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Marga Trials Rifle: Competition For the Belgian Army


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction Company taking a look at some of the guns they’re going to be selling in their upcoming May of 2019 Premier firearms auction. Today we have a very cool Belgian trials rifle. This is from the trials that resulted in
the adoption of the Model 1889 Mauser, one of the first of the truly modern Mausers that
would ultimately lead to the Mauser model of 1898. Now the Belgian trials are a really complicated
affair, there were more than a dozen guns involved in three or four separate rounds of testing. And
what’s particularly interesting about these trials is that they occurred just after the
… invention of smokeless powder. So the French developed and
introduced the Lebel rifle in 1886, which was the first military rifle to use
the new smokeless powder. And it truly was a fundamental change in military technology. And
after that everyone else had to scramble to catch up. And so these Belgian trials you will see a
combination of some of the old black-powder mechanisms, the styles of manufacture that had
become common to deal with black powder cartridges. And then you also see new technology creeping in
that’s better suited to smokeless powder cartridges. So it’s really an interesting trial. There
were 3 or 4 different rounds of competition leading up to about 1890, and there were
slews of rifles, 6 or 7 or 8 rifles at each stage. Now, if you want to know more about all the details
of the Belgian trials, and the Mauser that they ended up developing, I would recommend you check
out C&Rsenal’s video on the 1889 Belgian Mauser. He does a great job of describing that whole process. But there’s one of the rifles, well, there are many
of the rifles that he talks about only very briefly because they showed up as competitors
to the Mauser which ultimately won. And there’s very little documented
about them, and one of those is this guy, this is the Marga rifle developed by a Belgian
army officer by the name of Uldarique Marga. And this is one of those rifles that’s a really good
example of some of the new and some of the old. And I think once you take a close look at it, you’ll understand pretty easily why it was defeated by the Mauser. The Belgian trials at this point were based around an
8mm cartridge, and that’s what this rifle is designed for. It has what I believe is a 5 round box magazine here. Bolt-action, of course, and we’ll touch on the
actual construction of the bolt in a moment. However, it has rear locking lugs. The rear locking lugs
are very much a black-powder style of manufacture, and the rationale here was that you have
fouling that tends to creep back into the action. And if you have your locking lugs at the front they
will tend to get fouled by that black-powder fouling. If you put your locking lugs at the back, they’re much
more separated and much more likely to stay clean. You’ll see that on the Lee-Enfield rifles as well. And you’ll notice the Lebel, the first
of the … smokeless powder rifles, has front locking lugs, and that’s really not coincidental. There are exceptions to this rule of
course, but that’s the general standard. So there’s our bolt, we have a follower
down in here. This is a blind magazine, so if you take out this screw you can pivot
the cover down if you need to clean it out, but that’s just an administrative task.
This would be loaded through the top. One of the big advantages that the Mauser brought to
this competition was his development of the stripper clip, which is pretty ubiquitous today, but actually
began with Paul Mauser … in the time of these trials. So there is a little bit of a cut in this rifle, I don’t know exactly what feeding
device it was supposed to use. That looks like it was there for an early
sort of stripper clip style loading device, but I don’t know for sure. It’s possible that that is an
artifact of the machining processes used to manufacture the receiver, you know, to get a nice square edge
at the back here, but again, not 100% sure there. What I can show you for sure is this lever, this is the magazine cutoff. So note
that the screw here is eccentric and as we rotate the lever forward and
back this plate moves up and down. That plate is connected to this guy, which is your interrupter. So there is the upward position, which is the magazine
engaged. When you push the bolt forward at this point it will pick up a cartridge off the top of the magazine.
When we rotate the lever forward, we have now disengaged the magazine by
dropping that … interrupter down. That’s going to push the top cartridge in the magazine down, it’s going to push it far enough that the bolt won’t pick
it up. So in this position you would drop a cartridge in, chamber it, fire it, extract and eject it. And you
simply continue firing single shots, firing and loading, until such time as you need the
magazine, when you could flip that lever back, and then you have
your 5 rounds in the magazine at the ready. There is also this little knurled pad here
which allows us to pull … the interrupter in. Could be handy for loading probably, [or unloading], or clearing any sort of malfunctioning
issue you might have with the interrupter. Note that that can only be done when the magazine is engaged. When you pull this down that lever is connected to the interrupter and you can’t move it
once it’s in the downward position there. The safety on this thing is rather unusual,
it is a latch here at the back of the bolt. And in theory you look at it at first and you think, well, OK, it flips over and that prevents you from lifting the
bolt because that’s blocking the bolt from moving. However, this doesn’t do anything to the trigger. So in this position the gun can still
fire, which isn’t much of a safety, and the reason for this is that the actual way
you use the safety is to lift the bolt vertical, and then you can engage the safety and
