M1848/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle

(Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

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M1854/68 Danish Suhl Taprifle

(Suhler Tapriffel M.1854/68)

M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle    

(Fládens Bagladeriffel m/1853-66)
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M1848/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle

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M1854/68 Danish Suhl Taprifle - Photo Credit Lauritz.com

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M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle    

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

  Denmark is a comparatively small country (slightly smaller than the US states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined) situated on the Jutland peninsula, in Northern Europe, with the North Sea to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east.  It is surrounded by water except for its 42-mile southern boundary with Germany and includes  some 500 nearby islands, of which only 100 or so are inhabited.  It was the Danish Vikings, who between 800-1000 A.D. conquered much of England.

  Although Denmark acquired substantial territorial possessions during its history, including uniting with Norway and Sweden under Danish rule in the late 1300s, Denmark was forced to give Norway to an independent Sweden at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and with that loss, most of its empire was gone.

 

  In the 1830s and ‘40s the desire for a liberal constitution spread throughout the populations of Denmark as well as its Schleswig-Holstein dependencies (Schleswig was a Danish dependency and Holstein a German dependency, both ruled by Denmark).  In January of 1848 King Christian VIII, the absolute monarch of Denmark, died.  This occurred  during a period of increasing liberal agitation across not only Schleswig-Holstein but all of Europe. The new Danish king, Frederick VII,  installed a new Cabinet creating a constitutional monarchy.

 

   Unfortunately, the new liberal constitution did not extend to the Duchy of Schleswig, which left the question of  Schleswig-Holstein in limbo.  The Duchy was then a region of Danes and Germans.  While a part of the Danish monarchy, it was a separate, self-governing duchy, separate from the Kingdom of Denmark.

 

   In 1848 the Germans of Schleswig and Holstein revolted against the Danish government which had been planning to fully integrate the duchy into Denmark.

 

   The Prussia and other German States supported the rebels but the Danes prevailed 1849, leading to the Treaty of Berlin (1850) reaffirming Danish rule, although not an outright merger with Denmark. Later, the Danish government’s violation of the settlement led to renewed warfare in 1863 and the famous Prussian victory in 1864 (heavily attributed, although perhaps not accurately, to the Prussians’ more modern Dreyse breech-loading rifles).  Denmark was forced to surrender the both regions to Prussia and Austria, although,  ironically, in 1920, the people of northern Schleswig voted to rejoin Denmark.

GENERALLY

  If nothing else, Denmark’s wars with the Prussians in 1848-50, and again in 1864, in which the Danes lost control of Schlessing-Holstein, taught the Danes the value of modern breech loading rifles.  To their credit, the Danes did not engage in the interminable trials undertaken by some of their contemporaries, but settled fairly quickly on the M1867 Remington Rolling Block rifle.  Being pressed for cash following defeat by Prussia, Denmark was unable to completely re-equip its military forces with new Rolling Block rifles, so conversion of its earlier 1848 pillar breech percussion rifles via the Snider system was concurrently pursued.  The M1848/65 "Tap" rifles (also variously  referred to as M1848/65 and M1848/66 rifles) were converted to the Snider system from Denmark's stock of the pillar breech percussion M.1848 Bagladeriffles ("rear loader rifles"). (A "tapriffel" is a pillar breach rifle.  Pillar breech is explained below under Predessor & follow-On Rifles, at the bottom of this page). This is a converted M.1848, converted from percussion to use the first Danish metal cartridge in 1865, 17.5mm Patron M1865.  The rifle and cartridge were later used by fishermen to hunt seals. The conversions were accomplished at the Copenhagen arsenal between 1866 and 1868. 

   The M.1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifles" (Suhler Tapriffel M.1854/68) were originally Prussian percussion muzzle-loading rifles manufactured in Suhl, Thuringia, Germany, once popularly known as waffenstadt Suhl (weapons city Suhl) because of its extensive gunmaking industry.  These rifles had been smuggled to the Schleswig-Holstein rebels, but after the failure of the rebellion of 1848, the captured rifles of this pattern were upgraded between 1853 and 1855 at the Kronborg armory and re-issued to the Danish Army as the M.1854.   Between 1865 and 1868 the rifles were subsequently converted to the Snider breech-loading system by the Copenhagen armory (Kjobenhavns Toihuls) and re-designated M.1854/65.

