Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on ForgottenWeapons.com, I’m Ian McCollum and today we’re going to take a look at The question of why didn’t anybody in World War I Develop a dust cover to keep mud out of their guns? We all know that World War I was heavily fought in these just soupy, muddy, disgusting trenches and as We know getting mud into the action of a bolt action rifle will jam it up pretty quickly. I have to eject the round manually. Now I’m going to feed it. We just brought dirt and filth into the action and eject that round… Grab another round… Mmm… I think we’re done. So why didn’t they do anything about that? Well, the answer is they did, But not as much as you might expect and there were a lot of There’s a lot of problems with military development and procurement cycles that got in the way of dust covers becoming truly widespread. So, I have two rifles here to show you today, One is a German Gewehr 98 and one is a French 1886 Lebel And they are both equipped with World War I-era dust covers. So, the French one is actually the simpler of the two. Because of its design, the Lebel Receiver kind of encloses more of the opening, more of the bolt than the Mauser-style receiver does, so In mid 1915, the French developed this and put it into production and It’s really a pretty simple piece of sheet metal that screws on to the bolt head. There’s, on the Lebel and also the Berthier Bolt designs, there’s already a screw connecting the bolt head to the bolt body, so By replacing that simple screw with one that has a slightly enlarged head and has a little bit of space to attach this dust cover, They were able to very easily attach it to the bolt and it’s Really quite a simple and effective dust cover to use. I don’t have any numbers on production, They appear to have been lost somewhere or they may be still buried in a French archive somewhere And maybe we’ll find them eventually, but you can still find these for sale occasionally, mostly like on French equivalent of eBay. They do show up from time to time. And they are also found on dug-up Battlefield relic rifles. So, there were more than a handful of these made. They did absolutely reach the frontlines and they were used. Why, exactly, they weren’t used more heavily I’m not entirely sure and I think that calls for some experimentation with one of these to see How practical it is, how much it gets in the way when you’re shooting, and how effective it is at keeping dust out, or Mud out. That’ll be a future video, but I wanted to show you guys this At the moment because it’s cool to see what they actually used. Now, the Mauser design I have a little bit more information on. With the Mausers, they actually started with a cloth design. It was basically just a cloth cover with a couple of straps. It was designed so that it completely encircled the receiver, Kept all the mud out of the action, and when you needed to use the rifle you could kind of quick detach the front strap And open up the cover, the rifle would become usable, this cover just kind of dangled by its rear attaching strap. The problem was It actually tended to cause rust on the guns because it did, while it kept mud out, It tended to keep water in because it was made of cloth. So that was not a great solution. The Germans looked for a different solution and the next thing they came up with was a Metal, it almost looks like a metal vacuum-formed Cover for the whole top of the gun, and this thing you would to, again, have to pull it off in order to use the gun. It presumably did a fairly decent job of keeping mud out because it really completely covered the whole working action of the rifle, But the German testing commission deemed it Infeasible and, well, almost useless, so they kept looking and they finally found a good solution in this System that we have here. This was developed by a company called Weisenberger and developed early in 1917. In the spring of 1917, there was actually a formal order placed for 500,000 of these metal dust covers. Ultimately, by late 1917, it was Officially adopted as a standard part of rifle equipment that all rifles being made or Refurbished going forward would have dust covers on them, like this, But they were never able to produce enough to make that declaration into a reality. In fact, what they did when they actually tried to get these into mass production was Initially order a 50/50 split, basically, of these good metal dust covers and also the cloth ones, Figuring, I presume, that the cloth would be an adequate standby while they were trying to get more metal ones manufactured And, what will tell you something about the state of the German economy and just wartime Germany in general, They actually had to cancel the cloth half of that order because there was not sufficient cloth to make rifle covers out of, and that’s Kind of a staggering fact. That’s just how desperate Germany was for raw materials of any sort At that time. So, these did see some frontline service They were being delivered in substantial quantities by the end of the war, But a lot of them ended up just in warehouses. They weren’t able to quite get them all the way to the frontline in time before the armistice. So… What’s interesting, the French ones appeared to have been put into service and then kind of just abandoned, left off. Maybe they weren’t as effective as people thought they would be. The German ones were a little longer in the development cycle. They didn’t get them until later in the war, And they didn’t really have them on the frontlines long enough to determine If they were really worth using or if they were just more of a hassle, so let’s take a closer look at these two So you can see how exactly they work. So, here’s the French one and this really just is a piece of sheet metal Attached to the bolt head screw And so it cycles back and forth with the bolt, And let me go ahead and take it off then you can see exactly what it consists of. All we have to do is pull this screw. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. As I mentioned before, there was a version of this for the Berthier as well. Exact same concept, just slightly different dimensions because this won’t drop on to a Berthier bolt, And then the screw used for this has this slightly enlarged head So that it has a place to capture this metal plate. The standard original Lebel bolt has a screw that fits basically flush right there, So all they had to do is replace that With this slightly larger one and presto, you attach your dust cover. One other element to point out here is some, but not all, of the Lebels equipped with these dust covers had Kind of a slot or groove cut on the back, well, the front left of the buttstock To give a place for the dust cover to smoothly slide. Apparently, that kind of was just dependent on the individual rifle. Some needed it and some did not. This particular one does have it, which is cool. So you can see what that entailed. Now, one further interesting detail, to me anyway, is on the 1916 series of updates to the Berthier, when they adopted the extended five-round magazine and an upper handguard, That change actually was originally supposed to include dust covers as well, and as you will see on M16 Berthiers, they all have this oversized bolt head screw Which was originally intended for attaching dust covers as had been developed in 1915. So, this. Yeah, you can see there this doesn’t… Same idea, but doesn’t quite fit on the Berthier bolt. But, for reasons that I am not entirely sure of, I haven’t been able to find the documentation. The dust covers were dropped from the 1916 upgrade to the Berthier, but the screw remained there Now, the German dust cover is a bit more complex. It is a large, I don’t even know how you describe that… Hub-like cover that is going to completely encircle the bolt Pull it all the way back… That also does a pretty darn good job of Enclosing the bolt. This is actually attached to this collar, Which is sheet metal and it’s just a tight spring fit, basically, and Pry it off if you want to. There’s this collar on the front of the barrel, and then we have a guide rod right here that is going to keep it in line, And there’s a disconnecter right here. So, if I just pop that Then I can open this whole dust cover up and, in fact, I can take the back half of it off. So, this was the effective German dust cover. And see, we have a guide rod or a tube for that rod and then this collar that Serves to hold the whole thing in place. So, this was intended to be left on the gun basically permanently. You could take it off if you had to clean something, like, you know, if you started getting corrosion between the barrel and this, You could take it off for cleaning, But, in general, being able to open it like this meant you could easily remove the bolt for just standard rifle field stripping. Cleaning the bore, that sort of thing. And then, With the bolt closed, you can pop that back into place. While there are no marks on the French dust covers, the German ones do have this maker’s stamp here on the corner, And then also this little tiny barely visible proof mark right on the top. To be honest, I’m not sure if there are reproductions being made of these. I know there are some reproductions made of the French ones, I’d be kind of surprised if there weren’t any of these German dust covers, although I haven’t come across any of the reproductions myself. So, if you’re interested be aware that that is a possibility I recognize this is going to leave people with probably more questions than answers, the primary question being: How well do they work? Follow-up question would be: If the French were able to figure this out for the bolt-action rifles, Why did they not ever cover the side of the Chauchat magazines? We’ll see if we can get into that, And we’ll be doing some shooting with these Probably mud, it’s… I have to work myself up to being willing to throw mud on these two very nice, very old, rifles. But we’ll probably do that, We’ll do some shooting on the clock and see if these dust covers really are hindrance, Or if the rifles work just the same with them, so stay tuned for that footage as well. If you like watching this sort of thing, please do consider checking out my Patreon page, It is contributions from folks just like you that make it possible for me to do this With the volume and the number of interesting firearms that I have. Thanks for watching!