Needle Gun

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by Milos Sijacki, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. Milos Sijacki

    Milos Sijacki Member

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    The Dreyse needle-gun was a military breechloading rifle, famous as the main infantry weapon of the Prussians, who adopted it for service in 1841 as the Dreyse Zündnadelgewehr, or Prussian Model 1841. Its name comes from its 0.5-inch (13 mm) needle-like firing pin, which passed through the paper cartridge case to impact a percussion cap at the bullet base. The Dreyse rifle was also the first breech-loading rifle to use the bolt action to open and close the chamber, executed by turning and pulling a bolt handle. It has a rate of fire of about 10-12 rounds per minute.

    The gun was the invention of the gunsmith Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse (1787–1867), who, beginning in 1824, had conducted multiple experiments, and in 1836 produced the complete needle-gun. Dreyse was ennobled in 1864.

    Usage and history:

    The first types of needle-gun made by Dreyse were muzzle-loading, the novelty lying in the long needle driven by a coiled conchoidal spring which fired the internal percussion cap on the base of the bullet. It was his adoption of the bolt-action breechloading principle combined with this igniter system which gave the gun its military potential, allowing a much faster rate of fire.

    From 1848 onwards the new weapon was gradually introduced into the Prussian service, then later into the military forces of many other German states, save for Austria. The employment of the needle gun radically changed military tactics in the 19th Century.

    The needle gun first made its appearance in street fighting during the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849. It also played an important role in the Second war of Schleswig in 1864. The gun saw its heaviest use in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Because the breech-loader made it possible for a Prussian soldier to fire five (or more) shots, even while lying on the ground, in the time that it took his Austrian muzzle-loading counterpart to reload while standing, it was seen as allowing the Prussians to sweep the field. One observer proclaimed, "the needle-gun is the king."

    The success of the Dreyse needle gun spurred subsequent developments in firearms technology, and prior to the start of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the French introduced the Chassepot rifle. Although the Prussians won the war, the Chassepot proved superior in virtually all respects compared to the needle-gun, which was slowly becoming obsolete. With the subsequent unification of Germany, the Dreyse needle gun was replaced by the Mauser Model 1871 rifle in German service.

    Ammunition:

    The cartridge used with this rifle consisted of the paper case, the bullet, the percussion cap and the black powder charge. The 15.4 mm (0.61 in) bullet was shaped like an acorn, with the broader end forming a point, and the primer attached to its base. The bullet was glued in a paper case known as a sabot. Between this inner lining and the outer case was the powder charge, consisting of 4.8 g (74 grains) of black powder. The upper end of the paper case was rolled up and bounded together. Before the needle could strike the primer, its point then passed through the powder and hit the primer ahead. The theory behind this placement of the primer is that it would give more complete combustion of the charge. It also increased the handling security of the cartridge because it was virtually impossible to set the primer off accidentally.

    There was also a blank cartridge developed for the needle gun. It was shorter and lighter than the live round, since it lacked the projectile, but was otherwise similar in construction and powder load.

    But as it goes with everything, this rifle also had its limitations, so to them now,

    Limitations:

    In practice the needle-gun proved to have numerous defects; its effective range was very short compared to that of the muzzle-loading rifles of the day, and conspicuously so as against the Chassepot. A significant amount of gas escaped at the breech when the rifle was fired with a paper cartridge. An improved model, giving greater muzzle velocity and increased speed in loading, was introduced later, but this was soon replaced by the Mauser rifle.

    After several shots, the breech would fail to close entirely. This caused the gas escaping from the breech to burn the skin of the soldier. As a result, soldiers could not aim accurately without burning themselves and were forced to fire from the hip. The placement of the primer directly behind the bullet would force the firing pin, or needle, to be enclosed in gunpowder when the gun was fired, causing serious stress to the firing pin which would often break after as few as 200 rounds had been fired, rendering the gun useless until the pin could be replaced. Soldiers were provided with two replacement needles for that purpose. Because the gun used black powder, residue accumulated at the back of the barrel making cleaning necessary after about 60–80 shots. This was not, in practical terms, a large problem, because the individual soldier carried fewer cartridges than that and Dreyse created an "air chamber" by having a protruding needle tube (the chassepot also had this but it was more likely to jam after fewer shots because of a smaller diameter chamber).

    This text I took off from Wikipedia. It caught my eye because I was reading about bolt-action rifles and this one was mentioned as the first bolt-action rifle.

    Cheers :)
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The most important benefit of early breach loaders. Firing while prone greatly reduces casualties. I'm surprised other nations took so long to figure this out.
     
  3. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The Hall breechloading rifle was ordered by the Ordnance Department of the US Army in 1814. In the early 1800s many Hall Breeechloaders were used in the US.
     
  4. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    The needle gun was the first breech-loader to see mass service though - even during the ACW the vast majority of infantry long-arms were muzzle-loading, while the Prussians had a breech loader on general issue in the same timeframe.
     
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