Educational Zone #129 – Interesting Firearms – The .30-40 Krag Carbine

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The loading gate for the magazine gives this rifle its distinctive look, as no other American military rifle had such a system.

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You just use your thumb to open the magazine.

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This will open the magazine and allow bullets to be inserted into the magazine.

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You can just drop them in, as it didn’t seem to be a problem for this action to line them up properly.

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When you close the magazine…

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It arranges the cartridges to load into the chamber from the 8 o’clock position.

It feeds very reliably.

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The rear sight has a very fine patridge type sight.

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It also has a flip-up aperture sight, which is a very neat idea…

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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.

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The rear sight has markings to 2,000 yards, a pretty ambitious range.

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The trigger guard was made when trigger guards were milled, not stamped.

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To remove the bolt for cleaning, you must lift the extractor…

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Then move it to the right…

And then open the bolt more to the left and pull it out of the action.

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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.

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We shot at 50 yards, a good range for iron sights and old eyes.

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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.

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And here are 5 shots with the Sierra 165 grain BTHPs. It likes these bullets.

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I finally let Ted shoot his own rifle.

Wasn’t that kind of me?

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Conclusion:
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?

17 Comments on Educational Zone #129 – Interesting Firearms – The .30-40 Krag Carbine

  1. my grandfather past away and we now have
    One of these guns
    Had not researched the value or history
    Great information in this posting

    • Anthony Antetomaso // January 2, 2017 at 9:57 pm // Reply

      I have a Krag but the cleaning equip/oiler from the stock are missing. I have seen pictures of the oiler – can you tell me how it’s used? Looks like a tube and a pin with a flattened knob. What do you do with it? Also, there were parts for cleaning the barrel, but I’ve never seen any for sale. Is there any point in continuing to look or are they simply unobtainable any longer. I believe my Krag was made in ’03.

  2. Love my krag carbine. 121 and still shoots dead on. Never has jammed, much smoother than my Eddiestone and just the right size. Just sucks the way the ammo doubled in price a few years ago

  3. rangerrick // April 25, 2016 at 7:53 pm // Reply

    I have a 1898 krag, my oh my what a lovely rifle, at 118 years old it shoots 1 inch groups at 100 yards with hand loaded 180 grain spire points or round nose bullets at 2250- 2300 fps. Wish we still made rifles like we used too.

  4. Ronald Dunne // May 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm // Reply

    Sounds like the earlier posters have had some real fun with their rifles!
    I have never in my 65 years found one of these for sale, neither original nor “sporterised” and have only known two guys who used them for hunting- one in the Michigan deer-woods and the other in the plains and mtns of southern Colorado.. Seems to me they would out-do the ol .30-30 in either venue…
    The actions of these have a reputation for being “butter-smooth”, possibly on account of having only one lug on the bolt (not as safe as it should be for much experimentation with reloads). Needless to say if that lug shears off the shooter would be eating the bolt assembly. Save the hot-rodding for Mauser types and newer metallurgy and enjoy the Krag for what it is… a collectable piece of history.
    That carbine in the article looks really fine.
    One question tho- I wonder why the original loadings ran to such heavy bullets.. 220 grains? 180? Really?? I wonder how 150 grainers would run in it? Or is it a pressure issue?
    Nice rifles, guys!

  5. Glenn Rightsell // May 19, 2016 at 7:38 am // Reply

    Hi I know of one of these for sale serial number 297971 The sight does not have peep sight on the flip sight.Also the flip sight flips up from the front.barrel is around 2o 1/2 inches the stock has what looks like original plastic butt plate.Leather strap says straight shooter on metal buckles.My question would be is this a rare edition?

  6. I have a 96 Krag carbine. Mine is a collector grade and I have been researching them for many years. There are a few variations of the Krag carbine due to updates gained by field experiences from that era. Carbines used various sights that have “c” markings on the sight mm eaves and bases. I have come to realize that some things are best left untouched, especially in the world of Krag. Want to discuss something, feel free to email me. Vince.

  7. I have a 30-40 krag for sale. It appears to be in very good condition. it has been stored in a gun cabinet for years and I have never fired it. What markings on the weapon should I look for to determine its value ie-serial number or other similiar type markings. I would appreciate any information I may receive regarding this very nice rifle.

  8. I just got a sporterized 1898 Krag rifle-cut down to carbine length, fitted with a beautifully finished walnut stock, with fine checkering and a pistol-grip style, instead of the military straight stock. A redfield peep sight mounted on the rear of the receiver, and a blade front sight . This old rifle must have been a deer hunting rifle back in the ’30s-’50s, and it’s still a very attractive rifle. I normally only collect unmodified and original US rifles, but this one just called out to me, and the price was right.

  9. I have a Springfield 30/40 Krag with a serial #84625. Looks like a carbine, but may have been turned into a sporter. It has no upper barrel stock and is much shorter than original models (4 inches longer than Win 3030) so I’m not sure what has been done to it. Has small “V” rear fold down sight I had heard that many of these were converted by US Govt into shorter models from ’95 to ’96, and the date looks like it was changed from 1895 to 1896, but could be a ’98. Anybody have any additional info or what it may be worth?

  10. While the pictured Krag looks super it also appears to sporterized rifle. The true Krag carbines, 1895/96, 1898 and 1899 did not have sling swivels. Mine have always shot great and are a lot of fun.

  11. Steven Fassett // October 2, 2016 at 5:53 pm // Reply

    I found one of these guns like new. Can you tell me what it is worth the low and high price. I heard that they are extremely hard to find.

  12. i have one that is a parade model. would like to sell it. beautiful gun. if you really want one nicolemike.johnson@hotmail.com

  13. I recently purchased one made in 1902, need to find out more about them.it is butter smooth and in excellent condition missing both sights no problem purchasing rear looking for a front.can’t wait to have it appraised!

  14. Actually, you will find the “shortest service” honor belongs to the M-14, not the Krag.
    The cartridge rim is beveled rather than rebated, to ease feeding in the magazine. It also makes the extractor snap over it easier when the rifle is used as a single shot.
    The example shown is a cut-down ’98 rifle rather than a carbine, but still a neat old gun, especially if the bore is sharp- makes a nice shooter.

    JAK

  15. I have an unmolested (not sporterized) Model 1898 Krag made in June of 1900. The action on it is amazingly smooth for a rifle nearly 120 years old. The accuracy is equally impressive once you adjust to the “aim for the belt buckle” technique at 100 yards. The Krag actually does win out over the M-14 as the shortest times in use. Even though the M-14’s initial run was a year or two shorter as the primary rifle, it lived on as the M-21 sniper rifle and is currently in front line use as the M-14 EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle). The Krag got a very bad rap in the Spanish-American War due To The large number of US casualties taken. Never mind the fact that the Americans were typically attacking well defended high ground . I’ve always found dead it interesting that a gun declared “obsolete” by many from day one was banned from military shooting competition due to the Soldiers shooting them routinely out shooting the men shooting the 1903 Springfield, the latest, greatest of the period.

  16. To my surprise, I found one of these guns in old deer hunting cabin I purchased in Vermont. It was hidden in the ceiling and was there for many years before I found it. It was in very good condition. After doing some research, I found out this Krag Carbine had been modified to a single shot bolt action. The loading gate was removed and receiver milled smooth. It was replaced by a stainless steel plate screwed into the receiver, a very professional job. The gun was missing the hand guard and original rear sight. I purchased all the replacement parts on E-Bay (receiver, handguard, and sights) to restore the gun to original condition as much as possible. The modified receiver is available to collectors or gunsmiths. It’s a one of a kind piece! sssinspections205@gmail.com

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