THE AUSTRIAN WERNDL RIFLE
CAL.11mm Austrian
Model 1867 Rifle
Model 1867 Carbine
Model 1867/77 Rifle
Model 1873 Rifle
Model 1873/77 Rifle
Model 1873/1877 Jaeger Rifle
Model 1877 Carbine
Model Specs
Bayonets
Austrian Werndl by Randy Rick
Josef Werndl Bio
 Karl Holub Bio
Austria's decision to adopt the Werndl breech-loading rifle.
Discussion of the rifle and factory, including notes on additional contracts undertaken by the factory. [1867]
THE TIMES, 7 MAY 1867
GENERALLY:  This is the rifle that got Steyrwerks off the ground! As a result of the obvious superiority of the Dreyese Needle guns shown at the battle of Sadowa, Austria decided to adopt a small calibre metallic cartridge breech loader.  The Austrians knew that the Wanzl conversion of the M1854 Lorenz was a stopgap at best and they engaged in extensive trials to adopt a successor. The Werndl was principally the invention of Karel Holub who associated with Josef Werndl, director of Styerwerks, to manufacture the rifle.  At trials at the Vienna Arsenal, the Remington Rolling Block system was the clear front-runner until submission of the Holub and, when a decision could not be made, both rifles were submitted to the King who, (surprise!) chose the Holub.

DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS:  This is a rotating drum-action breech loader that can't easily be missed for anything else. When the hammer is drawn back the longitudinal drum breechblock is rotated on a central pin by means of a flat lever protruding from and integral with the drum. The drum has a section cut out to allow loading of a fresh round and, when loaded, the drum/ block is rotated back, the cut-out being replaced by the solid face of the block. The firing pin is located offset within the block in a manner reminicent of the Snider and Trapdoor blocks and recessed within the block allowing the block to pivot within the receiver.



AUSTRIAN MODEL 1867 WERNDL CARBINE.
CAL.11mm Austrian .

The Werndl was invented by Josef Werndl and Karl Holub of Steyr, Austria. It featured a rotating breechblock. When the hammer fell, this breechblock locked solidly. It was Austria's main infantry rifle for nearly 20 years. Like many other single-shot rifles of it's day, it could not be converted to multi-shot, and was therefore replaced by the Mannlicher M1886 straight-pull magazine rifle.

This is a rotating drum-action breech loader that can't easily be missed for anything else. When the hammer is drawn back the longitudinal drum breechblock is rotated on a central pin by means of a flat lever protruding from and integral with the drum. The drum has a section cut out to allow loading of a fresh round and, when loaded, the drum/ block is rotated back, the cut-out being replaced by the solid face of the block. The firing pin is located offset within the block in a manner reminicent of the Snider and Trapdoor blocks and recessed within the block allowing the block to pivot within the receiver.
 
 




AUSTRIAN MODEL 1867 WERNDL Rifle.



AUSTRIAN MODEL 1867/77 WERNDL RIFLE

This is a rotating drum-action breech loader that can't easily be missed for anything else. When the hammer is drawn back the longitudinal drum breechblock is rotated on a central pin by means of a flat lever protruding from and integral with the drum. The drum has a section cut out to allow loading of a fresh round and, when loaded, the drum/ block is rotated back, the cut-out being replaced by the solid face of the block. The firing pin is located offset within the block in a manner reminicent of the Snider and Trapdoor blocks and recessed within the block allowing the block to pivot within the receiver.

This view of the Werndl rear sight leaves little doubt as to how virtually identical it is to the M1879 Argentine Remington Rolling Block. Remington scholars have questioned why the Argentine sight is so different from every other Remington made Military Rolling block. I suggest that the Argentines had a very close connection with the Austrians and simply considered their sight superior. In any event, the Werndl rear sight is about interchangeable with the M1879 Argentine rear sight. (If anyone has any additional information I would sincerely appreciate it.




 

AUSTRIAN MODEL 1873 WERNDL RIFLE.

