- Breech-loading weapon
A breech-loading weapon is a
naval breech-loader. Notice that there is a series of interlocking doors that never permit an open path from the gunhouse, down which a flash might travel, to the magazine.
firearm(a rifle, a gunetc.) in which the bulletor shell is inserted or loaded at the rear of the barrel, or breech; the opposite of muzzle-loading.
mass production firearms are breech-loading (though mortars are generally all muzzle-loaded). Early firearms were almost entirely muzzle-loading. The main advantage of breech-loading is a reduction in reloading time; it is much quicker to load the projectile and charge into the breech than to force them down a long tube, especially when the tube has spiral ridges from rifling. In field artillery, breech loading allows the crew to reload the muzzle without exposing themselves to enemy fire, and it allows turrets and emplacements to be smaller.
Although breech-loading weapons were developed as far back as the late 14th century in
Burgundy, the 1400s in Spainand Portugal, and the 1500s in Englandand China, breech-loading became more successful with improvements in precision engineering and machiningin the 19th century. Patrick Ferguson, a British Armyofficer, developed in 1772 the Ferguson rifle, a breech-loading flintlock weapon. Roughly two hundred of the rifles were manufactured and used in the Battle of Brandywine, during the American Revolutionary War, but shortly after they were retired and replaced with the standard Brown Bessmusket.
Later on into the mid 1800s there were attempts in Europe at an effective breech-loader. There were concentrated attempts at improved cartridges and methods of ignition. The low-powered copper
Flobert cartridgewas invented in 1836, as was the pinfire cartridge( Lefaucheux), although this required fixative work by Houillerin 1846 to produce a workable cartridge. Rimfire cartridge (1850s). Centrefire cartridge (Pottet, 1857. Berdan or Boxer priming). See Cartridge.
The "Dreyse Zündnadelgewehr" or Dreyse needle gun, was a single-shot breech-loader
rifleusing a rotating boltto seal the breech. It was so called because of its .5-inch needle-like firing pin which passed through a paper cartridgecase to impact a percussion capat the bullet base. It began development in the 1830s under Dreyseand eventually an improved version of it was adopted by Prussiain the late 1840s. The paper cartridge and the gun had numerous deficiencies; specifically, serious problems with gas leaking. However, the rifle was used to great success in the Prussian army causing much interest in Europe for breech loaders.
American Civil Warmany breech loaders would be fielded. The Sharps rifleused a successful dropping block design. The Greene Rifleused rotating bolt-action, and was fed from the breech. The Spencer, which used lever-actuated bolt-action, was fed from a 6-round detachable tube magazine. The Henry rifles and Volcanic rifles used rimfire metallic cartridges fed from a tube magazine under the barrel. These held a significant advantage over muzzle-loaders. The improvements in breech-loaders had spelled the end of muzzle-loaders. To make use of the enormous number of war surplus muzzle-loaders, the Allin conversion Springfield was adopted in 1866. General Burnside invented a breech-loading rifle before the war.
* Ambrose E. Burnside - Improvement in metallic cartridge - [http://hlebooks.com/patents/burnside/burn01.htm US Patent no. 14,491 of 1856]
The French adopted the new
Chassepotrifle in 1866, which was much improved over the Needle gun as it had dramatically fewer gas leaks. The British initially took the existing Enfield and fitted it with a Snider breech-action(solid block, hinged parallel to the barrel) firing the Boxer cartridge. Following a competitive examination of 104 guns in 1866, the British decided to adopt the Peabody derived Martini-Henrywith trap-door loading, adopted in 1871.
Single-shot breech-loaders would be used throughout the latter half of 19th century, but they were slowly replaced by various designs for
repeating rifles, first used – and heavily – in the American Civil War. Manual breach-loaders gave way to manual magazine feed and then to self-loading rifles.
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