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"Bayrisches Kartätschgeschütz 1870 System Feildl" Topic

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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2023 10:01 a.m. PST

Bayrisches Kartätschgeschütz 1870 System Feildl

The Feldl machine gun was a four-barrel repeating weapon and therefore one of many types of mechanical machine guns of the 19th century.

This weapon was used by the Bavarian Army during the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71).

A large crank, which had to be turned by hand, was used for loading and firing.

It was quickly decommissioned due to technical problems and insufficient tactical operational capabilities.

The engineer Johann Feldl from Forsthart had developed a four-barrel repeating weapon in 1867/68 and submitted the plans to the Augsburg Machinery Factory.

After various firing tests revealed excessive lead in the barrel, the testing commission recommended replacing it with the barrel from the new Bavarian Werder M/1869 rifle, supplied by the Amberg rifle factory.

Eight cannons were manufactured in the Augsburg machine factory for the Bavarian army in October 1870 and distributed in two batteries of four pieces each to the two Bavarian army corps.

As more guns were produced, the number per battery increased to six.

Austria had tested the Feldl cannon, as well as the Gatling cannon and the French machine gun or de Reffye cannon, but decided in the fall of 1870 in favor of the Montigny machine gun developed and used by the Belgian army.

The four parallel barrels were almost identical to the barrels of the Werder rifle, but had a thicker wall to better resist the development of heat.

The same cartridges of caliber R 11 × 50 mm were used, which accelerated a 22 g bullet to an initial velocity of 420 m/s and had an effective range of 1,500 m.

The propellant charge of the cartridge was black powder.

The recoil was virtually imperceptible.

Technically, up to 400 rounds could be fired per minute, but in practice 300 rounds was the maximum rate of fire.

The man firing the weapon had to make 150 turns of the crank per minute, which required greater physical effort.

In practice, the high rate of fire could not be maintained for long because the powder smoke obscured the shooter's visibility.

While with ordinary cannons the powder smoke dissipated during reloading, with the Feldl cannon the continuous firing renewed the cloud of smoke again and again.

The four tubes were attached to a base plate and their rear end protruded into the housing with the loading and firing mechanism.

This mechanism was made of steel and bronze and was housed in a brass case.

On top of the case there were supports for stores, which were inserted vertically.

The loading and firing mechanism was operated by a crank located on the left side of the weapon and turned by a standing soldier.

The shooter, for his part, was seated on a folding seat attached to the carriage.

He had to lean to the right to correct the target (ballistic) distance using the sight mounted to the right of the weapon.

On the rear side there were four sliders to disengage the tube loading mechanism.

This was necessary if a cartridge was stuck in the loading mechanism.

This meant that the remaining guns could continue firing.

Another lever at the rear was used to interrupt firing.

The shooter could use a crank for elevation and a steering wheel for windage.

Lateral steering allowed the weapon to pivot on the fixed mount up to 28° on both sides.

The sight was adjustable up to 1,500 m.

During training, an ejected cartridge case collection box could be installed under the weapon.

The cartridges were stacked horizontally, 41 in single magazines; The magazine did not have a spring that pushed the cartridges outward, but relied solely on the cartridges' own weight.

Magazines had to be completely filled before being inserted into the weapon, otherwise there was a risk of cartridges accumulating in the magazine.

A spring-loaded flap prevented the cartridges from falling out.

It was only when the magazine had been inserted into the magazine receiver that the flap opened and the cartridges were released.

These were sliding in the feeder because of their own weight.

The weapon could be loaded with a maximum of 328 rounds in 8 magazines, including 2 per barrel.

As the left magazine of each gun was only used after the right one had discharged all the cartridges, the magazines could be exchanged continuously during firing and therefore provided true continuous fire.

By operating the crank, the timing of the locking mechanism was controlled via four eccentric bodies and a system of toggle levers.

Each gun had its own ammunition magazine and locking mechanism.

As the bolt was withdrawn and the empty case removed, the hammer cocked and held until the bolt, sliding forward again, had inserted the cartridge into the cartridge chamber.

Then the hammer struck the firing pin, which ignited the propellant charge of the cartridge.

The mechanism operates in the time sequence that one barrel was opened, the second loaded, the third closed and the fourth fired.

The weapon fired one shot for each half-turn of the crank.

The weapon was carried by a wheeled carriage.

The large, lightweight wheels were similar to the wheels on agricultural equipment of the time.

The Feldl gun weighed 490 kg empty; fully armed and with its equipment, it weighed 658 kg.

Of the 6,864 rounds, 2,624 were packed in magazines and therefore ready to fire; the remaining number served as a reserve to fill the magazines.

The machine gun was pulled by 4 horses.

Each was accompanied by two wagons of ammunition.

Allocated to these pieces ,French wagons of ammunition model captured during the battle of Frœschwiller (August 6, 1870) were also pulled by 4 horses.

Each ammunition wagon weighed 1,660 kg when loaded with ammunition.

The ammunition wagon was equipped with 16,016 rounds of ammunition, of which 3,936 were packed in magazines.

The bavarian machine gun entire crew consisted of 6 men, 2 of whom were directly at the gun.

The shooter was responsible for aiming at the target while another soldier turned the crank.

In principle, the machine gun could also be operated by one man, but with a reduced rate of fire.

Two other soldiers were responsible for supplying the weapon with full magazines and refilling them; the other two served as reserves.

