Austrian Eagles


In response to questions involving Austrian eagles on headstamps, I posted a note in the old Forum which now seems to have sunk without trace. The question has arisen again in another recent thread so I am again posting this, largely based on information in Mötz’s books on Austrian military cartridges.

The Eagle served as the official government mark on Austrian military headstamps for nearly 70 years and was used as such by six manufacturers in turn, its periodic changes in design reflecting the shifts in Austrian politics over that time. Its occurrence on headstamps and clips may be summarised as follows:

  1. The double-headed, crowned, Habsburg Eagle was the traditional Imperial Austrian mark, and was first used as a headstamp by the Artilleriezeugsfabrik (Artillery Ordnance Factory, Vienna) on Werndl cartridges in 1872. They used the initials “AZF” on clips.

  2. In 1902 small arms ammunition manufacture was moved from Vienna to the Munitionsfabrik Wöllersdorf, a government-run plant near Wiener Neustadt, about 40km south of Vienna, who continued to use the Habsburg Eagle on headstamps but used the “MF” monogram on clips. However, under the Austrian post-WW1 disarmament programme the Wöllersdorf plant was privatised as Wöllersdorf Werke AG, and it diversified into making a range of civilian products. It never manufactured military ammunition again, though for a short while there was some commercial production bearing the “w-in-W” monogram on its headstamps. Cartridge production at Wöllersdorf finally ceased in 1925.

  3. In 1926 some Austrian military ammunition production was resumed, but under the terms of the 1919 Peace Treaty this was restricted to designated State Factories (Staatsfabriken). State Factory status for small arms ammunition manufacture was first awarded to Georg Roth’s Lichtenwörth plant, itself situated just outside Wiener Neustadt. It used a plain, single-headed, uncrowned, Republican Eagle as the headstamp mark on its military cartridges.

  4. In 1928 the Roth empire finally collapsed, but its Lichtenwörth plant continued to operate under the name Patronenfabrik Lichtenwörth AG and it retained State Factory status. It continued to use the single-headed Republican Eagle on its military headstamps, at first of the same plain design but in 1931 this was changed to a version incorporating a ‘civic’ crown, and carrying a hammer and a sickle in its claws.

  5. In 1933 Patronenfabrik Lichtenwörth was taken over by Hirtenberger Patronenfabrik, along with its state factory status, and military production was soon transferred to their main plant at Hirtenberg, a small town about 14 km north of Wiener Neustadt. At about that time, following a further change in government the single-headed Republican Eagle was replaced by the double-headed, uncrowned, Corporate State Eagle, which first appeared on headstamps and clips in 1935.

  6. Following the Nazi Anschluss in March 1938, Fritz Mandl, the owner of Hirtenberger and son of one of its founders, fell out of favour with the new regime. As a result, control of the firm was wrested from him and given to Gustloff Werke AG, a German firm based in Weimar, and the Hirtenberg plant was renamed Gustloff-Werke-Patronenfabrik Otto Eberhardt (in memory of its first director who died suddenly). At first the Eagle tradition persisted on headstamps and clips in the form of the Nazi Eagle, but this was soon changed to the standard German system, as “P 635” in 1939 and then “am” from 1940 to the end of WW2.

As a postscript, Fritz Mandl, whose claims to fame included being at one time married to film actress Hedy Lamarr, managed to transfer most of his assets to Switzerland and he eventually emigrated to Argentina. There he continued his entrepreneurial activities with the Industria Metalurgica y Plastica Argentina (IMPA), which for a time manufactured ammunition for the Argentine government. However by 1945 he had fallen foul of that regime and was removed from control of the firm. He returned to Austria, and following the end of Soviet occupation in 1955 he again assumed directorship of the Hirtenberger plant. He died in 1977.

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