Every breechloader must have some form of mechanism that allows the breech to be opened for loading, yet securely locked for firing. This was even more important in the early designs made before the introduction of the cartridge. Achieving a gas-tight seal was difficult with the metallurgy of the day, and it can be argued that the Norwegian kammerladers are the first fully successful military breechloaders — the needle gun was slightly earlier, but it leaks a significant gas pressure around the breech. A crank mounted on the side of the weapon operates the kammerlader. Rotating the crank opens the breech of the weapon, allowing for loading. The use of paper cartridges — a pre-measured amount of gunpowder and a lead bullet wrapped in paper — also sped up the rate of fire. While not as fast as more modern rifles, which use fixed cartridges, the kammerlader was much faster than contemporary muzzleloading rifles. The loading sequence is as follows (refer to picture):
- The hammer mounted under the weapon is cocked.
- The crank is rotated, opening the breech.
- A percussion cap is placed on the nipple.
- A pre measured amount of gunpowder is poured into the breech, and the paper from the paper cartridge is used as wadding.
- The bullet is placed in the chamber.
- The crank is rotated forwards, locking the breech and making the rifle ready to fire.
The exact rate of firing with the kammerlader depends, as with all manually operated weapons, entirely on the shooter. While the sources do not give any indication as to the rate of fire attainable by the average soldier, it is known that it was higher than for a muzzle loading musket — roughly four rounds a minute — and most probably lower than the contemporary German needle gun's 10 to 12 rounds a minute, since the kammerlader has a more elaborate loading procedure.
Most of the rifles were modified during their service life. The first major modification was the change from a fixed rear sight mounted behind the receiver to an adjustable rear sight mounted in front of it. The first of the adjustable rear sights was a 'flip over' type: an L-shaped piece of metal that was hinged so it could 'flip' over. Later this was again modified to a design known in Norway as a 'ski hill sight'; a simple, yet functional, adjustable tangent sight. In principle, this latest sight doesn't differ from the iron sights found on most modern firearms. Towards the end of the service life of the kammerladers, most of the small bore rifles were modified to allow the use of rim fire ammunition.
Read more about this topic: Kammerlader
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