Vintage Saturday: Average Joe

Union carpenter Joe Olson assists the coal miners during the UMW labor strike against CF&I, in Ludlow, Colorado.
Union carpenter Joe Olson assists the coal miners during the UMW labor strike against CF&I, in Ludlow, Colorado.

Interestingly, Joe here appears to be armed with a sporting version of the Gewehr 88 – which means those cartridges in his belt will do little good without some en bloc clips. Good thing he’s also got the revolver!


  1. Zooming in, I notice that it has the flat “spoon” bolt handle typical of a Mannlicher-Schoenauer. My best guess is that it’s a Mannlicher-made sporter ’88, most likely the 7.9 (.318″) version. So yes, en bloc clips would definitely be needed.

    Most likely, he only had a few, and kept the rest in the belt (which might be a U.S. Army type Mills belt) to reload the clips with as needed.

    Not all of the cartridge case heads visible are the same size. My SWAG is that they’re a mixture of 7.9 rifle rounds and revolver rounds. At first glance, the revolver stuck in his waistband looks like a Colt M1873, but the shape of the loading gate makes me suspect it’s a Lightning (.38) or Thunderer (.41) double-action.



  2. I just studied up on the German G88 Commission Rifle. Quite a few were converted to use the M98 stripper clips. These don’t use the G88 N-block clips. However, Ian is right,if you have one of the unconverted rifles and no N-block clips you have an 8mm Mauser single shot!

  3. There were Haenel sporters made on the 88 action, chambered in 8×56 MS and 9×56 MS imported by Abercrombie & Fitch and a variety of other sporting retailers. The Haenel sporters had a modified magazine requiring no en bloc clip.

  4. Clicking on the photo and increasing the magnification shows that the cartridges in his belt appear to be rimmed. This could be a trick of lighting, but I really don’t think so. There are also some cartridges on the right hand side of his belt with their bullets exposed. These appear to be patched lead bullets.

  5. Some late 88’s had a conversion so they could feed from a stripper clip and not need an enbloc clip. I had a Turkish 88 with this modification. Maybe this rifle has this conversion?

    • Unionism in itself is hardly communist, even though many unionists were involved in communist movements. That, however, is not relevant to the actual economic nature of trade unions. In fact communist nations almost universally suppressed free and independent trade unions, which they couldn’t control as they liked.

      In economic terms a trade union is just a cartel that tries to set the price of work and therefore inhibit the free market prices of work (which can be seen just as a product). That may be against the principles of ‘laissez-faire’ capitalism, but cartels are not exactly communist as such.

      • Of course they aren’t communist, never heard anything like it, Americans conditioned by the cold war. With no knowledge or understanding thereof of any history prior, manipulated from having the understanding that in WW2 U.S anti Nazi Propaganda decried the very attitudes they now purport, and they wonder why the American dream has vanished.

      • Adam Smith wouldn’t have advocated workers being “taken advantage of, beyond the realms of Christian morality” because it would be detrimental to Capitalism in the long term, as indeed it has been- Communist China is a super power, which isn’t going to collapse because it leeches off western greed. We will collapse well before they ever get the impression they aren’t getting one over on us, as is already happening. The U.S shot it’s bolt, which in the end was very old world and flawed accordingly.

  6. Joe’s M88 sporter looks really nice, not the type of rifle I would think a union carpenter would be able to afford if he has a wife and kids to feed. I wonder if he took it from one of the fine people from the Pinkerton agency.

    • They sold these C.G. Haenel sporters in the Sears catalog. Not at all beyond a carpenter’s means, and unlike a Winchester they had old-world charm. These old sporters are not that expensive even today. Not much collector interest since there’s no way to really categorize, date, or prove what’s original and what might have been changed yesterday. Keep your eyes open at gun shops and shows and you’ll end up noticing quite a few of these around at wildly varying prices.

    • The rest of you should have unionized in hindsight to resist all your jobs being exported to Communist China for the purposes of maximum profit, by some, with no gain to you, unions are illegal incidentally there.

    • The Colt-Browning didn’t have to worry about digging into dirt when used in relatively clean environments, so of course it had no need to fear a bunch of strikers. Never bring a rifle to a machine gun fight unless you’re a sniper or decent marksman who can nail two people in a row from half a mile away. Perhaps the reason not to allow corporate thugs to handle strikes is that the thugs will generally want the fight to get personal while the machine guns prefer to keep potential victims at bay. Sadly, the US Army continued to think that individual marksmanship would win the day in typical platoon level engagements until after World War II… Or am I wrong on any of this?

      • Even in dirty conditions, the Colt M1895 aka Potato Digger wasn’t a problem as long as you kept the tripod adjusted so that the gas-tappet swing arm under the barrel didn’t strike the ground. It was people using the tripod at the “low” adjustment, so the gunner could lie almost prone, that let the swingarm kick up clods of dirt in his face, giving rise to the “Potato Digger” monicker.

