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6.5 Dutch Rifle WW l

Rifles of WW l Allies

by Bob Shell

The Great War started in 1914 and ended in 1918 but political developments were in the making for many years prior to the start. The many and complicated reasons are too many to list here. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the spark that ignited the hostilities. That caused Austria to attack Serbia which started the war to end all wars. On one side you had the Ottoman Empire consisting of Turkey and various other countries including Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Germany plus Bulgaria, some minor players some were German possessions at the time. The allies also known as the Entente powers comprised of France, Great Britain, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Belgium, Romania, Portugal and Greece. Other countries included Japan, China, Australia, Canada and India. In 1917 the US joined in the fray. There were some other countries that signed on but took little or no part in the actual fighting. The rifles used by all sides were bolt actions for the most part. There were some exceptions such as the Winchester 07 auto loader chambered for the 351 WSL. While machine guns were pretty prevalent the infantry s best friend was the rifle. Smokeless powder had been around since 1886 so most of them have bores from 6.5 to 8 mm in diameter. First of all we will examine what rifles the allies used. Due to shortages in manufacturing most countries used rifles made by other countries or stocks of obsolete weapons. The out of date rifles were especially used by home troops and reserves. France used the 8 X 50 Lebel for a good part of the war. It replaced the potent 11 mm Grass in 1886. They used a full metal jacketed bullet to shoot down German observation balloons. While the first smokeless round the Lebel was somewhat obsolete by the time that WW l came about. It used a tubular magazine and round nose bullets at a time when most of the other major powers were using spitzers which give longer range accuracy. The more modern guns also use some kind of top feed magazine which didn t change the balance as the cartridges were used unlike the Lebel with its tubular feed system. In 1917 they came up with the Berthier rifle and carbine. It was a well made rifle capable of good accuracy though it has a couple of undesirable features such as no safety and the bolt has to be taken apart before it can be removed. The caliber was still the 8 X 50 but a spitzer bullet was employed. Its magazine was more conventional though odd by some standards. Many people didn t like them though they came in 3 and 5 shot versions

allowing a more modern loading. It was the first rifle loaded with a spitzer boattail bullet. The carbine was popular because of its handiness though it has a reputation for recoil. Some French snipers used a semi auto rifle the RSC or Ribeyrolle Sutter Chauchat rifle in the 8 X 50 Lebel caliber. To a small extent the French also used the Winchester model 07 in 351 WSL which gave good service by all accounts. The 351 used a 180 grain bullet at about 1800 FPS. Russia used the 7.62 X 54 Nagant rifle which came out in 1891. It is a rimmed cartridge that shoots a 147 grain .310 diameter bullet at approximately 2800 FPS though it employed a round nose bullet for some years prior to that. It has a reputation for being rugged though crude looking. Russia was unable to produce enough rifles for their army so they contracted with such firms as Remington to take up the slack. Remington sold them 1.5 million rifles while Westinghouse manufactured about 1.8 million. This was a problem with other countries as well but due to the size of Russia s army and their backward manufacturing capability they were hit the hardest. Without much doubt a few of the 10.6 Russian Berdan rifles was used though it was replaced by the Mosen Nagant in 1891. Russia also purchased some 300,000 Winchester model 95 lever action rifles in 7.62 X 54. They even bought about 35,000 Mausers in 7 X 57 caliber. The Russians also used the Winchester model 07 in small numbers. Although the Greeks used the 6.5 X 54 Mannlicher Schoenauer as their main rifle there were some Gras rifles also used. While a relic of the 1870 s they were reliable and with the 11 mm bullet they were quite lethal. The 6.5 was known for its smooth action and spool magazine. Quality control was top notch as they are smooth and well fitted. The spool magazine worked flawlessly once perfected. Due to its long 160 grain bullet at about 2250 FPS it gave good penetration and modest recoil. It however didn t give impressive stopping power a feature shared by the other 6.5 s of the period. The cartridge bears a close resemblance to the 6.5 Carcano but is 1 mm longer and was loaded a little heavier. Greece used it as it official military rifle from 1903 to 1941. Bulgaria who was a close ally of the Russians received some 7.62 X 54 rifles in 1913 though they were the old pattern which used a round nose bullet as opposed to the later ones that used a 147 grain spitzer. They were known as the three line rifles also due to the Russian system of measurement used at that time. They also had on hand some M 95 Steyer Mannlicher rifles chambered in the 8 X 50 Rimmed. Those rifles were quite prevalent having been used by a number of countries. It is a straight pull weapon that was known for it durability. Later on they rechambered it to a more powerful 8 X 56 starting in 1930. Some were also redone to the conventional 8 X 57 Mauser round. That took some work as they were converted from a rimmed to a rimless cartridge. A special clip was utilized to enhance feeding. Another problem is if you tried to push the bolt over a cartridge in the chamber the extractor might break due to its inflexibility. The 8 X 50 Austrian Mannlicher was quite prevalent during the Great War.

