Schlegemilch 1896: Closest Competition to the Mauser 98

Louis Schlegemilch had been one of the contributors to the Gewehr 1888 and when the German military decided to replace it, Schlegemilch was there with a design he hoped would win. His model 1896 rifle was a two lug bolt action design with a number of clever machining details, and a distinctive massive shroud covering the bolt. The rifle was chambered for the 6x58mm cartridge and was tested from 1896 to 1898 against Paul Mauser’s best design. Schlegemilch ended up losing the trials, and aside form a few rifles made for the hunting use of German aristocracy, the design never saw further production.


  1. “6x58mm cartridge”
    I am wondering about its ballistic. Few years later, in 1904 in Germany 6×58 Förster appeared:
    Launching 8,2 g bullet @ 825 m/s. Though this is only evidence that such ballistic was attainable in 1904 – cartridge used in Schlegemilch trial rifle might actually have much different capacity or internal barrel shape or mass of bullet used.
    Anyway it is worth noticing that Germans in 1890s crafted some rifle cartridges with caliber as low as 5mm, see: though I do not how many were made and how seriously they were researched. Nonetheless, 5 mm or 6 mm, if would be adopted might suffer ahead of its time curse, as was case in .236 Lee-Navy history: replacement with .30-06 begin around only 10 year after its debut. This raise question about possibility of adopting Schlegemilch design to other cartridge, for example 7,9×57 mm: would it fit length-wise? [Notice that similar cases lengths do NOT automatically means similar overall-length of cartridges] This method of locking (“directly” bolt to barrel, rather than via separate element) looks well-suited for powerful cartridge, so possibly it might be adopted for usage during dangerous animal hunting, however if and only if reliable feeding would be provided.

    • Cartridges of the World, 6th edition, lists both the 6 x 58 Forster (in two versions, one rimless, the other a 6 x 58R), and the 6 x 57 Mauser, which was apparently the 6.5 x 57 necked down to 6mm.

      This of course means that it was originally based on the 7 x 57, and in fact except for shoulder angle the 6 x 57 is nearly identical to the modern .244 Remington, based on the .257 Roberts (again, a necked-down 7 x 57).

      Introduced around 1895, catalogs of the time list the 6 x 57 in two bullet weights, a 120-gr. softpoint and a 123-gr. hollow point. Barnes estimates that MV was probably around 2,600 F/S, based on the likely powders available at the time.

      I suspect that this is in fact the cartridge this rifle was chambered for, rather than the 6 x 58 Forster. Mauser would have developed such a cartridge “in-house” for military trials, and Barnes states that the Forster 6mms were not introduced until c. 1904, a decade late for the German army trials.

      As for the rifle itself, I note that the Arisaka Type 99 “substitute” rifle introduced in 1943 had the bolt locking into the barrel as on this rifle, rather than into the receiver. In the Arisaka’s case, this allowed the use of wrought iron or even cast iron rather than high-strength steel in the receiver, as it did not have withstand pressure, just hold the bolt and barrel in proper alignment with each other.

      In terms of overall action, the Mauser Model 66 sporting rifle seems strangely similar to this one;

      In fact, if you look closely at the photos of the open action, the only major difference seems to be having the bolt handle at the front of the bolt rather than at the rear.

      The similarities are even more marked when you look at the owner’s manual;

      Note the method of detaching and changing barrels on this multi-caliber rifle. Also note that one of its four bolt-head sizes, 1st Group, 12.2mm, is correct for any of the 7 x 57 casehead-sized cartridges, which would include the 6 x 57.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that when Mauser introduced the Model 66 in 1966, they didn’t do a great deal of “original” R&D in developing it. I also suspect there was at least one Schlegemilch Model 1896, or at least the patent diagrams of same, in their design division at the time.



      • “were not introduced until c. 1904,”
        Still, it could exist earlier.

        “Mauser would have developed such a cartridge “in-house” for military trials”
        Why Mauser would be motivated to develop possibly best cartridge for rival design of Schlegemilch

        I want to highlight that actual chamber dimensions are unknown for us, I woudln’t be surprised if after measuring it would prove to be yet another 6 mm cartridge – with different case dimensions/shape from both mentioned.

      • The real reason the rifle was not adopted is the name means drumstick or mallet + milk! What good goosestepping moronic prussian would allow this defamation. It would be like having a fuhrer named schicklgruber (meaning ‘posh valley’)

  2. Not Mausered Here: the German Army was right to hesitate at anything but a Mauser design, although in this case they seem to have been needlessly cautious. Surely it could have been made cheaper and faster than the 98, and that would have counted for a lot in wartime — and the German Empire under Willem 2 was certainly planning and dreaming of a big European war sometime or other. Why doesn’t somebody bring out a modern version of the Schlagemilch? He won’t come back and sue for infringement.

