From the German “Jäger” hunting rifle to the American long rifle – this is how a development in the history of firearms from the 18th century can be described. Every halfway interested muzzle-loading shooter has read about it. The Italian manufacturer Pedersoli now recalls this transitional period with its new Jäger rifle – too short for a classic long rifle, but significantly longer than a common hunting rifle. What is that good for?
The background: the history of flintlock Jäger rifles
When German-speaking emigrants brought their flintlock hunting rifles to America around 1700, their great advantage became apparent. Their rifled barrels allowed far more accurate shots than the smoothbore muskets common at the time, given the often long hunting ranges. Because of the need for guns, emigrants trained as gunsmiths or stock makers quickly found work. But they adapted to the new requirements, one of which was smaller calibers. Powder and lead were not always available everywhere. They had to be used sparingly. To compensate for the lower energy output due to the reduction in caliber, gunsmiths increasingly provided the guns with longer barrels and improved combustion: the birth of the long rifle.
Despite all their creativity, these pioneering gunsmiths could not manufacture everything themselves. So firearms, as well as barrels, locks and fittings, were imported. This was done by specialists like Hans Caspar Wüster (1696-1751) from Waldhilsbach (today a district of Neckargemünd, Germany), who called himself Caspar Wistar. Between 1730 and 1740, the former forester imported goods from Germany, including shotguns, rifles and rifle parts, which he ordered from gunsmiths in Rothenberg (now a district of Oberzent). Therefore, many an early long rifle has a barrel or lock from Germany. To avoid import duties, Wistar hid many imported rifles in tree trunks. On October 1, 1737, he wrote in a letter that the barrels of the rifles ordered had to be longer than usual. In America, they preferred rifles whose barrels were between 3 feet (91 cm) and 3 feet 5 inches (102 cm) long. Short rifles could not be marketed. In addition, the triggers were to be such that the rifles could be fired without first being set. What was wanted were sturdy triggers, not sensitive Stechers.
The test gun: the new Pedersoli Target
Unlike the emigrants, Pedersoli is not entering new territory with this Jäger rifle. The factory has been making these for years. The original version with steel fittings and 1:600-mm twist is still part of the catalog as the "Jäger Hunter" model. In 2004, the first target version with a long twist of 1:1660 mm was made. As the test rifle sent by Pedersoli for testing shows, this offspring of Pedersoli's Jäger rifle family has "grown up". It has become a good 5.11”/13 cm longer, and the out-of-place front sight hood of the first version has given way to a bead front sight protected by two ears.
Like its length, the flintlock's construction fits the period around 1740-50 – nothing that wasn't common in high-quality civilian flintlocks at the time. Pedersoli has put on a visually pleasing gun. Manufacturing primarily for shooters rather than museums, there are concessions to sport shooters' needs and to modern manufacturing methods, such as the sights that are not quite correct for a Jäger rifle, and the matte blued octagonal barrel, which has a one-inch (2.54 cm) diameter throughout and is not tapered as is the case with Jäger rifles and long rifles. The polished and varnished stock is made of American walnut. The fit between wood and metal is good, but there are some protruding edges and some visible gaps. The plain, full-stock gun has a straight comb, a cheekpiece on the left side of the buttstock, a patch box on the right side, and – a very nice detail – fish scale checkering on the grip. The gun proves to be well balanced and can be fired standing up or lying down. Authentic pins hold the barrel and fittings in the stock. The lock and brass butt plate are screwed on, also historically correct. Unfortunately, the bolt heads are cylindrical and not round as on most originals.
The trigger – again correctly – is a German set trigger. The lock plate is a polished investment casting. The frizzen runs on a anti-friction roller (visible only at second glance). The flash pan is smoothed on the inside, but not polished.
Front sight, rear sight, diopter – the sights of the Target Jäger rifle
The sights consist of a 6.8 mm high bead front sight protected by two ears, a fixed 8.6 mm rear sight with a V-notch, and a diopter. Not an anachronism: early diopter types are already found on 16th century target rifles. As for Pedersoli sights: after adjusting the diopter, you should secure its position. This can be done by tightening the screw in the front of the sight.
Of course, the testers also tried how the rifle shot using the iron sights: aiming at the bottom center of the bullseye, the hits were at the target's bottom in the area of rings 1 and 2. But here the diopter always offers more advantages, because of our old eyes and, of course, the length of the sight radius – over the rear and front sights it's 26.9”/685 mm, but with the diopter it's 34”/865 mm.
The flintlock mechanism of the Pedersoli Target
The flint was factory clamped in a lead pad. This looks good, but must be tightened regularly. Otherwise, the flint loosens, which leads to misfires. Therefore, after an initial series of tests, the flint and lead pad were exchanged for a light-colored natural flint and a leather pad. Even with a leather pad, the tight fit of the flint should be checked from time to time. Clamp the flint (here, ¾ inch size) so that its cutting edge meets the battery at full width and in the upper third. When uncocked, its cutting edge should point to the pan, but should not be directly in front of the firing hole, or it may burn. Flints will wear and do not last forever. If they no longer provide enough sparks, replace them. Some flints produces sparks well for more than 50 shots, while others wear out after barely more than ten shots. The testers used two flints (light-colored natural flint). Reserve flints and leather pads should always be with the accessories; in keeping with the style, the patch box is recommended as a reservoir.
Pedersoli Jäger Target rifle specs and price
shot muzzleloader rifle|
(166 cm) twist, 7 grooves|
|Trigger Pull Weight:||14.1
oz/400 g approx.(with set trigger), 42.3 oz/1200 g approx (without set trigger)|
For right-handed shooters, conditionally also suitable for left-handed shooters
Muzzle loading flintlock rifle. Blued octagonal barrel with touch hole liner, oil-finished walnut with brass fittings, checkering, cheek piece and butt plate compartment. Bead front sight with protective ears, fixed rear sight (both drift-adjustable), adetachable and fully adjustable tang diopter
Loading: how to make the Pedersoli Jäger Target ready to fire?
For best accuracy, Pedersoli recommends .535" diameter lead bullets, 0.25 millimeter (0.01", in this case tallow-soaked linen) patches, and 70 grains of powder, with a maximum of 100 grains. Since the instructions do not specify the type of powder, experience has shown that the quantities can be reduced by about ten percent for the common Swiss powder types. The testers introduced the powder using a 3.9”/10 cm funnel. The load consisted of the powder and projectile – no wadding. The shooters pushed the bullets into the muzzle with one or two loading hammer blows and pushed them about a hand's width into the barrel using a bullet starter. Then, reaching for the ramrod with a matching rod guide, they pushed the bullet down in one motion. As they did so, the testers watched for a mark on the stick to make sure the bullet was seated on the powder. An appropriate dispenser was used to fill the pan with Wano priming powder. The priming charge must be approximately in the center of the pan and not covering the touch hole. The testers cleared this with a pick before each firing. After each shot, the barrel was swabbed dry; after each series the barrel was first wiped with a moist patch and then with a dry patch.
Our test conclusion on the Pedersoli Jäger Target rifle
The rifle shoots excellently. All loads tested held the ten of the ISSF target at 50 meters shooting distance, thus landing within a circle of 1.96”/50 mm in diameter. Accuracy potential: excellent. Only one drawback: if a shooter misses badly, he can't blame it on the rifle...
Text: Wolfgang Finze and Matthias S. Recktenwald
For more information on the Jäger Target rifle please visit the Pedersoli's website.