Gun Review: Model 1898 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle

During the first week of January, I bought my first official new gun of the year. It’s a model 1898 Krag-Jorgensen chambered in .30-40 Krag, and it’s 111 years old.  That’s the same as  Bilbo Baggins when he celebrates his eleventy-first birthday in The Lord of the Rings. That’s seven years older than the state of Oklahoma and eight years older than the Model T Ford.

Unlike tens of thousands of its unlucky brethren, my Krag somehow escaped the saws and files of the sporterizers and the choppers who are today snarkily referred to as “Bubba” by internet gunnies. But in the early days of the 20th century, surplus Krags were just old, cheap guns, almost given away by the government–they sold for as little as $1.50 through the CMP and the NRA.

A little extra cash, and a little bit of work by a gunsmith, and voila, the military-trimmed Krags became handy little deer rifles. During the lean years of the Great Depression, a cheap, easily-sporterized surplus rifle could mean the difference between eating meat and potatoes or just potatoes, especially in the rural, hardscrabble parts of America.

The .30-40 Krag cartridge was the very first smokeless cartridge adopted for widespread use by the US military. While considered underpowered today, its .30 caliber bullet traveling at 2000 feet per second meant it could effectively kill anything on four legs likely to be encountered in the lower 48 states.

On my Krag, the words “Springfield Armory” appear on the left side of the receiver, directly under the “U.S.” stamped in a font at least twice as big as the other letters. The stock is worn almost black in places by the natural oils from untold hands and the accumulation of dirt and grime of more than century.

Pressed into the dark wood above the trigger guard is a small rectangle with squared-off corners, containing a cursive script JSA and the number 1900. A little searching revealed that the J, the S and the A are the initials of master armorer J. Sumner Adams, showing the rifle had been accepted for use by the US government.

A quick check of the Krag serial number registry from the National Parks Service, available on-line at many web sites, confirms that my rifle’s serial number is among those accepted into inventory sometime during fiscal year 1900, probably later in the year rather than earlier.

And these numbers are part of the reason why I bought this Krag. My grandfather and namesake, Roy Hale, was himself born near the end of 1900, close to the time when this Krag was made.

I don’t have any reason to believe that my grandfather ever owned or fired a Krag. But this rifle is certainly a thing from his time. And I know he truly appreciated a good rifle.

It didn’t help that right when I was trying to decide if I really wanted the rifle or not, one of my cousins unexpectedly mailed me a photo of my grandfather taken in his youth, framed alongside his hand-written special chili recipe. Like I needed an omen as an excuse to buy yet another gun.

But chronological connections to my grandfather’s birth are not the only reasons why I plunked down my hard won cash (that’s c-a-s-h,  R.F…..cough, cough….but ammo is a currency all its own, too) for a military rifle that’s four times  more out of date   than Beach Boys 8-tracks.

My Krag is four feet of wood and steel, and smells of cosmoline and old dust. The strange, right-side box magazine with its rolling internal feed lever is a contraption from the time  when the candlestick telephone was still a magical creation of modern technology. When my rifle was made, nobody outside Ohio had ever heard of either Orville or Wilbur, and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, was just another lonely stretch of empty southern beach.

My Krag is graceful and beautiful. For being 49 inches long, it is surprisingly lively and balanced. I was amazed at the difference in feel between it and my Model 96 Swedish Mauser, also made in 1900. The Swede has been my favorite rifle to shoot for several years, and I used to think it was graceful and easy to handle. But compared to the Krag, it hefts like a chunk of oak planking. I think it’s because the extra metal of the Krag’s weird mechanism puts more weight between the shooter’s hands, instead of in front of them, like with the Swede.

The Krag also features a smooth bolt action, albeit a one-lug design that requires the .30-40 cartridge to be loaded at lower pressures than many other modern rifle cartridges. Some have written that the Krag’s bolt is one of the smoothest ever designed. It is certainly smooth and easy to manipulate. Out of all my rifles, only my Remington 700 from D&L Sports in Wyoming  has a smoother, easier bolt. The Krag’s bolt is smoother than my Swedish Mauser, my Winchester Model 70, and my  Ishapore 2A Enfield. I won’t even mention my Mosin Nagants. If you’ve handled a Mosin, you know why.

