Austrian Artillery Equipment

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In the War of the Austrian Succession, Austrian field pieces were still of the old designs, awkward, lumbering monsters out of the 1716 design, which used the same pieces for fortress and field operations. These pieces were relatively long, heavy and difficult to move around. They were so unwieldy, that the proportion of guns was one 3-pdr (pounder) piece to every 1,000 men. The powder charge was calculated at half the weight of the shot and was transported in barrels on the wagons, to be loaded into the gun barrel with a ladle. The guns of other nations, Prussia and France, had been extensively modernized and now had much better agility and rate of fire. In the battle of Chotusitz (present-day Čáslav/CZ) in 1742, at which Fürst Joseph Wenzel von Liechtenstein was present, the Prussian regimental artillery played a decisive role in their victory. Liechtenstein determined to modernize – and militarize - the Austrian artillery. The first change came with the lightening of gun barrels and carriages. Those Austrian troops which took part in the campaign on the Rhine against France were equipped with 122 light guns.

In 1748 the old aiming wedges were replaced with the `Richtmaschine`, or aiming machine; the cavalry pieces had their own aiming devices, in the form of a ratchet rod.

It is notable that Liechtenstein called upon several foreigners to help improve the artillery of Austria, just as Peter the Great of Russia had earlier used Austrian officers to bring the Russian artillery up to date. These foreigners included the Saxon Rouvroy (the Fire Devil), the Dane Alvson, the Prussian Schröder and the famous Gribeauval, from French service. These men worked together with certain Austrian gunners of equal talents, such as the two Feuerstein brothers and generals Feldern and Fischer. Liechtenstein made a special catch with the Swiss carpenter Jacquet, who, despite having no technical training, had a knack, bordering upon genius, when it came to devising solutions to mechanical problems. This man improved all the machines in the artillery foundry in Ebergassing and introduced several new ones. Some quote him as being the inventor of the horizontal gun barrel boring machine, while others attribute this to the Geneva blacksmith Maritz.

The efforts of the two Feuerstein brothers, Andreas Leopold and Anton Ferdinand, also deserve mention. For his technical expertise in the revision of the construction of Austrian field guns, Anton Ferdinand was awarded the title Feuersteinberg and was elevated in 1757 into the ancient nobility of the Kingdom of Bohemia. The diploma of January 19, 1757 confirming this elevation, stated: “by virtue of his tireless efforts, he has raised the efficiency of the entire field artillery corps to a new level, to our great satisfaction...”

All efforts were aimed at making gun barrels lighter and thus the guns more manoeuvrable. By reducing the walls of the barrels, shortening them and removing all useless ornamentation, the weights of some of them were reduced by half. Accuracy demanded the reduction of the windage in the barrel, which after the first systematic scheme of 1753, varied according to the calibre of the gun. So, in the case of cannon, the windage was in the ratio of 9:8 (iron calibre) and for a howitzer it was 8:7 (stone). For a mortar it was 23:20 (stone).

After years of experimentation, Liechtenstein's teams introduced a new artillery system in 1753. It consisted of a family of three groups of guns:

  1. Light 1-pounder amusettes to be used as regimental guns for the Grenzer (aka Croats) infantry regiments
  2. Field Artillery: 3- (standard regimental guns), 6- and light 12-pounder cannon, whose barrels measured 16 calibres in length, and the 7-pound howitzers.
  3. Battery Pieces (long and short-barrelled guns): 12-, 18- and 24-pounder pieces.

All pieces had been designed and built according to a common scheme. There was no effective alteration to the external appearances of the barrels. The introduction of the Angussscheiben (washers?), which prevented the carriage from shaking, and their later extension, which permitted the introduction of parallel trails instead of the old divergent style.

There were also heavy mortars: 10-, 30-, 60- and 100-pound mortars firing iron shot and a 100-pound, stone-throwing piece.

The Austrian projectile-weight classification used the so called ancient Nuremberg artillery-pound, of 0,45kg and related to the actual weight of a stone ball of the same diameter as the iron projectile that was used in practice. This meant that the iron “7-pdr” howitzer fired a hollow, cast-iron, gunpowder-filled ball of 14-15 pounds.

The whole system was soon admired by the Prussians; these pieces were even more mobile than their own and they increased the number of guns with the army considerably.

In 1756, the first year of the Seven Years' War, the Austrian army took the field with 202 guns. In 1757, it had 362 and in 1759 it had 476 field guns and six 24-pounder siege guns. In 1762, they used 540 field guns, of which about 80% were 3-pounders. As the numerical strength of the army increased as well, a gun-to-man ratio of 4,4 field guns per thousand men was maintained.

Field Artillery Pieces

In 1753, when Feuerstein introduced the lightened field guns, the nomenclature of artillery pieces was changed. The old and new designations may be seen below.

