RiflesSingle ShotWerndl11 mm
This rifle was introduced as a direct consequence of an Austrian defeat in the Austrian Prussian War which was the first war between two major continental powers in seven years.
The Prussian Army used von Dreyse's breech-loading needle gun, which could be rapidly loaded while the soldier was seeking cover on the ground, whereas the Austrian muzzle-loading rifles could only be loaded slowly, and generally from a standing position.
The main campaign of the war occurred in Bohemia. Prussian Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke had planned meticulously for the war.
He rapidly mobilized the Prussian army and advanced across the border into Saxony and Bohemia, where the Austrian army was concentrating for an invasion of Silesia. There, the Prussian armies, led nominally by King William I, converged, and the two sides met at the Battle of Königgrätz (Hradec Králové) on 3 July. The Prussian Elbe Army advanced on the Austrian left wing, and the First Army on the centre, prematurely; they risked being counter-flanked on their own left. Victory therefore depended on the timely arrival of the Second Army on the left wing. This was achieved through the brilliant work of its Chief of Staff, Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal. Superior Prussian organization and élan decided the battle against Austrian numerical superiority, and the victory was near total, with Austrian battle deaths nearly seven times the Prussian figure. Austria rapidly sought peace after this battle.
Traditionally the Austrian tactics were to present a long skirmish line, which attacked with the bayonet. In contrast the Prussians latest strategy presented smaller units who held their ground with volley fire.
During the first twenty minutes of the Battle of Konninggratz the Hapsburg Army lost 10,000 men. This was because Dreyse’s needlefire rifle was capable of being fired at a rate of 12 shots a minute compared to the average rate of fire of 3 rounds a minute for the Lorenz muzzle loader which also required the rifle to be reloaded standing up presenting a large target to the Prussians.
By the end of the War it was apparent to the Hapsburg Army that it was significantly outgunned by the use of breach loading rifles and an urgent trial was accelerated in which 33 different breach loading rifles were being evaluated.
Initially the front runner for adoption was the Remington Rolling Block Rifle which was robust and relatively easy to manufacture. There is no doubt that Austrian pride and political machinations and intrigue behind the scenes about the USA resulted in the adoption of an Austrian design which was the Werndl.
The Landwehr had up until this time used the muzzle loading Lorenz rifle and latterly a number of breech converted Lorenz rifles converted with the Wanzl system whose large bore rimfire cartridge proved unpopular also arriving too late to be of influence in the Austrian Prussian War.
The rifle was designed and patented by Josef Werndl (1831–1889) and Karel Holub (1830–1903) later bought out all the rights, but was involved in name only.
It was the first successful small bore breech loading rifle of the Austrian Army
The new rifle designated the Model 66/67 was rated during trials at 14 aimed shots a minute or 20 un-aimed shots and was determined to be capable of hitting a man sized target at 200 paces and a horse at 200 paces.
The original cartridge case was 11.15mm x 42 mm rimmed and fired a 308 grain bullet at a velocity of 1430 feet a second. Unusually the carbine version was issued with a different case which was only 36 mm long. In contrast other manufacturers such as Remington used the same cartridge as their rifles with a reduced charge. Interestingly the carbine cartridge was also used in the huge Montenegro Gasser revolver.
The rifle has a robust mechanism with an extractor on the left hand side. The “tang” is actually a flat spring which serves to lock the breech with a secondary locking mechanism of the hammer. The firing pin is canted through the breech block and is centrefire.
A disadvantage is the inordinate trigger pull which usually measures at over 10 pounds. The rifle has a half cock safety feature.
The rifling has 6 grooves with one turn in 29”and the barrel is fitted with a bayonet lug to take a sabre style bayonet.
In 1878 the rifle was modified to take a 58 mm long cartridge which fired a patched bullet increased in size from 308 to 370 grains which was more in parity with the competing Rolling Block rifles. The old stock of rifles was rechambered for the new round and the sights changed.
Josef Werndl’s father founded the Steyr factory and an initial order for 600,000 units placed by Josef Werndl basically formed the foundations of the Steyr factory that is still extant today.
In 1869 a journalist from the British Times Newspaper visited the Steyr factory and it is reported that Wendl test fired a rifle to illustrate its accuracy and then threw it out of the top office of the factory into the cobbled courtyard and fired it again without loss of accuracy and this was repeated three times. The journalist reported that there was only cosmetic damage to the rifle stock but the mechanism was undamaged.
The rifle remained in service until the Mannlicher straight pull bolt action rifle was introduced as its replacement in 1886 but was still in use with secondary units as late as 1918. It is reported that a large consignment was acquired by the USA Bannerman company who supplied several USA militia units with the rifle.
This rifle is unit marked and is mechanically sound with a good bore and was definitely not dropped from an office window!
Usual bumps and dents of an issued rifle on the stock but no major flaws.
An interesting rifle.
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