The Ottoman Empire

Page 13 – Weapons of the Ottoman Army

In the decade up to 1914 the Ottoman government invested heavily in the modernisation of its army's weapons and equipment. This programme concentrated on buying material directly from foreign companies rather than building domestic industrial capacity. As part of this modernisation process the Ottoman government invited a German military mission to advise the army on its choice of modern weapons and how best to use them. Under the influence of these advisers most of the pre-war military contracts went to large German arms manufacturers, including Krupp, Mauser and Rheinmetall.

Unfortunately for the Ottoman Empire, many of the arms purchased recently were lost in the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. The Ottoman Army went to war in 1914 with significant gaps in its arsenal, particularly machine guns and field artillery. When neutral Bulgaria and Greece closed their borders and the Russian, British and French navies imposed a blockade on maritime trade, the Ottoman Empire was cut off from its German arms suppliers.

This isolation prevented the Ottoman Army fully replacing the losses in artillery it had suffered during the Balkan Wars. Stocks of artillery shells also fell to dangerously low levels. The Ottoman field armies had to fight their battles without the intensive use of artillery fire that the armies of the other Great Powers came to rely on. The situation was improved somewhat by Bulgaria’s entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1915. The invasion and conquest of Serbia a month later opened a direct land route to Germany and restored the Ottoman Empire’s access to German arms and munitions factories. From then to the war’s end the Turks received considerable military aid and assistance from Germany. But this was never enough to completely make good both the original shortfalls in weapons and equipment and the continuing losses as the war went on.

Small arms (rifles, carbines and handguns)

The Ottoman Army’s most modern rifle – as good as any used by the other Great Powers – was the 7.65-mm M1903 Mauser bolt-action rifle. This German-designed and manufactured weapon used a five-round removable box magazine and had an effective range of up to 600 m. It was issued to the Ottoman Army’s best front-line infantry units. Just over 200,000 were received before the war. Previous versions of the Mauser design had been adopted from the early 1890s and these weapons – the 7.65-mm Mauser M1890 and M1893 bolt-action rifles – continued to be used. In 1914 the Ottoman Army had almost 800,000 7.65-mm Mauser bolt-action rifles and carbines (shortened versions made especially for use by cavalry). Obsolete weapons like the 9.5-mm Mauser M1887 rifle and the single-shot Peabody-Martini 11.43-mm M1874 rifle were issued to second-line units, Kurdish and Arab auxiliaries and the paramilitary Jardama. The standard handguns used by officers and specialist branches (such as military policemen) were 7.63-mm Mauser C96 and 9-mm FN-Browning M1903 pistols. Older revolvers were used by second-tier army and Jardarma units. Officers were allowed to purchase their own handguns and possessed a great variety of European makes and models.

Machine guns

In 1908 the German arms manufacturer Deutsche Waffen-und-Munitionsfabriken was licensed to produce the British-designed Maxim machine gun. As well as making a 7.9-mm version for the German Army – the MG08 – the company also produced a 7.65-mm export version, the MG09, which was sold to Bulgaria, China, Romania and the Ottoman Empire. Although many were lost in the Balkan Wars, the MG09 was the machine gun used against the New Zealanders and other Allied troops at Gallipoli. The Ottoman Army received large quantities of MG08s once German military aid was resumed in 1916, and both types of machine gun were used by the Turks in the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Both German Maxims had an effective range of 2000 m and fired at a rate of 300 rounds per minute.

Field artillery

The most common types of Ottoman field artillery encountered by New Zealand forces during the First World War were German-designed and manufactured 75-mm and 77-mm field guns, grouped in four-gun batteries. Each Ottoman infantry division was supposed to be supported by six batteries of field guns, but in reality they had to make do with three or four at most. The 75-mm Krupp M03 L/30 Field Gun had a range of 6000 m; 648 were purchased from Germany in the period before the First World War, although many were lost in the Balkan Wars. After 1916 Germany supplied the Turks with both types of the standard German Army field gun: the 77-mm Krupp M96 L/27 nA (range 7800 m) and the 77-mm Rheinmetall M16 L/35 (range 9000 m). Desperately short of field artillery, the Ottoman Army also used many older and obsolescent field guns, some dating back to the 1870s, as well as captured Russian and British guns. The latter were of a different calibre to the German guns and could be used only while stocks of captured artillery shells lasted.

How to cite this page

'Weapons of the Ottoman Army', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Jul-2014