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Ethiopian military rifle cartridges: Part 2: from Mauser to Kalashnikov.

After their victory at the Battle of Adowa, the Abyssinians purchased additional weapons, both obsolete and modern. The former included ex-Dutch Infanterij-Geweer M.71 Beaumonts, while most of the latter were German and Austrian-made Infanteriegewehr 88 Commission rifles obtained from German and Belgian arms dealers.

* Scherpe patroon No. 2--the 11mm Beaumont cartridge used a 345-grain lead bullet and 60-grain charge of blackpowder for a muzzle velocity of 1476 fps. While some sources state the case was 51mm in length, while others insist it was 1.5mm longer. Photos show these rifles in use as late as 1936.

* 7.9mm Patrone 88--Germany's first smokeless powder cartridge, it used a rimless, bottlenecked case 57mm long, loaded with a .318" diameter, 227-grain round nosed gull metal-jacketed bullet that was driven to a velocity of 2035 fps.


In the aftermath of the Great War, the world was awash in surplus weaponry, and the Abyssinians took advantage of the glutted market to obtain more modern weapons. Besides additional Italian Mo. 1891s, they purchased various German Infanteriegewehr 98 Mausers, Austrian Repetiergewehr M.95 Mannlichers, British P-14s and Lee-Enfields.

* .303 Mark VI & VII--the Abyssinians used both the Mark VI and Mark VII cartridges. Both had rimmed, bottlenecked cases 56mm long but the former had 215-grain round-nosed FMJ bullet moving at 2050 fps, while the latter was loaded with a 174-grain FMJ, flat-based, spitzer-type bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2440 fps.

* 8mm M. 1893 scharfe Patrone--the ex-Austrian Mannlichers used a round with a rimmed, bottlenecked case measuring 50mm loaded with 43 grains of powder that pushed its 244-grain FMJ, round-nosed bullet to 2035 fps.

* 7.9mm Patrone S--in 1903 the German army adopted the Patrone S for use in the Infanteriegewehr 98 Mauser. It used the same 57mm case of the Patrone 88 but was loaded with a .323" diameter FMJ, spitzer bullet weighing 154 grains that a progressive burning powder pushed to 2940 fps.

In 1930 Halle Selassie became emperor and set in motion a belated attempt to modernize his country's armed forces. In addition to obtaining modern artillery and aircraft, rifles and automatic weapons were purchased from German, Czech and Belgian manufacturers. Apparently, issue was limited to the Imperial Guard and the more reliable units of the regular army.

* 7.9mm Patrone sS--most of the new rifles were 98-type Mausers chambered for the 7.gmm Patrone sS. Developed late in World War I for use in machine guns, the sS (schweres Spitzgeschoss--heavy pointed bullet) used the standard 57mm rimless, bottlenecked case but with a 198-grain FMJ, boattail, spitzer bullet moving at 2575 fps Its greater sectional density and aerodynamic shape allowed it to retain velocity over greater distances in addition to providing enhanced accuracy.


In 1935, Mussolini used a border incident as an excuse to invade Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia). The country was quickly overrun and Haile Selassie fled to Europe, where he appealed to the League of Nations for help. None was forthcoming and the Italians remained in Ethiopia until World War II erupted and they were expelled by British troops and Ethiopian irregulars in 1941. Haile Selassie returned to his country and resumed imperial rule.

In the postwar period Ethiopia became allied with the western powers and the army was reequipped with U.S. weapons, including M1903, M 1917 and M1 Garand rifles. Ethiopian troops served with distinction as part of the UN forces during the Korean War where they were issued quantities of U.S. M1 Carbines.


* Cartridge Ball, Cal. 30 M2--the U.S. rifles supplied to Ethiopia were chambered for the Caliber .30 M2 cartridge (.30-'06), a rimless, bottlenecked case 2.494" (63mm) long containing a 150-grain FMJ, spitzer bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2800 fps.

* .30 Carbine--the .30 Carbine cartridge consisted of a rimless, tapered case loaded with a round-nosed, 110-grain FMJ bullet moving at 1970 fps. While ballistically unimpressive, the lightweight, easy-handling Carbines were very popular weapons.

In 1961 the province of Eritrea rebelled against the central government, leading to a 30-year civil war. Eritrean rebels were supplied by Muslim nations via the Sudan and apparently obtained French weapons from neighboring Djibouti, including the Fusil Automatique M1e: 1949/56.

* Cartouche 7.5mm Modele 1929 C-the M1e. 1949/56's cartridge consisted of a rimless, bottlenecked case 54mm in length loaded with a 140-grain full metal-jacketed spitzer bullet at a rated muzzle velocity of 2700 fps.

As Cold War tensions increased, the U.S. and Soviet Union began vying for influence in Africa. This usually included supplying client states with up-to-date weapons and advisors.


* 7.62mm NATO-among the weaponry supplied to the Ethiopians were U.S. M14 rifles. These were chambered for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge that consisted of a rimless, bottlenecked case 51mm long and a 148-grain boattail, FMJ bullet at a velocity of 2750 fps. Quantities of Heckler & Koch G3A3 rifles were also obtained at this time.

Continuing civil conflicts, dissatisfaction with the economic and political situations led to Haile Selassie being overthrown by a military coup led by Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974. The leftist military junta broke ties with the USA and became involved in a disastrous war with neighboring Somalia.

In desperation, Mengistu aligned the country with the USSR, which provided large quantities of weapons and military advisors. Some of the first weapons received from the USSR were antiquated Mosin-Nagant obr. 1944g carbines. Cuban mercenaries were brought in to assist in the fighting against Somalia and to prop up Mengistu.


* 7.62mm patron PS--during the Cold War years, Soviets updated the venerable 7.62x54R cartridge. While the new round still used the a 54mm rimmed, bottlenecked case, it was loaded with a 147-grain FMJ boattail, spitzer bullet with a steel core surrounded by an envelope of lead (to ease the bullet's passage through the bore) inside a steel jacket plated with a copper/zinc alloy. Muzzle velocity was 2800 fps.

* 7.62mm Patron obr. 1943g--the Ethiopians also received large numbers of SKS, AK-47 and AKM pattern weapons firing the Soviet 7.62mm Patron obr. 43g. This consists of a rimless, bottlenecked case 39mm long whose 122-grain FML spitzer bullet is pushed 2330 fps.


Despite repeated intervention by Cuban troops, Mengistu found himself beset With a discontented population, famine, and civil war. In 1991, rebel forces seized the capital and Mengistu fled the country. The new government recognized the independence of Eritrea and Ethiopia was declared a democratic republic.

I would like to thank the following persons for supplying photos and information used to prepare this article: Lou Behling, Astrid Vallati, Rudy D Angelo, Ron Azzi, and Robert Ball.

Photos by: Lou Behling
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:6ETHI
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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