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WW1 Rifle Mud Covers: Lebel & Gewehr 98


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!

100 thoughts on “WW1 Rifle Mud Covers: Lebel & Gewehr 98

  1. Interesting how the German's didn't look to the Type 38 Arisaka rifle for an effective dust cover solution.

  2. Right, I need one now! I've just noticed that my Lebel bolt head screw has the step and wide head for a dust cover.

  3. "More questions than answers" :-So,  what happens when the guide rod on the German cover jams in it's guide?

  4. ah Germany designing overly complicated hand crafted precision Mechanism when your war time production can't keep up with the standard production

  5. So the french made a screw with a larger head and shaped a piece of sheet metal to fit. The Germans made two pieces of shaped sheet metal, one requiring a spring temper, guild rod, guild tube, latching system, and proof marked them. How very German of them, and they wounder why all their resources were gone in short order.

  6. I think I have seen pictures of Arisaka and or Carcano rifles with similar devices. Maybe, maybe not. I don't remember.

  7. Some people are saying they don't want you to get the rifles dirty. I'm going to have to disagree.
    1917 was a hundred years ago today. I think it would be fitting to get dressed in period appropriate gear, get in a muddy foxhole, and try to shoot while peering down the dirty mica goggles of a gas mask. To get a better understanding of what it was like trying to keep your rifle clean when you're really trying to deal with everything on the field and on yourself.
    It would be nice to get an appreciation not just for the guns, but for the men who had to use them too.

  8. Very helpful….explains the larger screws I run into on Lebels and Berthiers. Makes perfect sense but just never thought of it, cheers.

  9. You would get a pretty severe bollocking for allowing your weapon to become in an unserviceable condition. The wrath of the Sergeant was probably best avoided..

  10. Ian I have to ask. Where you did this video? Looking at the background I feel like I have been there but can't place where it is. Could you tell me so I can get this worm out of my head please. THX

  11. How do you think they compare to the Arisaka dust cover? as far as usability or how they effect the smoothness of the action?

  12. I used to keep my M-203 in a cellophane dry cleaning bag. In a pinch you could operate through the bag…long enough.

  13. My immediate question: as the Kar98 was still in service during WWII (new production, at that), where did all the dust covers go? It would seem sensible to me that (at least at the beginning of the war) new rifles would have been issued dust covers, if not all of them. Did the Nazis just not see the point? Did the production capability get lost? Was it determined to have not worked by the end of WWI, or during the interwar period? Inquiring minds want to know!

  14. IMO, the French thing seems more field / soldier proof, beauty in simplicity, reminds me alot of AR dust cover.

  15. "The German dust cover is a bit more complex" – there's a shock!!

    There is a German adage (my wife, who is German tells me) – "why do something the easy way if the hard way also works?"

  16. I need your help please email me or contact me and I will give me my email I think I have a very rare c96 1915

  17. If I had to guess, I'd assume that the German dust covers were considered too bulky and inconvenient for the average soldier to willingly deal with. Not to mention that any damage to its guide rod would interfere with the shooter's ability to quickly cycle the bolt.

  18. I have never heard of a "dust cover guide rod" or a "dust cover disconnect" until today.

    The French probably cut holes in the chauchat magazines for material to make the lebel dust covers.

  19. Mostly you never really needed a dust/mud cover. You never ever walked around with the bolt to the rear. And if your weapon got covered in mud you were expected to be smart enough to wipe the thing down a little before you opened your bolt.

  20. I wonder how well that locking tab on the Mauser would hold up to vigorous manipulating?
    It doesn't look all that sturdy – nor is there much keeping it closed.

  21. I'd love to shout at those guys who treat that rifle so badly, damned you PUNKS (!) that's a piece of fucking HISTORY! STOP THAT AT ONCE!

    Still, great video Ian and DON'T do a mud-test (this is what you should use a reproduction of the rifle and the dust-cover for, if you can get those!)

  22. Ian, I feel I must point out that mud is presumably something those rifles have seen before. I admit I'd be hesitant to try it as well, but I swear that as a kid cleaning my dad's GEW 98 after getting it, it still had mud in the stock and it's managed to hold together for all these years. We used to joke that cleaning out the mud would ruin it's accuracy because the mud was in all of the tight corners and almost resembled bedding compound.

