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Red Dead Redemption 2 arsenal: Krag-Jørgensen rifle

12 November 2018
At the end of the 19th century, the US army faced two major problems.

The first was that the American military had done away with their favorite enemy – the Native Americans. Throughout the 19th century, the US army selflessly chased the Native Americans, only occasionally distracted by the Mexicans or civil wars. Now the surviving Native Americans were confined to reservations, and it was not clear who the next enemy would be. The size of the US army in peacetime, due to the absence of a serious enemy, did not exceed several tens of thousands. Moreover, the government underfunded the army – in the 19th century, the normal reaction to receiving printed unsecured money was a punch on the nose.

The second problem was choosing a new rifle. The main firearms of the American soldier at that time was the Springfield Trapdoor M1873 with a swinging bolt. Army officers were very fond of this rifle. So when inventors offered something new, and after it had been tested, they would usually get a broken rifle back and be told to get lost and go to England or even Russia.

As time passed, the generals became increasingly irritated by the suggestions from European military attachés that "no one makes war using single-shot firearms anymore." The British were particularly sneering as they had adopted the rifle created by American inventor James Lee.

Finally, in 1890, Brigadier General Daniel Flagler, chief of Army Ordnance, ordered a large test to be carried out and a new rifle to be selected for the army. 53 rifles from around the world were collected for the tests, and after much testing, Krag-Jorgensen No. 5 created by the Norwegians Ole Krag and Eric Jorgensen was declared the winner.
Compared to the Trapdoor, the Norwegian rifle used a smaller caliber and lighter cartridge (.30–40 Krag), while the bolt-action system allowed smokeless powder to be used in cartridges. The rifle worked well with rim-cartridges; the officers did not yet trust the new headless cartridges. In terms of the smoothness of operation, the Krag-Jorgensen bolt is still considered one of the best bolt-action rifles. But the main advantage of the rifle from the point of view of the American military was its magazine.

The "single-shot" concept dominated in the US army (and in many other contemporary armies). Officers and generals believed that soldiers were just big children, who, if allowed, would use up all their available ammunition shooting non-stop at anything they could. Even when shooting the new repeating rifles it was best to load a single cartridge before each shot, so that the shooter had time to count the remaining cartridges, choose the target, carefully aim, think about life, and so on and so forth. The cartridges in the magazine were considered to be an emergency reserve for the worst case scenario – a tribe of savages suddenly assaulting from the bushes or a million Chinese attacking.

In this respect, the Krag-Jorgensen rifle was excellent. Its magazine was loaded through a special side door, one cartridge at a time, and could be reloaded at any time. In addition, its magazine cut-off, when enabled, turned the rifle into a single-shot one.

400 thousand dollars, gold ones, were allocated for the production of the new army rifles. Of course, American arms manufacturers were extremely unhappy that such a sum would pass them by. They raised a storm which led to Congress freezing the allocation of treasury funds and set up an inquiry on the subject: "Can we choose an American rifle?" In April and May 1893, the Ordnance Department tested fourteen American rifles. However, the armed forces were not influenced by patriotism and they still considered the Norwegian rifle to be the best. That is how it became U.S. Magazine Rifle, Model 1892.

The Spanish-American war began in April 1898. As already mentioned, the American peacetime army was not particularly big, so volunteers had to be drafted for the war. There were not enough new rifles and many volunteers were given the old Trapdoor. However, Theodore Roosevelt's Volunteer Cavalry Regiment did receive new Krags – the future President of the United States had good connections.

Unfortunately for the Americans, their adversary was not such a big fan of the single-shot concept. The 7-mm Spanish Mauser, Model 1893, was easier to load and faster to shoot. At the Battle of San Juan Hill, although the Americans outnumbered the Spanish defenders ten to one, 1168 American soldiers were killed and wounded, while the Spanish only suffered 480 casualties. As a result, those officers who were fired on from Spanish Mausers wasted no effort in ensuring that their army received a new rifle with a better cartridge, clip-loaded and generally "like the Mauser, but an American one". This wish was implemented so literally that the USA subsequently paid the Germans a lot of money for patent infringement. However, by World War I American soldiers already had a replica of the Mauser (though not quite licensed) – the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903.

The Krag-Jorgensen rifle gained fame from its appearance in a movie. In 1918, Charlie Chaplin made the movie Shoulder Arms, where he portrayed an American soldier at war. New rifles were not available, so Chaplin's character carries a Krag rifle.

In terms of design, the Krag-Jorgensen is a classic bolt-action rifle – manually reloaded with a longitudinally-sliding rotating bolt. The single-bolt lug locking mechanism significantly limited the power of the cartridge. It was fed from a 5-round single-row magazine located horizontally under the bolt.
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