The Werndl was invented by Josef Werndl and Karl Holub of Steyr, Austria. It featured a rotating breechblock. When the hammer fell, this breechblock locked solidly. It was Austria's main infantry rifle for nearly 20 years. Like many other single-shot rifles of it's day, it could not be converted to multi-shot, and was therefore replaced by the Mannlicher M1886 straight-pull magazine rifle.
 
 

Werndl receiver closed (above), and open (below).

This is a rotating drum-action breech loader that can't easily be missed for anything else. When the hammer is drawn back the longitudinal drum breechblock is rotated on a central pin by means of a flat lever protruding from and integral with the drum. The drum has a section cut out to allow loading of a fresh round and, when loaded, the drum/ block is rotated back, the cut-out being replaced by the solid face of the block. The firing pin is located offset within the block in a manner reminicent of the Snider and Trapdoor blocks and recessed within the block allowing the block to pivot within the receiver.

This view of the Werndl rear sight leaves little doubt as to how virtually identical it is to the M1879 Argentine Remington Rolling Block. Remington scholars have questioned why the Argentine sight is so different from every other Remington made Military Rolling block. I suggest that the Argentines had a very close connection with the Austrians and simply considered their sight superior. In any event, the Werndl rear sight is about interchangeable with the M1879 Argentine rear sight. (If anyone has any additional information I would sincerely appreciate it.



M1873/77 Werndl Rifle


(Photo Courtesy D. Goss)

GENERALLY: This rifle was an improved version of the M1867 Werndl, most noticibly with the breechblock rotating lever turned up to make it more convenient to operate and with the hammer relocated to pivot inside the wrist of the rifle rather than attached to the outside of an external lockplate.

PHOTO: The rifle shown is a M1873/77 Jeager rifle. It, like the M1867/77 Werndl displayed above differs from the Infantry rifle only in its pistol grip triggerguard. The 73/77 designation indicates that the rifle was rebarreled to chamber the improved 11.15x58R bottleneck cartridge (converted from the 11.15x42R) and resighted. External appearance between the M1873 and M73/77 are very slight.

DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS: See the discussion regarding the M1867 Werndl . The M1873 has a turned up breechblock lever and the hammer is shaped differently and pivots within the wrist of the stock rather than on an exterior mounted lockplate.




Top, Original long bayonet
Bottom, arsenal shortened second type bayonet





Werndl M.1877 Carbine

Caliber: 11 x 36 mm, rimmed
Austro-Hungarian empire Werndl M.1877 carbine that was still used as a secondary weapon in World War One! The M.1877 carbine is identical with the M.1873 carbine except for different calibration of the rear sight. While M.1877 rear sight is graduated to 1600 paces for a more powerful M.77 cartridge, the M.1873 rear sight is graduated only up to 600 paces for the older cartridge. The carbine has correct finger spur on the trigger guard. The carbine features the modified and strengthened rotary-block breech design with central hammer. Developed from M.1867 action that was competing successfully in military trials with Remington Rolling Block. The carbine was made in 1886 (last year of production!) as indicated by markings stamped on the lockplate. The maker abbreviation, "OEWG" is stamped on the breech and on the lockplate (OESTERREICHISCHE WAFFENFABRIKS GESELLSHAFT STEYR UND PEST). The lockplate displays, "OEWG 86". Some small Austro-Hungarian proof marks are stamped on the lower part of the buttstock. Matching serial numbers (the matching numbers are stamped on the rotary block, receiver, buttplate , rear sight and some screws). The saber type bayonet lug is located on the right side of the nosecap. Complete with a cleaning rod. Overall length: 39.5 inch. Barrel length: 22 inch.
Detailed Photos here



