6.5mm Mannlicher 1894 at James D Julia

The Mannlicher 1894 is one of a small number of firearms designed with a blow-forward action, and also the first of these guns. It was the creation of Ferdinand Mannlicher, a brilliant and prolific Austria inventor who is also responsible for the en-bloc clip concept, very early experimental semiautomatic rifles, and a line of turnbolt and straight-pull rifles used widely throughout Europe.

The 1894 was made only in small numbers – about 100 each in 6.5mm and 7.8mm (this one is in 6.5mm). They were tested by the US military as well as other nations, but not adopted by anyone. While they were bleeding-edge new technology at the time, they were also really not better than traditional revolvers from a practical military perspective. That doesn’t prevent them from being a fascinating cul-de-sac of firearms development though!


  1. “first of these guns”
    Not true, George D. Luce patented blow-forward fire-arm in 1874,see US Patent 156431A here: http://www.google.com/patents/US156431
    I assume that if it was patented no less than 1 working example existed or I am wrong?

    What is interesting it was rimmed cartridge.

    “also responsible for the en-bloc clip concept, very early experimental semiautomatic rifles, and a line of turnbolt and straight-pull rifles used widely throughout Europe.”
    Don’t forget about Mannlicher Model 1905 automatic pistol used by Argentine army, rotary magazine (Mannlicher-Schönauer rifle)

      • At the time a model was required. I’m not sure how late this persisted, but the model didn’t need to be a working thing; it was often a model, exactly; carved of wood, showing how mechanical parts worked together.

        The last one I personally recall having seen was used by Pitcairn in his patent on his improved autogyro rotorhead so it would have dated to around 1928-32. Pitcairn autogyros were a five days’ wonder between the wars. Later, Pitcairn sued Igor SIkorsky and his company for infringing his rotorhead patent and demonstrated in court, using the model, that the Sikorsky helicopter rotor head was a direct copy of Pitcairn’s patented autogyro head, and Sikorsky had to pay Pitcairn (and keep paying for the life of the patent, IIRC). Meanwhile, in Russia, Mikhail Mil’s design bureau copied Sikorsky’s head, and hey got away with it. (Of course, Sikorsky and Mil also made many improvements in the design, but if you ever get a chance to see a 1940s-60s Sikorsky rotor head next to a Mil helicopter or a Pitcairn autogyro you will see that they are all in the same family). There are very few Pitcairn autogyros left, but they were extremely safe aircraft — they just died of old age like all other 1930s aircraft. I think there are two airworthy examples in the USA. Japan and Britain also built them under license, and the Japanese used them for antisubmarine work from a small carrier in the Inland Sea. I think the Brits used them as target tugs, nobody’s favorite mission.

        You can see the Pitcairn patent model at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It may not be on display; I had to ask to see it and it was in a hangar on Pioneer airfield with a lot of ancient aero engines, IIRC.

  2. I think the peculiar pattern of the pistol (say that three times fast!) is due to von Mannlicher trying to make it handle as much as possible like a standard service revolver.

    Compare it to an Austrian service 8mm Rast-Gasser revolver of the same period, notably the 1898 model. The grip shape is nearly identical, overall dimensions are very close, and the automatic is only slightly heavier. Ballistically, there’s not much to choose between them; both are notably weak by American standards then and now, being somewhere around a .32 S&W (not the Long). And regulations for the six-shot revolver called for it to be carried in the holster with an empty chamber under the hammer, so the five-shot capacity was a wash either way.

    It was also probably a bit faster to reload than the revolver, which had a typically European “Adams” type one-at-a-time rod ejector/loading gate setup, lacking the spring rebound of the American Colt (William Mason patent) ejector.

    Since the Austro-Hungarian Army had the same opinion of the handgun as every other army in Europe (a secondary cavalry weapon -after the arme blache– and a signaling baton for infantry officers that doubled as a last-ditch self-defense arm), the five or six rather anemic shots of this pistol or the 8mm revolver would have been deemed sufficient to the purpose.

