top of page

Please Note:  This site is best viewed on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer. We have made every effort to make this site friendly to cellphone users, but it's really designed to be viewed with a larger screen.  Thank you.

M1881 Austrian Kropatschek Naval Rifle

(M1881 Kriegsmarine Kropatschek Repetiergewehren)

krop 1_0001_edited.jpg

M1881 Austrian Kropatchek Naval Rifle - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

  We also graciously acknowledge the help of Heino Hintermeier with information and pictures for this page.


  The Austro-Hungarian Empire like many other European nations during this time was constantly trying to keep up with changing technology around small military arms.  Armies across Europe were considering the option of a repeating rifle over their existing single shot rifles.  

  A pivotal time between 1875 and 1885 a lesser known name would play an important role in Austria Hungary's military rifle developments.  Artillery Officer and later General Artillery inspector Alfred von Kropatschek.  Kropatschek was a member of the Imperial and Royal Hinterload Rifle Commision and was directly involved in trials resulting in the adoption of the Wanzl conversion of the Lorenz muskets.  He was also involved in testing the Werndl rifle developed by Josef Werndl and Carl Holub.  He witnessed the development of the Fruwirth rifle and its drawbacks.  He then decided to recreate the Fruwirth rifle system with improvements and that would be called the Kropatschek.


Alfred von Kropatschek - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


  In 1873/74 Alfred von Kropatschek reconstructed the Fruwith's system to address its weaknesses.  His new bolt action mechanism would be suitable for a brand-new rifle along with converting single shot bolt action rifles to a repeater.  The rifle is equipped with a self-tightening rotary lobe breech and had a tube magazine in the fore-end that could be switched off.  The magazine lock allowed the weapon to be a single shot rifle and was his concession to the tactical approach that was prevailing across Europe at the time.  The lock allowed a soldier to use his rifle as a single shot rifle and then rely on his extra ammo in the tube magazine in dire situations.  This also accounted for the scenario of a failure of the tube magazine system, the rifle could still be used.  Additional improvements from the Fruwith system include a more stable breech which could withstand the gas pressure of stronger cartridges, an easy to operate wing safety, and a simplification of the feeder device. 


Construction drawing from Kropatschek's application for privileges of September 26, 1874- Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

  Kropatschek would go on to have a partner in Josef Werndl and produce his rifle at Österr. Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft in Steyr.   He would go on to propose his new rifle at a very inopportune time in Austria.  The improved Werndl with the M1873 designation had just been introduced to the Army with favorable reception.  The Kropatschek rifle was then sent to testing by the Techinical Administrative Military Committee (TaMK), the advantages of being able to shoot as a single shot and a repeater were so convincing that the Reich Ministry of War purchased more rifles for testing. 


  OEWG would go on to supply 20 rifles for troop testing and training of this new rifle, to be conducted by the Feldjäger Battalion No. 21 in Mauer near Vienna.  The testing showed that it was not too difficult to train troops on the new rifle, the rifle had a 21/2-fold increase in the number of shots fired in comparison to the Werndl.  Some minor changes were requested however there were concerns with giving the rifle to the entire army due to its complicated construction.  The other complication was the cost of the rifle, it was much higher than the already in production Werndl-Hoblub system.  A second field test was requested for the Kropatchek rifle and in the meantime the Werndl was made to use the improved M77 cartridge which improved its ballistic performance.


  In the 2nd test, 40 rifles were modified to use the new cartridge types and performed impressively, however no final decision was made.  The Army appeared in no hurry to adopt a repeating rifle as no other armies in Europe had one at the time.  A third test was conducted with 410 Kropatscheks authorized by Emperor Franz Joseph I.  However once again the Army decided to adopt a wait and see approach with repeating rifles.           


Kropatschek repeating mechanism, the carbine variant from 1881- Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

  In Oct 1881 the Imperial and Royal navy showed interest in the Kropatschek rifle and procured 10 rifles to start testing them out.  The Kropatsheck surpassed the M1867/77 Werndl and M1873/77 Werndl in firepower.  In Oct 1883, an additional 40 Kropatschek rifles were procurred and assigned to the torpedo boat (Torpedoboot-Einheiten) units for further testing.  Another order was placed for 100 units in Dec of 1883.  Based on surviving documents, the Navy had 430 Kropatschek rifles produced for trials and the last order was placed in Feb 1885 (Das Kropatschek-Repetiersystem in Österreich-Ungarn)

  The Imperial and Royal Navy did not make a decisive decision on the Kropatschek rifle and soon a new competitor came into the picture, Ferdinand Mannlicher.  His Mannlicher rifles would be used going forward. 

