Original German Pre-WWI Gewehr 88/05 S Commission Rifle by Spandau Arsenal dated 1890

Item Description

Original Item: Only one Available. This is a good example of the iconic German Gewehr 1888 "Commission Rifle", also known as the Gewehr 88, or GEW 88. It was manufactured during 1890 at the Spandau Imperial Arsenal, located in Berlin, and then and then saw long service, as indicated by the large number of different markings on the gun. It still retains two sets original German regimental markings, one of which was crossed out. Both crossed out 11. R. J. 4. 40. on the lower band and 13. R. 12. 18. on the upper band are for "Reserve" regiments, as indicated by the stylized "R" marking. It is very likely that these are not the original regimental markings that this gun was issued with, as it definitely been arsenal refurbished.

These rifles were originally chambered for 7.92mm Patrone 88 ammunition and had a fixed magazine. As with virtually all Gewehr 88 rifles in service, this example was converted to take the 7.92×57mm Mauser S Patrone, and has an S stamped above the chamber, indicating the conversion. The Spitzer-shaped S Cartridge was ballistically superior to the M/88, however the chamber required modification to accept the thicker walled shell casing. This particular rifle does has notched plates welded to the rear of the receiver on either side to accept the 1905 pattern stripper clips, making this a Gewehr 88/05 S. It also has the tell tale "notch" cut into the rear of the receiver, as the loaded clip would run into this area. The magazine floor plate is dated 1914, most likely the date of conversion.

The right side of the receiver is marked Gew. 88. in German blackface type and also has serial numbers 4595 on the barrel and receiver, though the barrel originally had a different number, now struck through. The bolt, trigger guard, and other components all have different numbers, the hallmark of an arsenal refurbished rifle. Most likely it was reissued for service to rear line troops during WWI. Over the chamber it is clearly marked CROWN / SPANDAU / 1890, for manufacture by the Imperial Arsenal in Spandau. There are no Turkish markings on this rifle, so it was not one that was sent as war aid to the Ottoman Empire during WWI.

Rifle is in very good used condition, with a solid stock and metalwork. It still retains the rare "double slot" cleaning rod, which is in good shape. The metalwork overall has a plum patina with light peppering, and some areas of original bluing still present. The stock does not have any repairs or major damage, though it does have a good amount of dents, scratches, and dings from long service.

The rifle cycles correctly, and both the firing pin and often-lost extractor are present and functional. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, with a partly bright finish. There is some darkness in the grooves, most likely from powder fouling.

An absolutely genuine GERMAN contract M-1888 Service Rifle, issued to a German Reserve Infantry Regiment. Most of these were shipped to Turkey as aid, so finding one without any Turkish markings is a rarity. Fully cleaned and ready to research and display!

History of the Gewehr 88

In 1886, the French Army unveiled the Modelle 1886 "Lebel" rifle. There was an immediate reaction in German military circles bordering on hysteria. Why? Because the Lebel was the world's first small bore military rifle using an efficient smokeless powder cartridge. Now, the Lebel, which used a tubular magazine located under the barrel was not a particularly noteworthy design, but the power and flat trajectory of the new French 8mm round far outclassed the 11mm Reichspatrone black powder round used in the contemporary German infantry rifle, the Mauser 71/84.

In this rather charged atmosphere, the German Gewehr Prfungs Kommission (GPK - Rifle Testing Commission) went to work. Initially, the idea was to revise the Mauser Gewehr 71/84 to use a small caliber smokeless powder round based on the old 11mm black powder Reichspatrone. To this extent, production machinery was ordered from the Ludwig Loewe Company of Berlin-Charlottenburg in December, 1887. As things progressed, the GPK became disillusioned with this technical approach, and so a rather strange hybrid of ideas took shape.

The bolt design was highly revised by a Spandau Arsenal technician named Louis Schlegelmilch and features a separate bolt head. The ensuing rifle had a Schlegelmilch/Mauser action, a five shot clip loaded Mannlicher style magazine (note: while the clip falls out as with the Mannlicher clips, this one was markedly improved in that it could be loaded with either end down as opposed to only one end on the true Mannlicher), and a full length barrel jacket designed by Armand Mieg. The pitch and profile of the rifling were copied directly from that of the Lebel. The cartridge chosen was a modified Swiss style rimless design based on the ideas of Eduard Rubin. By March 23, 1888, the Bavarian military observer in Berlin, General von Xylander reported that the development was virtually complete.

Field trials for the new rifle were completed in November, 1888, and the GPK recommended that it be adopted immediately. The adoption orders were signed by Kaiser Wilhelm II on November 12, 1888. Issue of the Gewehr 88 as the new rife was designated, were first made in the spring of 1889 to the XV and XVI Armeekorps stationed in Elsass-Lothringen. Issue to the Bavarian military units began in October 1889, and by August 1890, all Prussian, Saxon, and Wrttemberger line units had been re-equipped.

The Gewehr 88 was made by the three primary Prussian arsenals at Danzig, Erfurt, and Spandau, a smaller Bavarian establishment at Amberg, as well as several private contractors, including the Ludwig Loewe Company, Osterreichische Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft (Steyr), and Haenel. Production figures up to the time production ceased in 1897 are as follows:

Prussian Government Arsenals: 750,000

Amberg: 425,000

Loewe: 425,000

Steyr: 300,000

Haenel: 100,000

Total: 1,675,000


Year of Manufacture: 1890
Caliber: 7.92×57mm Mauser S Patrone
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 29 Inches
Overall Length: 49 Inches
Action type: Bolt-Action
Feed System: 5 round internal magazine

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