WI: Repeating and Breechloading Rifle adopted earlier?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by GameBawesome, Feb 11, 2019.

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  1. GameBawesome Well-Known Member

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    What if between 1690s to 1760s and beyond, countries adopt repeating and breechloading guns, such as the Kalthoff repeater and the Fergunson rifle (BTW, the Fergunson rifle wasn’t invented by Fergunson, it was based on a design as early as 1720), and maybe the Puckle gun as well.

    How would these guns effect early modern warfare?
    Would people change their tactics from Volley fire, or would Volley fire continue?
     
  2. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    The problems that early beach loaders have is having a good gas seal, so unless you have an earlier development of metalic cartridges (or needle rifles) you're out of luck.

    Likewise, repeating rifles just aren't practical without them
     
  3. longsword14 Communism: This time, we will get it right!

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    Artillery also had problems with obturation but they could be solved by using some sort of a sealant pad at the breech block. Maybe something similar could be used on the bolt face of a needle gun ?
     
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  4. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    Some breechloaders actually have pretty good gas seal, the Kammerlader comes to mind. The trouble is until you have a self contained cartridge like the Dreyse, loading lose powder and ball plus the primer is slow. The Kammerlader for example is only 50% faster than a Minie rifle. The Dreyse has nearly twice the rate of fire as the Kammerlader and it’s the first breechloader to be truly worth it. Gas seal on the Dreyse is also not too bad. Most of the leak blows forward not all over the place like the Sharps.

    The Puckle gun carriage has a surprisingly slow rate of fire. A squad of men with muzzleloaders can easily out shoot it, is cheaper to equip, and does not get bogged down in the mud.
     
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  5. unprincipled peter Well-Known Member

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    ability to manufacture and expense are the biggest obstacles to adopting breech loaders/ repeaters, even if you could design one.
     
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  6. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    What everyone's said.
    Getting them in use a decade earlier or so is possible. Much before that, and the industry just isn't there.
     
  7. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

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    Paper cartridges were in use much earlier. The Dreyse cartridge was a paper cartridge. The Hall rifle uses a similar mechanism to the Kammerlader. The issue with the Hall is loose tolerances, which will be the problem with any earlier breech loader. The technology was not widely available. If this technological leap comes earlier, rifle and breech loading, as would steam engines, machining tools, and a variety of other technologies, advance accordingly.
     
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  8. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    Yeah, but not self contained cartridges. The Hall had a separate primer (originally a flint lock, later a percussion lock), and also had significant gas seal issues.

    The kammerlader also has a separate primer and a clunky under hammer mechanism
     
  9. Ivan Lupo Well-Known Member

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    I think at best, a proven breech-loading rifle would be issued or used only by elite units that would benefit from accuracy and range, but it just doesn't seem the technology was quite there for wide-scale military adoption for the standard line infantry until the 19th century. These types of rifles, as mentioned, were expensive and complicated to manufacture and maintain. Even now, the issue of main assault rifles and battle rifles is based on ease of manufacture,efficiency, and ease of use. Think of the AK-47 and how widespread it became, or the early problems the US Army had with the earliest versions of the M-16 rifle during Vietnam. Sure, when both weapons are well-maintained, the M-16 generally performed better. But in the muck, grime, and chaos of battle, you needed to easily maintain your weapon and have it be easy for any idiot to use. This line of thinking isn't too far removed from the 18th century. Had something been invented that was easy to use and take care of, it would have been adopted.
     
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  10. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    The Dreyse had a less powerful round and thus had shorter range than Minie rifles. It’s actually better for conscripts due to simplicity of use. There are fewer steps to load and fire, it’s simple to clean and far easier to clear a dud. The Prussian army liked it because they used a conscript system and the rifle took less training to be effective in the stress of combat. The fact that it has three times the rate of fire and allow the shooter to load from prone gave it a revolutionary advantage.

