The Kammerlader was a Norwegian breechloading rifle, designed and developed in 1842. It was, along with the Prussian made Dreyse Needle gun, the first breechloading rifle to be adopted by any country's armed forces.
The Kammerlader was commissioned by the Norwegian army on the basis of observations during various conflicts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Conflicts such as the American Revolutionary War, Napoleonic Wars and Gunboat War, to name but a few, demonstrated that the usual weapon of choice, the smoothbore flintlock musket, struggled in terms of reload time, accuracy, range, and wet-weather conditions.
It was on this basis that the Kammerlader was built, with the breechloading mechanism of the Kammerlader using a crank to open and close the breech. The user would cock the hammer (located under the stock, behind the trigger) and then wind open the breech by turning the crank anti-clockwise. They would then proceed to place a percussion cap on the hollow nipple within the breech, place the paper cartridge (containing the Minie Ball and gunpowder) into the breech before rotating the crank clockwise to close and lock the breech.
The benefit of this mechanism is that it produced a relatively tight seal, preventing gas leakage. This meant that the Kammerlader was able to achieve a muzzle velocity of between 870 ft/s (265m/s) and 1,150 ft/s (350m/s) consistently. However this mechanism also meant that the Kammerlader had an average rate of fire of about 8 shots per minute, more than double that of the older musket but fewer than the potential 12 shots that the Dreyse Needle gun could achieve.
The Kammerlader was issued with a fixed rear sight, mounted behind the receiver with a front post at the end of the stock. This was modified to an adjustable rear sight, which resembled an L in shape and would flip to adjust. Later models were produced with the Norwegian named 'Ski hill sight' which was an adjustable tangent sight and could be considered to be a feature of modern iron sights.
The Kammerlader was chambered, orignially, for a lead bullet. This was then changed in 1855 to the Minie Ball as the Minie ball had been developed specifically for rifled barrels. The Kammerlader was also chambered to accept different calibers, the first being a 0.66in (16.8mm) lead bullet, while the most common caliber used was the 0.46in (11.7mm) Minie Ball.
The Kammerlader was heavily developed during its service life. This lead to some 14 different official versions being produced, with most of those being modified at some point while in service.
The very first Kammerlader and is normally considered an experimental or proof of concept version, with main difference being a narrower hammer. The production figures are unknown.
The Kammerlader M1845 Navy was a short production version of the M1842 Army (100 approx.), using three barrel bands and designed for use in the Navy.
The M1849 Navy was a slightly improved version of the M1845 Navy and built in greater numbers (500 approx.).
A subtly developed version of the M1842 Army Kammerlader, with a wider hammer and and later versions had the rear sight changed and moved to the front of the receiver. Around 6,000 M1846/55 Armys were produced across three armories: Kongsberg Vapenfabrik (Norway), Crause (Herzberg, Germany) and Francotte (Liege, France).
The M1849/55 Army was, again, an improved version of the Kammerlader. This is the most common of the Kammerladers with more than 10,000 models being produced across the three armories previously mentioned and a further 4,500 were produced by Konsberg Vapenfabrik in 1855. The M1849/55 featured a permanent change in sight design, with all models using the adjustable 'L' shaped sight located in front of the receiver, as well as a wider hammer. The butt plate was also redesigned to provide better protection to the base of the stock.
The M1849/55 Army Kammerlader is normally used as reference for length, barrel length, weight and other features.
M1851 Kammerladdningsgevar for FlottanEdit
A Swedish version of the Kammerlader which was considered a failure (even at the time) and was never officially issued to Swedish Naval forces. The M1851 Kammerladdningsgevar for Flottan (Kammerlader for Navy) used two barrel bands and used a ring on the hammer to make cocking the hammer easier. It also used a 0.58in (14.8mm) Minie ball.
An improved version of the M1852/67 Navy. The number of barrel bands were reduced to two, along with the removal of the 'Ski hill' sight. The stock was also redesigned to be thinner, reducing weight.
Largely identical to the previous M1852/67 Navy Kammerlader. It differed only in the shape of the butt plate, with a production run in excess of 300.
The M1859 Army existed in two forms: a conversion for the older M1849/55 Army, or as its own outright version. The major difference between the two was a reduction in barrel length (official figures are unknown as to the barrel length) and the loss of one of the barrel bands, making the M1859 Army shorter than its older counterpart. It was also bored for the larger 0.66in (16.8mm) Minie ball.
The last of the Naval Kammerladers and the first to use a smaller bore size. It is unknown how many M1860/67 Navys were produced
M1860/67 Long ArmyEdit
Used the smaller 0.46in (11.7mm) Minie ball, as the M1849/55 had done. The M1860/67 however used the hexagonal Whitworth-style rifling to produce more spin on the Minie ball, improving accuracy. Standard infantry versions were issued with a two-leaf rocking sight (considered easier to use at the expence of reduced long range accuracy) or a tangent leaf sight (for sniper units and the Norwegian Jegers). 8,500 were produced during the production run, lasting from 1860 until 1867.
M1860/67 Short ArmyEdit
Almost identical to the M1860/67 Long Army, except with a shortened barrel. This was issued to Naval units as well as cavalry and served the role of a carbine. Around 3,200 M1860/67 Short Army Kammerladers were produced from 1862 until production ceased in 1866.
M1862/66 Artillery CarbineEdit
A drastically shortened version of the M1860/67, with the majority of features reduced in size, apart from the caliber. Production figures are unknown.
The Kammerlader was not used, as such, in any amjor conflict in its 28 years of service. It was, however, compared in many ways against the Prussian Dreyse Needle gun, the only other breechloading rifle to be adopted in the 1840's. The Kammerlader had an advantage in terms of effective range, accuracy and muzzle velocity. Yet it struggled to beat the Dreyse in terms of rate of fire and manoeuvrability, being heavier than the Dreyse.
Following the introduction of the Remington M1867 to the Norwegian Armed forces, the Kammerlader was either converted to fire rimfire ammunition, like the Remington M1867, or sold to civilians. The Kammerlader was normally converted to fire rimfire ammunition in two forms, Lund (for the Army) or Landmarks (for the Navy), with the conversion (while not entirely successful) being significantly cheaper and easier than manufacturing a new M1867. In civilian form the Kammerlader was modified for hunting and target shooting.
The invention of the Minie ball also had an impact on the developement of the Kammerlader. The Minie Rifle, which spawned the Pattern 1853 Enfield and later the Springfield Model 1861, became a hugely successful weapon, overshadowing the revolutionary Kammerlader and Dreyse Needle gun, both of which are considered important in the development of modern firearms.