Austrian Line Infantry Drill

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This article is based on the Austrian Infantry Reglement of 1748. This book comes from the collection of Ing. Jiří Sissak, Ph.D. The relevant sections have been translated into English by Ibrahim90.

Drill procedure

All illustration come from the Austrian Infantry Reglement of 1748 from the collection of Ing. Jiří Sissak, Ph.D.

Basic stance and marching

Shoulder your fire-lock
Source: Sissak's collection

When shouldered (command: Das Gewehr auf die Schulter), the musket is to lay on the left shoulder at a near vertical angle, arm only slightly bent, with the lock at a level below the breast, the butt-plate at about the level of the belt/pelvis, barrel facing out. The legs are to be straight, with the feet facing out, and no more than a span’s distance between the heels. The right arm is to be held slack, palms facing to the back and inward. Finally, the head was held up and cocked to the right.

To do: marching

Loading and Firing

The Austrian Army in its 1748 manual attempted to completely describe the loading process in meticulous detail, hoping to ensure a proper understanding of how the musket was to be handled. Particular emphasis was placed on the physical feasibility and comfort of the evolutions, with the manuals time and again calling for comfort and ease of motion. The manual also uniquely explained why many of the steps were taken; these explanations have been integrated in this article.

Further, emphasis was placed on aiming one's shots, not just on rapid reloading, with a section describing the need for officers to ensure the proper elevation of the men’s muskets when aiming, so that it was neither too high nor low. The same section implored officers to account for terrain, as this is implied could further through off aim (p. 97 of the manual).

Partly as a result of this, the Austrian Manual is quite wordy, and often difficult to follow — especially as some musket parts were mislabeled. Worse yet, it failed to actually describe the full procedure: the last step, returning to shoulder arms, was simply not printed.

Overall, the loading procedure was largely similar to the Prussian model: the main differences were that it was more likely to break individual steps down more than the Prussian did (21 known steps to Prussia's 16 steps, though both had 9-10 stages), as well as a completely different method of presenting the musket (stepping forward rather than back). Further, there was an unnecessary step when casting the musket about. This is likely a reflection of the more conservative Austrian Army when compared to their enemies, as well as a desire for clarity.

To load and fire the musket, the soldier goes from the shoulder arms position:

Make ready
Source: Sissak's collection

1. Macht euch Fertig! (Make ready!):
i) The soldier would swiftly slacken his arm to bring the musket down as much as possible, while turning the musket so that the lock faced away from the soldier, simultaneously gripping with the right hand the stock right under the cock, comfortably bending his arm, so that the barrel faces his throat, yet still against his shoulder.
ii) The soldier would then bring the musket with his right hand directly before himself, barrel facing him, thumb on the cock, forefinger on the trigger-guard and the remaining fingers behind the trigger guard, his left hand gripping the area directly in front of the lock. The musket was to be held a span away, and directly vertical, with the left thumb at eye level, elbows comfortably raised.
iii) The soldier then brought his right elbow down next to the body, cocking the musket. The soldier was expected to otherwise keep his fingers in the same positions as before, to prevent premature firing of the musket.

Source: Sissak's collection

2. Schlagt an! (Present!):
i) The soldier stepped a full step forward with his right foot, forcing the musket down, and sliding his left hand a half span before the lock, so as to hold it level, simultaneously bracing the butt against his right shoulder. He was to turn his head slightly right to aim. At this point the soldier would take his thumb off the cock, and the index finger rested on (but not pressed against) the trigger.

Recover Arms
Source: Sissak's collection

3. Setzt ab (recover arms):
i) The soldier would step back so that his feet were once again side by side, bringing the musket back up to a vertical position, the forefinger and thumb returning to their make ready position. The left hand was to slide back to just above the lock, with the thumb at eye level. Both elbows were to be comfortably bent, though the right once was to be next to the body.

Source: Sissak's collection

4. Feuer! (Fire!):
i) The soldier then briskly pulled the trigger, and awaited the next step.
ii) The soldier then stepped back and recovered arms (i.e. Setzt ab).
iii) The soldier then stepped back with his right foot next to his left foot, and turned half right, bringing his musket down with his left hand so that it was at waist level and horizontal. The soldier gripped the cock by the right hand, with the pinky on the cock's screw and half-cocked the musket.

