Krag–JørgensenThe Krag–Jørgensen is a repeating bolt action rifle designed by the Norwegians Ole Herman Johannes Krag and Erik Jørgensen in the late 19th century. It was adopted as a standard arm by Denmark, the United States and Norway. About 300 were delivered to Boer forces of the South African Republic.
A distinctive feature of the Krag–Jørgensen action is its magazine. While many other rifles of its era use an integral box magazine loaded by a charger or stripper clip, the magazine of the Krag–Jørgensen is integral with the receiver (the part of the rifle that houses the operating parts), featuring an opening on the right hand side with a hinged cover. Instead of a charger, single cartridges are inserted through the side opening, and are pushed up, around, and into the action by a spring follower. Later, similar to a charger, a claw type clip would be made for the Krag that allowed the magazine to be loaded all at once, also known as the Krag "speedloader magazine".
The design presents both advantages and disadvantages compared with a top-loading "box" magazine. Normal loading was one cartridge at a time, and this could be done more easily with a Krag than a rifle with a "box" magazine. In fact, several cartridges can be dumped into the opened magazine of a Krag at once with no need for careful placement, and when shutting the magazine-door the cartridges are forced to line up correctly inside the magazine. The design was also easy to "top off", and unlike most top-loading magazines, the Krag–Jørgensen's magazine could be topped up without opening the rifle's bolt. The Krag–Jørgensen is a popular rifle among collectors, and is valued by shooters for its smooth action.
Early developmentThe 1880s were an interesting period in the development of modern firearms. During this decade smokeless powder came into general use, and the calibre of various service rifles diminished. Several nations adopted small calibre repeating bolt-action rifles during this decade.
Even though Norway had adopted the repeating Jarmann rifle in 1884, it was soon clear that it was at best an interim weapon. Ole Krag, captain in the Norwegian Army and director of Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk (the government weapons factory), therefore continued the development of small arms, as he had since at least 1866. Not satisfied with the tubular magazine of the Jarmann rifle and his earlier Krag–Petersson rifle (adopted by the Royal Norwegian Navy in 1876), he enlisted the help of master gunsmith Erik Jørgensen. Together they developed the capsule magazine. The principal feature of the capsule magazine was that instead of being a straight box protruding below the stock of the rifle, it wrapped around the bolt action. Early models contained ten rounds and were fitted to modified versions of the Jarmann—though they could be adapted to any bolt-action rifle.
In 1886, Denmark was on the verge of adopting a new rifle for its armed forces. One of the early prototypes of the new rifle was sent to Denmark. The feedback given by the Danes was vital in the further development of the weapon. The test performed in Denmark revealed the need to lighten the rifle, as well as the possible benefits of a completely new action. Krag and Jørgensen therefore decided to convert the magazine into what they referred to as a half-capsule, containing only five rounds of ammunition instead of the previous ten. They also, over the next several months, combined what they considered the best ideas from other gunsmiths with a number of their own ideas to design a distinct bolt action for their rifle. The long extractor, situated on top of the bolt, was inspired by the Jarmann mechanism, while the use of curved surfaces for cocking and ejecting the spent round was probably inspired by the designs from Mauser. For a time after the weapon was adopted by Denmark they experimented with dual frontal locking lugs, but decided against it on grounds of cost and weight. The ammunition of the day did not need dual frontal locking lugs, and the bolt already had three lugs—one in front, one just in front of the bolt handle, and the bolt handle itself—which were considered more than strong enough.
The rifle had a feature known as a magazine cut-off. This is a switch on the left rear of the receiver. When flipped up (on the Norwegian Krag-J rifles and carbines), the cut-off does not allow cartridges in the internal magazine to be fed into the chamber by the advancing bolt. This was intended to be used for firing single rounds when soldiers were comfortably firing at distant targets, so the magazine could be quickly turned on in case of an incoming charge or issue to charge the enemy. This instantly gives five rounds to the shooter for quick firing. The M1903 Springfield that replaced the Krags had a magazine cutoff, as did the SMLE (Lee–Enfield) until 1915.
