Norwegian M1849/55 Kammerlader Infantry Rifle

  • Country: Norway
  • Ignition System: Percussion _ Breechloader
  • Calibre: 18mm (.69

This remarkable rifle way designed in Norway and adopted for service in 1842. It was a completely new rifle, which was unusual since at the time most countries were cutting costs by adapting older pattern guns to percussion (with the notable exception of Prussia). It was the result of a collaborative development, however the most notable in the development were a military officer by the name of Scheel and a gunsmith by the name of Gregersen. The system features two things that are seldom seen on military rifles at the time, firstly it is a breech loader, and secondly it uses an underhammer percussion lock.

Breech loading military guns had until then only made brief appearances, the most famous being the British Ferguson rifle and the American Hall rifle, but they were expensive, complicated to make, delicate, and the seal between the chamber and barrel was notoriously inadequate. In essence, the kammerlader breech loading system is actually quite close to the Hall system of using a tilting chamber. Underhammer percussion systems had until then never been used on a military gun, and only very rarely on civilian target guns. The advantage of the underhammer mechanism is that the lock has very few parts, and the ignition happens along the centreline of the barrel and there is no flash to disturb the aim of the shooter. The kammerlader is thus pretty avant-garde in the early 1840s.

It comprises a large rectangular receiver, a crank bar, a lever, and a chamber cylinder. The crank bar passes through an oval hole at the back of the chamber cylinder and is secured to the lever on the left side of the receiver . The outer rim of mouth of the chamber cylinder is recessed and a percussion nipple is screwed into the underside of the chamber.

From a closed position, the system is operated like this :

1. The lever is rotated up and back, which rotates the crank bar anticlockwise, the shape of the crank bar is such that the chamber cylinder firstly moves horizontally backwards so that the mouth of the cylinder disengages from the barrel, and then secondly the entire cylinder tilts upwards to allow loading.
2. The paper cartridge is opened and the powder is poured in, the remaining paper and bullet are pushed in over the powder. A percussion cap is placed on the nipple.
3. The lever is rotated forward and down, which firstly causes the chamber cylinder to tilt down level with the barrel, and secondly, to move forward so that the recessed mouth of the chamber cylindre engages the barrel, providing an effective seal.
4. The hammer is cocked using the large ear on its right side.

The lever is locked in place in a forward position by a latch. A small button on the end of the lever allows the release of the lever. The hammer strikes the nipple through a brass lined hole in the bottom of the stock.

The lock itself only comprises three parts, namely the trigger, mainspring, and hammer. There is a small peg next to the hammer which is for holding a leather clad pin called a « Klikklaer »which comes between the hammer and the stock when in position. This pin was used to limit the rise of the hammer and could be used as a basic safety device or for dry-firing without damaging the nipple. I have made my own interpretation of it.

The barrel has very deep 6 groove rifling. The calibre is officially 18 lødig which translates to roughly .69” calibre. The projectile first used was a round ball, before changing to a Tamisier style flat based conical also used in the 1774/41/51 pillar breech rifle. The ammunition came in the form of a paper cartridge but it is clear that the rifle could also be loaded with loose powder and ball. Note that there was no provision for a ramrod or cleaning rod. The rods made of bamboo and were carried rolled up in the soldiers bedding in the field.

The sight is calibrated in Norwegian alen, the battle sight was set to 300 alen (200m) and the longer leaf has sighting slots for 400 alen to 700 alen (250m – 440m) and a notch at the very top for 800 alen (500m).

The rifle presented here is a full length 1849/55 army rifle with a 31 inch barrel (78cm). The “/55” concerns the modification of the sights, which were moved from the rear of the breech to in front of the breech. The system was also used on a range of rifle, short rifles, and carbines for the army and the navy. The Swedisch navy also adopted a very similar model with a different hammer. From 1867, many were converted to rimfire. Surprisingly the army and navy used two different conversion systems, the army using the Lund conversion, and the navy using the Landmark conversion.

The rifle is very heavy but quite accurate. When shooting you get a small puff of warm air on the trigger hand which takes a little getting used to, but this minor distraction is compensated by the clear sight picture. The breech seal is also very good despite it only consisting of overlapping metal parts, this is because the lip of the chamber cylinder is inside the barrel recess hence the combustion gasses tend to flow unimpeded down the barrel.