What is a civil rifle

With the 19th century a new era began for the development of hunting weapons, which was driven forward by industrial progress and the development of bourgeois society. The social changes in England and France deeply affected hunting. In Germany, the noble hunting privileges were not revoked until the revolutionary year of 1848. With the binding of the hunting right to the acquis, bourgeois circles increasingly enjoyed the practice of hunting50

Eckardt, p. 287 ff.

. (Cat.-No. 43, 66)

The decisive impetus for the development of new weapon systems now came from military weapons. The industrial progress in the second half of the 19th century and the competition between the arms companies in Europe and the USA as well as the numerous wars were reflected in ever new weapon systems. Constructive innovations are only partially adopted in the civil sector and follow with a time lag. Sometimes there are also parallel developments. The development of the civil weapon of this time is only documented to a small extent in the DHM's holdings. The dominance of the military objects as the result of a long history of the collection allows only a few examples to be presented for this period.

The bourgeois development and the associated aesthetic change also affected the gunsmith's trade, who quickly adapted to technical changes and new customer requests. After a short time, the percussion lock, invented in 1807, caught on. Deficiencies in flintlock weapons could be eliminated with it, but the weapons were not cheap. The new system was initially limited to hunting weapons. Percussion rifles for hunting continued to be produced in Germany long after the invention of useful breech-loaders. In Austria, France and Belgium this tradition extended into the first decades of the 20th century. Percussion rifles with rifled barrel were characterized by their robustness and excellent firing performance and brought the art of gunsmithing another technical and artistic high point51

Durdík / Mudra / Sáda, p. 80.

. Modern manufacturing methods and the discovery of chemical explosives opened up new possibilities for the development of breech loaders. Basically it was about the improvement of the lock systems and the development of new cartridges. Around 1825 the French gunsmith Casimir Lefaucheux had developed a break-open rifle with a secure breech block. With the production of weapons with pivoting block locks and, above all, with the development of cylinder locks, a new stage in weapon technology was initiated.

The problem of the gas-tight seal could not be solved for a long time, because paper and linen cartridges were initially used for breech-loading. One of the pioneers in this field was Lefaucheux, who developed the first gas-tight cartridge. He used a firing pin that protruded from the barrel and could pick up the hammer. (Cat.-No. 67) The pen ignition was essentially limited to hunting and civil weapons and was hardly used with military weapons. Another advance was the invention of the rimfire by the Parisian gunsmith Louis Nicolas Auguste Flobert (1848). During rimfire, the firing pin hit the cartridge rim, with the barrel below the rim serving as an abutment. The bullet was placed in a large primer and propelled by the energy of the primer. The cartridges with center fire were best suited for a breech loader. The corresponding shotgun cartridges were mass-produced from 1852 and rifle cartridges from 1865.

With the participation of middle-class people in the hunt, the need for double-barreled hunting rifles rose sharply, because the new hunters did not have a crowd of servants who could always have a loaded rifle ready. So they were interested in weapons that could fire at least two rounds. This development was also promoted by a technical aspect, as modern production methods made it possible to manufacture barrels from high-quality steel, so that a twin rifle from the 19th century was lighter than a heavy hunting rifle from bygone times52

Dolínek / Durdík, pp. 261/262.

