M71/84 German Mauser

(Infanterie-Gewehr M1871/84)

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M71/84 German Mauser (Infanterie-Gewehr M1871/84)

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  For a discussion of the HISTORICAL CONTEXT surrounding the development of Germany and its predecessor rifle, the M1871, see:  M1871 German Mauser.

GENERALLY

  The I.G.Mod.71/84 (Infanterie-Gewehr M1871/84), Germany's first infantry repeater, is a further evolution of Mauser's successful I.G.Mod.71, but it is not a conversion of the M71 nor a simple upgrade, but rather a newly-designed and newly built rifle merely based on the M71.  The I.G.Mod.71/84 is an 1871 pattern rifle with a tubular magazine (itself a derivation of the Winchester system), coupled with a Mauser designed lifting mechanism and improved rear sight.

 

   The most significant improvement was the addition of an 8 round tubular magazine in the forestock, loaded singly from the top with the bolt open.  As a repeater, the M71/84 constituted a firepower improvement over the M1871 single shot, the under barrel tubular magazine was clumsy and time consuming to reload and served to provide only a backup for emergency firepower.  Fully loaded, the rifle was very front-heavy and its center of gravity changed with every shot.  The introduction of easily reloadable box magazine repeaters such as the Austrian Mannlicher in 1885-86 tolled the approaching end of the tube magazine repeater.

   While the M71/84 was competitive at the time of its adoption, the introduction in 1886 by the French of their Lebel rifle chambering a revolutionary 8mm smokeless powder cartridge made the M71/84 obsolete almost overnight.  This action escalated the great European arms race of the late 19th Century, and Germany embarked upon a crash program to adopt a competitive rifle.

  Germany considered adopting an 8mm tube magazine Mauser design, but by the late 1880s the box magazine was starting to evidence its superiority in balance, reloading and reliability.  While the removable box magazine was still being resisted, all agreed that the charger-loading magazine was becoming the way to go.  The Germans settled on the Reichsgewehr M1888 Mannlicher (the “Commission” rifle), a box magazine variety.  Although a blow to Mauser at the time, this move ultimately led to Mauser developing the successful M1889 and then the phenomenally successful M1898 series of rifles which served Germany and nations around the world through and past WWII.

 

   During this time frame, as Germany continued to unify, military standardization amongst the various German states was a significant consideration.  The M1869 Bavarian Werder was converted to the German M1871 cartridge and, notwithstanding the ongoing arms race with France and throughout Europe during this time, Germany maintained the continuity of its rifles system and ammunition until entering the smokeless powder era in 1888.  Quantities of M1871s and M71/84s were even utilized by rear echelons during the early days of WWI.

 

   Although the I.G.Mod.71/84 never saw front line military service, many saw service with the German navy, the German reserve and behind the lines units through WWI.   Large numbers were sold to South American countries and as surplus in the US and Canada.  Ammunition for them was made commercially into the mid‑twentieth century.  The I.G.Mod.71/84 also represents what may be the height of small arms manufacturing refinement, its workmanship being since unsurpassed for a general issue infantry rifle.

DEVELOPMENT

  The Germans had paid close attention and were taking advantage of critical lessons learned from the Turks at the battles of Plevna in 1877 where the Turks, armed in critical part with M1866 Winchester tube magazine repeating rifles, soundly defeated the numerically superior Russians armed with Russian M1867 Krnkas, the Russian M1868 Berdan I and Russian M1870 Berdan II single shot rifles.  But even more importantly to the new Mauser’s development, from the German perspective another war with France seemed inevitable following France’s humiliating loss of the 1870-1871 conflict.  French war minister General Boulanger was fanning the flames of revenge and it was anyone’s guess what the post war decade would bring.  Germany had widely fielded its solid M1871 Mauser, but it was not long before the Prussian Ministry of War sought to introduce a magazine rifle for the German army.  Given the political tensions between the two countries, the cost and disruption to ammunition producing factories of changes, and the already abundant stores of M71 ammunition, it was decided to pursue a repeater chambered for the same cartridge as the plentiful M71s.

 

   The army doctrine underlying the employment of a repeater, in almost everyone’s army, was for the infantryman to be able to increase his rate of fire in critical tactical situations.  But that otherwise ammunition should be used carefully.  Thus the new rifle would employ a cut-off device that would keep its magazine as a reserve, using the rifle as a single-shot in most situations and engagements.  Only critical situations would trigger the employment of the cartridges in the magazine.

