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|Josef Werndl, founder|
Steyr has been on the "iron road" to the nearby Erzberg mine since the days of the Styrian Otakar dukes and their Babenberg successors in the 12th and 13th century has been known as an industrial site for forging weapons. The privilege of iron and steel production, particularly for knives, was renewed by the Habsburg duke Albert of Austria in 1287. After the Thirty Years' War, thousands of muskets, pistols, and carbines were produced annually for the Habsburg Imperial Army.
In 1821, Leopold Werndl (1797-1855), a blacksmith in Steyr, began manufacturing iron parts for the productions of weapons. After his father's death, 24-year-old Josef Werndl (1831-1889) took over his factory. On April 16, 1864, he founded the "Josef und Franz Werndl & Comp. Waffenfabrik und Sägemühle in Oberletten" (Josef and Franz Werndl & Partners Weapons Factory and Sawmill in Oberletten), from which later emerged the "Österreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft" (ŒWG, Austrian Arms-Manufacturing Company), a stock company (AG) since 1869, of which the Steyr Mannlicher firearm production was a part.
Werndl's cooperation with engineer Ferdinand Mannlicher (1848-1904), who had patented an advanced repeating rifle in use by the Austro-Hungarian Army, made ŒWG one of the largest weapon manufacturers in Europe. First applied in 1890, the Mannlicher M1901, and the Steyr-Hahn M1912 became milestones in auto-loading pistols technology. At the beginning of World War I, with more than 15,000 employees, production output was 4,000 weapons per day.
Aftermath of World War I
After the end of the war, weapons production in Steyr was all but entirely prohibited according to the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain, and the company faced bankruptcy. To survive, the ŒWG converted their machinery to concentrate on producing Steyr automobiles under chief designers Hans Ledwinka and Ferdinand Porsche, as well as bicycles (colloquially called Waffenräder ("weapon bicycles")). In 1926 the company changed its name to "Steyr-Werke". The production of Steyr Mannlicher weapons continued in cooperation with Patronenfabrik Solothurn AG at Zuchwil in neutral Switzerland.
World War II
After the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany in 1938, the Steyr factories were incorporated into the Reichswerke Hermann Göring industrial conglomerate and the outbreak of World War II provided a brief revival in weapons production. Like many other companies, Steyr Mannlicher relied on forced labour, employing numerous inmates from the Steyr-Münichholz subcamp of KZ Mauthausen.
During the 1950s the Mannlicher–Schönauer full stock rifle experienced a renaissance. Simultaneously, the re-emergence of the Austrian Armed Forces in the Second Republic was the base for a new start of military weapons production.
In the 1970s, Steyr developed an innovative new assault rifle, the StG 77. A bullpup design, the StG 77 extensively utilized synthetic materials, and integrated fixed optics. The export version became the AUG—“Armee Universal Gewehr” (Universal Army Rifle), eventually being in service with the armed forces of over two dozen countries.
Steyr pistols are marked with a three digit date code on the slide just forward of the ejection port.
The first letter represents the month of manufacture.
The second and third letters represent the last two digits of the year of manufacture.
In this example, the date code "BOY" indicates a pistol manufactured in April 2007.