Rifleman Q&A: Austrian Arms At Gettysburg

posted on March 4, 2022

Q. I need to identify this rifle. It is approximately a .71-cal. smoothbore musket fitted with a sling attachment on the trigger guard, but no forward sling attachment. The buttplate is brass and marked as follows: "R 32 8C 28." I’m told this gun was used at Gettysburg.

A. Your photos show an Austrian Model 1849 .71-cal. rifle missing the middle barrel band that carried the front sling swivel. It was originally located about a foot back from the fore-end cap.

The Austrian Model 1849 is distinguished by the bands securing its barrel in place of the wedges previously used on the Model 1842. The correct socket bayonet had a long, straight knife blade. It locked onto the lug on the right side of the barrel and was secured by a rotating ring on the back of the socket. More than 25,000 of these Austrian rifles were sold to the U.S. War Department in 1862 and 1863. One useful reference I have found for these European muskets and rifle-muskets is Complete Book of Firearms by S. Masis and G. Rotasso.

Regimental Strengths at Gettysburg by John W. Busey and David G. Martin indicates that there was a large number of Austrian arms with various Union Army units, but these were all in caliber .54 or .58 and rifled. The earlier .71-cal. arms were likely issued to second-line units on guard duty in the North. Their .71-cal. ammunition would certainly have been another problem the already hard-pressed ordnance supply service did not need.

—Angus Laidlaw

This “Questions & Answers” was featured in the June 2005 issue of American Rifleman. At time of publication, "Questions & Answers" was compiled by Staff, Ballistics Editor William C. Davis, Jr., and Contributing Editors: David Andrews, Hugh C. Birnbaum, Bruce N. Canfield, O. Reid Coffield, Charles Q. Cutshaw, Charles M. Fagg, Angus Laidlaw, Evan P. Marshall, Charles E. Petty, Robert B. Pomeranz, O.D., Jon R. Sundra, Jim Supica, A.W.F. Taylerson, John M. Taylor and John W. Treakle.

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