M1711 Skiløper rifler – ski-runner rifles
The M1711/1841/51 pillar breech rifle, originally probably from the 1690′s, but approved in 1711, is probably the ultimate long-arm for the Norwegian historical military fire-arm collector. They are really not all that scarce. 600 were imported in the early 1700′s and few, if any, ever saw use – 300 short (very short!) and 300 long (not so very long). As of today there probably are at least 60 or 70 known among the collectors in Norway, but this rifle is often found as a family piece at non-collectors due to the beauty and the dragon side-plate.
This is a strictly military weapon with one prime purpose: To hit your target at a long distance and kill it. The beautiful carving, the lovely mountings, the kings mirror monogram and all that stuff was just a result of labour costing next to nothing – and fashion.
I have an emotional tie to the skiløper rifles. My first Norwegian military rifle was a long skiløper rifle with a later stock. The skiløper rifle also has a slightly different history than the other jäger rifles in Norway – it was never fitted for the 1801 hirshfänger bayonet. One had 600 or so, brand new, high quality jäger rifles in the arsenal, but the Danes decided that they were not to be converted. How come? The only reason I can think of is that they by then already were more than 100 years old. The rifles were then stored another 40 years and converted first to percussion in 1841 and to breech loaders in 1851, then they also were fitted with a bayonet – after more than 150 years!
A seriously huge bayonet – almost as long as the short version! All the different jäger rifles got this bayonet in 1851 and the bayonets are individually fitted to each and every rifle. Does the bayonet not have a matching number to the rifle? Well, then it probably will not fit.
Most of the skiløper rifles were restocked some time in the 1800′s and all the fancy carvings vanished. There are some of the short ones around with the original stock; but, as far as I know, only three known of the long ones – my two and one that was sold at Hermann-Historica. Strangly enough, I’ve never been offered a short one with the original stock, so both of mine have “newer” stocks. As mentioned, these rifles probably never saw action. The strange thing is that one of mine has kind of a “neither nor” stock – at the bottom of the picture. The middle one has the Kongsberg stock from 1840′s or -50′s, but the third one seems to have an older and possibly even “used” stock. Could this have seen action, the age making the stock so brittle that it broke and that a regimental gunsmith carved a new stock som it could be sent out in action again? I don’t know.
A sad thing is that when they changed the stocks, they also cut down the lovely mountings. The dragons tail was chopped off, the strap of the butt plate was cut down and even the trigger guard was amputated – modernized is probably the right word, but labour was still very cheap in the mid 1800′s.
The plate for the kings monogram was also removed on the new stocks, but stayed on the old stocks. But here the Swedes demanded that the Danish King Fredrik IV’s mirror monogram was to be files away in 1815 – no Norwegian weapons were to carry a Danish king’s monogram! On my first skiløper rifle it was filed off, but I have seen it on a few of the short ones.
Some years ago I heard of a long M1711 with the original stock that might be coming up for sale – eventually. I was able to get a look at it – and it was an untouched rifle with all the mountings, carvings – and the king’s mirror monogram. It took several years before the owners decided what to do with it, but finally it landed in my collection. It still is untouched! I have even left the dirt on it. There is no pitting, just a trifle of surface rust – and a load of dirt. Yes, I know, it should be cleaned and eventually I will do it. But something 300 + years old and probably having been untouched for the last 150 years or so – that is something very, very special in my book. I don’t believe in high polished brass etc.
The M1711 were produced in Suhl, Germany and probably were a “standard rifle” from the manufacturer. If so, there might be some original ones in flintlock laying around – I’d be very interested, if somebody…!
The picture to the right shows my “old” M1711 with the filed down king’s monogram and the monogram on the “new” rifle. This was probably added when the rifles landed in Norway in the early 1700′s.
Please mail me at if you should have the flintlock version or any other information at .