Rifle: Yugoslavian Mannlicher M95M and M95/24

Rifle M95M (M95/24) Manufacturer Steyr / FOMU
Cartridge 7.92x57mm Overall Length 43.13″
Action Straight pull bolt Barrel Length 23″
Magazine 5 rounds fixed Weight 8.5lbs

 

All right, I admit it, we have a love of Interwar thrift here at C&Rsenal.  While the Polish and Belgian guns were curious, the Yugoslavians may win the gold medal in odd rifle conversions.

We’ve touched on the dizzying mix of small arms in Yugoslavia before.  Chief among these was the Austro-Hungarian Steyr-Mannlicher Model 1895 straight-pull.  The new nation decided to unify on a single rifle and cartridge by 1928. If you have not read about the Mauser Model 1924 now would be the time to take a moment before proceeding.  As M1924 production proceeded, the Steyr-Mannlicher was phased out from front line service.  The handy carbines stayed on with the Gendarmerie but the long rifles began to stack up in storage.  So, like many other nations faced with the European crises of the late 1930′s, Yugoslavian officials sought to turn WWI leftovers into reserve arms based on their standard pattern rifle.

Yugoslavian M95M Comparison

Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 long rifles were converted to emulate the operation of and share ammunition with the Mauser Model 1924.  The M1895 was chambered in 8x50mm rimmed and utilized an en-bloc clip fed magazine.  The M1924 was chambered in 7.92x57mm rimless and used a staggered, fixed magazine fed from stripper clips.  This represented a supreme design challenge.  The Military Technical Institute at Kragujevac (BT3) was already at full capacity and so a commercial concern, Yakov Poshinger Arms and Ammunition Factory (FOMU), was contracted to meet the task.  The conversion process ran from 1938 to 1939 and an estimated 120,000 were completed.  It appears that only long rifle stocks were used, although we have read that carbine actions were included as well.  We have also observed both early and late M1895 cocking pieces, so all previous bolt components were apparently acceptable.

Changes were as follows:

  • Kragujevac provided a new barrel from the same production as the M1924.
  • Mauser rear sights replaced the Mannlicher originals. 
  • The original M1895 bolt head was shortened and the bolt face adjusted to fit 7.92x57mm.
  • An extractor groove was cut around the bolt head and a new extractor appropriate to 7.92x57mm installed.
  • Concerns over the increased pressure of the new cartridge prompted FOMU to drill out the lubrication holes in the bolt. (or add them if not present before)
  • The forward guide lug at the back of the bolt body was ground off.
  • A permanent metal clip, emulating the en-bloc, was fixed inside the magazine.
  • The clip ejection hole at the bottom of the magazine well was fitted with a steel cover and welded shut.
  • The follower was reshaped and lengthened for the 7.92x57mm spizter cartridge.
  • The ejector groove was milled deeper and a taller ejector installed for the narrower cartridge.
  • The M1895 en-bloc clip retainer became superfluous and was ground off.  The release button was left inoperable.
  • An opening was ground in the receiver to act as a charger guide.
  • Additional metal was ground from the left wall of the receiver to aid in stripping rounds from a charger clip.
  • Long M1895 stocks were cut back.  Original barrel bands, stacking hooks, and bayonet lugs were kept.
  • A new handguard, copied from the M1924, was fitted.
  • An “M” or “/24″ marking was added behind the receiver’s M95 marking.
  • The bolt head, handle, barrel, magazine, magazine spring housing, and stock were serialed together.
  • Proof firing was conducted.  Successful rifles received a marking on the bolt, barrel and receiver in the form of a crown over “T” stamp.

Two variations of the rifle exist; one with bottom slings for infantry and one with both side and bottom slings for cavalry.  The resulting M95M rifles now functioned much like the standard service Mausers.  Five-round clips could be stripped into the magazine or it could be topped off with loose ammunition.  Sighting was shared between the M95M and the M1924, ballistics too.  The only real difference was in the straight-pull action.

Mannlicher M1895 bayonets were adapted for the new muzzle diameter and later BT3 produced a direct copy as well.  Collectors have also encountered Mauser Model 1899C and Gew.88/16 bayonets modified for use.  Later BT3 produced a modified M1924 bayonet to bring the rifle further into the standard pattern.

From the start the M95M rifles were expected to be issued to non-frontline troops.  So they saw use with transport, artillery, couriers, etc.  They were also put to use in target and drill training.  With the complete invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, the M95M saw combat in the short defense of the nation.  As German, Italian, and Hungarian troops moved through the country they captured these arms and repurposed them for their own police and rear echelon troops.  Additional rifles remained in the borders of the newly Independent State of Croatia.

Confusion still remains with the M95/24 vs. M95M designation.  All M95/24 appear to be in the cavalry arrangement but are otherwise identical to M95M. Some old stories suggest production in Belgium or Bulgaria, but neither is true.  So far, no two serials overlap between the rifles and ALL are marked with Yugoslavian proofs, so they were likely converted in the same batches with the difference being something of a final step.  Some believe the M95/24 was produced specifically to be sold to Greece, but conclusive evidence is lacking.  This theory seems to come from the fact that Germany captured these rifles in both Yugoslavia and later Greece.  In Yugoslavia they designated the rifles as Karabiner M505(j).  In Greece they differentiated between the M95M and M95/24 as the Karabiner M505(g) and Karabiner 494(g) respectively.  Some cite this as proof the M95/24 was only issued to Greek troops but there are signs that M95/24 rifles from Yugoslavia were just recorded along with the M95M under the designation M505(j).  Further evidence from Greek small arms records show fewer than 5,000 Mannlicher 8x57mm rifles in inventory before the fall.  This small number partnered with a complete lack of Greek inspection marks seems to break up the idea that the M95/24 was intended for them at the start.  It is more likely that these arms were smuggled in during the fall of Yugoslavia.   The true reason for the difference in model names is still unknown to us.

Believe it or not, the M95M rifle is a surprisingly strong shooter.  Our example was accurate, robust, and more pleasant than the M95/30 carbine in 8x56mmR.  While the magazine is the biggest change on the rifle, FOMU did a great job of reinforcing any potential weaknesses.  The rifle feeds cleanly and reliably assuming the internal clip is settled in correctly.  Feeding from a stripper clip works but does feel a bit odd with a tendency to leave the last round rattling loose.  Definitely a unique experience but not a bad one overall.

We encourage anyone to seek out one of these strange guns with their truly unique history.  Collectors should be aware, however,  that these rifles are often found damaged.  Many internal clips have been lost to the curious and often the extractors are quick to follow.  Shooters tend to try to single load these rifles and it forces the extractor over the cartridge rim roughly, causing it to snap.  Replacements for either are very hard to find so please make sure of both the clip and extractor before a purchase.

 

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