RIFLES PART 6:

Three Mausers and One Terni

 

7,92 mm Cavalry Rifle M/98a Mauser:

(Karabiner modell 98 AZ / Karabiner modell 98a)

PICTURE: German Mauser 98a rifle, which Finnish Army referred as 7.92 mm cavalry rifle M/98a. Notice bayonet attachment below barrel, attachment points for rifle sling, stacking hook below barrel and semi-pistol grip in wrist-area of rifle stock. Original photo provided by Armémuseum (The Swedish Army Museum) via digitaltmuseum.se. Improved photo published in Wikipedia commons. Used with CC BY-SA 4.0 license. THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (65 KB).

Calibre:

7,92 mm x 57 JS

Length:

1090 mm

Barrel length:

590 mm

Weight:

3,7 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,92 kiv/98 rv"

Country of origin:

Germany

Prototype:

1907

Production:

1909 - 1918

Finnish use: These rifles played very small role in Finnish military history. Finnish military bought 8,000 carbines M/98a from France in year 1919. They were issued to Finnish cavalry, field artillery and bicycle troops until year 1924. Most of these rifles were sold to Poland that same year.

Carbine M/98a had been accepted to German weaponry in January of 1908. Basically it was a shorter and lighter version of Mauser 98 infantry rifle (Gewehr 98 long rifle) intended for troops other than infantry, which needed lighter and handier rifle. Hence German Army issued it to cavalry, bicycle troops, field artillery, sappers and signal troops. While it was officially referred as carbine (karabiner)in German military nomenclature, in practical terms this rifle was in fact one of the first universal short rifles and design-wise ancestor of commonly far better known Mauser 98k. Also originally German military referred it as Modell 98 AZ, but after World War 1 the name changed as Modell 98a. When compared go Gewehr 98 this rifle was not only much shorter and lighter, but it also had some notable design features, many of which would carry into later German rifles of Mauser 98 lineage and Karabiner 98k in particular. These included rifle slight attachment points (including slot through rifle butt) designed for attaching rifle sling on left side of the rifle, tangent rear sight and front side protected by front sight protector. In addition rifle bolt handle was turned down, lower side of bolt knob checkered and recess made into rifle stock to facilitate easier use of bolt. Visually less obvious modifications included external changes made to receiver for the apparent purpose of making it somewhat lighter and modifications made to trigger mechanism, which allowed shortening a receiver a bit. If compared to later Mauser 98k, this rifle can be easily identified from muzzle area, which looks very different with bayonet attachment lug extending under front sight protector and features a large stacking hook. Estimated 1.5-million Modell 98 AZ were manufactured in 1909 - 1918. Number of these rifles survived till World War 2 and were used by German 2nd line troops during it. This rifle model served also as the starting point for development of Polish Karabinek wz. 29 rifle.

Few hundred M/98 AZ / 98a had ended up to Finland by end of Finnish Civil War in year 1918 and in summer of 1919 about 8,000 additional rifles of this model were bought from France. First units issued with them were cavalry and artillery units, but later also bicycle troops got equipped with the rifles. As other carbine and short-rifle designs of the era Finnish Army referred this rifle as cavalry rifle (ratsuväkikivääri). The service career of the rifle model in Finland turned out be very short. Finnish Army decided to standardize into Mosin-Nagant rifles in 7.62 x 53R / 54R caliber. Hence already year 1924 the remaining 5,420 Mauser 98a rifles were sold to Poland in exchange of Mosin-Nagant rifles. After this Mosin-Nagant cavalry rifles M/91 replaced them in those Finnish Army units, which previously had been previously using them. One may claim that the more long-lasting claim of Mauser 98a in Finnish use was that the Finnish modification of Mosin-Nagant cavalry rifle M/91 and later cavalry rifle M/27 loaned some of their design features from it. These included rifle sling attachments with slot through rifle butt and turned down bolt with checkered underside.

PICTURE: Mauser M/98 infantry rifle. This individual rifle is relatively early production sample of Gewehr 98. Notice rollercoaster-shaped lange visier rear sight. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (52 KB).

After Civil War of 1918 also few hundred 7,92 mm Mauser infantry rifles M/98 (Gewehr 98), which was the standard German Army infantry (long) rifle model of World War 1, had cumulated to depots of Finnish military. Finnish military was not interested about such a small number of rifles in non-standard caliber and had no real use for them. So they did not see any real military use in Finland after year 1918. Small batches were sold to civilian market in 1920's. The biggest deal was made with Poland, which in year 1924 received 934 of these rifles in exchange of 7,62-mm calibre Mosin-Nagant rifles. About 400 Mauser M/98 infantry rifles, which had cumulated to Army depots after this were sold to civilian market in late 1920's and early 1930's.

 

7,92 mm Rifle M/98k Mauser:

(Karabiner modell 98k)

PICTURE: Mauser M/98k carbine. This individual rifle seems to be equipped with oak rifle stock with cupped butt plate, has front sight with hood. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (43 KB).

Calibre:

7,92 mm x 57 JS

Length:

1110 mm

Barrel length:

600 mm

Weight:

3,9 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"792 KIV SAKSAL"

Country of origin:

Germany

Prototype:

based to earlier Mauser rifle designs

Production:

1934 - 1945

Finnish use: Some 600 rifles with rifle grenade equipment bought from Germany in 1943 - 1944. Only 100 of these arrived in time to be maybe used in battle, their main use was launching rifle grenades, which were also acquired from Germany.

Versailles treaty that ended World War 1 had ordered bulk of German weaponry to be destroyed. This later proved to be double-edged sword by allowing Germany to re-arm itself with new weaponry in 1930's (just about all other countries still used old World War 1 weapons in very large scale when World War 2 started). During World War 1 many countries had noted, that existing infantry rifles were unnecessarily long and clumsy for many situations and decided to opt for shorter rifles. As to be expected this carbine was based to earlier German Mauser M/98 rifle and carbine designs. Developing of new German carbine sized rifle started already in 1924 and new 98k carbine entered to mass-production in year 1934. By year 1945 estimated total 11.5-million Karabiner modell 98k rifles were manufactured by dozen manufacturers. The largest manufacturer of 98k was Mauser (some 6.3 million manufactured), but also Sauer, Steyr, Gustloff and Brünn each manufactured more than a million 98k carbines. During World War 2 Mauser 98k carbine was the standard issue rifle of German Armed Forces. In addition of Germany Mauser K98k was used by number of other countries already during World War 2 with countries such as Bulgaria, China, Croatia, France, Slovak State and Sweden. After World War 2 they saw use with ever larger number of countries, with K98k rifles being manufactured in Spain (M43 variant) and Yugoslavia (early on K98k and later M48 variations). Major post-war users include not only Austria, West-Germany and East-Germany, but number of countries occupied by Germany during the war and several countries that acquired K98k rifles for their military in post-war era. The Soviets also provided them as military help to some countries during Cold War. Some of the countries using rifles belonging to Mauser 1898 family also had their rifles converted to other caliber in post World War 2 era - these include for example rifles converted to 7.62 mm x 51 NATO caliber in Israel and 30-06 caliber conversions made in Norway. It is also worth noting that Mauser model 1898 action was highly popular for bolt-action hunting rifles for a very long time with numerous manufacturers including FN, Mauser,CZ, Brno and Zastava manufacturing rifles equipped with it for civilian market for decades.

Mauser K98k (Karabiner 98 kurz = carbine 98 short) was designed as universal short rifle, which could be issued to all sorts of troops. It has similar model 1898 Mauser action as in earlier Gewehr 98, Karabiner 98a and Karabiner 98b, although with turned down bolt handle in similar manner as in Karabiner 98a. Another major feature probably fashioned after Karabiner 98a was rifle slight attachment in left side of the rifle with sling loop in the front and attachment through rifle stock in the back. Ring-shaped stock disc placed in rifle butt, that can be used for disassembling/re-assembling rifle bolt had also already been used in earlier German rifles. It has horizontally drift-adjustable front sight and tangent rear sight with sight settings from 100 to 2,000 meters, which is notably more practical than with earlier German rifles. Front sight had sight hooded added into it starting year 1939. Rear sight settings are graduated for German standard issue military 7.92 mm x 57 IS s.S. cartridge of the time, which was loaded with 12.8 gram / 197 grain FMJBT bullet. Early production rifles have one-piece oak rifle stock, but year 1937 they were replaced in rifle production with wooden laminate stocks, which were stronger and less likely to warp than rifle stocks made from any wood. Butt plates used in these rifles also exist in two variations, with early version being flap butt plate and cupped butt plate being introduced in year 1940. In 1944 - 1945 German industry manufactured kriegsmodell - a simplified version of K98k with some features removed and finish of lower quality in non-vital parts.

