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Chassepot Needle Rifle


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian, I’m here today at the Rock
Island Auction House taking a look at some of the guns they’re putting
up for sale at the end of June 2015. And yesterday we took a look at
a Dreyse needle rifle, and so today I want to take a look at its French counterpart,
the 1866 Chassepot needle rifle. Now it’s really interesting handling these two guns
side-by-side, because you can really get this impression that the Dreyse is like the last of the muskets,
just in general feel and handling and character. And the Chassepot is the first of the modern
rifles. There are a number of elements to this that really are very familiar to anyone
who’s handled French rifles all the way up through the end of World War One even. For example, the sights stayed pretty much the same, the bolt, the feel, this just has the handling
of a much more modern rifle than the Dreyse. Now this was developed in 1866 and it is a
needle rifle like the Dreyse, but it has a number of significant differences. First off, the
Chassepot has a set of rubber obturators. So those function to seal the bore so
that gas only goes out the muzzle end and doesn’t come back into the shooters face. And it’s not a perfect system, and it does
wear out reasonably quickly. This is rubber we’re talking about next to a gunpowder
firing chamber, but it does work. It also has some smaller technical improvements.
For example, the Dreyse cartridge you have a bullet and a primer right at the base of the bullet,
and then all of your powder within a paper case. The Chassepot cases instead they have
a bullet at the front, powder in the middle, and they actually put the primer at the very back. So instead of the needle having to poke all the way through the entire powder charge to hit the primer, which is how it is on the Dreyse, on the
Chassepot the needle only has to basically poke into the very back of the cartridge, and
the first thing it runs into is the primer. Now that needle still suffers from every firing,
and it is getting scorched and burned and damaged, and they do wear out
over time. And they break as well because they’re very thin, they are in fact very
much like needles. I’ll show you in just a minute. But there’s a lot less exposure in the
Chassepot system than there is in the Dreyse. These rifles are also lighter, the
Dreyse is about an 11 pound rifle, that thing is heavy. That’s heavier than a
Garand. The Chassepot is much lighter. This also fires a smaller calibre, higher
velocity projectile. The Chassepot’s about a 370 grain bullet traveling at about 1,400
feet per second, it’s .43 calibre, or 11mm. The Dreyse was a .53 calibre bullet, and it was more like a
480 grain projectile running at about 1,000 feet per second. So the Chassepot was higher velocity, … which
gave it, of course, a bit less drop at range. It was also a more accurate gun. This has
a traditional projectile being normally rifled, hitting the rifling and spinning,
compared to the Dreyse’s sabot system. There is one interesting quirk to the
bolt here that you might not expect. So why don’t I bring the camera back and
let’s take this apart and see how it works, and get a better feel for the gun. I do want to point out at first this is a
Model of 1866, it was made at the Tulle Arsenal (I may have mispronounced that and I apologise), … the French arsenals were all
government owned and run. And this particular example was
manufactured, as you can see here, in 1868. Now these were manufactured from 1866
when they were first adopted, until 1875. And while the Dreyse was replaced by a
completely different gun, the 1871 Mauser, the Chassepot … they started to convert these to centrefire cartridge guns in 1874, that
was called the Gras, the 1866/74 Gras. Now the interesting thing about this bolt is after
it’s been fired, and it is currently in the fired state, normally you’d expect to just lift the bolt handle. Well in this the bolt’s actually locked, and you have to manually cock the gun, like so, then we can open the bolt. Once it’s open we get a look at the needle assembly. Now this particular one has seen a long and
fairly hard life, so it’s pretty worn inside, but this punches into our paper case. This is the remnants (and this is very hard now), of a
rubber obturator ring, actually two rings back-to-back, and our needle sticks out the front of
this. Now because this, the bolt here, is in the cocked position (there’s spring
tension on the … needle), we can’t see the needle. It’s only when we pull the trigger and drop the
cocking piece that the needle will protrude out. So let me go ahead and pull the bolt
out and we can take a closer look at that. In order to take the bolt out,
I need to remove this screw. Alright. So this screw just runs in a track on the bolt. (Pull the trigger.) This track is what this screw runs in and just
prevents the bolt from coming out the back of the rifle. Alright, so here’s our bolt. It is in the cocked position
currently. In order to show you what it would look like fired, I can drop it like that. This is what it would look like fired,
and there is our needle sticking out the nose of the bolt. So as you can see, that
really is very much like a needle, they didn’t name it that for nothing. Now this front assembly of the bolt will
come out after you take out this screw. I’m not going to do that because this
hard rubber obturator is in really poor shape, and I don’t want it to just fall apart on me if I take it out. So, I will point out you can get new
replacement obturators and needles. I’m not sure if this needle is full-length, … they do
get worn down and sometimes the tips break off, so. Thanks for watching guys. I hope you
enjoyed the video. Like the Dreyse, there are actually a fair number of people out
there who have gone to the trouble of figuring out how to properly recreate their own Chassepot
ammo and actually shoot these guns. There’s nothing to say you can’t go out and
shoot something, even though it is this old. This is about a 150 year old gun here, and you
know what? I bet it’d be a lot of fun to shoot. If you’d like to shoot this one yourself, or just add
it to your collection as a cool piece of history, it is of course coming up for sale here at Rock Island.
If you check out the link in the text description below, that will take you to Rock Island’s
catalogue page. This is in a lot, it comes with a couple other guns, so you can take a look
at them as well. And if you decide it’s something worth having you can place a bit right there
on-line. Win it, ship it to you, and have a lot of fun. Thanks for watching.

