Print this page

Dutch hand-guns


In the 1890's all armies in Europe were modifying their standard infantry weapons. In Germany the Mauser rifle, in the UK the Enfield rifle and in France the Lebel. The Dutch selected the Steyr rifle.

At 4 December 1895 the Dutch army selected the new standard rifle for its army: the Mannlicher-Steyr M.95 based on the Mannlicher bolt-action system.

Technical description

The new selected Steyr rifle was state of the art in 1895. It was a fast bolt-action rifle with calibre 8 mm. The Dutch selected the lighter 6,5 mm full metal cartridge and calibre. Compared to the previous standard rifle - the Beaumont with calibre 11 mm - it was quite a change. The rifle - and related carabines - served as the standard rifle for the Dutch army in The Netherlands, the NEI and other colonies as well as for the Royal Dutch Navy until after WWII. The weapon was designated as the rifle [or carabine] M.95.

The new rifle was a product of its time. It had a calibre 6,5 mm, a barrel length of 0,79 metre and an overall length of 1,28 metre. The unloaded weapon weighted 4,2 kg, which was quite acceptable. The adjustable vizier could be set in a range from 400 metre up to and including 2,000 metre, in steps of 100 metre. The gun itself was made out of a wooden butt and stock and a nickel-steel barrel and mechanical parts.

The bolt-action was the feature that was typical for the rifle-revolution in the late 1890's and early 1900's. Previously rifles had been single projectile loaded weapons or troublesome preliminary designs preceding the bolt-action designs of the 1890's. Also the introduction of cartridge ammunitions had contributed to this late 19 century rifle revolution. Both features combined led to the introduction of the modern bolt-action rifles with (usually) five round magazines.

The ammunition used by the M.95 was quite new. The size- and type specification was 6.5 x 53.5 R. The first represented the calibre, the second the length of the cartridge casing [indicating the powder content of the cartridge]. The added R stands for rim. Rimmed ammunition had a rim at the flange of the cartridge that had a larger diameter than the cartridge itself. The rim was applied for the extraction procedure; the extractor made use of the rim to empty the casing after the shot had been fired.

The 6.5 x 53.5 R ammunition was used for all Dutch rifles and carabines and the majority of the Lewis M.20 light machineguns. Also the heavy machinegun Schwarzlose - that was introduced in the army in 1908 - was initially executed with a calibre of 6.5 mm, but later reinstated as 7,9 mm weapon.

The projectile itself was an extended full metal jacket, rounded type. It stayed highly homogeneous during flight and impact. These characteristics proved advantageous for the accuracy of the projectile, but disadvantageous for inflicting adequate damage or stopping power upon impact, particularly over short distances. Over these short distances the projectile would have so much energy that it usually left the body (or the object) in the same shape as it entered, as such not transmitting much energy on the target, thus often not immobilizing it. This meant that multiple hits were often required before a target was put out of action. There are quite a number of incidents known, where German wounded had been hit five or more times by rifle bullets and lived to tell, due to the minimum of damage done by the bullets.

Click here for larger picture
Steyr-Hembrug M.95 bolt-section

The limited effect of the 6,5 mm full metal jacket projectile was subject of investigation in 1910, after reports had been received from the NEI that the impact of the ammunition seemed to be poor. The committee of investigation concluded that a calibre upgrade to 7.92 mm was required and the rounded full metal jacket projectile had to be altered to a pointed full metal jacket. Both changes [calibre and shape] would however not be executed for reasons unknown today. The heavy machineguns that were in service were however all modified to calibre 7.92 mm as off 1925.

The initial orders for the new rifle were all awarded to the Oesterreichische Waffenfabriks Gesellschaft [OWG] in Steyr, Austria. The ammunition was soon produced in Holland after a dedicated production facility had been constructed to produce the new cartridges. As off 1904 the Dutch national defence industry [Artillery Inrichtingen, later also called Hembrug] produced the rifles on a license of OWG.

