Early 6.5 x 54 Mannlicher-Schonauer cartridges

In the ‘Antecedents of the Turkish Charger’ thread, the 6.5 x 54 MS cartridge with the 1900 K&C headstamp is mentioned as being for the Austrian trials. I have examples of this K&C headstamped cartridge made in 1900, 1901 and 1903. In addition, I have a couple of what I had thought to be the 6.5 x 54 MS with a GR 1898 headstamp, one loaded with a soft point bullet and the other a sand filled dummy with a piece of rubber in the primer pocket and a full metal jacketed bullet. The 6.5 x 54 was developed in Austria in 1900 according to various references I have, so what are these 1898 dated cartridges?

headstamps from the left: H | 19 | K&C. | 00 |, GR | | 1898 | |, GR | * | 632 | * |

There is a lot of difference in the shapes of the extractor grooves on those.


Guy, here are some notes from my database that are pertinent here:

"This was the first of a series of four Mannlicher-Schoenauer cartridges. Normally this cartridge is considered a military calibre, as it was used in the M1903 6.5mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifle, adopted by Greece in 1903 and used till 1940. However, this cartridge was offered for sporting purposes prior to adoption as a military calibre. It was also used extensively for sporting purposes with sporting loadings being much more common than military ones, it can easily be considered a European Sporting Cartridge.

Sporting use of this cartridge appears to have preceeded military use. This case was originally developed by G.Roth as case #632 which was c1898 and Roth cases dated 1898 and 1899 do exist. At this time Roth not only dated cases for military purposes but the majority of sporting cartridges were dated also (as well as the common “GR///*/”). It was shown in the Sporting cartridge section of the 1899 Roth catalog as “for Mannlicher-Schoenauer Repeating rifle calibre 6.5m/m”. Its first known use was in a M1900 Sporting rifle which is well before it was adopted by Greece (1903). This uses a smaller diameter case type than the M88 Mauser and may well have originated as a necked down (but lengthened) version of the 8x45 Krnka by Roth (A62), introduced as case #618 which is slightly earlier than the 6.5x54 but still believed to be c1898.

Was this cartridge also loaded by Fraser-Edinburgh as the .256 Fraser Match ???

WBD: Could the 6.5m/m Schoenauer not be thought of as a rimless version of the 6.5m/m rimmed cartridge for the Romanian and Dutch rifles? Jack

I have a related question that I have not been able to resolve for several years. I have 2 Factory Loaded 6.5’s. as follows:

  1. NORMA Re ----- ----- 6.5 x 53 MS (Case length is 51.78mm)

  2. NORMA Re ----- ----- 6.5 x 54 MS (Case length is 53.38mm)

They both have 156gr. Cupro-Nickel Clad Steel Soft Point bullets.

They appear to be identical cartridges except for the neck length. Are they the same cartridge or are they actually two different rounds? If they are the same, why the two different headstamps and neck lengths?

I appreciate the information. Of the 39 variations of this cartridge in my collection, perhaps 2 are military, unscientific support for your statement that sporting loadings are much more common than military.

Ron, There appear to be at least six Norma hs variations for the 6.5x53/54. I have always thought that they were all for the same cartridge.

To confuse the issue, there was also a factory produced “6.5x54 Swedish” being a shorter neck version of the 6.5x55 SE produced in the late 1940’s. This was a sporting calibre to get around Swedish regulations (after WW2) forbidding the use of military calibres (similar to those regulations that occurred in Germany and France). It didn’t last long.

So maybe Norma used the 6.5x53 title initially for the MS to avoid confusion with the short-lived 6.5x54 Swedish.

Alternatively, as your neck length differances are larger that I have seen, maybe the 6.5x53 was also a shorter neck vn to get around those Swedish regulations.

Maybe some of the Skandinavian members have something more definite ?

Guy, I know of 79 sporting hs for the 6.5mm MS and have color hs images of most. I am sure that some in both lists are unique.

I will send you a list of these and you can compare it with yours if you are happy to do it ?

Ballard, yes this was the same case as the 256 Fraser Match.

Jack, yes of course you are correct the 6.5x54 is a rimless vn of the 6.5x53(54)R. I was more thinking of the evolution of sporting rimless cases in Austria. The 8x45 Krnka could also be considered based on the 6.5x53R as the base diameter is the same. I will make it clearer in my notes. Thanks

gravelbelly, as you have noted, there is a wide variety of extractor grooves on the 6.5MS. There is even a much thinner version on examples with plain “6.5mm” hs at 6 o’clock - believed produced by Kynoch.

I cannot believe that all of these cases were interchangable and I am sure there must have been some case extraction issues in rifles chambered for this calibre.

WBD–I have always considered it to be like the 7.62x53R and 7.62x54R in Finland, as a way around the prohibition on Military calibers. I am sure the shorter neck round would chamber just fine in the standard 6.5x54 MS rifle. I have had both rounds for at least 40 years and if I remember correctly, the 6.5x53 actually came out of a box marked the same way. I like your idea about making the shorter neck version as a way to separate it from the 6.5x54 Swedish, but, then, I would also think the “MS” in the headstamp would have been adequate for that.

I agree Ron. The only thing to note is that the first hs didn’t seem to use the “MS” but was added later.

Known hs =

NORMA 6.5x53
NORMA 6.5x53 MS
NORMA RE / 6.5x53 MS /

NORMA Re 6,5x54 MS
NORMA Re / 6,5x54 MS /
norma 6.5x54

I can confirm five of these. The “NORMA 6.5x53 MS” image I don’t have but m in the process of trying to confirm it at present.

