Austrian M1888/90 Infantry Rifle, One Only
Original Item: The small arms revolution started by the French M1886 Lebel rifle and its small-bore, smokeless-powder cartridge immediately caused shockwaves throughout Europe?s military establishments. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had just adopted a state-of-the-art technical masterpiece, the M1886 Mannlicher in caliber 11-mm Austrian. The challenge to the Empire was thus relatively simple: develop a comparable modern small-bore cartridge and then adapt their new M1886 to it. The resulting cartridge was the 8 x 50R Austrian, the influence of the 8 x 50R Lebel cartridge being obvious. The resulting rifle was the Model 1888/90 Mannlicher, a near-clone of the M1886.
The M1886 was the first Mannlicher design adopted by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Baron von Mannlicher was a contemporary of the Mauser brothers, and it can be argued that his designs were more sophisticated and technologically advanced than Mauser models.
The M1886 has a straight-pull bolt, but the mechanism is wholly unlike the later M1895. In this rifle, a tilting breech lock is swiveled into locking position by the forward motion of the bolt handle. The brilliance of this concept is illustrated by its long line of descendants: the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR); the Bren Light Machine Gun and its Czechoslovakian ZB antecedents; the Belgian gun that became the British GPMG, subsequently adopted by many countries, including the U.S. There were many less-well-known derivatives of this design, also, and the GPMG is still widely used by military forces throughout the world.
Not only was the tilting breech lock revolutionary, but the loading system was also a brand-new development and had a long series of descendents. Mannlicher introduced what is now called the en-bloc or packet loading system. In this system, several cartridges are held together in a sheet-metal clip. The clip and cartridges are all inserted into the rifle?s magazine in one swift motion. When the last cartridge is fired, the empty clip drops out of the bottom of the magazine. Among the major rifles adopting this system one can count the French Mannlicher-Berthier, the Italian Carcano, and, most famously, the United States Rifle M1, or Garand.
Another very interesting feature of the rifle is the dual sighting system. The short-range front sight is a conventional barleycorn (tapered) blade. The rear sight is of an interesting but common 19th-Century design called a quadrant sight. The left ramp is graduated from 00 to 1700 meters and is used in conjunction with the V notch in the top of the sight leaf. The right ramp is graduated from 1800 to 2500 meters for the long-range or volley sight system. This system consists of a tapered-post front sight, mounted on the right side of the middle barrel band, and a very ingenious slide-out V notch on the rear sight leaf.
These are very hard to find in the U.S. The rifle is in fair condition, and, when cleaned up, will make a very presentable display piece. It is mechanically complete and completely functional.
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