M1869 Werder, M1869 Aptiertes (“altered”) Werder

&

M1869/76 n.M. Werder

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(Rückladungsgewehr M/1869, System Werder); (Rückladungsgewehr M/1869 Apertiertes)

&

(Ruckladungsgewehr M/1869 neues Muster Werder)

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M1869 Bavarian Werder (Rückladungsgewehr M/1869, System Werder)

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M1869 Aptiertes (“altered”) Werder (Rückladungsgewehr M/1869 Apertiertes)

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M1869/76 n.M. Werder (Ruckladungsgewehr M/1869 neues Muster Werder)

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

  Bavaria was a separate, autonomous state until "union" with Prussia in 1866 (a military pact which formed the Northern German Federation under King Ludwig I). Located in the heart of Europe, Bavaria was bounded by Prussia to the north and west, Czechoslovakia to the east, and Austria to the south and southeast. Bavaria was chronically in the middle of the central European conflicts of the second half of the 19th century. It opposed Prussia in the Danish‑Prussian war of 1864 (see Danish Snider), sided with Austria in Austria’s war with Prussia in 1866 (see:  Austrian Wänzl) following which it joined with Prussia in forming the North German Confederation (the first national German state) and then joined with Prussia in war against France in 1870‑71 after which it became part of the German Empire.  Bavaria became a formal state of the German Empire when Germany was fully unified under Wilhelm I and his extraordinary Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck in 1871.

 

   In 1865, like so many European Powers that were being shocked by the rapid development of arms during the American Civil War of 1961-1865 and concurrent developments in Europe, the Bavarian military also set up a dedicated commission to find an appropriate breechloading, self-contained metallic cartridge,  infantry rifle design for Bavarian adoption.

 

   At that time the Bavarian army was equipped with the M1858 Podewils rifle, a percussion muzzleloader in 13.9mm (.54 caliber), the same caliber as the M1854 Austrian Lorenz.  As interim, stop-gap measures, both of these rifles would shortly be converted to cartridge breechloaders, the Podelils to the M1854/67 Podwils-Lindner (see below), a paper cartridge breech-loader, and the Lorenz to the M1854/67 Austrian Wänzl, a metallic rimfire cartridge breechloader.

 

   The break-out of the Austro-Prussian War (1866, above) temporarily halted the work of the commission, but only briefly.  Bavaria allied with Austria (along with Baden, Hanover, Hesse-Kastle, Saxony, Wurttemberg, and several other minor German states) but was quickly (within seven weeks!) and soundly defeated by the Prussian-lead confederation of the remaining Germanic states.  This ultimately led to the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership, specifically that of the brilliant von Bismarck.

 

   There is little doubt that Prussian military leadership, tactics, logistics and morale were at the heart of their quick victory (as would be shown yet again when moving against the better-armed French, fielding the m1866 Chassepot, an excellent rifle for the day, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71).  Nevertheless, the take-away for most countries was that a key factor in Prussian victory was being armed with their Zündnadelgewehr (the Dreyse “needle-gun”). And thus, after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, every European country (including Luxemburg and the Vatican Papal States!) believed that they needed to adopt a new breechloader.

 

    Bavaria chose to modernize by altering the Podwils as a stop-gap, and to find and adopt a more modern rifle as quickly as possible.  Concurrently with the adoption of the Podwils conversion, the Bavarian Small Arms Testing Commission started evaluating metallic cartridge breechloading designs, including the Werder. (a German word, pronounced:  "vairder").  

 

   In 1869, Bavaria adopted a rifle (also built as a pistol) designed and patented in 1868 by Johann Ludwig Werder to replace the M1867 Bavarian Podewils-Lindner.  The Werder is based on the Peabody rear‑hinged dropping block action, considerably refined to speed up operation. It remained in service as the primary Bavarian arm following conversion of the Werders to the M1871 standard, until finally replaced by the M1871 Mauser beginning in 1877.

GENERALLY

   The most serious competition to the Werder design entry was that of Hiram Berdan’s, Berdan II turning bolt action rifle, which was ultimately adopted by Russia as the M1870 Russian Berdan, an improvement upon the similarly sourced M1868 Russian Berdan I, but employing the same excellent .42 Berdan cartridge.  The major advantage of the Berdan design turned out to be its much superior metallic cartridge.  Eventually, the Bavarians adopted the Werder rifle, but with a modified version of Berdan’s cartridge design, although it’s unlikely that Berdan benefitted from this homage.