 

   Most all other nations’ military repeaters of the time, both tube and box magazine rifles, were equipped with some kind of magazine cut-off device; French Kropatschek (1878), Portuguese Kropatschek (1886), Norwegian Jarmann (1887), Italian Vetterli-Vitali (1887), Chinese-purchased Winchester-Hotchkiss (1879), Dutch Beaumont-Vitali (even in 1889) and the British Lee Metford (1888).  The only significant exceptions were the Swiss Army, who was already significantly advanced with a magazine repeater arming front-line soldiers by 1869.  The M1869 Swiss Vetterli was initially equipped with a magazine cut-off but it was quickly discarded, the Swiss opting to go full repeater by 1870 and the box-magazine-metal-clip fed Austrian M1886 Mannlichers.

 

   Indeed, by the early 1880s, several tubular magazine turning bolt repeaters were in service, including the well-proven Swiss Vetterli series, the Austrian Fruwirth and Styer-built French M1878 Gras-Kropatschek. A number of other magazine rifle designs were reviewed and tested, but as yet there was no design that did not have significant drawbacks.  Box magazine rifles were simply not yet evolved enough to offer the advantages that would later become apparent with the introduction of the British Lee series, the later Mauser 1889 and their brilliant progeny.  In the early 1880s, the best option appeared to be a turning bolt action rifle with a magazine tube running below the barrel; i.e., the well-established Winchester solution.

 

   Army trials took place in Prussia in the winter of 1882-1883 using 2,000 prototype Mauser rifles, the trials leading to some improvements in the design:  Deleting a cartridge from the magazine to get the magazine tube further back and to somewhat improve weight distribution; altering ammunition to use a flat-nose bullet and more deeply seated primers to reduce the risk of an in-magazine ignition; cutting rifling depth from 0.30mm to 0.15mm to improve gas sealing, and determining that an integral cleaning rod was not absolutely essential.

 

MARKINGS

   Markings are of a kind and location following exactly the markings system and locations as the earlier M71 Mauser rifle.  The left chamber flat is marked I.G. Mod. 71/84 (I.G. Mod. 71/84) in a highly Gothic style.  Like the I.G.Mod.71, a crown above the arsenal/city where the rifles were produced is stamped on the top chamber flat (for Prussia, mostly Spandau but also Danzig & Erfurt; for Bavaria, Amburg, and for Württemberg, they continued to support the hometown boys, Waffenfabrik Mauser).  The upper left chamber flat is stamped with the crowned monarch’s cypher (e.g., crown above F.W.).  Also like the I.G.Mod.71, the caliber is noted on the upper left octagonal barrel chamber flat at the receiver (10.95 up to 11.05).  Various proof marks and year of production are found on the left side of the receiver and chamber flats.  Like the earlier M71, even more so if possible, every single part than can be is numbered to the rifle.  Note that Waffenfabrik Mauser Oberndorf , was privately owned and thus placed no crown above the manufacturer inscription.

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DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

   Although outwardly similar to the Mod 71, the Mod 71/84 has a highly refined leaf sight with a slide incorporating a positive locking push button detent for range settings.  It is fitted with an 8-shot tubular magazine and an additional round could also be carried on the elevator and one in the chamber if desired for a 10 round capacity.  The ribbed and threaded magazine fore end spring cap acts as a nosecap and includes an integral stacking bar which extends from the cap to flush with the muzzle allowing multiple rifles to be assembled into a stacking pyramid.   The new rifle also has a redesigned steel rather than brass trigger guard.

 

   Unlike the M1886 Portuguese Kropatschek and the M1887 Turkish Mauser, the I.G.Mod.71/84 has no provision for cleaning rod whatsoever, which in itself is a highly distinguishing characteristic.  Perhaps the most well-made military rifle ever produced, and produced in the millions, these rifles are finished with a brilliant, deep blued barrel, the receiver and bolt in the white, and with many support pieces being fire blued.  The stocks are stamped with imperial acceptance marks on the right of the butt.