Danish Krag–Jørgensen rifles
After strenuous tests, Denmark adopted the Krag–Jørgensen rifle on July 3, 1889. The Danish rifle differed in several key areas from the weapons later adopted by the United States and Norway, particularly in its use of a forward (as opposed to downward) hinged magazine door, the use of rimmed ammunition, and the use of an outer steel liner for the barrel.
The Danish Krag–Jørgensen was chambered for the 8×58R cartridge (0.31 in / 7.87 mm), and was at least in the early years used as a single shooter with the magazine in reserve. It stayed in service right up to the German invasion of Denmark on April 9, 1940. Danish Krags were given the German identification code Scharfschützen-Gewehr 312(d).
Subtypes of the Danish Krag–JørgensenWhile information on the various subtypes of the Krag–Jørgensen used in Denmark has proven difficult to find, at least the following subtypes were manufactured:
American Krag–Jørgensen riflesLike many other armed forces, the United States military was searching for a new rifle in the early 1890s. A competition was held in 1892, comparing 53 rifle designs including Lee, Krag, Mannlicher, Mauser, and Schmidt–Rubin. The trials were held at Governors Island, New York, and the finalists were all foreign manufacturers—the Krag, the Lee, and the Mauser. The contract was awarded to the Krag design in August 1892, with initial production deferred as the result of protests from domestic inventors and arms manufacturers. Two rifle designers, Russell and Livermore, even sued the US government over the initial selection of the Krag, forcing a review of the testing results in April and May 1893. In spite of this, an improved form of the Krag–Jørgensen was again selected, and was awarded the contract. The primary reason for the selection of the Krag appears to have been its magazine design, which could be topped off as needed without raising and retracting the bolt (thus putting the rifle temporarily out of action). Ordnance officials also believed the Krag's magazine cutoff and lower reloading speed to be an advantage, one which conserved ammunition on the battlefield. This magazine design would later resurface as a distinct disadvantage once U.S. soldiers encountered Spanish troops armed with the charger-loaded 1893 7mm Spanish Mauser in the Spanish–American War.
Around 500,000 "Krags" in .30 Army (.30-40) calibre were produced at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts from 1894 to 1904. The Krag–Jørgensen rifle in .30 Army found use in the Boxer Rebellion, the Spanish–American War and the Philippine–American War. A few carbines were used by United States cavalry units fighting Apaches in New Mexico Territory and preventing poaching in Yellowstone National Park. Two-thousand rifles were taken to France by the United States Army 10th–19th engineers (railway) during World War I; but there is no evidence of use by front-line combat units during that conflict.
The US 'Krags' were chambered for the rimmed "cartridge, caliber 30, U.S. Army", round, also known as the .30 U.S., .30 Army, or .30 Government, and, more popularly, by its civilian name, the .30-40 Krag. The .30 Army was the first smokeless powder round adopted by the U.S. military, but its civilian name retained the "caliber-charge" designation of earlier black powder cartridges. Thus the .30-40 Krag employs a round-nose 220-grain (14 g) cupro-nickel jacketed .30 caliber (7.62 mm) bullet propelled by 40 grains (3 g) of smokeless powder to a muzzle velocity of approximately 2000 feet (600 m) per second. As with the .30-30 Winchester, it is the use of black powder nomenclature that leads to the incorrect assumption that the .30-40 Krag was once a black powder cartridge.
In U.S. service, the Krag eventually proved uncompetitive with Mauser-derived designs, most notably in combat operations in Cuba and the Philippines during the Spanish–American War. It served as the U.S. military's primary rifle for only 12 years, when it was replaced by the M1903 Springfield rifle in 1906 and many units did not receive it until 1908 and later.
Subtypes of the Krag–Jørgensen used in the United StatesThere were at least nine different models of the American Krag–Jørgensen:
A few prototype Model 1898 sniper rifles were assembled with Cataract telescopic sights for limited testing. In 1901, 100 Model 1898 rifles, and 100 Model 1899 carbines were fitted with a Parkhurst clip loading attachment to test use of Mauser-type stripper clips. In 1902, 100 rifles were made with barrels in an effort to develop one model acceptable to both infantry and cavalry. The so-called NRA carbines were rifles cut down to carbine length for sale to members of the National Rifle Association beginning in 1926 as a means of keeping skilled armoury workmen employed at Benicia Arsenal.