The really intriguing part of the Krag is the magazine. I can push my thumb against the angled flange atop the long metal box on the right side, and it flips open. Five cartridges drop neatly into the opening, and a little pressure on the outside of the flange causes the lid to snap shut. On the left side, up near the bolt is the magazine cut-off lever. With the lever down, the five cartridges in the funky magazine are kept in reserve, and the rifle has to be fed one cartridge at a time. Flip the lever up, and the Krag feeds and shoots exactly like any other bolt action rifle.

The magazine cut-off lever is a holdover from an old military doctrine that emphasized single, well-aimed shots instead of firepower for the common infantryman. The belief was that soldiers should load and shoot single shots during most combat, but they could  flip up the lever and quickly rattle off five rounds if they were in danger of being overrun.

As soon as I got the Krag home, I took it out to my backyard range, and ran five rounds through it. The operation was smooth and flawless, and the recoil surprisingly light. Four of the shots grouped very tightly around the little dot I stuck onto a target 40 yards distant, and the fifth shot splattered a gallon jug of water in a most satisfying manner.

And those are all the reasons why I bought that old Krag, which was obsolete by the time it first appeared in combat in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Its combination of history, interesting machinery, smooth handling and operation, and personally-significant dates meant that there was simply no way that I could walk away, and leave that Krag in the gun store, all by itself. Besides, a buddy texted me that getting the Krag would give me a real excuse to find a liberated Cuban cigar and some good rum to go with.

44 Responses to Gun Review: Model 1898 Krag-Jorgensen Rifle

  1. avatarMartin Albright says:

    The Krag was short lived in US service but long lived in song:

    “Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos, cross-eyed kakiack ladrones,
    Underneath our starry flag, civilize ‘em with a Krag,
    And return us to our own beloved homes.”

  2. avatarMagoo says:

    Thanks for the writeup on an excellent rifle.

  3. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    Great writeup and great story. Thanks Roy.

  4. avatarRalph says:

    Great job, Roy. The romance of the classic rifles lives on and on and on.

  5. avatarRoy Hill says:

    Thanks for the positive responses.

    I loved writing this one.

  6. A Krag was the first rifle I bought on my own, fifty years ago. I was sixteen and paid $15 at an auction. The local VFW was the consigner.

    A cousin is still putting meat on the table with it. As far as I know, it has never been modified. The end of the barrel needed work. Someone did a poor modification to shoot blanks at funerals. Once that was corrected, it became a 300 yard deer killer.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Great pic of your son, Frank. I wish him and all his comrades a swift and safe return. FYI, my first rifle was a Nylon 66 that I received over 50 years ago when I was twelve. I would have killed for a Krag, but I was thrilled with that .22.

  7. avatarJim Farmer says:

    I was told by several different sources that “the .30-40 Krag was formerly
    popular, in demand, and well liked by Idaho elk hunters.” In fact the 180
    grain bullet loading of a .30-40 Krag, .303 British, and .300 Savage would
    probably duplicate each other for killing power on large game: moose,
    caribou, elk, bear, etc. There is no need for a magnum if the hunter utilizes
    common sense, places their shots with practical accuracy, and don’t exceed
    the limitations of both gun and load. The venerable 7mm Mauser (7×57)
    would certainly qualify in this scenario too. In fact, the 7mm Mauser or
    7mm Spanish Mauser/.275 Rigby was also developed and introduced in
    1892, the same year as the .30-40 Krag.

  8. avatarrevjen45 says:

    The Krag Carbine is also one of those beautifully balanced (meaning more than just center of gravity) rifles that just feels good in the hands. It is easy to carry, comes up to the eye well, operates smoothly, and is simply easy and fun to shoot. The magazine disconnect single shot mode is very similar to the Semi vs, full auto controversy of today. I would never feel poorly armed with a Krag.

