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Francis Averous' Werder Pics & Article


Subj:  Re: Werder rifle
Date: 02-09-20 03:25:59 EDT
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com

This unmodified rifle was "lost" to the enemy (us the French) during the 1870 fights in France. Most if not all of the rifles retained by the Bavarian Army were subsequently "aptiertes" (official figures say 124 540 out of about 127 000 produced, so the surviving number of originals must be quite small..). They are quite rare overhere also since only 3 regiments of the Bavarian Army were (and only partially) equipped with the new rifle while most of the soldiers carried Lindner pattern rifles. It is the second I see and it is in a good preservation state (original bluing only slightly worn and no rust on polished parts, perfect action...).  The Bayerische Armee Museum (Ingolstadt) curator has confirmed the rarity of the rifle and shown a keen interest in its markings... The back sight is graduated to 1200 (paces or meters ? I am trying to find out), contrary to some sources who say 1100.  I will try to make acceptably good pictures and send them to you (please be
patient, I have a lot of projects ongoing...
Salutations / Best regards)

(Keith Doyon note:  M. Averous obviously succeeded as the pictures below so wonderfully illustrate!)

Subj:  Re: Werder rifle
Date: 02-12-23 03:18:42 EST
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com

Xmas is approaching and here are the pictures of ye olde Werder rifle.

Sorry to show a rifle with still a lot of old dried grease, but I did not find time for the thorough cleaning it deserves... This rifle was made early in 1870 in Amberg, with a Kremmer & Cleitt action.  I have also written a short essay on what I think of this wonderful, if somewhat unknown, design. Feel free to edit it as you think necessary to fit in the format of your site.  I would like to be cited as Francis Averous and you are free to include my email address for any questions visitors might have on this rifle.  I am working on assembling the necessary tools and stuff to fire it again.  More news about that later in 2003.

The Werder rifle is the brainchild of Johannes Ludwig Werder, a prolific Bavarian engineer, who, besides this rifle, designed locomotives and many other implements. He was a specialist in production engineering and tooling design.  The relatively obscure Werder rifle is a masterpiece of design, exhibiting many characteristics well ahead of its time, considering the date of its design and adoption (July 1869). Although a relative of the Martini/Peabody family of pivoting block rifle, many details show a very inventive and creative mind :

--  The provision of an automatic ejector for the fired case is without precedent in a time where most of the contemporary, and even later, rifles (Mauser 71) had no ejector at all and the rifle had to be rolled or inverted for the case to fall away.

--  The "double trigger" system for breech actuation (the front "trigger" pushed forward opens the breech and ejects the case) allows comfortable firing from the prone position, compared to the clumsiness of a lever action like the Martini-Henry (This was a requirement of the Bavarian Staff).

--  The loading and safety system is the best thought-out of the period : the breech-block is under slight spring pressure when loading(1) , retaining the cartridge in the chamber, even if the hammer is not cocked ; in the half-cock (safety notch) position of the hammer, the breechblock is raised but not fully(2), ensuring that the floating firing pin (with rebound spring) will not hit the primer, even if the rifle is heavily jolted or  bumped (do not try that on a 73 Springfield for example…). Only in the full cock position is the breech block fully raised(3) and the firing pin in line with the primer.

--  The entire action is a self contained assembly(4) removable by releasing a single screw in front of the trigger guard, sliding the trigger guard backwards to unhook it and pulling the action upwards(5). When you get the knack for it (i.e. grabbing the bump of the action in the palm of your hand while depressing the breech downward with the forefinger to retract the extractor), the whole stripping can be done in less than 15 seconds with a simple coin. (Try to do that on a Winchester 85...) If the action is a little stubborn from neglect, slots have been milled on each side to pry it out with the blade of the screwdriver. This allows complete access to the breech end of the barrel for cleaning(6), as well as to the fore face of the breech(7). Lifting the left sideplate (no tools needed) allows complete access to the moving parts(8) (12 only including springs). On the minus side, this solution entails extreme accuracy in manufacturing for each action to be a sliding fit in any housing.

Other characteristics of the rifle where more usual, showing careful study of other designs: the front sight and bayonet mounting(9) is a close relative to the system used on the French Chassepot rifle (the bayonet being very similar also). The aft sight(10) relies on the usual lifting blade with cursor(11)  (graduated from 600 to 1200 steps) and a battle sight position when lowered, adjustable from 3 to 500 steps(12).  (the aft sight is graduated in steps and not in meters (1 step = 1 Schritt
in German. Accordingto the instructions for troop training of the KB army, 1 Schritt = 28 Ddz Zoll bayerisch = 0,681004 Meter). The max graduation is thus 1200 steps or 817 m or 893 yards.)

An idiosyncrasy of the Werder rifle is that each rifle sports 2 serial numbers: in a time where in Europe, it was customary for each part of a military rifle to be numbered(13), the solution adopted for production (subcontracting parts to private contractors, the state arsenal being only responsible for assembly and final acceptance) made that numbering issue difficult. The solution adopted was to have the action serialized with its own S/N (in this case # 6248) together with a manufacturer stamp (in this case KC for Kremmer und Cleit, the company where Mr Werder was chief engineer). The rifle had its own S/N (# 12956) stamped on barrel, butt plate, trigger guard and wooden stock. The only part bearing both S/N is the left side plate of the action(14).

It is sad that this fine rifle, developed in conjunction with a fine specific cartridge (11,5 x 50 R Werder) was later spoiled by the request of the Prussian staff, after adhesion to the second Reich was imposed upon Bavaria, to have it rechambered in 11,15 x 60 R Mauser (Reichpatrone 71) : the new cartridge, with its long cylindrical collet, tended to stick on ejection and the much smaller diameter rim resulted in the extractor overriding the rim, jamming the rifle. This ended in the Werder rifle being withdrawn from active service and replaced by the Mauser 71.

















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Page Created January 16, 2003

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

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