The Krag-Jorgensen .30-40 is a historically significant rifle in that it transitioned the U.S. military from black powder to smokeless. It started looking at it in 1878, a scant two years after the defeat of General George Custer at Little Bighorn. By 1892, the Krag had officially been adopted by modern militaries and put into production.
In The Last Krag, a feature article appearing in the 2013 edition of Gun Digest, John Malloy looks at the final variant of this important military gun, the NRA-DCM 22-inch barreled carbine.
But if you’re not familiar with the Krag-Jorgensen, here are 5 interesting facts that make it a no-brainer for the military gun collector.
The First High-Velocity Small-Bore
As Malloy points out, “The Krag-Jorgensen rifle, often simply called the ‘Krag,’ had an interesting place in our nation’s history,” he writes.
“It was the first U.S. high-velocity smallbore rifle … The cartridge was an American design. The rimmed, bottleneck cartridge case was a bit over 2¼ inches long. It used a .30-caliber 220-grain round-nose jacketed bullet in its ½-inch-long case neck. Forty grains of a new smokeless powder pushed the bullet to a velocity of about 2,000 fps. It was known variously as the .30 Government, .30 Army, .30 USA, or, more commonly later, as the .30-40 Krag. It was a good cartridge, one that would stand the test of time. It proved effective in military use and became a favorite of American big-game hunters.”
The First Smokeless U.S. Military Rifle
“[The Krag] was also the first American smokeless powder military magazine rifle,” he notes. “European countries had been rapidly converting from blackpowder big-bores to smallbore smokeless powder military rifles, since 1886. In that year, the introduction of the 8mm French Lebel was shaking the military world.”
Since the U.S. was still hung up on the blackpowder .45-70 single-shot Trapdoor Springfield — while the French, Germans and Russians were developing high-velocity repeaters — “U.S. military planners realized they must modernize the issued rifle of the soldier, and so they did, adopting a new, high-velocity .30-caliber cartridge and a fast-operating repeating rifle.”