Finnish use of M/98k, as Finnish military referred to this rifle, was very small-scale. Finnish interest concerning M/98k rifles was focused to rifle-grenade equipment and rifle-grenades, which the Germans has designed and issued for it. Trench war period in Finnish - Soviet front begun at end of year 1941 and last until June of 1944. During the trench war period Finnish military found itself needing rifle grenades, but lacked both rifle grenade launcher and rifle grenades to be used with it or even such designs, which could have been placed in production. So Finnish Army decided to solve the problem by simply purchasing number of German Mauser M/98k carbines with rifle grenade equipment. First 100 M/98k rifles and similar number of rifle grenade launchers arrived in November of 1943 and were issued to military units for tests. This presumably lead to at least some of these rifles being used in battles of summer 1944. Another batch of 500 rifles and rifle grenade launchers was ordered, but arrived too late for combat use. It is somewhat ironic that also the need for rifle grenades decreased considerably when the trench warfare ended ended in summer of 1944 and war of maneuver started again in Finnish - Soviet front. Hence there was little use for these rifles after it. Finnish military got rid of its remaining Mauser 98k rifles in year 1945. What is known they were apparently typically sold to military staff.

From collector's stand point Mauser M/98k rifles are tricky items. They have been highly popular to collect for decades. In general German Mauser 98k rifles that are in good condition and with matching serial numbers can be expensive and since markings can raise value of individual rifle considerably forgeries are not very uncommon. So, if you want to buy high price Mauser M/98k I first recommend studying the matter extensively or dealing only with persons that you trust. Certain variations of Mauser 98k, such as Yugoslavian manufactured rifles and Soviet-captured rifles, can often be found with more affordable cost.

Writer's personal shooting experiences with Mauser M/98k: Size-wise Mauser 98k is rather handy rifle and when in good condition the bolt is very smooth to use. There is a reason why Mauser's model 1898 action remains to be so popular and made a notable impact to development of bolts used in later bolt-action rifles. Fixed magazine is easy to load with stripper clips and safety is simple to use. Due to controlled feed design cartridges must be loaded into magazine - never push cartridge into chamber and then try closing the bolt on top of it. But not all details of this rifle are that great. The sight picture with sharp front sight post and V-notch in the rear sight provides pretty good sight picture for accurate shooting, but is rather poor for low light conditions. Grand majority of commonly available affordable ammunition is modelled after German World War 2 era standard issue ball cartridge (loaded with 198 grain FMJ bullet), which produces enough recoil that it effects shooter's situational awareness and reduces ability to shoot quick follow-up shots.

 

6,5 mm Infantry Rifle M/96, Swedish Mauser:

(6,5 mm gevär m/96)

PICTURE: Swedish made Mauser Rifle M/96. In this photo bolt is cocked and safety on. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (69 KB).

Calibre:

6,5 mm x 55

Length:

1260 mm

Barrel length:

739 mm

Weight:

4,0 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"6,50 kiv/96"

Country of origin:

Sweden

Prototype:

based to earlier Mauser rifle designs

Finnish use: Used by Swedish volunteer troops and some Finnish units (mainly those stationed in Finnish Lapland) during Winter War (1939 - 1940). During Continuation War used by Finnish Navy, coastal troops and anti-aircraft units (stationed in home front).

Rifle M/96 was rifle type developed from previous Mauser M/1893 and main rifle type of Swedish Armed Forces from 1890's to 1960's. This rifle was well known for its good shooting accuracy. Some 1,360 rifles M/96 that had ended up to Finnish Army by year 1919, when they were transferred to Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) among other mixed weaponry. While they were good rifles, as far as Finnish military was concerned they were non-standard calibre (as everything other than 7.62 mm x 54R). Suojeluskunta issued the rifles mainly to its largely Swedish speaking Civil Guard Districts at west coast of Finland.

Still, Mauser rifle M/96 played only rather small role as military weapon in Finnish use before Winter War. Once that war started Finland faced a serious shortage of just about all military equipment - rifles included. Sweden had been considerably reducing size of its military in 1920's, so Sweden had plenty of Mauser M/96 rifles, from which Finland bought 77,000 rifles during Winter War.

PICTURE: Finnish soldier with rifle M/96 in a shallow fox-hole dug into snow during Winter War. Photographed in Saija (Finnish Lapland). Soldier is wearing snow camouflage suit - probably snow camo suit m/27. Notice that he has wooden plank placed in such manner that it can be used as support for the rifle. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 6696). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (184 KB).

