Summary of Rifles Used in Anatolia

Summary of Rifles Used in Anatolia, 
Late 19th–Early 20th Century

Sam Topalidis and Terry Topalidis 2023


A variety of rifles were used by the Turks and other combatants in Anatolia from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.  During this period, the Ottoman Turk and later the Turkish army mainly used German Mauser rifles but included other captured rifles.  During the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) many countries donated their rifles to Turkey.  A description of most of the rifles used in Anatolia follows.

The Ottoman Turk and Turkish army 

Throughout the 19th century, the Ottoman empire did not have the manufacturing capabilities to support an arms industry.  Their military therefore depended heavily on purchasing weaponry from other countries.  After 1866, over 300,000 British Snider-Enfield rifles were bought by the Ottoman Turks.  Then the Ottomans approached Britain to purchase Martini-Henry single-shot lever arched rifles, but without success.  [See details under ‘The British army.’]  So, during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), the Ottomans bought more than 600,000 Peabody-Martini rifles from the Providence Tool Company USA—a duplicate of the British Martini-Henry rifle (Plate 1) (

Later, around 220,000 German made Mauser Model 1887 (M1887) rifles were produced for the Ottoman Turks under contract.  The balance of the contract was completed with 280,000 new Mauser M1890 rifles, which used new smokeless ammunition.  In 1893, the Turks purchased 201,000 of the improved Mauser M1893 rifles which allowed single rounds of ammunition to be dropped into the open bolt way, chambered and fired while retaining five cartridges in the magazine in reserve (Ball 2011:377, 380, 382). 


Plate 1: Peabody-Martini M1874 rifle ( 

Between 1903 and 1905, around 200,000 Ottoman Mauser M1903 rifles (a modified German Gew 98 Mauser) were produced for the Ottomans (Ball 2011:235, 382).  In 1905, Mauser introduced its pointed tip ammunition replacing the previous rounded nose profile which improved the effective range of the cartridge (Cameron 2011:75).  By 1908, the total number of old Martini-Henry and Winchester rifles in the Ottoman army was 233,000, which together with the Mauser rifles brought the total number of rifles to 901,500 (

In 1914, the Ottoman Minister of War told his allies that the Ottoman army needed 200,000 rifles and other equipment [such as artillery shells and millions of rifle cartridges].  Where sophisticated military items were concerned, the Ottomans remained dependent upon allies, topped up by whatever could be captured from their enemy (Nicolle 2010:28).  (Note 1.)

The Ottoman infantry rifle in World War I was the Ottoman Mauser M1893 or M1903 (Plate 2).  Later supplies included German Mauser M1888 rifles (Nicolle 2008:21). 

During World War I, [modern day] Austria adapted captured Russian Mosin-Nagant M1891 rifles (described later) for the Ottoman Turks.  Older models of Martini-Henry and Winchester rifles remained in use in the Ottoman empire and there were also a small number of British, French (described later), Bulgarian, Greek (described later) and Romanian rifles ( 

A shortage of weaponry was apparent in 1915.  General Liman von Sanders, complained to the Ottoman Ministry of War in March 1916 that an Ottoman depot regiment he inspected had 8,000 men but only 1,050 rifles (Nicolle 2010:32). 

By late 1917, Germany shipped large numbers of Mauser Gewehr 1898 infantry rifles along with some Mauser Karabiner 98a rifles to Anatolia (Plate 3).  In early 1919, after World War I, the Turkish army had in store 791,000 rifles (Salavrakos 2017:15).

In 1920, during the Greco-Turkish War the Turkish government of Mustafa Kemal received economic aid from the Soviet Union amounting to 6,000 rifles, more than 5 million rounds of ammunition and 200 kg of gold.  In March 1921, it received 10 million gold Russian rubles and by July 1921, the Soviet Union had supplied 33,300 rifles and nearly 58 million rounds of ammunition.  Between late December 1921 and late April 1922, the Soviets provided Turkey with an unknown number of additional rifles (Salavrakos 2017:25–26).


Plate 2 Mauser’s Turkish model 1903 rifle (Ball 2011:382). 

mauser karabinar

Plate 3: Mauser Karabiner 98a rifle (

In March 1921, agreements were signed between Turkey and France and Turkey and Italy as a result of which Turkey gained more aid.  France supplied 80,000 French rifles.  In March 1922, the French transported to Mustafa Kemal an additional 48,000 rifles, 490 boxes of ammunition and other military items.  Between June 1921 and June 1922, the Italians delivered aid including 119,000 rifles (described later) (Salavrakos 2017:27–28).

