Tuesday, December 24, 2013

You've had enough; I'm cutting you off.

Photo by Oleg Volk
Behold the Webley & Scott Pistol Self-Loading .455 Mk.I N.

The magazine release is in the heel position, but it operates via pushbutton. There are two holes in the rear of the magazine. Push the release and pull the magazine down until it locks in the second hole, so that the top round is low enough that it won't be engaged by the slide.

Now the absence of a cartridge in the feedway will cause the slide to lock to the rear after each shot. When the slide locks to the rear, drop another loose cartridge through the large open square ejection port on the top of the slide and thumb the release and then shoot another spear-wielding savage trying to close with His Majesty's troops.

If it looks like the wogs are about to overrun your position, press the magazine release again and seat the magazine fully home so that you may go to rapid fire from the reserve rounds in the magazine. Be sure to save the last cartridge for yourself and God save the King!

Photo by Oleg Volk
Much is made of the magazine cutoffs found on early British, American, and French repeaters, usually by people who think that every great weapon ever invented originated between the Rhine and the Elbe. "The Mauser '93 was designed to be fired from the magazine only, without a cutoff!"

The Mauser 71/84 sure had one, though, and from a certain standpoint, these made a sort of sense at the time, at least within the context of the issuing nations 19th Century military experiences.

When you're manning a fort with a company of infantry in the Khyber Pass, southern Algeria, or the New Mexico Territory, and each case of fat, heavy .45-70 or 11mm cartridges has to come by mule from a distant port or railhead, fire discipline becomes kind of a Big Thing, because disciplined use of those thundersticks is the only thing standing between you and getting overrun by the locals.

The M1903 and SMLE were issued to armies whose experience was subduing natives on distant frontiers across the oceans; the Gewehr 88 and 98 were issued to troops who were going to fight the enemy across the Rhine. By that time the last rifles with cutoffs were actually in use, a time when transport was becoming more motorized and individual cartridges smaller and lighter, the magazine cutoff had become a vestigial thing, but it did originate for a reason.


Scott J said...

What's with the big oval hole in the side of the '03 receiver?

My '03-A3 has no such thing.

Tam said...

That is an M1903 Mark I. Google and be amazed! ;)

Boat Guy said...

I could see the magazine cutoff being of some utility if one were individually gonna engage some folks while moving about between cover. If you're only gonna shoot one round and then move (and theoretically save your brass) then the modern bushwhacker might - emphasis might - find it a useful feature.
I'm still hopelessly enamoured of my A3's and can't imagine a single change I'd make to them.

mikee said...

From the perspective of a Minister of Supply Logistics, the ability to restrain the enthusiasm of the unwashed troopers' regarding use of Her Majesty's brass, lead and powder surely seemed a good thing.

Up on the Khyber, keeping Johnny Wog's knives away from cutting distance through used of a hail of lead might have seemed a bit more important, to any given unwashed trooper.

It is the eternal conflict of the bean counters versus the employee trying to do a job, and it will never really end.

Tam said...


You miss my point.

It has nothing to do with bean counters or saving Her Majesty's brass, it's that we have 100 rounds per man here at Fort Assendonowhere, and the nearest resupply is a week away by muleback.

You will shoot at the wog when and only when Sergeant Smythe tells you to. Wait for it!

Scott J said...

"That is an M1903 Mark I. Google and be amazed"

I wondered after I posted my question if it had something to do with a Pedersen device. I don't know much about those since they cost way more than I'd ever be willing to spend :)

Scott J said...

"I'm still hopelessly enamoured of my A3's and can't imagine a single change I'd make to them"

So said I until the ravages of age killed my 20/15 vision and made iron sights much less fun to use.

Now I'm pondering ways to add an extended eye relief scope without uglifying the gun too much.

I hope to put an ultimak rail and scope on my Garand sometime in 2014.

Hopefully I can find something equally good for the '03-A3

Paul said...

Always learn something new here. I've seen video of some of the movies made about the events you reference but your verbal imagery has brought a new light to those movies.

When did we make life such a precious commodity?

hugh butler said...

My understanding is that cutoffs were to facilitate "Volley Fire" prior to the tactical adoption of machineguns.

They would be used in conjunction with those fantastically long ranged sights to produce "Plunging Fire" at very long ranges.

In theory. I don't know if these tactics were ever tried.

Tam said...

While both existed on the same guns, they weren't really related. A mag cutoff wouldn't make long-range volley fire any more (or less) practicable.

og said...

Some of them were in the damnedest places, too. The cutoff on a Win/Hotchkiss couldn't be seen without practically turning the rifle over, and with it off, it would allow you to eject a spent round and let you chamber an imaginary round, so you thought you had a loaded gun when in fact you had a stick.

