M1873 and M1873/77 Werndl
(Infanterie und Jägergewehr Modelle 1873)
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A M.1873 updated to /77 Austrian Werndl Infantry Rifle
The M1873 Werndl rifle is an improvement upon the M1867 Werndl but is not a fundamentally new design. Rather, it is a distinct continuation. It was developed to address certain specific flaws and shortcomings but does not represent a significant technological leap over its predecessor. The extensive historical context discussed in relation to the M1867 applies equally to the M1873, and the reader is referred to the Historical Context discussion at this link: M1867 & M1867/77 Werndl.
Extensive field use of the M1867 Werndl infantry rifle served to point out various operating defects of the original design. The nature of the drum breech made it susceptible to powder fouling, interfering with its rotation such that it was subject to becoming jammed. The rear sight leaves were vulnerable to breakage, and the stock regularly cracked in the thin area between the lock plate and the receiver.
During 1872-3, the action was extensively revised by OEWG. The M1873 Werndl rifle is an improved version of the M1867, most noticeably with regard to the relocation of its hammer to pivot inside the wrist of the rifle, rather than attached to the outside of an external lockplate, and the receiver sides were flattened, thus strengthening the wrist portion of the stock. The breechblock rotating lever was redesigned so that it is turned up when closed to make it more convenient to operate and to handle and the extractor was improved.
The sight base and sight leaf were also strengthened, and barrel bedding was somewhat improved by substituting a dual screw and spring-retained front barrel band for the earlier simple nosecap. This third, now upper barrel band/nosecap also supports the cleaning rod more fully, thus improving its damage protection somewhat.
Although a strengthened Roth cartridge case had been introduced in 1874, real improvements occurred when a longer, bottlenecked cartridge was introduced in 1877, in lieu of the modest, 11.15x42R straight case cartridge. Both the newly arrived M1873 and the earlier M1867 Werndls were upgraded to M1877 standards by rechambering to accept the 11.15x58R M.77 cartridge and fitting the rifles with longer range sights. Improvements in cartridge propellant in the 1880s led to another increase of maximum range graduations to 2,200 paces (1,700 m; 1,855 yds).
Breech area of an original M.1867 Werndl rifle
Breech area of a M.73 rifle expanded to accept the longer M/77 cartridge
The M1873 operates virtually identically to the M1867 Werndl. The action is locked by rotating the breech-drum clockwise using the thumb lever on the drum seal the chamber. Differences between the rifles are design differences to improve operation, but without changing the general mechanics of operation.
At first glance the M.1873 Werndl is substantially like the M.1867 but there are some noticeable differences. The M.1873 has a turned up breechblock lever, its hammer is shaped differently and now pivots within the wrist of the stock rather than on an exterior mounted back-action lockplate. The hammer is thus located more directly behind the receiver. The sides of the receiver itself are flattened and cleanly inletted into the sides of the stock. This does away with the most common fault of the M.1867, the right side stock cracking between the lockplate and receiver.
Additional minor overall improvements include a considerable shortening and rounding of the upper receiver tang, the spring tensioning of the breechblock now being accomplished internally. The shape of the wrist of the stock is thus improved. The rear sight is placed closer to the receiver, improving both the sight radius for long range shooting as well as handling for adjustment by the shooter. The rear sight of the M1873 is 1” (25mm) from the front edge of the receiver verses 3 ½” (90mm) for that of the M1867.
The simple nosecap of the M1867 has now been replaced by a screw and spring-pin retained front barrel band which acts as a combined nosecap, upper band and cleaning rod guide.
The rear sight is graduated from 200‑1400 paces. The sight base has a wedge protruding between the legs of the sight ladder, but no rounded lobes on the outside as will be found on M.1867 rifles.
All M.1873 rifles are fitted with the post 1870 trigger guard with integral finger spur/pistol grip protruding some 5cm below the base of the wrist.
M1873/77 Werndl Rifle
This rifle is the same as the basic M.1873, but rechambered for the 11mm Gewehr-patrone M67 bzw. M.77 cartridge. New and improved rear sights were installed, graduated from 200 to 2100 paces.
The M1873 series rifles are marked substantially similarly to the earlier M1867 rifles in having the OEWG markings and year of manufacture on the lock plate, OEWG on the receiver ring, and manufacturer and date of acceptance of the barrel noted on the barrel ahead of the receiver. Barrel markings will most commonly indicate whether it was manufactured at Steyr (“St [last 2 numbers of year]”) or in Vienna (“Wn” (Wein) [last 2 numbers of year]). Additionally, serial numbers now make their appearance on the Werndl, being stamped on the breech block, left receiver flat, breech block retainer wedge and breech block pivot screw head.
Like the M1967 series, most M.1973Werndls have also been unit marked on their buttplate tangs.
M1873 Saber Bayonet
Initially the 11mm Gewehr-patrone M.67
The cartridge adopted for use with the M1873 series Werndl rifles and carbines were initially identical to those then currently in use with the M1867. However, beginning at the end of 1877, all Werndl models underwent breach rechambering and re-sighting for use with new and improved cartridges. The reader is referred to the cartridge section at the web page M1867 & M1867/77 Werndl for extensive information regarding all Werndl rifles' cartridges.
After 1877: 11mm Gewehr-patrone M.67 bzw. M.77 cartridge (M1877 cartridges)
SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA
Overall Length: 1280 mm (49.8 in)
Barrel Length: 843 mm (33.1 in)
Weight, empty: 4.3 kg (9.27 lbs)
Rifling: 6-groove; RH, concentric
Sight: Ramp-and-leaf, graduated to 1,400 paces (1,180 yds), later 2,200 paces (1,855 yds)
Generally same as M1873
Sight: Rear, graduated to 2,100 paces (1,770 yds), later 2,200 paces (1,855 yds)
SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS
In March of 1874, after the introduction of the improved M.1873 Infantry and Jager rifles the year before, the Emperor approved the adoption of a new series of carbines and special corps short rifles modeled on new M.1873s, although it would take almost two years for orders to be placed and nearly another year before the first of the short M.1873 would reach the troops.
