The Vereinsgewehr Rifle, commissioned and produced in 1857, was a rifled musket designed across three Germanic states: Baden, Hesse and Württemberg. The Vereinsgewehr 1857 (as it is also named) was the successor in these German states to the Modele 1777 Musket from France.
The Vereinsgewehr 1857 was designed to fire the Minie Ball, and therefore the Minie Rifle (the first rifle to be designed around the Minie Ball) formed the basis of the Vereinsgewehr 1857. The barrel was 39in (0.99m) in length and featured 5 grooves cut on the inside. These grooves had a 1:55 twist, meaning that the Minie Ball would spin once every 55in traveled.
The percussion lock mechanism was used on the Vereinsgewehr Rifle, and was almost identical to that of the Minie Rifle. The percussion lock mechanism, however, did not feature a loading position for the hammer (a design feature referred to as a Swiss Model), meaning that the hammer would be in the cocked position for loading.
Originally the sights were universal between the three nations, with a scale from 200 - 1,000 yards (180m - 910m) located underneath the sight. In Hesse, however, the sight was changed to a quadrant sight, using an extended scale to 1,200 yards (1,100m). Both sights were adjustable to cope with wind, a novel feature at the time, with other Minie rifles, such as the Springfield Model 1855 which used fixed sights.
The Vereinsgewehr Rifle was bored to accomodate a .54in (13.7mm) Minie Ball. This was smaller than the standard .58 caliber Minie Rifles of the era, but the smaller .54 caliber gave the Vereinsgewehr Rifle an advantage in accuracy and range, with the lighter Minie ball suffering less drop.
The Vereinsgewehr 1857 was named the Infantry rifle, particularly in Württemburg, where the Vereinsgewehr Rifle would be developed to perform in several roles.
Cavalry Carbine, 1860Edit
The Cavalry Carbine of 1860 was the first carbine version of the Vereinsgewehr Rifle and was designed specifically for the cavalry. The trend would be followed in the other German states, with the Rider Carbine and Pioneer Carbine being developed in the same year. All featured a 19.7in (500mm) barrel and shorter ramrod.
Jäger Rifle, 1860Edit
The Jäger Rifle, designed specifically for the units of the same name, featured a 29.5in (750mm) barrel and a bayonet. The reason for a lack of a bayonet on the original Vereinsgewehr Rifle is unclear, particularly as it was common practice for infantry units to engage in melee.
The Vereinsgewehr Rifle was commissioned in 1857 and entered production in the same year. However it was not distributed to the forces of the three states until 1861. Production later ended in 1866, with the Vereinsgewehr's service ending a year later. The rifle was popular with Jäger units, and gained a reputation for being highly accurate, a reputation that has remained into this century.
The only major conflict that the Vereinsgewehr Rifle was used in was the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, with the Austrian Forces (and Baden, Hesse and Wurttemberg forces) using both the Vereinsgewehr Rifle and the Lorenz Rifle (of Austria). However the conflict was lost, with Prussian forces being equipped with the Dreyse Needle gun (so called because of the shape of the firing pin which struck the primer in the cartridge) which had a greater rate of fire due to a shorter reload time.
The Vereinsgewehr Rifle would be replaced by the breech loading Dreyse Needle gun after the conflict, as Prussia continued its move to unify the Germanic states. The Vereinsgewehr Rifle is the least well known of the Minie Rifles, due to its low production number (around 70,000) and the fact that the Springfield Model 1861 and Pattern 1853 Enfield were among the most renowned (and produced) guns of the era.