Ferdinand Mannlicher

Austria's John M. Browning
By John Myers, Internet Photojournalist

A year ago I became the owner of a Steyr MA1 pistol in 357 Sig cal. and have since become interested in the history of this "other" Austrian arms manufacturer, Steyr-Mannlicher. The first half of the modern arms company's name comes from its location, Steyr, Austria. Since the 14th century, the city of Steyr (Upper Austria) has been a center for the metal working, and is particularly known for forging weapons. In the middle of the 17th century thousands of muskets, pistols, and carbines were produced annually for the Imperial Army. Josef Werndl came from a family firmly anchored in the weapons craft. After his father's death, the 24-year-old Werndl took over the factory's management, together Steyr M357-A1 semi-automatic pistol in 357 with his mother. He modernized the enterprise by Sig cal. applying new step-by-step production techniques that he became acquainted with during his apprenticeship in the United States. On April 16th, 1864, Josef Werndl founded the "Josef und Franz Werndl & Comp. Waffenfabrik und Sagemuhle in Oberletten" (Josef and Franz Werndl & Partners Weapons Factory and Sawmill in Oberletten), from which later emerged the "Osterreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft" (OEWG, Austrian Arms-Manufacturing Company), and subsequently the Steyr Werke AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG, from which Steyr-Mannlicher was a part.

Josef Werndl

Werndl later hired a young railroad engineer as his weapons designer, Ferdinand Mannlicher, whose genius well merits his later addition as the second name for the modern company. Mannlicher is world famous for his bolt-action rifles, but little known for his pioneering automatic weapons designs.

August 2004. which was later followed by the Russian M1938 Tokarev rifle.S. which gave U. his designs are refreshingly original. or a gas-operated. Mannlicher developed the first semi-automatic rifle with the long-stroke gas piston design.one of the world's most prolific and successful gun designers. clip-fed rifle in 1893 utilizing a "hesitation lock" that was to reappear as the "Blish lock" in the Thompson submachine gun. Mannlicher was not influenced by previous models. "Some have gone so far as to say most of the small arms designs of the 20th Century reflect. "Born in 1848. the Browning machine gun. The M1 Garand of WWII fame. machine gun and the M60 machine gun. M1 rifle and M1 carbine. the M2 Browning . semiautomatic rifle in 1895 incorporating many of the fundamental mechanical Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher features of the Garand. In 1900. the Russian AK-47. Mannlicher did it.50 cal. Mannlicher was a mechanical genius. From an engineering viewpoint.In Guns Magazine. Mannlicher also pioneered semi-automatic pistols long before the famed 1911 Colt . Mannlicher also pioneered a rifle with the first short-stroke gas piston design. or a semiautomatic. he is credited with the design of over 150 models of repeating and automatic military firearms adopted by numerous European countries. plus the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) of WWI and WWII fame. "Imagine fielding a light machine gun with a Bren-type feed system in 1885. in some way. During his long career at the Steyr Works spanning that fertile period when black powder gave way to smokeless." In 1885.45 ACP was so much as a gleam in John Moses Browning's eye. .Austria's Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher -. individual mechanical principles Mannlicher incorporated into his numerous models. "Working as he did on advanced designs in the last quarter of the 19th century. FN-FAL and M14. troops a crucial advantage on a battlefield with bolt-action rifles in the hands of the other powers. many of his mechanical solutions have been recognized as precursors to later designs as modern as the BAR. as did its later counterpart.. M-1 Carbine. Consequently. came directly from Mannlicher's design.. writer Holt Bodinson said this about Mannlicher: "What's interesting today is how little we generally know about the man -. There were none.

for some days. Austrian Arms-Manufacturing Company) in 1878. who encouraged him to develop a magazine fed rifle and offered him a job as a constructor at the Osterreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft (OEWG. Mannlicher had the chance to study several plans and models for small arms at the Patent office of Philadelphia. a military official (K. 1848 in Mainz. Kaiser-Ferdinand-Nordbahngesellschaft.K. But then he was approached by Josef Werndl in 1875. OberFeldkriegskommissar) who originated from Brux (Bohemia) was garrisoned at the federal fortress there at this time. Technical Administration Military Committee in 1879. Pa. Mannlicher hesitated until 1886 before finally he left his secure job to join Werndl. . Mannlicher went to Vienna where he studied Maschinenbau (engineering) at the Technical University.So we owe a lot for the modern weapons of today to Ferdinand Mannlicher. His father. both were pioneering designers of many of our modern firearms. Ferdinand Mannlicher was born on January 30. perhaps even more than to John Browning? Ferdinand Ritter von (translated "knight of") Mannlicher is as famous in Austria and Europe as Browning is in America for the same reason. for the talented technical constructor this job was rather boring and he started to think about early retirement. where he was employed in their construction department and finally attained the title of Oberingenieur or senior engineer.K. In 1869 he was employed at the K. possibly a valuable inspiration for his first rifle model which was offered to the K. During his visit to the Centennial exhibition in the USA in 1876.K. the forerunner of the modern arms company of Steyr-Mannlicher. Sudbahngesellschaft (Southern Railway Company) and after a short time with the state railway company he again moved to a private railway company.K. However. the K. In 1857. Germany.