M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle  (Fládens Bagladeriffel m/1853-66)

 

   The Danish navel rifles have an interesting history that runs concurrently with the M.1854/68 rifles.  Officially referred to as the M1853-66 Navy Rifle (Fládens Bagladeriffel m/53-66), these were derived from an earlier pillar-breech, cap lock, percussion rifle, about 5,000 of which were made in Liége around 1847-48 and purchased by the Schleswig-Holstein rebels.  After the failure of the 1848 insurrection, half of the captured rebel rifles, 2,540 of them, were adapted for Danish military use in Kronborg between 1853 and 1855 and issued to the Danish navy.  These rifles were later re-converted to the Snider system in Copenhagen in 1866.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

M.1848/65 Rifles (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

   These rifles were converted from Danish stocks of M1848 pillar-breech rifles.  The original barrels were fitted with a Dahlhoff rear sight, graduated from 300 to 900 alen (190 to 565 meters; 210 to 620 yds).  Early M1848 rifles retain the patch box in the right side of the butt, but later rifles do not have this feature, and many of the M.1848s were re-stocked, using the original bands and nose-cap.  Trigger guards and serpentine side plates are brass but the remaining mounts including bands and nosecap are iron.  The upper sling swivel is mounted below the center band and the lower swivel is mounted below the lower edge of the buttstock.  The M1848/65 Rifle accepted the M1848 socket bayonet, a conventional design locking with a simple ring.

 

   The first years after 1848, the newly produced percussion muskets were fitted with a steel box on the right side of the stock for patches and small tools. 

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Bagladeriffel m/1848-65 - Photo Credit Royal Danish Arsenal Museum

M.1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifles"

   In overall appearance the rifle does look generally like the M1848/65 Danish Snider version but with a somewhat bulkier feel due to it’s heavy brass barrel bands and nossecap and the quite prominent barrel band springs placed below the barrel bands.  The trigger guard and left side serpentine counterplate are also brass, with steel  the sling swivels situated below the center band and along the lower edge of the buttstock.  A bit surprisingly, the buttplate is steel and well-marked.

 

   The Snider System breech conversion is identical to that of the M1848/54/65 infantry rifles.

 

   This rifle also is fitted with the very distinctive brass Dalhoff curved rear sight with ranges calibrated from 300 to 900 Danish ‘ells’.

 

   Like many rifles of the era of its original manufacture (e.g., Austrian Wanzls and Belgian M1777/68 Terssen), but unlike the Danish M.1848/54/65, the walnut stock is manufactured with a very distinct cheek piece on the left side of the buttstock.

  The breech block locking lever of the Danish Snider consists of a large button (16 mm, .63 inch) on the left side of the breech block, which is particularly distinctive.  So too is the interesting Dahlhoff back-sight with curved leaf positioned immediately forward of the action in both infantry and naval models.  The Infantry rifle's barrel is retained by three bands, the center band also mounting a through-bolt which supports the sling swivel.  The metal nosecap is conventionally fitted back from the muzzle, to which is welded with a very small bayonet stud below and well ahead of the front sight.

  The barrel of the naval model, unlike that of the infantry version, is retained by keys, with a brass nosecap being fitted very nearly at the tip of the barrel, immediately under the long bayonet bar (a bar, not a lug or a tenon; see photos) welded to the right side of the muzzle. There is also a transverse bolt through the stock very near the muzzle which supports the upper sling swivel.  The lower swivel is mounted at the front of the trigger guard.   The trigger guard is brass with an integral spur similar to that of the M1867Austrian Werndl rifles produced after late 1869..  The nosecap and cleaning rod channel guides are also fashioned of brass as are the barrel bands, left side lock plate reinforcing serpentine and the buttplate.  The rear sight is a Dahloff  “grasshopper” pattern (see photo).   The Snider breech block of the naval rifle bears a close similarity to the later M1869 Dutch Snider.

M1848/54/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle  (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

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M1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifle" (Suhler Tapriffel M. 1854/68)

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M1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifle"Photos Credit: Michal Novotny

M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle  (Fládens Bagladeriffel m/1853-66)

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MARKINGS

M1848/54/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle  (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

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  "MD - 1848"  is the model designation of the pre-conversion muzzle-loading rifle.  "1857" obviously the year of manufacture and "818" the production number/serial number that year, so that "1857-818" is the rifle's complete serial number.

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M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval rifle:  The left side of the barrel as well as the brass lockplate support, trigger guard, buttplate all carry the serial number.  The lockplate is marked with the original Belgian manufacturer’s markings (e.g. “PIRLOT FRERES À LIÈGE”), and the top of the breech block and tang are stamped with the Danish crown.

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M.1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifles"

   The M.1854/68 rifle lockplates are marked with their original "Crown over SUHL, S&C to the right of which appears a large Year of Manufacture over a serial number, e.g, “1855/7433".  The serial number also appears on the left barrel flat (although it may also carry a conversion serial number as well), buttplate tang, trigger guard and on the nosecap; the cleaning rod displays the same year and the bayonet, if present will also be serial numbered to the rifle (year-number).  The breesh-block and counterplate will both be marked with a Danish Royal Crown as well as numerous smaller parts.

OPERATING MECHANISM

  The Danish Snider is a rather close adaptation of the British Snider with a right-pivoting breech block containing a diagonal firing pin struck by the original hammer.  Opening the breech block and pulling it back on it’s guide rod extracts the spent case via an extractor co-located on the guide rod and moving rearward with the breech block.  Like all Snider conversions, ejection is a simple matter of rolling the rifle over, tipping the case out of the receiver.

   Unlike the early versions of the British Snider (but similarly to the later Mark III), the Danish Snider’s breech is locked into firing position by a wedge, actuated by a thumb button, that locks into the left side of the receiver well.  The firing pin is free floating (not spring loaded) and, if it were not withdrawn, the breech would be jammed closed by the tip of the firing pin.  Retraction of the firing pin is accomplished by the camming action of the internal spur of the breech block locking button.  When pushed, an arm on the locking button cams the firing pin back, all of this taking place inside the breech block itself.  In other respects, operation of the Danish Snider is substantially identical to that of the British Snider

M1848/54/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle  (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

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M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle  (Fládens Bagladeriffel m/1853-66)

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SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS and DATA

M1848/54/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle  (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

  • Overall Length:  1,325 mm (52.15 in)

  • Weight, empty:  4.4 Kg (9.7 lbs) empty

  • Barrel Length:  865 mm (34.01 in)

  • Rifling:  6-groove rifling; RH, concentric

  • Rear Sight:  Tangent sight graduated from 300 to 900 alen (615 yds) (?)

M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle  (Fládens Bagladeriffel m/1853-66)

  • Overall Length:  1,180 mm (46.5 in )

  • Weight, empty:  4 Kg (8.9 lbs)

  • Barrel Length:  700 mm (27.6 in)

  • Rifling:  5-groove; RH, concentric

  • Sight:  Dahloff “Grasshopper” curved sliding leaf, graduated from 200 to 900 units, most likely Danish alen (125.5 to 565 m, about 138 to 618 yds)

 

M1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifle" (Suhler Tapriffel M.1854/68)

  • Overall Length: 1328mm (52.25 in)

  • Barrel length:  851mm  (33.50 in)

  • Rifling:  4-groove

  • Rear Sight:  Dahloff “Grasshopper” curved sliding leaf, sight graduated from 300 to 900 Danish ‘ells’     (615 yds) (?)

SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS

SPECIAL NOTE:  We have information suggesting the existence AND non-existence of both a short rifle as well as a carbine version of the Danish Snider, but thus far we been unable to find photos or additional information regarding either.  We would gratefully appreciate help from any knowledgeable persons.  Please contact us!

M1848/65 Short Rifle  (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65): These short rifles were converted from the M1848 pillar-breech rifle.  The original barrels were fitted with a breech block unconventionally opening to the left, and a Dahlhoff rear sight, graduated from 300 to 900 alen (190 to 565 meters; 210 to 620 yds).  Some rifles retain the patch box in the right side of the butt, but many were re-stocked, using the original bands and nose-cap.  Trigger guards and side plates are brass, remaining mounts being iron.  The upper sling swivel is mounted below the center band and the lower swivel is mounted below the lower edge of the buttstock.  Like the infantry musket, the M1848/65 Short Rifle accepted the M1848 socket bayonet.

