With the Federal Constitution of 1848 the competence for the armament was transferred from the Kantons to the Federal State. The first task for the defense ministry was to organize and harmonize the weaponry of the Swiss army.
The first weapon to be introduced in the federal military system was the Eidgenössischer Stutzer 1851.
Jules Bonnet from Luzern posing with M51 Feldstutzer
The Feldstutzer was the first military rifle in Europe to depart from the large 18mm bullets in favor of the 10,4mm (cal .41) bullet. This also meant that the soldier could carry almost twice as many rounds with him.
This percussion rifle was issued to the sharp shooters of all Kantons.
The M51, like all Stutzers, was equipped with a double set trigger. The action on this trigger is truly “competition grade”, although the purpose in the mid-1800’s was rather different. The forward trigger is set at approximately 1000 grams (~2 pounds) and using the set trigger the hammer will fall with only 200 grams pressure. Adjustments can be made using the screw between both triggers.
The lockplate on the M51 Stutzer indicates "Beuret Freres, Liege"
This particular M51 must have been owned by a Swiss competition shooter. I purchased the rifle through an auction and found a sticker on the shaft which usually indicates competition use. In this case the world championship muzzle loading black powder shooting in Schwabisch Hall 1974.
Stock of M51 with competition sticker of World Championship
After I purchased the rifle it appeared that the percussion piston could not be removed. Probably due to corrosion of the firing of percussion caps.
A stuck percussion piston can become a major headache
With good advise from experts, I managed to get the piston removed by means of a small torch. Heating the nipple for about 2 minutes and then slowly turning it with a 8 mm wrench did the job for me.
The above mentioned M51 has been passed on to another collector in Belgium.
Since 2005 I am the lucky owner of a very special model of the M51.
This rifle was custom build in 1866 for a well known person in Geneva, Switzerland: Rodolphe Delarageaz (1815-1873). A silver plate with his name is visible on the left side of the rifle. He lived in Preverenges near Lausanne in the canton of Vaud (www.preverenges.ch). Rodolphe was a major in the Swiss army, in the infantry corps of the canton of Vaud. He was the younger brother of Louis-Henri Delarageaz.
The Swiss Colonel Louis-Henri Delarageaz pictured below was a member of the government of Vaud.
The rifle was made by Jean N. Peter, a gunsmith in Geneva. Unlike the regular Feldstutzer rifles, this rifle has a heavier barrel and it was made of “Acier Fondu”, which means cast steel. The gunsmith Peter had a shop in Geneva (street of Corraterie). This shop still exists today at the same place. It was probably sold to Mr. Mayor at the end of the 19th century (www.ernest-mayor.ch). Jean Peter was the brother-in–law of Rodolphe, and this explains the link between the owner and the maker of the rifle.
The Feldstutzer remained in the Delarageaz family until 1956. The above information was kindly provided to me by family member Louis-Henry Delarageaz, which is very much appreciated.
As mentioned above, particular feature of the Stutzer rifles was the double set trigger. When the rear trigger was pulled the front trigger would have an extremely light trigger pull. Ideal for sharpshooters in the 19th century and nowadays, for target shooting.
Specifications of the M1851:
Length weapon: 1260 mm (49.6 inches)
Length barrel: 813 mm (32.0 inches)
Weight: 4,5 kg (9.9 pounds)
Caliber 10.4mm (.41)
Barrel with 8 (!) groves right hand twist
Sight adjustable from 200 to 1000 paces
Double set trigger
3 sided bayonet with spring attachment
In total 6400 M51 rifles were made (many rifles were converted
later on to the Milbank-Amsler system)