By Larry B. Schuknecht
The Winter 2014 edition (no. 52) of the German Gun Collectors Association publication Waidmannsheil included an article of mine about a Dreyse Faucet Breech Needle Fire Rifle. In this article I will introduce another Faucet Breech Needle Fire Rifle of perhaps an earlier date than the Dreyse.
There is very little information to be found about Johann Leonhard Gerstmayr, the maker of the rifle. Studying early sources suggest that the Gertmayr family of Memmingen was one which boasted of many talented members. In 1835 we find Wilhelm Gerstmayr teaching at the Agricultural and Trade Schhol in Memmingen and a J. C. gerstmayr was a well known Copper plate Engraver famous for his work creating maps.
The oldest referance to johann Leonhard that I was able to find is the 1820 edition of the Handebuch über Memmingen in which he is listed as a Büchsenmacher residing on Storchengraße.
In 1829 the Kries Intelliganz Blatt der Koniglich Bayerischen Regierung bes Oberdonan Kreises contained a notice that three guns were stolen from the shop of the local gunsmith-Johann Gerstmayr. They were a pair of elaborate target pistols with rifled barrels and a so called Harp Shotgun with two barrels which were superposed and with two locks on the right side with one in front of the other.
In the 1837 edition of the Handbuch über Memmingen is an entry for Joh. Leonh. Gerstmayr residing on Kempterstraße, formerly a Büchsenmacher (Gunmaker) in Memmingen, which if I am correct in my interpretation means that he was at that time retired.
Interestingly the book Der Neue Støckel by Eugène Heer lists a Johan Leonhard Gerstmayr, Memmingen, Württemberg / D, ca. 1650. Is this an ancestor of our subject or the same gentleman with a mistaken date of activity?
The book Guns and Rifles of the World by Howard L. Blackmore contains a brief mention of a faucet breech cartridge gun patented in France in 1826 by Antoine Galy-Cazalat, a Proffessor of Mathematics at Perignan. Gerstmayr’s gun has several similarities to this design. Instead of the striking pin or needle being powered by a spiral spring as in the Galy-Cazalat design, the Gerstmayr needle is powered by a V-flat spring and tumbler.
The Gerstmayr rifle is a light weight piece weighing 4 pounds and 6 ounces and measures 45 inches long with a 29 inch barrel. The bore measures .400 across the lands and .420 across the 8 grooves. The diameter of the chamber in the faucet breech measures .415. The barrel is slightly swamped, being .680 at the muzzle, .620 at the narrowest and .770 at the breech.