Arming the Lion of Judah: Ethiopian FN Mauser Rifles & Carbines

Arming the Lion of Judah: Ethiopian FN Mauser Rifles & Carbines


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here today at Inter Ordnance taking a look at an Ethiopian FN contract Mauser rifle and carbine. And these are one of the really cool pre-World War Two contracts that FN got for its small arms. So first off, a little bit of background on FN. They were of course put together as a conglomerate to manufacture rifles for the Belgian military in the late 1880s. … Well, during World War One they got all of their machinery basically confiscated by the Germans, who occupied Belgium and occupied Liège where FN was located. And so FN kind of spent the first couple of years after World War One recuperating, putting its tooling back together. It had been a while since they manufactured Mausers, there was a lot of new technology coming out. So that the original Belgian Mausers had
been very early pattern, Mauser Model of 1889 with single stack magazines. And well by the early 1920s
new things have developed, we have the Model 98. Of course Mauser … was manufacturing much upgraded
versions throughout the years before World War One. And if FN wanted to compete on the world market they
had to match that, so it took them a couple years to do it. By 1922 they had a rifle, and then in
1924 they got their first major contract. And that was the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes,
which a few years later would be renamed Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia, well the Kingdom, ordered
something like 100,000 Mauser rifles from FN, also contracted with them to help build their own
domestic rifle factory which would operate for decades. And this really put FN back
into business, and it gave them all the expenses that they needed to really
set up tooling for these new patterns of rifles. So that takes us to Ethiopia. Now Ethiopia has this
impressive history of being pretty much the only (I probably shouldn’t say the only, but virtually, if
not the only) major African country to avoid becoming a subservient colony of one of the European
powers during the late 1800s through early 1900s. At this time it was being ruled by an emperor by the
name of Haile Selassie. He was coronated in 1930, although he’d actually kind of basically
run the country as regent since 1917. And he maintained Ethiopia’s
militarily-based independence. So the Italians and the British
both had greedy eyes on Ethiopia, Ethiopia holds a relatively strategically
important position just off the Red Sea, it’s near by the Suez Canal, it’s actually the
headwaters of the Nile River and the Nile Valley. And Italy in particular had wanted it as a colony for
a long time. In fact, the Ethiopians had beaten back a substantial Italian invasion in
the 1890s very impressively. At any rate, by 1930 when Selassie took power Ethiopia was planning to spend between 12 and 16
percent of its GDP on … arms, on military support. And this kind of split their support
in Europe, their diplomatic relations. The British and the Italians were not happy with this. They
wanted a weakened Ethiopia that they could take over, and they were always fighting each
other over who would get to take it over. The French and the Belgians, however, were much more
supportive of Ethiopia, largely because they didn’t look at it specifically for their own colonial empires. And
they liked the idea of it maintaining independence to prevent it from falling into the
hands of … their rivals in Europe. So when Selassie was coronated Emperor
he took some time and travelled around Europe, met a bunch of people, visited a lot
of places. And FN was one of them, and he developed a good working
relationship with FN. Between 1933 and 1936 he would buy a significant amount of arms for a
smaller, not particularly wealthy African country. And those included 17,500 of these rifles, and 7,500 of these
carbines, as well as FN BARs and some other equipment. So in fact he even had Belgian military advisors
come down to help train the Ethiopian Army. He had some Swiss advisors as well,
they set up military academies. This really was … one of the better organised
government structures in Africa at the time. So let’s take a closer look at these rifles, because they’re
extremely rare and you almost never seen them here in the US. We have a rifle and a carbine to take a look at here. I’m gonna go ahead and start with the carbine because,
well, it’s shorter and it’s easier for me to show you. As far as mechanical variations go, there’s
really not that much that distinguishes the Ethiopian guns from FN’s other 1924
1930 type Mauser rifles and carbines. However, a few little distinctions on the carbines.
There are no side sling swivels either on the front band or back on the butt stock. That was
a fairly common thing at the time. You’ll see sling swivels either in the side
of the stock or in the side of the grip area, and that was intended for guys who wanted to carry
the rifle flat across the back instead of over the shoulder. And for whatever reason Selassie …
wasn’t interested in that specific capacity. … For one, I think it’s a good thing because, for me as a left-
hander, that side sling swivel on the stock always gets in the way. I do want to briefly point out the sling arrangement here. This
thing of having the sling tied up into the stock is an interesting, distinctively Ethiopian thing that I’ve seen on a
number of these rifles that I was looking through. This is an original Ethiopian pattern sling, a
little worse for wear, but neat to see it still there. The markings are really the coolest part here.
So starting with the most boring, we have FN’s manufacturer mark here on the receiver wall.
Manufacturer Nationale D’Armes de Guerre, Herstal, Belgique. Now on most military Mausers you
