Krag rifle with bayonette
Smokeless powder, introduced in the 1880s, was clearly superior to the black powder traditionally used in muskets and rifles. The synthetic material burned faster and more efficiently, allowing for a simultaneous downgrade in the size and bulk of a projectile and upgrade in power and speed. In addition, as the name indicates, smokeless powder eliminated the tell-tale “here I am” puff of smoke deployed with each round, a previously unavoidable advertisement derided by both hunter and soldier alike. By 1890, the US Ordnance Department settled on a new cartridge design incorporating the new chemical propellant. Now all they needed was something to fire it.
The smaller size of the new projectile opened up a number of options in the design of the potential rifle. In previous official U.S. shoulder arms, ammunition was kept around or near the waist and fired one round at a time in a slow and sometimes laborious process. Now it was possible to create a reservoir, or magazine, of high-power ammunition within the rifle itself, which enabled rapid firing via a highly efficient mechanical feed.
The Krag-Jorgenson Rifle from the left and right side
The winner was decided upon after the extensive testing, re-testing, and subsequent rejection of 52 other candidates from all over the world. All of the testing occurred at the Armory in Springfield. The winning design came from Norway and was named after its designers, Krag and Jorgensen. The Krag-Jorgensen, or Krag for short, was given the green light for production on September 15, 1892. It had a number of features that pleased cost-conscious military officers, but there was one in particular that made it stand out above the others. The Krag had a magazine that was capable of being turned off. A soldier using the weapon could have a fully loaded rifle, but still could fire one round at a time, from the traditional supply around the waist, in a slow and sometimes laborious process, conserving ammunition, and (more importantly) money. However, if things got dicey, then the magazine could be turned on, a rapid succession of bullets let loose, and, the danger averted. At least, that’s what it looked like on paper.