The 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.
The most distinctive feature of the Krag-Jørgensen action was its magazine. While most other rifles of its era used a box magazine, the magazine of the Krag-Jørgensen was 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. The cartridges were inserted through the side opening, and were pushed up, around, and into the action by a spring follower.
This presented both advantages and disadvantages compared with the standard top-loading "box" magazine; among other things, using a "stripper clip" to reload was impossible. At the same time, unlike a top-loading magazine, the Krag-Jørgensen`s magazine could be topped up without opening the rifle`s bolt. The relative complexity of manufacturing this magazine is possibly one reason why few countries adopted the Krag-Jørgensen.
Today, the Krag-Jørgensen is a popular rifle among collectors, and is valued by shooters for its smooth action.
The 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.
All production rifles up to World War II also featured a magazine cut-off, allowing the shooter to keep his magazine in reserve and use the rifle as a single shooter.
Norwegian Krag-Jørgensen rifles:
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, which was found to be 6.5 mm (0.256 in). The round of ammunition is known variously as 6.5x55 Scan, 6.5x55 Mauser, 6.5x55 Swedish and 6.5x55 Nor, but they all referred to the same round although the shell dimension on the 6.5x55 Nor was slightly longer (0.15 mm / 0.006 in). Due to different interpretations of the 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 required a certain push on the bolt handle to chamber in the Swedish gun. However, a rumour arose not long after the round was adopted that one could use Swedish ammunition in Norwegian rifles, but not Norwegian ammunition in Swedish rifles. Furthermore, the rumour stated that this was deliberate, to give Norway the tactical advantage of using captured ammunition in a war, while denying the same advantage to the Swedes. After the rumour first surfaced in 1900, it 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 two types of ammunition.
Once the question of ammunition was settled, the Norwegians started looking at a modern weapon to fire their newly designed round. The processing was modelled on the US selection process performed in the same timeframe, and considered, among other things, sharp shooting at different ranges, shooting with defective rounds, shooting for speed, rust proofing, and ease of assembly and disassembly. After the test, three rifles were shortlisted:
About fifty Krag-Jørgensen rifles were produced in 1893 and issued to soldiers for field testing. The reports were good, and a few modifications were incorporated into the design. The Norwegian Storting (parliament) decided in 1894 to adopt the Krag-Jørgensen as the new rifle for the Norwegian Army, and it was formally adopted on April 21 that year. It is worth noting that Sweden instead adopted a modified Mauser in 1896. A total of more than 200,000 rifles were built in Norway, at a time when the population was less than three million people and Norway had yet to make money off the rich oilfields in the North Sea. 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 rim fire rifles and carbines.
Subtypes of the Krag-Jørgensen used in Norway:
M1894 with telescopic sight.
M1895 (top) and M1906 (bottom)
Unmodified M1912The 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:
The M1894 Rifle,9 "Long Krag", was the most common Krag in Norway. A total of 122,817 were produced at Kongsberg until 1922 when production ended, as well as approximately 30,000 bought from Steyr weapons factory in Austria. In 1910, after some initial tests, 1,000 M1894s were fitted with telescopic sights on a specially constructed bracket. Issued five to each company, they were meant to be used against enemy officers and other high value targets. Since the model was considered to be less than satisfactory, further production was stopped.
The M1895 Cavalry carbine and M1897 Mountain artillery & Engineer carbine differed only in how the strap was fitted to the stock, and were issued in one series. A total of 9,309 were made between the years 1898 and 1906.10
The M1904 Engineer carbine & M1907 Field artillery carbine differed from the earlier carbines mainly by being stocked to the muzzle. The difference between the two models was only in the attachment of the strap, and again they were issued as one series. A total of 3,500 were produced between 1906 and 1908.10
The M1906 Guttekarabin (Boy`s carbine) was a simplified M1895 carbine, with a shortened stock and no hand guard. They were issued to schools in Norway, and used to train boys aged 14 to 17 to shoot. Special "school ammunition" was developed to allow shooting in restricted areas. A total of 3,321 were made, of which 315 were later modified to fire .22 Long Rifle ammunition. Shooting was on the syllabus for Norwegian teens until World War II.
