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Falling Block Action

Home > Propellants, Firearms, and Ammunition Development > Evolution of Firearms > Breech Loading Firearm Design > Falling Block Action
falling block rifle

Springfield 1868 Third Allin conversion

For the more powerful rifle cartridges of the post-Civil War era, a large breechblock installed perpendicular to the barrel proved popular and effective. The frame was slotted to permit a sturdy breechblock to slide down for loading and up for firing. The pattern of movement led to the name of the action type, the falling block. The most common U.S. military use of the falling block—first with percussion caps and later with true cartridges—was the Sharps rifle. However, it was considered a secondary firearm.  The Springfield Armory variations of the Allin conversion and new models of similar design (collectively known today as “Trapdoor Springfields”) remained the primary battle rifles of the U.S. military from the post-Civil War period until 1892.

Falling block actions were and continue to be fine, reliable mechanisms. However, some were bulky and others were not convertible to function as repeating firearms.

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