would expect a serial number right here. Well, instead we have a Lion of
Judah military property mark there. And the serial number is actually written in big
ol’ letters here on the back, on the receiver bridge. And this was done so that the serial numbers could be
easily read when the rifles were stacked in storage racks. Which is actually a really practical thing, and it’s
a little surprising that more countries didn’t do that. … It’s a little hard to read there, but the bolts were
originally matched to the rifles, so 3766 again. The rest of the parts, like the floor plates
and trigger guards, are not serialised. So really the only numbers to look for
to match are the bolt and the receiver. We then have this really pretty darn cool
national crest here on the top of the receiver. So we’ve got laurels, we’ve got – I don’t even know
what that is, a shield, some Amharic writing there, and then the face of the Lion of Judah.
So we have that lion here on the side as well. And you’ll see this mark on a lot
of Ethiopian arms from this era. In fact if you go back and look at my
video on the KE-7 light machine gun, you’ll find that it has that marketing as well
because it was an Ethiopian contract gun. The rifles have the same crest.
I should point out that the receivers for both the rifles and carbines were
originally … manufactured in the white. These have had a long and hard
service life in Ethiopia and beyond. We have the same style of serial number
on the back of the receiver bridge and duplicated on the bolt. As is relatively typical for this sort of thing, the
carbines had bent bolts and the rifles had straight bolts. The last set of markings we have are proof
marks on the right side of the receiver and these are worth taking a look at for a moment,
because they sometimes confuse people. These are Belgian proof marks, sort of, but they’re not commercial
proof marks. This did not go through the standard Liège proof house. Now the process was normally if you placed a big
order at FN you would send a military delegation to do the acceptance work, to confirm
whether rifles were up to your standards. Well, Ethiopia, and some other countries that FN was selling to,
simply didn’t have the domestic technical expertise to do that. They didn’t have a group of officers
they could send to perform this. So instead they were able to hire the
Belgian military to do so on their behalf. FN is a private company. It is closely associated with the
Belgian military, but FN is not a government run arsenal. And so the Belgian military had a good
enough reputation, scrupulously maintained, that … you could hire their
officers to proof rifles for you. And while the … Belgian military arsenals were not
legally allowed to produce guns for foreign powers, Belgian officers could be hired to proof
guns and approve guns and accept them from private manufacturers, like
FN, on behalf of other nations. So you’ll see we have an A with a star
which is a pretty typical Belgian proof mark, and we have a couple other proof marks here that are
indicative of the Belgian Foreign Inspection Service, which is what it was called. Ethiopia was not the only
client of FNs to use that Foreign Inspection Service, but they were one of them. So there are some people
who see those Belgian proof marks and assume that “Well, maybe these guns got manufactured, but then diverted
to the Belgian military for World War Two.” Not the case. So the rest of the features of these
guns are pretty standard Mauser. These were all manufactured in 8x57mm, or 8mm Mauser, that
was the standard cartridge used by the Ethiopian military at the time. No grooves for front sight
protector hoods, bayonet lugs. These are cut for cleaning rods,
although these two don’t have them. And … that pretty much is a good
overview I think of the Ethiopian Mausers. Unfortunately for Ethiopia and Emperor Haile
Selassie, in 1935 the Italians under Mussolini got a little more serious about wanting to expand or
rebuild their colonial empire, starting with Ethiopia or (by the way I should have mentioned this earlier),
as it was often referred to at the time, Abyssinia. So in 1935 the Italian army invaded, and
Ethiopia may have had a particularly strong military for its time and place, but it was
not able to compete with the Italians. Especially the Italian Air Force,
armoured vehicle support. And the Italians ended up capturing
the country and occupying it until 1941, when, well as part of World War
Two the British liberated Ethiopia. So … these were good modern
arms for the early 1930s, but they weren’t enough to hold
back a full-scale … Italian invasion. So Selassie would spend a couple of years in exile, and he would come back to his country … during
World War Two, and actually stay in power until 1974. So … typically we think of Africa as having these
dictators that kind of come and go quickly. Well, Selassie was a very long-
lived Emperor of the country. Anyway, we’ll get into some of what happened
after World War Two in a separate video when we talk about some of the arms that Ethiopia
had later on. For now, these are very, very cool. I’d like to give a big thanks to Inter Ordnance for giving
me the chance to pull these out and take a look at them. What they have done is actually import a
substantial number of very interesting firearms of all types out of Africa, including
some of these Ethiopian ones. So if you’re interested in seeing more, they’re
going to be selling the cream of the crop I think directly through Inter Ordnance. So I can’t put a link to their website in the
comments because of YouTube’s rules, but if you check out Inter Ordnance’s
website, you can find all sorts of good stuff. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Arming the Lion of Judah: Ethiopian FN Mauser Rifles & Carbines