    The double-action system makes sense in that respect, as well. Unlike American horse soldiers (Colt M1873 Peacemaker) and Prussian reiters (M1879/ M1883 “Reichsrevolvers”), most European armies (including Austria-Hungary’s) didn’t want to fool with a single-action handgun on horseback. I suspect most of them would cheerfully have dispensed with even the thumb-cocking option and gone to straight DAO trigger-cocking for all shooting.

    It’s worth noting that the first official Austro-Hungarian service auto, the 1908 Roth-Steyr, used a “hesitation-cock” system by which the striker was half-cocked by the bolt in recoil, and required a long pull of the trigger to haul it back the rest of the way and sear it off. A direct forerunner of the modern Glock action, along with the trigger-safety setup of the later Sauer “Behorden-Modell”. And yes, it was intended for the cavalry, as well.

    Although somehow a bunch of them turned up in British RNAS inventory in 1915, being used by Navy Sopwith “Baby” pilots for “discouraging” enemy scouts from bothering them in the air, before the advent of properly-mounted machine guns. (You know, there’s probably a doctoral thesis just waiting to be written about exactly how that happened…)

    The blow-forward system fits in this philosophy, as well. Granted, it increases felt recoil, but it also doesn’t disturb the equanimity of the shooter with a big slide coming back in his field of view. It’s also mechanically about as simple and mule-stupid as a self-loading action can get, with a revolver-type searage, a hammer-mounted firing pin, and one recoil spring around the barrel.

    It’s probably a beeotch to field-strip, but that would have been an armorer’s job back then; officers were discouraged from poking about in the inner workings of their revolvers, and I doubt that attitude would have changed much with an automatic.

    Von Mannlicher’s two mistakes were patterning his new technology a bit too much on the old tech in the ergonomics department, and not putting sufficient power into the cartridge. But considering the doctrines of the time that he was working under, neither one is really evidence of stupidity on his part.

    He was the first one out of the gate, and was in unexplored territory. He can be forgiven for taking a wrong turn.



    • “both are notably weak by American standards then and now, being somewhere around a .32 S&W (not the Long)”
      Can you write 8mm Gasser bullet mass/muzzle velocity according to your sources?
      Fiocchi list “8 GASSER” as having 126 grains bullet and muzzle velocity 250 m/s.
      I don’t know that it match original loading but I suspect that it doesn’t it is rather weaker than stronger.
      For 32 S&W Long Fiocchi lists 97 grains bullet and muzzle velocity 250 m/s, so the 8mm Gasser seems too have bigger momentum than .32 S&W Long.

      • 8mm Gasser military load is very close to lighter .32H&R Magnum loads.
        It used 5.2-5.4 grains of smokeless powder to propel 8.1g (125 grain) bullet at about 250m/s (820 FPS).
        8mm Roth used 8.1g bullet, propelled by 6-6.2 grains of smokeless powder at about 330m/s (1082 FPS).

        .32 S&W Long uses 6g bullet @ 230m/s
        .32 S&W uses 6g bullet @ 215 m/s
        Federal made .32 H&R Magnum I had used 6g bullet at about 290-300 m/s.
        .32 ACP is usually about 4-5g @ 280-310 m/s.

        So how are exactly 8mm Gasser and 8mm Roth less powerful than .32 S&W Long?

        • Cartridges of the World (6th Ed.) lists the 8mm Rast-Gasser factory load as a 115 to 126-grain bullet @ 785 (115) or 750 (126) F/S, yielding ~150 foot-pounds either way. This falls right between the .32 S&W (85 @ 705/100) and the Long (98 @ 900/170).

