Gewehr 1888 ‘Commission Rifle’
German Troops in their ‘Schützengraben’ or trench. The men are posed with their Gewehr Model 1888 Commission Rifles, judging by their forage caps and ‘Pickelhaube’ helmets the photo was taken c.1914-15. The Gewehr ‘88 was based on Ferdinand Mannlicher’s straight-bolt action.
With the French introduction of smokeless powder for their Lebel Rifles in 1886 the German Army realised they were now at a tactical disadvantage. Their old single shot Mauser M1871s, which fired a large 11mm round, were now obsolete and a new rifle was needed. In an unusual move the German General Staff looked to a commission to not choose, but design a new rifle. The rifle combined ideas from both Mannlicher's designs and Mauser's, the resulting design made for a robust, accurate and reliable weapon. It was Germany's first service rifle which was designed from its conception to be a repeating rifle, as by 1885 the German army's potential opponents were almost all utilising magazine fed rifles.
The Gewehr ‘88 had an integral box magazine which was filled using charger clips (see bellow). The entire single stack clip would be placed into the magazine and once the 5 rounds of 8mm Mauser had been fired the empty clip would be ejected from the bottom of the magazine allowing the soldier to load a new clip. The downside to this interesting system was that it made topping off the Gewehr ’88s magazine impossible.
Gewehr ’88s saw service with German Colonial troops in East Africa and with German troops during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. It was extensively used during the first two years of the First World War, as stocks of the famous Mauser 98 were not yet available to equip all of Germany’s rapidly mobilised manpower. As stocks of the more advanced Mauser became available many Gewehr ‘88s were transferred into Austro-Hungarian service as they suffered from insufficient supplies of their own Steyr-Mannlicher M1895s. They were also supplied to Germany’s Turkish allies where they remained in use throughout WWI and WWII with indigenous updated models also being produced..
Image One Source
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