77 thoughts on “Chassepot Needle Rifle

  1. Just because of how low velocity thesse are i wonder what a Suppressed Dressie rifle would sound like

  2. hey Ian can you do video of ZB-47 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZB-47, if you can get your hands on it.

  3. Their were actually 3 French state factories: Tulle, Chatellerault and St. Etienne. Amazing how well these converted, and are identical in appearance to the 11x59R 1874 Gras. See my channel for a closeup of an 1874/80 Gras.

  4. You can really see a resemblance to the mosin nagant receiver and bolt (3:45), considering the mosin nagant was developed just 20 or so years after this model, I wouldn't be surprised to learn there was some influence from this rifle.

  5. Nice do u know anything about the Belgian made 12g shotgun version as I have burt one and I am having trouble taking it apart 

  6. Thank you so much for showing both the Dreyse rifle and Chassepot, I've always wondered how they worked

  7. anybody still offers replacement rifles for needle fired rifles these days? ah, at tge end. ok.
    well, for those years.. maybe beats a caplock. maybe not on the long run though.

  8. Has this guy ever shown the single shot mauser used in the 1916 Easter Rising which was sent over by Imperial Germany?

  9. Thanks Ian, I read a little about the Dreyse and the Chassepot, but this is the first time, I see them in such detail. Excellent video.

  10. You should do a video on the steyr kropensteck. I got one at a flea market a while back and would love to know more.

  11. If the needle is only poking through the primer in the back of the cartridge how is it considered needle fire? I can see how it is definitely needle like if you have the pin going through all the power and striking the primer under the bullet but if the primer is all the way rearward that's just like a standard round today. Non needle fire just don't puncture the primer.

  12. I've had the privilege of shooting both a chassepot and a dreyse needle gun.

    There's a guy in my black powder shooting club that collects them and he've had them at the range a few times.

    The ammo wasn't paper cartridges though, he had made some brass contraption "cartridges" so you could reload them at the range.

  13. watching this I was thinking the bolt looked familiar, a bit of research and I found that the Dutch M71/78 Beaumont was based on it. which brings me to a question I have asked before. Do you ever plan on making a video about the Beaumont? it's not rare, but it is obscure.

  14. I am not understanding the Chassepot cartridge construction.  What was holding the primer?

  15. This reminds me to look at the Swiss rifle around that time.
    It was an 11round bolt action repeater, the vetterli.  I find it quite incredible how Switzerland has had a length of advance in military technology. 

    Those two vids were great, thanks!