Deliveries of Swedish Mauser M/96 rifles to Finland:

Additional 2,000 rifles had been acquired by Finnish businessman Ragnar Nordströ for troops of Finnish Army that were in northern Finland already in December of 1939. In addition another 7,900 rifles M/96 were arrived to Finland with Swedish - Norwegian (Svenska Frivillig Kåren - SFK) voluntary unit that had been armed with weapons financed with donations gathered in Sweden during the war. Large number of M/96 rifles arrived too late to be used in Winter War (the last deliveries had not even been yet unpacked when the war ended). During Winter War Mauser M/96 played notable role with Finnish troops located to northern Finland (Lapland). Another place where these rifles saw combat during Winter War was Kotka coastal sector at March of 1940. Six Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) Battalions formed from volunteered boys and old men, who were Civil Guard's guardsmen, took part defending Kotka coastal sector in March of 1940 and were armed with M/96 rifles. On that coastal sector they took part repulsing Soviet attempt to attack Finnish coast with troops that marched on ice from Suursaari and Lavansaari Islands.

PICTURE: Finnish sentry in town of Liinahamari in Petsamo / Petchenga on shore of Arctic Sea in April of 1940. The soldier has Swedish infantry rifle M/96, which saw large-scale use with Finnish troops in northern Finland during Winter War, which had ended just weeks before taking of this photograph. The soldier has fur hat M/39 and has raised collar of his greatcoat to stay warm in the arctic breeze. His shoes are ski felt boots. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 9434). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (124 KB).

But soon after Winter War the situation changed for Sweden. Germany occupied both Denmark and Norway in spring of 1940, which alarmed Sweden about the need to start preparing its military forces for possible war. So Finland returned to Sweden 25,000 of the rifles M/96, that it had bought during Winter War. In addition 6,000 of the rifles that had arrived with SFK were also returned. These actions significantly reduced the number of M/96 rifles remaining in Finnish use - when Continuation War started in June of 1941 there were about 53,600 still in Finnish inventory. For that war remaining M/96 rifles were used to equip Finnish Navy, most of coastal troops and about half of anti-aircraft units (AA-units stationed to home front). By summer of 1944 anti-aircraft units had been re-equipped with Italian Terni rifles and their M/96 rifles had been transferred to Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) organisation, which did guard duty in home front.

PICTURE: Receiver area of M/96 rifle with bolt opened. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (99 KB).

Due to the type of units it was normally issued during Continuation War Mauser M/96 rifles saw relatively little actual combat use (Viipurinlahti Gulf in 1944 being the main exception), so their combat losses were quite small. For duration of Continuation War Mauser M/96 was the main rifle model for coastal troops - which included coastal artillery, coastal anti-aircraft units and coastal infantry - all of which were officially part of Navy. June of 1941 some 24,800 rifles out of total 53,600 had been issued to Navy, which large part of the rifles being used by its coastal troops. Coastal infantry took part in battles mostly in years 1941 and 1944, so those were the years in which the M/96 rifles in their use mostly saw combat use. Year 1941 the battles of Finnish coastal troops took part in battle of Hanko (/Hango/Gangut) Peninsula, where the Soviets had built naval base after Finnish-Soviet peace treaty of 1940. Another battles of that year took place on islands in eastern parts of Gulf of Finland. March of 1942 coastal troops took part in re-capturing of Suursaari Island. The bloody grand finale of coastal troops was Battle of Viipurinlahti Gulf at July of 1944, in which Soviet 59th Army tried to outflank Finnish troops fighting in Carelian Isthmus by launching series of amphibious operations across Viipurinlahti Gulf. In start of June 1944, just before starting of Soviet offensive in Carelian Isthmus Finnish Armed Forces still had about 52,000 of these rifles in inventory, but apparently they did not see any real post-war use. Year 1951 Finnish inventory contained 48,700 rifles M/96, which were sold and exported (mostly to Sweden) around 1951 - 1953. Swedish 6,5 mm x 55 cartridge is well known for its good ballistics, but unfortunately it seems that apparently practically all ammunition used with them in Finland was old Swedish M/94 ball-ammunition and its Finnish made copy (manufactured by VPT - State Cartridge Factory). The Swedes introduced new ammunition with spitzer-bullet in this calibre in year 1941, but it does not seem to have been used in Finland, even if a (Norwegian) cartridge with spitzer-bullet was included to Finnish Army ammunition manual in year 1941.

