Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Bush Fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand.

VI. — The "Duval-MacNaughton Rifle;" a new Weapon

page 319

The "Duval-MacNaughton Rifle;" a new Weapon.

In Abyssinia, when the gate of the fortress of Magdala was attacked by the British troops, the garrison did not consider it fair fighting, for the rifles were fired through the loopholes at the defenders of the gate, and repeatedly fired without being withdrawn to load—they were breechloaders.

A superior breechloader in modern warfare is of the highest importance for arming troops; and, since the introduction of the Snider rifle, a number of rival arms have been offered for the acceptance of the military authorities. We have seen the chassepot used on the Continent: the fault of it seemed its length of range, for young troops armed with it are tempted, unless under very strict discipline, to open fire at 1500 yards or more; whereas the needle-gun, with shorter range, induces those carrying it to reserve their fire for closer quarters, and with more deadly effect. As an old member of the Montreal Rifle Club, we never thought of firing over the ice of the St. Lawrence with a range of a mile, or when a man appears the size of a black pin, but preferred a much shorter range for our practice.

A very enterprising gentleman of Montreal (a relative), Mr. Edward Alexander Prentice, brought to my notice lately a new rifle with various excellencies in its construction and action; its history and description are as follows:

It was invented by an ingenious French Canadian of the name of Joseph Duval, of Laprairie, opposite to Mon-page 320treal. He not only made the "stock, lock, and barrel," but he made his own tools. Of course it was at first rather a rough, ungainly weapon, but Mr. Prentice, recognising its originality and great merit, purchased the patent rights, with a few friends, had it well made and much improved by Mr. James Macnaughton, gun-maker Edinburgh; also it was superintended by Mr. Alex. Duncan, Advocate, New Club, Edinburgh.

It was then submitted to the Minister of Militia, Canada, Sir George E. Cartier, Bart., who ordered Lieut.-Colonel G. A. Trench, Inspector of Artillery and Warlike Stores, and Lieut.-Colonel M. W. Strange, R.A., Quebec, to report on it. These gentlemen made elaborate reports, the gist of which was that they considered it a more suitable arm for the service of troops than the Martini rifle.

Description of the "Duval-MacNaughton" Rifle.

Barrel.—Is made of steel, 450 bore, and rifled with seven segmental grooves having a spiral of one turn in twenty-one inches. The grooves are recommended to be made as shallow as they can be made compatible with distinctness; also that they should not touch on each other at the edges, but that a small strip of the barrel (or land) should be left between the grooves, say 1/32 inch. broad, which acts as an effectual check on any irregularity in rifling.

Breech Shoe.—Is made of a mild steel, and in one piece: it has a gap on the top (as in the "Martini"), in which the breech block works, and also one on the right side through which the parts forming lock and action are inserted; the latter gap is closed by a plate which is securely hold in page 321place by one screw. The shoe is fastened to the stock by two solid straps above and below the small.

Action.—The parts composing the action are cock or tumbler, swivel, piston, sliding tumbler, extractor, breech block, trigger, mainspring, trigger spring, and five nails. Instead of the various parts pivoting on nails as usual, they pivot on solid pillars or pivots.

Stock.—Has a jag for cleaning screwed into butt; otherwise as usual.

Advantages claimed for the "Duval-MacNaughton" Rifle.—In claiming advantages for the "Duval-MacNaughton" Rifle we must necessarily draw a comparison with some other weapon on a similar system, and one the merits of which are widely known. Let us, therefore, take for comparison the "Martini-Henry," it being well known and having been selected from a number of competitors as the future rifle of the British army. The advantages of the "Duval-MacNaughton" over the "Martini-Henry" are considered to be as follows, viz.:

Simplicity and cheapness in Manufacture.—The rifle can be machine-made throughout and thoroughly interchangeable. The parts composing the action are strong, simple, and few.

Facility for cleaning and inspecting from the rear.—This is effected by having the breech block hung on the points of two screws, and a deep groove cut through the hinge or knuckle of block; thus cleaning from the rear, we avoid the risk of allowing the fouling to get down in front of block as in the Martini-Henry, Snider, &c, and about extractors, these being placed in a rifle where dirt can least be tolerated, and where it will most readily interfere with the free working of the action.

Mainspring.—Instead of the spiral spring as used in the page 322"Martini-Henry," and which is very generally condemned by practical men, there is retained the trusted and time-honoured V-spring nearly as used in a common lock.

Pull off.—The fickle pull off in the "Martini-Henry" is considered one of its greatest faults, and until now has defied remedy. In the new rifle, again, the old principle of tumbler and scear is adhered to, with the result of a perfectly equal and agreeable pull off.

Extracting power.—Is an accelerating motion, beginning with a strong, slow leverage to start the cartridge case, and finishing with a jerk; the power being so nicely balanced that the operator at pleasure can land the cartridge on the block just clear of the barrel, or pitch it clear over the elbow.

The facility with which this rifle can be taken to pieces and cleaned, or can be opened for cleaning, and at the same time be quite ready for use in case of surprise.—Although we read in the report of the late "Small Arms Committee" that the "Martini-Henry" may be taken to pieces and put together again by any intelligent soldier in a few minutes, we hear that in practice this is very far from being the case, but that considerable difficulty is experienced in putting together the rifle after having taken it separate. The present rifle, on the other hand, may be opened for cleaning and understood by any soldier in one minute, and at the same time (when open) is quite good for firing, which, we believe, is quite a novel feature in rifles.