it locks down into the back of the receiver. And in this position you have now disengaged the trigger. However in order to put the rifle back in firing position you have to undo the safety and
then close the bolt the rest of the way. … I can easily see this being counted quickly and heavily
against the rifle in trials. That’s a very awkward style of safety. The rear sight here is very much from
the old-school black-powder style. We have a ladder sight, you can flip it up. For close range shooting, quote-unquote,
you have four settings here on the side, 400 out to 700 metres. On an 8mm rifle like this
with a muzzle velocity of 2,400 feet per second (which it was by the way), 400 metre minimum zero is pretty darn long.
You would have to hold rather low to make any hits at a reasonable, you know, at 100 to
200 metres you’d be holding off a lot to get hits. You can then lift this up and
adjust this slider out to 1,900 metres at the high end, with one more notch at the very
top of the sight which I presume is 2,000 metres. However, being of the old black-powder
style, this slider is held on by tension only. So it’s really stiff right now, but you know that
if this actually went into service in the field these would loosen up and you
would quickly be in a position where you’d set your sight, fire, and the recoil would cause
your sight to fall down, and that’s not a good thing. That’s another element that certainly
I’m sure counted against this rifle in trials. Mauser came out with a much
better, more positively engaged sight. Pretty typical muzzle end here. This does have
a Barleycorn pointed front sight, cleaning rod. No apparent attachment for a bayonet lug.
It may have been set up for a socket bayonet, or simply no bayonet at all. There are no names or manufacturer’s marks on here. We have a serial number repeated
in a couple places and that is 213. It’s on the rear sight base there, it’s on the rear sight leaf there. And it’s on the butt plate. The only other marks are some Belgian
proofs on the receiver, the barrel, and the bolt. Now speaking of the bolt we can take that out quite easily (this by the way, is sticky just because of old grease in it), to get the bolt out open it up, pull the trigger, and then the bolt slides out the rear of the action. You can see the little …. notches cut right there
for the safety now that we have the bolt out, and looking down inside the receiver, you can
see the cuts for the locking lugs right there. This has two sets of five locking lugs top and bottom. Note that this has a relatively small little extractor,
especially compared to the Mauser extractor. That would have been an issue in the trials, I’m sure. We do, by the way, also have
one more 213 serial number on it. Now this large, bulbous bolt handle will look
familiar to some folks. This is basically taken from the Beaumont rifle design, and the key
point here is that this does not have a coil spring to … power the firing pin. It has actually a
V-spring, and I can show you how that works. I’m going to go ahead and decock it there, and then
there is one screw that locks the whole thing together. Go ahead and take that out. So that’s like the security screw, once it’s out we can pop this apart and take … the back piece of the bolt handle off. And then that, right there, is our firing pin spring, and we can also pull out the firing pin. It’s a very long firing pin. So there’s the bolt disassembled. The idea here is that this spring is
held inside the back of the bolt, like so. This compresses it down, and you can see
that goes in and then locks forward like that. And then this long tail of the spring pushes
on the firing pin, so when it’s locked back against the sear it’s held like this,
with this V-spring compressed. And then when you release the sear
that pushes the firing pin forward. As I said, this was the system used on the Beaumont rifle. It works. The problem is these springs
tend to be less durable than coil springs, also typically not quite as strong. It’s a
little trickier getting this to be a reliable and long-term durable spring. And so
that’s why this system never really found … any major use beyond the Beaumont, and
it definitely would have been a design element that would work against the Marga
in the Belgian military trials. Standing alone on its own merits, it’s easy to look
at this rifle and say, well you know, it’s not that bad. It’s got a magazine, it’s got a magazine
cutoff which would have been popular. It is a repeating bolt-action rifle, probably pretty reliable at it. However, when you put this in context
of the competition it was facing, primarily rifles from Mauser and Mannlicher,
then you realise that well, you know what? There’s no good reason the Belgians should have
adopted this, or given it more consideration than they did. You know, it has an out-of-date firing pin spring
system, it has an out-of-date rear locking system, it has out-of-date sights. And while it may be fine, it
was certainly not the best, and the trials reflected that. Marga himself would go on to better success and better recognition developing a number of things related to ammunition. Some blank firing rounds and some other things. So his rifle here never did go into commercial production, or see any other further production
after it failed in the Belgian military trials. I don’t know exactly how many of these were made.
This one, as you saw, has that single serial number 213, but that doesn’t necessarily tell us a whole lot. It is however an extremely rare rifle. It’s very cool to get a chance to take a look at trials rifles like this. I do also have a video on the Liegeoise, if you’re interested in this subject, check that one out as well. And of course if you’re interested in owning this
one yourself, it is of course coming up for sale here at Rock Island. If you take a look over at their catalogue you can see their pictures and description of this rifle, bid for it online if you would like, and also take a
look at everything else that they have coming up. Thanks for watching.

