The 1888 Commission Carbine


by RK Smith

The Model 71/84 Mauser had given Germany a Military superiority, which was lost to France with the development of the 8mm Lebel smokeless powder rifle.  In an effort to regain that superiority, the M1888 was developed by the German Gewehr Prfungs Kommission.  The 1888 combined the magazine from the Mannlicher, holding 5 rounds, and the characteristics of the Mauser Model 71/84 bolt.  The bolt design was revised by a Spandau Arsenal technician named Louis Schlegemilch, and features a separate bolt head with locking lugs set further back on the bolt.  The Germans introduced the new caliber 8x57 to be used with the Model 1888 and although it is the same caliber as the current 8x57 they do not share the same bullet diameter.  While the newer round will fit in most of the M88s, the M88s will not handle the higher pressures of the new round.  Many of the rifles and carbines were modified at a later date to accept the new bullet diameter and are marked on the barrel with an S.  The M1888 rifle and carbine do not have a hand guard, instead they have a barrel jacket made from sheet metal, designed by Armand Mieg, which suffered from many problems.  The main one being the seepage of water into the jacket causing the barrel to rust.  The gun was made in four carbine versions that I have documentation on; one being the 1888 carbine, measuring 37.4 inches overall, barrel length of 19.2 inches and weight of 6.84 lbs; the second being introduced in 1891, with stacking hook, was called the 1891 rifle; the third was a carbine alteration that had a set trigger, and sling swivels on the bottom of the stock, but I do not know anything else about it;  the fourth was cut down from M1888 rifles that had been surplussed off after the Model 1898 became the gun of choice.  There were two German firms in Hamburg that sold by mail order around the world to Nations, dealers, and individuals.  Speculation is that one of these firms reworked the rifles into carbines.  The first three versions have the usual turned down spoon handle shaped bolt handle and front sight with ear protectors, but the fourth had the rifle straight bolt handle and unprotected blade front sight.  The rifle rear sight was replaced with a shorter carbine sight and the barrel sleeve will have a splice under the split barrel ring, having been cut and silver soldered back together.  I purchased one of the fourth type carbines, made at Spandau in 1890, from The Gibbs Military Rifle Club a few months ago.  Gibbs purchased them from the Ecuadorian government along with various other M1888 Rifles.  In an effort to determine how and when Ecuador purchased them I called on Dan Reynolds and Dan said that it was his guess that they were purchased from ALFA ( one of the two firms in Hamburg) in the period of 1902 to 1904.  The M1888s were made in the Amberg, Loewe, Steyr, Haenel, and Prussian Government Arsenals (Danzig, Erfurt, Spandau) until production ceased in 1897.  The third version is pictured in the 1911 ALFA catalog.


Model 1891 Rifle

A page from the 1911 ALFA catalog