Cavalry and Special-Corps Rifles M 1873 and M1873/77 (Kavallerie und Extra-Korps-Gewehre M. 1873 und M. 1873/77)
This later pattern of carbines and short rifles are, as would be expected, substantially similar to the rifles from which they are derived. Actions are as the M.1973 rifles with the additional 1873 improvements such as sights and upper barrel band/nosecap but without barrel bands. The upper swivel was fitted via a transverse bolt through the fore-end and the lower swivel lay on the front of the trigger guard.
General specifications include an overall length of 1005mm (39½ in.), a barrel length of 566mm (22¼ in) and weigh in at 3.3 kg (7¼ lbs). The 11mm bore (actually 10.975mm) was retained for both the initial Karabinerpatrone M.67 cartridge chambering as well as the later M.67 oder M.77 cartridge chambering.
About 100,000 Carbines and Special Versions were manufactured by Österreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft in Steyr between 1874 and 1878.
Caliber: 11x42mm, rimmed
Rifling: 6-groove, RH, concentric
Rear sight: Ramp-and-leaf graduated 200-800 paces
Muzzle velocity: 445 m/sec with M1867/73 ball cartridge
Model 1873 Carbine (Karabiner M1873)
The 1873 carbine has the new rifle’s low-profile hammer and its screw and spring with pin retained barrel band/nose cap but no middle band.
The upper sling swivel is mounted via transverse screw through the forend and the other is attached at the front of the trigger guard.
The rear sight is marked 1 through 5 along the right base with the leaf marked 6 through 14, all in hundreds of schritt (paces).
Model 73/77 carbine (Karabiner M.73/77)
This is the M.1873 carbine altered to accept the improved Karabinerpatrone M.67 oder M.77 cartridge adopted in December 1878. The chamber was opened for the new cartridge and the rear sight was altered to change the base markings to 2 through 6 along the left base with the leaf now marked 7 through14, all in hundreds of schritt (paces).
Model 1873 Special Corps Rifle (Extra-Korps-Gewehr M.1873)
Adopted at the same time as the carbine, the gendarmerie rifle is distinctive in being fitted with a single barrel band and issued to accept the 1854-type socket bayonet. Note that the bayonet mounts utilizing a spiral slot locating and locking on the front sight post.
We would appreciate an information on where we might find photos of the Model 1873 Special Corps Rifle
Model 1873/77 Special Corps Rifle (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.
Model 1873/77 Special Corps Rifle (variant) (Extra‑Korps‑Gewehr M1873/77)
Similar to Extra‑Korps‑Gewehr M1873/77 but an 1885 order with a bayonet lug on the right side of the forestock cap.
Model 1877 Carbine (Kavallerie Karabiner M.1877)
The M77 was adopted in 1878 to replace the 1867 and 1873-pattern guns but is substantially identical to the M73 except that it is designed to accept the new but more powerful cartridge. The 1877-pattern Kropatschek-designed sight was graduated to 1600 paces compared with only 600 paces for the original carbine round.
Model 1876/77 Carbine (Kavallerie Karabiner M.1876/77)
The adoption of a more powerful cartridge in December, 1878 led to a change in the chambering. The modified carbines were usually known under this particular designation.
M.1867/77 and M.1873/77 Imperial Austrian Naval Carbine (Karabiner M.1867/77 und M.73/77 für die Kriegsmarine)
The Imperial Austrian navy had previously been armed with the Extra-Korps-Gewehr M.1854 and M.1862 Lorenz. It appears that the Navy had acquired an issue of M.1867 Extra-Korps-Gewehre but, as the navy had no equivalent terminology for Extra-Korps-Gewehr, these were simply referred to as the Navy “Carbine“ and the issue of the M1873/77 became the Navy “Carbine No.2.“ These were issued in small numbers and there is evidence that the Navy requested that they be issued with bronze or possibly brass cleaning rods, but appear otherwise to be as the standard Extra-Korps-Gewehr.
M1873 Gendarmerie Rifle
I have read of the Werndl also being specially issued as a Gendarmerie Rifle fitted with a single barrel band and able to accept the M1854 socket bayonet, but I have found no additional information regarding this rifle.
At least 400,000 M1873 pattern Werndls were produced by Österreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft (OEWG), Steyr between 1873 and 1878, and more than 300,000 of these were subsequently converted to utilize the M1877 cartridge. Production of new M.1873 Werndls made to 1877 standards continued until 1885.
UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES
Montenegro adopted the M1873, with OEWG manufacturing 20,000 for use there. Additionally, Steyr production records indicate a contract for and 23,000 M1873Werndls were filled for Persia, but no other official users are currently known. Whether or not any of these are distinctively marked is unknown at this time.
PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES
Predecessor Rifle(s): M1867 and M1867/77 Austrian Werndl
Follow-On Rifle(s): M1886 Mannlicher
For perhaps the quintessential treatment of the Werndl rifle, in all of its manifestations, the reader is referred to the definitive: Schuy, Joschi, Das Waffensystem Werndl: Josef Werndl - Erfolg und Dynamik aus Steyr, Linzer Straße 10, 5280 Braunau, 1997, 485 pgs.
See also: Kropatschek, Alfred Hptm: Hinterladungsgewehr-System kleinen Kalibers mit Werndl-VerschluB., Wien, 1870.
Page built September 9, 1999
Revised September 28, 1999
Updated: Oct 29, 2021
Updated: Mar 25, 2022