83 thoughts on “Marga Trials Rifle: Competition For the Belgian Army

  1. Why didnt the Lee rifles get adopted by more countries besides Britain? The Mauser and the Mannlichers were great and all but what about the Lee, smooth rear locking bolt (since 1879) and detatchable magazine?

  2. Another great video, Ian. Question, what is the advantage of using forward locking lugs, as opposed to rearward lugs? You mention the disadvantage of fouling from black powder no longer being a concern, but I'm assuming that there was also a positive reason to make the change.

  3. I wish you'd do a video on the Beaumont Vitali. Interesting transitional rifle. From black powder to smokeless. Breach loader to repeater.

  4. At this point I feel it necessary to point out that you might be thinking of a rifle from the future when you say that this has a smaller extractor than the Mauser. At the time of the Belgian trials, the Mauser still had a small claw, spring steel extractor, not the massive controlled feed claw that came about in 1892. At the time, this Marga would have had the far larger extractor and that might have actually been something in it's favor.

  5. I might have missed them but it would be nice to see the Browning Auto 5 semi auto shotgun or if you can even find one since I know they are super rare a Valcano lever action pistol

  6. Or if you could do a video or a series of videos on all guns that were originally invented by the most prolific gun designer/maker John Moses Browning that would be cool he does have at least 138 gun pattons to his name most of them have become legendary firearms I can name a few off the top of my head Colt1911, .50cali machine gun, .30cali machine gun, B.A.R, Winchester 1897 shotgun , Auto 5 shotgun. And that's only a drop in the bucket with all the guns he designed thank you

  7. Thanks Ian. As a kid, I remember visiting the FN museum in Herstal. It had incredible displays filled with blued steel marvels. I don't know if it's still open, but if it's anything like I remember, it might well be worth your while next time you're in Europe. Also, the war museum in Brussels has an impressive collection of WW1 artifacts.

  8. Thank You Ian, for pointing out second reason of making a back locking lugs. I always thought it was only due to a technology and price, never imagined it could also be influenced by a gunpowder itself.

