Most students of Civil War weapons have heard of the Austrian Lorenz rifle. Sometimes called the “Austrian Enfield,” it ranked third in numbers issued to troops on both sides during the conflict, and was the second most common imported rifle after the British Enfield. The biggest users seem to have been the Army of Tennessee and the forces in western theaters. The infantry Lorenz resembled the Springfield and the Enfield — a 37″ barrel, external lock, and a socket bayonet. Unlike the other two, however, it shot a .54 caliber projectile that differed somewhat from the larger .58 caliber of the other two. Although it’s gotten somewhat of a bad rap in Civil War literature, it was a sturdy and reliable arm, even if not quite up to the finish and accuracy of the American and British rifles.
There was another type of Lorenz, however, that was issued in small numbers — the Jaegerstutzen, or sharpshooter’s rifle. Also .54 caliber, it sported a shorter 28″ barrel and a rear sight graduated from 400-1000 schritt (an Austrian pace of about 29″ or about 2.5 feet). Unusually, it had no provision for a ramrod, as these were carried separately attached to the cartridge box. It was also unusual in that the barrel was pinned to the stock rather than being held in with metal bands. The Austrian army issued these to jaeger (rifle) units that were employed as light infantry, skirmishers, and spread out over the army in battle to pick off officers and other high-value targets like artillery crews.
The rifle came in one other variation, the Dornstutzen, which had a slightly longer range sight (up to 1200 schritt) and a pillar breech, meaning a metal post that kept the bullet sightly above the powder so that it would not crush the grains. These were much less common and were issued to the best marksmen.
Jaeger means hunter in German, and these rifles were direct descendants of the hunting rifles of Central Europe, particularly the Tirol region of western Austria, eastern Switzerland and Northern Italy. Hunters and gamekeepers had been organized into units during the Seven Year’s War as sharpshooters and light infantry, a practice that continued through the Napoleonic Wars and the conflicts of the 19th Century such as Napoleon III’s campaign in Italy and the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Austrian sharpshooters were greatly feared, enough so that after his Italian adventure the French Emperor banned the fancy officer uniforms that until then had been a hallmark of the French Army.
Some few of of these found their way over to America for the Late Unpleasantness to equip both sides, although we don’t know much about how they were actually used. The rifles imported and used here did, however, have ramrod channels added. This one is still in “Imperial” configuration i.e. without the ramrod.
In use the rifle, with its short barrel, is quite handy to use and deadly accurate to shoot, as the Austrian jagers proved.
I am fortunate in having two of these rifles, one an original (pictured) and another, a reproduction, made in what used to be Czechoslovakia in the late 1990s. Both shoot very well, although the distinctive Wilkinson compression bullets are hard to find.
The number 855 on the lock refers to the date of manufacture, which in this case is 1855, so it’s a rather early model. The design differed little from earlier flintlock versions, and many of these were converted to breech loading using the Wanzl system, which was somewhat like the British Snider or American “trapdoor” conversions.
Special thanks to Switzer’s Auctions for the use of the photos. They are very nice folks to deal with.
Cap and Ball has a nice video on the use of the jaeger rifle by the light infantry. He’s using a flintlock version, but as you can see the design has not changed much. Some photos of Lorenz rifles here, plus detailed articles by Joe Bilby and Bill Adams.
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