One of the most advanced single-shot, military rifles ever fielded is known to few. Its dropping block mechanics were ingenious and robust. It could be fieldstripped in seconds by removing one screw without any additional tools. Most importantly, an experienced rifleman could fire SO to 24 aimed shots a minute-a rate-of-fire superior to most competing single-shot and bolt-action rifles of the day.
It was thrown into head-to-head competition and punishing ordnance tests with the Berdan, Austrian Werndl and Mauser-Norris rifles. At the end of the testing and after King Ludwig of Bavaria personally inspected the trial rifles, the Werder was adopted by the Kingdom of Bavaria as "the Breech-Loading Rifle Model 1869 " We know it simply as the "Werder."
Its inventor was Johann-Ludwig Werder, Director of the Cramer-Klett Machine Factory in Nurnberg. Werder was most certainly a gifted mechanic for his inventions ranged from steel buildings to orthopedic devices. He had a fine sense for minimizing the hand motions required to operate a firearm efficiently and rapidly. His Werder rifle was, to use the modern term, "ergonomic." Here's how it worked.
The secret to the Werder's rapidity of fire was a robust extraction-ejection-reloading cycle spring powered and operated by a finger tap on the reverse styled trigger housed at the front of the triggerguard.
With the Peabody/Martini-styled breechblock of the Werder lowered, a cartridge is chambered. As the shooter brings his hand back, he cocks the hammer which is seen as a side lever on the right side of the action. As the hammer is cocked back, a roller attached to the front of the hammer rises and pushes up against the underside of the breechblock closing it. At this moment, the breechblock is locked in place by a bar attached to the reverse-styled trigger.
Cocking the hammer compresses two springs--a Q-shaped hammer spring and a separate V spring which rides underneath and tensions the rear of the breechblock.
When the shot is fired and the rebounding hammer falls to strike the internal firing pin, the roller attached to the front of the hammer falls away and no longer pushes up against the underside of the breechblock.
The shooter then quickly moves his trigger finger forward tapping the reverse trigger which unlocks the breechblock. Powered by the compressed "V" spring, the unlocked breechblock immediately snaps down and the front of the block strikes the tail of the...