting – hunting – round. Introduced in 1912 (as a smokeless powder cartridge) the .375 Holland & Holland will kill most everything in the world graveyard dead with a minor amount of attention on the part of the shooter. Factory loads are either a 270 grain bullet (FMJ for penetration) at 2650 feet/second, or a 300 grain FMJ bullet at 2500. Soft point bullets are also available, but tend not to be as desired for dangerous game

Even so, it is probably not best for animals of the Cape Buffalo or larger class IF they are charging. (I prefer a 3.5 inch rocket launcher, myself.) But this round has done it all. It has never been a military cartridge. I add it to the discussion for those who feel the ‘full charge’ military rifles of the era were too harsh in recoil.

NOT shown in group photo:

8 x 56(mm)R

8 x 56(mm)R

8 x 56(mm)R 208 grain bullet 2300 feet/second Rimmed case
Designed in 1930 and first used in the Solothurn machine-gun. Shortly after, it was also used in the Austrian and Hungarian rifles (the Austro-Hungarian Empire) designed by Ferdinand von Mannlicher designated the M95 (1895) rifle. (Initially the rifle used the 8 x 50R round; an originally black powder load.) All the rifles were converted to the 8 x 56R cartridge (officially at least) shortly thereafter 1931.

The 8 x 50R Mannlicher

The 8 x 50R Mannlicher

The 8 x 50R Mannlicher used a 244 grain, round-nosed bullet and developed just over 2000 feet/second. The 8 x 56R uses a 208 grain bullet at 2300 feet/second. As a curiosity, these two related rounds use a bullet diameter unique in the known Universe. Although ‘named’ an 8mm, the actual diameter is .329 inches. (See notes on 8 x 57 Mauser for alternative solution.)

8mm Mauser or 7.92 x 57 Mauser

8mm Mauser or 7.92 x 57 Mauser

8mm Mauser or 7.92 x 57 Mauser
The round was actually designed by the ‘Commission’ who designed the 1888 German Infantry rifle, not Paul Mauser. The initial loading was a .318 inch diameter bullet (round nosed) weighing 226 grains (14.6 grams) with a muzzle velocity of 2093 feet/second. In 1898, the well known Mauser 1898 replaced the 1888 rifle. In 1905 the rifle and cartridge was updated to a
.323 inch diameter bullet weighing 154 grains (just shy of 10 grams) with a ‘spitzer’ shape at 2880 feet/second. Other than opening the case mouth a bit more, the case is the same for both cartridges.The larger diameter load was deemed unsafe to fire in the smaller diameter barrels. The smaller diameter round is since then called the “J” round – long story- and the larger diameter round is designated “S” for spitzer to tell them apart – mostly on packaging.
In retrospect, this seems to your humble correspondent as being a ‘new’ cartridge. But it wasn’t so treated. (Perhaps attorneys were not as prominent in those days?)

.30 Carbine

.30 Carbine

.30 Carbine
Never a ‘rifle’, this round was designed for a carbine to replace the Garand (full sized rifle) and the .45 Automatic pistol for some troops in WWII. It can be considered an ‘intermediate’ level round, but the U. S. Government never officially intended replacement of the (full) rifle as in the case of the NAZI and Soviet armies.
The round uses the same diameter bullet as the rifle, but the bullet weight is 110 grains with a muzzle velocity of just under 2000 feet/second.

.30 Russian or 7.62 x 54(mm)R

.30 Russian or 7.62 x 54(mm)R

.30 Russian or 7.62 x 54(mm)R
Adopted in 1891 for the Mosin-Nagant rifle. Also used in machine-guns, the Drogonov sniper rifle and some sporting arms. Initially, the round sported a 210 grain, roundnose bullet (Full Metal Jacket, of course) with a muzzle velocity of 2020 fps. This round was found lacking in the Russo-Japanese war and in 1908 the loading was changed to a 147 grain bullet at 2840 feet/second. There are some other varieties of ammunition extant for specific purposes.
It is still in official use in current Russia (machine guns and specialty rifles) and is the oldest military round in continuous use in the world.

Currently, the U. S. is NOT fighting a war in the Middle East against ISIS or anyone. However, soldiers from the United States are currently shooting at people who are shooting back. The terrain being rather “flattish” and only what in the United States would be called ‘scrub brush’, the combat range is lengthened; much further away than in Vietnam, for instance. The current U. S. rifle, chambered in 5.56mm NATO seems to be somewhat less than overwhelming at longer ranges and the obsolete M-14 rifles shooting the 7.62x51mm NATO round is being employed.

So maybe I’ll see another ‘transition’ in my lifetime. I’m only in my middle 60s; there’s time.


Filed under Firearms and their use, History, Uncategorized

Annual Report for 2015

Here’s what the blog and I did in 2015.  Tell your friends.  Tell your acquaintances.  Tell everybody.

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