In the eighties of the century before last, there was still no wide choice of tested and tested in practice automatic systems of small arms, because of which the designers had to create new principles on their own, and then test them in the course of testing their developments. The project F. Mannlicher Modell 1885 (not to be confused with the rifle of the same name, which had a manual reloading system) was no exception to this rule. The designer independently determined the overall appearance of the prospective weapon, calculated the principles of its operation, and produced a prototype designed for testing.
Considering the available possibilities and the performance of one or another idea, the Austro-Hungarian gunsmith decided to use the force of recoil as a source of energy for recharging. The impulse formed during the shot was proposed to be used together with a moving barrel and a number of other mechanisms. Probably, the choice of such a variant of automation was due to the relatively high reliability and simplicity. At the same time, the full potential of the design was never realized due to the peculiarities of the mechanics and the ammunition used. However, the F. Mannlicher rifle is deservedly considered the first efficient model of a self-loading weapon with a short barrel stroke, and therefore takes an appropriate place in stories rifle weapons.
As a cartridge for a new weapon was selected ammunition type 11x58 mm M1887, also known as 11 mm Werndl. This cartridge was created for the M1867 Werndl-Holub rifle during its modernization in the mid-seventies of the XIX century. A characteristic feature of the cartridge, which had a definite influence on the work of F. Mannlicher, was the use of a propellant charge from black powder. This fact further affected the performance of a semi-automatic rifle. At the same time, however, during the development of a new weapon, such features of the munition did not cause any concerns. On the contrary, a relatively new cartridge could be considered as a convenient and effective ammunition.
The result of the design work of F. Mannlicher was the appearance of the finished design of a perspective rifle, capable of firing in a self-loading mode. The finished model, which differed from the existing systems by its structure and principles of operation, also had to have a characteristic appearance. The new rifle received a relatively long barrel, protruding beyond the barrel and the wooden box. Also used a long barrel, because of which I had to lengthen the butt and change its shape. At the bottom of the box was placed a small pistol grip with a trigger hook. The back of the box was framed as a shoulder rest. Despite the unusual design, in terms of ergonomics, the new weapon hardly differed from other rifles of that time.
All parts of automation should have been placed inside the receiver, formed by several main parts. Its front and rear parts had a tubular shape, and in the center a thickening was provided with a box-shaped block on the left. The latter was to perform the functions of the receiving window of the store. From the bottom, it was proposed to fasten a narrow frame to the receiver tube to accommodate some automation components and firing mechanism. The receiver and its mechanisms were to be fastened to the wooden box with a few screws.
The front tubular unit contained the barrel and its own return spring. The design of the tube and the barrel allowed the latter to move back a distance 32 mm while compressing the spring. The barrel was a tubular piece of the required length with a set of bulges on the outer surface of the breech. Ring thickenings were intended for centering the trunk in the box and for contact with the return spring. In addition, at the bottom of the chamber there was a prong with a hinge for connecting with other automation components.
Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher, 1904
To the rear hinge of the trunk joined detail of a complex curved shape with a Y-shaped back. A curious feature of the M1885 rifle was the use of non-standard means of locking the barrel, one of which was a curved pusher piece with a rear part in the form of a two-pronged fork, pivotally connected to the barrel. In the extreme forward position of the mechanisms, this part had to engage with the corresponding protrusions of the bolt and connect it with the barrel.
The bolt of the new rifle was a part of complex shape with several channels, slots and projections. So, in front of the gate there was a small-diameter channel for placing a needle drummer. The spring of the firing pin was put on the tail end of the firing pin and was located in the back cavity of the bolt. Under the front part of the bolt were thickening, performing the function of combat stops. In the back there was a pointed protrusion necessary for the contact of mechanisms during recharging. Also in the back of the bolt was placed a part of the USM - the trigger and the rocker blocking it. The upper shoulder of the trigger entered the hole shank drummer. With its back wall, the bolt should have been in contact with the return spring placed in the tubular shank of the receiver. On the right side of the bolt there was a handle for manual reloading of the weapon in preparation for firing or in the event of automatic failures.
For his new rifle, F. Mannlicher proposed an original ammunition supply system. It was proposed to place the cartridges in a box store opened from above, mounted on the projection of the left surface of the receiver. The store received the most simple design, in which there was no feed spring and pusher - the cartridges had to get to the feed mechanisms under their own weight. For an experimental model of small arms such a design shop was acceptable.
Getting into the lower part of the store, connected with the receiver, the cartridges went to the line of discharging. For the supply of ammunition to a moving bolt, it was proposed to use the L-shaped lever, hinged in the store. When the bolt moved backward, a special projection on its left surface was supposed to cling to the lever of the magazine, which turned and pushed the cartridge inside the receiver, onto the disilline. When the bolt went forward, the lever had to return to the neutral position, allowing the new cartridge to fall down.