    • “(…)Willem 2(…)”
      I assume that this is U.S. codename for WILHELM DER ZWEITE if that does not hold true stop reading this post.
      Note that WILHELM DER ZWEITE seriously considering invading… U.S.A.:
      obviously he did not consider such mere trifles as providing supplies all across Atlantic or how to occupy so big country. Did you think he would be caring about such boring frippery as difference between resource needed to make 1 Schlegemilch rifle vs 1 Mauser rifle?

      • “Willem” is just a familiar diminutive of Wilhelm. Addressing Herr All-Highest as Willem would get you a stretch in prison, back in those royal days. Soooo, being as I’m an impudent sort, I use it here. Reckon Willem won’t come and get me now.

  3. Nother thing: do the German Army records of the rifle trials still exist anywhere? Before Ian and I invest in a factory to build the Schlagemilch Model 2019, we need to know how it actually performed out there in the sand and rain of Luneberg Heath.

    • Another potential problem our Russian friend pointed out years ago was the possibility of burning out the barrel since we’re looking at a narrow projectile with a high velocity load. There’s only so much stress the gun can handle before the bore wears out! I could be wrong.

      • One of the reasons the 6mm Lee Navy had such a short service life was just that. To propel small bullets to high velocities back then, the powders used burned at higher temperatures than most barrel steels were intended to tolerate. So bore/rifling erosion was faster and more severe than with more sedate numbers like the .30-40 Krag.

        If this one was in fact chambered for the 6 x 57 Mauser, the listed MV of 2,600 F/S would make it a “hot” load for its time, although comparatively sedate by modern standards. I would expect it to have bore/rifling erosion problems similar to the 6mm Lee Navy service load (112-gr. @ 2,550).

        120 gr. @ 2,600 would give it a ME of 1,800 FPE, about 400 FPE less than the standard .30 Krag service load, but about 450 FPE more than the 25-35 WCF (c.1895), and about 180 FPE more than the 6mm Lee service load. In other words, it would be in the general ballpark of its contemporaries, energy-wise, but with a flatter trajectory than most out to about 400m.

        This would explain the 300m “lowest” setting on the tangent rear sight Ian mentioned. Rather like a 7.62 x 39mm AK rear sight set to the “battlesight” notch (that’s the one with what looks like a capital “D” turned on its side), at any range out to 400m, if you aimed center chest on an enemy soldier, the bullet would hit him somewhere between his shirt collar and his belt buckle, which is more than adequate for combat shooting.

        The sight settings above 1000m, out to 2000, would of course be for massed volley fire “by the numbers”, a concept that was still considered valid as late as WW1, by which time of course it had been rendered largely obsolete by the advent of the water-cooled heavy machine gun.



        • “powders used burned at higher temperatures than most barrel steels were intended to tolerate.”
          Yes, but I suspect that there was significant difference between U.S. and German powder at that time.
          Page 15 of this pdf: might be relevant to this: around 1900 French considering 6×60 as new service cartridge, throwing 6,6 g bullet @ 878 m/s, however their current powder did not go well with that cartridge. So they secretly acquired German “Rottweil” powder and packed into that cartridge. Results were so good, that they attempted to copy said powder, but they failed at this task. Finally, they give up 6 mm caliber and switched efforts to development of 6,5 mm and 7 mm.

          • “Yes, but I suspect that there was significant difference between U.S. and German powder at that time.”

            Yes, there was. The U.S. has generally used single-based powders, Europeans, including the Germans and British, prefer double-base powders, with nitroglycerine as the second base.

            These burn considerably hotter than single-base powders. They also tend to be unstable in storage, and react badly to being knocked about by things like 35cm AP shells. (See Jutland in WW1 and the Battle of the Denmark Strait in WW2.)



          • “See Jutland in WW1”
            Regarding Skagerrakschlacht IIRC reason of few Royal Navy battle-cruisers going kaboom was totally ignoring of any safety precautions in favor to achieve maximal Rate-of-Fire. As counter-example HMS Lion crew actually did not break said rules and in consequence despite Germans scored hits against HMS Lion it survived.

  4. Ruined an otherwise excellent video with hyperbole about the magnificently successful Mauser. Oh, Gun Jesus, why do you forsake us? The Mauser 93’s were an excellent innovative system that pretty much got turned into a clunker with the 98, but as we know, because the Germans loved and lost with it–twice–it was magnificently successful.

  5. Is this a one lug gun? The square key that runs through the bottom of the chamber makes me think it might be. Top lug for safety bottom lug for headspace?

    • It’s a two-lug lockup, but the “bottom” lug (when locked, right lug when unlocked) includes the extractor head, which takes up about four-fifths of the lug area.

      As long as it’s properly shaped, like this one, that would not adversely affect locking strength, assuming proper metallurgy, which admittedly was rather a hit-or-miss thing in those days.



  6. Oh wow!

    I need to get to a decent Internet connection and watch that video.

    As a first thought, that shroud passing under the charger guide bridge, is another source for the idea of the big shroud that the Mauser 98 1917 upgrade had.

