Belgian Albini-Braendlin 1841/53/67 Infantry Rifle

  • Country: Belgium
  • Ignition System: Centrefire
  • Calibre: 11 x 50R Albini

Belgium followed the modernisation trend that swept through Europe in the late 1860s. With both France and Prussia on its borders, it was high time to upgrade. Being a small nation with limited means, the Belgians opted, like many others, for a conversion system of their existing M1853 percussion rifles. The chosen conversion was the Albini-Braendlin system, a hinged trapdoor system in the same line as the Austrian Wänzl conversion and Swiss Milbank-Amsler conversion.

The Albini-Braendlin was a collaborative design which brought together features developed by several gunsmiths. The basis of the system is a capping breech loader designed by William Mont Storm. This system was then modified by Augusto Albini and Francis Braendlin for centrefire metallic cartridges. Mr Albini provided the essential cartridge extraction mechanism whilst Mr Braendlin devised the hammer mounted locking/firing pin linkage.

The system comprises a receiver shoe into which a hinged cylindrical breech block is fitted. The cylindrical breech block is hinged above the chamber and contains a captive firing pin on the central axis. The rear of the firing pin extends into a blind hole in the rear of the breech block. A double extractor claw is hinged about the same hinge as the breech block and is caused to swing out when the breech block is fully opened. The block and extractor are not spring biased but the rear of the breech block is fitted with a ball détente to hold the door in a closed but unlocked position .

The rear of the receiver shoe has a bridge which retains the shape of the original breech and percussion nipple bolster. Through the bridge is an opening which lines up with the blind hole at the rear of the breech block when it is in closed position. The bridge extends rearward in the form of a breech tang provided with a guide channel in line with the bridge opening and breech block blind hole when in a closed position.

The lock used is the original percussion lock onto which a new hammer has been mounted. Pivotally mounted to the head of this hammer is a slide block from which extends a locking bar. This locking bar linkage slides back and forth within the breech tang channel as the hammer rotates. The three hammer positions correspond to the following actions:

1. With the hammer is placed at half-cock the trigger is disabled and the locking bar protrudes into the rear of the breech block but does not contact the firing pin. The breech block is locked shut.

2. When the hammer is fully cocked, the locking bar is drawn backwards so that the tip only extends within the bridge opening. In this position the breech block can be freely opened and closed.

3. When the hammer is released, the locking bar is propelled into the hole at the back of the breech block where if performs the dual function of locking the breech and striking the rear of the firing pin to fire the cartridge.

This rifle is a 1841/53/67 rifle as the lock bears the date 1847. Back-action locks postdating 1853 would indicate that the rifle is a 1853/67 rifle, and on rare occasions one can find conversions of flintlock muskets to the Albini-Braendlin system, I have yet to see one. From 1873, new Albini-Braendlin rifles were produced which featured an improved extractor taken from the Terssen rifle but were otherwise identical.

The Albini-Braendlin chambered for the 11x50R Albini cartridge and is cursed with the same enlarged chamber as the Comblain, thus making reloading for this calibre extremely frustrating. A few loading tips can be found on the Comblain page.

The rear sight ladder is calibrated between 500m and 1400m. In 1880 the cartridge was improved by using hardened lead for the bullet, this change resulted in a longer useful range. Volley sights were thus modified to allow shooting at from 1400m to 2100m as designed by a Colonel Halkin, which consisted of a sight extension on the right side of the slider and a sighting button on the middle barrel band. This arrangement theoretically allowed volley firing from 1400m to 2100m. Oddly this rifle has only the sighting button present.

The bayonet is a thin bladed socket bayonet housed in a leather sheath. The sheath is tipped by a metal finial.

The Albini-Braendlin system was also adopted in limited numbers by the British for colonial use in Australia and by the Italian navy, both using the Enfield percussion rifle as a base and chambering the .577 Snider cartridge.

The Belgian army retained the Albini-Braendlin as the standard infantry rifle until the arrival of the smokeless Mauser 1889.