PICTURE: Finnish coastal infantry practices transporting and landing troops from boats. Soldier that is standing up and about to jump into shore has Mauser M/96 rifle and machinegunner behind him has Mauser M/96 bayonet hanging from his belt. Like grand majority of boats used by coastal infantry, this one seems to be a civilian boat pressed into military use. Other weapons shown in the photo include Maxim M/09-21 with its tripod on bow of the boat and soldier with captured Soviet PPD M/34 submachine gun. The boat has inboard engine, which is operated by a sailor, while officer (likely 2nd Lieutenant) sitting in the stern is observing the situation. In typical Finnish Army period manner soldiers are wearing military uniform m/36 and variety of steel helmets. The soldier with Mauser M/96 has what is probably German m/35-40 helmet, soldier standing behind him has German m/18 helmet and three others appear to have Swedish m/37 helmets. Photographed by Gustafsson in archipelago near city of Turku in July of 1941. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 24580). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (190 KB).

Swedish Mauser M/96 apparently gained quite a good reputation in Finnish use. When it comes to technical details the rifle is quite typical Mauser rifle of the era of its introduction. The bolt design is basically the same that Mauser had introduced in year 1893 for Turkish and Spanish contracts, but in 6.5 mm x 55 caliber, whose only military pre World War 2 military users were Sweden and Norway. Since Norway decided to go with Krag-Jørgensen rifle design, Sweden was the only country to introduce Mauser rifles in that caliber for military use. Being long-rifle type rifle with rear sight settings starting from 300 meter setting M/96 was already somewhat old-fashioned rifle during World War 2. But it is also very well made rifle with heavy rifle barrel, long sight radius and hardwood rifle stock, which tends to loan into good shooting accuracy. Bolt is cock on close design with safety that has the typical three settings - off, safe and bolt locked. Controlled feed makes feeding of ammunition from fixed five round magazine very reliable and stripper clips are easy to use, but just throwing single round directly into chamber is not recommended. Front sight is drift adjustable and unprotected (front sight hood was finally introduced for sniper rifle M/41, but not for standard infantry rifles). It is rather surprising that considering the rifle's accuracy potential and how popular it was also with civilian shooters in Sweden, Swedish military failed to develop it an improved rifle sling, that would have provided better support.

All Mauser M/96 rifles used in Finland were basic infantry rifles iron sights. The Swedes started using also sniper rifle version of this rifle equipped with rifle scope starting year 1941, but it was not used by Finnish military.

Mauser M/94-14 carbine

Also about 1,000 Swedish 6,5 mm Mauser M/94-14 carbines arrived to Finland with Swedish (SFK) volunteer unit. As this Swedish unit left behind all its weapons when it returned to Sweden after Winter War also these carbines ended up to Finnish Army. Finnish Army never bothered really to issue such a small number of rifles for anything, so they were mainly kept warehoused until being sold abroad with M/96 Mauser rifles around 1951 - 1953.

PICTURE: Swedish made Mauser carbine M/94. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (50 KB).

Writer's personal shooting experiences with rifle M/96: Swedish M/96 is long, but well-balanced rifle. The rifle is obviously very well made from 1st rate materials and works very reliably, with long sight radius making it a viable choice for old military rifle competitions. The sights were good for their age, but zeroing in the rifle for modern ammunition is somewhat challenging and requires changing of higher front sight post. In manner of Mauser rifles stripper clips are easy and fast to use. If you are buying ammunition for Swedish Mauser or Norwegian Krag that some of the 6.5 mm x 55 ammunition options (6.5 mm x 55 SCAN) now available are designed for modern rifles and have pressure levels above those suited for these old rifles.

 

7,35 mm Rifle M/38 "Terni":

(7,35 mm fucile corto modello 38 / 7,35 mm fucile di fanteria modello 38 )

PICTURE: Italian made M/38 rifle. Notice folding bayonet attached to rifle. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (59 KB).

Calibre:

7,35 mm x 51

Length:

1020 mm

Barrel length:

540 mm

Weight:

3,6 kg

Magazine:

6, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,35 kiv/38"

Country of origin:

Italy

Finnish use: Issued mostly to non-frontline troops (such as field artillery and air-defence) in summer of 1941. Some unlucky frontline infantry units got issued with them also, in those units they got replaced with other rifle types during Continuation War. The rifles saw use with other than frontline troops rest of the war with number of rifles also being issued for civilians for self-defence use in areas close to eastern border, where Soviet partisans were targeting civilian settlements.