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OPERATING MECHANISM

   For the most part, the Mod 71/84 is a rather conventional turning bolt action, tube magazine repeater.  Succeeding rounds are carried to the chamber by an elevator which pivots at the back, somewhat similar to the Kropatschek design but quite unlike the Swiss Vetterli repeater.   There is a magazine cut‑off lever on the left side of the receiver so that the rifle may be hand fed single rounds and used in single shot mode with the magazine in reserve.   The I.G.Mod.71/84 retained the bolt guide rib as its sole locking lug and the bolt washer which was unscrewed to remove and disassemble the segmented bolt.  A pin through the washer bolt to keep it from being lost was an improvement carried over from late M1871s.  The addition of an ejector, which the I.G.Mod.71 had lacked but which is a requirement in a repeater, was also adopted.

 

   In operation, with the bolt open and the lifter down, cartridges are loaded singly into the magazine tube through the receiver.  Once loaded, the rear end of the magazine tube empties onto the rear-pivoting spoon lifter below the receiver. When the spoon/lifter is in the up position it blocks cartridges in the tube magazine from moving out of the magazine.  When in the down position, a spiral spring capped by a brass follower in the tube feeds the cartridges from the magazine to the cartridge spoon/lifter. The lifter can be overridden via a lever mechanism (lever forward) on the left side of the receiver.  This allows the rifle to be used as a single-shot which is its default mode.  In this condition the spoon/lifter will not lift when the bolt is fully opened.  With the lever engaged, however, when the bolt is closed the spoon is lowered allowing a fresh cartridge onto it.  And when the bolt is opened and pulled fully to the rear, the spoon pivots up lifting the fresh cartridge up and ready to be fed by the bolt pushing the cartridge into the chamber.

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SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA

Overall Length:  51 in (1,293mm)

Weight, empty:  10 lbs (4.6kg)

Barrel Length:  31.6 in  (802mm)

Rifling:  4-groove; RH, concentric

Sight:  250m zero (274 yds)  The sight has a small 350 meter leaf (383 yds), and a second, much larger leaf with a positive locking ranging slider graduated to 1,600 m (1,750 yds)

Chambering:  11x60R; initially Patrone M71, later Patrone M78/84

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CARTRIDGE

Patrone M1871 initially, then Patrone M71/84

 

   During development of the M71/84, it was discovered that the M1871 Reichpatronen with its round-nosed bullet caused the rifle to be susceptible to magazine ignition in which the nose of the bullet detonated the primer of the cartridge ahead of it.  Thus the Reichspatronen 71/84, adopted in conjunction with the new rifle, has a flat-nosed bullet, and more deeply seated primers.

 

  The M71/84 utilizes the same bullet as the earlier single-shot M71 Mauser.  However, from about 1885, the depth of the rifling grooves of the M71/84 was reduced by half, from about .120 to about .060 so that the bullets would gas-seal more effectively with no effective loss of accuracy.

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   Someone paying attention might observe a cartridge or two dated “83” for 1883.  Note that some of the Munitionsfabriken produced only cases, for example Erfurt and Danzig, and those were loaded elsewhere.  So likely when the 1883 dated cases were ready to be assembled into cartridges, that they were completed after adoption of the M1871/84 rifle.

 

BAYONET

M1871/84 Knife Bayonet  (Seitengewehr s1871/84)

 

   The Mauser M71/84 infantry rifle was a rather conventional design for its time, a somewhat bulky, 11mm tube magazine repeater.  Its bayonet, however, broke new ground with being the first knife bayonet to become the standard issue in a major army, a move that was quickly widely followed by subsequent bayonets such as the Spanish M1983, Chilean M1895, and Venezuelan M1900.  This general design remains the standard infantry rifle pattern of bayonet into the 21st century.

 

     The M1871/84 bayonet will not only mount on the M71/84 rifle but also mount on the earlier Mauser M1871 rifle as well as the later small-bore 8 mm M1888 “Commission” Rifle.   On the M71/84 the bayonet mounts to the nosecap bayonet lug on the right side of the rifle with the blade horizontal to the ground.

  The M1871/84 rifle was superseded only a few years after entering service by the M1888 “Commission” Rifle.  Thus the M1871/84 bayonet saw very limited use by the German Army. While the M1871/84 bayonet mounts to the shorter M1888 Commission Rifle, in this era it was viewed as not having sufficient reach for close combat, so that the Commission rifle was usually issued with the longer M1871 sword bayonet.  Following adoption of the German Gewehr 98 rifle and the recognized obsolescence of the M71/84 rifle, nearly all M1871/84 bayonets were altered into M1884/98 knife bayonets, making original, unaltered M71/84 bayonets quite scarce.

