Military-Grade Awesome

Happy Birthday, Krag-Jørgensen

In 1894, Norway formally adopted the Krag-Jørgensen carbine rifle as their infantry arm of choice. While not as well known in the US, it served in the Danish, Norwegian and US militaries for 50 years.

While there were many carbine rifles around at the time, the Krag-Jørgensen differentiated itself with its magazine. Rather than a charger-loaded magazine, the magazine of the Krag was integral to the receiver and had a hinged door that would be opened for reloading. Single cartridges would be loaded into the magazine and as long as they were facing the right way, a spring follower would move the up and into position. This allowed for cartridges to be literally dumped into the magazine without having to be real careful about how they sat. The door would line them up and the spring follower would move them into position.

The complexity of this system is most likely why this rifle did not gain wider acceptance in the world’s militaries. However, it did serve for many years and in major wars.

The Danes were actually the first to adopt the rifle in 1889. They were already on the hunt for a new rifle, and the Krag came along at just the right time. In 1892, the US held a competition to select a new carbine for the Army. The finalists were all foreign manufacturers, and when the Krag was selected as the winner an uproar was heard across the US makers of weapons. After a lawsuit by several rifle builders, the US Army held a second competition. The Krag again came out on top, with its unique magazine design being the deciding factor. In order to appease nationalist pride, the Springfield Armory licensed the Krag design and produced them for US military use. The Norwegians, oddly enough, were actually the last to adopt the Krag. Their selection of a new rifle was actually held up by a joint Norwegian-Swedish commission searching for a new cartridge type. Once they settled on the cartridge they began the search for a rifle that could fire one. The Krag, like in the US, beat out the Mannlicher and Mauser in a competition.

In the hands of US soldiers, the Krags saw action in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Phillipine-American War and some were even taken to France by US soldiers in WW1. While Norwegian Krags were primarily used during the invasion of the Nazi forces, license-built Norwegian Krags did find their way to the Boers during the Boer Wars in South Africa. During WW2, the Nazis demanded the Norwegians build Krags for the Third Reich. While some were produced, the numbers were well below Hitler’s hopes. This is primarily due to sabotage and slow working at the factory in Norway.

[Image Credits: Public Domain]

  • P161911

    While I have never personally owned or even fired a Krag, I did read an article recently that mentions the Krag has one of the smoothest and slickest actions of any bolt action rifle.

    The next US Rifle the 1903 Springfield was also a foreign design. It was a licensed copy of the German Mauser 1898, but I think the US quit paying the licensing fees around 1914 or so.

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