        Actually, the M1895 generally operated quite well in dirty or adverse conditions, and/or with inferior grades of powder in the ammunition, simply because its gas tappet operating mechanism was an “open” system, allowing powder residue, etc., to be exhausted directly to the outside air. It got dirty externally, true, but that’s better than having the powder grime gumming up the works inside.

        In fact, Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov stated that he kept that Colt “open” gas system firmly in mind when designing the open gas system of the Avtomat Kalashnikov obrazets 1947g. Yes, the Czar’s army had some of them, too- they used whatever they could get. And examples were still around for study in Russia during WW2.

        As with the “Potato Digger”, Kalashnikov wanted his rifle to keep working no matter what. And the best way to do that was to let the powder gases out once they’d finished giving the gas piston a swift “boot to the head”, as they used to say on Dr. Demento.



      • The entire nation has subsisted off 20 seconds to comply, silver bullet 1990 since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s two, countries which hate the other and everything in between hence why Churchills plan was unsuitable in the 30’s, Germany again… U.S needed like prior. The phoney war, new Bismarck Germany was a real problem, 1918, 1939, Ottomans, Austria Hungary etc, aside… The new nation of Germany, anyway it’s been such in anticipation of such since Lincoln caught a deseved bullet. But it can’t help itself, America can it. I hope they do, one day, it’s not Westhoughton mill 1812. New world, they never reinstalled the monarchy after the commonwealth collapsed, technically.

          • There’s lots of good things, cartoons for example. But real politik, it’s sad old world failure really. Not particularly exceptional or distinct, it burned out quite quickly in terms of human history, pretty average. Surely something can be done? I hope so, good luck.

  7. It’s a sweet rifle for a working man to own. Proof perhaps that even then the American standard of living was somewhat better than that enjoyed in the Old World?

    • Well, everything you see there could be bought, (and probably was bought), out of the Sears-Roebuck catalog. These Haenel sporting rifles were mass-produced in batches and sold at a relatively low price. This is not a Griffin & Howe or Holland & Holland safari rifle. As an example, my grandfather, also a carpenter at this time and the son of a coal miner, owned a car, a Winchester Model 12 shotgun, a Winchester ’94, and a Remington Model 12 (.22 Long Rifle pump-action rifle), along with enough camping and fishing gear and a camera to enjoy his weekends out in the country fishing, hunting, and camping, all the while recording his outings with his Kodak. Sporting goods were popular because they represented a good recreational value.

  8. I’ve been able to prowl around Ludlow and the surrounding area while I was at Trinidad for gunsmithing school.

    The actual history, the real unvarnished history, of the union movement in that area isn’t quite as romantic and one-sided as the unions like to represent.

    The results of the union mentality, however, are on display everywhere around Trinidad, where one third the population is on welfare, and the town is decaying into a shambolic mess because the cost of union-only tradesmen to work on one’s property is so high, people can’t afford to fix pressing issues on their houses.

  9. ALL of the Commission ’88 type rifles I’ve owned, with a single exception, had the stripper clip conversion done on them. The sole exception was a Commission ’81 Artillery Carbine.

  10. WHAT say it isn’t so. A Union setting up propaganda photo shoots? Never would I have thunk it. 🙂
    The biggest problem with Unions is that they create a combative atmosphere between the guys that build the doodad and the engineers that design the doodad. The whole Us vs Them, is just a horrible way to run a corporation.

  11. “But in those days money was easily earnt and plenty of it. And not in pieces of paper either. Solid gold sovereigns like my grandfather wore on his watch-chain. Little round pieces, yellow as summer daffodils, and wrinkled round the edges like shillings, with a head cut off in front, and a dragon and a man with a pole on the back. And they rang when he hit them on something solid. It must be a fine feeling to put your hand in your pocket and shake together ten or fifteen of them, not that it will ever happen to anybody again, in my time, anyway. But I wonder did the last man, the very last man who had a pocketful of them, stop to think that he was the last man to be able to jingle sovereigns.

    There is a record for you.

    It is nothing to fly at hundreds of miles an hour, for indeed I think there is something to laugh about when a fuss is made of such nonsense.

    But only let me see a man with a pocketful of sovereigns to spend. And yet everybody had them here once. ”

    Richard Llewellyn

    How Green Was My Valley

  12. The union movement had/has its highs and lows. China needs unions to rein in abuses. There are U.S. Companies where workers still need protection. The country changes. Seeing only the supposedly “golden” last is a disease.
    There are an abundance of countries that have fallen apart worshipping the late great.
    The doomsayers remind me of the communists or fascists. All the answers right now forever and ever. Sigh.

  13. I have loaded my Gewehr 88 with loose rounds. Slow but easily done. Stripper clips were scarcely a necessity

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