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Original German Pre-WWI Karabiner 88 S Cavalry Carbine by Erfurt Arsenal dated 1894 - Matching Serial 6138 b

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Adopted in 1888 the new German Infantry round in 7.92 X 57mm replaced the old 10.4mm large bore cartridge adopted in 1871. The M-1888 Rifle was referred to as the "Commission Rifle" and was manufactured as a full Infantry Rifle and a Carbine starting in 1888 and an Artillery Carbine adopted in 1891.

Our example is of the Cavalry Carbine is marked over the chamber with (CROWN) / ERFURT. / 1894., for 1890 manufacture at the Imperial Erfurt Arsenal, located in Thuringia. The right side of the receiver is marked with Kar. 88. / n.m. in German blackface type, and there are additional proof marks on various components of the carbine, highlighted with white to make them easier to read. The receiver, barrel jacket, magazine housing, bolt, and other components are marked with serial number 6138 / b, or shortened number 38. That makes this a very desirable "ALL MATCHING" example, with no parts swapped out over the years, and it's a good one!

The stock is in very good condition, with a lovely honey brown color, most likely made from Beechwood. It does not look to have been arsenal reconditioned, so the proof marks on the bottom and sides of the butt stock are still clear, something we do not often see! There are no repairs we can see, and it just has the usual wear from service and age. The metalwork has had the finish fade a bit from wear and oxidation, but we can still clearly see that the receiver was originally bright steel, and the barrel and other components blued. There is less wear to the finish near the woodline, where it was protected by the stock.

The carbine has an 18" barrel which has a fantastic mirror bright bore, showing almost no use at all! The land and grooves are crisp, and we see very little evidence that this barrel was ever fired at all! There does not appear to be any primer burn on the bolt face either. The rifle cycles and dry fire well, and the firing pin is fully intact, as is the often lost cartridge ejector on the bolt face. It bears an S marked over the chamber to indicate modification for the S-PATRONE cartridge introduced in 1903 (we do not recommend firing the S-cartridge in this carbine). This short carbine was intended for use by cavalry units.

The upper barrel band / sight guard has a a very interesting regimental marking: E. J. 15., which we have not been able to identify at all. Usually "E" would signify an Ersatz replacement unit, while J could be for Infantry, or possibly Jäger (hunter) light infantry. What ever unit it was issued to, it looks to have been carried around for a long period of time, while never seeing any real use in firing.

In 1890 this was cutting edge technology as the Gewehr 1888 Mauser rifles and carbines were the first to use the 7.92mm cartridge that replaced the 10.4mm used in the Mauser 1871/84 tubular magazine rifles.

This little carbine used an integral 5 shot box magazine and was extremely popular. It was superseded in 1898 with the introduction of the Gew 98 rifle also in an updated version of the same caliber and many 88s were updated and then marked with a small "S" on the receiver ring to indicate it could be used with the upgraded ammunition.

Both the Kar 88 and 91 were already being slowly taken out of service before World War One, as the new Mauser 98 pattern carbines introduced in 1909 or 1910 were taking their place. This would change with the outbreak of war, of course, and every one of the 88 / 91 pattern carbines in German inventory would be re-issued during the Great War. Their size and weight made them ideal for the troops who needed a personal weapon but were unlikely to actually have to fight with it (artillery crews, cyclists, supply drivers, balloon crews, etc).

Both the Mauser Model 88 and 98 rifles and carbines saw extensive use in WWI. During the Great War cavalry was quickly becoming a thing of the past once trench warfare was introduced.

By WW2 the Germans had adopted the Mauser 98K Rifle, again in the improved 7.92mm caliber, this rifle was shorter than the Gew 98, longer than the carbine, and became the standard.

A rare 1894 dated Mauser Kar 88 Carbine, only 37 1/2" in overall length, federally classified as an antique due to its pre-1899 manufacture date. In lovely condition and ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1894
Caliber: 7.92×57mm Mauser S Patrone
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 18 Inches
Overall Length: 37 1/2 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 Wurttemberger 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

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