Bulgarian Mannlicher M.95 Rifles and Carbines


Bulgaria - M1895 Rifle, Stutzen & Carbine
'Pushka Mannlicher Obrazetz 1896g' and 'Karabina Mannlicher Obrazetz 1896g

Made by Österreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft, Steyr, 1903-1914 and by Fegyver és Gépgyár Rt, Budapest, 1909-1914 as the 'Bulgarian Contracts'
Action: Straight-pull bolt action, with two lugs on a detachable bolt head engaging the receiver. Integral clip-loaded box magazine, 5 rounds
Caliber: M1893 8x50mm rimmed
Rifle muzzle velocity 620 m/sec [2030 fps] with M1893 ball cartridge
Stutzen/Carbine muzzle velocity 580 m/sec with M1893 ball cartridge
Rifle: 1272mm [50.1"] overall, 3.78kg [8.3 lbs] 765mm [30.1"] barrel, 4-groove rifling, RH, concentric
Stutzen/Carbine: 1003mm [39.5"] overall, 3.09kg [6.8 lbs] 500mm [19.7"] barrel, 4-groove rifling, RH, concentric

Bulgaria adopted the M95 weapons in 1897. These contract weapons were manufactured by the Budapest and Steyr factories, and were purchased and used by the Bulgarians in 8x50r original caliber. Some references designate these weapons as M.03 or 'Pushka Mannlicher Obrazetz 1903g' due to the fact that 1903 was the 1st year of the contract.


The place and date of manufacture are stamped on the left side of the receivers

Known BUDAPEST contract dates: 1909 1914
Known STEYR contract dates: 1903 1904 1907 1908 1911 1912 1914
The combined Steyr production was 83,000 rifles and 2074 stutzen/carbines. Earlier Steyr made Bulgarian Contract was 140,000 M1888 rifles and 10,218 M1890 carbines
About 9000 rifles and 500 carbines were sequestered at the start of WW1 in 1914, from the '1914 Budapest' Bulgarian Contract guns. These guns were stamped on the barrel shank with 'Bp crest 1914', while the Lion crests were left intact.

In 1934 Bulgaria adopted the M30 8x56R Austrian Cartridge, began acquiring M.95's from all over Europe (mainly from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland), and begun manufacturing 8x56R ammunition.
Most of these rifles were rebuilt during 1930-1945 by both Austria and Bulgaria. Between 1938 and 1940 a large number of Austrian M90/30 weapons were transferred from the Austrian Army to Bulgaria on German order. By 1940 the Austrian forces were re-armed with German type weaponry.

The M.95 weapons rechambered for the M.30 S-Patrone with the "S" chamber marking were normally referred to as 'Pushka M95 S' or 'Karabina M95 S' or 'Kal. 8mm Mannlicher S'. According to some sources, in Bulgaria these rechambered Mannlichers were also referred to as 'Karabina Mannlicher obrazetz 1938g'. (g = godina, year). In 1939 Germany supplied Bulgaria with quantites of ex-Austrian Karabiner M.95/30 which were known in Bulgaria as the 'Karabina Mannlicher obrazetz 1939g'. If it has the Bulgarian Lion Crest, it is a 1938g. Crestless guns can be either.

Rebuilding was completed to either 8x56R Long Rifles or 8x56R (Police) Carbines, by shortening the barrel, shortening the stock and fitting side sling swivels only, filling in the underneath slot in the stock with a fitting wooden piece, and replacing the underneath front swivel in the band with a small washer. The rear sight was not changed for the long rifles, and the front sight blade was replaced with a very tall one, Most of these Carbines were used post-WW2 as "Internal Security" type weapons, or stored as part of Bulgaria's Strategic reserve. Some of these weapons were sold to Third World hot spots/countries (such as Mozambique) by Bulgaria during the 1970's.

Electropenciled serial numbers on the M95 bolts indicate Bulgarian refurbishing. Only the original Bulgarian Contract rifles & carbines had serialized bolts of all M95 guns. The serial was on the bolt stem, although some appeared on the bolt body.

Bulgarian Lion Crest on receiver. Some of these weapons can be found with their Lion Crest ground off, but the city an date of manufacturing were left intact on the left side of the receivers.
Comparison of Czech and Bulgarian Lions
Original rear sights were numbered on both sides. Only Bulgarion contract bolts had a gas escape hole on top of the bolt.

Receiver marked 'VF' (Cyrillic B and Phi) Voenna Fabrika (Military Factory, Bulgaria), repair facilty mark

Bulgarian barrel shank markings

Bulgarian 'Pinecone' stock mark (from Dennis Kroh)

Nearly all of these rifles can be found re-chambered/re-barreled to the 8x56R round, with most of this work completed in Austria during 1930-1940. The 8x56r cartridges were a large-rim with a pointed bullet (Spitzgeschoss) and an 8-12mm (or so) high letter 'S' was stamped on the barrel shanks to differentiate it from the unconverted weapons. These guns are called M95/34 incorrectly by a U.S. importer. There was no such designation neither in Bulgaria, Hungary nor Austria. A very few converted weapons have no 'S' mark at all probably due to late-WW2 or post WW2 Bulgarian conversions or rebarrel jobs.