Austro-Hungarian Werndl M.1873/1877 Jaeger Rifle
Caliber: 11 x 58 mm, rimmed

Austro-Hungarian empire Werndl M.1873/77 Jaeger rifle that was still used as a secondary weapon in World War One! The Jaeger rifle is identical with the infantry rifle except for the extra finger spur on the trigger guard. These rifles were originally built in 11 x 42R caliber, and they were converted to fire 11 x 58R from 1877 on. The rear sight was also replaced during the conversion works with the one for M.77 cartridge. The rifle features the modified and strengthened rotary-block breech design with central hammer. Developed from M.1867 action that was competing successfully in military trials with Remington Rolling Block. The rifle was made in 1876/1877, and all the major parts were stamped with one of these dates. The maker abbreviation, "OEWG" is stamped on the breech and on the lock plate (OESTERREICHISCHE WAFFENFABRIKS GESELLSHAFT STEYR UND PEST). The back of the barrel displays following markings, "Austro-Hungarian double headed eagle, 77". The lock plate displays, "OEWG 876". The rear sight displays arsenal markings, "OEWG". The barrel displays also a letter "T", which I believe indicates a new type, strengthened steel (the letter is stamped in front of the rear sight). Some small Austro-Hungarian proof marks are stamped on the lower part of the buttstock. The regimental markings are stamped on the upper part of the butt plate, "26.LW.282" (please, see pictures). Matching serial numbers, except for the rotary block (the matching numbers are stamped on the left side of the receiver, on the buttplate, on some screws and on the barrel; the rotary block displays a different serial number). The saber type bayonet lug is located on the right side of the muzzle.




Josef Werndl

Josef Werndl was born on the 26th of February 1831 at Steierdorf in Upper Austria as the son of an old established family of gunsmith's. His father Leopold had transformed the family business from tool manufacturing into a company for weapon parts, especially for rifles, in 1821. After school Josef Werndl learned the profession of a gunsmith and worked at Prague as well as in Vienna. As was usual at the time he traveled widely to gain experience which took him to Thüringia, England and at last to the USA where he would gain valuable experience at the famous companies of Colt and Remington. He returned to Steyr in 1853 and started to work in the family business - at this time a manufacturing concern with 500 employees - which he had to take over after the sudden death of his father in 1855. Josef Werndl started to reorganize the firm following modern practices and specialized in producing high quality barrels and other parts for small arms. Following the spirit of the time he also started to develop, together with his foreman Karl Holub, a modern breech loading rifle system. For the distribution of such a rifle he founded with his brother the "Josef und Franz Werndl & Comp. Waffenfabrik und Sägemühle" on the 16th of April 1864, registered with the commercial register of the city of Steyr on the 13th of August of the same year. The continually growing company delivered their breech loader to several foreign countries but the "Big Deal" would come a little later!

In July 1867 he took out the patent of an easy to use breech loader with a unique tabernacle gun lock (Wellblockverschluss mit Lademulde) which finally won the competition against the Remington System with the k.u.k. Army. Josef Werndl offered the Army his rifle for use without any patent fees free of charge- of course not out of any "patriotic feelings" as he officially announced, he simply knew that his firm was at this time the only company which was able to produce the Werndl rifle in the necessary quality and quantity for the whole army and both Landwehrs. Werndl's business acumen worked and he was awarded a contract for 100,000 pieces shortly followed by the next order for a further 150,000 rifles. The company soon expanded to the size of 6,000 employees and it became necessary to develop into a public limited company. On the 1st of August 1869 the firm transformed with the support of the Boden-Credit-Anstalt into the "Österreichische Waffenfabrik AG" (OEWG) with Josef Werndl as its director general. The decision of the Austrian authorities to issue the Werndl rifle as the standard small arm to all branches of the armed forces entailed many other orders from all over the world and at this time the OEWG had an output of 8,000 rifles a week.

While all this great success was transpiring, Josef Werndl remained an unpretentious person as before. When he was honored with the award of the 3rd class of the Order of the Iron Crown on the 13th of February 1870, which was normally the basis for the recipient to be eligible for a tax free raising to the nobility, he decided not to ask for that honor. He cared about his employees much more than was usual at this time, building modern housing estates for his workers to give them the possibility of modern and cheap living, paid a higher salary than usual at his firm and provided free medical treatment. Soon he became obsessed by the possibilities of electricity and promoted the production of water generated electricity. He established at the civilian branch of his firm the production of arc lamps and electrical street lamps and so it came to be that Steyr was the first European city with electric street lighting installed gratuitously by Werndl's company. Even Kaiser Franz Joseph visited the small Upper Austrian village to see the "Bengalian Wonder" in 1884!

Another aspect of his success was his ability to get other highly talented constructors such as Karl Holub, Anton Spitalsky, Otto Schönauer, the artillery officer Alfred Kropatschek or the railway engineer Ferdinand Mannlicher to work with him and for him. In particular the cooperation with Ing. Mannlicher since 1875 made Josef Werndl's company the leading European producer of small arms, delivering between 1869 and 1913 more than 6 million rifles of varying models to Austria and several other states of the world. The success of the Mannlicher/Schönauer rifle after 1900 again gave the company an additional stimulus in the area of hunting rifles too. The mark of 10,000 employees was crossed in 1889. In 1883 Josef Werndl was honored with the award of the commander's cross of the Order of Franz Joseph and again he declined to request ennoblement. In Spring 1889 Josef Werndl again displayed his extraordinary social spirit and personally participated in the rescue work following a large flood. Tragically the work in cold water caused his infection with pneumonia. Josef Werndl died on the 29th of April 1889 at Steyr (Upper Austria) only 59 years old having built one of the largest and most successful industrial companies in the history of Austria.




 
 


Karl Holub

Karl Holub was born at Stradonitz (Bohemia) on the 26th of January 1830. After school he learned the profession of a gunsmith. During his military service he was engaged at the gunsmith's workshop at the arsenal in Vienna were he would gain valuable experience. After his discharge in 1857 he was employed in an ironworks at Steyr where Josef Werndl became aware of the young mans talent. In 1861 Josef Werndl offered Karl Holub the job of Werkmeister (foreman) in his company and together they started to develop a breech loader. In 1863 both traveled to several weapon manufacturers in the USA where Karl Holub would further gain experience especially at the Colt company of Hartford. In 1866 Karl Holub implemented the decisive breakthrough by constructing a new gun lock for their rifle. When the Austrian army finally issued the rifle it became known as the "Werndl-rifle" while Holub's contribution remained widely unknown to the public. Together they developed a rifle which was still successfully used - even during the 1st World War mainly by second line formations such as the Landsturm on rear area guard duties and the customs service - until 1918!

However Josef Welrnd himself did not forget his co-developer; he made him technical director at the OEWG and compensated him generously for his contributions and patent rights. In 1874 Karl Holub was honored with the award of the knight's cross of the Order of Franz Joseph, an unusually high grade decoration, normally only awarded to persons with the equivalent of an officers' rank. As a rule those not of this status were decorated with merit crosses - with or without crown. Karl Holub died on the 23rd of May 1903 at Steyr.




 
 




The Austrian Werndl by Randy Rick

Both Photos: Top is a model 1873/77, and bottom gun is model 1867/77. Both guns pictured are the 1877 conversion to Patrone M1877, 11mm.

The origons of the Oesterreich Waffenfabrik Gesellschaft in Steyr go directly back to Gewehr Fabrikanten Werndl. Josef Werndl was much loved by the Austrians and was known for his care for his factory workers and craftsmen.


The Various Models of Werndl:

M1867

Barrel is 843mm. The receiver is rounded on either side. The hammer
is mounted on the right side of the receiver, externally. The top of
the rear sight ladder has a wedge which faces the back, but not the
front as part of the sight notch. The rear sight base has rounded lobes on
the front on either side of the sight ladder. The trigger guard is
one piece with a flat band of metal running back along the underside
of the grip. The sight is graduated from 200 to 1400 paces.

M1873

Barrel is 843mm. The receiver is flattened on either side, and the
hammer is behind the receiver. The sight is graduated from 200-1400
paces and the top as the M1867. The sight base has a wedge protruding
between the legs of the sight ladder, but no rounded lobes on the
outside. The trigger guard is one piece with a band of metal shaped
into an elongated hand stop protruding 5cm below the gun at the
rear of the grip.

M1867/77

Modified from M1867 rifles to accept the new 1877 cartridge.
Trigger guard & grip modified to the 1873 type.
Sight modified to 200-2100 paces. The top of the sight also has a
wedge protruding forward as well as to the rear. Sight base as in the
1873, wedge between the legs of the sight ladder, no round
projections in front outside the sight ladder. These guns
frequently seen with the origonal rear sight.

M1873/77

Same as M1873, but rechambered for the M1877 (larger bottlenecked)
cartridge. New sights graduated 200-2100 paces, or may be seen
with origonal sight.

Extra-Korps-Gewehr (Project v.J.)M1867

Barrel 593mm. One barrel band. Chambered for Karabinerpatrone M1867.
No Bayonet stud. Otherwise as the M1867.

Extra-Korps-Gewehr M1867

Barrel 566mm. No barrel band, front sling loop attached to either
side of forestock. No bayonet stud. Ladder sight graduated 200-600
paces. Otherwise as M1867.

Extra-Korps-Gewehr M1867/77

Same as E-K-G M1867 but rechambered for 1877 cartridge & sight
changed to 200-1600 paces.

Extra-Korps-Gewehr M1873/77

Cut down from M1873 rifles to barrel length of 566mm. Sight on the
left in the old graduations of 200-800 paces, on the right 200-1600
paces.

Extra-Korps-Gewehr M1873/77 Variant

Similar to E-K-G M1873/77 but made in 1885 and has a bayonet stud on
the right side of the forestock cap.

Karabiner M1867/77

Cut down from M1867 rifles & chambered for 1877 cartridge. Has the
rear sling band on the front of the trigger guard. Barrel 566mm.

Karabiner M1873/77

Cut down from M1873 rifles, otherwise same as Kar M1867/77.

Other:

Portuguese M1878 Werndl Marine rifle.

Werndl carbines which fired the same 11mm round as the Austrian
Gasser Army Revolver. These are about 2/3 size in all dimensions.
 
 

Notes on the M1867/77:

I have seen M1867/77 rifles rechambered for the 1877 cartridge, but
that do not have the new sight ladders. Same for the M1873/77. It
could be that these were late conversions as the war began.
The wood from the rear barrel band forward was actually open
where the cleaning rod fit. The rod went under the forward barrel
band and there is a small depression in the stock end cap as well for
the rod. The end cap is about 1 inch behind the bayonet stud.
A bayonet stud is located on the right side of the barrel.
There is a sling swivel located about 4 inches forward of the butt
plate on the underside of the stock. It is mounted to an oval plate
1-1/4 in long, held to the stock by a screw at either end. The
forward barrel band holds the other sling swivel on its underside.
Seen on two M67/77:

57.L.St.B .
1826.
61.L.St. B.
1089.

I read the second as: 61st Landsturm Battalion, rifle 1089.
Landsturm is the equivalent of a 'ready reserve' as opposed to
professional troops. Some locally mobilized Landsturm battalions
from the eastern provinces went into early action. They fought
the first battles on the Eastern Front (WWI/Roumania/Russia) and
were issued with the single-shot Werndl.

On the lock plate of the M67/77:

(eagle)
871
This means the plate was made in 1871.
 

Stamped on the barrel:

Werndl Wn 71
(proofed at the Vienna Proof house 1871)
On the rear of the sight base is the Austrian eagle.
In front of the rear sight dove tail there is a "T" stamped on
the barrel.
Also noted, is that on the right of the rear ladder sight base is the
OE
WG which is Oesterreich Waffenfabrique Gesellschaft
There is a pistol grip cast with the trigger guard in one piece.




 
 

THE TIMES, 7 MAY 1867

(From our correspondent) Steyr, May 2

At the present moment, when war, more or less imminent, appears to be threatening Europe on all sides, and the success or failure of campaigns depends more or less on the possession of an efficient small arm, everything relating to the production of the new weapon must be of a more then usual interest.

Although considerable progress has been made in the conversion of the old muzzle-loading muskets into breech-loaders by several of the great Powers, Austria has been the first to come to a decision as to the new system to be adopted; and most people will be surprised to hear that this country possesses the means of rapidly producing the whole of the new armament required without foreign assistance.

It will be remembered that, although the Prussians adopted the zündnadelgewehr in 1846, they had not, after a lapse of 20 years, a sufficient number to arm their whole army (Landwehr included) in the campaign last year. The establishment of M. Werndl, which I visited this morning, could alone supply more than 600,000 breech-loading rifles in the course of three years.

The new weapon selected by the Austrian Government is an invention of M. Werndl. Of the better known systems it most resembles the "Peabody". It is remarkable for its simplicity and solidity. It may be said to consist of four pieces - the stock of beechwood, which reaches nearly to the muzzle of the barrel; the barrel and back piece of one piece of cast steel; the lock consisting of a wedge, with a groove over which the cartridge is slipped into the barrel, and which opens and shuts between the barrel and the back piece; and fourthly, the trigger. The manipulation of the gun is easy; there are four motions in loading. After discharge the thumb is pressed against a flat knob projection on the left side of the gun, and the lock thrown open. By the same motion the discharged cartridge is extracted by a lever. Over a groove, which now appears in the wedge, a cartridge is slipped into the barrel by a second motion. By a third motion the wedge is thrown back, and the breech locked, and the gun is then cocked. The gun may also be cocked by a first motion immediately after discharge. It is possible to fire 24 rounds in a minute. At 1,200 yards a bullet from the "Werndl" will penetrate four inches of deal board.

Of the solidity of the weapon M. Werndl gave us a proof so extraordinary that I am almost afraid to mention it, as it must really be seen to be believed. After the usual tests of dipping in water, smearing with dirt and sand, &c., and then firing, M. Werndl took the gun, and out of the window on the first floor from which we had been practising flung it repeatedly over a lane on to a piece of hard and stoney ground beyond. It was brought up and again fired over and over again having suffered no damage whatever beyond a few bruises from pebbles on the stock. The fact is, that the barrel and back piece being of one piece of steel, and supported, more over, by a very long stock, there is nothing to break. The gun is unusually light. It will cost about 31fl., which according to the present rate of exchange is 45s. The price, however, is not yet fixed. M. Werndl, as a good patriot, asks nothing for his patent from his own country, but has offered to take a contract for manufacturing 200,000 muskets in one year, and is in treaty at present with the Government for supplying 50,000, with which it is said the jägers will be armed. M. Werndl's establishments are almost equal in magnitude to the American manufacturies of Springfield and Hartford during the late war. They are chiefly situated in the town of Steyr, on the river Steyr, a broad and rapid mountain stream, which affords any amount of power, and renders steam power superfluous. One establishment is at Letten, a few miles up the river. At present only 450 workmen are employed, as M. Werndl has refused almost all foreign contracts in order to be able to work for his own country. The work on hand is various. A thousand barrels are being made for the French Government; 60,000 back pieces or locks are being made for the Chassepot, not for the French Government, but for contracts at Birmingham and Liège.

The Serbian Government has purchased a large number of the old Austrian rifles, and is converting them into breechloaders, with a cartridge which does not carry its own ignition, but to which a cap has to be affixed. A great deal of work is being done for these. For the Bavarian "Podewils," which are also being converted with a cartridge and cap not united, 50,000 back pieces are being made; for the Greeks, who have adopted a new system very similar to the "Lindner," locks and other component parts, &c. M. Werndl's machines are exclusively made after American models, which he brought with him from America a year or two ago, and are wonders of ingenuity. There must be at least 2,000 of different kinds in his establishment, but more are being constructed to be put up in new workshops now in the course of erection.

THE TIMES, 17 SEPTEMBER 1867

...There is a prospect now that the arming of the Austrian infantry with breech loaders will go on more rapidly than hitherto. The impression was that no model had as yet been definitively adopted, and that this was the reason why the camp at Bruck separated without any such trials having taken place. Before the camp broke up, however, 1,200 stand of arms were ready to be sent there, but the order came not to send them, as it was too late. I hear the delay arose from the exaggerated pretensions of the workmen, which made it impossible for the manufacturers to fulfil their contracts. The War Department has now told off a number of soldiers familiar with the manufacture of iron to take the place of the workmen. There is not much time to lose, for Austria is probably for the moment the last in the race for the breech loaders...