This rifle was based to earlier Italian Carcano rifles originally mainly credited to Salvatore Carcano (1827 - 1903). It was manufactured by four Italian manufacturers - Fabbrica d'Armi di Terni, Beretta, Gardone Val Trompia and FNA Brescia. During Italo-Abyssinian War (1935 - 1936) Italian military had become increasingly unhappy to terminal ballistics of their 6.5 mm x 52 ammunition loaded with round-nose bullets used in Carcano M/91 rifles. This caused Italians to develop of 7.35 mm x 51 ammunition and several firearms that used it. This rifle was one those firearms and was introduced in year 1938. Like much of the rifles internationally introduced in 1930's Italian M/38 was intended as universal short rifle, although length-wise it is in shortest end of the spectrum of universal rifles, which overlaps with carbine-length rifles. In addition to this rifle model Italy also adopted in year 1938 shorter moschetto (carbine) and M38 TS (Truppo Speciale) carbines, which chambered the same ammunition. Manufacturing of those three rifle models proved short-lived, with them only being manufactured in 1938 - 1940 and total production being about 285,000 rifles.Italy had planned to replace 6.5 mm x 52 with 7.35 mm x 51 as their standard ammunition type, but starting of World War 2 ruined Italian plans of making the transition. Hence the manufacturing of this rifle stopped in year 1940 and the Italians went back to manufacturing 6.5-mm rifles. As Italy decided to retain 6.5-mm as its standard service rifle calibre new 7.35-mm rifles become available for affordable price. At the same time Finland suffered from serious shortage of rifles (and all other military equipment) during Finnish - Soviet Winter War, so when the Italians offered new M/38 rifles, they got Finnish interest. Negotiations took a lot of time, but finally in April of 1940 deliveries begun and 94,500 of ordered 100,000 rifles arrived to Finland in summer of 1940. Rest of the Italian inventory of rifles in 7.35 mm x 51 was issued for World War 2 to 2nd line troops of Italian military and various internal security forces.

PICTURE: Finnish cavalry soldiers with Italian M/38 rifles, which have bayonets attached and folded off. Photographed by Nyblin in July of 1941 near Ilomantsi. According original photo caption the soldiers are from Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment, which might be correct since the unit was on that geographic area at that time. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 26239). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (243 KB).

When Continuation War started Finnish military issued M/38 rifles were mainly to non-frontline troops like field artillery, air-defence, coastal artillery and supplies units. Later after attacks of Soviet partisans to civilian targets become common, they were also issued to civilians of remote villages close to eastern border to provide them means for self-defence. While the basic idea seems to have been to issue these rifles to units other than frontline infantry due to non-standard ammunition, also some unfortunate frontline units got them issued. It did not take long for "Terni" (most often used name in Finland used from this rifle, it was simply taken from the name of most common manufacturer) to gather a very poor reputation among Finnish soldiers. Rifle had fixed (non-adjustable) rear sight (while the Finnish soldiers were accustomed for zeroing in each rifle for accurate fire), poor ballistics and reportedly poor quality ammunition (with very large dispersion) just emphasized the whole issue. Bayonet of the rifle is removable and quite unusual being a folding blade design.

PICTURE: Photo showing Finnish soldiers performing rifle grips with Italian M/38 rifles in close order drill. Photographed by Military official L. Johnsson in October of 1941 in Utti garrison. Notice attached bayonets with blades folded off attached to rifles. Utti had a training centre for training new recruits and for refresher training of older reservists. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 62535). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (200 KB).

In typical the Mannlicher-fashion when the rifle is being loaded the 6-round en bloc clip is pushed with its clip into non-removable magazine, with the clip serving as part of feed system and falling out from bottom of the magazine after rifle bolt had stripped the last cartridge from it. It is worth noting that the poor performance of ammunition noted in Finnish sources may have been due to certain design characteristics of Italian 7.35 mm x 51 ammunition. The bullet design used in is believed to be ballistically rather unstable due to having bullet cavity filled with aluminium, while rest of the bullet was filled with lead. This bullet design feature based to British Mk IV bullet for .303 British made the bullet tumble on target improving its terminal ballistics, but may have also made the bullets unstable on air in particular if manufacturing of bullets had quality control issues. Italian 7.53 mm x 51 ammunition have rather blunt-nosed 8.2 - 8.3 gram / 127 - 128 grain full metal bullet. From rifle M/38 the ammunition produced muzzle velocity of about 757 meters/second, which was certainly sufficient, but energy-wise on lower end of World War 2 era service rifle cartridges and quite close to what are now referred as intermediate cartridges. It is worth noting that Carcano bolt apparently has a design problem, which allows accidentally decocking the bolt while operating it by rotating firing pin.