 

   An initial order of 100,000 infantry rifles was issued to the Bavarian state arsenal in Amberg, which was able to complete the order by 1871.

 

   A cavalry carbine version of the Werder and a pistol version were adopted for the mounted services, both chambered for the 11.5x35R cartridge, a lower power, shorter version of the infantry cartridge.  However, because Amberg was fully employed with producing enough infantry rifles quickly enough to rearm the army in the midst of a turbulent decade in Europe, the firm of August Francotte of Liége was contracted manufacture the cavalry arms. 

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An  original M1869 Werder infantry rifle (photos credit TRAPDOORMAN @ GunAuction.com).

  During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) the Bavarians’ were not yet fully equipped with Werders and unfortunately chose to utilized them spread out across many units creating serious logistical issues with ammunition as the army was still equipped with large numbers of M1858/67 Podewils.  The new unified Germany put pressure on the Bavarian State to adopt uniform ammunition standards.

 

   After the 1871 adoption of the M1871 Mauser rifle by the Prussians, small arms across the member states were standardized to use the Mauser’s 11.15x60R’s cartridge, and the other member states were pushed to adopt the Mauser rifle as well.   By late 1874 the Amberg arsenal was preparing to manufacture M71 Mauser rifles while still manufacturing Werder rifles for the Bavarian army.

 

   As yet another stop gap measure in order to avoid the logistical problems faced during the Franc-Prussian War, the Bavarian military elected to rechamber its Werder rifles still in service to the Prussian cartridge until M1871 Mausers became sufficiently available to rearm.

 

   In 1875-76, under Prussian Empire unification, Bavarian rifles were re-chambered for the Mauser M1871 cartridge.  The original chambering of the Werder was supplanted by the M1869 "Aptiertes", a Werder re‑chambered to adapt it to the Mauser Scharfe Patronene M71 cartridge (that ironically was itself based on a lengthened Werder case). This simple re‑chambering did not prove successful as the action/stock combination was not strong enough to handle the extra power of the M71 cartridge, resulting in numerous cracked stocks.

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Note the replacement of the rear sight with the M1871 Mauser rear sight.

  The slightly longer and thus higher pressure Mauser cartridge created issues in the Werder.  The Werder action consists of many small parts, and the increase in both case length and pressure resulted in extraction difficulties and small part failures in the action.

 

   The rechambered M1869 Werder was then fully re‑barreled with the Mauser M1871 barrel, becoming the M1869/76 n.M. Werder.

 

   The M1869/76 n.M. Werder (neues Muster – new Model), is a wholly new model of the Werder built to "German" standards.  Both the upgraded M1869/76 conversions and newly-built M1876 rifles are a refinement of the M1869, including in the upgrade the current M1871 Mauser barrel and rear sight graduated to 1,600 meters, the Mauser nosecap, rod, and a strengthened extractor. The Werder n.M. remained in service only briefly as the primary Bavarian arm.  Bavaria eventually replaced the Werder entirely, first with the M1871 Mauser beginning in 1877, followed by the later, tube magazine M71/84 Mauser

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A M1869/76 n.M. Werder.  Note the much lengthened octagonal chamber section, rear sight and the M1871 Mauser infantry rifle nose, including the bayonet lug integral with the nosecap.

 

OPERATING MECHANISM

  The Werder action is yet another derivative of the Peabody dropping block action, but highly modified. In the Werder’s unique design, the block is both closed and the action cocked by drawing back a lever-like hammer spur located on the back right side of the action, just ahead of the wrist. The block is kept closed by pressure from an arm attached to the rear‑facing "trigger" lever and opened by forward pressure on that lever.  When forward pressure is applied against the breech operating lever (what looks like a backward-facing "trigger" in the front area of the trigger-guard, ahead of the actual trigger), the breech block snaps open sharply, both extracting and ejecting the spent case and opening the breech so that a fresh cartridge can be pushed into the chamber. The hammer-lever is then drawn fully back merely by sweeping the (right) firing hand back, repeating the cycle. This ergonomically efficient design allowed for a rate of fire of as much as 20 to 24 rounds per minute in trained hands.  Because of this very fast operation, during the Franco-Prussian War the Werder was referred to as the Bayerisch Blitzgewehr, or “Bavarian Lightning Rifle".