  16. It's amazing to note how the Chassepot evolved: after it turned into the Gras, it served for around 15 years before being turned into the 1886 Lebel. Going even further, the Lebel was later reworked and given a Mannlicher-style clip feed and became known as the Berthier.

  17. A remarkable gun for sure. Shame it's only real combat showing, in 1870-1871 was, less than stellar, albeit the reasons for that had little to do with the gun itself as I recall.

  18. I'm kicking myself.  Back in 2006, I ran into one of these rifles in Afghanistan (confiscated or recovered by a previous unit and kicking around our battalion TOC) and didn't know what it was.  If I had done the paperwork, I could've brought it back 🙁

  19. The bolt closely resembles that of the Berthier series rifles except for what is clearly updates to the design.

  20. The metal catridge is the invension of the MAUSER Brothers in 1868 but over a Contract with Samuel Norris (a reprensentativ a Remington) the invention cames very fast to the US.

  21. With the primer in the back of a paper cartridge isnt there some risk of accidently setting the whole thing of?

  22. If I was issued this type of rifle for war……..I would shoot myself in the foot ASAP! What a fragile nightmare and prone to failure, and too hard to fix needle in the field! But it's an awesome collectors rifle, and I can't believe that the needle is still ok?!?

  23. This is where Dreyse fans would fuss over whether or not a Chassepot is really a needle gun.  They both are to me.

    The Dreyse has a longer needle to hit the primer at the base of the bullet.

    I'm really enjoying these videos.  Good job!

  24. Im studying this rifle for my university degree. I have to do a 15 minute presentation on this rifle. Thank you for making the video it will be very helpful

  25. (insert name of gun you are reviewing here) "What the fuck is that?" (click on video) ~enjoying video~ "COOL!" lol. Thanks for the videos, man. Really love viewing them!!!

  26. You have got to hold this with the massive bayonet, it is incredibly unwieldy and just huge, I'm much taller than the average man in 1866 yet the gun with a bayonet is taller than me.

  27. I really love these videos. I'm interested in the historical development of firearms and this is the best channel for seeing all the oddball types that have come along. Great videos and wonderfully presented.

  28. This might be a stupid question but why not use a rubber case cartridge like those on the smith carbine instead of having a rubber obturator that have to be frequently replaced?

  29. Calling the Dreyse "last of the muskets" is probably your worst misconception thusfar. The Dreyse was the rifle that ended the era of the musket, since it was the first of a new kind. Very few rifles, if any, had such an impact on firearms development as the Dreyse.
    After the prussians deafeated the austian-hungarians, every major european power immediately dropped their muskets for a differnt standard rifle – british Snider-Enfield in 67, italian Carcano needle gun in 67, russian Carle/Luck needle gun in 67 and Krnka in 68, austro-hungarian Wanzl- and Werndl in 67, bavarian Podewils-Lindner in 67 and Werder in 69, the swiss Amsler-Milbank of 66 and Vetterli of 69, and french Chassepot in 66. These were direct reaction to the outcome of that war, which clearly stated – the era of muskets is over. Many countries experimented with their own needle gun project – but simply didn't succeed. Like the british needle gun of 1850. The russians had problems with gas leakage. The Chassepot ultimately was a failure, not only because the french army was obliterated, but they even needed to import hundred thousands of foreign guns, like Remington Rolling Blocks and Winchesters – although the french had about the same amount of needle guns as the prussians (1,2 million vs 1,2 million). The myths you reiterate are partially anti-prussian propaganda from 1848-1866, and results of failed attempts of other nation to create needle guns. The Dreyse gun was a concept of the 1830s, from 1848 on prussian was constantly threatened with war – in that situation you don't change the caliber like recommended, like to 13,9mm or even 12mm in the Beck's adaptation. They even could have had the Mauser two years earlier, but the inevitable war with france delayed it.
    In the end, it won 3 wars, all in a matter of months if not weeks, against two major military powers, and after 1871 you had a totally different approach to rifles europe-wide. If any rifle ever was a game changer, it was the Dreyse – the first bolt action rifle.

