RIA: Liegeoise 1888 Trials Rifle

The Belgian Army held rifle trials in the late 1880s to choose a new infantry rifle, and the winner was the Model 1889 Belgian Mauser. Quite a few different guns were involved in the competition though, including this Engh-patent rifle made by Manufacture Liegeois D’Armes. It’s a pretty unusual bolt action that is definitely worth taking a closer look at!

68 Comments

      • The written document is the 1886 trial, this rifle isn’t mentioned on that as a consequence, it’s mentioned on that webpage though in French, it was a smokeless round anyway, the Mauser was rimless though wasn’t it…

        • You’d need the manlicker ammo clips also, the Steyr 1895 Mannlicher clip looks similar sized, I have seen Berthier and Gewehr 88 ones which don’t look compatible, ze Germans converted there 88’s to use the Mauser clips at a later date… I wonder if the Belgian ones were the same, can’t find any Steyr 1895s in 7.65×53 though.

          • I’ve read 7.65×53 is very similar dimensionally to .308 Winchester, and apparently theres a rimmed version of this called the .307 Winchester which is used in Spain some sort of law against using normal.308 by civilians. So .307 Winchester maybe very close to 7.65x53R, the cartridge this rifle used, trying to find a clip for it you see, so a rimless round probably would have a different clip…

          • You could hand load it, with ye olde lead bullets and smokeless powder if it was to replicate it, .307 Win brass is available.

          • 7.7mmR Dutch mannlicher clip, possibly… Can’t find any though, mind you the normal one was curved, the schimdt rubin clips rear portion looks similar to the mag in the patent, the cartridge isn’t rimmed though.

          • The swiss portion of the mag aforesaid is it’s front there’s a swiss mannlicher but it uses these types if clip,and there 7.5 is rimless, suppose someone could alter a 8x50r clip they are the most common but the case seems to wide so the rim would be wider presumably.

          • @Pdb,

            the Swiss mannlicher uses the standard Swiss stripper – the magazine is “Mauser”-type, not Mannlicher-type.

          • “and apparently theres a rimmed version of this called the .307 Winchester which is used in Spain some sort of law against using normal.308 by civilians.”

            While that might be why it would be used in Spain, the actual purpose was to create a .308 equivalent round for the Winchester Model 94 lever action.

          • It’s not actually that similar either, upon further investigation. 7x57R seems more likey, that and the Argentine cartridge both have the same base diameter.

  1. Fascinating to see a design which was completely unknown to me. Just look at the bluing and the quality of the wood on that rifle, things were certainly made to look beautiful in that era. It would be great if anyone could find the trial reports of how the rifle performed. I imagine it would have been a quick gun to fire, but maybe somewhat delicate in operation.

  2. Gorgeous, gorgeous rifle. This style seem to fit well into art-nouveau era which culminated then. Also, bolt function is fascinating and awe inspiring. Another detail worth of noticing is rounds built into breech entrance.

    Just a thought on side: IF this rifle was adopted, would it mean that there would be no F.N.? That company was established specifically for purpose of building Mausers for Belgian military.

    • There probably would have been another Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, since it means National Factory, located at Herstal. It seems commmon at the to to produce your nations own arms.

  3. Interesting that the extractor is on the bottom and not the top. Where’s the ejector?

    Had a look for the Engh patent corresponding to the rifle, but Espacenet doesn’t have belgian documents back that far. Here’s a pistol of his though: http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/originalDocument?CC=CH&NR=12092A&KC=A&FT=D&ND=3&date=18961015&DB=EPODOC&locale=en_EP

    According to the littlegun.be article referenced above, the rifle was made by Manufacture Liégeoise d’Armes à feu. I have a bulldog revolver made by them some time between 1894 and 1914, chambered for 7.5mm Swiss revolver.

    • I can’t see one either, maybe the extractor doubles as one, somehow. It is a interesting designed extractor, pivoting etc, I suppose the clip could… Although the bolt face is solid,

      • It’s got a safety hole at the front of the bolt, and corresponding one above the chamber I think, the Mauser gew etc 88 had lots of blowing up problems initially apparently, as did the Mauser that won this competition seemingly, they put a safety hole in the 88’s bolt at a later date, there’s a piece in a g&a article about it.