  9. avatarCal says:

    “A little extra cash, and a little bit of work by a gunsmith, and voila, the military-trimmed Krags became handy little deer rifles. During the lean years of the Great Depression, a cheap, easily-sporterized surplus rifle could mean the difference between eating meat and potatoes or just potatoes, especially in the rural, hardscrabble parts of America.”
    True, but I still don’t see that “sporterizing” a rifle does anything to improve its ability to kill deer.

  10. avatarPhilip Maynard says:

    My Paternal Grandfather and his elder brother carried these with the Third Infantry Regiment in the Philippines in 1900. My son, the rifle collector, has one for himself. The truly are fine rifles.

  11. avatargbeecher says:

    Thank you for a fascinating look at a beautiful old rifle. I love looking over the old military surplus rifles at my local gun shop/range. I appreciate their history, and craftsmanship. By the way, I own a mosin nagant 1891/30 rifle built in russia circa 1933. believe me, the mosin is NOT smooth! It works as advertised, but I find myself slapping that bolt around most of the time.

  12. avatarJim says:

    Beautiful rifle. My father, brother, and I each own one Krag. Sort of an accidental tradition.

  13. avatarDavid Brenaman says:

    Thank you for the fine article on the Krag, I had to get mine out and fondle it as I watched your video. Mine was given to me by my father just a year before he passed. Dad bought it just after he came home from fighting in the Philippians 1945. from childhood I’ve always loved this gun and I’m sure my grandson will enjoy it also. Thankyou for the article and video clip.
    David Brenaman

  14. avatarLuckey Jim says:

    Just purchased a Krag —Marked US– model 1898 Springfield Armory.– Serial # 1632–. Unfortuanetly it has been beautifuly refinished but appears all original with the Parkhurst Devise. Any information that anyone can offer is greatly appreciated. Thanks, JIM

  15. avatarMike Theis says:

    Dang Roy,

    I have in my grubby paws a Krag Jorganson in .303 (not 30-03) that was supposedly made for the Canadians at the Springfield Arsenal and would like to know where can I go to find information on it. So far all I have found is dead ends. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  16. avatarMichigan David says:

    For Krag .30-40 military collectors…I have 11 bandoleers of Model 1898 ammunition dated June 1907 for sale. 10 of the bandoleers are still in the wooden box they came in from the Frankford Arsenal. Email me if you’re interested.

    • avatarCathy says:

      Hello! I am thinking about purchasing this rifle for my husband. I’m curious if you still have any of the ammunition for sale that you mentioned in this article. Thanks, Cathy

      • avatarray montero says:

        the ammo is still available. I bought some made by Remington not to long ago. cabela’s, scheels, & Huntington’s carried them.

    • avatarKodel orris says:

      Do you still have any 30-40 ammo left?

    • avatarwoody page says:

      Hi Dave,
      If you still have any Krag 30-40 for sale…
      Please let me know.
      Thanks
      W

  17. avatarRichard (Rick) Joyal Sr. says:

    I have a 1898 Model Krag. It has been cut down to carbine size, and reblued. How can you tell if the cutdown and blueing were done by the military?

  18. avatarStein N. Johansen says:

