What came before the 10-meter rifle? – Part 1Zimmerstutzen

by B.B. Pelletier

I’m in Albuquerque today and all settled down for the evening.

Today’s question is: What came before the 10-meter target rifle? Knowing what came before and how it evolved tells us a lot about today’s 10-meter rifles.

The Zimmerstutzen was the ancestor of the 10-meter target rifle and extends back to at least 1840. Zimmerstutzen is the rough translation of “parlor rifle” in German. The first zimmer was powered by a percussion cap that propelled a small lead ball through a short rifled barrel. The barrel was located toward the end of what looked like a conventional long rifle, although only the final 8 inches of the barrel were used. The striker for the percussion cap, and later the firing pin that was used on cartridges, was very long – running from the rifle’s action to the rear of the short barrel.


American Bandel Zimmerstutzen from about 1870 uses percussion caps to power a lead ball loaded in a breech about 8 inches from the muzzle. Note that the hammer is attached to a long striker that runs up to this breech.


Breech mechanism of Zimmerstutzen from 1910 shows the loading/extracting mechanism that handles the fixed cartridge.

Course of fire
The course of fire was 50 feet indoors and always offhand. Because zimmerstutzens were associated with shooting Vereins (literally “unions,” but meaning clubs) where the summer was devoted to shooting outdoors at 200 meters with schuetzen rifles. In fact, a lot of American shooters think the word Zimnmerstutzen should really be spelled and pronounced zimmerschuetzen (it shouldn’t). It may have had its origins that way, but zimmerstutzens soon developed their own rules and evolved into a different sport.


Fixed 4.3mm Zimmerstutzen cartridge (left) next to a .22 long rifle. The zimmer round uses a primer, only.

Characteristics
By 1890, zimmers usually had double-set triggers, superfine adjustable aperture sights and stocks that defined the breed. A high, cupped cheekpiece and usually a thumbrest were common features, as was a deep hooked buttplate. By the year 1900, the Zimmerstutzen had evolved to its highest level and would remain that way until the start of World War I.

Caliber
A Zimmerstutzen comes in the nominal caliber 4mm, but in fact there are over 25 discrete calibers that range from 4mm to 5.55mm, in half-milimeter increments. They also come in fixed and separate ammunition. The fixed ammo looks like a standard rimfire cartridge. It loads, shoots and ejects just like a rimfire cartridge. Of course, all target-shooting zimmers are single-shots, just like 10-meter rifles of today. Target shooters believe that top accuracy comes from precise loading directly into the breech, and they get that partly from the Zimmerstutzen heritage.

Accuracy
This is where the story gets interesting. When I was a boy in the 1950s, Zimmerstutzens were revered for their accuracy. Had they shot groups in targets instead of single shots, their groups would have been around one-tenth-inch for the best shooters. Wonderful accuracy for 1955, mundane after about 1985. Today’s 10-meter air rifles can out-group a Zimmerstutzen by about 50 percent, if not more. Of course the distances at which they shoot are different, but that doesn’t explain the difference in accuracy. It’s really velocity and the accuracy potential of a diabolo pellet. A round ball cannot keep up, and the Zimmerstutzen typically shoots around 1,000 f.p.s., while the air rifle does about 580.

In the next installment, I’ll show you some more unique things about Zimmerstutzen rifles and tell you where they went when the 10-meter rifles displaced them.

31 thoughts on “What came before the 10-meter rifle? – Part 1Zimmerstutzen

  1. Interestingly there is a very similar .22 cartridge still available about that size which also uses only a cap in the cartridge base as its propellant.

    They are nicknamed “Acorns” due to the acorn shape on the cartridge base and are produced by dynamit and nobel, in either a bb or pointed projectile.

    Perhaps a descendent of this Zimmerstutzen cartridge re-designed to suit more modern .22 rifles, these cartridges are also german.


  2. Starion,

    Those cartridges are imported by RWS. I have a tin of them. And they are really 6mm, unless they have recently made a change.

    They are not accurate at all (the 6mm ones, at least). But American-made CB caps are reasonably accurate, plus they fit the bore.

    B.B.


  3. BB- Thanks for a post like this. I really miss these from the early days of your blog. I check the blog everyday but when I see “Beretta PX4 Storm pistol” or “Gamo CF-X” I usually move on to the “Yellow”. I know the endless reviews are what most people like but I liked the balance that the blog used to have. JMHO but thanks for some history!


  4. B.B.

    Thanks for the interesting history lesson; I have always been fascinated by those old parlor guns.

    On an unrelated note, thanks for your review of the Marksman 2004. Based on that review, my wife bought me a Beeman P17 (same gun, new name) from the Pyramydair site (btw, those guys might be happy to know that, as a first-time user, she found their site very user-friendly). I’ve spent the morning shooting the gun on my indoor range…great gun!

