The Complete History Of Ottoman Rifles

Key Point: The Ottoman Empire adopted various rifles. One notable example is the Ottoman variant of the Mauser rifle, such as the M1887 and M1890 models. These bolt-action rifles were widely used by Ottoman forces and saw action during World War I and the later stages of the empire’s collapse.

Are you curious about Ottoman rifles? Here we will cover when they were first used by the Ottoman Empire. And why the Ottomans found it necessary to switch to rifles in the 19th century.

So, by the time you finish this article, you will know everything you needed to know about Ottoman rifles.

Let’s begin with a short takeaway from the entire article covering when the Ottomans started using rifles and which rifles Ottomans used were the most popular.

Ottoman rifles first began to be used on a grand scale in the second half of the 19th century. Ottomans discovered that they were falling behind their European contemporaries and started to rearm their armies with rifles such as the Snider-Enfield and Mauser Gewehr 98 rifles they got from the British and the Germans.

But did the Ottomans make their own rifles? Well, the surprising answer is no.

And you will see why in a moment. But for now, let’s go into a little more detail starting with the origins of Ottoman rifles.

Origins Of Ottoman Rifles

As you can see here the concept of putting rifles in barrels is quite old. But rifles themselves were only widely adopted in the 19th century.

Obviously, the European powers (and the U.S.) lead the charge in the adoption. But the Ottomans quickly discovered after the Crimean war that their army and the tactics they used were out of date.

Luckily they had the British and the French on their side during the war so they got a glimpse into how effective their rifles were when compared to their musket.

So, what was it that made the rifle so much better than the smooth-bore muskets used by the Ottomans up until then?

Why The Rifles Were Better Than Muskets

So, what exactly was the reason that Ottomans found rifles more useful than the muskets they had been using?

There are 3 main reasons Ottoman rifles were better than earlier muskets:

1) Increased accuracy

2) Faster rate of fire

3) Longer range

Increased Accuracy

This one is relatively simple the rifles the Ottomans were using had rifling in their barrels (hence the term rifles) these groves that were etched into the barrel caused the bullet to spin as it exited the barrel.

This spin, coupled with the aerodynamic design of the bullet caused the bullet to not go off course as was the case with smoothbore muskets and musket balls.

So the spinning aerodynamically shaped projectile was more accurate. Who would have thought?

So the next point is …

Faster Rate Of Fire

The rifles that the Ottomans adopted were cartridge weapons. This means the bullet was inserted into the barrel of the rifle in a casing that also contained the propellant. This meant that gone were the days where you had to separately put gunpowder in the barrel and then the bullet.

Now you just put one thing in and from the back of the rifle, not the front and you’re ready to fire.

That meant that the soldier fired a lot faster and was thus more deadly.

Longer Range

Remember the part I told you that the grooves in the barrel made the bullet spin? Well, that helped the range, not just accuracy.

The bullet resisted the drag imparted on it by air and was thus able to travel farther. On top of that the Ottoman rifles used in the 2nd half of the 19th century also had better gunpowder.

This gunpowder was standardized and was more explosive than the earlier versions. This enabled the bullet to exit the barrel a lot faster which translated into a greater range.

So What Kind Of Rifles Did The Ottomans Use?

The 2 most famous rifles used by the Ottomans were:

– The Snider-Enfield rifle

– The Mauser Gewehr 98

Here is a brief description of the two.

The Snider-Enfield rifle

The Snider-Enfield rifle was a British-made firearm that was used by the Ottoman army in the late 19th century. It was a breech-loading rifle that used a unique system for converting percussion cap firearms into breech-loading rifles.

This fact made it a popular choice for military forces around the world, as it allowed for quick reloading in the field.

Some of the advantages of the Snider-Enfield included its accuracy, reliability, and ease of use.

The Mauser Gewehr 98

The Mauser Gewehr 98 on the other hand was a German-made bolt-action rifle that was used by the Ottoman army during World War I. The rifle was known for its accuracy, reliability, and ease of use, and it was used by military forces around the world during this time period.

Some of the advantages of the Mauser Gewehr 98 included its durable construction and powerful cartridge.

But why did the Ottoman Empire use mostly foreign rifles and not their own?

Why The Ottomans Relied So Much On Foreign Rifles?

The Ottoman Empire did not have a significant domestic weapons manufacturing capability and relied largely on imports from European countries such as Germany and Britain.

The foreign designs from the Germans and the British were simply better than anything the Ottomans could come up with on their own.

So, the Ottoman army mostly purchased rifles from these countries to equip their soldiers. They had limited local production but for the most part, foreign designs were used throughout the Ottoman army.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking a look at my article on the Ottoman rifle. I hope you learned a thing or two. See you at the next one.

Take care!

Source: Ottoman Warfare, by Rhoads Murphey (1999)