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Mosin-Nagant Dot Net Presents:

Mosin - Mausers And The Nation Of Turkey

By Terence Lapin

This article is not intended to authoritative on the finer points of Mauser rifles--- a subject to which entire books, such as the excellent works of Messrs. Olson and Ball, are devoted without remotely exhausting the topic; rather, it is simply a brief overview of the place Mausers and Mosins have held in Turkish firearms history over the past century or so.

Though not especially innovative in firearms development themselves the Turks, throughout their history, have been quick to adopt the latest in weapons technology whenever circumstances permitted. Their recognition of the advantages of the cannon’s firepower, even in its infancy, led them to employ the most modern European artillery and professional gunners to storm Constantinople in May of 1453, thus completing their conquest of the Byzantine Empire. When the superiority of the Mauser system became evident in the 1880s the Ottoman Empire was among the first countries to place orders for the new rifle, so beginning a long and mutually-beneficial relationship with the German firm.

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Turks at the outbreak of WW1

The first Turkish order for bolt-action Mausers, in February 1887, was for 500,000 M1887 rifles and 50,000 carbines, both in 9.5 mm. Although the Berlin firm Ludwig Loewe & Co. was to have produced almost half of the order, the entire contract was filled by Mauser.

As anyone who has read the Mauser classics knows, the Turks had a very shrewd deal giving them the option to require Mauser to alter production to include any updated features or improvements which may have been developed during the term of the contract. Indeed, the Turkish terms were so advantageous to them that, if the German military adopted an entirely new model during the contract period, the Turks could require Mauser to substitute it for those rifles already in production. As it happened, the Turks actually did have Mauser cease production of the M1887 in favor of a 7.65 mm rifle based on ---but not identical to--- the Belgian Mauser M1889. About 220,000 of the M1887 rifles had been made prior to the changeover, and about 280,000 of the new Turkish model, the M90, were made by Mauser under the existing contract. Some of the new version were carbines, but the number is uncertain.

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Turk soldiers taking a break from battle

Ever alert for improvements in their armaments, the Turks were sufficiently impressed by Mauser’s M1893, made for Spain, to order some themselves. The Turkish M93 differs from the Spanish model principally in having a magazine cutoff --- a fundamentally useless feature which was trendy for a brief time at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

As with all pre-1928 Turkish items, these early Mausers are identifiable by the Ottoman Turkish writing ---in Arabic script--- on the side rail and elsewhere, and by the Arabic numbers on the rear sight leaf and many of the smaller parts. The crescent moon, a classic Turkish symbol going back many hundreds of years, is also commonly found on these rifles. Some Turkish rifles also are stamped with a toughra, which is an ornamental monogram consisting of the reigning sultan’s name and a few of his titles; this is also found on some Turkish bayonets of the era. It is quite difficult ---though it is possible, with experience--- to distinguish the toughra of individual sultans as the writing is highly stylized, the titles do not change much, and many of the sultans had the same name: Mehmet V’s toughra looks very much like that of Mehmet VI, and both look a lot like that of Abdul Hamid II.

When the immensely successful Mauser Model 98 had proved its worth the Turks ordered their own version, the M1903. This rifle was in Turkey’s now-standard caliber 7.65 mm, and had a number of features which differentiated it from Germany’s new military rifle, the otherwise very similar 7.9 mm Gewehr 98. As with earlier models, the easiest way to identify the Turkish version is by the old-style Turkish writing and Arabic numbers, although the stock, nosecap, and charger clip guide are also distinctive. During this period the Turks also acquired a number of ex-German M98 and M88 rifles in the standard German 7.9 mm caliber. About this time a carbine with the M98 action, fully-stocked to the muzzle, was adopted as the M1905.

During World War I the standard Turkish military long arm was the M1903 Mauser although the other Mausers mentioned above were also used, as were additional Model 98s supplied to the Turks by their German ally. In addition to the Brothers Mauser’s gift to human betterment the Turks made use of Russia’s Mosin-Nagant 7.62 mm M1891 rifle. The Turks acquired these weapons by two methods: capture from the Russians during the bitter fighting in eastern Anatolia, mostly in 1915, and as war-aid from the Germans, who captured huge quantities of them in Europe on the Eastern Front. Many of the German-supplied Mosins had been altered to fire the standard German 7.9 x 57 mm military round, easing supply and logistics problems for the Turks. These Russian rifles in the original caliber were used largely in eastern Anatolia, where there was always the possibility that more ammunition and rifles could be captured from the Russians. Mosins, evidently of both calibers, were also used on the Southern Front in Palestine. Why Turkish units in the Holy Land should have been so blessed is a mystery. As ever, many of these rifles can be identified as Turkish by their Arabic numbers, crescents, etc.

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Armenians battle Turkish troops in WW1.  The Armenians suffered horrific losses.

When the anti-Bolshevik forces of Wrangel, Kolchak, Denikin and others were defeated in the Russian Civil War many fleeing White Guards crossed the border into neutral Turkey in the years 1919-20, bringing their Mosins with them and surrendering them to the Turks. These rifles joined the ones already in Turkish hands and remained in inventory as reserve rifles until at least the later1940s. It is entirely possible that many of these Mosins were used in fighting the Italians and Greeks in Anatolia immediately after World War I, and during the Turkish Civil War of the early 1920s.

During the early 1920s the Turks, their enthusiasm for Mauser products evidently enhanced by wartime experience, placed orders with Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka, A.S. , the Mauser firm’s post-war successor in Brno, Czechoslovakia, for the rifle now generally known as the M1922, essentially just a slightly modernized Gewehr 98. They also purchased Mauser ammunition from a number of sources, including the new munitions industries in Poland.

The mid-1930s found the Turks with adequate resources to update their now considerable supply of Mausers; this updating consisted in part of reworking the old 7.65 mm rifles to standardize them to the more common 7.9 mm caliber. As modern rifles were now more compact the Turks also shortened many of their old Mausers, which ranged in length from 1240 mm to 1250 mm (48.8 in. - 49.2 in.), to approximately the length of Germany’s K98k (1110 mm/43.7 in.). The modernization program continued into the early 1950s, and was undertaken at the arsenal in Kirikkale, an industrial suburb of the Turkish capital, Ankara, although some work may also have been done elsewhere.

With huge numbers having been imported in the past several years, the many variations of Turkish Mausers are now very common in this country and provide a satisfying area for collectors and shooters to indulge themselves in fascinating historical fun at extremely reasonable prices.

Terence Lapin

Note From Tuco:  There is some evidence from Kevin Carney of MCC that the G stamp found on some M91 Mosin Nagant rifles may be a Turkish marking.  It is unknown if this is correct at this time or not but there is at least some leaning in this direction.

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