I have long wanted an example of the .30-40 Krag rifle, but never found one in great condition that wasn’t priced at way more than I wanted to pay for one.
But the next best thing happened… My buddy Ted bought one that I can shoot.
Ted found an example at a pawn shop and got it for a very reasonable price.
It was dirty, but I cleaned it up for him and under that grime was one of the cleanest Krags I’ve ever seen, with a “Perfect” bore. Here it is.
The .30-40 Krag was adopted by the US military in 1894 as the military’s first smokeless powder cartridge. The rifle that was selected was based on the Norwegian design by two men named Krag and Jorgensen.
It was designated the Krag-Jorgensen rifle. But in the US, it was usually shortened to just “the Krag”.
The rifle used the .30-40 Krag round, which was originally a smokeless cartridge that shot a 220 grain round nose bullet over 40 grains of a smokeless powder.
It made just less than 2,000 fps, which was kind of hot in that day.
The .30-40 Krag has an unusual kind of case. It has a rim, but an unusual “rebated rim”, as compared to other rimmed cartridges, such as this .303 British case.
The military only used this rifle for about 11 years, from 1892 to 1903, giving it the dubious distinction of having the shortest life span of any US military rifle.
It was used in the Philippine War and a song of that time even spoke of the rifle.
“Underneath the starry flag,
Civilize them with a Krag,
And return us to our beloved home.”
It has a reputation of being one of the smoothest bolt actions ever built, and deservedly so. Many writers have spoken of the “buttery smooth” Krag bolt action. But it was out-classed by the Spanish Mauser in the Spanish-American War, and the War Department decided to replace it with the 1903 Springfield.
The rifle Ted got is actually a Krag Carbine, with a barrel slightly shorter than the Krag Rifle.
It has a very unusual magazine type. It consists of a magazine that holds 5 cartridges, but a gate can be opened to allow “topping-off” of a partially emptied magazine with loose rounds. This was considered a big plus when it was adopted, but the later Mauser method of using stripper clips to load the magazine made it less of an issue.
Let’s look at it closely.
The carbine has a steel butt plate, with an oiler compartment.
The left side of the action is kind of rounded.
The lever above the trigger enables a “magazine cut-off” that was very popular with the military brass back in those days.
It enables the soldier to single load the rifle by applying the cut-off. If flipped upwards, this will allow all rounds in the magazine to feed.
This was thought to be an advantage to keep the soldiers from emptying their rifles by firing too fast. It was actually a dumb idea.
The front sight is a blade, and, as you can see, this one has been damaged, probably by being dropped on the sight.
Ted will be looking for a replacement sight.
The loading gate for the magazine gives this rifle its distinctive look, as no other American military rifle had such a system.
You just use your thumb to open the magazine.
This will open the magazine and allow bullets to be inserted into the magazine.
You can just drop them in, as it didn’t seem to be a problem for this action to line them up properly.
When you close the magazine…
It arranges the cartridges to load into the chamber from the 8 o’clock position.
It feeds very reliably.
The rear sight has a very fine patridge type sight.
It also has a flip-up aperture sight, which is a very neat idea…
We found the aperture sight to be too small to easily see through.
We also noticed that it was mounted at a rather severe angle, and this made looking through it very difficult.
Ted is considering opening up the peep sight a little to make it more useful.
The rear sight has markings to 2,000 yards, a pretty ambitious range.
The trigger guard was made when trigger guards were milled, not stamped.
To remove the bolt for cleaning, you must lift the extractor…
Then move it to the right…
And then open the bolt more to the left and pull it out of the action.
I had reloaded some rounds with some 180 grain bullets and some 165 grain bullets.
The reloading manuals stated the Krags usually shoot heavy .308 bullets best.
I kept the pressures down with medium loads.
Here I am on the rifle.
We shot at 50 yards, a good range for iron sights and old eyes.
We started with some Remington factory loads, and they were “okay”, but not too great. The handloads were much better.
We shot at 50 yards and here’s a group with the 180 grain Spitzers.
And here are 5 shots with the Sierra 165 grain BTHPs. It likes these bullets.
I finally let Ted shoot his own rifle.
Wasn’t that kind of me?
He had better enjoy it, as I plan on wrestling it away from him as soon as I can.
It is a fine old carbine, beautifully made, accurate, and with an action as smooth as butter.
What’s not to love?