• Bulgarian M03 Rifle

    Bulgarian M03 Rifle

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)(Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Caliber: ....................... 8x50r (M.1893 scharfe Patrone)
    Rifling: ........................ 4 groove, 1 turn in 10 inches (Right Hand Twist)
    Barrel Length: ............. 30.1”
    Overall Length: ............ 50.1”
    Weight: ....................... 8.3 lbs
    Magazine capacity: ...... 5 rounds.
    Qty Mfg: ...................... 92,000 rifles (9000 having been sequestered by Austria Hungary before making it to Bulgaria)

    M03 Bulgarian Rifle

    (26 picture virtual tour)

    Observations: (by "Eaglelord17")
    Note: Pics of rifle provided courtesy of Milsurps.com member Eaglelord17.

    In 1878 Bulgaria became a sovereign nation freed from the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The land they received was a small portion of the land that had historically belonged to Bulgarians, and a large number of ethnic Bulgarians lived outside the new country’s borders. This resulted in the Bulgarians becoming extremely militarized and at the time period were sometimes called ‘the Balkan Prussia’. With the wish to expand their borders they were constantly seeking new and better small arms for their army. They adopted the Austrian designed 1888/90s (ordered 140,000) and M90 Carbines (same action as the M95, different configuration, 10,218 produced) and in continuing with the theme of ordering from Austria-Hungary adopted the M95 design in 1897 (the naming in Bulgarian service is often called either the ‘Pushka Mannlicher Obrazetz 1897’ or ‘Pushka Mannlicher Obrazetz 1903’ after the first contract).

    The advantages of the M95 design are instantly apparent over the previous M1888 action. The M95 action has a shorter stronger action which is easier to maintain. It also had the advantage of having the same caliber as the M1888/90 (and other variants) in inventory. The first contract was made in 1903 (which this particular example is from). The dates of contracts are 1903, 1904, 1907, 1908, 1911, 1912, and 1914 from Steyr. 1909, and 1914 from Budapest. Total production of M95 Rifles for Bulgaria totaled 83,000, and total production of Carbines/Stutzen are 2074. There was also about 9,000 rifles and 500 carbines sequestered by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of WWI. These rifles and carbines will have the BP-Crest-1914 stamped on the barrel shank showing it was accepted into Hungarian service. The Bulgarian crest however was left intact.

    Design wise the Bulgarian M95 design differs very little from the Austrian-Hungarian M95s. The key differences are having the Bulgarian Crest on the receiver with M95 underneath it, having the date of the contract with the manufacturer on the side of the receiver as opposed to the Austrian-Hungarian system of stamping the acceptance date on the barrel shank (note the reason I say acceptance date, not manufacture date is the Austrian-Hungarians stamped when it was accepted into service, not the date it was made), having a gas vent on the top of the bolt, having the serial number of the rifle stamped on the bolt (bolts were unnumbered in Austrian-Hungarian service), having the Bulgarian crest cartouche in the stock, Bulgarian acceptance markings (small lion markings on various parts like the receiver, barrel, and bolt), and having the range numbers on both sides of the rear sight (a good thing, significantly less cluttered and easier to use).

    This particular example was made in 1903 at Steyr which was the first contact. It is exceptionally rare as it is still in the original 8x50r. It is also all matching except the bolt, which is still a Bulgarian Contact bolt, which is also exceptionally hard to find with most M95s having been through many rebuilds using parts from many different rifles.

    The only way to have a rifle like this is for it to have been captured in combat during either the First Balkan War, Second Balkan War, or WWI. The reason for this is the M95s that remained in service in Bulgaria were converted to 8x56r in the 1930s (it will have a large ‘S’ marking on the barrel shank if it was converted). There is also a limited number of possible countries that could have captured it, as most who did capture them resold them, rearsenaled them or converted them to a different standard (examples like the Yugoslavian M95M rifles, or again being converted to 8x56r in other nations). Unfortunately due to a lack of capture markings, I can only guess it might have been a nation like Greece (captured a total of 16,000 M95s from Bulgaria in WWI), the Ottoman Empire, Romania, Britain or France (they both fought the Bulgarians in WWI fighting along the Greek border).

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