PICTURE: Photograph showing collection point for captured rifles in Räisälä (in Carelian Isthmus) in August of 1941. Organizing such collection points after battles was apparently normal. In addition to Soviet rifles the the pile contains at least eight Italian M/38 rifles, which must have been left behind when the soldiers that had been issued one traded them in for captured Soviet rifles. Photographed by 2nd Lieutenant L. H. von Willebrand (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 42450). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (229 KB).

Original Italian fixed sights used in rifle M/38 had been set for distance of 200 meters, but the Finns equipped some of these rifles with new higher front sight blade, which reduced the setting of sights to 100 or 150 meters. However in majority of the rifles never went through this modification and retained their original Italian front sight blade. It was common for Finnish soldiers not to trust this rifle one bit and whenever they got any possibility to switch it to any other rifle they typically did so. Unfortunately, as transporting of extra weapons back was often difficult Finnish troops had also tendency to simply discard weapons that they had replaced with better (usually captured Soviet) rifles. So if transporting Terni rifles replaced with better rifle was difficult at that time, soldiers often simply discarded them.

PICTURE: Receiver area of Italian made M/38 rifle. Notice fixed rear sight. (Photo taken in Viestimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (91 KB).

Also Finnish Army General Headquarters noted what was happening and reacted accordingly - M/38 rifles were transferred to home front and Finnish Air Force from those front-line units that had been issued with them. June of 1944 only about 74,300 M/38 rifles remained (broken ones not included). Plans about replacing non-adjustable rear sights with new Finnish-manufactured adjustable rear sight design appeared during Continuation War with five adjustable rear sight prototypes being tested in year 1943. New adjustable rear sights were ordered for 30,000 rifles in January of 1944 and production of these new tangent-type adjustable rear sights started at VKT (State Rifle Factory) later that year, but ending of Continuation War stopped the project before even the first production run was completed. Apparently only small number of prototypes were ever equipped with these new Finnish-manufactured adjustable sights. After World War 2 Finnish military had little use for the rifles. Remaining Terni rifles were sold to Interarms in exchange of used Sten submachine guns in year 1957 and exported from Finland. These rifles had been delivered with all necessary equipment - bayonets, rifle slings, cleaning kits etc. With the rifles Italy delivered also 50 million rounds of 7.35 mm x 51 ammunition, which proved to be plenty for rest of their service career in Finland.

PICTURE: Finnish military photographed handing over rifles M/38 to civilians in Suomussalmi to provide them means for self-defence and defending their families from Soviet partisans. Old men shown in the photograph probably did not have any military training, since they obviously do not know how to properly use cleaning rod. Soviet partisans had hit village of Hyry in Suomussalmi just weeks earlier and murdered ten civilians in there. In total Soviet partisans murdered 181 Finnish civilians in their attacks to civilian targets during World War 2. Photographed by Military official Uomala in July of 1943. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 132514). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (136 KB).

Writer's limited shooting experiences with (one individual) Terni-rifle: The first impression was that this rifle model is light and handy, but still has only modest recoil. The bolt is cock on open and even if often claimed to be gritty, I actually found it to be rather smooth and easy to operate. The ammunition used for testing was Italian surplus from year 1939 and it worked flawlessly with the rifle. Sight picture and trigger were also ok. Unfortunately due to small number of rounds available, no real accuracy testing could be performed.

 

OTHER RIFLE TYPES USED BY FINNISH MILITARY:

- 10.4 mm Infantry Rifle M/1871 Vetterli, "Grafton-rifle": Swiss made (designed by Friedrich Vetterli) model 1869/71 bolt action rifle with 12-round tubular magazine using 10,4 mm x 38 rimfire ammunition. During Russo-Japanese war of 1904 - 1905 the Japanese were covertly supporting Finnish independence movement and Russian revolutionaries. Largest operation of this support was smuggling operation of weapons paid by Japanese government and loaded to old steamship S/S John Grafton. The most important part of its cargo were 15,560 Vetterli M/1869/71 rifles and 2.5 million rounds of ammunition for them, but contained also some 2,500 Webley revolvers and about 3 tons of explosives. Switzerland had sold Vetterli rifles and their ammunition to civilian surplus market. The Webley revolvers were Webley Mk IV and Webley WG .455 Webley. According original plan 5,500 rifles, 500 revolvers and two tons explosives were to be delivered in Finland, while rest of the cargo was intended to Russian revolutionaries. But grand majority of the ship's cargo never reached its intended destination. Russian revolutionaries who were supposed to meet it for unloading their part of the cargo near Tytärsaari / Tyterskär / Bolshoi Tjuters in Gulf of Finland failed to show up, so decision was made to unload the whole cargo in locations that were in Finnish west coast, but in 6th of September 1905 the ship sailed on a rock near town of Pietarsaari / Jabostad and got stuck. Before this happened only 20 boxes of rifles, 10 boxes of revolvers and 100 boxes of ammunition had been unloaded, so the ship was still full of weapons and explosives. With the ship stuck and in danger of being spotted by Russian authorities, after two days its crew decided to sink the ship by using explosives, that were among the cargo. Ship's crew had been able to take number of weapons on boats that arrived the scene - apparently they may have taken fair number of revolvers with them, but grand majority of rifles had to be left behind. After being alarmed by the explosions local fishermen arrived the scene and helped themselves by salvaging unknown number of guns from the wreck before arrival of Russian authorities about two days after the explosion. The Russians managed to confiscate most of the surviving rifles that local fishermen had salvaged and used divers to unload more guns from the wreck. Sources suggest that by 6th of October the Russians succeeded to confiscate in total some 9,150 rifles, 4,700 bayonets, 688 revolvers, about 332,000 cartridges and 100 boxes of explosives. But official court documents list only 8,881 rifles, 669 revolvers and 100 boxes of explosives as confiscated property. Ship's crew succeeded escaping to Sweden with small boats.

PICTURE: Vetterli M/1871 more commonly known as "Grafton rifle" in Finland. Photo source The Hunting Museum of Finland (Suomen Metsästysmuseo), acquired via finna.fi, used with CC BY NC ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (63 KB).

Only small number of the rifles ended immediately up to hands of Finnish independence activists. Another more successful attempt was made year later, when activists succeeded smuggling 3,125 Vetterli-rifles to Finland with schooner Peter in July of 1906. Later doing the Civil War large number of the rifles earlier confiscated by the Russian officials were recaptured. After name of ship used for the famous first failed smuggling attempt these rifles are commonly referred as "Grafton-rifle" (Grafton-kivääri) in Finland. During Finnish Civil War of 1918 small number of these rifles were used (mainly) by non-frontline troops of both sides. But already then their use was quite limited due to shortage of ammunition. Due to rapid development of ammunition and military rifles in late part of 19th century with its rimmed large-caliber black powder 10.4 mm x 38 R (.41 Swiss) cartridge and tubular magazine Vetterli M/1817 was already an old-fashioned rifle design when the smuggling operation happened and became an obsolescent rifle design by World War 1.


SUGGESTED LINKS FOR MORE INFO:

Carbines for Collectors More info about different rifles.

House of Karlina More info about Swedish Mauser rifles.

SwissRifles.com More info about Swiss Vetterli rifles.


SOURCES:

Markku Palokangas: Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918 - 1988 osat 1 - 3 (= Military Small Arms in Finland 1918 - 1988 parts 1- 3)

Timo Hyytinen: Arma Fennica 2, sotilasaseet (Arma Fennica 2, military weapons)

Bruno Bogdnovic and Ivan Valencak: Das Groze Buch der klassischen feuerwaffen

Jan Kronlund: Suomen Puolustuslaitos 1918 - 1939 (= Finnish Defence Department 1918 - 1939)

Article: Mauser G 98 ja K 98 kiväärit, osa 2 by Matti Ingman in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 3/98.

Article: Grafton kivääri by Matti Ingman in Kaliberi magazine vol. 6/2000.

Article: Frederich Vetterlin tulivoimainen luomus by Mika Vuolle in Kaliberi magazine vol. 1/2004.

Mika Pitkänen and Timo Simpanen: Suomalaiset sotilaspatruunat 1918-1945 / The Finnish military cartridges 1918-1945.

Ragnar Nordstö ja talvisota, lecture by Pentti Airio.

Military manual: Italialainen jalkaväenkivääri Terni KAL. 7,35 (Printed 1940).

Military manual: Aseopas II, Ruotsalaisia aseita (Printed 1940).

Special thanks to Ilmatorjuntamuseo (Finnish Antiaircraft Museum), Tuusula.

Special thanks to Viestimuseo (Finnish Signal Museum), Riihimäki.

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki.


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