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Photo of a Werder Short rifle with action loaded, closed and ready to fire (top photo) and with action fired, empty and open to accept a cartridge (bottom photo).  When the rifle has been fired but the cartridge not yet extracted, the operating lever on the right side is forward, as the bottom photo, but action still closed, as the top photo.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

 

  The 1869 model Werder was a single shot, pivoting block design that used an 11.5x50R Berdan primed cartridge. The rifle has a bayonet lug on the right side of the barrel that accepts a yataghan blade sabre bayonet.  But the rifle’s action is far from conventional.

 

   The "opposing triggers" and hammer-lever above the right side of the receiver on this rifle are immediate giveaways, and the rifle can hardly be confused for anything else. The receiver is a rather massive looking affair, with a large round hump at the back covering the lever-hammer. The top of the Peabody-derived breech block has a spooned out area serving the same function as the comparable scoop of the Peabody series of rifles and British Peabody-Martini-Henry family. Somewhat similar to the Francotte patent Martinis such as the M1895 Westley Richards Improved Martini-Henry, the entire action lifts out of the receiver by removal of the two locking screws that run through the stock on either side of the action above the trigger housing. Aside from the receiver and action, the Werder is otherwise quite typical of the single shot military rifles of the day.

 

   The action design incorporates features found in modern rifles.  Only a single screw secures the action to the rifle, and all of the internal parts are secured using a set of machined side plates with indexing holes secured via a pair of escutcheon-supported side-screws allowing all of the internal parts to move and function freely, independent of the rifle stock.

 

   The original M1869 Werder was chambered for the 11mm Werder cartridge (11x50R) and was fitted with a leaf sight, graduated to 1,400 (1,000??) Schritt (paces). When initially rechambered to the M1871 Mauser cartridge, some Werders were fitted with a leaf sight graduated to 1,400 m (1,530 yds). This sight was later replaced in favor of the German model with a maximum range of 1,600 m (1,750 yds).

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These photos of an original M1869 Werder infantry.  Note especially the short octagonal chamber section, the unique-to-this-model rear sight and the bayonet lug and short tenon.  (photos credits TRAPDOORMAN @ GunAuction.com). 

The M1869 Aptiertes Bavarian Werder

  The M1869 Aptiertes (altered) Werder, re-chambered to utilize the Prussian M71 cartridge, is only altered in that it has been re-chambered, and has been fitted with a new rear sight.  Thus externally, only the new rear sight will distinguish it from a straight, original M1869 Werder.

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A M1869 Aptiertes Bavarian Werder

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Another M1869 Aptiertes Bavarian Werder.  NOTE that the chamber octagonal area is short while the rear sight is replaced with a German M71 Mauser rear sight.  Photos:  TRAPDOORMAN @ GunAuction.com

The M1869/76 n.M Bavarian Werder

   The M1869 n.M. is a new model of Werder, although like both the M1869 Werder and the M1869 Aptiertes Werder, immediately recognized as a Werder by its "opposing triggers."  The n. M. is distinguished from its earlier form by having a Mauser barrel with knoxform (the chamber area of the barrel ahead of the receiver ring) being considerably longer than the M1869 and the Aptiertes Werders. The knoxform of the n.M. is 70mm (2.75 in) long extending, like the M1871 Mauser, all the way from the receiver to the back of the rear sight. Its Mauser rear sight is graduated to 1,600 meters (1,750 yds) and it is fitted with a Mauser nosecap that also carries the bayonet lug, Mauser cleaning rod and strengthened extractor.

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  While on the earlier models the bayonet lug it is welded to the right side of the barrel, the bayonet lug of the n. M. is mounted on the right side of the heavy nosecap.

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The nosecap and front end of a M1869/76 n.M Werder

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The nosecap and front end of a M1871 German Mauser

  One way to conceive of the M1869/76 n.M rifle is that it is a Werder from the receiver back, and a M1871 Mauser from the receiver forward.

 

MARKINGS

  The Amberg-made rifles are marked “GF” (Gewehrfabrik (rifle factory) the Amberg Arsenal inspection mark) on the top of the receiver and barrel, and “C” also, with or without  the “GF” on the top barrel knoxform flat.

   The Suhl-manufactured rifles (see Manufacturing Data, below) are marked “V.C.S. Suhl” or “Hönel Suhl: on the right side of the receiver below the barrel receiver ring, depending on manufacturer. Serial numbers are found on the left flat of the barrel knoxform, the receiver, buttstock and rear sight, and the king’s cypher appears on the buttstock above the serial number.

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  Serial numbers are found on the left barrel chamber flat, left receiver ring flat, the left side of the action, the right side of the  buttstock and even the inside of the rear sight.  The action parts themselves are profusely marked all over Bavarian Werders, but these are assembly numbers, applied by the specialized shops which built the actions on contract from Amberg.  The assembly numbers ensure that all of the parts of each action matches, but these numbers do not match the serial number of the rifle itself.

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  The right side of the buttstock is marked with the Royal Cypher above the rifle’s serial number.

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  Year of manufacture is found on the back of the action just forward of the action to trigger guard screw.

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SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS

M1869/73 Werder Gendarmerie Short Rifle (Gendarmeriekarabiner System Werder(aka M1873, sometimes M1874, Gendarmerie Rifle)

  Even as the Werders were being phased out in favor of the M1871 German Mausers, the Bavarian police sought to obtain new Werder Rifles suitable for their distinct needs. The Landpolizei  (Gendarmerie or “rural police”) were armed with completely obsolete, muzzleloading M1844 smoothbore muskets and insisted on being re-equipped with Werders.  By 1874 they were rearmed. 

 

   The Gendarmerie Werder Short Rifle is a new and distinct model but closely related to the Werder Cavalry Carbine (see below).  The Gendarmerie rifle is designed with the cavalry carbine receiver with safety, but fitted with a 21 ½” barrel with neither bayonet lug nor tenon, to accept a socket bayonet with a helical mortise cut in the socket.  In that regard the Gendarmerie bayonet is similar to the Podewils and the earlier generation Austrian bayonets of the 1850s.

 

   During this period the Amberg Arsenal was fully engaged with modification of M1869 Werders to M1869 Aptiertes and preparing to start M1871 Mauser production.  So again the Bavarians contracted with August Francotte of Liege for manufacture and ordered 2,639 such rifles. 

 

  Just as Amberg contracted with outside shops to produce infantry rifle actions, so too did Francotte contract with Maschinenbau-Aktiengesellschaft of Nuremberg to produce Gendarmerie actions delivered to Francotte for final assembly with the rest of the rifles built by Francotte.  After assembly the rifles were inspected in Amberg prior to acceptance, receiving their “GF” markings.

 

   The Werder Gendarmerie rifle M1869/73 was not only carried by the police, but also by customs formations.  In 1874 an additional 600 rifles were ordered to equip the Zollwache (customs officers) as well as 100 more rifles for the General Customs Administration. In 1875, 50 more rifles were ordered for the rural police.  Thus the total production of the Gendarmerie rifle officially came to 3,389 examples.

 

   Markings use substantially the identical system to those of the infantry rifles. 

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Border Police Short Rifles

  In 1882, about 700 of the surviving stocks of Gendarmerie rifles were modified for use by the Grenzschutwache (Boarder Police or Border Guard) by having their rear sights altered to a 50 meter zero and having their nose altered to accept a hanger style sword bayonet, known as a Hirschfänger, in lieu of the Gendarmerie’s original socket bayonet.

 

   Just as the Gendarmerie had been armed for years with deeply obsolete muzzleloaders prior to receiving their Werders, they continued to use the M1873 rifles through World War I and well into the post-war period. It was not until around 1924 that the Werder Gendarmerie Rifle was completely withdrawn from service, having served fully fifty years.

