Austrian Rifles


The following individuals have extensive knowledge of these rifles and have indicated their willingness to answer questions on these rifles.

The following article is from the April issue of the Military Rifle Journal, and since there is some question about the Australian use of this rifle, I have put it under the country of origin.


By Richard A. Hoffman




In the year of our Lord, 1885, when the Austro-Hungarian Army adopted a new rifle, the world heard the name of Ferdinand Mannlicher for the first time. He was destined to become the third of a trio of great arms designers of the 18th century (the others being John Browning and Paul Mauser). This new rifle (fig. 1) was a five-shot, clip-loading repeater using the standard 11 mm. cartridge of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The straight-pull bolt action is locked by a falling block that locks into a recess in the receiver. The magazine was closed on the bottom, the empty clip being ejected through the top of the action. This ejection system, later to be modified and used in the U.S. M1 Garand rifle, was rather complicated, so the following year a new Mannlicher rifle was adopted. Later, when the 1885 rifle was considered of no further use to Austria-Hungary, it, and a shortened, modified version, were sold worldwide. The short rifle (fig. 2) is the subject of this article.


The only short rifle I have seen was originally made by Osterreichische Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft, Steyr (fig. 3) in 1885 (fig. 4). Figure 5, on the left receiver ring, shows that the modification was made in Liege, Belgium. More Liege marks are stamped on the bottom of the barrel (figs. 6 and 7). A typical Liege assembly mark (fig. 8) is also found on the bottom of the barrel and in the stock channel. These marks indicate that the modification took place around the turn of the 19th century. The modification was done with obvious consideration for production costs.


The length of the rifle ( 1328 mm. or 52.3 in.) was shortened to 1075 mm., or 42.3 in., simply by cutting 253 mm. (10 in.) off from the muzzle. The stock and cleaning rod were shortened accordingly and a modified Werndl nose cap was added. A Martini-Henry style front sight replaced the original Mannlicher front sight. The original rear sight (fig. 9) was modified as shown in figure 10 by adding a screw to stop the sight leaf elevation at 1200 schritts, the higher elevations being polished out. The only serial number appears to be a Belgian one on the left rear sight base and the left buttstock. An Austrian unit mark (81 LSTB, rifle 615) remains on the buttplate tang. Both of the rifles are shown in the 1911 ALFA catalog, although wrongly listed as Mod. 1887ís.

This brings us to figure 11, a small stamp only one centimeter in length. It is a clean and sharp, though light, kangaroo mark stamped into the right rear buttstock. Conventional thought always said that these short rifles were made for sale in the Balkans and some were undoubtedly sold there. But, and I believe my readers will agree, "there ain't no kangaroos in the Balkans - vampires, yes but kangaroos, no." Anyway, why would Australia import a rifle and ammunition, so foreign to its firearms tradition especially with so many British weapons available? I discussed this mark with Ian Skennerton, the well-known author and authority on British and Australian arms, at a recent show in Tulsa. He was as confounded by the mark as was I. We both agree that the. initials "WG" are those of the importer, but Skennerton does not know of any such importer.


As with most unusual or rare arms, one is not able to make comparisons with others, hence no conclusions can be drawn concerning the Mannlichers in Australia. Perhaps the readership can furnish some information.


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Anton Polz is willing to answer questions on Austrian made rifles from 1871 - 1945. E-mail your questions to .

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