          This is near the top end of the general range of ballistics for the “8mm era” military revolver rounds of the time;

          7.5mm Swiss; 110 @ 700= 115 FP
          7.5mm Swedish; 104 @ 725= 120 FP
          8mm Lebel (France); 102 @ 625= 104 FP
          7.62mm Nagant (Russia); 108 @ 725= 125 FP

          Compared to its contemporaries on the Continent, the 8mm R-G was a pretty hot number. Compared to American rounds of the same era, it was the equivalent of a moderate to mild pocket revolver load.

          When the autopistols in the same bore size arrived around the turn of the (last) century, bullets stayed about the same weight or a bit lighter, but velocities almost doubled, with the slowest like the 7.65mm Roth-Sauer and the straight-walled 7.65mm Mannlicher being just below or on M=1 (1000 to 1090 F/S or so). Most were in the 1200 to 1400 F/S range, with MEs from 180 FP at the low end to 370-400 FP at the upper end.

          By comparison to all of the above, the .32 H&R Magnum factory load was 95 or 85 @ 1050-1110 for 230 FP, either way.

          If more commercial ammunition makers had loaded HP or SP bullets in those “hot .30s” during the first couple of decades of the last century, our theories of “handgun stopping power” throughout the 20th Century might have been very different than they actually were.



          • “8mm Rast-Gasser factory load as a 115 to 126-grain bullet @ 785 (115) or 750 (126) F/S, yielding ~150 foot-pounds either way. This falls right between the .32 S&W (85 @ 705/100) and the Long (98 @ 900/170).”
            Wait. According to Julian Sommerville Hatcher RSE formula:
            RSE = 0.178*G*V*F*S
            where: G = bullet weight (grams), V = bullet speed (m/s), F = bullet cross-section (cm^2), S = bullet form (from 0.9 for FMJ to 1.25 for expanding).
            Assuming S = 0.9 (FMJ) for both:

            For 8mm Gasser (126-grain at 750fps):
            G = 8.13, V = 228.6, F = 0.5166 (assuming diameter 0.811cm), S = 0.9
            then RSE = 0.178*8.13*228.6*0.5166*0.9 = ~153.81

            For 32 S&W Long (98-grain at 900fps):
            G = 6.32, V = 274.3, F = 0.4901 (assuming diameter 0.79cm), S = 0.9
            then RSE = 0.178*6.32*274.3*0.4901*0.9 = ~136.11

            Because 153.81 > 136.11 cartridge 8mm Gasser has more stopping power, unless Hatcher’s RSE formula is wrong.

          • Eon, 8.1g bullet and 5.2-5.4 grains powder for 8mm Rast Gasser comes from original rounds, Austro-Hungarian, 1930s Yugoslavian and 1920s Italian when a friend was making them inert.

            I did not have enough of those to shoot and measure velocity but data a fits a figures from “Gasser-Revolver Lebenswerk einer österr” by Joschi Schuy that gives 250m/s velocity. So I would say that Cartridges of the World ears on the side of caution or uses data for some commercial downloaded version.
            It uses original data for ammo performances and powder oad and round fits my data.

          • Hate to tell you, but as someone who’s examined a lot of GSWs at PMs and read the associated reports, I don’t put much stock in any theory of “handgun stopping power” that disregards or downplays kinetic energy.

            Also, while bullet diameter generally directly influences size of avulsion (“wound channel”), exactly what the avulsion messes up inside is probably more important than its permanent crush cavity.

            I.e., peripheral muscle-tissue hit= painful but not necessarily causing cessation of hostile action. Hit in heart & lungs= target nonfunctional in seconds. BTW, any deer hunter knows this.

            IMPO, there is only One Theory of Stopping Power; Handgun Rounds Don’t Have Much. I include Magnums.

            The .357 and similar 9mm-class loads, loaded with hollow points, seem to do best because they hit, go in about 10″/25cm, expanding as they go, make a decent-sized “hole” and dump all 400-500 FPE in the target. The .41 and .44 Magnums with full-power loads tend to go right on through, expending a lot of their KE wealth on the landscape behind the target; not safe and suboptimal.