SPECIFICATIONS of the m1869 Gendarmerie Short rifle

            Length:

            Barrel Length:  21½ in

            Weight

            Rear Sights:  200 to 500 meters

M1869 Cavalry Carbine

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  The M69 Werder carbine was intended for the crews of the Chevauleger regiments.  The carbine pattern differs considerably from the infantry rifle. It is shorter of course. The integrated nosecap-barrel band/front sight protector is similar to that of the Mauser M1871 carbine. However, it has a much simpler rear sight, mounted not on the barrel, but on the receiver ring itself.  A single ring-type sling swivel is screwed into the lower edge of the buttstock at the base of the wrist. The hammer-spur cocking lever is bent inward over the top of the back of the receiver to fit a saddle holster more easily, and the top of the action housing has a shallow groove allowing use of the minimally adjustable rear sight.

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Photos of this M1869 Werder Cavalry Carbine courtesy Stephan Juan via Gunbroker.com

  The most interesting feature of the carbine is that on the right side of the receiver, under the hammer-spur cocking lever, is mounted a safety lever. This lever locks the carbine into half-cock position, preventing it from being inadvertently full-cocked while being slid into its cavalry scabbard. Such a safety feature must have been considered essential on horseback, but was likely considered to be unnecessary for infantry rifles.

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SPECIFICATION OF THE CARBINE

Overall Length:  960 mm (38 in)

Barrel Length:  550 mm (21.65 in)

Weight:  3.5kg  (7.7lbs)

Rifling: 4 groove, RH, concentric

Rear Sight:  graduated to 500 paces (381 meters; 417 yrds)

 

            CARBINE CARTRIDGE

            Length 25 mm

   The first six hundred Werder Cavalry Carbines were made by converting them from surviving Liège-built 1868-type trials rifles.  4,000  new carbines were subsequently made in Munich by  “Maschinenfabrik Landes,” and an additional 4,000 in Liège by Auguste Francotte & Cie. For a total production of about 8,600.

M18__ Pistol

  The Werder action was also utilized in a cavalry pistol, firing a shorter, reduced-load cartridge.  The Werder pistol was issued to the cuirassier regiments, Uhlan regiments and non-fighting soldiers of the Chevauleger regiments. It is proof-marked "GF" frame and a larger "GF" as an overall acceptance on the right grip panel.  Approximately 4,000 were produced, 2,000 each from Greis in Munich and Schönamsgruber in Nuremberg.

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SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA

for the M1869 and M1869 Aptiertes Infantry Rifles

Overall Length:  1,315 mm (51.8 in)

Barrel Length:  890 mm (35 in)

Weight, empty:  4.4 Kg (9.7 lbs)

Rifling: 4 groove, RH, concentric

Sight (M1869):  Ramp-and-leaf, graduated to 1000 schritt

Sight (Aptiertes and M1869 n.M.):   M1871 Mauser rear sight initially graduated from 100 to 1,400 m (110 to 1,530 yds) , then extended to 1,600 m (110 to 1,745 yds).

SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA

for the M1869/76 n.M. Infantry Rifle

  The barrel of the M1869 n.M is a M1871 Mauser barrel, which is about 35 mm (1.37 in) shorter than the M1869 Werder barrel, thus the rifle is shorter overall than the earlier M1869 Werder.

Overall Length:  ~1,280 mm (~50.4 in)

Barrel Length:  850 mm (33.5 in)

Weight, empty:  ~4.3 kg  (9.5 lbs)

Rifling:  4 groove, RH, concentric

Rear Sight:  Mauser M71 extending leaf  type, graduated from 100 to 1,600 m (110 to 1,745 yds)

 

BAYONETS

The M1869 saber bayonet

  From 1869 to 1875 the M1869 Werder rifle carried the M1869 bayonet.  During this period the Werder carbine was introduced without a bayonet, and from 1873 the Gendarmeriekarabiner System Werder was issued with a socket bayonet like the M1858 Podewils, but featuring a smaller, 20.5 mm diameter socket and a shorter blade.  The Bayonet has a solid brass grip and a iron cross guard with a hooked quillon.  The Yatagan was obtained from Koppel and Weyersberg in Solingen and Schilling/Hänel in Suhl.

