Austrian Mannlicher 1886 Rifle

  • Country: Austria
  • Ignition System: Centrefire
  • Calibre: 11 x 58R Werndl

The 1886 Mannlicher is the first European military straight-pull rifle to have been issued. The straight-pull is given to bolt action rifle which the bolt is opened by a simple pull back of the bolt handle and pushed back to close and lock the bolt. There is no rotation of the bolt by the user as in a classic bolt action rifle. Theoretically this allows a faster reload but they tend to be more delicate.

The 1886 was adopted just as France perfected smokeless powder that hailed the end of the black powder era. The design had been created and perfected by Ferdinand Mannlicher in 1885 and issued in limited numbers but the rifle was modified one last time to become the 1886, most notably the clip ejector was removed.

The system is based around a bolt which comprises an outer sleeve and an inner sleeve. At the rear of the outer sleeve on the underside, there is a hinged flap with a T shaped groove in its upper surface. The inner sleeve has a camming wedge on its’ underside with a T cross section which rides in the T shaped groove of the flap, which causes the flap to rotate down when the wedge is pushed forward, and equally causes the flap to rotate up when pulled back. The inner sleeve is biased forward in the outer sleeve such that the flap is biased in a down position. The receiver has a locking recess to accommodate the flap when forced down by the camming wedge.

From an open bolt position, the handle, which is connected to the inner sleeve, is pushed forward, this causes the whole bolt to move forward until the outer sleeve is in closed position against the chamber, this places the hinged flap directly over the receiver locking recess. More pressure on the bolt handle forces the inner sleeve fully forward, forcing the camming wedge in behind the flap to cause it to rotate down into the recess. The bolt is now locked. To open the bolt, the handle is pulled back which causes the inner sleeve to move rearwards while the outer sleeve remains in position, this causes the wedge to move back away from the flap which in turn raises the flap out of the locking recess of the receiver, the whole bolt then moves rearward to extract the cartridge from the chamber. Within the inner sleeve is the striker which operates like any bolt rifle. At the rear of the receiver is a safety catch which simply blocks the bolt forward.

The magazine is also unique at the time since it used clips of ammunition rather than individual cartridges. A “U” shaped clip grips a stack of 5 cartridges which is in turn pushed down in the magazine of the rifle until it clicks into place. In the magazine is a sprung elevator which is sized to slide up between the sides of the U shaped clip to push the cartridges up as each one is stripped off by the bolt. Once the clip is empty, it drops through a small hole at the bottom of the magazine. A full or partially empty clip can be ejected through the top of the magazine by pressing on a button in front of the trigger guard.

The bolt works very well although it has to be worked firmly to and fro. The combination of straight pull bolt and clip loading gives the rifle a considerable rate of fire which raises a few eyebrows on the range. The pistol grip on the stock also makes it very natural to hold even though it is a long and quite heavy rifle.

The rear sights is calibrated in 300 to 1500 schritt (1 schritt = 80cm) and feature a volley sight. The calibre is 11 x 58R Werndl like its predecessor.

The bayonet is a short knife bayonet which is quite modern in appearance. The rifle has no cleaning rod and the muzzle features a stacking rod.

The rifle is one of many which became obsolete almost as soon as it was issued, a large number were subsequently rebarreled to the new Austrian 8mm smokeless calibre but the locking system was not designed for the pressures developed by smokeless rounds so it was quickly superseded by the 1895 straight pull design.