. (Cat.-No.64) With double shotguns, the gunsmith had to make sure that the barrels were at the same height and did not cross each other: the left barrel was not allowed to shoot to the right and the right barrel to the left. Often the sight rail on these weapons is corrugated in order to avoid light reflections. With the burnished barrels, however, such a corrugation was not necessary. The multi-barreled weapons should not only be lighter, but also easier to use. For the different types of this group, certain names were established that are still valid today. The combination of two rifled barrels lying on top of one another was called an over and under rifle, a rifle with a smooth and a rifled barrel, also lying one on top of the other, was called a rifle shotgun. Rifles with barrels mounted next to each other were called twins, regardless of whether they were rifled or smooth barrels or a combination of both. In a three of a kind, two shotgun barrels lying next to each other were combined with a rifled ball barrel underneath. The first treble hook with a breech loading system was made in 1878. Most two-barreled percussion weapons also had two locks. The arrangement of the lock mechanism on over and under rifles, where the barrels lay one above the other, was more difficult. The invention of the needle rifle by Johann Nikolaus Dreyse from Sömmerda (1836) also represented a significant turning point for the production of hunting weapons. Dreyse designed a cylinder lock that represented an expandable solution for the gas-tight lock on breech-loaders. The standard cartridge developed for this purpose, initially with a paper sleeve, combined all the necessary elements of a modern infantry weapon for the first time. (Cat.-No. 61, 63) The further development of the Prussian needle rifle concentrated on the military sector, but the last single-shot breech-loader from German production, the Mauser rifle model 1871, was converted into a civilian weapon by the hunters. The introduction of repeating rifles (multi-loading rifles) ushered in a new era for hunting rifles. The way led from the Mauser model 98 to the various models of bolt action rifles. The Mauserwerke in Oberndorf and the Berlin company Ludwig Löwe & Co. brought out a hunting rifle with the model designation 98/08 in 1908. The rifle, which is very popular with hunters, was produced in numerous designs and in calibers from 6.5 mm to 10.75 mm (Cat.-No. 69, 70). Shotguns also came on the market as multi-loading rifles. The industrial production of hunting weapons with interchangeable parts succeeded in 1880 by the well-known hunting company Sauer & Sauer in Suhl. The invention of the low-smoke powder (1886) brought new developments with the reduction of the caliber and the use of new types of steel for the production of barrels from Siemens-Martin steel.

Since the rifles were more expensive than shotguns, the hunters still fired bullet ammunition from smooth barrels in the 19th century and thus accepted the inaccuracy of the hit53

Dolínek / Durdík, p. 250.

. Weapons with multiple barrels were fitted with snap-action locks. The barrel was connected by a hinge to the lock case (baskül), in which the lock and lock components are housed. Numerous improvements have been made to the breeches, with the barrel locking to the housing being released in a number of ways54

Mahrholdt, p. 420.

. Shotguns with eccentric locks and internal taps were a special new development. (Cat.-No. 65) New lock systems were also developed for break-open rifles, with the self-cocking locks designed in England by Anson & Deeley and Holland & Holland setting new standards for hunting rifles. The introduction of the metal cartridges brought new technical possibilities for the cockless self-cocking rifles. On the English rifles, the metal cartridges or the cardboard shotgun cartridges were automatically ejected by a cartridge ejector. This made a faster sequence of shots possible, because the shooter no longer had to unload his weapon.

The development in the USA and England had a major influence on the hunting weapon industry in Germany. Among the American products that found widespread use on the European market were the Remington brand hunting rifles with a rotating block bolt, which were supplied in all common calibers for many years. The best known was the Winchester hunting rifle. (Cat.-No.71) In Germany, hunters continued to prefer twin shotguns with a breakdown barrel, despite numerous innovations. The over and under shotguns from the Merkel company in Suhl were very popular. (Cat.-No.72) Despite the increased industrial production and the use of automatic machines and precision machines, manual experience in the manufacture of high-quality hunting weapons still played a major role.

The artistic design of the weapons also tied in with old traditions with new elements and gained its own design language. Sample books were used as templates, with neo-Gothic style elements and historicism also determining this area of ​​handicrafts. According to an improved process, the template was transferred to the metal parts and pierced and hammered in with special tools. Edge engravings in connection with shell decorations on the breech case were used on finer hunting rifles. The English and Prague engravings differ in the choice of motifs. Half-raised hunting and leaf engravings were often stained silver-gray after hardening. (Cat.-No. 68) Surface treatment of the barrels, such as browning or blueing, was also used for the high-quality types of steel. Improvements to the shaft shape combined aesthetic and practical aspects. The edged weapons were decorated with similar motifs. (Cat.-No. 18, 19, 21) New types of steel and production methods determined the manufacture of blades, which, like firearms production, grew into a large branch of industry. The hunter's standard equipment, however, only included the hunter, all other edged weapons were no longer used.

Apart from a few examples, the collection of hunting weapons in the DHM breaks off around 1900. As a product of the conception of the collection in the armory, the hunting rifle has become more and more of a secondary aspect for weapon technology in modern times. Our walk through the centuries of hunting rifle development and the collection of the DHM ends here.