Invented by : Patrick Ferguson Invented in year : 1770
Breech-Loading Rifle is a firearm in which the bullet or shell is inserted or loaded at the rear of the barrel. The Breech-Loading Rifle was invented by Captain Patrick Ferguson of Pitfours, Scotland. Breech-Loading Rifles were generally 50 inches long, weighed 7 1/2 pounds, and had a movable rear sight to accommodate ranges from 100 to 500 yards. Its 34-inch barrel was short for an infantry long arm. It had a breech plug that passed perpendicularly through the barrel's breech and opened on a smoothly-moving screw thread by a single rotation of the trigger guard. When the breech plug was lowered, the barrel's breech was exposed, into which a round ball could be inserted. With the muzzle pointed downward, the ball rolled to the front of the chamber and was retained by the rifling's lands. It required no wadding or patch, nor was a prepared cartridge necessary. A powder charge poured directly from powder flask into the opening behind the bullet filled the chamber. A single complete reverse turn of the trigger guard caused the breech plug to rise, closing the opening at the top of the barrel and ejecting any surplus powder. With flash pan primed, the rifle was ready to fire.
Various breech-loading flintlocks were developed starting around 1650. The most popular action has a barrel which was unscrewed from the rest of the gun. One of the most successful was the system built by Isaac de la Chaumette starting in 1704. This system was improved in the 1770s by Colonel Patrick Ferguson and 100 experimental rifles used in the American Revolutionary War. Ferguson was a Scottish officer in the British Army. It was the heightening of disputes between the Britishers and the Americans during 1775 revolutionary war that inspired Ferguson to improve and invent the Breech-Loading Rifle. In the hope of British troops out shooting the rebels, Ferguson's rifle did away with awkward manipulation of the ramrod, the exercise that brought on so many casualties among troops using the Brown Bess. The key to its success was a screw-type breech lock, operated by simply rotating the trigger guard. It could be loaded safely and quickly in four steps: Turn the guard to open the breech; lean the muzzle forward; drop the ball, then the powder charge into the chamber; and turn the guard to close the breech. A rifled barrel made the weapon vastly more accurate. As a bonus, the Ferguson weighed only 7 1/2 pounds, nearly 3 pounds less than the Brown Bess.
To convince his seniors, in June 1776 Ferguson demonstrated his rifle to a party of lords and generals at Woolwich, site of the Royal Military Academy, across the Thames from London. His Majesty, his generals and Ferguson were eager to rush this formidable weapon into the field against the rebels, but those were the days before mass production. The rifle would not equip an army, or even a full regiment, in time to matter in America. Ferguson was given command of a single company, only 100 men, whom he diligently trained to become expert with his rifle. Sent to America, he recruited more marksmen from different regiments in General William Howe's army. Their first serious combat was at Brandywine Creek. The only two flintlock breech-loaders to be produced in quantity were the Hall and the Crespi.
Development in the invention of Breech-Loading Rifle
In 1848 inventor Walter Hunt of New York patented his "Volition Repeating Rifle" incorporating a tubular magazine, which was operated by two levers and complex linkages. The Hunt rifle fired what he called the "Rocket Ball," an early form of caseless ammunition in which the powder charge was contained in the bullet's hollow base. Hunt's design was fragile and unworkable; but in 1849 Lewis Jennings purchased the Hunt patents and developed a functioning, if still complex, version which was produced in small numbers by Robbins & Lawrence of Windsor, Vermont until 1852.
Smith and Daniel B. Wesson founded the Smith & Wesson Company in Norwich, Connecticut in 1852 to develop the Volcanic rifle, the first repeating rifle. Smith developed a new Volcanic Cartridge, which he patented in 1854.
The original Henry Rifle was a .44 caliber rimfire, lever-action, breech-loading rifle designed by Benjamin Tyler Henry in the late 1850s. Henry Rifle was the first reliable lever-action repeating rifle.
Oliver Winchester, an American businessman and politician manufactured and marketing the Winchester Repeat Rifle which was invented by John Moses Browning. It's lever-action mechanism allowed the rifleman to fire a number of shots before having to reload: hence the term, "Repeating Rifle."
Role of the invention of Breech-Loading Rifle in the development of human life
Early firearms were almost entirely muzzle-loading. The main advantage of breech-loading was reduction in reloading time. It was 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 weapon without exposing themselves to enemy fire or repositioning the piece (as was required for muzzle-loaded weapons) and it allows turrets and emplacements to be smaller (since breech loaded weapons do not need to be retracted for loading).
With Breech-Loading Rifle, light infantry troops were be able to continue loading and firing without breaking cover or while lying prone.