Special Breeches

 In the late 1830’s everyone worldwide was trying to improve the speed of loading and accuracy. Most every country in the world experimented or used Delvigne or chamber breech, which was introduced in 1840. This was one of the first major improvements in rifles. A separate breech unit with a powder chamber with shoulders at the end, so the ball could be compressed against the shoulders to expand it to fit tight in the rifling without crushing the powder. This system actually worked very well, but required a heavy ramrod to form the ball into the rifling. Delvigne also designed a bullet with a tapered base that actually set part way into the breech to help expand it.

The Thouvenin, “Tige” or Pillar Breech

This type appeared in France in 1846, and its use spread very quickly as the bullet could be expanded much easier with less effort. The Austrians even used it with lighter powder charges than the breech actually held creating a slight air space to create more pressure which worked very well, but was very dangerous. The biggest problem here was cleaning, which the breech pin required special tools to clean it. There were many new bullet designs coming out at the same time to work with these breeches. Some of these had hollow bases to fit the projecting breech pin to help it expand the bullet. It was later found by Captain Minie, that the hollow base expanded well without the breech pin and designed his new “Minie” bullet with a thinner skirt and a small iron plug that was forced into the hollow base upon firing. The Austrians also developed their Wilkinson bullet that was a solid base bullet with very deep rings around it that allowed it to compress easily upon firing. Bullet design is almost a study of its own.