      • The lack of an ejector “a visible one” maybe the reason for the flat bolt face, rather than it using a rimmed cartridge. The extractor is at the bottom, and pivots up and down somewhat. Suggesting it ejects upwards perhaps, so a flat bolt face would help the cartridge be able to go straight up without it snagging maybe. If you pulled the bolt back with some degree of vigour… The rear of the pivoting extractor might, no, how would the extractor work as an ejector? Hmmm, if the pivoting extractor got a knock upwards at the back during this movement the front would drop letting go of the rim “rimless or otherwise, rim” but gravity would… It could get another knock upwards at the front which might hit the case in a manner that sends it upwards out of the gun, it doesn’t appear to move much though.

          • Patent speaks just as you described. Extractor draws the rim of case to a point where its cammed down step strikes to a large transversal pin and supposed to violently kick upward. Extractor is a double acting part. Thanks to abacab for finding the related patent but you have already found its functionality.

  4. Great as always. ALL the gun companies should take a hard look at this. This typifies superb fabrication. How low have we come to “accept” the “cookies” cast and stamped out by the likes of Ruger and InferioR Arms Co, etc. I am certain that it even works without horrid stampings to tell one to read the owners manual and which end to point where!

      • It is far easier for us today with our technology to make a gun of that quality. I think the reason we don’t have them anymore is more complicated that just say no one would want to pay for it. At one time people did! I think the answer is in our economic system more that technology. I would recommend a look at Bill Stills films on economy. Like one titled “the Money Masters”.

    • Ruger’s strategy was to try to keep prices down so that a working man could buy one with one week’s pay (or maybe it was two). And good for Ruger, not everyone can afford finely made things.

      For those who can, there are some guns being made today at a very fine level of quality, and the price reflects that. There are custom makers and small shops that do quality work.

      I think that one issue too, is that if people wanted to have one good center fire, one good rim fire, one good shotgun, and one good revolver, then they could afford a much higher level of fit and finish. But everyone I know tends to have a safe full of ordinary guns. Why spend $4,000 on something great when that could buy half a dozen perfectly functional and accurate rifles? In the end, the $4,000 rifle would have probably been the better idea, but at the time it doesn’t look like that.

  5. Beatifull rifle, but not service use. Bolt handle nearly seeks for a place to hit and open. Solely hitting the butt hardly on the ground seems sufficient to open the action. Single piece extractor ejector looks may not work with unfired shells.

    • Bonnie rifle isn’t it, 3,000-4,500 U.S dollars is the estimate, “Excellent condition, The rifle retains 98% original blue finish with some light muzzle and high edge wear. There is some very light spotting on the left side of the magazine. The bolt assembly remains bright. The safety has a smooth gray patina. The rear sight has most of the original bright case colors and signs of some light cleaning on the lower front of the ladder. The rear barrel band is loose. The stock is also excellent with a few minor dings and nicks. The checkering is very crisp. The markings are clear. The action functions, but nothing stops the bolt from coming out during retraction. Needs work.” That’s what it says on the RIA auction website, seemed to work in the video ok but regardless it is in excellent condition.

      • The rifle is a piece of art. Very desirable for every collector. But not made to use in
        field and battle conditions. Big mass of bolt handle along with very convenient angle seems as ready to open through any casual and inertial impact. Extractor at underside always has a weakness against to gravity especially with heavier live rounds. IMHO.

  6. Indeed, that is not so much a rifle as a work of industrial art. It is surely more a straight pull than a bolt action though.

    Never even heard of this before so Forgotten Weapons continues to do what it says on the tin.

    Keep up the excellent work, looking forward to more odd and wonderful weapons.