    Roy Hill: Very interesting – and heart warming – to read your little piece about the Krag US model 1898 in .30-40. You may know that the rifle was produced (Springfield) under a licence as the Krag rifle was designed and produced as a new, pure Norwegian army rifle- Model 1894 What you hold in your hand is the U S version of the Krag Jorgensen rifle, Mod 1894, in 6,5 x 55 Krag (centre fire) – and which calibre you Americans strangely enough describe as “6,5 Swedish Mauser”.
    The difference between the “ordinary” 6,5 x 55 and “6,5 x 55 Krag” is due to the Krag bolt being, as for your .30-40, designed with only one slud and thus must take loads of somewhat lower pressure.
    The Krag Jorgensen was still the army rifle in April 1940 when Hitler-Germany attacked Norway. The rifle shooting in Norway has been the biggest sport in the country for very long
    and the very same Krag rifle was the gun used. It is said that the Germans were disturbed
    by the many men amongst their losses that were shot with one bullet placed in the forehead, between the eyes. The presicion of the Krag rifle is very high, and much better than the German Mauser M98 – in both 8 x 57J and 30.06.
    Norway produced a considerable number of the rifle in secrecy between 1894 and 1905 which is said to be the reason why we got our independence back from Sweden without war. Simply because the Krag rifle was superior to the Swedish Army rifle at that time. The key reason was the “intriguing” magazine – which allowed the soldier to keep one round in the barrel ready for shooting immediately whilst he could re-fill or add rounds to the magazine at any time. The Mauser M98 has to be opened with the bolt withdrawn in order to load up new rounds…..Not a big issue today with modern weapons but you can easily imagine why that was considered a “revolution” in technology for army rifles then. The weakness of the Krag is water – if in the open and it rains (which it does in the fields every now and then) the precision would be affected – sometimes severely too (for range shooting) The trick was to pour water into receiver/magazine and keep the rounds in water too – and then adjust the sights. …and go on shooting again.
    Ok on the range – not always ok during a battle…..
    The Krag rifle with heavy barrel and new heavy stock for range shooting (weight abt 6 kilos
    with barrel of 21 mm (close to an inch, being 2,54 mm) is still in use by grumpy old men like myself. The Sauer 202 took over for the Krag as the competion rifle in the Norwegian shooting clubs back in the 80′ies (!!). I have two of those. You hardly find rifles with a smoother
    action still today. I love my Krag. Do love yours too ! If you need sever pare parts you may find some here – provided the Norwegian and the US models are compatible -apart from the diff between the calibres – and centre vs rim fire of the .30-40. Many range shooting rifles as mentioned as well can be obtained here at bargain prices as still many of them around in homes, stucked away or being sold or delivered to the police for destruction when the grumpy old grand father dies and the relatives know nothing about shooting….
    Love to tell you this – but of course chances are you know it all already – and perhaps much more too. I enjoyed your comments very much ! Take care!
    Horten, Norway 11/7 2012.

  19. avatarDrew Balentine says:

    I own one of these magnificent weapons. It was my grandfathers and he purchased is after WWI. The rifle helped to feed his family through the great depression and was almost always the first rifle that any of the grandsons fired. Great weapon, great memories and great tradition!

    I would like to know if any of the more modern 30 cal rounds can be used in the 30-40 Krag 1898 Springfield without damage to the weapon

  20. avatarTerry Ball says:

    I have a Krag with similar markings as yours. My stamp on the stock however reads 1899, zero number is 108***. The barrel is Marked Springfield Armory 1898.

    The rifle belonged to my grandfather who served in WW1, passed down to my father, and then to me. It has the original brown leather shoulder strap.

    How much do you think it is worth? I’m trying to scrape up enough money to buy an FN 57.

  21. avatarRobert K. Tompsett says:

    My uncle had a Krag Jorganson and left it at my house, for years. I later traded it off for a cool looking bicycle when i was 15. Sure wish I had it now.

  22. We have a 1898 Krag for sale, it was used by my husband’s Great grandfather in the Spanish American War, and the difference between ours is that the barrel was not cut off. If any are interested please call 503-268-1851 and ask for Jeff or Joni. My husband wanted me to tell everyone that the stock is in excellent shape, and it has not been reconditioned. It also comes with the sight, original bullets, and matches in the bottom of the gun that were there from his Great grandfathers time. It has only had two owners, Jeff’s Great grandfather and Jeff. It is being posted on AntiqueFirearmsGunBroker.com

    Also, wanted to thank Roy for the excellent write up!! Very informative!! Some stuff I knew some I didn’t! Thanks!!!

  23. avatarEd says:

    I owned a Krag back in 56, just before going into the army. It was also a sporterized version. It has the smoothest bolt action of any gun I have tried or owned. But 22 years later on leaving the Army I found the folks, needing the money had sold it. So when another sporterized Krag became available I bought it. As far as I am concerned it’s as fine a rifle as was made. I saw a program where the Krag was being matched to an 1903, the video showed how the 03 loaded so much quicker – but the doofus loading the Krag pulled single rounds from a belt rather then from a pouch by the hand full. On of the responders here also tells how to correctly load a Krag.

