Original German Pre-WWI Gewehr 1888 S Commission Rifle by Spandau Arsenal Serial 5812 m - Dated 1890
Original Item: Only one Available. This is a very 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, a storied production plant that would later produce the MG 08 and MG 08/15 Maxim Machine guns during the First World War. The rifle then looks to have seen service in at least two different units, indicated by the two regimental markings on the rifle. Neither of these are reserve units, and the lack of conversion to a 88/05 S indicates it was probably retired from service in the early 20th century. It also does not have any export markings from Turkey or other countries, so this was never shipped off as WWI aid. We very rarely see these rifles in this configuration!
The nose band of the rifle is marked with the regimental designation K. A. R. 3. 175.. Research indicates this would be for the Kaiser Alexander Garde Grenadier Regiment, also known as the 1st (Emperor Alexander) Guards Grenadiers, first raised in 1814 and located in Berlin. The rest of the designation indicates it is for the 3rd Squadron, Weapon 175. There is also a regimental marking on the lower band, 3. G. R. / 5. 75., for the 3rd (Queen Elizabeth) Guards Grenadiers, 5th Squadron, weapon 75. We would imagine that this rifle saw training use with the Guard Corps, and was never in line to send overseas. That also explains the wear on the rifle, which definitely saw long active service, possibly up to WWI.
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 rifle has the "S", but not the notch at the front of the receiver, and it has no stripper clip guides, so it was not converted after 1905 for the clips. The design of the clips necessitated making a notch in the front receiver, so the cartridge tips would clear it.
The right side of the receiver is correctly marked Gew. 88 in German blackface type and also has serial number 5812 / m on the receiver and barrel jacket. The other parts are all unmatching, typical for a rifle that was serviced many times at arsenal. Over the chamber it is clearly marked CROWN / SPANDAU / 1890, for manufacture by the Imperial Arsenal in Spandau.
Rifle is in good used condition, and looks to have been arsenal refurbished at some point. It then saw further service, and there is definitely a lot of denting, chips, and other wear from long use. The metalwork is now fully blued, probably during arsenal reconditioning, and has a very nice worn look to it. There is a bit of light pitting along the woodline, very common among all antique firearms. The barrel jacket also has some dents on the sides closer to the muzzle, which are fairly deep.
There is some light wear on the bolt bearing surfaces, and some areas of light oxidation staining on the bright bolt. The bore is in very good condition, with a bright finish and clear lands and grooves. There is just some rounding on the edges of the lands, so it definitely was used at some point.. The bolt extractor, which is easily lost during cleaning, is still present, though the cleaning rod is a wartime replacement. The rifle cycles correctly, and has an intact firing pin.
An absolutely genuine GERMAN M-1888 Service Rifle, issued to a German Infantry Regiment. Almost all of these were later updated to the 88/05 S standard, so finding one that was not updated or shipped to Turkey as aid is very rare. Fully cleaned and ready to research and display!
Year of Manufacture: 1890
Caliber: 7.92×57mm Mauser
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 29 inches
Overall Length: 49 Inches
Action type: Bolt-Action
Feed System: 5 round internal magazine
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
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