 

   M1871/84 bayonets were manufactured with two distinct blade profiles that differ only in the length of the fuller.

 

   Depending on date of manufacture and for what German state, the bayonet is likely to carry the Royal Cypher of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Prussia (reign 1861–1888) or King Leopold of Bavaria, or not.

 

   Bayonets as well as their scabbards carry matching regimental markings. But, unlike the serial number obsessed rifles, the bayonets are not serially numbered.

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Photo Credit:   Steve-Aragorn243

 

SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS

  No German M71/84 short rifles or carbines were produced.  The only quasi-exceptions are the Serbian M1884 Mauser “Koka” Cavalry Carbine and the Serbian M1884 Mauser Artillery Short Rifle, both exceedingly rare.  If you come across a shorter than infantry rifle German M71/84, it is just a cut-down rifle, not a carbine.

 

   The German M71/84 was, however, slightly modified for issue to Jäger units by relocating the lower sling swivel, usually on the front of the trigger guard, to the lower edge of the buttstock.

MANUFACTURING

  The critical machinery for production was already on hand, having been earlier acquired from Pratt and Whitney in the United States for the manufacture of the M71.  The M78/84s however were all manufactured in Germany, made for Prussia by the arms factories in Danzig, Erfurt and Spandau, 1885-89; for Bavaria by the Königlich bayerisches Gewehrfabrik, Amberg, 1886-90; and by Waffenfabrik Mauser AG, in Oberndorf, 1885-87.

 

   Production total:  Exact number unknown, but approximately 950,000 buy the time production ceased in 1887.  Note, however, that Waffenfabrik Mauser Oberndorf produced only 21,000 M1871/84s for Württemberg.

UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES

   Produced in numbers nearing one million, because of its very early obsolescence by reason of the introduction of the French M1886 Lebel with its smokeless powder ammunition, the I.G. Mod.71/84 was never used by Germany as its front line infantry rifle in any German conflict.  It was, however, exported in significant numbers to at least two South American countries, in quantity to China, and distributed by various surplus arms dealers such as A. L. Frank and Francis Bannerman all over the world.  While a scarce few will have supplemental markings, all will have their full complement of original German manufacturing and ownership markings.

 

   South American exports included 12,000 to Ecuador and 27,000 to Venezuela and perhaps some to Argentina to supplement the M71 Mausers which they already had. Many of these appear never to have been issued and remained in store until they were sold to North American dealers in the 1980s.

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Note the Spanish inscription.  This contains cartridges with cases from Königliches Munitionsfabrik, Spandau and waxed lead bullets. Mario Cresta was an exporter-importer in the South American trade with offices in the port of Hamburg.  A South American cartridge collector asserts that these cartridges would have been packaged for Venezuela, and that the M71/84 was never used in Argentina.

   Large numbers were sold as surplus in the US and Canada and ammunition for them was made commercially (Remington, Dominion and others) into the mid-twentieth century.

 

   Not only was Germany making use of the M71/84 for its rear echelon troops during World War 1, but one of the more interesting utilizations of the by now obsolete M71/84s also occurred during the First World War when Quebec City (Canada) was unable to afford to arm the Quebec Home Guard with modern rifles and so bought 300 to 400 surplus M1871/84s from the US arms dealer Francis Bannerman.

MISC. NOTES

  *The depth of the rifling grooves in the I.G.Mod.71/84 is 0.15mm, half the depth of the I.G.Mod.71’s 0.30.   Re‑loaders should not expect ammunition designed for I.G.Mod.71/84 to perform as well in the I.G.Mod.71.

DISASSEMBLY

The 71/84 bolt can be tricky to remove!

 

1)  DO NOT REMOVE THE BOLT RETAINING SCREW!!!    It is pinned to the bolt itself with a tiny cross‑pin and will not back out completely without breaking it.  It will back out sufficiently to allow the bolt retainer washer to slide over the receiver bridge.  Back out the bolt sufficiently to allow the washer to clear ... and no more.

REFERENCES

Page first built February 3, 1999
Revised September 21, 1999
Revised February 23, 2007

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Updated Feb 15, 2022