  23. I suspect that removing the screw in mud had potential to fumble and lose it in mud thus making weapon useless.
    Mike

  24. I understand why you guys do the mud tests and realize that many appreciate them but I just can't bring myself to view the full vids. It's just too horrific to watch. I'm a delicate flower and can't bear it.

  25. The French design seems much better
    The German looks like it has to come off to load with stripper clips

  26. The British MLM and MLE series .303 rifles and carbines had dust covers from inception, and all 20 years before the French and Germans. The MLE was still in use in WW1 (second line), and the SMLE that replaced it didn't need it.

  27. I have a question (maybe for a future Q&A) :
    I have seen brazilian police using 7.62 nato Madsen machine guns and other "exotic" weapons … Why not using more recent (= cheaper, handier, more reliable, using easy to find parts and accessories), using the same caliber ?
    Or why not simply switching to 7.62×39 (/x54) and using "AK type" guns ?

  28. One important reason to lift the german dust cover all out of the way is to load stripper clips, you kinda forgot that it blocks the way.

  29. Hi Ian…at one time Numrich Gun Parts sold a reproduction Dust Cover Assembly for the GEW98. Part Number 1129970 $59.15. They were marked: WAFFENFABRIK MAUSER A-G. OBERNDORF A/N 1918. I've contacted them several times over the years about when they might get more of these and always the same answer. "At this time this item is not available." Perhaps, you have some pull? You might be able to find out where they purchased them or had them made in the past. We could they pool an order together for WWI rifle collectors.

  30. I can tell you why the French dropped their dust-cover. Safety features are a challenge to all idiots to make it useless or worse. If you have a shiny polished surface with intricate looking parts even an idiot knows that he has to keep that shit clean. A dust-cover on the other side is just an invitation to throw the whole thing in the mud and shit on it.

  31. Why didn't the bolt action rifles in ww2 have dust covers? You'd think they would learn from ww1 and make them a standard. Except Japan, no body else seems to have em.

  32. the answer to my question may be painfully obvious since I'm not seeing anyone else but here it is

    the action of the arisaka 99 is copied directly from the gewer 98, as was a lot of other guns. is their something unique to the way the Japanese copied the action that made it easier to engineer and mass produce dust covers than Germany?

  33. Does anybody else think the combination flag for the title card looks really cool and should be an actual flag?

  34. The fact that the French made dust covers and still didn't cover the side of Chauchat magazines kind of pisses me off

  35. can you still use a stripper clip with the mauser dust over? it doesnt look like it opens far enough.

  36. Would like to see a Berthier dust cover in action, also they had a problem with the Berthier dust cover being weak during wartime production and cause the rifle to jammed. They were subcontracted to a Spanish toy company.

  37. IIRC, the reason dust covers weren't more prevalent in WW1 is because the French and Germans didn't see any reason to fight while knee deep in mud. The Germans in particular were on the defensive for most of their time on the western front, and build excellent trenches on higher ground and with good drainage and even installed wickerwork walls and duckboards to retain the dirt, so their trenches weren't particularly muddy. The Brits, on the other hand, were stubborn and didn't want to give up an inch of ground, even if moving back a few hundred yards would get them above the water table. They also saw their trenches as "temporary" refuges while building up for the next big attack, and so didn't want to waste time and resources improving them any more than was strictly necessary. The attitude was more or less, "why worry about mud when you'll be moving on soon?"

  38. I can't be the only one that noticed the happy face above the magazine, just to the right, or in front, of the bolt handle. You can see at 7:41

  39. Didn't the French make cloth covers for the Chauchat magazines? I swear I've seen pictures of them before.

  40. at 7:38 is it just me or is there a smiley face cut into the lebel? if so, what mad lad wielded that mighty weapon

  41. Wow Germany made something completely over complex. Why am I not at all surprised. You Germans need to find a lesson in keep it simple. Stupid.

  42. Hi Ian?, brilliant vid very interesting and well explained sir.Any ideas where I could get a dust cover for a nice mk1lee metford the one with the safety at the rear of the bolt.kind regards nigelkavanagh.

  43. France's Army was extremely 'committee' when dealing with logistical nonsense.
    people forget that our revolution essentially turned our country into a 'socialist republic'.

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