            The .45 ACP’s reputation is due to its innate half-inch wound channel and dumping all 350 FPE inside the target. It still generally does not generate “one-shot stops” except with head or heart hits.

            Small, fast bullets do well, as long as they expand and go really, really fast. The 5.56 x 45 rifle round is about at the lower end of “really, really fast enough“. It’s highly lethal with center hits at close range (under 100m) because it’s still moving at near muzzle velocity; 300m out, it’s not so hot.

            The FN 5.6 x 28 round is no better than a .22 WMR out of a pistol barrel; similar ballistics. The Kel-Tec .22 WMR pistol is a more “cost-effective” weapon than the Five-SeveN for this reason; terminal effect is about the same, but both pistol and ammunition are cheaper.

            Generally, the first rule of stopping power is exactly the same as the first rule of traffic safety; Speed Kills. Except that with SP, the more speed (MV) the better.

            And bullets must expand, both to “stop” and “stop”; stop the target and stop IN the target to avoid being a threat to those beyond same.

            Other than that, I don’t worry too much about “stopping power” theories.

            And when I was expecting trouble way back when, my first choice of weapon was the patrol shotgun or rifle, not my sidearm.

            Sidearm; Colt M1911A1 .45 ACP, 200-gr JHP.
            Shotgun; Winchester M1897 12-gauge, 00 buckshot.
            Rifle; Winchester M1894 .30-30 WCF, 150-gr JSP.

            As Elmer Keith said, “Never bring a pistol to a rifle fight”.



      • Can’t remember where I saw an 8 shot rast gasser revolver being fired with. 32 H&R mag.

        Personal favourite for BS about stopping power is us trials in slaughter yard.

        Only instant knock down with a chest shot on cattle was.30 Luger,

        But the totally unsupported conclusion from the exercise was that .45 was the minimum acceptable calibre for military service.

        Knockdown starts to get interesting when bullet velocity approaches the P wave velocity in water/brine/flesh
        At around 4000 fps.

        In air, there is a hump in the velocity/ drag curve around Mach 1, where all of the shockwaves build up on the bullet, especially around a flat base ( having a boat tail lowers that hump). The same thing, only more so, happens around mach1 in flesh.

        Going even further ot. One of the problems being faced by a proposed high speed rail line in Britain, is the planned speed of the trains, is around the speed of the Rayleigh waves in the underlying earth works, so the trains will be forever trying to climb their own bow wave in the track, wasting energy and other people’s money.

  3. Forward acting barrels go right back to the manually operated magazine pistols at the infancy of metallic cartridges.

    I’m on a crap connection and tablet interface. So haven’t seen Ian’s vid, and cannot post magazine pistol patent.

    Regarding the revolver ergonomics, the text of One of mannlichers patents makes that point.

    When I saw the title, I initially thought Ian had found one of mannlichers blow forward rifle prototypes.

  4. Test-firing of the Mannlicher M1894 in America left much to admire. Cartridges tended to jam or misfire and after 281 rounds the barrel burst. Experts found that trying to load from the clips was fiddly on foot and impossible on horseback. Simplicity in this case for the main frame was accomplished at the expense of making a firing cycle similar to that of the French 1907 St. Etienne MG (except the French gun is gas-operated). Using the trigger as the magazine hold-open feature is just unsafe on a bucking horse, especially when one must manually yank the barrel forward to reload (does not lock on empty, just as Ian noted).

    Why not just modify this thing into a manually operated repeater for target shooting? And if so, how should one do that?

    • Thinking of those “straight-pull” .22 rifles so popular with Olympic biathlon competitors today (the ones you can “snick-snick” back and forth with your thumb without changing your grip or sight picture), one way might have been a setup like the Lignose “Einhand” .25 pocket auto.

      Have a relatively weak spring to push the barrel forward, held back by a moving grip frontstrap under the last three fingers of the shooting hand.