M1865 Danish Snider Carbine

SIGHTS

M1848/54/65 Danish Snider Infantry Rifle  (Bagladeriffel m/1848-65)

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BAYONETS

M1853/66 Danish Snider Naval Rifle  (Fládens Bagladeriffel m/1853-66)

 

  The M1848/54/65 Infantry Rifle accepted the Danish M1848 socket bayonet, while the M1853/66 Naval Short Rifle was adapted to accommodate the double-edged M1852 sword bayonet.

Danish M1848 socket bayonet

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M1853/66 Sword Bayonet

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M.1854/68 Suhl "Tap Rifles" socket bayonet

 Janzen asserts that this bayonet was manufactured by the Germans specifically for the Danish rebels. The bayonet is fitted with a Kyhl's patent locking mechanism.  It has an overall length of  565mm (22.25 in) with a full length triangular blade of 502mm (19.75 in).

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 Danish M1854/68 rifle bayonet, Photo Credit Lauritz.com

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 Danish M1854/68 rifle bayonet socket & locking mechanism, Photo Credit:  Invaluable.com

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Photos Credit: Michal Novotny

 

CARTRIDGE

  The M1866 16.9mm Danish Snider, aka 17x28R (aka M1865 cartridge and aka 17.5x29R) is the largest rimfire cartridge ever fielded by any military anywhere, and may be the largest rimfire cartridge ever produced..  This cartridge is another of the very early, relatively low power, large caliber rimfire rounds adopted for use in a converted muzzle-loader retaining its original barrel. 

 

  The case is a straight sided, rimmed, copper design topped with a conical shaped lead bullet lubricated with grease grooves.   The bullet develops a muzzle velocity of about 325 m/s (1,065 fps) for the M1848/65 rifle and about 300 m/s (990 fps) for the naval rifle with standard ball cartridges.

DIMENSIONS: 

  • Bullet diameter:  16.80 mm

  • Neck diameter:  17.87 mm

  • Base diameter:  17.94 mm

  • Rim diameter:  20 mm

  • Case length:  27.5 mm

  • Total length:  40.02 mm

  • Total weight:    

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MANUFACTURING DATA

  The M1848/54/65 rifles were converted at the Geværfabrik Kjøbenhavn,  between 1866 and 1868.

  About 1,100 of the 2,540 rifles were converted to the Danish Snider system, becoming the M1853/66, at the Geværfabrik Kjøbenhavn in 1866.  Like the infantry rifle, it too was chambered for the 16.9 mm, rimfire cartridge.

UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES

  None known, however and interestingly, the M.1854-68 rifles were later used in the period 1873-1885 in the Danish West Indian Islands (Dans-Vestindiske Øer.;  Danish Antilles or Danish Virgin Islands)

PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES

 

Predecessor Rifle(s):  M1848 Bagladeriffel

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M1848 Danish Perkussionsriffel.jpg, Photo Credit: Arma-Dania.com

 Pillar-breech rifles were smooth-bore muskets that were later rifled and equipped with a pointed pillar or stem on the face of the breech plug in the bottom of the barrel.  A Pillar-breech rifle relied on the ramrod forcing the bullet against the pointed pillar in the breech to expand the base of the bullet into the rifling rather than relying only on the force of the charge to do so.

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Pillar Breech Cut-Away, Photo Credit: Arma-Dania.com

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We gratefully acknowledge the kind assistance of Søren Skovgaard Møller in assisting us with this page.  Also a special thanks to Michal Novotny for providing pictures

REFERENCES

Gamle Danske Militaer Vaben (Old Danish Military Weapons) Th. Moller (Author, Illustrator), Host & Sons Forlag, 1963, 94pgs.

 

Sad Note:   I have been told by a Danish correspondent that the Danish government closed the finest arsenal collection of arms in Denmark and destroyed all the sniders and Remingtons in the arsenal.  I have not independently confirmed this, but I hope that it's untrue.

Page built September 9, 1999
Revised September 28, 1999

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

Updated: Nov 27, 2022