Kammerlader Explained

Is Ranged:yes
Kammerlader
Origin:Norway
Type:Breech loading rifle
Designer:Unknown
Design Date:1842
Service:1842  - 1870
Cartridge:Minié ball in paper cartridge
Action:See text
Rate:Depended on how quickly the shooter could reload.
Velocity:Sources vary; between 265 m/s to 350 m/s
Range:Accurate to 1,100 m, see text.
Weight:M1849/55: 5 kg (11 lb), other models likely differed from this
Length:M1849/55: 126 cm (50.4 in), other models likely differed from this
Part Length:M1849/55: 78 cm (30.7 in), other models likely differed from this
Feed:single-shot
Sights:V-notch and front post
Variants:Norwegian Army:
M1842
M1846
M1846/55
M1849
M1849/55
M1859
M1860 Long
M1860/67 Long
M1860 Short
M1860/67 Short
M1862 Artillery carbine
M1862/66 Artillery carbine
Royal Norwegian Navy:
M1845
M1849
M1852
M1852/67
M1855
M1855/67
M1857
M1857/67
M1860
M1860/67
Swedish Navy:
M1851
Various civilian models
Number:More than 40.000

The Kammerlader, or "chamber loader", was the first Norwegian breech loading rifle, and among the very first breech loaders adopted for use by an armed force anywhere in the world. A single shot black powder rifle, the kammerlader was operated with a crank mounted on the side of the receiver. This made it much quicker and easier to load than the weapons previously used. Kammerladers quickly gained a reputation for being fast and accurate rifles, and would have been a deadly weapon against massed ranks of infantry.

The kammerlader was introduced in 1842, and it is thought that about 40,000 were manufactured until about 1870. While first flintlock breech loading rifles, such as Ferguson, were launched decades before 1842 Norway was the first European country to introduce breech loaders on a large scale throughout its army and navy. Though United States was the first in the world with M1819 Hall rifle. The kammerladers were manufactured in several different models, and most models were at some point modified in some way or other.

The kammerladers were phased out as more modern rifles were approved for use. They were either modified for rimfire cartridges, sold off to civilians or melted for scrap. Rifles sold to civilians were often modified for use as shotguns or hunting firearms. Today it is hard to find an unmodified kammerlader, and collectors often pay high prices for them.

Development

In the early 1800s, the Norwegian Army decided that the nature of warfare was changing away from the massed ranks firing in volleys towards smaller units advancing and firing independently. This conclusion was reached after having observed the American Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars and the short Swedish campaign against Norway in 1814. Lessons were also learned from the Gunboat War, where small, mobile gunboats outmaneuvered larger, more heavily armed ships. It was decided that a breech loaded rifle was needed, more accurate than the old smoothbore muskets, yet quicker to load than the rifles issued to the Norwegian Jeger and Skijeger units. A special committee was created, and it started considering various firearm actions in 1837. It was soon clear that the desired weapon should:

The end result was that a modern, breech loading rifle was approved for use on the 18 May 1842. The caliber chosen for the new rifle was 18 lødig (gauge); in other words, one could manufacture 18 round bullets out of one Norwegian pound of lead. In modern terms this means the caliber of the rifle was 17.5 mm.

From 1842 until the Remington M1867 was approved in 1867, more than 40,000 kammerladers in more than 80 different models were manufactured. In 1860 the caliber was reduced again, to four Swedish Linjer, or about 11.77 mm. When some of the Kammerladers were modified to rimfire after 1867, this meant that the barrels had to be bored out to 12.17 mm to accept the new cartridge.

During a military sharpshooting competition held in Belgium in 1861, the Kammerlader was proven to be among the most accurate military long arms in Europe. The Norwegian rifles were shown to be accurate to a range of about 1km, which is quite an achievement even by today's standards.

Design features

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):

  1. The hammer mounted under the weapon is cocked.
  2. The crank is rotated, opening the breech.
  3. A percussion cap is placed on the nipple.
  4. A pre measured amount of gunpowder is poured into the breech, and the paper from the paper cartridge is used as wadding.
  5. The bullet is placed in the chamber.
  6. 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.

