C&Rsenal’s WWI Rifle Chart

rifles_of_the_first_world_war10_percent

This picture embiggens, but only to 10% of the actual document’s size. Go to C&Rsenal (links in the text of this post) to get the original.

The impresarios of C&Rsenal have done it again, with a chart that features a to-scale line drawing of every major rifle used in World War I (by the major and minor combatants), complete with a silhouette of a typical 5’7″ rifleman of the period to give scale.

It’s not 100% perfect. For example, you’ll see none of the substitute or obsolete weapons the Russians used, as their ability to produce Mosin-Nagants, and even buy them overseas, was outstripped by the war’s demands for riflemen. But it is a great resource for the historian — or visual checklist for the Great War collector!

The image itself, in all its fifty-million-pixel glory, is here: http://i.imgur.com/67FYn1I.jpg. (Kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t put it up as an SVG, but maybe they’re having the same problem with SVG plugins to WordPress that we are).

The C&Rsenal story about it is here, and there are two relevant Reddit threads, an Ask Historians Anything about WWI small arms, and one in the guns subreddit that offers some specifics on the infantry rifles. The second subreddit includes a post by Othais that is, to all intents and purposes, a key with specifications to the graphic.

While the specialists may argue about the relative strength and weaknesses of the different actions and rounds used, at the remove of a century the most interesting thing is the similarity of the weapons. With a couple of exceptions, they were bolt-action weapons loading five rounds of small caliber, smokeless ammunition from some type of clip (stripper or en-bloc), they were 40 to 50 inches long and took a bayonet of 10 to 20 inches.

The rounds were a minimum caliber of 6.5 millimeters and a maximum of 8.0, and were from 50 to 63 millimeters long — with chamber pressures of 40,000 to 50,000 psi in their factory loads. (Today’s SAAMI pressures for a lot of these guns are lower, because of the US ammo industry’s excess of caution about vintage milsurp metallurgy. For example, SAAMI limits the 7.92×57 to 35k psi).

As you can see, for the rounds as well as the rifles, these details are more alike than they are different — they only vary across a narrow range.

Some of this is due to the convergent evolution of the state of the art. If you accept that the definitive WWI action is the 98 Mauser, most nations have something similar (the US and Japan, Mauser copies; Britain had attempted and failed to replace the SMLE with a Mauser copy, the P14; the Russians, a partly-indigenous design that offered similar performance). Nations that tried to leapfrog technology or strike out on their own tended to be punished for it — Canada’s straight-pull Ross, and the French RSC 1917 semi-auto (the first military autoloading rifle fielded on a large scale) had well-documented problems.

If you were to look at the state of the world’s small arms 40 years prior to August, 1914, you’d see completely different guns and technology, but a similar global small arms convergence. In 1874 the gun was a single-shot, breech-loading, black-powder rifle. Go back another 40 years, and the gun of 1834 was a percussion smoothbore musket — worldwide. In 1794, same thing, but flintlock. If you go the other way, 1954 sees a messy transition underway to semi-auto and select fire rifles, and 1994 to compact intermediate rifles firing smaller calibers between 5.4 and 5.8mm caliber in 39 to 45 mm case lengths. Different specs but the same concept of international convergence holds.

If a true breakthrough happens, and it appears to offer a combat advantage, it travels around the world at the speed of procurement. There is a tide in the events of men, to be sure, but that tide also lifts men’s creations, such as rifles.

8 thoughts on “C&Rsenal’s WWI Rifle Chart

  1. Andy

    I have a Austrian version of the Styer-Mannlicher M-95 Cavalry model , paid a friend 20 bucks for it in 2001 , it is in very good condition . Also hit a good deal on ammo , found two Nazi marked crates , 1100 rounds each , at a gun store the owner had been trying to get rid of it for years , I got him to let me have them for 65 bucks total , so here I got a rifle and two crates for 85 bucks . Oh and the ammo is head stamped with the Eagle over swastika , and dated 38 , still shoots great , but is corrosive have to use ammonia and rinse with water to clean it . Been thinking of mounting a scope on it , it does shoot pretty good groups for a military rifle . Be prepared and ready. Keep your powder dry .

    1. "Greg"

      wow! GEN-you-wine NAZI ammo crates? Did you ever check what those might be worth on ebay? (it might cover the cost of the scope, but me-thinks you don’t need the money in the first place?) …or perhaps such artifacts are not freely acceptable to advertise?

    2. Andy

      Forgot to state that the caliber of the rifle is 8/56R , it was rebarreled after WW1 , like most of them were , a step up cartridge from the 8/50 . It is the shorter version total length is 39inches , my guess is that it weighs about 7.5 lbs. ,it does have the bayonet lug so this probably means it is a later version . I have a M44 Moisin -Nagant , a British SMLE No.1 Mk .4 , aSwedish Mauser , and a Czech M-24 Mauser , I got these off of the same friend for 200 bucks total , I also bought a Chinese SKS in a Draganov stock with a Tasco scope , and 500 rounds of ammo , (back in 2002 ), for 200 bucks , I don’t think any of these deals was bad ,do ya’ll ? Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry .

  2. Yank lll

    OK, I’ll take the M1917 and “some” ammo and you guys can divy up the rest ; ) I had one when I was in my early teens that must have been a full arsenal refinish and I let it go like an idiot. Its was a real shooter.

    Yank lll

  3. BDFT

    Not to be too picky but the Ross rifle was made in Canada and only issued to Canadian troops. The only thing British about it was the calibre. We Canadians are touchy about such distinctions.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Didn’t see where anyone called it British, but it’s possible you don’t see the old red canadian flag, if you didn’t blow up the picture (because it’s sitting on a red stripe). We did refer to it as “Canada’s straight-pull Ross.” Ian McCollum at ForgottenWeapons.com has done some great posts and videos on the Ross.In his judgment it was an excellent target and sporting weapon, ill-suited for the filthy conditions of Vimy Ridge, etc.

      We captured one from the Taliban in Afghanistan, in 2002 when it was nearly 90 years old! In retrospect we should have handed it over to the Canadian component of Coalition SOF or the JSOC task force.

      1. "Greg"

        An afghani cultural/language instructor once explained to us: “een maigh kountree, dah guhn eez dee joo-lurry off dah mahhn” and since then, I have begun to refer to such articles as “man jewelry”

  4. 6pounder

    Nice. Scoping the Steyr 95 requires a good deal of work. I’ve done some. After drilling and tapping it takes dis-similar bases with the rear one being flattened. You also need an old tip over mount to use the clips. It makes a very nice sporter though if done right, as all of the children really like theirs. And, yes you can make it left handed too. You can also reform 7.62×54 brass for reloading and resize 338 bullets to329.

Comments are closed.