The Austro-Hungarian army

The Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifle, designed by Ferdinand von Mannlicher and made at Steyr [in modern day Austria] and in Budapest, was employed by the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I.  The M1895 rifle employed an unusual straight-pull bolt action, as opposed to the rotating bolt-handle of other rifles.  This resulted in a high rate of fire—up to 35 rounds per minute in ideal conditions (Matthews 2014:79).  In practice however, the rate of fire was reduced because of the heat, friction and dirt produced on firing.  It was thus, a less reliable weapon than the bolt-action rifles of the day.  It had an effective range of 550 m (  The Greek army purchased Mannlicher type rifles which were used in western Anatolia in 1919–1922 during the Greco-Turkish War.

The French army

The development of the French Mle.1886 rifle, nicknamed the ‘Lebel’, made all other military rifles [temporarily] obsolete (Plate 4).  It was basically a 1870s Kropatschek tubular magazine black powder cartridge repeater strengthened for a powerful new smokeless powder cartridge (Note 2).


Plate 4: Lebel M1886 rifle (

By 1894, France had produced around 3 million Lebel rifles for its army.  In the meantime, the armies of Europe’s other great powers were developing new smokeless powder cartridges and rifles too, such as from Ferdinand von Mannlicher (modern Austria) and Paul Mauser (Germany).  The French could have had a more advanced rifle and cartridge if they had built on the best technology available.  Instead, they rushed a cartridge and rifle into production to gain a short-lived advantage over their rivals.  The Lebel rifle held its own on the battlefield against the bolt-action designs.  The Lebel’s tubular magazine had to be loaded one round at a time, but it also held an eight round magazine to the Mauser’s five.  The Lebel had a magazine cut-off allowing the soldier to keep the magazine in reserve while single loading the rifle, a feature the Mauser M1898 lacked.  The Lebel rifle served the French army in World War I.  The French also adapted a simpler rifle already in production, the Mle 1907–15, known as the Berthier which complemented the Lebel in the trenches (  In 1921 and 1922, France supplied Turkey with French rifles during the Greco-Turkish War.

The Russian army

In 1916 to early 1918, during World War I, the Russian army occupied north-east Anatolia.

The standard infantry rifle in the Russian army during World War I was the Mosin-Nagant M1891, a bolt-action weapon with a fixed five-round magazine (Plate 5).  Much use was also made of captured Austro-Hungarian Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifles.  Japanese, Italian and French rifles were also issued, along with the Russian Berdan rifle from the wars of the late 19th century.  The period of acute rifle shortage followed the Russian ‘Great Retreat’ [mid-August–mid September 1915] from Poland and Galicia, when many weapons were lost (Cornish 2009).

In 1914–1916, 600,000 Arisaka type 30 rifles were purchased from Japan.  An additional 128,000 Arisaka type 38 rifles were purchased in 1916 from Britain (Lapin 2010:88).

In 1915–1917, due to continuing manufacturing problems in the Russian empire, 840,000 Mosin-Nagant M1891 rifles were manufactured by Remington USA and 700,000 by Westinghouse USA of which only 131,000 and 225,000 respectively, were delivered by January 1917, to the Russia empire.  After the Russian Revolution in February 1917, the Russians ceased to buy any more of these rifles (Lapin 2010:137).  In 1921 and 1922, during the Greco-Turkish War, the Soviet Union supplied Turkey with Russian rifles and financial support.

mosin nagent

Plate 5: Mosin-Nagant M1891 carbine and infantry rifle (

Italian army

The Carcano M1891 Italian army bolt action rifle (Plate 6) made by Fabbrica d'Armi Terni was adopted in 1891 as the standard infantry weapon of the Italian army during World War I.  It was fed with a 6-round Mannlicher design clip and the breech block assembly was designed by the Italian gunsmith Carcano.  It withstood hard treatment and its smaller cartridge meant a soldier could carry more rounds (  While it lacked the mechanical refinement and precision of other designs, it ‘did the job’ ( 

In 1921 and 1922, during the Greco-Turkish War, Italy supplied Turkey with rifles.


Plate 6: Carcano M1891 rifle 1917 (

The British army

The Snider-Enfield rifle was introduced in 1866 into the British army as the first breech-loading infantry weapon.  It was basically a converted muzzle-loading Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle.  The Snider-Enfield was used by the British army until 1871 when the Martini-Henry replaced it (

The robust Martini-Henry rifle was adopted in 1871, featuring a single-shot breech-loading action actuated by a lever beneath the wrist of the buttstock.  It was designed by a Swiss, Friedrich von Martini, as modified from the Peabody design.  The rifling system was designed by Scotsman, Alexander Henry.  The Martini-Henry evolved as the standard service rifle in the British army for almost 20 years (

In 1902, the Lee-Enfield rifle was adopted by the British army.  It was superseded by the short magazine-loaded Lee-Enfield (SMLE).  This rifle combined the bolt action devised by James Lee and the rifling standard at the British arsenal at Enfield.  It fired 0.303 inch-calibre ammunition in a 10-round box magazine but could also be loaded with five-round clips or single rounds (  It became known as the ‘303’—a term which is still used today.

