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 M1888 and M1888/90 Austrian Mannlicher

GENERALLY:  A direct and immediate descendent of the M1886 Austrian Mannlicher, this rifle too was a straight-pull, bolt action, box magazine repeater on the von Mannlicher design.  As early as the beginning of production of the M1886 the need and desirability for a small bore rifle was evident. This rifle is virtually identical to it's predecessor but for chambering a newly designed 8mm cartridge, loaded originally with black powder  and denominated 8x50R, but shortly thereafter converted to semi-smokeless as soon as such reliable propellant became available as the 8x52R Austrian Mannlicher cartridge.  The "converted" rifles were denominated M.88-90.  Later, when smokeless powder became available, the cartridge was returned to an 8x50R configuration in rifles designated M.90.  The sights of existing black-powder 8mm Mannlicher rifles were converted to accommodate smokeless ammunition by the cute but functional arrangement of screw mounting re-graduated side plates onto the outsides of the existing rear sight walls.  M1888 rifles built from and after 1890 had new sights and were denominated M.90 or are sometimes referred to as M1888-90.  It appears that a sizeable number of M1886 11mm rifles were converted to 8mm by rebarreling and re-sighting. These were denominated M.86-90, although I don't know how to differentiate the conversions from original M1888 rifles.

PHOTO:  The rifle shown is a M.88 Austrian Mannlicher, mounting its original black powder sights, but updated with side plates for smokeless cartridges use.

DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS:  The M1888 chambers the 8mm Mannlicher cartridge (either the 8x50R OR the 8x52R - see letter below).  Nearly identical with the M1886 Mannlicher, its parent rifle, the M1888's box magazine is noticeably thinner and shallower than the 11mm rifle's and the barrel is slightly shorter. Otherwise the two rifles are nearly identical.

I received this excellent letter:

Subj: info on Austrian Mannlicher cartridges
Date: 4/20/2003 5:31:18 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com

FYI, while researching my book on Mannlicher rifles I discovered the following about Austrian cartridges. According to the Austrian authority, Herr Josef Mötz,* the M.1888 Mannlicher chambered an 8x50R blackpowder cartridge (8mm scharfe Patrone M.88) while the M.88-90 and M.90 rifles and carbines used a semi-smokeless propellent in a 8x52R cartridge (8mm scharfe Patrone M.90). In 1893 a smokeless propellant was perfected and the 8mm scharfe Patrone M.93 reverted to the 50mm case. Due to the generous throats in all Mannlicher straight pull rifle barrels, cartridges of various lengths could be used interchangeably with no problems.

Hope this is of some help.
Paul Scarlata

* - Mötz, Josef. OSTERREICHISCHE MILITARPATRONEN, Volume 1. Vienna: Verlagsbuchhandlung Stöhr, 1996.


 By looking carefully you will be able to observe that the original sights of this M1888/90 Mannlicher have been upgraded by bolting on new sideplates! The new sideplates have different range markings than the originals to accomodate the new smokeless powder rounds of ~1890.


Lt:  M1888 Mannlicher Rear Sights


Rt:  M1888-90 (88 with Sideplates) Rear Sights


Can you spot the differences between the 8mm M1888/90 (top)    and the 11mm M1886 (Bottom)?


Clear view of the sideplates affixed post conversion to Smokeless 8mm ammunition.


 Safety on.  Bolt cannot be retracted, firing pin cannot move forward to strike the cartridge.


Safety off.  This rifle has just been fired.


Long range front sight pin; Mounted on the middle band.


It is believed that the letter suffixes on the M1886 and M1888 Mannlichers marked these rifles for export to South America.

Page built June 3, 1997
Revised February 15, 1999
Revised September 25, 1999
Revised April 22, 2003

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

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