    It was more expensive, so was the ammunition. But even poor countries in the modern world use AKs instead of bolt action rifles despite the extra cost because the performance gap is too big. You should read the newspapers from the aftermath of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. All of Europe was in a panic over the needle rifle. Considering the Dreyse was invented years before the Minie and proven decisively superior to it in battle, a lot of countries made a huge mistake adopting Minie rifles in the 1850s.
     
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  11. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    Technically, you could have had metalic cartridges in rifles as early as the 1830s with rimfire, though for whatever reason they didn't seem to make anything larger than carbine rounds before getting replaced by centerfire
     
  12. cra0422 Member

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    Not only those two things but you also need to have leaders who are willing to use the new technology. During the American Civil War, Union General James Ripley was the chief of Army procurement, and did everything he could to keep repeaters and breechloaders out of soldiers hands. He thought the breechloading Sharps Rifles were "newfangled gimcracks" and that giving soldiers the Spencer Repeater would cause them to waste ammunition
     
  13. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    To be fair, its generally not a good idea to change your troops weapons in the middle of a war, especially at that time in history. Not to mention that it was hard enough trying to supply millions of soldiers across half a continent
     
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  14. marathag Well-Known Member

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    Looks like the Needle Rifle used a 325 grain .61 caliber conical bullet with 74 grains of BP, for 1000fps performance

    the .52-56 Spencer had a 350 grain .52 caliber bullet with 45 grains of BP for 1200 fps performance

    So looks like it had quite a bit of gas leakage
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
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  15. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    Gets powder all over your clothes, but not in your eyes. I’ll take smelling of saltpetre over having to load slowly standing up in the midst of carnage any day.

     
  16. unprincipled peter Well-Known Member

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    I agree, but in a modern day corollary, fully automatic rifles had to be restricted due to soldiers holding down the trigger and going to town on the ammo (wasting it). I think there was a bit of legitimacy to the notion that repeaters in the civil war might lead to soldiers outshooting their manufacture/supply capability.

    But, willingness to adopt new strategy/methods is often an obstacle to overcome in the military.
     
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  17. marathag Well-Known Member

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    But the Spencer repeater gave you seven while prone, or horseback, where ever.

    From my reading, the Needle gun leaked badly enough that some troops would fire from the hip, rather than risk burning your eyes.
    For comparison, the paper cartridge Sharps had a .54 caliber 468 grain bullet propelled by 63 grains of BP for 1200fps performance

    The leaky Hall Carbine used a paper patched .54 caliber ball of 228 grains with 60 grains of BP, but could be loaded up to 100 grains, and had about half the penetration of pine boards vs a regular rifle, being unable to find a fps value for that early, unpopular breechloader.
     
  18. longsword14 Communism: This time, we will get it right!

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    That is a myth. The one video by capandball on youtube shows the gases moving forwards out of the conical breech face. The receiver is long enough that the shooter's eyes are well behind the bolt.

    Maybe the designer could add some sort of washer to that cone ? Images of the chassepot do not show the cone like a Dreyse but a rubber piece on the bolt which obturates. A brass lining for the Dreyse could seal the gases in.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
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  19. marathag Well-Known Member

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    I'm just pointing out that for the recorded performance of the Needle Gun, much more powder was required to get worse performance than the Spencer. Just would have liked to have found an actual fps for the Hall Carbine to get a closer comparison to one leaky breechloader to another.
     
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  20. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    The Spencer was invented 20 years after the Dreyse, which was adopted in 1841. In the age of metallic cartridge there were better options. But you'll note the French Chassepot needle gun was converted to metallic cartridge as the Gras rifle. A pretty good investment. The French invented the Minie and switched to a needle gun, what more evidence do we need?

    Stories about the Dreyse leaking gas goes back to the tabloid reports from the Franco-Prussian War. Just rumors of so and so saying the Chassepot has a better rubber seal. One possible explanation could be the Prussian rifles were by that point 30 years old and who knows what kind of condition they were in. As far as I know no modern Dreyse owner has experienced these problems.

    I'm not sure how much we can infer from ballistic data without knowing more about the methodology, for example powder used. As far as the Sharps, you can see its gas leak in slow motion here:

     
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