Finicky-Feeding Krag Sporters

Someone else may have done all the hard work, but Krag-Jørgensen rifle modifications often require tweaking. Sporterized Krags remain ubiquitous and one is bound to land on your bench at some point.

by Brian R. Smith

Professionally-executed Krag-Jørgensen sporters command surprisingly high prices at gun shows and at auction, especially those with some kind of famous gunsmith or owner provenance. I am a confessed quality Krag sporter “junkie.” I’ve seen some outstanding works of gunsmith art and consider myself fortunate to own several. Many use the original barrel, perhaps shortened. Others retain reworked government issue stocks, featuring high combs fashioned from the excised forend and skillfully mortised into the stock. Some of these high-level Krags also exhibit pistol grips similarly crafted and mortised, with woodgrain painstakingly aligned with that of the rest of the stock. Krag rifles have been reworked skillfully into hunting rifles and target guns and fine examples gunsmithing craftsmanship are coming onto the market in search of new “caretakers” as the estates of deceased original owners are sold.

It took a foreign design to bring the United States Army out of the single-shot era and into the age of the repeating military rifle. The U.S. was playing catch-up in any event; many other countries had already adopted repeaters. Germany and Spain had various versions of the Mauser, the Austro-Hungarian Empire employed the home-grown clip-fed Mannlicher, and France used the 8mm Lebel. New to Russia was the M91 Mosin-Nagant and Great Britain had adopted the Lee-Enfield, the magazine and feed system of which were designed by an American, James Paris Lee.

The Americans entered the final decade of the 19th century armed with the most recent iteration of the single-shot 1873 Springfield Trap gate in .45-70. The United States didn’t always enjoy a leadership position in weapons technology. The 1890s saw the U.S. Ordnance Department at cross purposes, torn between an interest in adopting a magazine-fed repeating rifle firing a flatter-shooting high-velocity cartridge at odds with old-school doctrine which held that repeaters wasted ammunition and that single-shot rifles were thus more cost effective.

Although Ordnance evaluated nearly all the contemporary arms available, for various reasons it kept coming back to…

Read more in the November 2018 issue.

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