Austrian Gewehr Der K.K. Hofburgwache Nach 1854
- Product Code: FLA-1698-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a really interesting and relatively scarce example of a rarely encountered Austrian percussion musket. According Die Hand und Fausteuerwaffen der habsburgischen Heere by Erich Gabriel (the authoritative work on Austrian small arms from the 1600’s through the end of World War I) the official designation of the musket is the Gewehr Der K.K. Hofburgwache Nach 1854, or rather the Castle Guard Musket after 1854. These smoothbore muskets were produced as a special model for the Austrian palace guards. They were originally manufactured as flintlocks (circa 1838) and were then adapted to the Augustine Consol lock ignition system (aka “tube lock” or “pill lock”) circa 1842. They were subsequently altered to percussion after 1854 “ the year that Austria adopted the percussion cap as their ignition system. The muskets were substantially different from standard Austrian military arms of the time in several ways. The stocks of these muskets were made of walnut, not the usual Austria beech. The muskets were also produced without the typical Austrian military cheek rest that dominated mid-19th century military arms in that country. The muskets were also of a substantially smaller caliber than the normal service musket of the era, with a 15.5mm (about .61 caliber) bore, while most of the line infantry muskets, prior to the adoption of the M-1854 Lorenz, were between about 17.6mm (.69 caliber) and 18.1mm (.71 caliber). The only muskets in the Austrian arsenal of 15.5mm were the various Kadettengewehr (Cadet) muskets. Other non-standard features include brass sling swivels of a squared off, rectangular shape and a Prussian style ramrod, with the ramming head inside the ramrod channel and the enlarged gripping portion outside the channel being threaded with female threads for cleaning attachments. The musket has a Laukart pattern spring bayonet catch under the barrel, a feature that was adopted by the Austrians until 1838. The musket would accept a bayonet of the M-1842 Laukart pattern, but with a smaller socket, due to the reduced .61 caliber of the musket, versus the .69 caliber of the M-1842. The alteration to percussion has a distinctly Prussian influenced bolster, and the percussion hammer has a Prussian appearance as well, and not the smoother lines of the Lorenz system hammer. The muskets all have a brass plaque applied to the wrist, with a (CROWN) / F. I., the royal crest and cypher of Kaiser Ferdinand I . Ferdinand was the Emperor of Austria from 1835 to 1848 (which also made him the King of Hungry & Croatia as well as Lombardy-Venetia), and was also the King of Hungry (1830-1848). The Habsburg Empire of Ferdinand’s rule encompassed much of modern Europe, including portions of Italy, Poland, Sicily and much of modern Germany. He abdicated on December 2, 1848 after a major uprising, and his nephew Franz Joseph assumed control of the empire. The muskets were brass mounted, instead of the more common iron mountings found on most Austrian infantry arms of the era. It is not clear how long these muskets remained in service, but clearly the pattern was in use through three ignition systems and from at least 1838 to 1855 or so. All of these castle guard muskets were serial numbered, and the example in the museum in Austria, which Gabriel references in his book is #110. That gun is also dated 1840 on the top of the breech. While it is not clear how many “castle guard” there may have been or how many of the muskets were ever produced, it appears that the number was very small, as all of the examples that I am aware of are numbered under 300. This is supported by research that indicates that these special “castle guards’ or “castle police” were an elite force than never numbered more than about 250 to 350 men at any one time. Since these muskets were quite out dated when compared to the Austrian M-1854 Lorenz, it is quite likely that they were sold off as surplus when the Austrian government saw the opportunity to dump large quantities of obsolete small arms to US and CS buyers during the American Civil War. Although no specific reference to this model of musket in US or CS purchasing records is known, there are some hints that the guns may have been purchased by US arms speculators. The muskets superficially resemble the Austrian M-1854 Lorenz and are dimensionally quite similar. In fact the Lorenz is 1335mm in overall length (with a 947mm barrel) and the Castle Guard Musket is 1334mm in overall length with a 965mm barrel. The fact that the US Ordnance Department noted Lorenz purchases in calibers ranging form .54 to .60 may indicate that some of these brass-mounted muskets were among the guns imported during the early days of the war.
The the Austrian Gewehr Der K.K. Hofburgwache Nach 1854 offered here is in NEAR FINE condition. The musket is 100% complete and correct and fully functional. The musket shows minimal markings. The tail of the pointed flintlock style lock plate shows only the remnants of the Double-Headed Austrian Eagle, not surprising since the lockplate was altered from flintlock to Consol lock to percussion. The top barrel flat is marked with the date 1840, as is the tang. It is also marked with what appears to be the rack number 3. This same number appears on most of the brass furniture, as well as the ramrod. The tang of the musket is serial numbered 107. An assembly mark of 3 punch dots appears on most of the metal components of the gun to serve as mating marks to keep the parts of the hand-fit musket together. The iron parts of the musket have a medium gray patina, with a thin brown patina beginning to develop over the metal. The metal is mostly smooth with the only real roughness confined to the breech area, which shows some light pitting from cap flash. The balance of the iron shows only some light scattered patches of minor peppering and minor pinpricking. There are also a few scattered patches of minor age staining and light oxidation present on the barrel. The lock functions crisply on all positions and is mechanically excellent. The bore of the musket is actually in VERY GOOD+ condition and is mostly bright and smooth, with only some light scattered patches of minor pitting. The brass furniture has a lovely golden color and is very attractive. The barrel band configuration is like the Austrian M-1842 infantry musket, with a double-strapped upper band, a middle and a lower band. The upper and lower bands are retained by band springs, but the middle band is retained only by friction. This poor design is typical of M-1842 series arms, and allows the middle band to shift with use and handling. The original square brass sling swivels are present on the musket and are numbered to it. The original ramrod is present as well. It is full length and is also numbered to the musket. The walnut stock is in FINE condition and has a lovely orange tone to it, which makes me think the orange tone that is often encountered on Austrian arms is the result of the stain used on the stocks. While the grain of this stock is clearly walnut, its light color and the stain make it resemble the more common beech typically used in Austrian musket stocks. The stock is full length and solid, with no breaks or repairs. The stock retains sharp edges throughout and crisp lines. The wood to metal fit is as good (or possibly better) than one typically encounters on 19th Century Austrian muskets. The stock does show the usual array of bumps, dings, scratches and minor wear marks that would be expected from the carry and handling of a military musket. The only areas of significant wear are forward of the middle band, which clearly moved around while the musket was in use, since it was only retained by friction, or possibly sling pressure (when a sling was mounted on the musket).
Overall this is simple a gorgeous example of a rarely encountered Austrian “Castle Guard” musket. I have never had the opportunity to own of these muskets before, and have honestly never seen one other than in a book. This musket is 100% complete and correct and would be a wonderful addition to any collection of Austrian long arms. For any collector who has an interest in 19th Century European military arms, this would be a great addition to that collection, and is a musket that is almost certainly missing from your collection. The musket has a very nice look to it and displays wonderfully. The brass furniture really makes it a very attractive example of a very scarce specialty Austrian military musket.