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various ways to load at the breech, which may be effected in from a quarter to a sixth of the time occupied in the old plan; and with less danger, because the hand is never over the muzzle at any time, and, till the breech is closed, if an explosion should take place, it is comparatively harmless. Leading also is almost entirely got rid of, and there is little or no fouling-so that at the end of a day's shooting the gun shoots as pleasantly as at the beginning. Moreover, the cleaning is a very simple process, and the eye at once detects in the Lefaucheaux gun the slightest amount of foulness, which a few pints of water poured through easily get rid of. In some, as in the needle-gun, there is a constant necessity for cleaning the locks; but even this does not apply to the Lefaucheaux pattern. Whether or not breech-loaders shoot as well as muzzle-loaders remains to be considered; but all the qualities of the several patterns will pass under review in the following pages.
THE LEFAUCHEAUX OR FRENCH CRUTCH GUN.
For about twenty years this gun has been commonly used in France; but until the year 1851 it was almost unknown in England. At that time, however, Mr. Lang, of Cockspurstreet, London, took it up, and since then his example has been followed by nearly all the gunmakers in the kingdom, so that at the present moment there are probably five of this make sold to one of the ordinary muzzle-loader of best quality.
In this gun, when it is loaded, the general appearance closely resembles the ordinary muzzle-loader—the chief difference perceptible to the eye being the standing up of a small brass pin between the false breech and the barrel, instead of the nipple and its cap. This pin is struck by the hammer in the usual way, and by the blow given at its internal end to a cap inserted in the cartridge the powder is exploded. In addition to this variation, there is also a lever fixed below the breech end of the barrel or barrels, which admits of being turned sideways, and in so doing liberates them, and allows of their being raised at the breech end, and lowered at the muzzle, upon a strong hinge, as shown in the accompanying engraving of one of Messrs. Reilly's guns, shot at the Field
trial of 1859. Here the lever (fig. 33 a) is turned to the right, by which a hook is withdrawn from the notch in the
under surface of the barrels at (d). The stock where it is pierced by this lever and hook is entirely of iron; and in its fore end is a strong hinge (c), composed of a circular bolt attached to the stock, and of a corresponding socket fixed to the barrels, which may be opened by removing the part (6), on withdrawing the slide, when it comes away and appears as separately shown. The lever or crutch and the book are so contrived, that when the gun is closed again with a snap, the former is replaced, and lies under the barrels requiring sometimes, but not generally, a slight force to be applied to it to jam it quite home, and so render the breech secure. There are various modes of carrying out this object; but one of the most simple is a square stud beneath the breech end of the barrels, which is raised by the lever, and just frees them from the false breech, after which their own weight carries them down. On returning them to their places, the pressure on this stud again acts on the lever, and sends it home or very nearly so. The best form of lever is that which is given in fig. 34, sketched from one of Messrs. Prince and Green's guns, in which it is shown at b c, as covering the triggerguard (a); but the sketch being taken from the opposite side,
BACK-ACTIONED LEVER. (HALF SIZE.) does not give a clear comparative view of the two. In this shape its own weight has a tendency to restore it nearly to its place, where the right hand is ready to carry it quite home, and considerably increased quickness in loading is acquired. As the gun lies thus opened, it will be seen that the interior of the barrels is exposed, and that the false breech, which completes them, is a flat surface, so as to render them when closed more or less perfect cylinders open at one end, and without any contracted chamber like that in the breech of the muzzle-loader at the other. But, on the contrary, the cylinder is enlarged to a considerable extent for about two inches and a half; whilst at the end of this a shoulder, more or less bevelled off, presents itself. This chamber is intended to hold a cartridge made for the purpose, and accurately but loosely fitted to it. Great experience is required in properly adjusting this slightly conical chamber to its contents; and it is here that inferior makers generally fail. If of a bad shape, the cartridges stick after explosion, and occupy much time in their removal; but if it is well made, they come out with great ease, and a sticking cartridge very rarely occurs in good guns of this make.
The following engraving shows a section of the chamber, with a loaded cartridge case in it, by which it will at once
SECTION OF LOADED CARTRIDGE AND
be seen that the two together complete the cylinder, and that the interior of the paper cartridge corresponds with the line of the interior of the metal barrel farther on. There
is generally a small interval at the point of junction, but there is no necessity for this if the cartridge case is cut of the proper length, yet even if there is, it seems to be of little consequence, as far as can be ascertained from practical experience. When the gun is closed, this case is supported by the false breech,
and all escape of gas is preCHAMBER. (HALF SIZE.) vented by the explosion swel
ling out its sides against the chamber. It is found after shooting that few cases are burst, and therefore if there is any escape, it must be between their external surface and the chamber which, as I said before, is made close by the expansion of the former. Practically it results that there is no escape whatever, as is readily shown on an examination of the gun after several discharges. Indeed even by the side of the pin there is little or no stain; and, as compared with that which takes place out of the nipplehole of the muzzle-loader, it is nil. In theory, therefore, it would be concluded that this gun would shoot stronger than the percussion with a chamber of the same make, for it would not be fair to compare it with one whose breech is hollowed out into one of the forms known as those of Manton or Wilkinson. But in practice it is found that the shooting is not so strong, and that, from some cause or other, it requires a larger quantity of powder to produce the same effect as the muzzle-loader. This is variously estimated at from a quarter to three-quarters of a drachm, some makers even going so far as to require the latter additional weight of powder. Whether this loss of force arises from the shape of the chamber, or from the compressible nature of the cartridge case, or from any occult cause, is open to discussion, but that it really exists is an indisputable fact. The advocates of the muzzle-loader point to it as a defect, some
arguing that there must be an escape of gas, and others that the shape of the cartridge is the cause; but if the additional quantity of powder will only give the desired result, I cannot think the loss of power of any real importance. As far as my experience goes, however, in spite of this additional charge, the breech-loader still shoots somewhat less strongly than its rival, but not to any extent sufficient to counterbalance its manifest advantages. This will be made more clear in examining the results of the Field gun trials of 1858 and 1859, the latter of which will be given elsewhere.
Such being the principle of this gun, it remains now to consider how these several parts are constructed to the best advantage, and in doing this, it will be necessary to examine each of the parts in detail.
The barrels of the breech-loader are forged exactly in the same way as for the muzzle-loader, the only point necessary to be attended to being that they shall be somewhat stouter at the breech-end. No greater length is required, except for Needham's and other needle guns; and indeed, there is no reason why any ordinary barrel before it is tapped for the patent breech may not be used. Here, however, the difference in the make begins, and the barrel-maker has to braze on with great care two lumps of iron to the lower sides of the barrels, one of which serves to make the notch into which the lever slides to keep the barrels firmly in their places, and the other forms about three-fifths of the socket in which the circular bolt fixed in the stock revolves. In order to understand the exact form of the bolt, a gun on this principle must be examined, and moreover as scarcely any two makers adopt the same shape, the description of one would not suffice for all. In all cases, however, the principle of the lever in combination with the inclined plane is employed, and by their aid the notch in the lower part of the barrel is firmly brought down and held in apposition to the stock with such force as to resist the expansive power of the exploded gunpowder. On removing the slide in the front of the stock, the fore end comes readily away, and in the part next the hinge, a segment of a circle will be seen formed which completes the socket of the bolt. The barrels may now be lifted out of their bearings and removed from the stock altogether, and