Gun Grabbers and Lorenz Rifles

Why is Richard Gephardt in Norristown, PA? What is the problem with his eyebrows? What does he have against muzzle loading firearms and their owners? Is there a relationship between any of these things? Perhaps. House of Representatives Minority Leader Gephardt, salivating over the potential rewards of becoming Speaker of the House, appeared out of nowhere on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on July 23, 1999. Representative Joe Hoeffel, a fellow Democrat, accompanied the Speaker in exile. Both men called for restrictive laws on muzzle loading firearms in the wake of a tragic shooting in which former mental patient Denis Czajkowski returned to his former place of employment, a mental hospital, and, after a hostage standoff, shot two supervisors, one fatally, with "a replica of an 1856 [sic] Colt revolver."

According to Gephardt "there should not be any exemptions for old-style weapons. The damage is just as bad, whether it is an old gun or a new style." Hoeffel chimed in by expressing his wish that "all weapons be governed by the same federal legislation." Of course, if muzzle-loading arms were covered by Federal gun legislation, laws like the recently proposed ban on rifles of .50 caliber or above would have an inordinate effect on Civil War target shooting and reenacting. Keep your eye on these guys, they've found a new cause - one that I always knew they would - and they're not going away.

I apologize for reporting so late on the North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) Spring National shoot, but that's what happens when you're assiduous and get your work in months ahead of time! There have been rumors of an imported Lorenz rifle around for a few months, and one was reportedly on display at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades (SHOT) show held early in the year. The rifle at the show was actually not a reproduction Lorenz infantry rifle-musket, but a copy of the Model 1854 Jaeger rifle, or, as the Austrians called it, "Jaegerstutzen," the Austrian skirmisher's and sharpshooter's weapon.

The Jaegerstutzen was probably the most interesting new product on display along sutler's row at the Nationals. Dixie Gun Works, which will be importing the rifle, brought one up from Union City, Tennessee for submission to the N-SSA Small Arms Committee for approval as a skirmishing arm. Dixie's gun, which was approved, is a tool room prototype, made in the Czech Republic. It is in the original 13.9 mm caliber (roughly .54 caliber), is stocked in beechwood as were the originals, sports a wicked looking hybrid socket/sword bayonet and does not have a ramrod channel drilled in the stock. Austrian skirmishers and sharpshooters carried their ramrods separate from their guns. Jaegers sold to the US during the Civil War had the channel milled in before issue, however. Since actual production is not imminent, Dixie was not taking orders for the gun at the Nationals, but I look forward to seeing it in the company's millennium catalog.

In other Dixie Gun Works news, the Dixie Model 1861 Springfield will soon be no more. This gun, which has the closest to original balance and "feel" of any Model 1861 Springfield rifle-musket reproduction on the market, has also gained a well deserved reputation for shooting accuracy. I own one, and can personally attest to that. The gun is being discontinued due to the Japanese manufacturer's problems with securing proper stock wood. Dixie's Butch Winter advised me at the Nationals that there were less than 100 Springfields in the company's warehouse as of late May 1999. There may be a few still in stock by the time you read this. If you always wanted a Dixie Model 1861, you'd better get one now.

In other Austrian news, Greg Edington shipped his prototype Lorenz barrels to his stock pattern maker in early May. Greg should be filling the back orders for his Lorenz rifle- musket kits by the time you read this. According to Edington, "there were a few complications making the barrels, the largest arising from the barrel flats. The Lorenz rifle musket barrel design is uncommon in 19th century rifle muskets in that it has long tapering barrel flats (up to 9 1/2" to 10"), and the closest similar designs are found on early 18th century French muskets."

Making a standardized reproduction of an originally hand finished gun like the Lorenz has proved to be quite an experience for Greg, to say the least. He discovered that an original Lorenz barrel might have as many as a dozen different tapers with taper variation occasionally found within the taper.

Edington did, however, develop an appreciation for the "human engineering" of the Lorenz, which he considers better than that of the P53 Enfield and the Springfield Model 1855-64 series. The Lorenz stock comb, said Greg, "is designed to lower the eye in relation to the sight, effectively increasing the effective stock drop without increasing muzzle rise or felt recoil on firing." In addition, the Lorenz buttstock has a slight cast off, which centers the eye on the rear sight. Cast off is seldom seen in modern guns, except for custom rifles and shotguns stocked to fit their owners.

1999 by Joe Bilby

return to homepage

go to Tony Beck index

go to Joe Bilby index

go to Tom Kelley index