It was sung about in countless Macedonian folk songs – The Mannlicher Rifle, popularly called among Macedonians “Manliherka”. And indeed, the Macedonian fighters could consider themselves lucky back then if they owned such a modern weapon for the time.
Basically, the Macedonian insurgents carried and used all the weapons that could be found on the black market at that time or that were taken from the killed opponents. But everyone wanted to call the Mannlicher Model 1895 their own.
In a Macedonian folk song called “Izlezi, stara majko” the rifle is even sung as “the most reliable wife of the Insurgents”.
The Mannlicher Model 1895 rifle is a bolt action rifle with a straight pull bolt and was manufactured in Austria by the Steyr Mannlicher company and in Hungary by the Budapest rifle factory. Originally the M95 was developed as a long infantry rifle for the Austro-Hungarian army, but during the First World War the army command recognized the great disadvantage of these “long” rifles in the trenches and adapted it to a carbine.
The Mannlicher M1895 model has a straight pull lock, with this straight pull system a faster sequence of shots was possible than with rifles with the Mauser cylinder lock system. The exclusively straight repeating movement, without additional pivoting movement, enabled up to 35 rounds per minute.
The cartridge is fed with a loading frame with five cartridges each, these are pushed into the magazine box from above when the lock is open. When empty, the loading frame falls to the floor through an opening at the bottom of the magazine. However, this opening also meant that the rifle is sensitive to dirt. However, the weapon could also be used as a single loader without a loading frame, like other models carried by the freedom fighters.
This magazine box makes it possible to recognize the “Manliherka” on old pictures of Macedonian freedom fighters.
The American journalist Albert Sonnichsen traveled to Macedonia and wrote his impressions under the title “Confessions of a Macedonian bandit”. In one passage he describes the meeting of the Macedonian freedom fighters with Ottoman troops that were covered with Mannlicher projectiles.
When the soldiers came back they were ignorant of what had happened until a volley of Mannlicher bullets ripped through the high swamp cane and carried death to some and enlightenment to others. One young oficeR, more dense than his fellows, shouted: “We are asker! Kim sins sis?” The answer came out of the cane brake: “We are comitlara! Hurrah!”Confessions of a Macedonian bandit – Albert Sonnichsen
Other rifles widely used among the Macedonian freedom fighters were the Russian Berdan (“Berdanka”) – the Berdan II in particular was popular and was also celebrated. It was accurate, easy to maintain and easy to use as it did not have a complicated system. It is worth mentioning that this Russian rifle was once designed by an American. The French Lebel 1886 which was a bit complicated to load and the predecessor rifle of the French Army Gras Model 1874.
Several captured rifles of the German Mauser Type 98 from Ottoman production were also among the fighters. Another German rifle was also used – the well known Gewehr 88.
In Tetovo and Debar they were very skilled in their craft, so that many of these models and the Mannlicher rifle were copied. However, it was impossible to produce a large number of copies, but these copies were of high quality.