In the Caribbean and Latin AmericaIn the early 20th century, the United States also distributed the Krag to some Caribbean countries in which US forces intervened. These included Haiti, where they equipped the Gendarmerie d'Haïti (newly founded in 1915) with surplus Krags. A 1919 letter to the Marine Commandant from the First Provisional Brigade in Port-au-Prince noted: ''"...[A]bout 2,000 bandits infest the hills... I don't believe that in all Haiti there are more than 400 to 500 rifles, if that many. They are very short of ammunition.. They use our ammunition and the Krag by tying a piece of goatskin on string around the base of the cartridge."
The 1916-1924 American occupation of the Dominican Republic resulted in a small flow of Krags to that country. The Guardia Nacional Dominicana issued the received Krag rifles, though the rifles broke down quickly when issued to unfamiliar Dominican troops, and spare parts were hard to obtain. The discovery of Krag bullets in victims' bodies in the 1937 Parsley Massacre was taken by US observers as evidence of the government's involvement in the killings. At the start of World War II, the Dominican government had 1,860 Krags on-hand, supplementing their over 2,000 Spanish Mausers.
In Nicaragua, to support the government of Adolfo Díaz, the American government provided Krags to the newly formed Guardia Nacional in 1925. In 1961, Cuban militias were still fielding some Krag-Jørgensons during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
In AfricaIn 1919, the United States provided discounted arms sales to the Liberians, giving them a number of Springfield Krag rifles, in addition to Peabody and Mauser rifles.
Norwegian Krag–Jørgensen riflesThe Swedish-Norwegian Rifle Commission started its work in 1891. One of their first tasks was to find the best possible calibre for the new weapon. After extensive ballistic tests where different calibres were tested (8 mm, 7.5 mm, 7 mm, 6.5 mm etc.), the optimal caliber was determined to be 6.5 mm (0.256 in). Following this decision, a joint Norwegian-Swedish commission was established in December 1893. This commission worked through a series of meetings to decide on the different measurements for the cartridge case. A rimless cartridge case of 55 mm length was approved, and each possible measurement (diameter at base, diameter at neck, angle of case, angle of shoulder etc.) was decided upon. The corresponding dimensions of the cartridge chamber to be used in a future service rifle was also determined. The cartridge became what is later known as 6.5×55mm. The round of ammunition is also known as 6.5×55 Krag, 6.5×55 Scan, 6.5×55 Mauser, 6.5×55 Swedish, and 6.5×55 Nor, but they all referred to the same cartridge.
Some historians have assumed that there was a difference in cartridge blueprint measurements between Swedish and Norwegian 6.5×55mm ammunition, but this may be unintentional. Due to different interpretations of the blueprint standard, i.e. the standards of manufacturing using maximum chamber in the Krag vs. minimum chamber in the Swedish Mauser, a small percentage of the ammunition produced in Norway proved to be slightly oversize when chambered in the Swedish Mauser action, i.e. requiring a push on the bolt handle to chamber in the Swedish arm. A rumour arose not long after the 6.5×55mm cartridge was adopted that one could use Swedish ammunition in Norwegian rifles, but not Norwegian ammunition in Swedish rifles. Some even alleged that this incompatibility was deliberate, to give Norway the tactical advantage of using captured ammunition in a war, while denying the same advantage to the Swedes. However, after the rumour first surfaced in 1900, the issue was examined by the Swedish military. They declared the difference to be insignificant, and that both the Swedish and Norwegian ammunition was within the specified parameters laid down. Despite this finding, the Swedish weapon-historian Josef Alm repeated the rumour in a book in the 1930s, leading many to believe that there was a significant difference between the ammunition manufactured in Norway and Sweden. It is worth noting that Sweden would later adopt a 6.5×55mm rifle with a much stronger Mauser bolt action, the m/94 carbine in 1894 and the m/96 rifle in 1896, both of which were proof-tested with loads generating significantly more pressure than those used to proof the Norwegian Krag action.