A great variety of carabines [shorter barrel] was also produced. Basically all non-infantry units required a special carabine version and as such many variants were manufactured. Later these many variants were reduced to four basic versions. These new model carabines received an extension to the type typical: Carabine no.1 [cavalry], no.2 [artillery and engineers], no.3 [bike-infantry] and no.4 new model [bike-infantry]. In the end the old models were also kept in the arsenals and again a new type was introduced in 1937, when the surplus of rifles was modified to a shorter barrel carabine, designated no.5. Since the old types were not phased out the Dutch army ended up [in 1940] with no less than 9 types of carabines! Since these weapons all used the same ammo and clips it did not matter for the weapon logistics.

The M.95 rifle was a very accurate and reliable weapon. If proper maintenance attention was given it would hardly ever fail the applicant. Even intensive use or shock didn't hamper the bolt action. The accuracy within regular infantry fighting distance [50-350 metre] was extremely high. A well trained or talented shooter would be very effective with this weapon, but even poorly trained men soon got the hang of it. Compared to the German standard rifle [Mauser K.98] the M.95 was an even match. But the effectiveness of the German 7,92 mm ammo was much higher, particularly in the sub 100 m range.

The rifle and carabine both operated with a five-cartridge clip. After five shots the clip was automatically ejected, after which a new clip could be loaded.

Infantry men received a wartime ammo ration of 120 rounds, usually divided over two ammo containers on the belt. The majority of support units had 60 rounds in small containers worn around the belt. This quantity could vary for certain services. NCO's and corporals often had deviating quantities on them, and police- and MP units were only distributed 40 rounds each.

The M.95 rifles and carabines which were captured intact after the Dutch capitulation were often re-used by the Germans [Gewehr 211]. It was quite similar to Bulgarian, Hungarian, Greek and Italian rifles that also made use of the Mannlicher system. Secondary units were equipped with the weapons and probably quite considerable loads were distributed amongst volunteer units and Axis allies.


Manufacturer(s): Oesterreichische Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft - Steyr Austria
Artillery Inrichtingen Hembrug - Netherlands
Calibre: 6.5 mm
Ammo: 6.5 x 53.5 mm R, round extended full metal jacket
Barrel length: 79 cm
Overall length [ex bayonet]: - M.95 rifle: 1643 mm [1287 mm]
- M95 carabine no.4: 1442 mm [951 mm]
Weight [ex bayonet]: - M.95 rifle: 4.6 kg [4.2 kg]
- M95 carabine no.4: 3.85 kg [3.37 kg]
Introduction: 1895
Quantity in May 1940: 400.000 off M.95 rifles and carabines


The Dutch had quite a number of pistols and revolvers in their arsenals. In the army basically three types were in use, being the good old revolver NM.73 (revised version) and two calibres of Browning license FN pistols, in calibres 7.65 mm and 9 mm. The navy had other types, which we shall not describe for the available amounts were very limited.

Click here for larger picture

The revolver NM.73 was an old Beaumont-Adams fist-weapon of 9.4 (x 21.R) mm. A fury in the hand while fired and in comparison to the semi-automatic Browning pistols an outdated weapon. It was mainly in use with non-com outfits, like drivers, medics, intendants and officers with staff functions.

The 7.65 [x 17 mm, or .32 ACP] mm Browning semi-automatic pistol was a model 1910 hand-weapon. The Dutch army procured these at the Belgian manufacturer Fabrique National [FN] and designated the weapon as M.25 no.1. It's relative size and quite accurate fire made it a popular weapon in the resistance movement during the war.

Click here for larger picture
Standard FN pistol

The 9 mm [x 17 mm, or .380 ACP] Browning semi-automatic pistol was introduced in the Dutch army in 1933 and designated M.25 no.2. It had a slightly longer barrel and was more effective than its smaller brother.

Both FN types were used by those combattants equipped with a pistol, like officers, machinegunners, support functions and military police. Besides the revolver, no other pistol types were used in the army. That was not the case for other branches.

The navy made use of the Borchardt-Luger, the Browning Model 1903 and Sauer Model 1930, besides the FN M.25 no. 1.

Additionally it was the navy first being interested in procuring sub-machineguns for its Marines. They bought 150 off Schmeisser MP-28 Type II. The Dutch NEI army had already about 2,000 Thompson sub-machineguns in use. Unfortunately the sub-machineguns were all procured for use in the tropics.