Austro-Hungarian Kropatschek Carbine M1881

Kropatschek Model 1881 Gendarmerie Carbine

Made by Österreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft, Steyr, 1881-83
Quantity: 12,200
Caliber: 11.15x42R and 11x58R
Tube magazine in fore-end, 6 rounds
Turning bolt action, locked by the bolt rib abutting the receiver ahead of the bridge
1040mm [40.9"] overall, 3.69kg [8.4 lbs]
570mm [22.4"] barrel, 6-groove rifling, RH, concentric
Ramp-and-leaf sight graduated to 600 schritt
Muzzle velocity 307 m/sec with M1877 Carbine round
Model 1867 Socket bayonet

By 1874 the failure of the ineffectual M1872 Früwirth Carbine to interest the Austro-Hungarian Army cleared the way for a rifle designed by Alfred von Kropatschek. The first guns were submitted to the Minister of War on September 24, 1874. They had a conventional action inspired by the German Mauser M1871, using the bolt rib to lock against the receiver, and had a Vetterli-type tube magazine in the fore-end. The cartridge carrier mechanism was similar to the Früwirth M1872. The striker was designed with an intregal cocking piece and eliminated the separate hammer of the Früwirth. The increased mass of the bolt guide closed against the split receiver bridge. This made the action substantially stronger than the earlier Früwirth was. This allowed the chambering of a more powerful cartridge, the M1877 11.15x42mmR, instead of the Früwirth's low powered M1867 11.15x36mmR cartridge.
The M1881 Kropatchek held six rounds in the magazine, an additional round in the chamber and another on the cartridge carrier for a total of eight rounds when fully loaded.

In 1876 the Kropatschek was declared 'suitable for adoption' - which simply allowed lengthy minor improvements to drag on into the 1880s.

In 1879 Leopold Gasser of Vienna patented a spring-loaded loading gate for the Kropatschek Carbine, adapted from the then-current Winchester pattern. The gate was used on some of the 'Gasser-Kropatschek' rifles tested in Austria-Hungary in the early 1880s.

After army trials the 'Repetier-Karabiner fur Königlich Ungarnische Landesvertheidigung' (Hungarian Gendarmerie) was adopted on June 19, 1881, and 4000 carbines were ordered from the Steyr factory. The accepted weapon had a single barrel band and the bolt handle was turned downward. The gun was somewhat similar to the earlier Früwirth, but the striker had an integral cocking piece instead of an external hammer.

Later the Model 1881 was also issued to the Gendarmerie of Bosnia-Herzegovina. From March 17, 1882, the carbine was issued to the Austrian Landesgendarmerie.

The Kropatschek Carbine is marked "OEWG" on top of the receiver ring and the acceptance mark 'St' and Date
Some sources list this as the Model 1874 or as the Model 1874/81. The confusion comes from when the design was completed, 1874 versus when the weapon was finally accepted and the initial order was placed in 1881.
The Früwirth is easily mistaken for the Kropatchek due to the very similar configuration. The easiest way to tell them apart is the absence of a barrel band on the Früwirth and the separate traditional style hammer of the Früwirth when compared to the striker of the Kropatchek M81.

By 1885 the rise of the box magazine restricted distribution and influence of the Kropatschek - except in France, where its popularity in Indo-China and Africa eventually created the Lebel.

Surviving guns were replaced by 1890-pattern and by 1895-pattern Mannlichers after 1900.