Mad Mondays: 5. The Ferguson Rifle

History, Imperial Era, Mad Mondays

The disadvantages of a muzzle-loading firearm at this point were quite clear. They were slow to load, inaccurate and could not be easily re-loaded on horseback. 

The solution would be to switch over to a breech-loading option. This allows for faster re-loading, the ball does not have to be squashed down the barrel or patched (for accuracy) or loose fitting for speed of loading.

The trick was finding a suitable system that could be batch produced. Interestingly, for a time when thread standardisation was a major difficulty in manufacturing, a tapered, 11-thread screw provided a possible solution.

fergusonriflebreech

The inventor was Major Patrick Ferguson, modified from an earlier design by Issac de la Chaumette. Ferguson acquired a patent in 1776 and was permitted to take an Experimental Corps of Riflemen to fight in the rebellion going on in the American Colonies.

The only actions these rifles saw that can be seriously verified are the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of Brandywine, in which Ferguson was wounded and while recovering, his Corps was disbanded.

 

So, how did this work?

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At the back of the chamber, there is a brass plug. This has a tapered thread. The tapering was important, as once it had been fired fouling would build up on these threads, the tapering would allow free movement of the action once the initial break was made.

The 11 parallel threads meant that instead of a number of revolutions, the breech could be opened in one fluid movement.3388773_02_ferguson_breech_loading_rifle__640

You can then insert the ball into the breech (remember, you’re loading from the breech, not the  muzzle now!), followed by your powder charge. Screw the action closed, clear loose powder off the barrel and prime the pan.

fergusonriflelockplate

Although this sounds like an involved process to modern readers, it is significantly faster than reloading a musket correctly, as demonstrated by the rate of fire being 6-10 rounds per minute. Even a very well trained infantryman may only manage 3-4 shots per minute with a muzzle loader.

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The Ferguson is widely recognised as being the first breech-loading rifle ever adopted by a military. Although it only saw limited service, it paved the way for other breechloaders to be tried and used. In the US, the M1819 Hall Rifle was adopted and used in the American Civil War, though the first military to adopt a breech-loading rifle as the standard arm for infantry was Norway (the Kammerlader).

Kammerlander

The Kammerlader

 

You can watch a great video on the Ferguson over at Forgotten Weapons here.

 

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Sten upgrade: Replacement nut

Add-on kits, Cold War, Sten, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWII

The AGM Sten comes with a hex head screw to attach the stock, which also contains the battery compartment.

This has three disadvantages:

  1. It looks appalling
  2. You require a tool to remove the stock/change the battery
  3. It really looks diabolical

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That’s right, it looks so bad it is worth mentioning twice. Fortunately this is easily fixed! The fix Vintage Airsoft offers also means that you can change the battery without any tools at all.

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This piece is all-steel in construction. The edges are knurled for grip, meaning that the replacement screw can be fitted very tightly with just finger strength.

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The corners are taken off for comfort of use.

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The whole piece is oil blacked, which means it has an extremely wear-resistant finish that nicely matches the original painted surface of the gun.

 

You can buy this very handy piece on the Vintage Airsoft Etsy page For a very reasonable price.

If you like this idea, find us on Facebook for more related content. If you have an idea of your own you would like to see made, do drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss.