Austrian Wänzl Jägerstutzen M1854/67

  • Country: Austria
  • Ignition System: Rimfire
  • Calibre: 14 x 33R Wänzl

After being decimated by the Prussian army at Königgrätz in 1866, where the Austrians armed with Lorenz muzzle loaders faced the breech loading Dreyse rifles of the Prussian, the Austrian empire decided to drastically update its armament and started a trial program for a new breech loading rifle. As an interim measure, they adopted a breech loading conversion designed by the Viennese gunsmith Franz Wänzl for their Lorenz rifled guns. It is one of a number of conversions known commonly under the name « trapdoor conversions ». The Wänzl conversion was applied to all the range of Lorenz rifled muskets, short rifles, and carbines.

For this conversion the barrel was rebreeched with a new receiver shoe on which was fitted a forward hinging door. The door houses a spring-biased firing pin which strikes the rimfire cartridge in the 6 o’clock position. At the hinge, on the left side of the door is an oval shaped cam which presses against a long leaf spring, this spring causes the door to move toward an open or shut position once the apex of the oval cam rotates off a position perpendicular to the leaf spring in opening or closing direction. Opening the door also actuates a linear extractor on the left side of the chamber. There is no ejector.

The system also incorporates a clever automatic breech lock. A sliding bolt protrudes through the original breech plug and fits into a blind hole in the back of the door when fully forward. When the bolt is retracted, the door can be opened. The bolt is actuated by a pin fitted to the tumbler. When the hammer is fully cocked, the bolt is fully retracted and the door can be opened, when the hammer falls, the bolt immediately slides forward to lock the door, so even if a case should rupture in the chamber, the door remains securely locked. The system is very similar to the Belgian Albini-Braendlin breech. At half-cock the door is also locked shut. Aside from the addition of the bolt actuation pin, the original Lorenz lock is essentially unchanged.

It is common to find a gunsmiths’ name on the top surface of the door, and there appears to have been quite a few different gunsmiths tasked with the conversions since there are a wide variety of names appearing.

The short rifle shown here is a converted Lorenz 1854 Jägerstutzen. The rear sight has been adjusted for the new cartridge ammunition by fitting an entirely new sight base calibrated to the new cartridge, this was necessary since the original sight base was an integral part of the barrel itself and thus could not be modified directly.

The cartridge is nominally called 14 x 33R Wänzl and was originally a rimfire cartridge. The original rifling of the 0.54” (13,7mm) calibre barrel was not altered during the conversion. The bullet used was a 0.56” (14.40mm) hollow based bullet with two external grease grooves. Cartridges and cases are not available commercially but don’t despair, custom cases can be made relatively easily if you wish to fire a Wänzl. Like the Danish Snider cartridges, they rely on an offset 6mm blank for ignition. I have engineering drawings for the production of these cases, so please contact me if you want a copy.

A few centrefire versions are also known to exist but I do not know if these were trial versions or civilian versions. A number also appear to be made in Belgium. The Wänzl conversion was applied to all the range of Lorenz rifled muskets, short rifles, and carbines.

The original 1854 bayonet with its helical slot is retained