View Full Version : Need info, history, worth of an antique German rifle

Oleg Volk
January 7, 2002, 02:49 PM

A friend wishes to research a rifle he has. It was probably made around 1790. A second lock (percussion) for it was made sometime later, perhaps in the 1840-50s. Most of the rifle is original, but a few parts (forward sling swivel, patch remover on the ramrod, aperture sight) are not. The original rifle had a peepsight but it was lost and a replacement was made for it. A set screw controls its elevation. See photos of the gun, its major parts and proof marks (http://www.olegvolk.net/newphotos/tn/jager/).

We were not sure what the bullet-like item peeping out of the buttstock is. I thought it to be a guide for making bullet molds but the owner says it is smaller than the nominal .63" caliber of the barrel. The gun is operable and fires patched .58" balls with reasonable accuracy.

He asked me to help him sell this gun. How would I go about figuring out its worth and finding a buyer?

Mike Irwin
January 7, 2002, 03:13 PM
Pretty neat.

There's one in my family that was made in the 1680s that accompanied some of my ancestors over around 1705.


I'd say that the peep sight is not original to the gun. I'd bet that it was made around the same time that the percussion lock was.

The device in the buttstock appears to pull out.

If so, it could possibly be a loading aid, such as a short starter, designed to be used with a mallet to drive the ball & patch into the bore.

You might want to try Blue Book for possible proof marks.

The crown & D is likely the proof mark, the N may signify Nuremburg, and the marks on the lock are probably the maker.

4V50 Gary
January 7, 2002, 03:26 PM
Oleg, since you're in Tennessee, you can wait until the Dixon Gunmaker's fair and bring it there. Alternatively, there a quite a few experts within driving distance to you. Gunsmith Ron Ehlert is at Duck's River. If you want to go to Ohio, take it to the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association during a shoot. They're in Friendship. Might also want to scoot up north to Bowling Green, KY and ask the instructors at the gunbuilder's workshop. That will be about the last week of June til the first week of July. Colonial Williamsburg (VA) has quite a few experts (Wallace Gustler, Gary Brumfield). Alternatively, call the curator of firearms at the Tennessee State Museum (Nashville). George Shumway is in PA, but I don't have his address.

Dave McC
January 8, 2002, 04:50 AM
Oleg, it appears to be what's called a "Jaeger" rifle, and 1790 might be a bit late. Many of these were made here in the early 1700s by newly emigrated German gunsmiths, and the design evolved into what we now know at the Pennsylvania Long Rifle, sometimes misnamed the Kentucky Rifle.

Never saw one with a peep sight, but peeps have been used since the 1600s.

Jaegers(Hunter in German) were shorter than their US descendants, of larger bore and heavier. Many design features carried over to the Long Rifle, including fancy brass and a patchbox.

Nice piece, and a bit of American history...


Mike Irwin
January 8, 2002, 11:08 AM

It's very likely a German-made rifle, not one made in the United States.

Jaegrs continued to be made in Germany, pretty much on the same pattern, up through the middle 1800s.

The stock proportions on this one make it appear that Oleg's date is in the ball park, as does the general lock style.

Dave McC
January 10, 2002, 06:03 AM
I'll take your word for it, Mike, you know a lot more than I do about these.

A nice piece either way...

January 10, 2002, 07:49 AM
The original Jaeger rifles had to have the bullets driven or at least started down the bore with a punch and mallet. Could the thing sticking out the butt be the ball starter? :confused:

January 11, 2002, 06:08 PM



thats prolly at least 10K of gun

heres some parts:

January 11, 2002, 07:16 PM
Plum outta my league but way pretty.

I'm goin to school on this thread.


James K
January 12, 2002, 02:25 PM
Hi, guys,

The story that the Jaeger rifles had to have the bullets hammered in is not true. They used greased patches, which is what the patch box is for. The light wood ramrods could never have hammered a bullet down the bore.

The idea that they are heavy and clumsy is also not true. They are much handier than the so-called "Kentucky" rifle, and balance well. Actually, they remind me a lot of the neat little Remington Model 600 in .350 Magnum. About the same amount of kick, too.

The reason for the change to a small bore, was that the European hunter was usually close to home and could easily carry powder and ball enough for the day's hunt. But American frontiersmen often were in the wilderness for weeks or months, and wanted a small bore so more balls and powder could be carried. Getting adequate power with the small bore meant increasing velocity, which meant a longer barrel. Hence the Pennsylvania gunsmiths developed the "Pennsylvania" or "Kentucky" rifle.


4V50 Gary
January 12, 2002, 05:49 PM
There may have been some jaegers that required a small mallet. In Baker's book, The Rifle-Gun, Ezekiel Baker mentions that his first rifles were issued with small mallets, but that they were considered cumbersome and subsequent rifles did not have the mallot included.

Mike Irwin
January 12, 2002, 09:46 PM
Mallet loading wasn't unknown with just about any muzzleloader, including Jaegers.

There's a woodcut from the early 1600s showing a shooting competition in Germany and one competitor is wielding a small mallet to drive the ball down, or at least into, the bore.

Difference would be the thickness of the patch that was used. Thinner patches may cause decreased accuracy by not allowing as tight a grip between the rifling and the projectile, thus allowing "skidding" in the bore. Certainly eases loading, though.

4V50 Gary
January 13, 2002, 12:37 AM
Just checked with my book, The Jaeger Rifle, by George Shumway. That acorn shaped knob on the buttstock is unique. There wasn't a single rifle in that book that had that.

James K
January 13, 2002, 09:10 PM
Hi, guys,

Sorry for not being clearer. I was making reference to a number of stories saying that the Jaegers used way oversize bullets which had to be hammered into the bore until we brilliant Americans came along and invented the patch. Maybe the word has gotten around, but at one time, the "hammer the bullet" story was very common and simply accepted, just as it was accepted that any and all American rifles were more accurate than any European rifle.

Light mallets have been used, at least in target shooting, probably since the earliest use of patched balls.


Mike Irwin
January 13, 2002, 09:16 PM
"hammer the bullet"

Visual flash of the WW II Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny cartoon of the "gremlin" at the American Airbase... In one scene it's sitting in the bomb bay on a bomb going to town on the nose fuse with a big wooden mallet....

4V50 Gary
January 16, 2002, 10:43 AM
BTW, the English Baker rifle used patched balls. Thin leather was glued onto the ball so no centering of a greased linen patch was required in the field. We don't know what the composition of the glue is, but mice certainly take to the old leather and glue.

Dave McC
January 17, 2002, 04:58 AM
I've handled a coupla Jaeger replicas, and they feel like a Hawken style rifle. Sure as heck aren't clumsy, and a good design for a rifle that might have to be used on boar, bear or Shawnee at close range. Heavier than a long rifle, and with a shorter sight radius, another plus for the Pa style weapon.

I wonder if that dingus on the butt was an early attempt to anchor the butt consistently for match shooting, like a first step towards a Schuetzen style butt. If it's easily removed, maybe it was used for matches, removed for hunting....

4V50 Gary
April 29, 2002, 02:57 PM
I asked some members of the German Rifle Collectors' Association at the NRA Convention. One fellow who had a schutzen rifle with a similar acorn told me that it was indeed to anchor the butt and to keep it from slipping. When asked why the acorn could have a shaft that went several inches deep into the stock, he was unable to provide an answer.

April 29, 2002, 06:57 PM
Much like a butt hook on a modern offhand match rifle, just more ornate and less comfortable.