Bulgarian sheet metal front sight protectors, copy of the post WW1 Austrian brass front sight protectors, believed to be added in the 1930's. Some sources claim, these sight protectors are of Czech origin.

Ammunition

The manufacture of the 8x50R ammunition in Bulgaria started in 1895 in the Sofia Arsenal (ammo marked CA + Year)
In 1908 the head stamps were changed to include the stylized lion
During 1924-26 the cartridge manufacture was relocated to Kazanlak. Head stamps were changed, where CA was replaced with B0 (VF = Voenna Fabrika = Military Factory)
In 1934 & 1935 an order was placed with Czech manufacturers, headstamped M (for metal-stamping factory in Bratislava)
1939 is the last year of 8x50R manufacture in Bulgaria. The manufacturing of 8x56R began in 1934
In 1944 the manufacturing process was changed to drawing steel cases
In 1947 the manufacture of 7.62x53R (7.62x54 Russian) was started. They used existing 8x56R cases redrawn to new dimensions. Head stamps remain unchanged. (Nick on Gunboards)

Bulgarian Headstamps:
"Rampant Lion" at the 12 o'clock position and a cyrillic 'CA' or 'B0' arsenal marking at 6 o'clock position.
'CA' = Cyrillic SA superimposed, Sofia Arsenal, 'B0 = VF (Cyrillic B and Phi) Voenna Fabrika (Military Factory).
The 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock position shows the date of manufacture.

Standard M.95 Bayonets

Bulgarian M1895 knife bayonets are made by FGGY, Hungary or OEWG Steyr, Austria, and marked so. 360mm overall, 248mm blade length. Muzzle ring 15mm dia. Grips held by rivets and spanner nuts. Original bayonets were not serial numbered.

Most bayonet pictures are courtesy of Old Smithy's Bayonets

Auxiliary front sight on top of the muzzle ring. This compensated for the change in point-of-impact caused by firing the Stutzen with the bayonet fixed. The effect was much more marked in the short-barrel Stutzens than the full-length rifles. Some experts do not accept the change in point-of-impact reasoning, however they do not provide an alternative explanation for the muzzle ring sight.

Bulgarian Lion marked bayonet. The serial number was added in Bulgaria

Bayonet Frog

After 1907 some carbines were given additional swivels under the buttstock and under the front band, so that they could be used interchangeably for mounted or foot use. However, in Bulgaria, a number of the butt-swivel additions were removed and their 'hole' filled in wooden plugs. According to some sources these are called 'Police Carbines' and usually come with the side-mounted fixed front sling loop, with bottom swivels removed.

Standard military Stutzen or Carbine sight on the left. The tall sight on the right is for close range/police use. (Not everybody agrees with this usage, however no other explanations were provided for the tall sights.)


Bulgaria/Serbia - M95/24 7.92x57mm conversions

These weapons can be distinguished by the addition of the stamp '/24' after the "M95" which is on the top of the receiver. These rifles have a clip permanently fixed in their magazines and therefore can be loaded with the standard Mauser 5-round charger. More details and pictures can be found on the Greek M.95 page.
Note: Most experts agree that these M95/24 conversions are Serbian, either made in Serbia or made for Serbia.
While some sources claim these as Bulgarian purchase, it is questionable based on the fact that Bulgaria had plenty of 8x50 and later 8x56 caliber weapons, but not in 7.92mm, and they never officially adopted a 7.92mm caliber weapon. It is most likely that the Bulgarian M95/24 connection originates from either captured Serbian weapons in Bulgarian hands or captured Bulgarian marked M95's converted to the M95/24 configuration by Serbia or both. An example with the 'M95/24' marking shows a cyrillic 'B' on the barrel, similar to the cyrillic 'B' found on the Serbian M95M conversions


Additional Bulgarian Weaponry Info

Regarding Mannlichers in Bulgarian service, the M1886-90 and the M1888 rifles were also used extensively, especially during the Balkan wars of 1912-1913. These were the predominantly used infantry weapons of that era. During WW1 the troops were largely armed with M95s but the earlier models remained in use on the front line as well.
The Avramov and Kovachev Company in the town of Gabrovo manufactured a small amount of M1888 bayonets. Their identifying stamp is 'A&K Gabrovo' [in cyrillic], which can be found on side of the blade.
After Bulgaria entered WW1 in 1915, they captured among other items, a number of Greek Mannlicher-Schoenauer M1903 bayonets. These bayonets had a length similar to the M95 bayonets, so they were altered by the State Arsenal of Sofia by replacing the M1903 bayonet ricasso with an M1895 ricasso. The stamp on these blades is 'CA 15r' (Sofia Arsenal, year of 1915). [Courtesy of Pavel]


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