Bavarian Werder 1869 Infantry Rifle

  • Country: Bavaria
  • Ignition System: Centrefire
  • Calibre: 11x50R Werder

Following the peculiar adoption of the Podewils-Lindner conversion in 1867, the Kingdom of Bavaria made up for its lapse in judgment by introducing the Werder rifle on the 18th April 1869. The design was by Johann Ludwig Werder and can be considered the ultimate tilting block military rifle, following on from the Peabody and Martini-Henry.

The core of the Werder is the magnificent breech and trigger mechanism which is housed in a cassette within a box shaped receiver. The cassette has two parallel panels with a series of corresponding holes drilled through. The components of the lockwork have axles which are seated in these holes such that all the parts are securely clamped between the panels but are free to rotate on their axles. No screws are used to retain the lock parts.

To remove the entire mechanism :
1. remove the trigger guard screw
2. unhook the trigger guard by pulling it rearward
3. With the system at rest, push down the breech block to tilt the extractor out from under the chamber rim and pull the cassette up and out of the receiver

Once the cassette is out, the left panel can be lifted off to have access to the parts. The springs are unstressed so there is no danger of having parts flying off into dark corners during maintenance and parts can easily be taken in and out. With the cassette open you can really tell that Johann Werder worked for a time as a watchmaker. Despite the complexity of the lockwork, the system is very robust and all the parts are thick, well finished, and very importantly, well supported with the cassette. Perhaps the only fault is the use of oddly shaped springs which could have made field repair difficult.

The clockwork relies on a clever arrangement of springs and levers, which, through the simple action of pulling the side lever rearward allows the following to occur :
1. The Ω -shaped hammer spring is tensioned and the hammer is cocked.
2. As the hammer moves to the cocked position, a roller connected to the hammer body rolls along the underside of the breech block to raise it, whereupon it is locked in the raised position by a locking bar integral to the front trigger.
3. Raising the block causes the V-shaped spring to be compressed under the rear of the breech block such that the breech block will be ready to snap down in the ejection cycle.

When the rear trigger is pulled, the hammer is released to strike the firing pin mounted in the breech block. The hammer is a rebounding hammer and comes to rest such that it is not in contact with the firing pin. The firing pin is also biased by a coil spring in the retracted position.

Once the shot has been fired, the ejection cycle can be executed by pushing the front trigger forward, this causes the locking bar to disengage from the breech block. Once the breech block is free, its front end snaps down under the influence of the V spring compressed during the cocking cycle. The front end of the breech block hits the tail of the extractor, causing the extractor claws to snap back to forcefully extract and eject a case or cartridge.

The ergonomics of the rifle are such that the front trigger can be pushed by the trigger finger immediately after firing. After chambering a cartridge, the system is cocked with the thumb, leaving the hand in position to fire. It is thus extremely fast to use. It earned the nickname “Blitzgewehr” or “lightning rifle” for that very reason.

The bayonet for this rifle is once again a yataghan type blade very similar to the French Chassepot. The fitting along the back of the handle is different however. The example here has a full 479cm blade, which is quite rare since most were officially modified by having the blade thinned down and shortened by 12mm, in addition to the removal of the ball finial on the quillon, all in a bid to lighten the bayonet.

The rifle is chambered for the original 11x50R Werder cartridge which was loaded with 4.3gr of powder. The rear sight is a conventional ladder sight calibrated from 300 – 1200 Bavarian Schritt (204m – 817m).

The system was also adapted to carbines and pistols, these being chambered for a shorter 11x35R Werder cartridge. Following the Franco-Prussian war the Kingdom of Bavaria was assimilated into Prussian. One of the consequences of this was that all military guns should have the same calibre. Prussia had just adopted the Mauser M1871 rifle chambered for the 11x60R M71 cartridge. Bavaria was thus required to modify its Werder rifles to chamber the new cartridge. This was done in two ways, namely:

A) Rechambering the majority of existing rifles to accept the M71 cartridge and fitting M71 sights. These rifles are known as M1869 “Adaptiertes” rifles. These are reputed to sometimes have badly reamed chambers and the original extractor struggles with the longer M71 case.

B) A new series of rifles were produced which have a Mauser M8171 barrel, sights, barrel bands, and end cap. These are known as M1869n/M (neue Muster) rifles.

This rifle was found in the area of Orléans in France and the butt plate is regimentally marked to the 10th Company of the Royal Bavarian “Kaiser Franz Joseph I of Austria” 13th Infantry Regiment. During the Franco – Prussian war this regiment fought in Beaumont, Paris, and Orléans. Since it is still in original condition, it is highly probable that the rifle was captured by the French and hence escaped any Prussian-enforced tinkering.

Should you be the owner of a Werder rifle, carbine or pistol, please ensure that the gun is kept with the hammer down and the breech block OPEN! This ensures that all the springs are unstressed