  30. IMO, your channel is the best youtube channel for fans of historic firearms. But boy – "last of the muskets"? I own both a Chassepot and a Dreyse M62 and – this is so wrong. There can be no doubt that the Dreyse is the first modern rifle – it's not only a "Breechloader", it's the first practical military rifle with a self contained cartridge, it was build for practicality, durability and simplicity, and in the end kick-started a new era of warfare. It also is at least among the first small caliber military rifles (projectile is 13,6mm – typical infantry calibers of the napoleonic era was around 18mm).

    The Chassepot is a refined, but also flawed rifle that was developed over a long period. It's predecessors were the 1856 Arceline, the 1858 & 1862 Chassepot trial rifles, the 1862 Manceaux-Vieillard, and ultimately the model 1866.
     The Dreyse is not gas sealed like the 1866 Chassepot, but the way it abstructs the gas from the shooter's face (despite popular belief) is ingenious – and the ingeniosity of it is one of the reasons why many attempts to copy the Dreyse failed. Also pure ingeniosity is how simply the shooter can exchange the needle. Despite it's unique paper wrapped bullet, 3'' groups at a 100 meters are not hard to archive. The Chassepot outshined the Dreyse in velocity, but the accuracy suffers because the hard rifling tends to deform the bullet.
     
    But most importantly, it had 3 major flaws, which contributed a lot to France's crushing defeat:
    1) it is not uncommon for the rubber seal on the Chassepot to swell up after multiple shots. The Dreyse did not have a rubber seal because of exactly that reason.
    2) the thinner and longer Chassepot cartridge tends to beak quicker than the Dreyse cartridge. That can easily turn into a disadvantage on the battlefield.
    BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY:
    3) before the Chassepot/Dreyse, the average effective range of an infantry musket was 200 meters. The french soldiers had a rifle with a longer range – but didn't know how to capitalize on it. They were used to a different kind of tactics, and this is among the many reasons why the french army lost in 1870. Hell, even in world war 1 the french tried bajonette charges.

    Last thing I want to point out is that the Dreyse comes in many different versions. An M41 doesn't feel the same as an M62, M65 Jaegerbuchse, a Wurttemberger M68 or M69. In the end, the Dreyse ended the muzzleloader-era in three weeks and defeated the Chassepot in 7 months.
    Now: how the hell can you call the Dreyse, probably the most influencial rifle in history, "The last of the muskets"?

  31. As always, very interesting presentation, Ian.
    Do you recall what this gun sold for?

    I just recently bought a Chassepot.
    I am starting to sort out the ammo issue now.

  32. Why would you need a needle so long if the primer is at the very back of the cartridge? And so thin (and fragile) for that matter, too, when it does not need to poke through the powder charge. Also, how would you dispose of the remaining bits of primer in this type of action? In a Dreyse needle rifle the primer, being in front of the powder charge, would be blown through the barrel along with the bullet, but not in this rifle, I'd presume.

  33. A heads up, here! I can't say how safe it would be for the gun itself, but if I remember right, a combo of 20% toluene and 80% xylene is capable of melting/freeing up rubber!! 😀

  34. To be fair Dreyse started from zero, there was no needle rifle before he developed the entire concept over several decades. Of course other people would develop it further once it was established as a sound idea but man did the Prussians cut the Austrians to pieces in 1866 even though they knew perfectly about this gun.

  35. i have one of those rifles it is a beautiful firearm i just wish i had the bolt for it so that it could be fired. it is one of those things that I would like to get made (cant find anyone who does reproductions of it) but it is beautiful

  36. I made my "needle" out of a tungsten tig electrode, and the obturator is a turned down rubber stopper (from hardware store). I have shot a couple hundred rounds and both hold up well. I think the tungsten needle should last for a very long time (if not forever), the obturator should be good for another hundred or more rounds. The system works amazingly well.

  37. The chassepot rifle features in a novel I'm reading, so I was pleased to have a closer look at the real thing. In the novel it is also compared with the Dreyse.

  38. If you know how to make your own gunpowder, melt lead for bullets, toy gun caps, then this would be a good survival gun

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