  7. Very Nice Prototype. The Rear sight is a copy of the Sight eventually used on the British Lee-Metford and Lee Enfield (MLM & MLE) rifles from 1889-1895;
    The Cartridge, given the nature of the Belgian Trials (I have the report (in French) on the Cartridge design etc) initially used a RIMMED Cartridge ( 7,65x53R) using a “.301″( 7,65mm) Bore Barrel, and a “7,9” mm diameter Bullet (actual dimensions) ( which is the correct Bore-Bullet relationship, the Grooves being the other part of the equation.
    Common American confusion between “Bore”, “Calibre”, “Groove dimension” and “Bullet diameter” leads to all sorts of Confusion when dealing with esp. European Military rifles.

    Rule “Bore” == “Calibre” == diameter of Unrifled Barrel before Grooving== Normal Military Description of a firearm.

    “Bullet Diameter”: actual Projectile diameter ( at its largest Point) which may be any measurement between “Bore/Calibre” AND “Groove Diameter”;

    “Groove Diameter”: the Virtual circle created by adding Twice the Groove Depth to the “Bore”…in early Rifles, due to the over-flow of BP technology, and the use of Cylindrical Jacketed bullets, the Bullet diameter was usually LESS than the Groove diameter, to prevent stripping of the Jacket, Fouling by the Nickel Plating on the Steel Jacket, and Reduction of Frictional Heat of prolonged Jacket to Barrel contact in Rapid or Sustained fire. Arrangement best seen in A-H Mannlicher rifles Bore (.315″/8mm) Bullet (Cylindrical) .324” (8,2mm) Groove Diameter (.329″/8,35mm).

    Accuracy was assured, as the Flat (open) Base of the Jacketed bullet “upset” fully into the grooves (“Base Upset Obturation”) and this Upset acted as a “Driving and” (much like the “Hollow Base (Minie effect) of BP rifles and Plain lead bullets, with or without Paper Patch)

    The design is solidly made, but is not “soldier friendly”…Safety feature is too small for rapid operation in Battle condition; I can’t see any “primary extraction” system ( Bolt handle would require a strong hand to operate with Dirty ammo and Dirty action, especially if the cartridge was rimless, instead of rimmed.)

    Clip probably resembles the straight German M88 clip (symmetrical) rather than the asymmetrical Austrian M88 clip.

    Bolt design probably difficult to strip and re-assemble “under compression” in the field ( spring-loaded parts may “fly off” if incorrectly dismantled or “dry fired” out of the Receiver.)

    Machining is Nice, but too finely toleranced…would make a nice “sporting rifle”. I like the fine checkering work on the stock, but it would soon fill up with Mud and oil and gunk in Battle Conditions and be useless for Holding the rifle.

    Number “2” could be assembly number or actual “serial” Number…usually only a pair or several rifles were made for Trials of Initial consideration.

    The angle of the Bolt handle reminds me of the Russian Berdan II rifles with their oddly placed angle as well.

    Would be interesting to see what price it raises….

    Doc AV

  8. 7.62x54R the Russian Mosin Nagant cartridge has stripper clips that are different to rimless Mauser type ones, this gun looks like it would use something similar sized but with the Manlicker functionality the clip sits at the back of the cartridges. The Nagant that was used in this trial was clip loaded from the bottom of the magazine apparently, I don’t know if you can do that with a Mosin clip I am not sure if the clip goes in the mag of if you strip it. The Gewehr 88 was converted to the Mauser strip after first using Mannlicher style one, there cartridge was always rimless though. Rimless cartridges suit the Mauser style clip… http://world.guns.ru/rifle/repeating-rifle/be/mauser_19-e.html I wonder if the Belgian/Argentine and even Turkish Mausers were made with the Mauser clip first unlike the German 88 which would make sense for rimless rounds probably. It says the rifles magazines could be loaded manually and that isn’t the case with a Mannlicher clip i.e. Without a clip for this the magazine can’t be loaded presumably, that was also a requirement of the trial apparently so a Mannlicher style action wouldn’t be ideal perhaps this gun used a modified version of it…

    • The Mosin clips appear to just be strippable,this is from the patent abacab provided: “The bolt-stop is placed in such away that the gun is arranged to fire from the magazine, all the cartridges from the magazine are used up without interruption but arranging the gun to intermittent firing four cartridges can be left in reserve in the magazine and firing; shot by shot carried by inserting a cartridge each time into the bolt channels 7 In the lower part of the breech box will be seen grooves Fig.6, in; the sides, into which the sides of the magazine” The writing was a bit garbled, I think it is saying there’s a cut off though essentially so you can load it single shot, while keeping a loaded mag. Not exactly the same thing as loading the magazine but serves the same purpose, providing theres a clip in the mag.