The M1912 Carbine / M1912/16 Carbine / M1912/18 Carbine, "short rifle", was made after it became clear that the long barrelled M1894 left something to be desired. The M1912 was adopted after experiments with shorter, thicker barrels and different projectiles. It differed from the earlier models by being stocked all the way to the muzzle; the bracket for the bayonet was moved from the barrel to under the stock. It was soon clear that the nose band was too weak, which led to the /16 and /18 modifications of the basic design. A total of 30,118 were produced between 1913 and 1926. It was also decided that any further production would be of this model.
The M1923 Sniper rifle was the first attempt to produce a sniper rifle, but it was not solid enough for use in the field. A total of 630 were built between 1923 and 1926, half of which were sold to civilian sharpshooters. Most were later converted to M1930 or hunting rifles.
The M1925 Sniper rifle was an improved version of the M1923 built for the civilian market. A total of 1,900 were made from 1925 to the German invasion on 1940-04-09. A further 250 were built for the Germans during the war, and the last 124 were put together in 1950.
The M1930 Sniper rifle was another improvement of the M1923 and M1925, featuring a heavier barrel, a different stock, sights, and a fine tuned trigger. It was a successful weapon, but no more than 466 were built between 1930 and 1939.
In addition, most models were produced for the civilian market as well. After WWII a limited number of Krag-Jørgensens were made in purely civilian models.
Danish Krag-Jørgensen rifles:
After strenuous tests, Denmark adopted the Krag-Jørgensen rifle on 1889-07-03. The Danish rifle differed in several key areas from the weapons later adopted by the USA 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 8x58R 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 1940-04-09.
Subtypes of the Danish Krag-Jørgensen
While information on the various subtypes of the Krag-Jørgensen used in Denmark has proved difficult to find, at least the following subtypes were manufactured:
Rifle 1889, stocked almost to the muzzle, no hand guard, straight bolt handle and a outer steel liner for the barrel. This weapon is typical of the period in having a long barrel and stock without pistol grip. Was originally issued without a safety catch; instead, a half-cock notch on the cocking piece/firing pin assembly served this purpose. In 1910, this weapon was modified by the addition of a manual safety, which was placed on the left side of the receiver just behind the closed bolt handle.
Artillery Carbine 1889 and Infantry Carbine 1889, differed only in placement of the sling-swivel, and looks like short versions of the Rifle 1889.
Engineer carbine M1889, wooden hand guard, shorter than the other carbines.
Sniper rifle M1928, an alteration of the rifle M1889 with a heavier barrel and a wooden hand guard, micrometer rear sight and hooded front sight.
American Krag-Jørgensen rifles
Like 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 rifle designs from Lee, Krag, Mannlicher, Mauser, Schmidt-Ruben, and about 40 other military and civilian designs. The trials were held at Governors Island, New York. Despite protests from domestic inventors and arms manufacturers—two designers, Russell and Livermore, even sued the US government over the choice—an improved form of the Krag-Jørgensen won the contract. The United States formally adopted the rifle in 1892 to replace the single shot Springfield. Around 500,000 `Krags` were produced at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts from 1894-1904. It was the U.S. military`s main rifle from 1894 to 1903 when it was replaced by the Springfield M1903 with its ballistically similar .30-03 cartridge, and found use in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. In this later war the rifle was referred to in a song popular with U.S. troops with a verse running:
Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos!
Cut throat khaki ladrones!
Underneath the starry flag,
Civilize them with a Krag,
And return us to our beloved home.
The US `Krags` were chambered for the rimmed 30-40 round, also known as .30 Army. The .30-40 Krag was the first smokeless powder round adopted by the U.S. military, but it retained the "caliber-charge" designation of earlier black powder cartridges. Thus the .30-40 Krag employs a .30 caliber (7.62 mm) bullet propelled by 40 grains (3 g) of smokeless powder. 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.
Subtypes of the Krag-Jørgensen used in the USA
There were at least nine different models of the American Krag-Jørgensen:
M1892 Rifle, with a 30 in (762 mm) barrel and a magazine cut off that operates in the up position. It can be identified by the cleaning rod under the barrel.
M1892 Carbine, presumably a prototype, as just one is known today. Looks like the M1892 Rifle, but with a 22" barrel.
M1896 Rifle, where the magazine cut-off operates in down position and the cleaning rod is moved to butt trap. An improved rear sight and tighter production tolerances gave better accuracy. Stock altered slightly (made thicker).
M1896 Cadet Rifle, which was fitted with cleaning rod like M1892 rifle. Only about 400 were made before it was discontinued.
