You don’t have to be an old man to remember the days of cheap military surplus rifles. Even people in their mid-30s remember the days when Swiss K31 rifles could be had for less than $100, when Mosin Nagants were sold by the crateload, and when even Russian Capture Mauser rifles were less than $150.
Now the prices for those rifles have shot up significantly, and good deals are hard to find. But while those rifles were appreciating in price, other rifles continued to languish. Among them were the M95 Mannlicher carbines from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For quite a long time, these rifles were still available for $69 or so, as they just weren’t all that popular. And the 8x56R Mannlicher cartridge they fired wasn’t readily available.
Eventually these rifles found new popularity, very likely the result of being featured in a video game, and prices began to rise. But that also meant that we no longer had to rely on WWII-era surplus ammunition, and factory ammunition and reloading supplies began to become more widely available.
The 8x56R Mannlicher cartridge was developed in the 1930s to replace the 8x50R Mannlicher cartridge that had been in service since 1890. It featured both a lighter, spitzer bullet as well as a longer case with a longer and more sloping shoulder.
The 8x56R cartridge featured a .329”-diameter 206-grain bullet traveling at 2,300 feet per second, for 2,420 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That was a significant increase from the 8x50R Mannlicher cartridge it replaced. But it also gave the M95 Mannlicher carbines a reputation for having a fierce kick.
Most M95 rifles and carbines were upgraded to 8x56R by rechambering, and 8x50R Mannlicher firearms are relatively hard to come by today. Thankfully 8x56R ammunition and reloading supplies are more or less available on the market.
Expect to pay about $1.50 a round for factory 8x56R ammunition. Brass is available from Prvi Partizan, or you can form brass from 7.62x54R brass, although it will end up being 2mm short.
The .329” bullet diameter is tricky, as Prvi Partizan is the only manufacturer still making bullets in that diameter. Hornady used to, but apparently has discontinued them. You can also swage .338”-diameter bullets in a sizing die to achieve the proper diameter, which opens up a lot more bullet choices.
No matter which way you slice it, however, feeding a rifle in 8x56R Mannlicher is going to be difficult. And that’s what makes it less than ideal for a survival cartridge. It’s perfectly adequate for range time and even hunting. But if you’re looking for something to last you when the stuff hits the fan, you might want to look for a more common caliber.