Lorenz Rifle

Lorenz Rifle
Lorenz Rifle
Lorenz Musket.jpg
Type Rifled musket
Place of origin  Austrian Empire
Service history
Wars American Civil War, Second Italian War of Independence, Austro-Prussian War
Production history
Designer Joseph Lorenz
Designed 1854
Manufacturer Austrian government with many private contracts
Barrel length 37.5" (952.5 mm)

Caliber .54
Action Percussion lock
Feed system Muzzle-loading

The Lorenz rifle was an Austrian rifle used in the mid 19th century. It was used in several European wars, and also featured prominently in the U.S. Civil War.



The Lorenz rifle was designed by Austrian lieutenant Joseph Lorenz. It was first approved for manufacture in 1854, and was Austria's first all-new infantry firearm in decades. The demand for the rifles was much greater than what the Austrian government could produce, so much of the production was done by private manufacturers. Many of these manufacturers did not have the skill and precision required to make what was then a very modern and sophisticated rifle design, and as a result, the quality of Lorenz rifles varied quite a bit. The bore diameters also varied quite a bit due to insufficient control of allowable tolerances. This often left too much of a gap between the bullet and the barrel, resulting in poor performance.[1]

Replacing the earlier Augustin rifled musket, the Lorenz was first distributed to Austrian soldiers in 1855. Despite its superiority to the Augustin, the Lorenz suffered from slow delivery and was sometimes used ineffectively due to prevailing conservatism in tactics and training. By 1859, the year of the Austro-Sardinian War, not all Austrian units had received the new rifle.[2]

Design Features

The Lorenz rifle was a percussion type muzzle loader, and as such was similar in design to the British Pattern 1853 Enfield and the American Springfield rifle-muskets. It had a 37.5 inch barrel which was held into place by three barrel bands. The barrel was .54 caliber, which was slightly smaller than the .577 used by the Enfield and the .58 standardized in later Springfields.

The stock was made of beech or occasionally walnut. The Lorenz could have either block or leaf-sights.[3]

The Lorenz rifle fired a solid bullet that did not grip the barrel as well as a hollow skirted Minie type bullet.[citation needed] This solid bullet design, combined with inconsistent bore diameters, contributed significantly to the mediocre and inconsistent performance of Lorenz rifles.

The rifle was fitted with a quadrangle socket bayonet.


The Lorenz rifle first saw action in the Second Italian War of Independence. It was later used in the Balkans.

The Lorenz rifle was the third most widely used rifle during the American Civil War. The Union recorded purchases of 226,924 and the Confederacy bought as many as 100,000. The quality of Lorenz rifles during the Civil War was not consistent. Some were considered to be of the finest quality, and were sometimes praised as being superior to the Enfield. Others, especially those in later purchases, were described as horrible in both design and condition. Many of these poorer quality weapons were swapped out on the battlefield for Enfield rifle-muskets whenever one became available.[4]

Muzzle-loading Lorenz rifles were the main Austrian weapon during the Austro-Prussian War and were generally outclassed by the Prussian needle gun.

In the late 19th century surplus Lorenz rifles were sold in Africa as trade guns.[3]


The Lorenz rifle was produced in three different variants, designed for short, medium, and long range combat. The short range version, which was the most common, had less of a twist in the rifling, and lacked long range sights. The medium range version had more of a twist in the rifling to increase long range accuracy, and had movable long range sights. The long range version had an even greater twist in the rifling as well as a finer adjustable sight. This long range version was intended only for use by elite fighting units.

The rifle was also produced in two different patterns, the 1854 and the 1862. The Pattern 1862 had a different type of lock plate that more closely resembled that used on the Enfield. Pattern 1862 rifles were also more consistent in their manufacturing.

A large number of Lorenz rifles purchased for use in the U.S. Civil War had their barrels bored to .58 caliber, so that they could fire the same ammunition as the Enfield and Springfield rifle-muskets. The boring on these rifles suffered from the same lack of consistency that was found in the original manufacture of the rifles.

The finish on the rifles varied. Some were blued, some browned, and others were polished bright.

See Also

  • Weapons of the Austro-Hungarian Empire


  1. ^ "Civil War Firearms: Their Historical Background and Tactical Use" By Joseph G. Bilby
  2. ^ Rothenberg. G.E. The Army of Francis Joseph. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1976. p 43.
  3. ^ a b Bilby, J, the Lorenz (Mar 26, 2009)
  4. ^ "Civil War Firearms: Their Historical Background and Tactical Use" By Joseph G. Bilby

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