Piston.—Is of one piece, strong and simply made, and requires no piston spring, the first movement of the cock upward withdrawing it within the block. In the "Martini-Henry" a frequent complaint is made of the piston breaking, or getting staved up in consequence of its having to page 323take the full blow of the mainspring when snapping the rifle without a cartridge case. In this rifle we have a large, flat surface on the front of cock striking against a similar surface on body, and together making a most excellent snapping face, and one which may be used without detriment to the arm.

Rapidity,—-There being one motion less required in loading and firing the "Duval-MacNaughton" than the "Martini," it is obvious that a greater number of shots may be fired in the same time.

The "Duval-MacNaughton" rifle having a visible cock—which also acts as lever—is considered to be a great advantage, as any one may tell at a glance whether the rifle is at low, half, or full-cock; it also enables the operator to lower the lock from full-cock to half-cock, as in an ordinary rifle lock.

A second pattern of this rifle is made with an additional tumbler, which is actuated by the cock, and makes it possible to fire with the breech open or shut at pleasure.

The best method of manipulating the "Duval-MacNaughton" rifle is to hold it at the position of "ready," place the palm of right hand on the cock, the fingers to the right side underneath the rifle, with thumb to left side; squeeze the hand sharply together; this opens the breech, ejects the spent cartridge case, and leaves the rifle at full-cock ready for loading.

The lever by which the breech is opened being above the small or handle of the stock can easily be grasped by the right hand without relinquishing the hold on the rifle, a feature which adapts it for cavalry, with whom the left hand is fully engaged with the reins.

J. MacNaughton.

page 324

Objections to the "Martini," by an eminent Gunmaker.

1st. Dangerous from being necessarily always at cock when loaded, and giving no indication that it is so. Is raised to cock without thought on part of the user, and yet depends for safety on his unceasing vigilance and care; being a self-cocking gun it does not provide a self-acting safety. It is also dangerous from the uncertainty of the pull, which is sometimes so light that the least pressure on the trigger, or jar of the gun, will send it off.

2nd. Its inferior lock. The lock of an ordinary gun has been so perfected that friction is almost absent. Its elastic mainspring is finely-proportioned to bear the strain equally on all its parts and hung on the plate, so as to be entirely free from it in working, and so connected with the tumbler that its force is greatest when striking the blow, and least when for the purpose of the pull it should be. In the Martini this is all reversed. Its simple spiral spring is coiled round the strikes, causing a grating friction on every coil, and is so connected with tumbler that its least force is exerted when, for the purpose of ignition, it should be greatest, and vice versâ, when for the sake of the pull it should be least.

The spring of an ordinary gun exerts a pressure of 16 lbs. when down, and only 10 lbs. when up, whilst that of the Martini has a pressure of 20 lbs. when down, and 30 lbs. when up. This great weight and friction is unnoticed from the great length of lever used, but the effect on the pull still remains, making it impossible to give the scear a firm hold in bent, and so causing the pull to wear out faster. Again, in an ordinary gun lock raising the cock brings up the spring and tumbler, and allows the page 325scear to drop into the bent and remain there till removed by a pull of the trigger. But this is not so with the Martini, as the scear is dropped into the bent when spring is only partly back, and is required to supply the necessary resistance to force the excessive spring the remaining distance. This contrivance is one great cause of its irregular pull, the pull being lighter or heavier according to the force and manner of closing the lever; and then how it must injurethe form of the scear and bent, especially when either of them are softer in temper than they should be, and certain to break them if too hard.

The introduction of a new limb called a tumbler rest (what else is the scear) is an acknowledgment by the makers of the weakness of this part of their gun. But this additional limb is no improvement, as, although it may save the scear from breaking, it further decreases the firmness of the pull, rendering the attainment of the pull still more difficult. For example, say a pull of 6 Ibs. is required, with the ordinary gun you have one bent and one scear to adjust so as to give the requisite weight. But with this new invention you have practically three scears and three bents to adjust, so that they act in unison and have the weight fairly distributed amongst them. To sum up, the power to make the pull of the Martini good is diminished one-third by the absence of the ordinary trigger, and still further by the excessive weight of the spring at cock; and then what chance remains of making it has to be divided by three, and this excessively weak pull is expected to hold its own, not only whilst sustaining the weight of the spring at cock, but whilst that spring is violently forced against it.

3rd. It recoils more than the ordinary gun, and this is due to the form of what is called the shoe, which has been page 326constructed without studying the amount of strain it would have to bear. It is open top and bottom, its sides consisting simply of two thin plates (1/8 inch), necessarily placed wide from centre of charge and weakened by their great length (3 inches).

It is impossible for good shooting to be made with an irregular pull and excessive recoil.

Armourer-Sergeant Smiles, Grenadier Guards, stated to Lieut.-General the Hon. Sir James Lindsey, K.C.M.G., in presence of Colonel Bridges, G.G., and Mr. Prentice, that the mechanism of the Duval-MacNaughton rifle was so simple he could repair any piece in the field if it broke, which he said was not likely, as the different parts were so strong and simple that any village blacksmith can make or mend them.

The Canadian Government, having now a well-organised militia system, deem it advisable to manufacture their arms and ammunition in the country, instead of drawing supplies from England, which, in time of necessity, might be dangerous and impracticable; and with this view, not deeming the Martini a superior but an inferior weapon, several influential men in Canada have urged on the Government there the advisibility of making their own Canadian rifle—the Duval—-at Montreal, or elsewhere in the Dominion; and Mr. Prentice came to England and was engaged with the Colonial and War Offices in order to get practical trials made in camp at Aldershot, &c., to justify the Canadian Government in adopting the new arm.

J. E. A.

page break