Handle cartridge
Source: Sissak's collection

5. Ergreift die Patron (Handle cartridge):
i) The soldier reached for his cartridge box, and withdrew a cartridge.
ii) The soldier, gripping the cartridge with thumb and forefinger, would bring the cartridge to his mouth, and bite the end off, and then hold the now open cartridge a half-hand away from the mouth, keeping the cartridge upright. The thumb was to cover the exposed powder.
iii) The soldier, turning to look at the pan, would then bring the cartridge to the pan, with the cartridge remaining upright. He would then pour powder into the pan, pressing the cartridge with his forefinger to control the powder flow. Meanwhile the middle finger helped hold the cartridge, with the last two fingers behind the cock's screw. Once done the cartridge was to be held upright as before.

Cast the musket to the left to load
Source: Sissak's collection

6. Links Schwenkt euch Zur Ladung (Cast the musket to the left to load):
i) The soldier would then shut the pan with his last two fingers, and slide his right hand back to the stock.
ii) The soldier then pivoted on his left foot and brought his right foot forward, causing him to now face to the half-left, simultaneously pushing down the stock with his right hand and turning it with his left hand towards the left side, then sliding it so that it now rested on the ground outside the front of his left foot whilst grabbing the musket along its half-way point. Meanwhile his two free right fingers would grip the muzzle, so that the muzzle would stop a span from the right shoulder. The cartridge was to be kept upright and next to the muzzle.
iii) The soldier would then pour in the powder by pressing it in (preventing accidental waste of powder), then bringing the thumb and forefinger back to push in the rest of the cartridge (ball and paper). The musket was then to be turned to the left, so that the ram-rod directly faced the soldier, the soldier then grabbing the ramrod by its front with the thumb on the left. Arms were to remain bent, elbows down, but comfortably so.

Rammer in barrel
Source: Sissak's collection

7. Den Ladestock im Lauf (Rammer in barrel):
i) The soldier then pulled out the ram-rod as much as possible while keeping his elbows as comfortably bent as possible. He would then place his hand at the base of the withdrawn part of the ram-rod.
ii) The soldier then pulled the ram-rod completely out, inverting it, and then shortens it on his belt-buckle so that the hand is no more than a span away from the body. The ramrod was to remain parallel to the barrel.
iii) The soldier then brought the rammer up to the muzzle, and shoved the cartridge in, keeping his elbows bent and raised up.

Seat the load
Source: Sissak's collection

8. Setzt an die Ladung (Seat the load):
i) The soldier then swiftly withdrew the rammer and then rammed it back in, seating the cartridge and its contents. He then held the ram-rod by its back end.

Return the rammer
Source: Sissak's collection

9. Besorgt den Ladestock (Return the rammer):
i) The soldier now withdrew his ram-rod, catching it as it was half-way out, and gripping it so that the thumb faced down towards the muzzle. The soldier would in drill remain in this position till the next stage. Elbow was to remain bent comfortably.
ii) The soldier then completely withdrew the rammer, inverted it once more, and shortened it on his belt-buckle to a span away form his body once more. Once more the ramrod was to be parallel to the barrel.
iii) The soldier then returned the ram-rod to its housing, first guiding it down enough to reach the middle bands, then pushing it all that way in from the top with his right hand. He then allowed his musket to swing back so that the barrel faced forwards, and held the musket with his right hand on the muzzle, with the elbow to be raised comfortably.

N.B.: the manual stops at this stage, with no indication as to how one should bring the weapon to shoulder arms. Here is the likely method (no breakdown, as this would have varied from army to army).

The soldier would then have to pivot on his left foot to his right, so that he faced to the front. He would then bring the musket up with his left hand, gripping the musket with his right hand under the lock; the musket would have to be kept near-vertical, butt-plate at about pelvis level. He would finally move his left hand down to the butt-plate, and assuming the shoulder arms position. This method was used in both the Prussian and British armies of the time, and there is no reason to assume a different method for the Austrians.


Regulament und Ordnung gesammtes kaiserlich-königliches Fuß-Volck, Vienna: Johann Peter von Gehlen, 1749


User:Ibrahim90 for the initial version of this article

Ing. Jiří Sissak, Ph.D. for providing the sources