Jeffery’s .256 Mannlicher Rifles by Hubert Montgomery

  • Sunday, 19 April 2020 14:51
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Jeffery’s .256 Mannlicher Rifles by Hubert Montgomery: Everyone loves slim, lightweight little sporters

Mechanical engineer Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher joined the Austrian Arms Factory at STEYR around 1877 and produced a multitude of diverse designs until his death in 1904. It has been said that no other small arms inventor has matched his prolific originality and mechanical wizardry.

   Of interest to us are two Steyr military bolt-action rifles designed by Von Mannlicher; firstly the model 1895 Dutch Mannlicher (a slight modification of the 1893 Romanian Mannlicher) chambered in 6.5x53R Mannlicher (160gr 6.5mm bullet at 2 430fps). It employed a turning bolt with dual locking lugs behind a separate bolt head and a unique sliding ejector. The removable bolt head afforded easy headspace adjustment and replacement if damaged. Its 5-round en-bloc clip fell out the bottom of the magazine after the last round was chambered.

   The second is the model 1903 Greek military Mannlicher-Schönauer rifle. Otto Schönauer, working under Von Mannlicher at STEYR, had improved the rotary spool magazine designed by Von Mannlicher and other Steyr engineers. This 5-round rotary magazine was subsequently used in all Mannlicher-Schönauer sporting rifles. The M1903’s bolt was similar to the M1895’s but the receiver was grooved to accept a cartridge stripper-clip for loading the rimless 6.5x54 Mannlicher-Schönauer cart­ridges (ballistic equivalent of the 6.5x53R). Of course, the rimless round worked much better in the rotary magazine. Many regard the M1903 as Von ­Mannlicher’s best work.

   This brings us to the London firm of WJ Jeffery & Co. In 1887, Webley employed William Jackman Jeffery, aged thirty, to manage their new showroom at 60 Queen Victoria Street, London. In 1891, after this venture had floundered, WJ Jeffery started his own company, eventually located at 13 King Street in St. James. In 1909, William died and his brother Charles carried on with the business.

   Jeffery sold double rifles, single-shot rifles, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, pistols, revolvers and even air rifles. These ranged from budget-priced farmer’s guns to best-grade fully engraved sidelock double rifles. Jeffery did not manufacture guns or rifles, but outsourced the work to top Birmingham gunmakers such as Leonard Bros, ­Saunders, Ellis, Webley, Tolley, etc. ­Most of Jeffery’s bolt-action rifles were made exclusively by Thomas Turner Jr of Birmingham who almost certainly built the two rifles featured in this article.

   Jeffery was more than just a smart businessman – he possessed a mind uncluttered with obsolete, traditional ideas; he obtained several patents. He had great ability to appreciate good design, organize outside workers and source components. His greatest contribution is probably the extensive range of proprietary medium and large bore nitro express rifle cartridges he developed. During the years 1895 to 1920, Jeffery was a leader in the British gun trade. Knowing the market intimately, he saw the need for a light, small-bore hunting rifle for deerstalking and hunting small to medium-sized game. At that time, the only other rifles used for such purposes were sporterized bolt-action and single-shot rifles in .303 calibre, and bolt-action 7x57 and 8x57 sporters on Mauser actions.

Read the full article in the May 2020 issue of Magnum.

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