there are power lines in our bloodlines

Let me just set the record straight: The Dreyse needle gun was a bad weapon.

Yes, it introduced quick breech-loading fire to the battlefield and was one of the most important early steps in the development of bolt actions. Yes, the Prussians used it to very impressive effect against the Austrians in ’66, especially at Königgrätz. But it was a fatally flawed gun.

The needle system that gave it its name, based on having a primer inside the cartridge rather at one end (that was struck by a needle penetrating the cartridge) was inherently incredibly flimsy, and the needle broke all the time; the muzzle velocity (and thus range) was miserably bad; the obturation seal on the bolt was flawed, so that after a few rounds it spat hot gas into the the face of the user and set him firing from the hip, turning a nineteenth-century rifleman with a bolt-action masterpiece of fine engineering and mass production into a blindly flailing seventeenth-century musketeer.

It was a Bad Gun, never mind that it could briefly, occasionally do what nobody else could, and that such a device got standardised knowing its massive flaws says things that aren’t really surprising about how much the Prussians really cared for their men. The Chassepot left it, deservedly, in the dust.

None of you will ever have heard of the Dreyse needle rifle, but I need to get this off my chest. Now, back to Ian Hogg’s superbly written illustrated history of ammunition (aka The Big Book of Wargasms.)


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