The following picture was shared with us by Heino Hintermeier from his article "Das Kropatschek-Repetiersystem in Österreich-Ungarn" and shows the operation of the Kropatschek mechanism.


Sectional drawing through the Kropatschek - repeating mechanism - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

  When the cap (A) is retracted, the feeder spoon (B) with the cartridge (C) is lifted with the help of the spring (E). When the breech (A) is pushed forward, the cartridge (C) is inserted into the cargo compartment (D). If the closure (A) is now locked, the part (F) on the locking plunger pushes the feeder spoon (B) down again.


  If the magazine lock (G) is located under the left hole of the locking bar of the breech (A), the feeder bucket (B) can follow the pressure of the part (F) again - the bolt-action supply can still be accessed. However, if the magazine lock (G) is under the right hole of the locking bar of the breech (A), the feeder bucket (B) remains fixed in its upper position - the rifle can now only be used as a single loader. This device allows the weapon to continue to be used in the event of a failure of the bolt-action mechanism.


  In order to change the weapon from single loader to multi-loader, however, it was necessary to open the breech first!


  With the Austro-Hungarian Army deciding against the Kropatschek rifle after their trials and the Navy using them for a short period of time, the Kropatschek service time in the Austro-Hungarian Empire is very short.  The majority of their service was with the soldiers on torpedo boats (Torpedoboot-Einheiten).  With the introduction of the Mannlicher rifles to the Austrian Navy, the Kropatschek rifles were only found be in the use of the Naval Gendarmerie.  Soon they too decided to transition to the M1890 Mannlicher rifle and in 1894 the Kropatschek was retired from the Austro-Hungarian Navy.



  The Austrian M1881 Kropatschek had its safety on the back on the bolt, when turning it to the right the locking coupling engages with the tail of the case and prevents the firing pin from proturding out.


Kropatschek Safety- Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


The bolt is open and the magazine lock is set to "single shot" and thus the feeder is fixed in its upper position ​- Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier



See OPERATING MECHANISM on the Portuguese Kropatschek page.



  The M1881 Austrian Kropatschek is marked on the top of the reciever with the "OEWG" marking and the acceptance stamp on the barrel before the sight.

krop 12.jpg

"Wn 84" Acceptance Stamp - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

krop 101.jpg

OEWG  on the reciever - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

  The Austrian M1881 Extra-Corp Rifle is marked on the top of the receiver with only the "OEWG" marking, while the Hungarian version has the inscription "Osztr. Fegyvergyar - tars Steyr" on the left as well as the "OEWG" marking and the Hungarian Coast of Arms.

krop 9.jpg

Faint Osztr. Fegyvergyar - tars Steyr marking  - Photo Credit

Markings on a Hungarian M1881 Extra-Corp Rifle  - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


  • Overall Length:  1,280 mm( in)

  • Weight, empty:  4350 grams ( lbs)

  • Barrel Length:  806mm ( in)

  • Magazine:  8-round capacity

  • Rifling: swirl right

  • Sight:  graduated to 2,200 paces (1650 m)



M1881 Extra-Corps Rifle  (M1881 Gendarmerie-Repetierkarabiner)

  Alfred Kropatschek was far more successful with the carbine version of the Kropatschek than with the rifle.


  On 21 May 1881, the Hungarian Honved Ministry delivered 4,000 Extra-Corps rifles (gendarmerie repeating carbine) to the OEWG in Steyr in the Kropatschek system (see contract book page 45/5) The Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie and the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Gendarmerie Corps were initially equipped with this short and handy type of weapon. However, less than a year after the introduction in Hungary, the Austrian half of the empire was forced to buy new weapons to replace Fruwirth rifles that had already become unusable. Here, too, the decision fell on Kropatschek's design. By decree A3731/977 III of March 17, 1882, the Imperial and Royal Ministry of Defense ordered that the Imperial and Royal Gendarmerie of the countries and kingdoms represented in the Reichsrath should introduce the Extra-Corps rifle in the Kropatschek system, subject to the need and allowance of funds.

