FIREARMS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - RIFLES OF THE GERMANS
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FIREARMS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - RIFLES OF THE GERMANS

FIREARMS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - RIFLES OF THE GERMANS




      

FIREARMS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - RIFLES OF THE GERMANS




About six hundred of the German soldiers who were sent to America were riflemen called then "Jagers," and "Chasseurs." Most of those men were, at home, foresters or gamekeepers, and the rifles they brought were mostly their personal property.- They were plain but serviceable. Some of the Jager officers had elegant weapons inlaid with gold. But, plain or decorated, all the German rifles had a general resemblance; they' were short, heavy, of large bore, with ramrods of iron or steel. They were without bayonets. The form of the stock was liable to be like that shown in the picture; the upper and lower edges when seen sideways showed as straight lines; seen endways the comb was rounded /-and the bottom of the stock between the toe and the grip was often flat and about three quarters of an inch wide. Plain rifles were usually mounted with brass; elegant ones were commonly mounted in steel or iron beautifully chiseled, embossed, and engraved; some were silver mounted. The average barrel length was 30 to 32 inches; barrels were almost always octagonal; the usual twist of the rifling was one turn in about five feet; the caliber was about three quarters of an inch, sometimes more, rarely less.

These German rifles were identical in every way with the rifles in use in Central Europe about 1700, which served as models from which the immigrant Pennsylvania gunsmiths developed the American rifle. The greater part of them were probably made in Germany, and such were often unsupplied with a rear sight; in the Black Forest and in the heavily wooded parks of the German nobles where the Jagers served when at home the rifle was used like a shotgun quickly and without conscious aim. The rifle shown in the illustration was made without a rear sight. Such of the German rifles as were made in Switzerland, where shooting was in the open, had elaborate rear sights, adjustable both vertically and horizontally, usually set in the wood back of the breech. These sights were such as had long before been invented for wheellock arms. The patch box (used in Europe not for patches but for flints) almost invariably had a wooden lid, which opened by sliding rearward. This, also, was a survival of wheellock days. It was not so practical as the hinged metal one of American design, because it came entirely off and could be lost; it was also not so decorative.

Some of the causes of the inferiority of the European rifles, in comparison with the American rifles, were as follows: the European gun makers were not so skilful as the American in giving just that pitch to the grooving which adapted the spin of the ball to its mass; the ball was badly deformed by the pounding necessary to seat it, and offered uneven resistance to the air while in flight, while the ball of the American rifle issued from the barrel uninjured; the recoil of the European rifle was so severe as to cause flinching, and the balance such that if the shooter had the slightest attack of "nerves" the aim was much disturbed, while the recoil of the American rifle was light and the balance so far forward that the barrel swung slowly; the sights on a European rifle were near together in comparison with those on a "Kaintuck," hence the alignment of a European arm was less accurate.

Sawyer, Charles. Firearms in American History. Boston: The Author,

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