  9. I sure like the locking lugs on that Rifle…Nice to have a custom Shooting match rifle made on the lines of this in just single shot with modern mfg of today cal.270…..Anyway thanks very much…!

  10. Would be great if you get to try out our new rifle modernizations.
    I'm certain they'll remain obscure with the outside world as the decades roll by.

  11. Please do the Remington 788. It too has rear interrupted screw lugs, and an a reportedly explosive lock time. I really think it's Wayne Leek's master piece.
    🙂

  12. I would think that that button above the magazine disconnector would be for loading and unloading I know you said loading but I think it's more or less for unloading so if you have five rounds in magazine they're just not going to pop out but if you pull that lever side maybe they'll pop out for easy unloading just an assumption maybe you should try that if you can get any of the eight mmmm for it

  13. I’m not knocking Ruger’s firearms. I think most importantly Ruger designed their guns to be made using castings and the stressed parts are sized to compensate. Any weight penalty seems to be made up for by the lower selling price of Ruger’s arms. Trying to manufacture something as complex as the Mini-14s receiver by forging and machining would lead to a very expensive rifle. By using a precision casting Ruger gets a near net shape that requires little machine work and can be sold for less.

  14. Another thought about forging vs casting: I suspect a cast part made with modern steel could be stronger and tougher than a WWII era forged part made with steel of that era. Metallurgy has progressed and is still progressing.

  15. The magazine follower and reciever are reminiscent of a Vitali charger. And the bolt handle/striker spring combination of the Beaumont Vitali.

  16. If you are a pre mass production gunsmith, then leaf springs are way easier to forge than a coil spring. Precision drawn high carbon steel wire is not an easy product to make unless you are making lots of it. Turning said wire into a reliable spring has some surprising engineering difficulties and subtleties. Witness how many pieces of broken car suspension spring you can spot at the side of the road, usually about the first 3/4 of a turn.
    Coils springs are very much a 20th century thing and leaf springs of various types persisted in for instance automotive practice, late into the 20th century. Even Luger used a V leaf spring at first, in his eponymous pistol, some twenty years after this rifle.

  17. Given the poor quality of ammunition in WWI the rear locking lugs might have been a real good idea if the had gotten into a major war at the dawn of smokeless powder.

  18. Overall looks like a sound design. Despite the long-term durability issues, I think I'd prefer that type of bolt spring design because it's a hell of a lot easier to service than a typical Mauser-style bolt.

  19. Should have marketed the bolt as a back up all else fails melee weapon. Things big enough to use as a club. An built like it could handle it too.

  20. I know this is for a different gun, but I just watched the video on your modified HK91/G3. If you still haven't gotten the trigger sorted, go take a look at http://www.williamstriggers.com About the best modification you could hope for (other than fixing the recoil). Their work makes the factory PSG1 trigger feel like it was taken off a bullpup.

  21. Ian, I don't know if you've talked about this before, but why were old sighting systems so… optimistic?

  22. As a late 19th century officer, I like that safety. I can see easily that all my men have engaged it. That magazine cutoff is superb, one does not need so many rounds in a volley. By the time any foe gets within a range too close for effective volleys, when the nerve of the common soldier is fraying, then we can expend one last hail of fire before a magnificent charge with bayonets. Surely, this is the future.

  23. "Well, there's your Bayonet!!" Says the soldier as he pulls out the firing pin. "Awfully inconvenient in there tucked away like that."

  24. I have to see I do see this rifle being a bit simpler than Mauser though in this case simpler might mean less reliable and usage of older technology.

  25. I thought this was going to be a straight pull action don’t know why I thought that, but I would like to see some in the future. Might buy one need to add to the collection love this show

  26. I like to imagine Weapons Trials involving "Good ol' Boys," business representatives, and soldiers testing and abusing the rifles. Though in reality it probably is only the soldiers. Do the Europeans have any "Good ol' Boys?"

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