      Norwegian apparently Casper Engh…

    • “When the modernizing Belgian Army required a new service rifle all their own, they turned to the existing and proven German designs, bypassing any lengthy, and untimely costly, indigenous initiative in the process. The German design served as the basic framework for the Belgian offering which was slightly modified to suit Belgian military requirements. It was this rifle that turned out to be the very first successful firearm to be produced in number by Fabrique Nationale.The system proved impressive at the 1884 Bavarian Arms Trials. Both firearms were a success, but decision-makers were not convinced that the stripper feed was superior to the en-block system employed by Mannlicher. In response, Mauser started small-scale production of the design in an effort to interest foreign nations, but failed to convince any of the European major powers. The Belgian attache, however, urged his government to contact Mauser, hoping the design might give them a chance to found a domestic arms industry.” Yet these tests used rimmed cartridges apparently, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauser_Model_1889#Variants

  9. Sorry, i’ve gone off on a bit of a wayward tangent again there haven’t I. Anyway in conclusion, we’ve established the calibre is 7.65x53R thanks to Doc.

    That it’s extractor acts as the ejector thanks to numerous folk, but mainly abacab for providing the patent drawing.

    And that it’s clip resembles a model of Steyr M90 clip in my opinion, from said drawings. 7.65x53mm Argentine is likely based on 7.65x53R because it was the Belgian and Argie Mauser calibre eventually, M90 clips were for 8x50R rounds the rim of which is about 14mm.

    There’s a 7.62x53R Finnish which has a similar sized rim to fit in M90 clips although it is a bit thicker, and this might be of similar dimensions to the 7.65x53mm if that helps any reloading people come up with a cartridge.

    A cartridge that would fit in said mag, and also shoot through the rifle therefore replicating the original 7.65x53R which I can’t find.

      • There’s one for sale now,
        http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=502381349#PIC

        7x57R and 7.65x53mm have 12.01 bases, the rim on the 7x57R is 13.50 in diameter apparently… Maybe you make 7.65x53R from 7x57R, shorten it to 53.60 mm then neck it down to the Argentines dimensions for a 7.94 mm bullet.

        This is the description the Schulhof cartridge used in the same trial apparently i.e. The 7.65x53R length of case, 2.015 iuches ; length of cartridge, 2.956 inches;
        weight of cartridge (average) 386 grains; powder charge, 57 to 60 grains; weight of bullet, 215 grains. Sounds similar to the rimless Argentine case, similar. The chamber of the rifle needs measuring really doesn’t it.
        The 57’rim is slightly thicker than the rimless round, the dimensions would be slightly different probably with a rimmed vs rimless design in regards length.

  10. Beautiful piece of equipment, but I can see why it wasn’t adopted. Can you imagine struggling with that bolt handle after the action got nice and dirty, or trying to hold any kind of sight picture for the second shot?

    • In respect of holding sight pictures, there’s very few military rifles where you can keep looking over the sights while working the bolt, particularly in this period. Either the bolt gets in the way (all Mausers, even with turned-down handles), or you have to move your head or catch the bolt in your face (all the Swiss straight-pulls if you’re normally-sized).

  11. Looks like an officer’s model for sure. Beautiful wood — and checkered to boot! It’s a straight-pull, as has been noted, and wouldn’t work well or long in the field. But as a sporting rifle it might serve nicely, provided those locking lugs are as strong as they look. Maybe you could turn down the bolt-handle? (Hey, it _might_ work!) With all that machining, and that wonderful finish, I think your basic no-frills price would be, oh, say $3,000US. Now if you wanted one of the upscale models….

  12. Having the cleaning rod on the side, makes it longer, so you wouldn’t need to screw two together for it to fit all the way down the barrel.

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