Anonymous said...

The only small bore, smokeless powder Mauser with a magazine cut off that comes to mind is the Turk M1893. I have never seen one in person, though, only in pictures.


Firehand said...

Scott J, you'll love it. I put a Ultimak on mine a couple of years back. Still solid as rock(good rock mind you, not that flaky stuff), has never shifted. And either a red dot or a extended ER scope works beautifully.

mostly cajun said...

I liked the cut-off on my M1903A3 for slow-fire strings and other range work.


KM said...

When the slide locks to the rear, drop another loose cartridge through the large open square ejection port on the top

Can't understand why that feature didn't catch on more.

Rob K said...

I imagine the fellows to whom these rifles with magazine cut-offs were issued, were used single-shot rifles if they were used to rifles at all. They probably would have found delightful the idea of doing single shots but having a full magazine in reserve for when things really got hot.

Sigman said...

If the entire ammo supply of Fort Zinderneuf was 10,000 rounds and the Riff rebels laid siege, resupply was a dream because higher command would have no idea there was trouble afoot. Even if someone brought the word, relief would be weeks so fire discipline was crucial.

Available ammo supply determines the outcome of many battles. Breeds Hill and Roarkes Drift are the 2 ends of the spectrum that come to mind.

Lewis said...


Think about this for a moment: in the American experience for most of "our" lives, we've never really had to worry about resupply.

We've always had air superiority, and we've always, pretty much, had the ability to resupply our troops in the field.

It is such an elemental shift that I don't know if "kids these days" can even grasp your point of waiting on resupply.

staghounds said...

They probably made unloading and training a bit less dangerous, too.

That was if I recall correctly the selling point of the Webley magazines- drop the magazine to the unload notch, run the slide, drop the hammer. Only takes two hands, and you don't have to find a place to put (or a muddy place to drop)the magazine while you are waving a loaded pistol around.

Old NFO said...

Thanks, I learned something new from you as usual! :-)

Steve Skubinna said...

I have long read that the fire discipline and accuracy of Tommy Atkins was a huge shock to the Boche in 1914. However, Max Hastings' new book casts a somewhat critical eye on the BEF's performance in those first months.

He doesn't actually debunk the myth or discount the British contributions, but he stresses the much greater French and Belgian effort at that time and puts the relatively puny British force in perspective.

roland said...

Mag cutoff modern equivalent: 3 round burst. I suspect most folks first instinct upon taking sustained incoming would be panicked cyclic. That shit will burn down some ammo with the quickness.

MauserMedic said...

Let's not forget, the enlisted ranks of Western armies during the times preceding, and well into the years of magazine cutoffs, were often regarded as lower life forms incapable of good judgement.

I suspect the transition of ammunition from black to smokeless powder also had a lingering effect, as massed directed fire in low-visibility conditions was desirable, but less so later as both massed formations and visibility became a liability with the extended range granted by rifling.

Steve Skubinna said...

roland, when I was in the Big Green Machine we had the M16A1. Safe/Semi/Auto. They stressed to us that the ONLY reason to use full auto was for suppressive fire, otherwise fire single aimed shots.

I remember my astonishment the first time I tried auto (at the Drill Sergeant's direction). That 20 round magazine emptied before I even realized it. That really reinforced the necessity for fire discipline.

Tam said...


"Mag cutoff modern equivalent: 3 round burst."

Actually, the selector switch itself, with "SEMI" and "FULL" positions, is the equivalent. :)

Anonymous said...

Tam Stop playing in my gun safe. Often overlooked is the fact that the '03 will overheat so badly with even moderate (25 RPM) strings of fire that it becomes hard to hold. They get HOT really fast. I tried to find out how many rounds I could get off in one min. with one of my M-1903Mk1s, and after 35 rounds had to put it down. You are dead right about 19th and early 20th century resupply. It mostly was what ever privt. Snuffy had in the supply wagon and cart. belt. --Ray

Tom the Impaler said...

Did the clips for my Berthier Mle 1916 constitute a magazine cutoff? They never would feed properly, or indeed at all. Bolt would strip the first off the top and the rest would stay resolutely in place waiting to be pulled out by hand. A wonder of ammunition conservation.

markm said...

Was the magazine cutoff ever removed from the '03? The Marines landed on Guadalcanal with M1903's, old water-cooled machine guns, and whatever else the Army had gotten rid of - if it got unloaded before the Navy skedaddled with about half of the Marine's gear still on their ships. Then for a few months the supply lines weren't just sketchy, they were non-existent. If that thing ever was useful, it was there.

Of course, eventually the Navy came back, and then there was plenty of ammo, not to mention Garand-armed Army troops. But the hard part of that fight had already been won by Marines armed mainly with WWI surplus.