Lever guns in World War I?


September 28, 2006, 11:47 PM
I was reading this gigantic book about World War I the other day. I was thumbing through all these old photographs of doughboys. I noticed that there wasnt a single lever gun. I know the GI weapon was the Springfield 1903.

Im just curious as to the fact if any lever guns like winchester, Marlin or any of the old west type guns were used in the war. I mean, the calibers varied and they have seen years of battle in the west. Was it due to the action itself that it wasnt carried? Jam to easily or something?

Just something Ive been wondering.

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September 28, 2006, 11:56 PM
I believe that the czarist forces carried a few model 1895 rifles in 7.62 x 54R that winchester made for them due to a shortage of mosin-nagant rifles.

Il Duca
September 29, 2006, 12:07 AM
Yup. The Russians did use 1895s in 7.62x54R.


September 29, 2006, 12:19 AM
wow, I kinda want one of those.

Do you know anything about Americans using them? Maybe a special division or military police force?

Il Duca
September 29, 2006, 12:23 AM
Never used by us that I've heard of. Not much demand from our military for that chambering. I too want one.

September 29, 2006, 12:51 AM
During Viet Nam, an SOG operator personally imported a Marlin .444 for busting bunkers in Cambodia...but that was not WWI.

September 29, 2006, 02:30 AM
Up through WWII, the US Army bought numbers of Model 92s and or Model 94s, primarily as utility guns. They were never intended as combat weapons.

If you watch the movie "Destination Tokyo", the Navy landing party carries at least one Winchester lever action. Don't know if that was typical Hollyweird foolishness or actually suggested by the technical advisors.

Harve Curry
September 29, 2006, 10:34 AM
I half expected to see imports ,when the USSR ceased, of Winchester 1895's and S&W Russian models, but it was wish against hope:(

Interesting signature line, you could replace the words communist and replace it with militant-moslems.

September 29, 2006, 11:09 AM
Harve- Right on. Tochange the quote would ruin it, especially since they were not an issue 50 years ago. Remember, the Commies are still our second greatest threat, after the islamofacists. I included what you mentioned in my sig too:)

September 29, 2006, 02:09 PM
There probably were a few here and there in WWI. There was at least one of everything. WWI has a lot of rather odd foot notes such as an elephant in the german Army on the Western Front, Calvary winning a naval engagement, a German navy cruiser ingaged in the battle for Mt. Kilamanjaro (The mountain is well inland, it was a land battle.), the Germans flying flags at half mast when one of their snipers shot Selous, who was a British scout, etc., etc.

The US Army passed on the lever action during the time of the Indian wars due to the tubular magazine being easily dented and, more importantly, the lever actions of the day being chambered for short cartridges that the army viewed as too wimpy. The Winchester 1895 chambered some stout cartridges but was a day late since the 30-40 Krag rifle was already in use by then.

Father Knows Best
September 29, 2006, 02:44 PM
Actually, there were some lever guns that fired pretty stout cartridges before the Winchester 1895 came along. The most successful was the Winchester 1886, which was (and is) a hell-for-strong rifle designed by none other than John Moses Browning [pause to genuflect].

Even earlier, there was the Winchester 1876. The 1876 is just a scaled up 1873, and uses the same toggle link action that dates back to the 1850s and the Volcanic Arms "rocketball" pistol. Unfortunately, the 1876 is extraordinarily heavy, and the action is not a particularly strong design (I don't think it could handle the .45-70 Government, for example, but it did handle cartridges that weren't too far behind in size and power). The 1876's inability to handle the .45-70 and bigger rounds, and its high weight, made it pretty much a commercial failure.

The 1886 was very successful, however. It easily handles the .45-70 and more. The only real advantage the 1895 had over the 1886 is the use of a box magazine, which allowed the use of spitzer bullets with better aerodynamic efficiency.

Also, the U.S. Army's military doctrine at the time did not call for use of repeating arms by the infantry. There was a belief that it would simply lead to huge amounts of wasted ammo. It took quite a few years before the Army was convinced that repeating arms were better than single shots.

Bart Noir
September 29, 2006, 03:07 PM
I think it was American Rifleman, and I think it was within the last 8-10 months, but I did read an article on use of the .30-.30 Model 94 in WW1. It seems that good quality wood was an essential war item, for airplane construction, and the logging industry on the US west coast (mills, lumber yards etc) was actually guarded by a lot of troops and local militia organizations, issued the M94. I think the Signal Corps was actually responsible for the protection program. Anybody else able to tell me whether my personal version of "fuzzy logic" is correct?

Sabotage was not a joke in WW1, as there were a lot of big explosions on the east coast, thanks to German agents.

Bart Noir
Yup, the very word "sabotage" is French. No wonder they don't play well with others.

September 29, 2006, 03:58 PM
The Army had a chance to adopt the Savage 95 (an earlier version of the 99), but decided to stick with the Krag. In 1903 of course it went with the Mauser-inspired Springfield. I have long felt that the American forces would have been far better served with a variant of the 99 than with the '03 or the Eddystone. The Savage would have been American, for one thing, through and through. Its mechanism, unlike some earlier leverguns, is simple and extremely robust--more than tough enough for wartime work and pretty easy to service in the field. A .303 Savage or even a .25-3000 type round firing spitzer bullets would have been as effective as any round needed to be while allowing for very rapid repeat firing. Contrary to popular belief, the 99 can be fitted for stripper clips. And it requires only marginally more room to manipulate prone. For clearing trenches the light weight and easy heft of the rifle would have made it superior to any other wartime design.

