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Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903

Bolt-Action Service Rifle

Greece | 1903

"The Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903 rifle found few takers for its part in the early half of the 1900s."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/12/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The M1903 Mannlicher-Schonauer ("Model 1903") was a bolt-action rifle taken into service by the army of Greece and, to a lesser extent, the Austro-Hungarian Army in the early part of the 20th Century. Design work was had in 1900 and involved arms-maker Ferdinand Mannlicher and engineer Otto Schonauer and went on to utilize a turn-bolt action system influenced by the German Model 1888 (Gew 88) gun. For his part in the story, Schonauer developed the rotating "spool" magazine used in the Model 1903 with related patents attributed to him as far back as 1886.

On the surface, the rifle was conventional through-and-through with a full-length wooden body-stock-forend arrangement. The metal components were inlaid and encompassed the bolt-action system, firing chamber, and related mechanical systems. The trigger loop was slung under the frame in the usual way with the shoulder stock extending out from the pistol grip in traditional fashion. Finger grooves were cutout along the forend and the rifle was banded ahead of the action and capped aft of the barrel. Iron sights were positioned over the receiver and over the muzzle.

Internally, the rotary cartridge system was of high quality and deemed more reliable than traditional box magazine inserts. As each cartridge was inserted into the awaiting chambers, the spool was rotated to accept the next until all five chambers were filled. A simple ejection button found along the right side of the body could flush all five cartridges out of the gun in short notice. The locking system involved lugs found along the bolt head and rotating into "seats" set in the receiver.

The finalized rifle was debuted for public consumption in 1900 and offered in both military and sporting forms to suit whatever takers could be found across either market. It was a slight departure from earlier Mannlicher rifle offerings in the use of a down-turned bolt handle as opposed to earlier iterations and their "straight-pull" actions. The combined Mannlicher-Schonauer patent was also granted to the pair of designers in 1900.

The product had trouble securing military contracts where one potential customer became the nation of Portugal. The Portuguese Army moved to secure a stock of approximately 1,000 of the rifles for testing but eventually went in the direction of the Vergueiro-Mauser service rifle for their needs - primarily due to per-unit cost as the Steyr design was crafted to such an exceptional standard for a service rifle (to better promote reliability in-the-field) that it made it cost-prohibitive to most budget-conscious armies-of-the-day.

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However, the Greek Army showed interest in the promising design and requested two forms to be developed - a full-length service rifle and a shortened carbine model. The rifles were collectively bundled under the "Model 1903" designation and, in each version, the rifle's carried five ready-to-fire cartridges fed manually by single round introduction or through five-round "stripper" clips. Both guns were sighted through traditional means (iron front and rear) and the rotary action was consistent between the designs. All told, the full-length rifle weighed 8.3lb against the carbine's 7.9lb carry weight. The rifle was formally adopted into Greek service in 1903 and could accept a 9.84-inch-bladed bayonet at the muzzle section for close-in work. Like other service rifles of the period, the Mannlicher-Schonauer was of considerable length for the average infantryman and the action was of completely manual function, requiring the operator to manage the bolt to extract spent cartridges and introduce fresh ones. The cartridge in question was the unique 6.5x54mm Mannlicher-Schonauer round with good accuracy out to medium range though, in time, additional cartridges were introduced to satisfy a greater customer base.

Muzzle velocity was 2,225 feet-per-second and effective range could be met out to 600 meters through a trained shooter - though sighting was possible between 200 and 2,000 meters. The full-length rifle was 48.3 inches long compared to the carbine's 40.4-inch length - the latter making for a more manageable firearm from horseback or in confined spaces.

The rifle went on to be utilized across a plethora of conflicts related to the period, ranging from the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and World War 1 (1914-1918), to the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and even World War 2 (1939-1945). 1914 saw the rifles updated to the "M1903/14" standard which included full-length handguards, stacking rods, and cleaned up actions. These, and their counterpart "M03/14" carbines, were only available in limited numbers to the Greeks during The Great War. M1903/14 rifles also went on to bear the mark of Breda of Italy and were stamped into the 1920s after being refurbished for the Austro-Hungarian Army and, later, further revamped through spare parts.

Beyond its interest by Portugal and formal acceptance by Greece and Austria-Hungary (limited numbers), the rifle was also identified in use with Albania and through the warlord armies of the Republic of China.

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Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
2,000 ft
609.6 m | 666.7 yds
2,225 ft/sec
678 m/sec
Muzzle Velocity
The physical qualities of the Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
1,225 mm
48.23 in
O/A Length
725 mm
28.54 in
Barrel Length
8.27 lb
3.75 kg
Manually-Actuated Bolt-Action System
6.5x54mm Mannlicher-Schonauer (Primary)
5-Round Rotating Magazine.
Iron Front and Rear
Notable series variants as part of the Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903 Bolt-Action Service Rifle family line.
Model 1903 - Base Series Designation; covers full-length rifle form and shortened carbine model of 1903.
Model 1903/14 - Modernized rifle model of 1914.
M03/14 - Modernized carbine model of 1914.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): Steyr (Mannlicher) / Osterreichische Waffenfrabriks-Gesellschaft (OWG) - Austria-Hungary
National flag of Albania National flag of Austria National flag of the Austro-Hungarian Empire National flag of China National flag of Greece National flag of Hungary National flag of Taiwan

[ Albania; Austria-Hungary; Greece; Republic of China (Taiwan) ]
Going Further...
The Mannlicher-Schonauer Model 1903 Bolt-Action Service Rifle appears in the following collections:
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