Werndl's company. chambered for a special straight-case cartridge listed in Austria as 7. An assortment of his small arms were awarded the first prize at the World M1894 Steyr-Mannlicher Blow-Forward. Semi-Automatic Pistol. the Netherlands and France (as Karabiner Berthier) as well as in several states outside Europe.diploma issued on December 14.Presented in 1900.63 mm Mannlicher. M1901 Mannlicher Self-Loading. in the German Army as M/88 and in the armies of Italy. 1892 . earliest Steyr Mannlicher pistol. His pistols became very popular. His interest in several political questions was crowned with his appointment as a lifelong member of the Osterreichisches Herrnhaus (Austrian Upper House) in 1899. this semi-auto rifle was derived from the Mannlicher Model 1896. Mannlicher's rifles. which uniquely allowed the loading a box magazine in one motion first produced first in 11mm and since 1888 in 8mm calibre. pistols and magazine designs for Together with Otto Schonauer he also developed a successful rotary system for rifles which was patented in 1900 which became well known as Mannlicher/Schonauer System. During the following years Mannlicher developed and improved numerous rifles. Bulgaria. Romania. Portugal.1895).5 mm. . although not issued to the Austrian Army they were privately bought my many officers and adopted in many armies from Argentina to South Africa. 1892. Switzerland. were adopted by the Austrian Army in 1886 to replace the Werndl rifles (last updated as M. His first semi-automatic rifle design appeared in 1885 and his automatic pistol achieved great success yet he is most remembered for the bolt action rifles that bear his name. SemiAutomatic Pistol. For instance the first "practical" test of his semi-automatic rifles was the civil war in Chile in 1890! In 1887 Ferdinand Mannlicher was honored with the award of the 3rd class of the Order of the Iron Crown followed by his ennobling with the predicate of "Ritter von" (translated "knight of") on June 1. designed to be selfloading with a special rimmed cartridge in 6.

Both arms followed Mannlicher's designs. Smith in "Mauser.H. introduced in WWII.30 cal.." the Mannlicher 1885 with its long-stroke gas piston became the inspiration for the U. and the Steyr pistol M.Fair in Paris in 1900. Between 1875 and 1904 he developed numerous rifles.1912. Model 1905 Steyr-Mannlicher semi-auto Pistol. His first semi-automatic rifle design appeared in 1885 and his automatic pistol. pistols. with the loaded Mannlicher en-bloc clip shown in front of the gun. 7.63mm Mannlicher The Austrian Steyr-Hahn Pistol M1911/M1912. died suddenly at the early age of 55 in Vienna. but half a century later. And the Mannlicher 1900 with its short-stroke gas piston became the inspiration for the U. On the 20th of January 1904 Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher. According to W. semi-automatic rifle M1 Garand 30'06 cal.B. which was first applied in 1890. The Mannlicher pistol Model 1905. .S. based on earlier design work by Karl Krnka. probably the most successful firearm constructor of all times. and magazine designs for the firm. Walther and Mannlicher Firearms. the M-1905 achieved great success.S. Steyr-Mannlicher 8x56R M1895/30 short rifle (upgraded and shortened M95). Georg Roth and Ferdinand Mannlicher. cal. also introduced in WWII. became milestones in auto-loading pistols technology. semi-automatic M1 Carbine . as well as the packet or clip loading system.

also known as Steyr-Mannlicher M95 straight pull rifle.Mannlicher's M1890 design rifle led to the famous Steyr M1895 rifle. and. Numbers of these rifles also turned out in World War II. into action. particularly in the hands of second line and reservist units. after the fall of the Empire. This design is noteworthy for the introduction of the first successful clip-fed rifle. with bolt open and loaded clip partially inserted This sped up the loading process compared to the earlier designs. and by 1885 he developed the Mannlicher enbloc clip. and Budapest. to the Austrian and Hungarian armies. Hungary. Mannlicher developed his first straightpull bolt action rifle by 1884. More than 3 million M95 rifles were produced between 1895 and 1918. . note how the bolt handle remains horizontal. Austria. This rifle was issued to Austro-Hungarian army. as opposed to more common rotating bolt actions. The Steyr M1895 rifle was manufactured by the Austro-Hungarian Empire at state arms factories in Steyr. and automatically ejected through the opening at the bottom of the magazine as the last round was chambered. Steyr-Mannlicher M1895/30 rifle. Many were found in the hands of African guerrillas into the 1970s. which was inserted into the box magazine from the top.

