View Full Version : Needleguns?

Reasonable Rascal
January 9, 2001, 12:42 AM
I'm sure this one has to have been asked before, but how did the Dreyse (?) Needlegun get it's name? These were one of the first successful repeating bolt actions, correct? Designed for military duty that is?


Mike Irwin
January 9, 2001, 01:23 AM
Well, the name came from the fact that the firing pin (or sriker, actually) was a long, thin needle.

The cartridge was sort of egg shaped, with the bullet in front, a large wad of gunpowder behind it, and the entire thing was wrapped in a stiff paper.

The primer was actually in the base of the bullet.

In operation, the bolt was opened, the cartridge inserted into the chamber, and the bolt closed.

When the trigger was pulled, the "needle" would actually pierce the back of the cartridge, go through the powder, and strike the primer in the base of the bullet.

IIRC, the needle had to penetrate about 1.5" of powder to reach the primer.

The needle was the weak link in the operation. It had to be fairly thin, which meant that after a few shots the hot powder flame would seriously erode it and it stood a greater and greater chance of breaking in use.

I believe that there was a spare needle packaged in every 10 pack of cartridges, and soldiers routinely carried several spare needles in addition to what they got with the ammo.

They were designed for military usage, and they were one of the, if not the first, successful bolt-type firearms.

Reasonable Rascal
January 9, 2001, 01:42 AM
Thanks for the info. Had been reading the other day how the Martini-Henry was inspired by the successful use of them but they didn't of course say how the Dreyse came to acquire it's name.


4V50 Gary
January 9, 2001, 12:05 PM
The Needle Gun took its name from Nicholas Dreyse in his Zundnadelgewehr (Needle Gun) which he developed back in 1838. It was the first mass produced bolt action rifle.

James K
January 9, 2001, 09:21 PM
Hi, guys,

It may seem incredible, but the Model 1873 "trapdoor" Springfield was often called "the needle gun" on the frontier, apparently because of its long firing pin and possibly by confusion with the Prussian rifle which had been heard about but which few had ever seen.

So if you see any old diaries or writings from the frontier days that talk about having or using a "needle gun", the reference is probably to the invention of Mr. Allin, not Mr. Dreyse.