    I love the ergonomics, and it’s very accurate; at across-the-room ranges (like 15 ft) it will put the pellets on top of each other. It’s a great indoor trainer, which is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for the review and recommendation!

    Keep up the good work.

    take care,]
    dave
    RAFB, Georgia


  5. Dave, ditto on the 2004/P17 comments. I find that if I get the holdover just right on my 2004, I can hit a circular saw blade at 55 yards more times than you’d expect if you knew how badly I shoot!

    The only issue is (in my opinion) it is TOO easy to shoot well. Makes for a poor firearm pistol trainer!


  6. BB, I’m wondering if your comparison of your Taurus to a Gamo is a bit of a stretch. After all, an out-of-the-box Gamo is not the most refined gun on the market – but I don’t think they usually exhibit the same level of deficiencies in accuracy and functionality that you’re seeing in the Taurus…


  7. B.B.

    What an odd gun to use only 8 inches of barrel. I thought that length of barrel correlates with accuracy.

    I’ve also thought that whatever gains you make in mechanical accuracy for a single shot gun are more than subtracted by the fiddling you have to do between shots to load the gun and resume the hold position. With a semiauto, it seems possible to make the exact trace correction needed for the next shot. But obviously the weight of experience at high levels says otherwise.

    B.B. you’re seeing a bit of the country.

    Matt61


  8. Vince,

    I had a good friend’s year-old Gamo Viper rifle apart last week. The spring was horribly canted due to the spring guide being almost 1/8″ too small in diameter. The funny thing was that the guide’s base STARTED at the correct size for the spring–but Gamo had machined it down and intentionally make it undersized. The guide is probably a “shared” part with several other models–too bad it’s was out of spec for this gun. We made a new guide and added a sleeve inside the piston to tighten its fit around the spring as well. Now all the buzz and twang have completely disappeared. So, I think what BB meant was the lack of hand-fitting in the Tarus is obvious when compared to the precision of the Wilson.

    And I second you on that Beeman P17. What a GREAT inexpensive pistol!

    Overall, what I’ve learned here on this blog from all of you and in working on my airguns is that if you buy an inexpensive gun, you can often improve the performance substantially with some effort on your part.

    Derrick


  9. BB,
    That hooked buttplate looks like it would hold the rifle to your shoulder very well. Why doesnt any airgun have this today?

    Nate in Mass


  10. Hi Nate,

    Hooked buttplates are prohibited by the ISSF for 10-meter air rifle competitions. The ISSF is the International Shoting Sport Federation–the governing organization for Olympic-type shooting sports. Hooked buttplates are legal for 50-Meter rimfire competition. So you can buy a buttplate from Anschutz or MEC and fit it to your rifle. Downside? They’re often about $300. OUCH! Which is probably the real reason we don’t see them very often!

    Derrick

    Derrick


  11. BB,

    Put down “me too” for enjoying this one; those are beautiful rifles. It seems like disputes over parlor usage aren’t modern:). I wonder if the men really didn’t get sent out to the barn, like many of us still do.


  12. Matt61

    I think the barrel doesn’t need to be any longer, since these guns burn only primer.

    Semiauto will always be considered just a little less accurate than comparable single shot or even bolt-action repeater, for several reasons including: potential cartridge deformation and less positive bolt lockup (both probably overblown). The benefit you mention (better for follow-up shot) makes the compromise acceptable to many for practial applications and semi’s keep getting closer to the ideal in accuracy.


  13. I have seen new Remington 1860′s parlor pistols for sale online. They sell for about $140 and fire the 4.3mm cartridge.

    I’ve thought about getting one but the ammo is very hard to find, and they are still classified as a firearm, despite its lack of power.

    mech


  14. Thanks for the write up. One of my favorite parts of my “other” sport of cycling is the lore and the development of equipment.

    I love this stuff. If you can recommend a good book to get a novice eup to speed on weapon development, it would be much appreciated.

    Bruce in RI


  15. Matt61,

    Short barrels are often more accurate than long ones because they don’t whip/ flex as much when the shot is fired. The advantage to having a long barrel is you get a long sight radius with open sights. Of course, a parallax free scope takes away the need for a longer sight radius.

    /Shooter


  16. Dave,

    You get my vote too for the P17! I’ve had one for a year now and I love it! Nice trigger, accurate and pretty consistent. I only get in the mid 300′s for velocity though. I that’s think due to my elevation.

    Another Dave- /Shooter

    (attack of the Daves)


  17. Shooter,

    Just to clarify: longer barrels can develop higher velocities in powder burners (up to a point, in most cases, etc.), which can translate into better accuracy via reduced flight time, i.e. flatter trajectory, reduced wind effects. My guess is that the ZS’s would lose projectile velocity to friction if they used full-length barrels, since the primer burns up much faster than powder. On the other hand, they wanted the ZS’s to handle (and sight) just like a real gun and use normal components (triggers, stock patterns, etc), thus the long half-fake barrel.