as opposed to the more common rotating bolt of other rifles. Its precision. another new bolt action rifle. Shortly before the turn of the century. together with the OEWG-director Schonauer.The M1895 is special in employing a straight-pull bolt action. This 1903 design is the forebear of the modern Mannlicher rifle. and reliability. Rate of fire is fairly high. Compare the 1903 Mannlicher-Schonauer civilian-version hunting rifle to the current production "Classic Mannlicher" manufactured by Steyr-Mannlicher and the "bloodlines" are obvious. The Mannlicher-Schonauer carbine. still produced by Steyr-Mannlicher today. although this requires decent care and maintenance with an extractor that is notoriously prone to breakage. made the Mannlicher Schonauer Stutzen (full stock rifle) a worldwide sales triumph. which lasted for decades. produced by Steyer-Mannlicher for the Greek Army in 1903. which was destined to become one of the most successful hunting rifles in firearms history. durability. optimal handling. Mannlicher designed. The Mannlicher-Schonauer is a type of rotary magazine bolt action rifle produced by Steyer-Mannlicher for the Greek Army in 1903 and later was also adopted by the Austro-Hungarian Armies. as there is no requirement to turn or twist the bolt when operating the weapon. for a manual action weapon. plus a graceful outline. Mannlicher is most famous for patenting the Mannlicher-Schonauer rotary magazine rifle with Otto Schonauer. It is also renowned for a high degree of reliability and sturdiness. .

Its bolt action was the simply the smoothest ever made. Although the modern "Classic" Steyr-Mannlicher rifles still incorporate some original features. where the 6." Gun writer Chuck Hawks wrote the following about the Mannlicher-Schonauer rifle: Anyone who has handled a classic Mannlicher-Schonauer Carbine understands the appeal of this fine. the average hunter and shooter is liable to suddenly become a good shot. This is partly because of the outstanding machine work put into these rifles. and partly because the Schoenauer spool magazine does not drag against the bolt as does the follower in the box magazine of a Mauser style rifle.5mm x 54mm. at first in Europe and then very soon in Africa. but the pull weight is a creepy 5+ pounds (about what you get today with a lot of factory made rifles). A modern cartridge. the 6. when the set trigger is first pulled to "set" the release trigger.5x54 M-S rifles and carbines did just that. was absolutely awesome." The rifle continued to be manufactured in various forms (full. The typical Mannlicher-Schonauer trigger mechanism. it eventually re-commenced in 1950. The set trigger can be adjusted for a pull so light that the weight of the trigger itself fires the rifle if the muzzle is elevated--which clearly should be avoided! When a smooth. . Good shooting takes a lot of game.5mm Grendel very closely duplicates the ballistics of the 6. Ernest Hemingway frequently used the 1903 Mannlicher-Schonauer rifle. and 6. However. the release trigger then breaks with a perfect 8 ounce let-off (as adjusted by the factory).5 mm x 54mm cartridge." In fact. the distinctive actions and rotary (spool) magazines of the original Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles are no longer used. compact firearm. Ultimately. and although production was interrupted during the Second World War. the reliable and deadly Mannlicher-Schoenauer became known as the "Worlds Finest Rifle. Just pulling the release trigger normally can fire the rifle. this rifle is available in almost every modern caliber except the original 6. most notably "The Short. Happy Life of Francis Macomber. like the butter-knife bolt handle.Steyr-Mannlicher says the "Classic Mannlicher" is "a direct descendant of the world famous MannlicherSchoenauer models.5x54 cartridge was found to be excellent for plains game. easy pointing rifle with a great trigger is chambered for a light recoiling and effective game cartridge. It is the only bolt action that I know of that will close and lock itself if the muzzle of an empty rifle with a fully open bolt is swung down to point at the ground. half-stock and take-down models) until 1972. usually a double set type. and mentions it in some of his writings.

compactness. The rifle is also known for its low recoil when chambered for the original 6. the rifle remains popular due to its aesthetic qualities.30-06 Springfield and . Although no longer in production.270 Winchester. the smoothness of its action and its precision and quality of manufacture.The most significant modification to be made to the rifle. was introduced in 1925 when the action was lengthened to accommodate such cartridges as the . . during its period of manufacture.5x54 cartridge.

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