South African Trophy Rifle 3


By Henry Firmston

The register of South African Trophy Rifles, which started last year, has to date recorded only 68 rifles of which 61 are SAT marked.

The non-SAT marked rifles include, one Guedes, a Lee Enfield carbine, and five L Loewe Mausers.

The SAT rifles are mainly Mausers (47) with a few (8) Martini-Henry actioned rifles (2 Westley Richards, 3 BSA, 3 Webley).

The first 25,000 (20,000 rifles & 5,000 carbines) Mausers were ordered by the ZAR on 2nd June 1896, at price of 3 pounds each, landed at Pretoria station. The rifles have a straight bolt handle.

These Mausers were marked; Mod. Mauser 1896. Ludw. Loewe & Co. Berlin

Ludwig Loewe merged with Deutsche Metallparonenfabrik to become Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken in late 1896.

The second batch of 2,000 Mauser rifles for the ZAR was ordered on 13th February 1897. These rifles have straight bolt handles and are marked; Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken Berlin

The third batch of 8,000 rifles and 2,000 carbines were ordered on 20th April 1897.

A further batch of 3,000 rifles was ordered on 23rd June 1899 and on 9th September a further batch of 1,000 rifles were ordered.

The last batch of 1,000 rifles were stopped by the British blockade. These rifles have a turned down bolt handle.

The OVS ordered their first batch of 400 Mausers on 30th April 1896. The OVS rifles all have OVS stamped above the serial number.
The rifles were marked; Mod. Mauser 1895. Ludw. Loewe & Co. Berlin

In July 1896 a second order for 1,500 Mausers was placed and on 30th November a third batch of 1,000 Mausers was ordered.
The second batch was marked; Mod Mauser 1896. Ludw. Loewe & Co. Berlin

The third batch was marked; Mod Mauser 1897. Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken

These rifles have the DWM monogram on the receiver ring.

In May 1897 a further batch of 1,000 rifles was ordered, these rifles were marked; Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken Berlin

In July 1897 a further 500 Mausers were ordered and were marked in the same way. These rifles were ordered with turned down bolt handles.

There are five further purchases of Mausers by the OVS.

1,000 13/5/1898
1,000 10/10/1898
1,000 26/5/1899
500 6/7/1899
510 29/8/1899

A further 1,000 rifles were ordered late in 1899 but they were intercepted by the British blockade.

The Mausers are almost equally divided between, Ludwig Loewe (22) and DWM (20), manufacture.

Loewe manufactured rifles: of these the lowest recorded SAT number is 34 (B3602) and the highest is SAT 1033. There are only two OVS marked Loewe manufactured rifles listed.

One Loewe rifle SAT 515 (B7300) is shown on a blog web site in the USA. SAT 93 (A9771) appears in David George’s book “Carvings from the Veldt” as does another Loewe rifle (A9309 non- SAT). All Loewe manufactured rifles should have straight bolt handles. Loewe rifles manufactured for the ZAR have a single letter prefix to the serial number. All OVS rifles should have a serial number with an OVS prefix.

DWM manufactured rifles: of the SAT marked DWM rifles, twelve are marked OVS and seven have no prefix. There is one carbine (SAT 251). The lowest recorded SAT number is 32 (OVS 7423) and the highest is SAT 910.

DWM rifles manufactured for the ZAR have no letter prefix and the serial numbering was not continued from the earlier Ludwig Loewe manufactured series.

DWM rifles, made for the OVS, have serial numbers that continue from the earlier Loewe manufactured rifle serial number range. OVS Mausers of DWM manufacture, with serial numbers above OVS 3901, were supplied with turned down bolt handles. All Mauser carbines and sporting rifles have turned down bolt handles also. All Boer Mausers are 7 x 57mm calibre.

The Guedes is a non-SAT rifle but is unusual and worthy of mention. The Guedes was the design of a Portuguese army Captain Luiz Fausto de Castro Guedes Dias, and is not dissimilar to the Martini action in function. The Portuguese government ordered 40,000 rifles from Steyr in March 1886. In July 1886 the Portuguese cancelled the contract and Steyr were left with 18,000 rifles, so Steyr claimed! It is believed that only some 10,000 rifles were assembled, of those 7505 were purchased by the ZAR. The ZAR placed their first order for Guedes in 1893 and further orders were placed until 1896. The Guedes fires an 8 x 60R cartridge that was originally loaded with black-powder and was later manufactured as a smokeless cartridge.

The Guedes is marked ZAR and has a serial number of 2514. The Guedes rifle was well liked by the Boers at first, but some problems with the ammunition caused a change of opinion. The OVS were supplied some Guedes by the ZAR, but didn’t purchase any of their own.

The Martini-Henry rifles were first ordered by the ZAR in 1888. The first 3,000 rifles were manufactured by BSA. In January 1889 BSA received further orders for 3,000 rifles and 2,000 carbines. In March 1889 a further order of 5,000 rifles was placed.

In 1891 another 2,000 rifles were ordered, these rifles were made in Belgium. The Belgium manufactured rifles were of very poor quality and do not form part of the 13,000 Martinis ordered through Kynoch. Martini-Henrys were also manufactured by Steyr.

These Martini-Henry rifles were known by the Boers as, “vier pound Martini” (£4 Martini). The price to purchase one from the ZAR government. There are three BSA manufactured Martini-Henry rifles listed (SAT 516, 637, 657).

The Westley Richards improved Martini-Henry rifles were ordered by the ZAR from 1896 until 1899, in fact right up to the start of the Boer War. The first order was for 10,000 rifles, later changed to 8,000 rifles and 2,000 carbines. The first 1,650 rifles supplied were of British government pattern. Further orders resulted in a total of 30,000 Westley Richards improved Martini-Henry rifles being purchased by the ZAR. These are marked “Specially made for the ZAR”.

There are two Westley Richards manufactured Martini- Henry rifles listed, both are marked ZAR. Their SAT numbers are SAT 102 and 118.

The OVS ordered 1,000 Westley Richards carbines in 1883. In the period 1895-97 the OVS acquired approximately 3,500 Westley Richards rifles.

Webley & son supplied 1,500 rifles to the OVS in 1896. These rifles are of the Mk II military Martini-Henry pattern.

There are three Webley & Son manufactured rifles listed. Two are OVS marked SAT 134 and SAT 402 (OVS 361). SAT 710 is unmarked.

The OVS had approximately 12,300 Martini-Henry actioned rifles and carbines. All Boer Martini-Henry rifles were in .577 / 450″ calibre.

At present I am awaiting further information on some of the rifles. In other cases the rifle details are gleaned from old magazines and unless the rifle comes to light in someone’s collection the information to date is all that we may ever know. I need to thank all those members who have generously shared their rifle details and information with me. I would be happy to receive any further rifle details or further information about rifles that are currently listed.

The best book on small arms of the Boer War is Ron Bester’s “Small Arms of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902” which can be purchased from the South African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association. Look for their web page (SAA&ACA) on the net.

Sandra Rogers at also has copies available.

The book “Carvings from the Veldt” by Dave George has illustrations and historic details of “carved” Boer War rifles. With little to do as they sat around outside Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley many Boers spent some time “personalising” their rifles, by carving on the stocks. After the war some colonial soldiers also decorated their rifles, before they left South Africa or on the long voyage home. These rifles make wonderful studies for Boer War collectors, often the original owner can be identified, which makes them more interesting. Three of the non-SAT Mausers listed are held by Te Papa ( Loewe #B5011, Loewe #A6763, DWM #OVS3480) and all have been “carved” by their original owners. HF.
Published NZ Antique Arms Gazette, December 2005 pages 9 & 16