      To eject, just relax those three fingers and let the frontstrap, and barrel, go forward about an inch and a quarter (~30mm).

      To feed the next round and return the barrel to battery, just grip the frontstrap normally. Sort of like using a hand exerciser.

      With practice, I think you could probably get at least the silver in rapid-fire competition with it. Slow-fire would be so easy they’d probably disallow the action for that event.




      • Most ingenious of you! I wonder if such a setup would also permit the front strap to act as a safety so as to prevent out-of-battery discharge. In terms of being a practical clip-fed pistol, the Krnka still beats the Mannlicher because it is easier to load (bolt locks on an empty magazine).

        • Thank you!

          As to a safety, the trigger setup had a three-armed “barrel holding lever” that was what locked the barrel forward while you held the trigger back for loading as Ian demonstrated.

          I don’t think it would be too difficult to add a springloaded “arm” to it that would be up and out of the line of engagement with the sear with the barrel forward, rather like the magazine safety on a Browning P-35 High Power.

          I was thinking of the frontstrap as being a sliding one like the Lignose trigger guard, but actually a better arrangement would be one like the H&K P7, pivoted at the bottom. That would give the shooter more mechanical advantage in closing the breech, allowing a stronger spring to move the barrel forward. It also would function as a dust cover for the workings.

          Frontstrap grip safeties aren’t really all that new. The Schwarzlose blow-forward automatic had one, to cite just one example from the era.

          BTW, according to Mannlicher Rifles and Pistols by W.H.B. Smith (1947), the “Halbautomatische Repetier Pistole mit Vorgehendem Lauf und Packetlading M.94” went through several modifications in its brief life.

          The earliest version had the barrel held fully forward by the “barrel holding lever” until the shooter collected his wits enough to release the trigger, similar to some versions of the Gabbett-Fairfax Mars. Later versions deleted this setup.

          No version recocked the hammer by recoil. All had to be fired like a revolver. Some were single-action only, requiring thumb-cocking for each shot; others deleted the SA feature and were DAO. Some even had grip safeties, in back, in front, or both.(!)

          The original 6.5mm round wasn’t the only rimmed round used in this critter. There was also and 8mm version that (to judge by the diagrams in the book) may have been the 8mm Rast-Gasser revolver round. The later 7.8mm round, however, was a true rimless, straight-walled round, apparently similar to the later 7.65 x 21 Mannlicher round used in the Model 1900 self-loading pistol.

          Note that there is yet another Mannlicher automatic pistol, the “in-between” “Automatische Repetier-Pistole mit Ruckgehendem Lauf und Packetladung M.96”,aka “M1903” (the year it was first sold on the commercial market).

          It’s the Mannlicher automatic that looks a lot like a Mauser C/96, that uses a down-loaded version of the 7.63 x 25mm Mauser round, rather like the Russian Tokarev’s 7.62 x 25mm but even lower in pressure.

          As with the Schwarzlose “Standart” and the Borchardt, yes, 7.63 x 25mm Mauser rounds will chamber in the “M.96/M1903”. NO, it is emphatically NOT a good idea.

          BTW, the Smith book is now available in reprint form, combined with his 1946 books on Mauser and Walther rifles and pistols.

          Mauser, Walther and Mannlicher Firearms;


          For about $20 it belongs in every collector’s library, IMHO.



  5. The principal reason that the blow forward pistols was that the recoil is very heavy. I have fired one of these and the similar Japanese pistol and the recoil is uncomfortable.


  6. There is a certain steam punk look to this pistol. It reminded me of the blaster that Deckard uses in Blade Runner, which, strangely enough, was a mash up of a Mannlicher bolt action and a Charter Arms revolver.

    But full marks to Mannlicher, he managed to design a semi-auto pistol at a time when no-one knew what a semi-auto pistol “should” look like, and got it to work.

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