M1896 Carbine, with the same modifications as the M1896 Rifle.
M1898 Rifle, generally much like M1896, but with a wide range of minor changes.
M1898 Carbine, same minor modifications as the M1898 Rifle.
M1899 Carbine, generally the same as the M1898 Carbine, but with a slightly longer forearm and hand guard, and without the swivel ring.
M1899 Constabulary carbine, built for use in the Philippines. Basically a M1899 Carbine fitted with a full length stock and a bayonet lug, and the muzzle stepped down to accept bayonet
Production for Nazi Germany during WWII:
During the German occupation of Norway (1940-04-09 to 1945-05-08), 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. To begin with, the order was for standard M1894s, but during the war the model was altered to be externally more like the German Kar98K. Experiments with using 7.92 mm ammunition also took place.
While information on the Wehrmacht`s use of the Krag-Jørgensen is hard to find, it must be 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`s further likely that the experiments with 7.92 mm ammunition means that the Germans considered a wider use of the Krag-Jørgensen.
A few Krag-Jørgensen rifles were put together after 1945, for sale to civilian hunters and sharpshooters. 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, the cost of the conversion was about the same as that of a new gun with a more modern design. The last Krag-Jørgensen in production was the m/1952 Elk-rifle, of which 470 were sold during the 1950s.
Special Krag-Jørgensen rifles / carbines and oddities:
The Krag-Jørgensen was manufactured for almost 60 years in Norway. During this time several special models and prototypes was designed and manufactured. Some of these special weapons was meant as an aid in production or to meet a spesific demand, but there was also various attempts to increase the firepower of the weapon.
The 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 carabine was a specialy 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 was espesially many model rifles made for the M1894, since several was sendt to Staur to work as controlls and models.
A minute number of Krag-Jørgensen rifles was converted into harpoon guns, in the same fashion as it was being done to the Jarmann M1884. It was realised that converting the Jarmann was more cost efficient than converting the Krag-Jørgensen, so further conversions was halted. It it not known how many that was converted in this way.
Krag-Jørgensen rifle modified for belt feed:
The single prototype of a M1894 modified for belt feed. In the factory museum at Kongsberg Weapon Factory, there is preserved an interesting prototype of a M1894 modified for belt feed. Allthough no documentation has been uncovered, it`s clear that the rifle has been modified at an early stage in the maufacturing process to use the same feed belts as was used on the Hotchkiss heavy machine gun that was in use in the Norwegian Army at the time.
The backwards and forward movement of the bolt operates a mechanism that moves the belt through the reciver, presenting fresh rounds for the weapon. While this might have been advantagous 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`:
The `Speed Loader` mounted on a M1894In 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 selectorswitch, 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 enought that 8 prototypes was 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 clumbersome to carry and use, but also made it list sideways. Deciding the `Speed Loader` was not a practical design for military use, no further manufacture took place.
In 1926, a group of seal hunters approced Kongsberg Weapon Factory and asked to purchase a number of Speed Loaders for use when hunting seals from small boats. They were turned down due to the high cost of manufacturing a limited number of the device.
Krag-Jørgensen rifles modified to self loaders:
At the same time that the hotchkiss heavy machine gun was introdused to the Norwegian Army, some people started considering modefying the Krag-Jørgensen to semi-automatic fire. Doing so would have multiplied the firepower of the infantery, 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 enought about firearms to be able to calculate the pressures and dimensions necessary. However, two designs was investigated further, and eventually one prototype was built.
Sunngaard`s automatic rifle:
In 1915 Sergant Sunngaard proposed a design for making the Krag-Jørgensen into a selfloading rifle. The design was considered over a periode of time before it was declared to be `quite without value`, primarely 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 38:
M1894 modifed with SNABB38.In 1938 a Swedish design surfaced that seemed interesting. The SNABB was a modification that could be made to virtually any bolt action rifle that allowed 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 unnecesary complicated. A separate pistolgrip was needed, and the reciver needed major modifications.
A prototype was manufacutured in the fall of 1938, and tested for several months. While moderately successful, the modification would cost about three times as much as originaly thought, and the project was dropped due to lack of money.
The 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:
Danish 8x58R, a 7.87 mm (0.31 in) rimmed round. Early rounds had a 15.3 grams (236 grains) long round nosed bullet, and was loaded so that it produced a muzzle velocity of about 580 m/s (roughly 1900 ft/s), while later rounds had a 12.8 grams (198 grains) spitzer bullet and gave a muzzle velocity of 823 m/s (2740 ft/s).
