This is a FINE condition example of the Austrian M-1844 Kammerbüchse or Chamber Rifle. The gun was originally manufactured with the Austrian Augustine Consol lock ignition systems (known variously as the “tube lock” or “pill lock”) and was intended for issue to Austrian Jaeger (rifle) troops. The gun was part of the series of System Augustine arms adopted in 1838 in Austria, of which the numerous percussion converted M-1842 muskets that came to America during the Civil War are now the most common examples. The rifle was manufactured with a Delvigne, or “chamber breech”, which utilized a sub-caliber “chamber” at the rear of the breech to hold the powder charge, and had a shelf or shoulder above it, onto which the smaller than bore sized projectile was rammed to force it to expand and fill the bore, thus taking the rifling. The rifle had a 33.3” long barrel (846mm) and had a 18.1mm (about .71 caliber) bore. The bore was rifled with twelve deep and narrow grooves, with a relatively fast rate of twist (a half turn in the barrel or about 1:67”). This same pattern of rifling is found on the much more common Austrian M-1849 “Garibaldi Rifle” and the M-1851 Cavalry Carbine. The rifle featured a three-leaf rear sight, regulated in Austrian Schritt from approximately 100 yards to 300 and 500 yards. The rifle was about 48.3” (1228mm) in length and weighed in at a little over 10 pounds. Like most Austrian military arms, the guns were stocked in beech and had a raised cheek rest on the reverse of the buttstock. The gun accepted a long bladed socket-saber bayonet, nearly identical to the one used on the subsequent M-1849 “Garibaldi” and M-1854 “Jaeger” rifles, but with a socket designed for use with the Laukart bayonet retaining spring catch. The rifle was mounted with brass furniture (buttplate, side plate, triggerguard and barrel bands) and the lock and barrel were finished bright. During the course of the American Civil War a number of these obsolete rifles were imported by US purchasing agents, and it is possible that at least some were purchased by Confederate speculative buyers as well. As there was no facility to easily obtain or manufacture the Augustine tube detonators in North America, the arms purchased were altered to percussion, either in Belgium or possibly Austria or a Germanic state, prior to importation. Two very specific styles of European alterations have been noted on similar Austrian arms imported to the North and South, which have been designated “Type I” - Austrian / Germanic alteration, and “Type II” “ Belgian alteration. (See North South Trader’s Civil War Volume 35 #4 of 2011 for an in depth discussion of Austrian imported carbines by Russ Pritchard Jr. & myself for more information on the topic.) While no specific Confederate central government purchases of the this pattern of rifle is known, recent research in New York Prize Court records have revealed that Confederate speculators did purchase quantities of Austrian M-1842 percussion altered muskets and M-1851 percussion altered carbines. US purchases are no easier to decipher, as the M-1844 rifle closely resembled the much more frequently purchase M-1849 Garibaldi Rifle, and it appears that purchases of the two arms were likely lumped together in US Ordnance Records. Realistically, as both guns had the same general dimensions and accepted the same pattern of .71 caliber ammunition, there was no substantial difference in the eyes of the US military. Researchers and authors Whisker, Hartzler & Yantz note in Firearms From Europe, 2nd Edition that they believe the 534 “rifle muskets, sword bayonets, Austrian”, which were delivered to the Ordnance Department by T & L Schiffen, were in fact M-1844 rifles (which they erroneously refer to a M-1842 Long Rifles, although they do note the correct Kammerbüchse designation. This error in misidentification of the model apparently originated in Todd’s American Military Equipage 1851-1872, and many foreign arms used during the Civil War remain incorrectly identified to this day due to the lack of available reference material when that book was written). They also surmise that at least some of the 9,982 “Garibaldi and Austrian Guns” delivered by George Heydecker were of the Kammerbüchse pattern. They note that a total of 26,201 “Garibaldi Rifles’ were purchased by the US Ordnance Department during the American Civil War, and if their estimates are correct, it appears that about 5% of those guns were the earlier M-1844 pattern.
This Austrian M-1844 Kammerbüchse is in FINE overall condition. The rifle remains crisp and sharp throughout, and is mechanically excellent. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original, with the possible exception of the middle band, which might be an original period replacement. The rifle was altered to percussion by the “Belgian” system (Type II), with a built up, brazed on cone seat at the breech and new percussion hammer added. As would be expected all of the external Augustin Consol battery parts have been removed and the associated holes filled. The lock is unmarked, but this may be the result of machining done during the alteration process. The top flat of the barrel is marked FERD FRÜWIRTH, but the stamp is poorly struck and only the lower half of the letters are legible. The top of the barrel is also marked L.W., an Austrian military acceptance mark and the double headed Austrian Eagle is partially visible as well, half covered by the dove tail for the rear sight. This seems to indicate that the sights were changed or upgraded on the rifles at some point in time (possibly at the point of percussion alteration), and the new sight required a larger dovetail, thus partially obscuring the Austrian military ownership mark. There is also a capital S stamped on the top of the breech, possibly indicating that gun was in fact supplied to the US by Schiffen. Numerous other marks appear around the breech and both barrel flats, likely various Austrian inspection and proof marks. The left side of the breech flat is marked 854 which may indicate the year of alteration to percussion (1854) and would not be presumed to be the year of production as this model had already been superseded by the M-1849 and M-1854 rifles. The barrel of the rifle is mostly smooth with a light pewter patina. There are some small, scattered patches of very light peppering and pinpricking present, as well as some very small areas of light surface oxidation. There is also lightly scattered, freckled age discoloration along the entire length of the barrel. The bore of the rifle rates about VERY GOOD+ and retains sharp, deep rifling. The bore is fairly bright, but there is scattered pitting present in the deep grooves of the rifling along the entire length of the bore. The lock of the rifle functions crisply on all positions and is in excellent condition. The brass hardware is in lovely condition and has a very attractive medium mustard patina. The gun shows numerous assembly numbers on various pieces of hardware, but the two primary ones are what looks like a poorly struck 75 that appears to be the original assembly mating number and a very different style 233 that was probably a reassembly number from the percussion alteration. The gun retains both original sling swivels, the upper on the middle barrel band and the lower in the toe of the stock, behind the triggerguard. The original 3-leaf rear sight is in place on the barrel, as is the original dovetailed front sight, which is drift adjustable for windage. The original Laukart bayonet retention catch is present under the muzzle as well, and remains fully functional. The original ramrod is in place in the channel under the barrel and is full length, complete with the original threads on the end. The stock of the rifle is in VERY FINE condition and is extremely crisp throughout. The stock retains sharp edges and lines and features excellent wood to metal fit. The beech has a really lovely light color to it, with sort of an orange tone to the overall honey color. The stock does show a handful of scattered bumps, dings and minor handling marks, but is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs.
Overall this is just a superior example of a very scarce Austrian military long arm that almost certainly found its way to these shores during the American Civil War. The gun is in really outstanding condition for a 19th century Austrian military rifle and is all complete and correct. These guns are very scarce on the collector market, and are significantly rarer than their more commonly encountered replacements the M-1849 and M-1854 rifles. This would be a great addition to any advanced collection of Civil War era import arms or to any collection of Austrian military arms. The condition is simply wonderful and the eye appeal of the gun will really make it stand out on the wall or rack in your gun room.SOLD