Krag-Jorgensen Model 1894 (Series)
Bolt-Action Service Rifle
The Krag-Jorgensen repeat-fire bolt-action rifle was eventually adopted by Norway, the United States, and Denmark as their standard army service rifle.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Krag-Jorgensen was a bolt-action, repeat-fire rifle of Norwegian origin designed in the latter half of the 1800s. It was produced through a plethora of full length rifle and shortened carbine forms for decades and became the standard service rifle of the Norwegian Army, the United States Army and the Danish Army. Design work began in 1886 and over 700,000 of the rifle line were produced with many seeing continuous service throughout World War 2 after over 50 years in circulation. The Krag-Jorgensen family of long guns received its unique name from its designers - Norwegian Army Captain Ole Herman Johannes Krag and state arsenal director/gunsmith Erik Jorgensen - and was born through the original "Model 1894".
The Norwegian rifle took on a sleek refined form with a long-running wooden body incorporating the shoulder stock, receiver and forend as a single piece. The barrel was "double-banded" (metal loops clasping the wood to the metal) and capped at the front with a smooth, curved shape. All of the metal working components were laid within the wooden body including the bolt-action, firing mechanism, sights and barrel. As the wooden forend was essentially the full length of the rifle, only a short length of exposed barrel was present. The bolt lever was fixed at a 90-degree angle (referred to as a "straight bolt" as opposed to the "turned down" bolt encountered in more modern rifles) with a knob at its end for a firm grip. The sights were iron with the front (basic post) fitted atop the muzzle and the rear (V-notch) fitted ahead of the action. The trigger was set in its traditional place under the receiver and ahead of the integrated grip handle leading to the shoulder stock. As was the case with rifles of this period, the Krag-Jorgensen featured a bayonet mounting assembly under the barrel. Sling loops were positioned at the second barrel band (inner-most) and under the stock for ease of transport. Carbine forms of the full-length rifle were nothing more than compact versions completed with shorter barrels and forends which made them handier for cavalry soldiers and specialist troops such as engineers and artillery servicemen (at the expense of range).
As the Krag-Jorgensen was accepted into the service of foreign armies, it was only natural for its localized use to take on cartridge types suitable for the customer. As such, Norwegian-based rifles were chambered for the 6.5x55mm M94 Norwegian Krag rimless cartridge. Conversely, the American models were chambered for the .30-40 "Krag" cartridge (approximately equivalent to the 7.62mm round) and the Danish Krag-Jorgensen rifles were chambered for the local 8x58R rimmed cartridge (7.87mm caliber). In all cases, the action remained the same though muzzle velocity was variable, largely settled by the type of ammunition (and subsequent powder charge) being utilized with general value spanning 1,900 to 2,800 feet per second. Effective range - again, dependent upon ammunition type being used (and environmental factors) - was in the vicinity of 900 meters. Feeding was through a five-round integral magazine well. One of the distinct features of the Krag-Jorgensen was in its ability to be fed individual cartridges and not require charger/"stripper clips" as in other designs of the period. This also allowed an operator to "top off" the magazine - another limitation of charger-loaded designs. Of course the manual reloading process consisting of individual cartridges was something of a detrimental feature to the Krag and others like it.
For the Norwegian Army, the Krag-Jorgensen competed favorably against the Mannlicher Model 1892 and the Mauser Model 1892 in trials to which production of the indigenous Krag began in 1893. After a period of live evaluation by the Army, the Krag-Jorgensen design was formally adopted into service in 1894 (as the "Model 1894"). Its availability went beyond its military use for thousands were purchased across the civilian market. Before long, the rifle was modified into the shortened carbine form and specialized variants would inevitably appear for military, hunting and sporting use.
The Danes became the first operator of the Krag-Jorgensen after the adoption of the Model 1889 on July 3rd, 1889. The Americans followed the Norwegians as production of American Krags began in 1894 and spanned into 1904.
In widespread circulation by the time of World War 1 (1914-1918), Krag-Jorgensen types managed an appearance in the war. Despite the rifle being in the US inventory (and arriving with forces in Europe), the weapon was not utilized in a front-line capacity during the conflict. In fact, the Krag-Jorgensen saw a short-service life in the American Army as they were quickly superseded by the indigenous bolt-action development becoming the excellent Springfield M1903 rifle. The major reasoning behind the abrupt move was in recent US experience during the Spanish-American War (1898) which saw Spanish charger-loaded Mausers besting the slower reloading American Krag-Jorgensens. Interestingly, the Springfield Armory, engineers of the Mauser-based M1903, were also charged with the manufacture of the special Krag-Jorgensen rifle and the required .30-40 Krag cartridges. It is noteworthy that much financing was allotted to retool American facilities for local license production of Krag-Jorgensen rifles and subsequent manufacture of the rifle in the thousands - all this undone by the arrival of the M1903.
Despite its 1800s origin, the Krag-Jorgensen was available in large numbers and persevered throughout the interwar years leading up to World War 2 (specialized scoped sniper forms were en vogue by this time, perfected throughout the 1920s and 1930s). As such, they were able to see use in the conflict against the Axis powers for a time - Norway employed the aging rifle line against the Germans in heated battles, the compact carbines proving of particularly value. The Krag-Jorgensen was still the standard-issue rifle in Norwegian Army service and these were supplemented by Madsen Model 1909 and Colt-Browning Model 1909 machine guns at the platoon level. When Norway was overtaken by the invading Germans, few in-service Krag-Jorgensens survived the transition to Britain when the Norwegian government fled. The Germans, requiring a quick solution for its security and military personnel in Norway, ordered the rifle back into production. However, these rifles were of generally rough/poor quality and much care was taken by the enslaved Norwegians to produce a vastly inferior end-product for their German overseers. The German military eventually requested over 13,000 rifles to which Norwegian industry delivered on less than 4,000 before war's end (1945).
During the German invasion of Denmark, Danish Krags were put to equally good use against the Germans though the battle of Denmark was lost to the invaders in April of 1940.
American Krags went on to see combat service beyond their previous mention in the Spanish-American War - being utilized in the Philippine-American War (1899), the Boxer Rebellion (1901) and against the Native American tribes in the "taming" of the West. Several hundred were also known to be shipped to Boer elements of southern Africa. The "Boer Wars" spanned 1880 to 1881 and again from 1899 to 1902 pitting British forces against Dutch settlers.
American rifles ran the gamut of useful types, the base M1892 infantry rifle, the M1892 carbine form, the M1896 rifle, the M1896 cadet model, the M1896 carbine, the M1898 rifle, the M1898 carbine, the M1899 carbine, and the M1899 constabulary carbine. Some were experimentally fitted with basic scopes and tested in the long range sniper role. Others had their feeds addressed by way of experimental stripper clip attachments.
After World War 2, Krag-Jorgensen rifles fell to disuse, making them extremely rare collectibles today (2012) - and thus highly prized. The Krag-Jorgensen remains a classic rifle of its period.