  The main differences of the Extra-Corp carbine from the rifle were a shorter length, lower magazine capacity (6 vs 8), modified barrel fittings, the bayonet pattern and the bent down bolt.

  The Extra-Corps rifle was far more common in Hungary than in Austria due to the introduction of the M90 Mannlicher Extra-Corps rifle.  It was not until 1897 that the Hungarian Gendarmerie were equipped with the M95 Mannlicher.  It was not until 1910 that the surplus Extra-Corp Kropatscheks wer sold off.

krop 1_0001_edited.jpg

M1881 Kropatschek Extra-Corps Rifle- Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


Kropatschek repeating mechanism, the carbine variant from 1881- Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


 Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

  • Overall Length:  1,044 mm( in)

  • Weight, empty:  3350 grams ( lbs)

  • Barrel Length:  566 mm ( in)

  • Magazine:  6-round capacity

  • Rifling: swirl right

  • Sight:  graduated to 1,600 paces (1,200 m)



  The front end of the M1881 Kropatschek has a T-shaped bayonet holder, this allows the bayonet to be held directly by the shaft and prevent the barrel from bending.  The rifle had a saber bayonet very similar to the (M1873 Werndl Bayonet) with a hollow grind and a curved tip on the back edge.  The handle is made of walnut and the cross handle is bent in the shape of a hook.  The Extra-Corp Carbines used the M1867 stabbing bayonet which had been used already on the Werndl and Fruwith gendarmerie rifles.  


Top - M1881 Kropatschek Rifle Bayonet, Bottom - M1881 Extra Corp Kropatschek - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


Top - M1881 Kropatschek Rifle Bayonet, Bottom - M1881 Extra Corp Kropatschek - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier



  The M1881 Kropatschek was designed to use the 11mm M1877 Cartridge that was already in use by the M1867 Werndl and the M1873 Werndl.  For more information on this cartridge please see the M1867 Werndl page.


  Around 1050 M1881 Kropatschek rifles were produced by OEWG in Steyr.  The production of the Extra-Crop Rifle went on for longer and was believed to be around 14,979 in total.

The information is a direct quote from Heino Hintermeier's article "Das Kropatschek-Repetiersystem in Österreich-Ungarn".

Production was also carried out by the OEWG in Steyr, which produced exactly 14,979 units of this robust weapon type for various domestic customers in the period from 1881 to 1896.

  • The kgl. Hungarian Honved Ministry (9,263 units)

  • The kgl. Hungarian Ministry of Finance (2,758 units)

  • The Imperial and Royal Ministry of Common Finance in Vienna (2,120 units)

  • The Imperial and Royal Ministry of Defence Vienna (675 units)

  • The Royal Ministry of Defence in Vienna (675 units)

  • The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Trade in Budapest (163 units).


  France utilized this rifle as the M1878 Kropatschek. Later, with Mauser bolt features, the Kropatchek was adopted in 8mm by Portugal. The gendarmerie carbine was also issued to the Bosnian-Herzegonvinian gendarmerie.


Predecessor Rifle: M1873 Werndl


Follow-On Rifle(s): M1886 Mannlicher



Top - M1881 Kropatschek Rifle, Bottom - M1881 Extra Corp Kropatschek - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier

Top - M1881 Kropatschek Rifle, Bottom - M1881 Extra Corp Kropatschek - Photo Credit Heino Hintermeier


Die Kropatschek-Repetiersysteme in Österreich-Ungarn (FassungVIII, 2003) - Heino Hintermeier

Die Mannlicher-Repetiersysteme in Österreich-Ungarn 17 (2004) 143-151 - Heino Hintermeier

Manuskript für den PALLASCH Die Mannlicher-Repetierkurzwaffen M.1890 im k.u.k. Heer - Heino Hintermeier

Stuart C Mowbray & Joe Puleo, "Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World'

Page built February 6, 1999

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Updated Jan 26, 2024

bottom of page