  1. I'm not certain about this, but I think that the 'shield' on the national crest is actually the Ark of the Covenant, which is supposedly still in Ethiopia.

  2. I’ve been seeing so many Mauser videos lately and it makes me so unbelievably excited to pick up my Mauser 98 on Friday! Thanks for the great info as always Ian

  3. "Coronated" means to have a crest or crown like appendage. An Emperor is crowned at a coronation. He is not coronated because he doesn't have the crown permanently attached to his head. (Ouch !)
    You Americans will be okay when you learn to speak English ! 😁

  4. what is the difference between rifle and carbine? i searched it and there was not a specific answer! Exept one explanation i found (it was about the lenth ! and the name just changes with the era) but it was about under american law coverage! Is there an answer more international that cover rifles and carbines differences globally?

  5. That crest looks awesome! It makes an already awesome gun even more awesome! It's such a shame that the practice of marking military small arms with national crests is falling by the wayside. They give the guns marked with it an identity, a sense of purpose. Oh, well…

    Great video as always Ian!

  6. Nice vid . The A with star above is not a proof mark but an inspectors stamp from a Belgium Proofbank inspector . Means that the gun went to the Proofbank witch it should , according to Belgian law . The second stamp looks like a lion in a circle , if this is the case , this is then the proof , third stamp is not clear enough to draw conclusions .

  7. The Ethiopians are a very proud people. That they came together and fought off the Italians – as tribes armed with spears, as they say it – is a huge source of national identity for them. While many will decry the country's state in the last 50 years, especially regarding the Eritrea mess, those years in the late 19th century are definitely thought of as the Good Ole Days.

  8. https://wwiiafterwwii.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/ethiopians-in-the-korean-war-wwii-gear-used/ wwiiafterwwii has a Ethiopians in the Korean War: WWII gear used blog and about how they did not take ethiopian army’s standard rifle the M30 FN Mauser but were given us M1 Garand as there 7.92x57mm cartridge was not standard to the American or Commonwealth logistics streams but was produced in communist China.

  9. Interesting. Same front sight as my greek contract berthier. If only I had a book of french rifles in order to learn more…

  10. ethiopia was not the only country to avoid colonization by a european power during the 19th-20th century scramble for africa, the other being liberia. liberia doesn't really count though, as it was an old USA colony before the scramble started so nobody wanted to mess with it

  11. Interesting that my 1930 Chinese Mauser has the civilian proof marks, but not the Belgian military proofs this gun has. Was that because the procedures changed, or did China just walk into a commercial gun store and tell the clerks give us 12,000 of those? 🙂

  12. Iam German and the Orginal K98 is very better 😀 this look like a toy ..Build with crap wood and crap metal !!! Only buy the Original!!!

    I wouldn't buy M4A1 from Russia either.

    I hope you know what I mean by that

  13. I often have reservations with Black nationalists spewing crap about Wakanda but have never even bothered to read up on the fascinating and sometimes tragic history of Ethiopia, in my opinion from Axum to Absynnia to the Empire of Ethiopia, the greatest Black African civilization to ever exist. They fought off Somali slavers, The Ottomans, The Ottoman Egypt, a lunatic savage Sudan state(Mahdist Sudan was basically a giant apocolyptic cult), Colonial Italy, and met it's tragic downfall to Fascist Italy, that irreversibly destroyed the region.

  14. So on a related note, what is the connection, if any, between FN Model 24s and the CZ VZ.24 Rifles? They seem quite similar in many design aspects, and I wonder if that is coincidental or not.

  15. Late 80's we gave a unnamed African country all our Springfield/m1 parts. In the future are we going to see them pop up?

  16. Curious question: how does this deal with patent laws? Surely the Mauser designs were patented by Mauser, so FN couldn't just produce knock-off/derivates, right? Or did Mauser license these designs to FN?

