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Origins of My Turked Gewehr 88/05/35 Rifle Mike Izzi 21 Dec 2013 Updated: 27 Oct 2014
The original rifle had it’s beginnings as a German Commission rifle sometime prior to 1888 known as the Gewehr 88. It was designed by a group of officers from the GPK (GewehrPrufungsKomission) or Rifle Testing Commission of the German Army located in the city of Spandau. It was not truly a Mauser design, having a similar rotary bolt action, a Mannlicher design magazine feed system, and a steel jacket slipped over the barrel and screwed into the receiver.
At that time the ammunition designed for it was a round nosed 196-227gr. cylindrical bullet 0.318 in. diameter. It was a Cupro-Nickel FMJ with a smokeless powder load designed to produce a 2100 fps velocity. The caliber was designated 7.92 x 57mm J and became one of the most successful cartridges of the era. 7.92 mm or 0.3118 in. was the original barrel bore and the rimless case was 57 mm long. The “J” designation erroneously arose from what was originally an “I” designation which stood for Infantry, and so it stuck.
The rifle barrel had a 0.3118 in. bore and a 0.3189 in. groove diameter, tailored after the French Lebel design at the time. The bolt was a design derived from the 11mm Mauser Gew 71, modified by Louis Schlegelmilch, a Spandau Arsenal technician. An improved Mannlicher style five shot packet clip magazine was added along with a full length metal barrel jacket designed by Armand Mieg. It’s purpose was to protect the barrel from damage and hands from heat. The packet clip held five rounds and was discharged out of an opening in the bottom of the magazine when empty. Field trials were completed in November 1888, and the orders to adopt the design were signed by Kaiser Wilhelm II that year. This was the G88. (Gew 88).
First Modification 1905
As experience with the weapon developed in battle, they found that the bores were wearing out too quickly and the barrels were fouling due to excessive friction of the cylindrical bullet and the smokeless powder. So in 1905, the “S” bullet developed by Spitzgeschoss was adopted. The “Spitzer” bullet was pointed in shape, thus having 65% less circumferential bearing surface going through the barrel and reducing the friction drag. Thus my rifle underwent it’s first modification.
The original packet clips were changed to simpler “stripper” clips, which held the five rounds together. The bottom magazine opening to release the original packet clips was closed with a sheet metal snap on cap, which also prevented magazine contamination with dirt from field use. In order to accommodate the stripper clips, the rear receiver split bridge was fitted with two small plates that had tracks for inserting the new clips in preparation for loading. Modifications to the magazine moved the cartridge forward, requiring a notch to be cut in the receiver to clear the “S” cartridge point. The top round was then pressed down with the thumb forcing the rounds to load in the magazine. The stripper clip was then discarded. In order to keep the magazine feeder spring from ejecting the rounds, a spring loaded retainer was added to the magazine, and a round notch was cut into the left receiver rail for thumb clearance. Internal sides were added to the magazine to guide the single file rounds.
The barrel bore was kept at 0.3118 in., but the rifling or groove diameter was increased to 0.323 in. and was designated the “S” bore. The “S” bullet was 0.323 in.diameter, 154gr weight, and had a 2880 fps velocity. The barrels were re-chambered for the new ammo dimensions and pressures. And so it became the G88/05. (Gewehr 88, 1905 S mod).
Second Modification 1935
Sometime during 1916-18, many G88/05 rifles like mine were sold by the Germans to the Turks. The Turks refurbished these Commission 88 rifles in the 1930’s. My rifle, number 1286, underwent the following changes in 1935.
- The tapered barrel was replaced with a new M1903 style stepped barrel having the 0.323 in. groove diameter and new chamber dimensions for the “S” cartridges. This barrel is marked 7.91 on underside.
- The barrel jackets were removed. Wooden hand guards were added over the barrel, surrounding the rear sight.
- The stock was a Turkish standard M1903 style having a pistol grip shape.
- The rear sight added was a notched flip up pivoted slider with Arabic numerals.
- The forward band was changed to relocate the bayonet lug mount from the side to under the barrel.
- The rear sling band was retained by a spring lock rather than a screw for ease of disassembly.
- And so it became the G88/05/35. (Gewehr 88, 1905 S mod, 1935 Turkish mod).
Since this weapon underwent several changes, the only original Gew 88/05 parts are the receiver, the bolt, the rear sight and the magazine/trigger assembly. So serial number matches are hard to come by for this rifle. The numbers match on the rear sight and the receiver only. My bolt has western Arabic numerals, a Prussian eagle and the letter P stamped on it so it is an original German bolt, but not a match. As the story goes the bolts were removed and destroyed by the British to disable the weapons in 1918, but a few Turkish officers managed to preserve some of the originals, although they were not necessarily rematched to the rifles.. In 1923, they were remanufactured by Zbrojovka Brno, or ZB (Czechoslovakian arms factory) for the Turks, thus losing the number match. The Turks made new barrels and bedded all parts in a new stock. In 1929, Turkey adopted the Roman alphabet and western Arabic numerals for all their markings. The front receiver ring was wiped and the new Turkish markings were added, “TC, AS.FA, Ankara,1935”.
The history of this rifle’s early use is found in the original markings still left on the receiver. The left rail still has the original Gew88 stamp, along with the regiment stamp “59.R.R.7.158”. It is this regiment stamp that tells the story of its original use. These stamps are made primarily on the front or rear bands, but as the weapons were re-arsenaled, these marks were Xed out and re-stamped on the receiver when re-issued. This rifle has been issued three times (front band, rear band and receiver).
This stamp is read as follows:
“Weapon #158 assigned to the 7th Company of the 59th Reserve Infantry Regiment”
The second “R” defines it as being located in a Recruitment Center.
Research has shown this Regiment was assigned to the 8th Army on the Eastern front to defend East Prussia during Aug 1914-1919 of WWl. The German chain of command at that time was as follows:
Eighth Army - Gen. Paul von Hindenberg
1st Reserve Corps - Aug 1914 - Cmdr Otto von Below
Nov 1914 - Cmdr Kurt von Morgan
Aug 1918 - Cmdr Richard Wellman
1st Reserve Division (15k men) - Lt. Gen. von Forster
72nd Reserve Infantry Brigade - Maj. Gen. Licht
59th Reserve Infantry Regiment - Lt. Col. Bruno Modrow
7th Company - Infantryman ??
The only piece of information missing is the name of the Infantryman in the 7th Company that used it.
Many thanks to the following sources of information which made this historical trek back in time possible.