Tag Archives: Krag-Jorgensen

The Danes Making Ready

Denmark had a very brief baptism of fire during WWII. On 9 April 1940, the German Army swept across the unfortified border while simultaneously landing paratroops (the first use of such in combat) and conducting seaborne landings as well.

The Danish government, which had been controlled by socialists in the 1920s and 30s, had gutted the military and, while the rest of Europe was girding for the next war, the Danes were laying off career officers, disbanding regiments and basically burning the bridge before they even crossed it.

This made the German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen.

That doesn’t mean isolated Danish units didn’t bloody the Germans up a bit. In fact, they inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own. (More on that in detail here)

Five Danish soldiers with a 37mm anti-tank gun outside Hertug Hansgades Hospital in Haderslev on the morning of 9 April 1940

The head of the Royal Bodyguard, Colonel Mads Rahbek, in his function of Commandant in Copenhagen, installed a wreath in remembrance at the Vestre Kirkegård to the April 9 invasion on Friday. The large traditional ceremony was canceled due to COVID concerns.

To further commemorate the event, the Danish Ministry of Defense just released the two circa 1939 training films “Angrebet” (Attack) and “Forsvaret” (Defense) by Danish filmmakers Theodor Christensen and Ingolf Boisen. A total of 80 minutes in length, they detail field camouflage as well as basic small unit infantry tactics, and the like all while showing lots of really neat Danish military gear including Krag rifles and Madsen machine guns.

The films were reportedly also used extensively during the 1941-45 occupation era to train direct action cells in the Danish Resistance, a group that emerged strong and ready in April 1945.

Danish resistance fighters note the mix of arms to include an SOE-supplied BREN, several Danish Army Nagant revolvers, and a couple of very Darth Vaderish Royal Danish army helmets, the latter no doubt squirreled away in 1940 no doubt. 

Stopping in at the Navajo Lodge, 80 years ago

In April 1940, Russell Lee, a 37-year-old prolific shutterbug who worked for the government’s Farm Security Administration, crisscrossing the country to document American life, stopped in at the Navajo Lodge along U.S. 60 in Datil, New Mexico.

Pretty cool looking place. A rustic relic of the Old West filled with Navajo rugs, trophies, furniture crafted long before the days of pressboard IKEA junk, and guns. Oh, the guns.

Speaking of guns…check out this gun rack.

How many can you name?

More details after the jump to my column at Guns.com.

Civilize em with the Krag (and Madsen)

Battle scene from a Danish movie, April 9th, about the German invasion of Denmark 9April 1940. Pretty correct and interesting use of Danish uniforms including “Vader” helmets and shoulder boards, Krag-Jørgensen rifles and the very Bren-like, but Martini action (!) Madsen machine gun. The first light machine in the world. Patented in 1901 and mass produced from 1903-1955. Also, it looks like it would have sucked to be a German scout car machine gunner.

For those who don’t know, the plucky Danes in their brief morning of fighting against Hitler’s battle-tried forces inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own.

The Krag: America’s first modern rifle, by way of Norway

As a country, the United States has a long history of inventing and perfecting some of the best military systems in the world. However, there was a decade or so that included one of our first foreign wars in which Uncle Sam’s GIs carried a rifle designed by a team of guys named Ole and Erik who hailed from Oslo. Officially designated as the Springfield Model 1892, it’s commonly just called the Krag.

Why was it invented?

In the early 1890s, the standard rifle of the U.S. Army was the Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield, which was basically a single shot rifled musket only slightly evolved from the Civil War through the addition of a breechloading door conversion that allowed it to take a .45-70 blackpowder cartridge. Custer’s men carried these rifles at their last stand. Thoroughly obsolete when compared to the new Mauser, Lee-Metford, and Lebel bolt-action rifles used in Europe, Uncle was fast looking for a new gun that did the same.

This led them to Norway.

Major Ole H. J. Krag of the Royal Norwegian Army, along with gunsmith Erik Jorgensen of the Kongsberg munitions factory had in 1886 produced a very decent rifle chambered in 8x58mmR to replace the Danish Army’s Remington Rolling Block rifles single shot rifles in the same caliber. This Krag-Jorgensen design was bolt-action with a side-opening speed-loading magazine that could be rapidly charged with five rounds in just a second or two.

the krag magazine loaded from the side

A magazine cut-off, which allowed the rifle to be shot, reloaded, and shot again without touching the 5-rounds in the mag, gave the Krag a “reserve” of ammunition that at the time seemed impressive. The Krag-Jorgensen has one of the smoothest bolt travels ever due to its single forward-locking lug because of this design.

Dane%20Krag_02

Strong and accurate, the Danes had adopted it in 1889 to be ready to use it if the Mauser-armed Germans came and the Norwegians were looking at it for much the same reasons.

The two Norwegians however had heard of the U.S. Army’s notice for rifles to trial in 1892 and sent a few to Governor’s Island New York to compete for the much bigger prize there.

krag rifle 1898 tampa

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk