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Taking a look at the Werndl

[This pic embiggens]

 As several of you got to with fair ease, yesterday's quickie whatziss was indeed an Austrian 1867 Werndl rifle.  The Castle's Austrian M1867 Werndl rifle is a "turning block" breech-loader, adopted to replace the earlier "Wanzl" conversion of the standard Austrian muzzle-loader.  The Wanzl was essentially a trapdoor conversion of the Lorenz musket, just as our initial post-civil war rifles were trapdoor conversions of Springfield M1863 rifled muskets..  These incremental changes were made as armies struggled to keep up with each other in a time of rapidly acclerating technological change and restricted budgets, a race which lasted through the First World War before it slowed a bit in the aftermath of that fiasco.

Not to be confused with the Remington "rolling block" rifles or the Springfield Arsenal "Trapdoor" conversions of US rifled muskets or the Brit Snider conversions.  The difference in approach are defined by where the axis of rotation is.  In a "rolling block" the axis is perpendicular to the axis of the bore, so that the block rolls away from or towards the breech.  In the "trapdoor" rifles, the hinge is at the front of the block, so that the shooter lifts the bolt out of the breech and lays it forward to open, and drops it back into place to close it.

A variation of that is the British Snider conversion, which hinges the block on the right side of the action, so that the shooter lifts it out of the breech and it lays to the right of the breech.  In a "turning block" the axis is in line with the barrel, and the block rotates in place to reveal the breech and then rotates back to lock the breech.  That groove you see in the block is a camming groove. When opening the breech after firing, the soldier would rotate the breech and then give the tab on the breech a good push with his thumb. That last extra bit of action - against spring tension - would cause the extractor to pull the cartridge out of the breech.

This rifle is also a good candidate to show what collectors mean when they say "original finish mostly intact but thinning with age..."  The Werndl's had "browned" barrels, and this one is showing it's age - just like a guy with thinning hair shows his...

You may have noticed our resident bayonet-geek get all excited about the bayonet (and not so much about its "holder...") indulging in knowledge gloats about balls on the ring and such.

[This pic also embiggens]

We'll let him bloviate about the bayonet in the comments, and we'll even provide a picture of the markings.  That said - Neffi, what's the best approach to cleaning those leather scales so as to get the accumulated grime off without damaging the leather?


A most wonderful resource on this subject is Keith Doyan's superb site:

(Non-U.S.) Black Powder, Metallic Cartridge, Military Rifles from about 1865 to about 1888
(A Research, Photo-Identification and Information Website since 1997)

Sadly, he does not provide cat hairs for scale, but otherwise it is really handy of you enconter a strange old military rifle-- or are tormented by photos of one..

Werndl and Wanzl and Whatziss, oh my!
Commencing bloviation...! The M1867 was Austria's first sword (vice socket) bayonet. Most of them suffered the indignity of having the original blade length docked by about 105mm to conform with the overall length of the M1873 when that bayonet was introduced with it's attendant rifle. Full-length M1867s are rare and highly sought after...
 The Care and Feeding of pressed-leather grips can be summed up as 'less is more'.  I use a medium toothbrush to gently brush away loose dirt 'n' debris, following the line of the checkering. If the grips are highly soiled or show signs of dry rot, a gentle cleaning with good quality saddle soap followed by a light application of PURE neetsfoot oil may be indicated...
 As always, avoid treating the leather with anything containing petroleum products. Storage in an area with moderate humidity and good air circulation will help prevent drying and shrinkage.
Pressed leather grips were especially common on British bayonets in the mid to later 19th Century and I'm constantly impressed (hah!) with the condition of these grips after 140 - 150 years.
A bit late a bit behind considering what happened to them in 1866 when they were introduced to the wrong end of the Dreyse 'Needle Gun'.
The Werndl is a metallic cartridge rifle, Jim.  An improvement on the needle-gun.
Not much of one when you consider what else was out there.  Obviously, I will grant the metal cartridge thing. Clearly in 1870 the French infantry outshot the Prussian infantry.  Unfortunately the German artillery, well, it really outshot the French artillery.  I saw a casualty study for the Franco-Prussian War where most German casualties were caused by rifle shots or the millatreuse and most French casualites were from the superior German field pieces.  Yes, I know the French misused the millatreuse as artillery and deployed them in batteries. 
Snerk.  Got a little defensive there in the end, dincha?

I've got a Chassepot.  I'd take the Werndl over that, especially over time, as the needle-guns suffered failures from the needles getting brittle, and the cartridges were a pain.

One thing I don't know is how well the Werndl stood up to prolonged use and dirt.