  17. I love this series, I managed to buy an Ethiopian Officers sword used during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930's from IMA.

  18. Side note to anyone interested: The coronation was filmed and the footage is floating around on youtube.

    Coronation of Ras Tafari – 1930 | Movietone Moments
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CJsZjXsuHg

    Haile Selassie Coronation, 1930
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qlB8UVocY8

    Verschollene Filmschätze S06E02 1930 Die Kaiserkrönung Haile Selassies
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnG6B4rL7X8

    1930. Le couronnement de l'empereur d'Éthiopie | Mystères d'archives | ARTE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWMWqnZ0_EA&list=PLCwXWOyIR22tkpdUPckwZ1giQ74hv_RDj

  19. Just a little correction: Britain did not help that much in Abyssinia. South Africa was sent in to clean the Italians out. I know this for a fact because my Great grandfather was an engineer in the 1st South African Infantry Division. Keep up the brilliant work though, Ian💪🏻

  20. Those Ethiops should have ruled the entire continent. Some of the finest leaders and best educated native people Africa has ever known.

  21. FN nowadays is owned for a big part by the Walloon government (South, French-speaking, Belgium).
    The Walloon government now also approve/disapprove all sales to foreign nations.
    Couples of years back they didn't allow a contract of FN weapons to go to Saudi-Arabia for example.

  22. I've always had a fetish for short little things, that Mauser carbine fits the bill exactly.
    Thanks Ian.

    Btw that's an awesome looking Crest.

  23. i got my first mauser not long ago, a chinese FN mauser and i was wondering if the bayonet lugs are the same on the FN productions like the german made mausers.

  24. There's just something about short barreled bolt-action rifles that appeals to me. I know all the negatives, but I just LIKE the shorter barrelled carbines.

  25. Interesting that in the early 1920s the Mauser 98 was considered the state of the art for military rifles – yet only 15 or so years later the Garand came out. A big step up in technology!

  26. A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have particularly cared about Ethiopian guns. Now after having that video about Menelik II from a few days ago:

    "Ethiopian? Tell me more. "

  27. Now all I can think of is that bit from the old M*A*S*H episode:

    WOUNDED ETHIOPIAN SOLDIER: (speaking Amharic)
    KLINGER: I think he's thanking you.
    HAWKEYE: Well, that's Haile Selassie of you, sir.

  28. Damnit Ian, you're making my mouth water. This has been one of my ultimate collector fantasies for a long time, and InterOrdnance is already sold out of both carbines and rifles. My dreams are dashed.

  29. In this episode I love the way Ian expands the English language by creating a new word and uses it in such an effective way, "corinated". Two similar words 'crowned" and the much rarer "coronated" already exist, I suspect "corinated" means the same as "crowned" but sounds similar to "coronated" which means something a bit different. 😁😁

  30. Ian's interpretation of the history of this part of Africa a bit unusual. The British did send a military force into Ethiopia in the 1860s but it was a punitive action not an invasion of conquest. During the "Scramble for Africa" of the 1880s, the Conference of Berlin and years that followed the British showed little or no desire to intervene in Ethiopia (Abyssinia) as it was of little strategic interest, they also embargoed arms sales to the area. When Haile Salassie fled following the Italian invasion of his country in the 1930s it was to the UK he went. The British eventually invaded Ethiopia in 1941 but only as a response to the seizure of British Somaliland by the Italian military after Mussolini declared war against Britain and France in 1940.

  31. Well Done…history neglects Haile Selassie and the war with Mussolini…there are still popular Italian restaurants in Addis Ababa.

  32. FWIW, I've always heard it pronounced [when he was still alive, that is] "Hi! Lee" Selassie…. [Not Hayley Steinfeld^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H elassie! ;-)]

  33. Where did you these fine items? The Carbine was my first rifle given to me by my grandfather, but was confiscated by The Dergue government in 1974. I was already here in the states as a student and didn’t do anything to protect it. I will do everything in my power to buy this rifle (the carbine) if you help me to locate one.

  34. Its crazy to me that not only Judaism thrived independently in Ethiopia but Christianity…In a weird way they preserved things and ideas that got lost in the Great Schism a thousand years ago. Reading about the first and second invasions of Abyssinia by Italy (trying to re-build the roman empire) is a really crazy story… not un-like the Japanese. A nearly Ancient society coming to grips with the modern west.

  35. Here's a good game that covers the Italian takeover and liberation from.

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/171742/lion-judah-war-ethiopia-1935-1941

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