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ca.  1868 .34 CALIBER NEEDLE GUN CARTRIDGE OF THE TYPE USED IN THE DREYSE REVOLVERS – VERY NICE SPECIMEN:  Initially developed during the early percussion muzzle loader period, Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse’s Needle Fire Cartridge reached its full potential with the advent of the bolt-action breech loading rifle.  The breech loading capability of the rifle combined with the self contained cartridge allowed the soldiers to maintain a faster rate of fire than their opponents armed with the older muzzle loading systems, and eventually this system was adopted by the Prussians and several of the other German nation-states, the French, Italians and Russians. 

The firing mechanism consisted of a long narrow firing pin, or needle, driven by a coiled spring which pierced the rear of the cartridge, passed through the powder charge and struck the percussion cap seated against the base of the bullet.   

The cartridge included the projectile, the propellant and the percussion cap, all secured in a single paper wrapping, with the percussion cap situated in front of the powder charge and against the base of the bullet.  The front-to-rear burn pattern of the propellant was thought to minimize the loss of pressure due to unburned powder being blown out of the muzzle before it could ignite or to burn uselessly after leaving the muzzle, and as a result of the entire charge burning in the barrel, the increased heat and pressure minimized the amount of residue left behind.  The theory held that this reduction of waste allowed the cartridges to be loaded with a smaller charge to obtain the same velocity as a rear ignited charge applied to a bullet of the same weight.  An additional benefit was with the percussion cap being seated against the base of the bullet, it was protected against an accidental ignition in the cartridge boxes or while being handled. 

The Needle Gun Cartridge was one of the first examples of caseless ammunition in so far as the soldier was left with nothing to extract from the chamber once the cartridge had been fired.  The paper hull was completely consumed when the cartridge was fired, and as the primer was physically connected to the bullet, it too was expelled down the bore with nothing remaining of the cartridge. 

The calibers of the military rifles produced under this system generally fell into the range of 11mm.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Franz von Dreyse made his mark in the realm of firearms by designing a needle fire revolver in the late 1860’s, offered in such calibers as .32, .34, .35, and .39.  It is noteworthy that the calibers of German made firearms during this period were measured in “Prussian Inches” (approximately 10% larger than “British Inches”) prior to the acceptance of the metric system under the Treaty of the Metre of 1875. 

This scarce specimen of a .34 caliber Needle Fire Cartridge is in excellent condition, showing no wear, damage or any other evidence of aging or use.  The original shellac on the paper casing is fully intact, the bullet is full form with no dents, and the blue wax base is fully intact.    

An excellent specimen to display with your early Dreyse firearm.  (0802)  $175




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