Model  1896 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle

By Patrick McSherry 
Click here for a link to the "Krag Collectors Association"

General:

The Model 1896 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle was the more advanced of the two main longarms generally available to the American forces. Unfortunately, it was also in shorter supply and was provided to only a few units.

Background:

The United States government began searching for a magazine longarm for its military forces in 1877. Finally after fifteen years, in 1892, it adopted a bolt-action magazine rifle - the Krag-Jorgensen Model 1892. This weapon was developed Ole Krag and Erik Jorgensen at the Konigsberg Arms Factory in Norway. The magazine rifle provided many advantages over the single-shot United States .45-70 "Trapdoor" Rifle, such as rapidity of fire, ammunition reserve, ease of loading etc.

The reason why a magazine rifle was not adopted by the United States government sooner was that the United States had not yet discovered how to make "smokeless" powder, which magazine rifles required. Smokeless powder was developed by the French and had been a closely regarded secret. Once the United States was able to produce smokeless powder, the way was cleared for the adoption of the rifle.

The first Model 1892 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle were not produced until 1894. Several minor modifications were later made to the rifle, creating the Model 1896 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle. Practically all of the Model 1892 weapons were altered to Model 1896 weapons, which included about twenty-five thousand rifles produced between 1894 and 1896. The Model 1896 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle was produced between 1897 and 1899, during which time close to thirty thousand were produced.

The Krag-Jorgensen Rifle, later modified with Model 1898 after the War, was eventually replaced by the Model 1903 Magazine Rifle which utilized a Mauser-type action.

Apparently the United States Regular Army and New York volunteer units in the Spanish American War were supplied with this weapon. The "Rough Riders" carried a carbine version of the same gun. Most other units, with the exception of those from Wyoming, were equipped with the older United States .45-70 rifle.

Advantages/Disadvantages:

The Krag-Jorgensen Rifle had several advantages over the United States .45-70, which was the more predominant longarm used by the American forces in the Spanish American War. Most importantly, the "Krag" fired ammunition that contained smokeless powder. The smokeless powder would not betray the location of the shooter as readily as would the cloud of white smoke from the blackpowder ammunition used by the .45-70. Also, the shooter did not have to wait for the smoke to clear to see his target.

Secondly, the weapon utilized a five shot magazine. The .45-70 was a single shot weapon. The extra shots were a definite firepower advantage, though something not acknowledged by the War Department at the time. The War Department claimed that the average soldier required a minute to aim and shoot. The fourteen shots a minute which could be fired by the "Krag" were therefore considered to be wasteful. The government wanted its troops to treat the gun as a single-shot weapon, with the magazine acting as a reserve in case of an emergency. The weapon was designed to be capable of being used as a single shot weapon in accordance with this theory.

The ammunition for the Krag-Jorgensen Rifle was of a smaller calibre than that of the .45-70, therefore, a trooper could carry more rounds with him (one hundred .30 calibre cartridges weighed the same as sixty .45 calibre cartridges).

Lastly, the Krag-Jorgensen Rifle fired on a flatter trajectory and therefore could be aimed more accurately with less training.

The weapon had several disadvantages which became apparent with time. The muzzle velocity was relatively low, and the mechanism had a tendency to fail. The smaller calibre "Krag" did not have the "take down" capability of the large .45 calibre weapons that were used previously.


TECHNOTES:

Action: Bolt action
Total length: 48 7/8 inches, two bands
Length of barrel: 30 inches
Rifling: 4 grooves, one turn in 10 inches.
Stock length: 46.05 inches
Weight: 9 pounds, 5 ounces with bayonet
Ammunition: .30-40 flanged cartridge
Magazine capacity:  5 rounds, but also capable
of functioning as a single shot weapon.
Charge: 40 grains of smokeless powder 
Weight of projectile: 220 grains
Muzzle Velocity: 1,968 feet per second
Bayonet: Knife-type, 11-5/8" long, weighing 14 ounces

Bibliography:

(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on Amazon.com)

Chapel, Charles Edward, The Collector's Handbook of Values. (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1960).

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

Gluckman, Arcadi, United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines. (Buffalo: Otto Ulbrich Co., Inc., 1948).

Peterson, Harold L., Encyclopedia of Firearms. (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc., 1964).

Roosevelt, Theodore, The Rough Riders (Da Capo Paperback). (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920).

Tanner, Hans, ed., Guns of the World. (New York: Bonanza Books, 1977).

Young, James Rankin, History of Our War with Spain. (Washington DC: J. R. Jones, 1898).


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