Ammunition

The kammerlader was designed to use paper cartridges - a pre-measured amount of gunpowder and a lead bullet wrapped in paper - both to speed up and simplify loading the weapon. In the early days of the rifle most units used round bullets in their weapons, but in 1855 it was decided that all units should use the Minie ball instead since this gave better accuracy. The paper was wrapped around the cylindrical section of the bullet and secured with wool string secured in the grooves. The end of the bullet was then covered in melted tallow, before the black powder was filled in behind the bullet and the end wrapped. For the 18 lødig rifles, a load of 96 grains (6.22 g) was used. Sources vary in the reported muzzle velocity, but it is known that during tests in 1849, the bullet penetrated two inches (50 mm) of wood at a distance of 800 alen (500 m).

Modification to rimfire

After the introduction of the Remington M1867 and its rimfire cartridge in 1867, the Norwegian Army and the Royal Norwegian Navy decided to convert some of the stock of kammerladers into rim fire rifles. There were two designs used for the modification: Landmarks and Lunds. Neither can be considered completely successful, but both were cheaper, and quicker, than manufacturing new M1867s. It seems that the Norwegian Army preferred the Lund, while the Landmark was the option of choice for the Royal Norwegian Navy.

For the Lund conversion, the chamber was replaced with a breechblock, and an extractor was mounted on the left side of the receiver. A chamber fitting the 12.17 x 44 mm rimfire cartridge was milled out of the rear part of the barrel. The right side of the receiver was lowered 6 mm and the bottom plate exchanged from a brass plate to a steel plate with a track for the extractor. The firing pin was curved to allow the hammer to strike it.

The mechanism of the Landmark conversion is brilliantly simple. The chamber is opened as before, but can be tilted further backwards by means of a hinge in the middle of the chamber. The 12.17 x 44 mm rimfire cartridge is placed backwards, facing the shooter, before everything is rolled back forward. The only part to be modified was the chamber and a curving firing pin was added where the nipple for the cap had been.

A number of the kammerladers were also converted with the Remington action, by replacing the receivers but keeping the barrels and woodwork. These can be distinguished from ordinary Remington M1867s by having a shorter receiver with more rounded corners. It is unknown how many kammerladers were modified in this fashion.

Models

The kammerlader rifles were manufactured over a period of 25 years (1842 to 1867) in a wide range of both military and civilian models. Almost all the military rifles were modified once or more, resulting in a very wide range of different models for a collector to collect.

Fate of the kammerladers

The kammerladers were phased out as more modern weapons became available - the Remington M1867, the Krag-Petersson (adopted by the Royal Norwegian Navy in 1876), and the Jarmann M1884. It is likely that the last of the modified naval kammerladers was not finally removed from military warehouses until after the Krag-Jørgensen was approved for use in 1892, although sources are scarce on this. The rifles were either sold to civilians or melted down for scrap.

Most of the rifles sold to civilians were turned into hunting implements, by replacing the barrel and/or the woodwork. Some of these were supposedly used for illegal hunting during World War II, when the occupying Germans had seized all modern weapons owned by civilians. Today it is hard to find a kammerlader in original condition, or indeed at all.

Present day collectors are often willing to pay significant amounts for a kammerlader in good condition - various sources state the price to be around 10,000 Norwegian Kroner (US$1,600) and upwards of 50,000 Norwegian Kroner ($8,000) depending on the model and condition of the gun for sale.

Comparison with contemporary rifles

The kammerlader is often claimed to be an outstanding weapon for its time. The only contemporary rifle which it can be compared to is the Prussian needle gun - the only other breech loader adopted for service in the 1840s.

RifleKammerlader M1849/55Prussian Needle gun
Effective range1,000 m (1,100 yards)600 m (650 yards)
Rate of fire6 to 8 rounds/minute (guesstimate, see article)10 to 12 rounds/minute
Calibre17.5 mm (0.69 in)15.4 mm (0.61 in)
Muzzle velocity265 to 350 m/s (870 to 1,150 ft/s)305 m/s (1,000 ft/s)
Barrel length78 cm (30.7 in)91 cm (35.8 in)
Total length126 cm (50.4 in)142 cm 55.9 in)
Loaded weight5 kg (11 lb)4.7 kg (10.4 lb)

See also

Norwegian rifles

Contemporary rifles

Earlier breechloading rifles

External links

Websites about the Kammerlader:

Images of various models and modifications of the kammerlader:

Various models of the kammerlader:

Ammunition

Modifications to rimfire:

The kammerlader in use

Notes

References