The US came out with the Springfield in 1903 using the 30-03 cartridge which used a 220 grain round nose at about 2200 FPS. In 1906 they shortened the neck and put in a more modern 150 grain spitzer at 2700 FPS. The Springfield was such a close copy of the 98 Mauser that the US paid a royalty of $1 on each rifle totaling $200,000 produced prior to WW l. The 03 model Springfield was used during WW l but many soldiers used the American Enfield also in 30-06. The Springfield was considered the most accurate rifle used during WW l and the soldiers liked it. There was an issue with low numbered Springfields that would occasionally burst when fired. The problem was traced to the heat treating and they went to a double heat treat as opposed to the earlier single stage. That solved the problem making the Springfield as safe as any other battle rifle. The Enfield is a large and strong action which was well made. It was a relatively smooth action that gave good accuracy. The bolt cocked on closing unlike many of the other rifles used in WW l. Though not used there was a device that was used on a modified Springfield that allowed the use of a small 30 caliber cartridge in a semi auto mode. It was known as the Pederson device. Another long arm employed by the Americans was the short barreled trench gun. It was a 12 gauge pump gun employing buckshot which was very effective at close range. They were good out to about 50 yards and the soldiers who understood that were very effective with them. Many were model 97 Winchesters and the Germans hated them. They have an 18 barrel and held 6 rounds of 00 buck which was effective in the trenches and for clearing out houses and barns. They also had a bayonet and hand guard to protect the hand against heat from the barrel. Germany lodged a protest against their legal use, quite ironic as they employed mustard gas. The Japanese were allies during WW l and played a role. They used model 30 and model 38 Arisaka rifles in 6.5 X 50 caliber. It is a mild recoiling caliber shooting a 160 grain round nose bullet. Like the other 6.5 s it gave lackluster performance on the battlefield lacking in stopping power by many accounts. The Arisaka was crude looking but extremely strong, perhaps being the strongest military rifle of WW l. The bolt cocked on closing much as the Enfield. They sold many rifles to various countries including Great Britain 150,000 rifles and Russia bought about 600,000 in 1914. Belgium s primary rifle was the model 1889 in 7.65 Mauser caliber. For some years they used barrel jackets much as the model 88 does though the last version the M89/36 lacks that feature. It has a single stack magazine. The 7.65 X 53 was one of the earlier rounds brought out by the Mauser firm and many consider it one of the best. The original bullet was a round nose which was typical of that period. Later on spitzer bullets were utilized. The Italians used the 6.5 X 52 Carcano which replaced the 10.4 Vetterli in 1891. The rifle was a Mannlicher Carcano and was in service for many years. Like most of the other 6.5 s of the period it used a round nose bullet weighing about 156 grains. While having a bad reputation the rifles were battle worthy and durable. No country is going to give it soldiers a defective weapon on purpose. Such an action would kill morale in a hurry. The Carcano in its three chamberings lasted from 1891 to 1945 so it must have been a decent design to have that durability. They have a drop down clip which is necessary to have otherwise you have a slow single shot rifle. That was a flaw in the design as some others were serviceable without a clip though still a single shot. The 6.5 s weren t like by a lot

of the soldiers because of the lack luster performance on enemy troops. That was true of all of the 6.5 s of that period. As a note the 6.5 Carcano gained notoriety as the gun that was used on President Kennedy in 1963. Romania used the model 93 Rumanisches Infanterie Repeter Gewehr rifle in the 6.5 X 53 rimmed which was also used by the Dutch. Also some of those rifles were chambered for the 8 X 50 R. It has a clip that held 5 rounds and is one of the smoother rifles around. India and other British possessions used basically the same guns as Great Britain though they may be older versions. The 303 caliber replaced the 577/450 Martini and the Lee Medford rifle was used until the improved Lee Enfield came out. When the 303 first came out it was loaded with black powder and a 215 grain round nose bullet but a few years later cordite was used and a spitzer bullet was eventfully used which enhanced its range. The load was a 174 grain bullet at 2440 FPS. Typically the colonies of the major powers of that period received the older versions of the military weapons of the period. The 303 was considered the most practical rifle because of the slick bolt action and the 10 round magazine and it was almost foolproof.

Copyright 2011 by Bob Shell. All rights reserved.


Microsoft Word - Rifles of WW l

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