8x50R AUSTRIAN MANNLICHER

On June 20, 1886, the Austro-Hungarian government approved the adoption of the M1886 Mannlicher "straight-pull" rifle for its armed forces. This rifle was designed to use the large M77 11MM Werndl cartridge, using black powder to propel a 360-grain, paper-patched bullet at a muzzle velocity of about 1,440 fps.

By the time production of the new arms had begun, it was already apparent that the large caliber lead bullets then in widespread use were becoming obsolete. Some European nations (France and Portugal, for example) were already moving forward with military rifles using smaller caliber bullets (8MM) fired at higher velocities, with corresponding flatter trajectories and a wider range of "point blank" dangerous space.

Crown Prince Rudolph (Emperor Franz Josef's only son, and heir to the throne), acting in his position as the Austro-Hungarian Inspector of Infantry, was widely criticized as bearing responsibility for Austria-Hungary's decision to continue use of a heavy 11MM lead bullet, even after approving the adoption of a new rifle design (the M1886 Mannlicher "straight-pull").

(Rudolph's later star-crossed romance with a commoner, and their tragic deaths at a royal hunting lodge in 1889 - assumed to be a murder-suicide - has been the subject of a number of films, including "Mayerling," released in 1968 and starring Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve.)

As a result of experiments with smaller diameter bullets, the 8x50R Austrian cartridge was developed in the late 1880s for use in the M1888 Mannlicher "straight-pull" rifle - a simple redesign of the M1886.

The new 8x50R cartridge was originally loaded with black powder, and was designed to shoot a 244-grain round-nosed bullet with a lead core and a full metal jacket. Some sources indicate that the original official designation of this original M88 black powder cartridge was 8.2x53R.

The black powder propellant was soon changed to a new "semi-smokeless" powder, and then, in 1893, to an all smokeless, nitrocellulose powder. This improved M93 cartridge was used in the M1888/90 and M95 series of Austro-Hungarian longarms - including those employed by Siam, Greece, Bulgaria, and others - along with a number of South American countries.

Congressionalist rebel troops used captured M1888 Mannlicher rifles firing the 8x50R cartridge to win the Chilean Civil War of 1891 -- marking the time that modern small caliber repeating rifles were employed in combat.

Various sources indicate that the Model 1893 8x50R cartridge was designed to fire a .323" diameter, 244-grain round-nosed, jacketed bullet at a muzzle velocity of about 2,034 feet per second (620 meters per second). Smith indicates a working pressure of about 42,000 p.s.i. for this cartridge, although other sources list a working pressure of only 28,000 psi.

In its 1904 ammunition catalogue, the Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) listed the "Mannlicher M88 Oesterreich" cartridge (DWM No. 358) with an empty case length of 50.60 mm, and a .3248" diameter (8.25 mm) round-nosed, 244-grain (15.8 gram) FMJ bullet.

The 8x50R was the principle cartridge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, having seen previous service during the First and Second Balkan Wars. After World War I, this cartridge continued to see widespread service in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. Rifles surrendered to Italy during and after World War I were used by Italy during World War II, and also by partisan units throughout southeastern Europe. Ethiopia, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia are also said to have either adopted or used this cartridge.

This headstamp is from an 8x50R cartridge manufactured in Bulgaria in 1935. This particular cartridge was Berdan-primed, and loaded with a .32325" diameter, 243.4-grain, round-nosed FMJ bullet over 39 grains of an unknown smokeless flake powder. The case is Berdan-primed. My own experience with these Bulgarian rounds resulted in chronographed velocities in the 1,950 fps range out of a M95 long rifle.

Reloading data is not readily available for this cartridge, although Phil Sharpe included a few loads in his classic "Complete Guide to Handloading."

When referring to this data, please bear in mind that DuPont's smokeless 17 powder was later replaced by its 3031, and the recommended loads for these two powders can be assumed to be interchangeable. Likewise 4759 can be substituted for DuPont's old SR ("Sporting Rifle") 80. Bullets listed by Sharpe as "MC" are metal-covered, or jacketed (as opposed to cast or swaged lead bullets).

John J. Donnelly, in his "The Handloader's Manual of Cartridge Conversions" recommends a load of 27.9 grains of IMR4320 under a .323" diameter, 224-grain lead bullet.

These Sharpe and Donnelly load recomendations should be restricted to use in the M95 family of longarms, and not be used in M1888 or 1888/90 arms. The dropping wedge bolt locking system employed in the earlier guns was designed for use with black powder cartridges, and is not as strong as the later rotary bolt locking design employed in the M95s.

In his "Cartridges of the World" (7th Edition), Frank Barnes lists a number of loads -- all of which are stated to be safe in good condition M1888 rifles:

BULLET
(grs.)

POWDER

CHARGE

MUZZLE
VEL.

MUZZLE
ENERGY

COMMENTS

159 SP

IMR 3031

48

2460

2142

-

227 SP

IMR 3031

45

2040

2102

-

244 SP

IMR 3031

45

2010

2200

Approx. mil. load

244 Ball

FL

FL

2030

2240

-

196 SP

FL

FL

2310

2320

Hirtenberger sporting

Some sources indicate that empty Boxer-primed cases for reloading can easily be made by trimming and fire-forming 7.62x53/54 Russian cases. However, my own experience (using Lapua brass) was not successful: the head diameter of the Russian cases was considerably undersized, and the cases failed to fire-form enough in the head area. My recommendation is to go with Buffalo Arms 8x50R Austrian cases -- Boxer-primed, and made up from .45-70 brass. Unfortunately, bullets for reloading are another story. Although both .323" cast and jacketed bullets are readily available, I have been unable to locate any round-nosed bullets as heavy as the 244-grain originals. Another problem stems from the fact that most 8x50R bores have groove diameters closer to .330" - for which .323" bullets are quite undersized - a combination ill-suited for best accuracy.

Loading dies for this caliber are available from Huntington's (RCBS), and from CH Tool & Die/4D Custom Die Company - both likely designed for use with .323" bullets.

For those of you who aren't into "rolling your own," The Old Western Scrounger sells newly-made-up 8x50R cartridges loaded with 220-grain bullets.

Bear in mind though, that 8x50R cartridges must first be put into Mannlicher-style clips (referred to by some as "en bloc" clips , or "loading frames") before the cartridges can be loaded into the M1888, 1888/90 and 1895 longarms. The magazines in these guns cannot be loaded with loose cartridges.

 

The clip functions as part of the magazine assembly, and falls out of an opening in the bottom of the magazine housing after the last loaded round is chambered. Two types of clips are pictured: the Model 1888 clip, which is a scaled-down version of the clip used with the M1886 Mannlicher and its big 11MM cartridges (and has solid sides), and the Model 1890 clip (with cut-out side panels). These clips are interchangeable, and will work in any of the M1888, M1888/90, and M95 longarms -- including those M95s which were later modified to take the 8x56R Hungarian Mannlicher cartridge (sometimes referred to as the Austrian Model 30 or Hungarian Model 31 cartridge).

Note: The reloading information on these pages has been obtained from several sources, is provided for information only, and I assume no responsibility for its use.