  18. bg_farmer,

    Good point! I was thinking in the “all else being equal” mode, but didn’t state so. Of course, to make all else actually be equal takes vastly different load combinations for a pistol length barrel versus a barrel of rifle length.

    I’d love to have a repro of a ZS on my wall. Anyone out there know who makes them>

    /Shooter



  19. Nate,

    For some reason, hooked buttplates are not permitted in 10-meter shooting. No doubt, there is a reason, but I don’t know what it is. It DOES exactly what you said, and the Zimmerstutzen is one of the easiest rifles to hold in the off-hand position.

    B.B.


  20. Dave,
    I don’t have a chrony, so I don’t know what my velocity my P17 gets, but it sure shoots nice.

    B.B.
    The only place I can shoot at 55 yds would be here at the base. I’m supposed to get a chance to shoot on their range next month; I’ll see if they’ll let me put up a saw blade at 55 yds; that would be interesting. =)

    take care,
    dave


  21. The Air rifle i use (Anschutz 8002 Alu in .177) can put many pelets through the same hole while hardly dialating the original hole it also shoots around 1600 fps. Sadly with the declining value of a dollar these rifles cost about four grand.


  22. Hello” I own a early Parlor Rifle very ornate, Great Conditon. Shoot’s > 4.3 mm

    It’s for sale, If there’s a interested Collector, You can contact me at Lpllck@yahoo.com

    Price is 4500.00 It’s been stored for 58 years this time..

    Thank You < Lee >


  23. Hi’ Jim, thank you for responding so quickly. The * Rifle * is of the Highest Grade. Very Very ornate, while measuring 46 inches in overall length. 1 inch across the flat of the barrel. Serial # (9248) Checkering in all the right places, Relief Carving rolling style. Signed on Barrel ” Tirdler Waffenfabrik.Right side.. Left side marked J.or T. Peterlongo Innsbruck , Caseharding 100% in Tack. Stock Has alot of Dings,& Dongs,, But She’s a Knockout. I have 1, Full box of Caps, 1 Full Box of Balls, 4.3mm

    Your Friend

    LEE”


  24. I have a very ornate zimmerstutzen that I purchased in an auction several months ago where the seller didn't really know anything about the gun, and had listed it as an antique German .22lr. It's not a .22, and has a pair of barrels, one marked .20 Sheridan, and another that's marked ".20/4.3 cals". Both barrels are marked "H. SCHMIDT IN LANDAU" along the top. Are there any resources for information about these rifles that anyone could direct me towards, online or otherwise? I'm interested in finding out more about the maker and possibly getting an estimate as to it's worth.



  25. I really appreciate the reply; I'd actually later on last night. It's really fascinating stuff, especially since everyone I've been able to ask about this rifle has basically told me that it's really nice, it's a zimmerstuten, and they know nothing about them.

    There's no Stigele System on it, and it loads as separate ball and percussion caps. They both load into a small "bolt" that fits into a slot in the rear of the breech. The firing mechanism cocks via a lever action, and it has double set triggers, all of which are nickle. The engraving in the wood is incredibly detailed, and in fantastic shape for it's age. I have a link to a large imgur gallery of photo's I've taken of it if you'd care to take a look at them. I don't have pictures of the second barrel, but it's the one marked .20 Sheridan, and has a separate cap and ball "bolt", for lack of a better term.

    http://imgur.com/a/z7qvu#0


  26. Sorry. I should be more specific, it has two barrel sleeves, one in .20 Sheridan, the other marked "4.3 cals". The .20 Sheridan barrel is currently out of the rifle, and is stamped "WALTHER BARREL". The end of the barrel itself has is marked with a 4. Here is a second photo album that does have some other pictures of the rifle, including the .20 Sheridan sleeve and the end of the barrel markings.



  27. Dr. Ozzie,

    Your rifle was made after WW 1 and is a lower-grade gun. The spoon bolt is the lowest-grade of separate loading system. Only the Flobert is lower.

    The wood carving is nice, but low-relief and almost folk-art quality.

    The caliber 4.3mm would indicate a much later gun — well after WW 1. And earlier gun would have the ball size. Yours is No. 7.

    The rear sight looks very odd. It should be blued steel but your is finished bright. And they don't normally have quite as deep an angle to the sight plate.

    The condition of your gun is excellent. That, alone, drives the price to over $1,000 in my estimation.

    B.B.


  28. Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it. Given that I paid well under $1000 for it, I'm glad to hear that. I really bought it as a display piece, mostly because I really liked the wood. I'm in the process of having a display cabinet built for it.


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