The first battery arrived at the I Royal Bavarian Army Corps in the first days of October 1870 and was immediately used during the Battle of Artenay on 10 October and the occupation of Orléans on 11 October.

As long as the corps was on the offensive, the machine guns remained in ready position most of the time.

Due to their short range compared to ordinary weapons, they could not be used as artillery unlike what the French did.

They also could not be used to support the infantry in the offensive, as it was impossible for them to move with 4 horses under French infantry fire and hold a position.

Only at Artenay was it possible to bring a Feldl cannon to the outskirts of a village that had just been evacuated and fire it at the retreating French.

This was done without any compelling tactical necessity, but rather to use the new weapon in combat.

Around 300 shots were fired.

The first real action took place during the Battle of Coulmiers on November 9, 1870.

Unlike previous offensives, the Bavarian army corps went on the defensive here.

Coulmiers had to be abandoned.

An infantry battalion and a battery of field guns were left in the village to hold it as much as possible in order to delay the French attack and thus cover the retreat of the Bavarian army corps.

The machine guns were somewhat hidden by hedges and houses.

The enemy, numerically superior, was held back for two hours.

The advancing enemy divisions were pushed back three times and a French artillery battery was even forced to change position.

The Feldl machine gun first proved its usefulness.

However, when the battery fired on both flanks, it had to change position.

Vibrations caused by the movement of the firearms caused the cartridges in the loading mechanism to become aligned and jam.

Of the battery's 16 barrels, 13 were jammed and could only be repaired after the battle.

It became clear that the weapon was not yet technically mature.

The weapon should have fired dry or been completely unloaded before the change of position, but this was unrealistic in combat.

In total, approximately 750 shots were fired.

Another account says that when the Franco-German war arrived,on the one hand the French who rely a lot on their « canons à balles », on the other the Germans who affect the greatest contempt for these "bullet syringes ".

But not all: the Bavarians alone, under the pressure of events, had decided to order their Feldl machine guns, with continuous fire, at the start of the war; but they were only able to bring a battery of four pieces in September, used at the battle of Coulmiers, without other preliminary studies and without having had time to draw up regulations for their use…
This sums up in a remarkably succinct manner the history of an already short-lived weapon whose adoption was nevertheless considered by the Autro-Hungarian army which had just discarded the Gatling, preferring the Montigny.

The Bavarian army (Feldl was Bavarian) had put it into service in 1870 because the soldiers who did not have a very high view of the real usefulness of these weapons feared their moral effect.

Their creation wrote a Bavarian officer, Count Thürheim, could not be monitored.

These guns were not subjected to the necessary tests, there were no regulations on the composition and equipment of the batteries.

Four pieces were delivered after Sedan.

Its regulatory name was infantry cannon, the ammunition was that of the Bavarian rifle for the four parallel cannons fed by eight magazines of 41 cartridges each.

The magazine on the left only came into operation when the one on the right was exhausted.

A French ammunition caisson taken from the battles of Wissembourg and Woerth was attached to each piece.

The interior caissons had been modified for their new destination and they were harnessed to four horses, each having to support the enormous load of ten quintals (in contemporary measurement: 100 pounds = 497 kg).

The battery of the 1st Bavarian Army Corps served in the battles of Coulmiers and Arthenay.

The count Thürheim reported that one of these machine gun batteries had held the "enemy" in check for two hours at Coulmiers.

Of the 16 tubes (4 x 4-barrel machine guns), 13 were out of order (a device made it possible to disengage the mechanism of one or more cannons and fire with the others).

During the combat, there was no way to think about repairing them. But they were repaired immediately afterwards.

No gas leaks were observed (!).

These incidents were due to the fact that, during the movement of the parts to change position, cartridges remained in the sheaths used to receiving the stores stood up and thus presented themselves obliquely in their accommodation.

At the battle of Arthenay, one of the pieces had fired 900 rounds.

Subsequently, these machine guns were assigned to the defense of the ditches of the fortress of Ingolstadt.

It is obvious that these complicated but interesting machine guns would have had a great future if, undoubtedly due to a lack of training of the personnel, their performance had not been so effaced: in these conditions they were unlikely to modify the poor opinion that the German staffs had of these machines.

At the request of the general staff, Johann Feldl inspected the guns near Paris from November 28 to December 29, 1870.

He criticized the poor state of maintenance, due to insufficient training of operating teams.

The dimensions of the cartridge were out of tolerance and the ejector could therefore not function correctly.

He also found that the magazines were too delicate to handle in combat.

The general staff then judged that the weapon was not sufficiently reliable and therefore withdrew it from active service.

It was also realized that the cost of the Feldl machine gun was disproportionate to the benefits.

After the war, the 14 Feldl machine guns were returned to the State Fortress of Ingolstadt, but were replaced by field guns in 1875.

The reason for this was the change in the infantry's armament to the Reich Mauser model 71 uniform with its new cartridge.

With the exception of one, the weapons were sold mainly abroad.

One of these was discovered by a German major in the Beijing Arsenal during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and repaired, but was not used again.

This copy was brought back to the German Reich by the expedition troops.

A weapon comparable to the Feldl « cannon » was the French Mitrailleuse or Canon à balles also called canon de Reffye, which was also used during the Franco-Prussian War.

This heavier machine gun used larger cartridges with a longer range of 2,500 m.

As a result, the machine gun was more likely to be assigned to artillery, while the Feldl machine gun , which used infantry caliber and had a shorter range, was considered more of an infantry companion.

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