US 30-40, a 7.62 mm (0.30 in) rimmed round loaded with 40 grains (3 grams) of smokeless powder. It gave a chamber pressure of 40000 lbf/in² (276 MPa), which resulted in a muzzle velocity of 609.6 m/s (2000 ft/s) in the rifles, and 597.4 m/s (1960 ft/s) from the shorter barrel of the carbines.
Norwegian 6.5x55, also known as 6.5x55Scan, a 6.5 mm (0.256 in) rimless round. Most variations are loaded for a chamber pressure of 350 MPa (roughly 51000 lbf/in²). Early rounds, with a 10.1 grams (156 grains) long round nosed bullet (B-projectile) had a muzzle velocity of around 700 m/s (roughly 2300 ft/s), while later rounds with a 9 grams (139 grains) spitzer bullet (D-projectile) offered a muzzle velocity up to 870 m/s (2854 ft/s).
Comparison of service rifles:
What follows is a comparison between the Danish, American and Norwegian service weapons.
Nation Model Length Barrel length Weight
Denmark Rifle 1889 1328 mm / 52.28 in 832 mm / 32.78 in 4.275 kg / 9.5 lb
Denmark Carbine 1889 1100 mm / 43.3 in 610 mm / 24 in 3.96 kg / 8.8 lb
Denmark Sniper Rifle 1928 1168 mm / 46 in 675 mm / 26.6 in 5.265 kg / 11.7 lb
USA M1892 Rifle 1244.6 mm / 49 in 762 mm / 30 in 4.221 kg / 9.38 lb
USA M1892 Carbine 1046.5 mm / 41.2 in 558.8 mm / 22 in 3.735 kg / 8.3 lb
USA M1896 Rifle 1244.6 mm / 49 in 762 mm / 30 in 4.023 kg / 8.94 lb
USA M1896 Cadet Rifle 1244.6 mm / 49 in 762 mm / 30 in 4.05 kg / 9.0 lb
USA M1896 Carbine 1046.5 mm / 41.2 in 558.8 mm / 22 in 3.488 kg / 7.75 lb
USA M1898 Rifle 1247.1 mm / 49.1 in 762 mm / 30 in 4.05 kg 9.0 lb
USA M1898 Carbine 1046.5 mm / 41.2 in 558.8 mm / 22 in 3.51 kg / 7.8 lb
USA M1899 Carbine 1046.5 mm / 41.2 in 558.8 mm / 22 in 3.542 kg / 7.87 lb
USA M1899 Constable Carbine 1046.5 mm / 41.2 in 558.8 mm / 22 in 3.614 kh / 8.03 lb
Norway M1894 Rifle 1267,5 mm / 49.9 in 760 mm / 29.9 in 4.221 kg / 9.38 lb
Norway M1895 & M1897 Carbine 1016 mm / 40 in 520 mm / 20.5 in 3.375 kg / 7.5 lb
Norway M1904 & M1907 Carbine 1016mm / 40 in 520 mm / 20.5 in 3.78 kg / 8.4 lb
Norway M1906 Boy`s Carbine 986 mm / 38.8 in 520 mm / 20.5 in 3.375 kg / 7.5 lb
Norway M1912 Short Rifle 1107 mm / 43.6 in 610 mm / 24 in 3.96 kg / 8.8 lb
Norway M1923 Sniper Rifle 1117 mm / 44 in 610,, / 24 in 4.05 kg / 9.0 lb
Norway M1925 Sniper Rifle 1117 mm / 44 in 610 mm / 24 in 4.455 kg / 9.9 lb
Norway M1930 Sniper Rifle 1220 mm / 48 in 750 mm / 29.5 in 5.157 kg / 11.46 lb
Bolt action repeating rifle
6.5 x 55 rimless (Norwegian Krags), 8x58R rimmed (Danish Krags), .30-40 Krag (US Krags)
3.375 kg (7.5 lb) to 5.157 kg (11.46 lb) depending on model
986 mm (38.8 in) to 1328 mm (52.28 in) depending on model
520 mm (20.5 in) to 832 mm (32.78 in) depending on model
In service dates:
V-notch and front post
580 m/s (1900 ft/s) to 870 m/s (2854 ft/s) depending on ammunition