German Commission Model 1888 rifle, cal. 8 mm. Mauser.
Commission Model 1888 carbine, cal. 7 mm. Mauser, produced in 1907 by C. G. Haenel, Suhl, Germany.
Tn 1886 France established a prece-X dent among the military powers by being the first to adopt a smokeless-powder magazine rille. This rifle was 8 mm., the smallest calibcr in military use at that time. The innovations prompted other nations to strive for improved armament, and Germany adopted a 7.9 mm. magazine rifle and carbine in 1888.
Developed by the German Rifle Testing Commission at Spandau, near Berlin, the German Commission Model 1888 turnbolt rifle and carbine fired the 7.9 mm. (also called 8 mm.) Model 1888 rimless cartridge loaded with smokeless power and a 227-gr. round-nose jacketed bullet. In designing the Model 1888, the Commission used the separate non-rotary bolt head and several other features of the Mauser Model 1871 and 1871/84 German Service rifles as well as the Mannlicher box magazine and cartridge clip. The Model 1888 is thus often called a Mauser 88, Mannlicher 88, or Mauscr-Mannlicher. although the term Commission Model 88 is more accurate. Mauser and Mann-lichcr were not members of the Commission, and Mauser was disappointed that Germany had adopted the Model 1888 without consulting him.
Dual-opposed locking lugs at the front of the Model 1888 bolt engage locking shoulders in the receiver ring. This gives strong symmetrical locking. A similar arrangement is used in French Lebel and Berthicr rifles and smokeless-powder Mausers. The Lebel preceded the Model 1888 by two years and was the first smokeless-powder rille with this locking system.
The single-column non-detachable magazine is loaded from the top with a sheet-steel clip containing five rounds. Both clip and cartridges enter the magazine, and the empty clip falls through a hole in the magazine bottom as the last round is fed. The clip is reversible to facilitate loading, a great advantage over the non-reversible clips used in Austrian Mannlicher straight-pull rifles.
A heavy cocking piece that holds the half-turn safety is retained on the one-piece firing pin by a firing pin nut. Cocking occurs on upturn of the bolt handle, and the receiver bridge is slotted for passage of the bolt handle. The heavy cocking piece with safety attached results in slow lock time. Also, the forward position of the bolt handle is not conducive to fast operation with the rifle on the shoulder.
One of the more unusual features of the Model 1888 is a sheet steel tube handguard that extends full length of the barrel. An air space between tube and barrel gives an insulating effect to help protect the users hand from barrel heat. This metal handguard is easily dented and generally less efficient than a wood handguard.
Rifle and carbine versions are the same in action design except that the rifle has a horizontal bolt handle while the carbine has a turned-down flat handle for mounted use. Length of the rifle barrel is 29.1". The carbine barrel is only 17.6" long, and the fore-end extends to the muzzle. A sling is attached to the bottom of the rifle and on the left of the carbine.
There is also a Model 1891 short rifle version of the Model 1888. Intended for special troops, it is essentially the same as the Model 1888 carbine but has a stacking rod on the bottom of the fore-end near the muzzle.
The Model 1888 was produced in large quantity by German government arsenals at Spandau. Erfurt, Danzig, and Amberg, by Ludwig Loewe & Co., Berlin. C. G. Haenel and V. C. Schilling in Suhl. Oesterrcichischc Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft (Austrian Arms Co.). Stcyr, Austria, and also by firms in Belgium and China. Ludwig Loewe & Co. was a principal producer, and turned out 425.000 for the German government.
Although replaced as a first-line German arm in 1898 by the Mauser Model 1898 rifle, the Model 1888 was used extensively by Germany until the end of World War I, chiefly in a substitute-standard role. Austria-Hungary, Yugoslavia. Ethiopia, China, and various South American nations also used the Model 1888. The official Austro-Hun-garian designation for this rifle was 8 mm. Repetiergewchr Ml3. Many Model 1888 rifles used by China were equipped with a wooden handguard and tangent rear sight. The Model 1888 was not extensively used in South America. According to records of the Austrian Arms Co.. this firm sold 14,000 Model 1888 s to Peru and 3,400 to Brazil. Some Model 1888's, particularly those used in South America, were chambered for the 7 mm. Mauser cartridge.
The Model 1888 is not uncommon in the U.S. since thousands were brought back by returning soldiers at the close of World War I. Also, many were sold as surplus. Most specimens arc in 8 mm. Mauser calibcr. Those made for German use bear an "S" on the receiver ring. This denotes that the arm was modified to fire the pointed-bullet S version of the 8 mm. Mauser cartridge adopted by Germany about 1905. Despite this modification, it is not ad visable to fire the S cartridge in a Model 1888, as this round gives considerably higher pressure than the Model 1888 cartridge with round-nose bullet. Also, the bullet of the S cartridge is .323" diameter, slightly larger than the groove diameter of the Model 1888 barrel. The proper ammunition for an 8 mm. Model 1888 is the 1888 load with .318" diameter round-nose bullet. Sporting versions of this cartridge were produced in Europe until recently but are now generally unavailable.
Many German Model 1888's used during World War I were fitted' with a sheet steel dust cover over the hole in the bottom of the magazine. A plunger and coil spring on the inner side of this cover eject the empty clip through the top of the magazine when the clip latch is depressed. Another somewhat similar modification also used a dust cover over the magazine bottom, but changed the arm from a clip-loader to a charger-
loader. This change was accomplished by cutting charger slots in the receiver and fitting a spring-loaded cartridge retaining rib in the upper part of the magazine.
Well designed for its time, the Model 1888 won many friends because of its smooth-working action. It served as the basis for several models of Mannlicher turnbolt rifles, the Mannlicher-Haenel sporting rifle, and the Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifle and carbine.
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