Old Names New Names
Regimentsstück 3-pounder field gun
Falkaune 6-pounder field gun
Quartierschlange 12-pounder field gun
Viertel-Karthaune 12-pounder battery gun
Nothschlange 18-pounder battery gun
Halbe Karthaune 24-pounder battery gun

The various pieces (cannon and howitzers) are presented in detail in the following articles:

  • Liechtenstein Regulation ordnance (M1750 and M1752)
  • Non-Regulation ordnance
    • Cannon
    • Howitzers
Gunners tools
Source: Anton Dollaczek; Geschichte der Österreichischen Artillerie von den frühesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, p. 326
Fig 175 emergency screw and extractor; Fig 176 bird's tongue (for extracting jammed cannon balls); Fig 177 mop; Fig 178 rammer for smoothbore barrels; Fig 180 touch hole punch; Fig 181 hammer for touch hole punch; Fig 182 picker

The tools needed to serve the guns (mop, rammer, trail spikes, muzzle plug, touch hole cap) were carried on the gun. The smaller items (picker, sight, and quadrant) were carried by the crew. Apart from these items, there was a 7 m tow rope, drag ropes with slings and advancing poles for the crew, powder ladle and bore-cleaner; the latter of which were no longer used on field guns since 1746. For unloading the gun there were the puller and the emergency screw and the Vogelzunge (bird's tongue), which was used to free balls, which were jammed in the barrel.

Types of Shot

Solid shot was cast, then reheated and forged over to reduce irregularities. There were also hollow shot for the 3- and 6-pounder, but they fell into disuse.

Canister (Kartaetschen) was an anti-personnel projectile, it consisted of small balls (iron or lead) held in a copper cylinder, with an iron lid and a wooden base, which sat on the charge cartridge in the barrel.

Grape (Schrottbuechsen) was similar, but with larger balls.

Piece Barrel

In May 1744, when Liechtenstein assumed office, he withdrew all the hanging mortars and the 1-, 2-, 36- and 48-pound Falkonets, double Nothschlangen and full Karthaunen and a large number of mortars, that were no longer being produced. He only retained those mortars which had a cascabel on the base end. This was followed by the withdrawal of those odd 3- and 6-pound iron field guns, of 16 calibre internal barrel length, the 10- and 60-pound mortars and the 3-pounder field guns with 13 ½ calibre barrels.

In 1752 the new guns, 3-, 6-, 12-pound cannon, 7- and 10-pound howitzers and the 12-, 18- and 24-pound battery guns, designed by General Feuerstein, were introduced. The battery guns were in two classes, long- and short-barrelled. There were also the 10-, 30-, 60- and 100-pound mortars and the 100-pound stone mortar. All these were of bronze, but there were also older bronze and iron guns still in service.

The barrel design, which had been introduced in 1750, received only minor changes. The new barrels of the pieces were now all cast of bronze, using ten parts of tin to 100 of copper. Worn-out barrels were also re-used and this affected the resultant mix. Until 1759, the long battery guns bore the crests and eagle as in former times.

Major gun foundries were at Vienna, Graz (Styria), Prague (Bohemia), Hermannstadt (in Transylvania) and in Mecheln (Austrian Netherlands). The barrels were cast around a spike, which formed the rough bore, and this was then drilled out, using a machine perfected by the Swiss engineer, Jacquet.

The barrels of cannon were of uniform bore along their length; those of howitzers had a chamber for the charge at the base of the bore, which was of smaller diameter than the main barrel.

Gun Carriages

Gun carriages were much lighter than previous practice, the cheeks of the trails having been reduced to one calibre thickness and reinforced with iron bands. A second trunnion position was incorporated on top of the cheeks, behind the firing-position trunnion sites, into which the barrel was moved for road transport. This placed the centre of gravity of the piece more in the centre of the gun / limber combination. The simple wedges under the base of the barrel, formerly used to elevate the gun, were replaced by screw-driven devices, allowing greater accuracy in controlling the range. The quadrant, heretofore used to establish elevation angle, was replaced by a graduated scale on the elevation device. Uniformity of design and manufacture were emphasised, thus increasing inter-changeability of components from various arsenals. Wheels for all field guns and the 7-pound howitzer were standardised at 50 inches diameter, with rims 2 1/4 inches wide. The same wheels were used on the rear on the ammunition carts.

The gun limber was merely a two-wheeled axle, with a vertical spike projecting upwards, onto which a hole in the lower end of the gun-trails fitted. These, and the front axles of the ammunition carts, used wheels 36 inches in diameter.

All axles were of wood, with a diameter of 4 1/4 inches, the ends fitting into the hubs of the wheels with brass bushes to reduce wear.

A small wooden box (Lafettentrügl) containing the first line supply of ammunition, was fitted onto the cheeks of the trail.

When the gun closed up to the action, the team would be unhitched and held in a sheltered position and the piece would be moved across country by the crew (and one horse) using bandolier-style drag-ropes and by rods placed through hoops at the front ends of the trail cheeks.

The ammunition wagons had four wheels and the bodies were made of wicker-work, with a waterproof oilskin cover, to reduce their weight as much as possible. All items of a gun and supporting vehicles, were branded with the same serial number, to aid accounting procedures.

The guns and vehicles were painted in dark yellow, with black ironwork, to protect them against the weather. However, in 1757, Horace St. Paul observed that the guns of the Niederländ Feldartillerie were painted blue instead of the yellow found with the German artillery.


Das Heer Maria Theresias (Albertina), reprinted in Vienna, 1973

Dollaczek, Anton; Geschichte der Österreichischen Artillerie von den frühesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, Vienna, 1887

Duffy, Christopher;Instrument of War: The Austrian Army in the Seven Years War, Emperor's Press, Chicago, 2000

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, pp. 141-142

Wrede, Alphons Freiherr von; Geschichte der K. U. K. Wehrmacht; Vienna and Leipzig, 1911


Digby Smith for the initial version of this article