In the middle part of the receiver, with a slight shift backwards, the units of the firing mechanism were fixed. The trigger was attached pivotally to the corresponding frame, its thrust and the leaf spring holding it in a neutral position. The trigger and the blocking arm, in turn, were placed inside the gate and had to move with it.
The work of mechanisms rifle F. Mannlicher arr. 1885 was as follows. The shooter had to put into the magazine the 11x58 mm Werndl cartridges and cock the weapon with the help of the side handle of the bolt. When the valve was retracted, its return spring was compressed and the trigger was brought to the required position. In addition, moving back, the shutter had to hit the lever of the store, which pushed the cartridge on the disillation line. During the reverse movement of the bolt using a return spring, the cartridge was sent to the chamber and the bolt hitch with the barrel.
When the trigger was pressed, its spring was compressed, and the pull with the hook had to pull the trigger arm. After that, the trigger was released and allowed the spring-loaded drummer to move forward, producing a shot. Combustion of the propellant with the formation of a large amount of powder gases was to push the bullet out of the sleeve and carry it along the barrel, and also lead to the formation of a recoil pulse.
Under the effect of recoil, the barrel and the bolt coupled to it should have started to move backward, compressing two return springs. In this case, the barrel and bolt had to be coupled with the help of a pusher-plug. After passing the barrel and bolt 32 mm through the interaction of the pusher, stops and protrusions on the gate should be done uncoupling. The pusher at this moment went down, allowing the shutter to freely move on. The barrel was locked in the rear position by the interaction of the pusher and the lower stop.
Moving back under the effect of recoil, the valve continued to compress its own return spring. At this time, the extraction and ejection of the spent cartridge case also took place with the subsequent supply of a new cartridge from the magazine. Also, the trigger and its yoke, interacting with the bottom of the receiver, had to return to the starting position required for the subsequent shot, pulling the drummer back and squeezing the mainspring. In this form, the bolt reached the rearmost position with maximum compression of the return spring.
Then, the unsupported shutter, under the action of the spring, had to move forward, the loading cartridge into the chamber. In addition, the protrusion under the back of the bolt had to cling to the upper prong of the pusher-fork, after which the barrel could begin to move forward. In the extreme forward position of the bolt and barrel, the coupling with locking was again made. The weapon was ready for a new shot. After pressing the trigger, the automation cycle was repeated.
It is known that in 1885, F. Mannlicher produced a prototype of a new self-loading rifle, which was soon used for testing. The main task of the tests was to determine the efficiency of the newest automation system, first implemented in a full-fledged project. The rifle of the new type was delivered to the shooting range, where it showed its pros and cons.
According to reports, a prototype advanced weapons could fully confirm the assumptions of the designer. Automatics based on recoil of the barrel with its short course showed its efficiency and demonstrated the fundamental possibility of building a new weapon using similar principles of work. The rifle of the new type was really capable of independently recharging with the extraction of a spent cartridge case and the supply of a new cartridge due to the recoil impulse acting on the moving barrel.
However, it was not without some problems. First of all, it was found that the cartridge 11x58 mm Werndl with a charge of black powder can not be used in advanced weapons with automatic. A characteristic disadvantage of such powders is instability with possible incomplete combustion. As a result, the recoil impulse of such weapons may vary from shot to shot. In addition, black powder left carbon in the barrel, interfering with long-term shooting without cleaning or even making it impossible.
Cartridge feeding system from the store to the filing line, top view
The cartridge with specific characteristics did not allow to fully realize all the advantages of the new rifle. Due to the use of black powder, the likelihood of delays during firing due to insufficient recoil remained, as well as difficulties caused by contamination of the weapon’s units, primarily the barrel.
Because of the outdated cartridge, F. Mannlicher's new semi-automatic rifle, Modell 1885, could not leave the test stage. Full exploitation of such weapons by the army was not possible. However, apparently, this rifle was not intended for the troops. In the mid-eighties of the 19th century, gunsmiths were just beginning to develop self-loading and automatic systems. To test new ideas, they needed experimental samples intended only for testing. Probably, Mannlicher rifle arr. 1885 was representative of this particular class of weapons.
According to reports, only one M1885 self-loading rifle was assembled for testing. After completing the verification of this sample, during which its pros and cons were identified, the designer continued to work on advanced weapons systems. By order of the army of Austria-Hungary and on his own initiative, F. Mannlicher later created several samples of magazine and self-loading rifles. In addition, in 1894, the gunsmith introduced his first self-loading pistol, which was a real breakthrough in this area.
The M1885 self-loading rifle was not widely known and did not reach mass production. Nevertheless, the creation of this sample allowed F. Mannlicher to test a new idea, which was necessary for the creation of new projects. Using technical solutions, including those tested with the 1885 rifle of the year, the Austro-Hungarian gunsmith later succeeded in creating a number of new weapons and laying the foundation for the further development of small arms. Over time, the automation on the basis of recoil of the barrel with a short stroke has been widely spread and used in many new projects of various systems.
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