Another thing Ron. Does your hs read “NORMA RE / 6.5x53 MS /” or “NORMA Re / 6.5x53 MS /” - ie is the “E” of “RE” capitalised as I suspect it is ?

As far as I can tell, the use of “RE” is only known on this cartridge and the 32ACP.

WBD–Another thing to consider. If I am correct the “NORMA” headstamp was used on Berdan primed cases for distribution in Europe while the “NORMA Re” was only used on cases and loaded cartridges for sale in the U.S. and the “Re” indicates Boxer primed cases. Did Norma sell the 6.5x54 Swedish in the U.S.? All the “NORMA Re” headstamped 6.5x55 Swedish I have seen were headstamps “6.5 x 55”, not 54. If they did not sell the 6.5x54 Swedish in the U.S., why would they need a separate headstamp or case length for the the 6.5x53 MS? When did they change to 6.5x54 MS?

WBD–You are correct, it is “RE” not “Re”. I had not noticed that. Thanks for pointing it out. Any significance you know of for the “RE” instead of the normal “Re”?

Ron, interesting points - I will need to consider these…

Norma did not sell the 6.5x54 Swedish in the U.S. It is a scarce cartridge. Produced by Norma with a “NORMA NP” hs. Also known as produced by the Metallverken factory using trimmed/reloaded ex-military cases.

Regarding the “RE” vs “Re” - I know of no explanation. Maybe very early until they standardised on “Re” ??

Rather than derive the 6,5x54MS from Krnka’s 8x45 ( same head diameter), I would follow the 6,5x52 Italian Rimmed trials
cartridge of 1889-91. Part of the initial trials tender was for a rifle chambered for a Rimmed cartridge compared to the same model chambered for a Rimless cartridge., The Calibre was initially set at 6-6,5mm, but by the time the tender closed, only 6,5mm examples were submitted.

Mauser of Oberndorf submitted two examples, of a design similar to the 1890 Turkish Model ( five shot inline magazine), for both rimmed and rimless cartridges…other submissions by the Italian Royal Arsenals and other makers were also tested.

After the first Tender, the specifications narrowed down to the Rimless cartridge, a Mauser-type solid Bolt ( all the two piece bolts were eliminated) with a Mannlicher-style symmetrical clip similar to the German Commission 88 clip, but because of the smaller case diameter, holding 6 cartridges instead of 5 ( as in the M88, or other larger Mannlicher clips). The Rimmed 6,5x52,5 case just disappeared from the horizon in late 1890, only to appear a year later in the Romanian (Steyr)M1892 Mannlicher rifle, cal 6,5x53,x,R…except for the rim and case length tolerance in manufacture, identical to the Italian Rimless cartridge. This cartridge was also then used in the definitive M1893 Romanian, and the Improved M1895 Netherlands Mannlicher.

In 1897, Portugal was casting about for a new Steyr rifle design, and cartridge (its BP 8mm Kropatschek was definitely "passe’ ", and adopted a small batch of M92/93 Romanian rifles and carbines for an extensive trial ( Portuguese M1897 Cartridge)…after the army trials, these were relegated to the Police (Gendarmerie) and Portugal also tried a batch of 400(?) M1900 Mannlicher Schoenauers in 6,5x53,6 Rimless (AKA 6,5x54 MS ). These were returned to Steyr in about 1903, and in 1904, Portugal adopted the Home-designed, DWM-Engineered Vergueiro (effectively an “Improved” M88 rifle)
with a high power 6,5 cartridge ( 6,5x58 Portuguese §) and a Mauser staggered internal magazine, and M1904 Commercial Mauser sights.

The Greeks, Long term buyers from Steyr, adopted the M1903 MS, and some of the ex-Portuguese M1900s ended up being sold to Greece.

As to the Sporting Connection,
British, German and Austrian Gunsmiths had been buying barreled Actions of the M92/93 Model from Steyr, and “setting up” light sporting rifles. especially for Mountain Deer and Chamois hunters, and even as Target rifles for Bisley, using the original 6,5x53R Romanian/Dutch cartridge ( “.256 Mannlicher Rimmed” (or “Flanged”).

It was a simple transition by Schoenauer, for his Rotary magazine concept, to use a rimless cartridge for ease of feeding,( he had designed a rotary back in the BP days, for rimmed 11mm BP cartridges)

THus the rimless 6,5x54 came about as a simple solution for Non-clip ( ie Mauser) magazine type rifles, and was the cartridge of choice for the Mannlicher Schoenauer (Both Sporting and Military.)

Does Von Kromar shed any light on the development of the Shoenauer rifles??? ( I know his book was dated 1900, but any 1898=99 info should have got in, if it was of sufficient importance.)

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

about the origin of the rimmed Mannlicher from the carcano that was exactly my theory, but I had no evidence of that.
The carcano rimmed and the Mannlicher apperared inthe same period and they are too similar!

That was due to the fact ( according to me), that barreled actions in the Carcano rimmed chambering were furnished to Paul Mauser and Von Mannlicher along with a small quantity of italian ammo.
DWM and K&C eventually made some ammo for their trials, so that we have Carcano rimmed rounds headstamped K&C 1890 and the DWM 368 codes.

Every book says that the rimless version appeared after the rimmed one. I think that some experiments with the rimless type took place in the same period. A rimless carcano cartridge headstamped B 90A was found near Padova