Lot 615 in the March auction contains a 60 bore needle fire rifle by J.W. Edge of Manchester c1860 in remarkable original condition considering that it is about one hundred and sixty years old. If you like minty pieces this is the lot for you. All its original finish is there, colour hardening, blue and stock varnish, quite a time warp in a remarkable state of preservation. It has obviously seen no use and has been well stored.

During the development of the breech-loader, as an offshoot the needle fire was invented by a Prussian, Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse who patented the needle fire in Britain in the 1830s. He utilised a paper cartridge case that was intended to burn with the powder charge. Percussion compound was placed in a patch in FRONT of the powder charge and a long sharp needle had to penetrate both the cartridge case and powder to reach this patch and detonate it. This needle was subject to great stress and they frequently broke. Contained within the Edge rifle is a trap door and remarkably a spare needle is still present.

A needle fire gun that did find acceptance in Britain was one patented by Joseph Needham in 1852 that used a bolt very similar to the bolt in the Edge. Although many needle fires were built in the 1850s, the development was a blind alley and this probably explains why the Edge rifle is in such good condition.

Lot 615 Estimated at £700 – £900

Donald Dallas