  24. avatarKen Brecht says:

    I also have a Krag. This rifle was given to my Dad by a member of VFW in the 1950′s. Dad used it to put meat on the table for a long time. Only trouble is he had the barrel cut down and a commercial front sight added. I’ve reloaded and shot this wonderful rifle. Keep lots of ammo available.

  25. avatarRaymund Brown says:

    Great article on the 30-40 Krag! My Dad willed his pristine Krag-Jorgensen 6.5x55mm to me and I was greatly appreciative to him for that. I first gained my love of older military weapons from him (he was a Korean war vet) and later went on to have a full military career of my own and was in the first gulf war. I now own many various military weapons of which the Krag is one of my favorites. I do have to put in a plug for the Finnish M39 carbines of the late 60′s to early 70′s. they have been some of the most accurate and yes, smooth action rifles I have owned and I am the proud owner of both an original 1915 M91 U.S. Mosin Nagant (U.S. Westinghouse) and a 1969 M39. Both of these are rare and highly sought after now. (My Krag still wins my heart however) I also like very much my Swedish Mauser made in 1908, which unfortunately was sporterized, but well done. Thanks for a great article!!

  26. avatarpaul fridell says:

    I have a Krag – all original – dated 1903 that I purchased complete with leather sling, also dated 1903, in 1968. The stacking swivel has a broken arm. I would like to purchase a replacement – must be original and not a repro. Any help on where I might find this part would be appreciated.

    • avatarTerry ball says:

      I have an original Krag with original leather sling. Belonged to my grandfather. It’s operational. In good condition. It has not been modified since he was issued it on the way overseas in WWI. The last time it was fired was in the late 1950′s.

      Been in a case ever since.

      Will sell or trade. I am looking for a new high end AR15 equipped with a slide fire stock.

  27. avatarRon Tully says:

    I too have a Krag that is marked 1898 with a serial number #1245**

    The rifle I have was brought to a local shop and I was told it is in excellent condition for rifle this age. If anyone is interested you can send me an e mail ay tront1812@aol.com.

    I believe his would be better off in a collectors hands or a hunter then sitting uin my closet.

  28. avatarChuck McMillan says:

    What is a Model 1898 Army Krag worth today in good-condition? Can anybody tell me? I’ve been trying to find out on the Internet but to no-avail.

  29. avatarDoug Burton says:

    I appreciated the article and responses on the Krag rifle. I’ve inherited (by request) my grandpa’s rifle. I don’t know it’s earliest history, but it’s family history means a lot to me. Back in the Depression era, my great-granddad fed his family year-round on venison. As soon as he was old enough, the hunting was turned over to Grandpa along with the 30-40 Krag rifle. Grandpa said that since they didn’t have refrigeration in the hills, it took about a deer a week to feed the family. I remember him using the Krag on family deer hunts when I was a kid. He had it the day I got my first buck at age 12. I’m sure he had it along on my daughters first deer season, (1984) she was 2 months old that trip. That was also Grandpa’s last deer hunt. When my dad gave me the Krag a couple years ago, I told Grandpa that I would be taking it after deer. He said “It’s a good gun, last time I shot it, it killed a buck. Not long before Grandpa passed on last year at 95, my cousin Clyde was asking about those days. Grandpa’s comment was “you wouldn’t believe how many deer that rifle killed”.

    It turns out the gun is fairly worn down. The first time I shot it, It put 5 shots in a 4″ group around the bullseye at 100 yds. That’s good enough for deer. Unfortunately, each shell casing had serious signs of what a gunsmith identified as case separation caused by too much head spacing in the chamber. It’s shot out. He recomends re-chambering and re-barreling to make it safe and accurate.

    I think I’ll have it re-chambered (30-40 of course) to make it safe. Re-barrel ? Last time Grandpa shot it, it was still good enough. I just want to take it back to the woods after deer now and then. My daughter and son both want to try it also. They like the idea of carrying their great-grandpa’s AND great-great grandfather’s rifle!