Oh well. As usual, the Army went with the TactiKool rifles from Europe instead.

September 29, 2006, 04:45 PM
I recently was asked to dispose of some .32 Winchester Special cartridges that an elderly woman said her uncle brought home from World War I, along with the rifle that shot them.

I offered to make the cartridges inert and reassemble them for family heirlooms, which I did. She told me if I thought having ammunition in the house was too dangerous with young sons. she would understand if I didn't want to do it. :rolleyes: (I didn't tell her that they all shoot an the 13 year old has already filled deer permits.)

Anyhow, she said it was a rifle from the U.S. Army, but was hoping I could provide more information. The article on the Model 94 being used by the Army during World War I must have skipped right past me, I am going to see if I can dig it up.

By the way, those .32 Special ammunition would have fired, as the one primer I tried was still hot, and all of the powder burned hot and bright. Some of the brass had cracks in the neck from being brittle do to age. I felt like a grave robber making them inert, but that was the only way the family would take them back, and that is where they needed to be, IMHO.

September 29, 2006, 05:12 PM
Some of the older rifles made it to Europe in WWI. I've seen photos of rifle stacks in France that had the 30-40 Krag in them. Speaking of which, not to knock the Spanish Mauser in the Spanish war but I've never really understood why the Krag was supposed to be so inferior to it. True, the action is not as strong, but it was certainly strong enough.

If I have my details right, the Winchester 1895 move the locking lugs from the rear of the breech block to the midpoint, stiffening it against back thrust and made the 1895 the first Winchester lever gun to handle really stout cartrdiges. Cartrdige size was not the only consideration. As for the Wincheters of the '80s, the army was already committed to the trap door. It's true they worried about ammo expenditure. The Krag had a magazine cutoff.

My grandfather went to France during WWI in the signal corps. When the officers found out he was a barber in civilian life they held him back from the trenches. I was too young to think of asking him about it when he was still around. I ended up with his Krag, although I think he picked it up in the US after he returned to civilian life.

September 29, 2006, 06:11 PM
not to knock the Spanish Mauser in the Spanish war but I've never really understood why the Krag was supposed to be so inferior to it. True, the action is not as strong, but it was certainly strong enough.

most of the negative comments i've seen re: US rifles Vs spanish during the spanish-american war had to do with the fact that a rather large number of US troops sent to Cuba etc, were armed not with Krags but with trapdoor springfields! thus until well into the war many US units faced a foe that had a rifle that produced a much smaller smoke signature, and had a much higher rate of fire, and I beleive had provision for stripper clip loading so faster reloads too. so the spanish faced a much lower possibility of detection if they fired first, and could get off a much higher volume of fire than the US troops in a given amount of time.

September 29, 2006, 08:52 PM
The Krag's single locking lug really limits its ability to take a higher pressure cartridge. I don't believe it would be able to cope with the pressures of a spitzer loaded 7x57, let alone a 30'06. Personally I get the jitters just looking at that bolt. One little bit of steel sheers off and that's your ticket to the hot place right there.

September 29, 2006, 10:16 PM
FWIW I think Cosmoline has it right when he mentions Savage 99 as an overlooked potentially servicable military arm. They were/are way ahead of their time and IMHO a far superior weapon to the vaunted Winchester 94 series. But time and the markets have proven me wrong again so I'm back in the what do I know anyway category.

October 2, 2006, 08:26 AM
The Spanish Mauser had a pretty clear cut edge over the trapdoor.

Much has been made of the Krag's supposedly weak action but the Mauser cartridge probably did not run much more pressure. And it isn't pressure that really counts, it's what you're shoving out the muzzle. The Krag was tossing a 220 grain bullet at around 2400 fps, more than enough to get the job done. I've seen one put a bullet through a 2-1/2 foot oak log. The other point that always gets overlooked is that the Krag had a back up for that single lug. There is a second back up lug at farther back on the bolt. If the first lug fails the action will hold, you don't get a blow up.

The Krag was fast to reload, particularly if you had gloves on.

BTW: Detritus, does that handle come from where I think it does?

Tony Williams
October 2, 2006, 09:50 AM
These are quotes from Flying Guns World War 1: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1914-32 (details on my website :cool: ):

"Some British use was also made of Winchester Model 1886 .45-90 lever-action hunting rifles, although these were not formally approved for service. The ammunition was loaded with the Flaming Bullet or an SPG tracer bullet, and good results were reported in 1915."

and in a later chapter:

"The particular requirements of aerial fighting led to the use of some unusual small arms which saw little employment in other fields of warfare. One of these was a throwback to the days of the American Wild West; the lever-action carbine made famous by Winchester. These guns were typically short and handy and could carry up to ten rounds of ammunition. They could be reloaded between shots much more quickly than the military bolt-action rifles, but most of them only fired low-velocity pistol ammunition. Versions were available for rifle ammunition, such as the .45-90 described in the first chapter, but these were proportionately longer and heavier and carried less ammunition."

Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website (http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk) and discussion forum (http://forums.delphiforums.com/autogun/messages/)

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