The Lee-Enfield bolt operating system differed from that of most other bolt action rifles of the period.  The bolt locking lugs were at the rear of the bolt rather than at the face as with rifles using the Mauser system.  It proved to be rugged and reliable.  It was the fastest operating military bolt action rifle of the period.  In January 1916, the Mk III* rifle was introduced and was to become, in its later marks, arguably the finest military bolt action rifle to see service.  The Mk III and MK III* rifles were used extensively by British Commonwealth forces in both World Wars (Plate 7). (  The Ottoman army would have used the 303 rifles they captured from the British or Commonwealth forces during World War I.

lee enfield

Plate 7: Lee-Enfield SMLE Mk III rifle ‘303’ (

The Greek army

The Mannlicher-Schönauer rifle is a rotary-magazine bolt-action rifle designed by Ferdinand von Mannlicher and Otto Schönauer.  It had a 5-round rotary magazine and was introduced in 1900 and manufactured at Steyr [in modern Austria] (

The Mannlicher-Schönauer M1903 was the main small arm for the Greek military for some of the most active years of its modern history (Plate 8).  Until then the Greeks were using single-shot Gras rifles—mostly made by the Steyr factory.  The original Steyr-made rifle, from 1904–1905 was the main weapon during the victorious Balkan Wars (1912–1913).  The Greeks were replenished with a supply in 1914, with minor changes and these rifles were used in World War 1.  After World War I, large numbers were given for free to the Greek army, as war reparations (


Plate 8: Mannlicher-Schönauer M1903 rifle (

In late 1920 (during the Greco-Turkish War), the Greek army in western Anatolia had 115,700 men.  In mid-1921, 3,500 Mannlicher type rifles, 20,000 Lebel type rifles and 40 million rounds of ammunition and other military equipment were purchased from France.  In late 1921, the army requested 200,000 rifles each with 1,000 rounds to be imported from Italy (Salavrakos 2017). 


A variety of rifles were used in Anatolia from late 19th century to the early 20th century.  The Ottoman Turk (and then the Turkish army) initially used British Snider-Enfield rifles and Martini-Henry rifles in late 19th century, then predominantly German made Mauser rifles.  They also used a variety of captured rifles.  The occupying Russian forces in north-east Anatolia during World War I predominantly used Mosin-Nagant rifles.

The Greek army invading western Anatolia during the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) used predominantly Mannlicher type rifles.  During this war, Turkey was also supplied with rifles from the Soviet Union, France and Italy.

Note 1
The Ottoman empire entered World War I with an underdeveloped economy, weak industry and a poor transportation network.  Despite all the shortcomings and having to fight on several fronts, it is remarkable that the Ottomans were able to remain in the war until the very end in 1918 (Erickson 2001 in Pamuk 2018:159).  The empire was also educationally backward (Erickson 2001:15).

Note 2
The Kropatschek rifle was designed by Alfred Ritter von Kropatschek.  He was an Austrian arms designer and involved with Steyr.  The Henry-Winchester system of carrying cartridges in a tube below the barrel was adopted by most of the important military nations in Europe.  In 1880, Mauser applied this principle to his M71 single shot rifle, to convert to a repeating-rifle design.  The Kropatschek design was an improvement on the Henry-Winchester design.  Kropatschek’s main competitor was Mannlicher – the tubular magazine design versus the box magazine.  The adoption of stripper clips significantly speeded up the loading process (


Ball WD (2011) Mauser: military rifles of the world (5th edn), Gun Digest Books, Iola, Wisconsin.
Cameron DW (2011) The August offensive: at ANZAC, 1915, Australian Army Campaigns Series 10, Blue Sky Publishing, Sydney.
Cornish N (2009) The Russian army 1914–18, Osprey Publishing, Oxford.
Erickson (2001) Ordered to die: a history of the Ottoman army in the First World War, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut.
Lapin TW (2010) The Mosin-Nagant rifle 5th edn, North Cape Publications, Inc, Tustin California.
Matthews R (2014) The illustrated history of weapons: rifles, Kingsford Editions, Melbourne.
Nicolle D (2008) The Ottoman army 1914–18, Osprey Publishing, Oxford.
Nicolle D (2010) Ottoman infantryman 1914–18, Osprey Publishing, Oxford.
Pamuk S (2018) Uneven centuries: economic development of Turkey since 1820, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Salavrakos I-D (2017) ‘The economic forces of victory versus those of defeat: an analysis of the Greek economic and military mobilization of the 1909–1923 period’, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, 18(1):1–36.


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