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The Last Dreyse Needlefire: 1874 Border Guard

This rifle is lot #1414 at Morphy’s April 2019 auction:

The Dreyse needle fire rifle was invented by Niclaus von Dreyse in 1836, adopted by Prussia in 1841, and would serve as their standard military rifle for 30 years, undergoing constant tweaking and improvements. By 1871, however, the days of the needle fire were coming to a rapid end, as it was rendered obsolete by the development and perfection of the metallic self-contained cartridge.

After the death of Nicolaus von Dreyse in 1867, his son Franz took over the company. Franz was also a talented designer, and devised a modification of the basic Dreyse system to allow for automatic cocking upon opening the bolt (as we would associate with any “normal” bolt action design today) instead of the more complex manual of arms required before. This was patented in 1874 and put into production in 1875 in an effort to keep the needle fire Dreyse relevant in a world of new bolt action rifles. The system was used for a variety of commercial sporting rifles until about 1900, but the only government purchase was a batch of guns for the Baden border guards and customs police. Those rifles have serial numbers in the 13,000 and 14,000 range, and today’s rifle is an example of one of them.

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