    I was blaming Krag & Jorgensen for it. Their 2 lug action had a built in bolt shroud.

    I sort of blame Krag & Jorgensen for the big, non rotating extractor idea as well.

    I guess that post Mauser 66, we also got the German modular Rifles.

    Things like the Sauers (with almost traditional looks) and the Blasers, with much less traditional looks.

    There was also a Krico modular rifle that looked more like a Blaser than it did a Sauer. Sadly it’s no longer made.

    • It is funny you mention that Mauser late-war prototype, because I was thinking exactly the same thing. One has to wonder what the Mauser of that period would have wound up looking like, had WWI not happened. Not to mention, what the rest of the world would have wound up copying…

      The 1903 Springfield and the two Enfield rifles look positively primitive next to that Mauser prototype.

  7. Oh yes!

    It looks like Fidel Federle put lots and lots of Schlegelmilch ideas into the Mauser 98/17!

    Take a look at the bolt shroud, ejection and bolt stop mechanism on the Mauser

    Using the extractor from the Mauser 1889, with an extra bit added and the bottom of the bolt face rim cut away, can work fairly well for controlled feeding. It’s what the Carcano was modified to do.

    The placing of extraction cams in the receiver ring is one of those complicated things that seems to pop up time after time in the German Speaking world
    I know that they’re there for a different reason (to start the bolt locking) but you even get the same thing in the FG 42.

    Carcano (like the German 1888 rifle commission), also put the extraction cams inside the receiver ring.

  8. Hard to believe the Germans would pass up an opportunity to use more syllables. I firmly believe that ‘ugly’ names drive procurement a lot more than anyone would care to admit.

  9. As a what if…
    That somehow the war parties in the European countries had all been wiped out, and nineteenth century liberalism and free trade had continued for the whole of the twentieth century in Europe.

    Perhaps we’d all be shooting variants of the .280 Ross?

    The mud of the Somme and Marne valleys (and the senseless waste – only to be repeated again twenty years later, then kept going as a cold war for another half century and now yet another cold war)

    Served to correct the ideas of the paper and plywood target shooting crowd.

    The SMLE and the 1903 Springfield were the only rifles that I can think of that were a handy length for fighting with.

    Everything else was the right length for use as a pike against a cavalry charge, or for use with open sights on a target range.

    Apart from the little 6.5mm rounds, everything else was way too big and heavy. And in the case of .30-06 and 8x57mm, firing poor external ballistic performance bullets that failed to make use of the large powder capacities of the cases.

    French Balle D was the amazing performer for long range ballistics, even though the figures at the muzzle appear modest. It out performs 150gr .30-06 on everything from about 100m onwards!

    Without the mud of the western front, I don’t think that any of those things would have been realised.

    The target range and target range rules like open sights only, regulation trigger pulls, regulation ammunition, would probably reign supreme.

  10. @Barnbwt,
    You have a good point there.

    The females from places where German is spoken, and who I’ve known well enough…

    Have all brought the subject up that, whatever crap their families might have landed on them, they’re glad that they didnt burden them with traditional Germanic names!

  11. Vielen dank!

    I kinda like this action and the simplicity of the “receiver” minimized to just a bolt raceway and magazine. Incidentally, there was a sheet-metal Volksgewehr prototype that had a manually operated bolt, locking lug rings built into the overhang of the chamber, and a detachable 10-rd. or 30-rd. StG44 magazine for 7,9x33mm kurz cartridges… Of course there were also the full 7,92x57mm versions using Kar43 magazines as well like the Walther variant VG-1 and the Spreewerk VG-2, but those had rather more substantive receivers and otherwise didn’t resemble any of the rifles under discussion at all, apart from the manually operated turn-bolt action.

  12. @Isabel
    Many thanks!

    Are those patent numbers, mid way down (dead tree) page 50?

    I’ve tried a few patent searches, but haven’t come up with anything yet.

    • Putting the “De” prefix infront of the numbers, works in espacenet,

      but searching for the name “Schlegelmilch” didn’t work on any of the patent search sites.

      I now need to fire up my old laptop, as my Android things don’t work to download from espacenet.

  13. I’m still watching and re watching this

    More and more questions are coming to mind.

    The extractor is the same as the later Carcano 91 extractor. I don’t know what date the Carcano went from an extractor that was mounted through a split in the right/ bottom lug, to one that left the lug whole.
    Who was first? Carcano or Schlegelmilch?

    Also, whatever advantage is gained in less machining in the lower receiver, is more than lost in that machined from solid bolt shroud.

  14. I would think the German procurement officers, in the days of unreliable primers and splitting or exploding cases, would look aghast at a rifle with no proper receiver and no apparent gas vents. They could easily imagine the bolt blowing back off the Schlegelmilch into the shooter’s face. Mauser, in contrast, was practically paranoid: third safety lug, multiple gas vents, etc. Remember, these were the same guys who adopted the Reichsrevolver, on grounds of user safety and reliability.

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