  30. I have an 1898 30-40 Krag (Springfield) left to me by my father. He told me once that he shot a buzzard
    (I know,it is illegal) at a distance of one half mile. I realized early on that the rifle was very accurate.
    In 1995, one of my first cousins told me the circumstances of the shot. He and his father ran a
    country store in rural Georgia, outside Wrightsville, and my father,his uncle, rolled up one Saturday
    morning in his new 1936 Ford 2 door sedan. It was a custom,long ago,that people gathering at
    country stores to pay their bills would have impromptu target shoots. My father drove up, got out of
    hios car, looked at what was going on, and said words to this effect:”Boys,you want me to show you
    how to hit that buzzard?”) He then reached in the back seat of the 1936 Ford, brought out the Krag,
    leaned over the hood of the car and fired one shot. The buzzard fell. My father said words to the effect:(Go get your buzzard.). It was at a surveyed distance of 917 yards, 37 yards more than my father
    told me. I was told this by 2 reliable witnesses who were ther,witnessed the shot, and the measurement
    to determine the distance. I also own another Krag(sporterized, that I still use for deer hunting..JCM

    • James;
      Not to dispute your word on the story you tell but, I’ve owned a .30-40 Army Krag back in the 1960′s…..
      I found it rather a large hunk of boat-anchor at that. I hunted deer several years up in Montana with this rifle and found it to be somewhat reliable even with a 30-cal. round and a 220gr. bullet. They carried round-nose bullets which wasn’t very accurate for long range shooting and never bucked the wind worth a darn. How do you know the condition of the weather at that time and atmospheric conditions to say that that buzzard was nailed at 1/2-mile (2640′) =880yds. and without a scope with a bullet- drop compensator built into it might be for some hard to swallow. That rifle shoots 150-220 gr. bullets depending on the type of bullet, has only 1,000ft/sec. difference between 150gr. and 220gr. (depending on the powder and charge you use also). I’ve seen deer and a few elk missed at 325-400yds. with the krag…..and using a 180gr. spritzer BT…The buzzard I think might be a little hard in visibility to see at 880yrds….Not saying it couldn’t be possible, but more than likely not probable.

  31. avatarbkmeis says:

    Roy,
    Your story was enjoyable, entertaining and sincere. Well written. I came across it while I was researching the S/N of a Krag that a friend is wanting to get rid of. All original, EXCELLENT shape and DOM of 1899. When I get it (and I will), I hope to have as much fun and passion for it as you do yours.

    bkmeis

  32. avatarCLIFF says:

    I became an owner of a U.S. Springfield Armory-1898 through a death of a neighbor. I don’t know much about it, but I’m reading lots of good things from all on you. As of now, I don’t know what size shell it takes. A 30 cal. will fit into the chamber nice but I don’t know if it’s the right shell to shoot. Guess I will better take it to Cabelas and have it checked out?

  33. avatarJoe Davis says:

    Interesting article. I also have a 34-40 Craig, model 1898, serial 404266, that my dad used for deer hunting. This one did not escape “the saws and files of the sporterizers and the choppers who are today snarkily referred to as “Bubba” by internet gunnies,” but it is still a beautiful gun. Dad took meticulous care of it and I remember him rebluing it. While it may not be worth much on the market, it is priceless to me. I have never fired it myself, and I have a box of ammo, so some day I may take it to the range.
    I saw one (looked line a cut down version) on American Pickers this week with a low serial number, that an appraiser valued at $2,000. While mine may not be worth much on the market, it is priceless to me. I have never fired it myself, and I have a box of ammo, so some day I may take it to the range.

  34. avatarCathy says:

    My dad has a KRAG 1898 chrome plated parade rifle. Could anyone tell us the value? It is in original mint condition.

  35. avatarNathanael says:

    Nice review. Not sure if anyone pointed this out. I live in norway, and the Krags here dont use a rimed cartridge. loading and chambering goes a lot smoother with out rimmed cartrides on thoose krags;)

  36. avatarBill says:

    I also have a chrome model 1898 US Springfield SN365***. Can these be fired.

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