Once the question of ammunition was settled, the Norwegians started looking at a modern arm to fire their newly designed cartridge. The processing was modelled on the US Army Ordnance selection process and considered, among other things, sharp-shooting at different ranges, shooting with defective or dirty ammunition, rapidity of shooting, conservation of ammunition, corrosion resistance, and ease of assembly and disassembly. After the test, three rifles were shortlisted:
A total of more than 215,000 Krag–Jørgensen rifles and carbines were built at the Kongsberg Arms Factory in Norway. 33,500 additional M/1894 rifles were produced at Steyr (Österreichische Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft) in 1896–1897 under contracts for the Norwegian Army (29,000 rifles) and the Civilian Marksmanship Organisation (4,500 rifles). The various subtypes of Krag–Jørgensen replaced all rifles and carbines previously used by the Norwegian armed forces, notably the Jarmann M1884, the Krag–Petersson and the last of the remaining Remington M1867 and modified kammerladers rimfire rifles and carbines.
Norwegian-style Krag rifles in Boer serviceA number of 1896 and 1897 Steyr-manufactured Krag rifles resembling the M1894 Norwegian and chambered in 6.5×55, but lacking some Norwegian inspection markings and having serial numbers outside the sequences of those produced for Norway, were in Boer hands during the second Boer War of 1899–1902—most have serial numbers below 900. Markings show these rifles were manufactured by Steyr concurrently with a large order of M1894 rifles made for Norway. Some parts of rejected Norwegian rifles may have been used in these weapons—many small parts have serial numbers that do not match receiver numbers, these mismatched small parts sometimes have numbers in ranges of rifles made for Norway, yet appear original to the rifle. Photographs of high-ranking Boer officers holding M1894-like rifles exist. Cartridge casings in 6.5×55 have been found on the Magersfontein battlefield and may have been fired by such M1894-like rifles. Some sources state that about 100 1896-date and at least about 200 1897-date rifles reached the Boers. Some rifles meeting this description exist in South African museums with Boer-war documentation, and in England documented as captured bring-backs. A few rifles having Norwegian inspector stamps and serial numbers in the civilian marksmanship organization serial number range are also known to be in South African museums and may have been used by Boer forces—it is suspected that these may have arrived in South Africa with a small Scandinavian volunteer force that fought for the Boers. A small number of Steyr 1897 M1894-like 6.5×55 rifles with 3-digit serial numbers outside the Norwegian contract ranges and in the same range as these Boer Krags, and lacking Norwegian inspection stamps like the low-numbered 1897 rifles in South African museums, are known to exist in the USA—it is not known if these have Boer connections or were initially delivered elsewhere.
Subtypes of the Krag–Jørgensen used in Norway
The Krag–Jørgensen was produced in Norway for a very long time, and in a number of different variations. The major military models are the following:
Bayonets for Norwegian Krag–JørgensenThe Swedish-Norwegian Rifle Commission only briefly looked into bayonets, focusing on selecting the best possible rifle. However, their report mentions that they have experimented with knife shaped bayonets and spike bayonets, both in loose forms and in folding forms. Very few of the experimental bayonets are known today.
The bayonet that was finally approved, probably alongside the rifle itself, was a knife bayonet. Later on, longer bayonets were approved as well, and renewed experiments with spike bayonets took place during the development of the M/1912.
A number of special bayonets and oddities were experimented with during the time the Krag–Jørgensen was a Norwegian service rifle, two of which are mentioned here.
Production for Nazi Germany during World War IIDuring the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, the German forces demanded that Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk build weapons for the German armed forces. They placed large orders for the Krag–Jørgensen, the Colt M1914 (license-produced Colt M1911), and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns. However, production was kept down by sabotage and slow work by the employees. Out of the total of 13,450 rifles ordered by the Germans, only between 3,350 and 3,800 were actually delivered. Early deliveries was identical to the M1894, but with German proof marks and substandard workmanship compared to M1894 produced earlier. During the war the model was altered to be externally more like the German Kar98K. This was achieved by shortening the barrel by 15 cm (6 inches) down to 61.3 cm (24 inches) and shortening the stock by 18 cm (7 inches), and adding a front sight hood similar to that of the Kar98K. These shortened Krag–Jørgensen's were known in Norway as the Stomperud-Krag. A number of the Krag–Jørgensens manufactured for the Germans have been described as 'bastards', created from mismatched parts left over from previous production.
Experiments with using the German standard issue 7.92×57mm ammunition also took place, a cartridge as powerful as the .30-06 and the modern 7.62 mm NATO.
While information on the Wehrmacht's use of the Krag–Jørgensen is hard to find, it is assumed that it was issued primarily to second line units since the Wehrmacht attempted to only issue firearms in standard calibres to front line troops. It was also issued to the Hird—the armed part of Nasjonal Samling (NS) ("National Unity"), the national-socialist party of Vidkun Quisling's puppet government. It is further likely that the experiments with 7.92 mm ammunition means that the Germans considered a wider use of the Krag–Jørgensen.
Post-war productionA few Krag–Jørgensen rifles were put together after 1945, for sale to civilian hunters and sharpshooters, among them 1600 of the so-called Stomperud Krag. While there were at no point any plans for re-equipping the Norwegian Army with the Krag–Jørgensen, attempts were made to adapt it to firing more modern, high-powered ammunition like the .30-06 and 7.62 mm NATO rounds. While this was found to be possible, it required a new barrel (or relined barrels) and modification to the bolt and receiver. The resulting cost of the conversion was about the same as that of a new gun of a more modern design. The last Krag–Jørgensen rifles in production were the M/1948 Elgrifle (moose rifle), of which 500 were made in 1948–49 and the M/1951 Elgrifle (moose rifle), of which 1000 were made in 1950–51.
The Krag as a civilian target rifleBefore the Sauer 200 STR was approved as the new standard Scandinavian target rifle, rebarreled and re-stocked Krag–Jørgensen rifles were the standard Norwegian target rifle together with the Kongsberg-Mauser M59 and M67. The Krag was preferred for shooting on covered ranges and in fair weather, and dominated on the speed-shooting exercises due to its smooth action, and very fast loading with a spring speedloader, however it was known to change its point of impact under wet conditions due to the single front locking lug. Thus, many shooters had both a Krag and a "Mauser" for varying conditions.
Special Krag–Jørgensen rifles / carbines and odditiesThe Krag–Jørgensen was manufactured for almost 60 years in Norway. During this time several special models and prototypes were designed and manufactured. Some of these special weapons were meant as an aid in production or to meet a specific demand, but there were also various attempts to increase the firepower of the weapon.
Model riflesThe so-called "model rifles" were used both when the various sub types were approved and as a guide for manufacturing. Basically, the model rifle or model carbine was a specially manufactured weapon that showed how the approved weapon should be. They were numbered and stored separately. Several model rifles and carbines were manufactured, since small things like a change in surface treatment or other seemingly minor things. There were especially many model rifles made for the M1894, since several were sent to Steyr in Austria to work as controls and models.
Harpoon riflesA small number of Krag–Jørgensen rifles were converted into harpoon guns, in the same fashion as Jarmann M1884s were converted to Jarmann harpoon rifles. It was realized that converting the Jarmann was more cost efficient than converting the Krag–Jørgensen, so further conversions was halted. It is not known how many were converted in this way.
Krag–Jørgensen rifle modified for belt feedIn the factory museum at Kongsberg Weapon Factory, there is preserved an interesting prototype of a M1894 modified for belt feed. Although no documentation has been uncovered, it's clear that the rifle has been modified at an early stage in the manufacturing process to use the same feed belts that were used on the Hotchkiss heavy machine gun in use in the Norwegian Army at the time.
The backward and forward movement of the bolt operates a mechanism that moves the belt through the receiver, presenting fresh rounds for the weapon. While this may have been advantageous while fighting from fixed fortifications, it cannot have been very practical for the user of the rifle to carry a long feed belt with him in the field. Even so, it is an interesting and early attempt to increase the firepower of the Krag–Jørgensen.
Lieutenant Tobiensen's "Speed Loader"
In 1923 Lieutenant Tobiesen, working at Kongsberg Weapon Factory, designed what he called a speed loader for repeating rifles. It can be seen as a new attempt to increase the firepower of the Krag–Jørgensen, just as the attempt to convert it to belt feed. Basically, the design consisted of a modified cover that let the user of the rifle attach a magazine from the Madsen light machine gun. The cover had a selector switch, allowing the user to select if he wanted to use the Krag–Jørgensen's internal magazine with its 5 rounds of ammunition, or if he wanted to use the external magazine with 25 rounds.
The design was considered promising enough that eight prototypes were manufactured and tested. However, in testing it was revealed that the heavy magazine mounted on the side of the weapon not only made the rifle more cumbersome to carry and use, but also made it twist sideways. It was decided that the "Speed Loader" was not a practical design for military use and no further manufacture took place.
In 1926, a group of seal hunters approached Kongsberg Weapon Factory and asked to purchase a number of speedloaders for use when hunting seals from small boats. They were turned down due to the high cost of manufacturing a limited number of the devices.
Krag–Jørgensen rifles modified to self loadersAt the same time that the Hotchkiss heavy machine gun was introduced to the Norwegian Army, some people started considering modifying the Krag–Jørgensen to semi-automatic fire. Doing so would have multiplied the firepower of the infantry, allowing more weight of fire to be brought at a target. Most of the designs put forward were not very well thought out and few of the designers knew enough about firearms to be able to calculate the pressures and dimensions necessary. However, two designs were investigated further, and eventually one prototype was built.
Sunngaard's automatic rifleIn 1915 Sergeant Sunngaard proposed a design for making the Krag–Jørgensen into a selfloading rifle. The design was considered over a period of time before it was declared to be 'quite without value', primarily because the requisite pressure would not be attainable without major redesign of the rifle. For this reason, no prototype was made.
Self loading device SNABB 38In 1938 a Swedish design surfaced that seemed interesting. The SNABB was a modification that could be made to virtually any bolt-action rifle allowing it to be converted into a self-loading weapon, thus saving money as compared to manufacturing new weapons from scratch. The device used gas pressure to operate the bolt handle with the help of a runner. The modification seems, in hindsight, to be unnecessarily complicated. A separate pistolgrip was needed, and the receiver needed major modifications.
A prototype was manufactured in the autumn of 1938 and tested for several months. While moderately successful, the modification would cost about three times as much as originally thought, and the project was dropped due to lack of money.
AmmunitionThe various Krag–Jørgensens were manufactured for a wide variety of ammunition. Apart from various civilian calibres, the rifle was manufactured for the following service ammunition:
Contrary to some rumors, the Krag–Jørgensen action can be modified to fire modern, high-power cartridges. During World War II, and also in the early 1950s, several were produced in 7.92×57mm, which can hardly be considered a low-power cartridge. A number of Krag–Jørgensens have also been converted to .30-06 and 7.62×51mm NATO for target shooting and hunting. However, it must be stressed that these were all late-production Norwegian Krag–Jørgensen rifles, made in an era when metallurgy was vastly more advanced than when the American Krag–Jørgensen rifles were made. The American Krag–Jørgensen also has only a single locking lug, whereas the Norwegian and Danish versions effectively had two lugs.
Nonetheless, older rifles may benefit from milder loads. Modern European 6.5×55mm rounds are sometimes loaded to a CIP maximum of 55000 PSI, but 6.5×55mm rounds marked "safe for the Krag" are loaded to a milder 40600 PSI. SAAMI specifications call for maximum average pressure of 46000 PSI, sufficient for 2380 ft/s with a 160 grain bullet.
Comparison of service riflesWhat follows is a comparison between the Danish, American and Norwegian service weapons.
Comparison with contemporary rifles
At the time of adoption in Denmark, the United States and Norway, the Krag–Jørgensen was seen as the best available rifle. Here it is compared with rifles of later decades. In the U.S. trials, the Krag competed against the Mauser Model 92 (as well as many other designs), not the improved Model 98. The Japanese Type 38 was adopted starting 1905, nearly two decades after the first Krag design.