Manufactured circa 1770s-1780s, this is a rare example of an early Austrian flintlock officers carbine utilizing Milanese gunmaker Guiseppe (Joseph) Crespi's breech loading system, originally designed to be a conversion of a standard muzzle loading firearm. It uses a hinged breech block chamber that tips up for loading with powder and ball. The breech closes and locks using a rotating handle secured with a pair of lugs mounted on top of the barrel. The Austrian Government issued carbines with Crespi's breech loading system and spear point bayonets to its cavalry units including the Dragoons, Carabiniers and Chevauxlegers between 1770-1779, with multiple reports of soldiers receiving facial burns from escaping gases at the breech as well as the breech unlocking during the War of Bavarian Succession (July 3rd, 1778-May 13th, 1779). The Crespi was tried again in 1793 when it was re-issued in limited numbers to the Vienna Home Guard Volunteers but was quickly withdrawn from service again. The Crespi serves as the earliest breech loading small arm to be issued in military service, prior to the British Ferguson and later the American Hall. The British Government field trialed the Crespi system in limited numbers starting in 1785, with a few known surviving examples manufactured by British gunmaker Durs Egg at the time of the British trials (one was previously sold by RIAC). This example likely predates the British made examples and is embellished to a high degree, indicating it was likely made for a high ranking important individual. It has a flat beveled early Austrian lock signed "STEPHAN PRUNER" at the center, and a bright smoothbore barrel with tip-up Crespi breech block signed "IN PODENDORF". It features a half length walnut stock with attractive raised relief carvings, brass furniture, engraving on the breech tang, side plate, lock, trigger guard, and buttplate, and a flip out spear point bayonet retained by a sliding catch located on the end cap. Reference De Witt Bailey's "British Military Flintlock Rifles 1740-1840," pp. 87-90 for further information regarding the Crespi system. One Austrian and two British military examples of Crespi breech loading carbines are located in the Royal Armories museum collection (Object Number XII.2171, XII.254 and XII.1034). Crespi breech loading carbines are nearly nonexistent on the collectors market today, with this attractive embellished Austrian Crespi carbine a desirable example in its own right, and serving as one of the earliest breech loading small arms extant. Provenance: The Collection of Joe M. Wanenmacher Jr
Very good with crisp markings on the metal surfaces and some scattered light pitting on the barrel and breech block. The lock is fine and has light age related surface markings, with crisp details and a tight mechanism. The stock is also very good as lightly sanded and re-oiled with defined relief carvings, some scattered light scratches, a minor chip and minor crack ahead of and behind the lock, a few large re-glued cracks on the left of the buttstock, a spliced and repaired section ahead of the buttplate tang, and an overall attractive figure. Mechanically excellent, the breech block raises and locks as it should. This rare Austrian Crespi breech loading officers carbine would make an excellent addition to any advanced early martial firearms collection!
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