1889 Schulhof Rotary-Magazine Bolt Action at RIA

Another of the interesting pieces in the upcoming September RIA sale is a Belgian-made Schulhof bolt action rifle. It is notable for its 9-round rotary magazine, and this same model of rifle was tested by the US Army in 1889. The magazine and overall design of the rifle was found to be quite good, but the bolt was too weak for Army approval. Regardless, it is a creative and quite elegant design.


  1. Another excellent video. I was unaware of the features of this rifle. It would’ve been a very nice big game rifle, especially for those world trekking hunters that might have found themselves on the wrong side of the locals. Thanks Ian!

  2. Ian, in every military test I always wonder where the powder came from, and what was in it? Black powder was old in 1889, smokeless was new.

  3. According to W.H.B. Smith in The Book of Rifles (1964), the 1889 Schulhof magazine was based on the Spitalsky pattern, which he does not further mention.

    The ninth edition of Small Arms of the World shows what is probably a patent drawing of the 1882 Schulhof rifle. It had a 20-shot magazine in the stock, with three “ranks” of single-column downward-feeding bins, that dropped the cartridges into a tubular carrier assembly that took them up to the boltway.

    Due to all this complication inside the stock, the 1882 had a thumb trigger, there being nowhere else to out it, basically. It also had the problem that since the bins were purely gravity-fed, if it were canted too much to one side or the other, it probably wouldn’t feed. Shooting uphill or downhill would be interesting, to say the least.

    With all this in mind, Schulhof “borrowing” the magazine design for his 1889 rifle probably isn’t all that surprising.



    • В.Е. Маркевич in his book Ручное огнестрельное оружие mentions Spitalsky design twice:
      – it was tested in Danish trials which eventually led to selection of Krag-Jorgensen Model 1889 rifle. There it is only described as a “Spitalsky, Austrian”
      – it has rotary magazine, Mauser bolt and Gras extractor.
      So I think it maybe described more in Danish sources.

    • “if it were canted too much to one side or the other, it probably wouldn’t feed”
      Don’t forget that in the late 19th century using rifle as a club in hand-to-hand fight was feasible.
      В.Е. Маркевич states that Schulhof rifle with magazine in stock was tested in Russia in 1881. Schulhof rifle can be fired 25 times in 30 sec. but it was rejected due to complicated magazine (and therefore hard to produce and big price for one rifle), small stock durability and awkward method of loading cartridges to magazine. Маркевич states that Schulhof rifle with magazine in stock have capacity of 28 rounds.

    • I’m guessing here – so I could easily be wrong:

      Looking at the video, it appears that the Schulhof mag uses a single follower to shove all of the cartridges around.

      The beauty and the curse of the Schaunauer mag is that it supports each round individually, rather than them all rubbing together.

      beauty – because it allows odd shaped rounds to work in a compact mag (without say the extreme banana shape of a box mag for very tapered rounds in order to transfer the follower pressure up through the stack of rounds to hold the top round correctly for feeding)

      Curse, because each different case taper needs a different spindle.

      The Schulhof mag looks intriguingly like a rotary form of a Krag & Jorgensen mag

      I’ve read accounts of the united state Krag and Jorgensen magazine that you could almost pour loose rounds into it, and it would get the rims sorted into the correct order. Perhaps someone with first hand experience could comment, as the only K&J which I’ve handled was in 6.5 x 55.

  4. That’s a really interesting rifle and magazine.

    It would be an interesting project to reproduce the magazine and mate it with a stronger action as a sporter.

    I’ve had a look to see if I could find a patent, but without success. I’m guessing that it’s too old for which ever patent office it is at, to have bothered to type it into the data base. The same goes for a lot of the interesting single shot and double barrel gun patents.

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