An Obscure Birth for the Military Twenty Two: The Forgotten .22 US Army of 1895

.22 1895 US Army Experimental

What was the first military .22 caliber high velocity infantry rifle round ever developed? Many would name the 5.56mm round designed in the 1950s to that title, but that would be incorrect. In truth, it’s probably impossible to know for sure due to the large number of obscure and even totally forgotten experimental rounds in history, but a very interesting candidate for this title was a development of the United States Army in the last decade of the 19th Century, designed at Springfield Armory in late 1894. The round’s official name was “0.22 Inch Caliber Cartridge for Experimental Arm”, but it has subsequently been called the “.22 Krag”, or “.22 1895 Experimental” by the small circle of ammunition collectors aware of its existence.

The round was the result of a directive from the Chief of Ordnance, a Brigadier General named Daniel W. Flagler, in either 1893 or early 1894 (sources conflict exactly when the order was handed down). It was to be followed by a .20 caliber experimental round, but that was never fabricated as experiments with the .22 caliber version proved unsuccessful. A primary source related to the development of this ammunition is the 1895 Annual Report of The Chief of Ordnance, which reads:

In accordance with the instructions of the Chief of Ordnance of March 6, 1894, the manufacture of a few experimental arms of caliber less than .30-in has been commenced.

The caliber selected were .22 and .20 inch; both to be rifled with four grooves, the twist of the first to be 6 inches and of the second 5.5 inches.

Four barrels of each caliber have been bored and turned and are ready for chambering and rifling. Cartridge shells and bullets for the .22-inch caliber have just been furnished, made at Frankford Arsenal on data worked up at this Armory by Lieutenant Dickson, Ordnance Department. These barrels can now be completed and assembled to the mechanism of the .30-inch caliber rifle for trial. Upon the results of this caliber will be based the chamber and cartridge for the .20-inch caliber.

The object of these experiments is to determine what advantage, if any, may exist in the further reduction of the caliber of the military rifle.

The .22 1895 Experimental was an extremely potent little round, firing a 120gr cupronickel-plated steel jacketed lead round nosed projectile at a (for the time) blistering 2,600 ft/s from the modified Krag–Jørgensen rifle. However, as History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol. I points out, the .22 1895 Experimental was not deemed successful for whatever reason, and no record exists of the .20 caliber variant ever having been produced.

Even though only 250 rounds of .22 1895 Experimental were ever produced, some still do exist in collector hands, although they are incredibly rare. One, in the possession of IAA Forum poster stevesummers, is shown below:

22Krag



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Dave

    6mm Winchester Lee for the Model 1895 USN/USMC straight-pull bolt action magazine rifle. (.236″)

    • What about it? 😉

      • Paul Epstein

        Not to answer for Dave, but it might actually be a good answer to why the .22 Krag never went any further.

        With the adoption of the 6mm Lee Navy, the Army could watch from the sidelines as another service spent money to issue and evaluate in the field the new high velocity small bore cartridge. If it failed to meet expectations, as eventually happened, the Army spent no money and received no criticism, but if it had succeeded they could move fairly quickly to standardize on the new, better round at lower cost than developing and commissioning a brand new gun.

        • The problems with the 6mm Lee didn’t really become apparent until later, and remember, at this time the Army and Navy weren’t exactly sharing notes.

          If anything, the USN’s interest in the 6mm caliber might have spurred the Army a bit to investigate small calibers for themselves, but even that’s just speculative.

  • FWIW: Lt. Tracy C. Dickson ultimately rose to the rank of Brigadier General. Here is his entry for the US Army Ordnance Corps’ Hall of Fame.

    http://www.goordnance.army.mil/hof/1969/dickson.html

  • Page 21 of the 1895 report mentions that the interest in “reduced calibers” had been covered as early as the 1893 report.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=w1ktAQAAMAAJ&vq=reduced%20caliber&pg=PA21#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • valorius

    .22-06 duplex ammo was tested in specially modified M1 garands as part of project SALVO, in the mid 50s

  • Fascinating bit of history, thanks for the article!

  • Mehul Kamdar

    Would you have dimensions for the round? Thanks for the information in advance!