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The Werder M69 bayonet came in the following variants:

  • Original bayonet with a ball-shaped end of the guard

  • Lightened Werder bayonet

  • Adapted Werder bayonet for the Werder M69 new pattern with offset guard

  • Modified Werder bayonet with a step cut in the grip

  • Modified Werder bayonet with a double stepped cut in the grip

  • SG M69/71 with M71 sawback blade

  • SG 69/88: modified Werder bayonet by grinding out the grip

  • SG 69/98: SG 98 grip on the Werder blade

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Bayonet Types from Top to bottom: Lightened Werder Bayonet, Fitted Werder Bayonet for the Werder M69 new pattern with offset pair rod, Fitted Werder Bayonet with a step cut under control, SG 69/88 Aptated Werder Bayonet by sanding out the handle, SG69/98 with the Handle of the SG98 on the Werder blade. Photo Credit: werderm69-diverse.jpg (700×562) (bayerischewaffen.de) Bayonet styles from top to bottom.  

M1869/76 n.M. Werder :  M1871 Mauser Sword Bayonet.

  The M/69nM bayonet is identical to the Prussian/German SG M1871 but issued with a Bavarian scabbard designed for the new model.

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CARTRIDGES

M1869 11mm Werder (aka 11x50R, 11.5x50R)

   The M1869 cartridge derived from the successful cartridge presented to the Bavarians by Hiram Berdan when offering the Berdan I rifle to the Bavarians for adoption.  It consists of a rimmed, bottlenecked, folded head, Berdan primed, center fire case topped by a round-nosed, lead bullet developing a muzzle velocity of 445 m.p.s. (~1,465 fps).

DIMENSIONS: 

Bullet diameter:  11.42 mm

Neck diameter:  12.05 mm

Base diameter:  13.10 mm                             

Rim diameter:  15.84 mm                               

Case length:  50.1 mm                                    

Total length:  63.7 mm

Total weight:  33 grams

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M1869 Werder Aptiertes Cartridge & M1869/76 Werder n.M. Cartridge:

   Later Werders, the M1869 Werder Aptiertes conversion and the M1869/76 Werder n.M. both utilized the 11x60R Mauser M71 Reichpatronne, discussed in detail under GERMANY, M1871 Mauser.

MANUFACTURING DATA

  Werder infantry rifles were built by the Bavarian government arsenal at Amberg (about 125,000), the Handfeuerwaffen-Productionsgenossenschaft (a consortium of Schilling, Haenel, Spangenberg and Sauer) in Suhl (20,000), and about 1,000 initial trials rifles by the Belgian firm of  August Francotte et Cie in Liège.  Six hundred of the Liège rifles were later converted to carbines (see above) in 1870.

 

   A facet of the Werder design is that much like the Remington military rifles, it required that the actions be built to very close tolerances to function properly.  Because the rifles’ actions had to be machined to tight tolerances, this meant that they could not be quickly produced at the Amberg Arsenal which was engaged in mass production.  Therefore, while the rest of the rifles were built at the Amberg rifle works, the actions were produced by the Werder directed Cramer-Klett Machine Factory and later by other regional contractors with the ability to do high tolerance machine work.  After manufacture, the actions were inspected and assembled into finished rifles at Amberg.  This is why numbers within the actions (which are assembly numbers) do not match the serial numbers of finished Werder rifles.  Just as with the Amberg produced Werder infantry rifles, the actions for the Francotte carbines were produced by outside high tolerance manufacturers such as  Cramer-Klett and Maschinenbau-Aktiengesellschaft.

 

   Most of the M1869 rifles (124,500+) were altered by 1875 to the Aptiertes M/69 standard to accept the German M1871 cartridge and were fitted with new sights as well.

 

   Beginning in 1876, existing rifles were further altered to the M1869/76 n.M standard with Mauser barrels, as well as new actions being manufactured by Machinenfabrik Augsburg (~25,000) and assembled with Öesterreichisch Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft (OEWG) barrels and stocks or Bavarian made barrels and stocks. 5,000 rifles were manufactured in Amberg and 20,000 in Steyr.

 

   Thus, the M1869/76 n.M rifle is a Werder from the receiver back, and a M1871 Mauser from the receiver forward.

UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES

None known.

PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES

Predecessor Rifle(s): M1858/67 Bavarian Podewils-Lindner

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Follow-On Rifle(s): M1871 German Mauser

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REFERENCES

Page built September 9, 1999
Revised September 28, 1999

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Updated: Apr 9, 2022