Spanish needle-rifle

One of my readers purchased an antique rifle which turned out to be a rare Spanish needle gun. Needle guns are so named because the firing pin it literally a very long needle. The needle is needed because the primer sits at the base of the bullet. The needle must penetrates the paper cartridge and the powder before it can hit the primer.

The guns inscription reads …

“Ano De 1855″

I really enjoy examining old gun designs and marveling at their simplicity, creativity and, in many cases, naivety.

A DIY needle made from wire.

[ Many thanks to Vaar for emailing me the photos. ]

UPDATE: A photo of the muzzleloader-esque takedown mechanism …

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Jon

    I believe that’s a paper clip in the DIY photo. Pretty cool gun.

  • Jake

    Look closer at that DIY needle… That’s not just any wire, that’s a paper clip!

  • Bryan S

    Very nice.. I wonder how hard it is to reload for that?

  • Greetings from Texas,
    This is fantastic. I have seen one or two needle guns over the years but have never seen one taken down. Not that I am suggesting it, but how cool would it be to shoot something like this?

  • Alan

    Yes because nothing say quality antique firearm, like paperclips.

  • Mu

    The big problem with needle guns was the needle. Since the needle is at the center of every load fired, the needles quickly work hardened, became brittle and broke. Prussian soldiers were issued a supply of needles, and one of the advantages of the Dreyse gun was the ability to quickly field replace the needles. Nevertheless, reports from that time suggest that about 50 rounds was the max that could be fired out of one of the guns before a full cleaning was required.

  • The firing pins on needle guns were reportedly quite fragile. Troops had to be issued spare firing pins in case their rifle’s firing pin broke during combat. Remember, the firing pin had to punch through the bagged powder charge to in order to hit the primer, and then, it was totally exposed to the heat of the combustion gases. Combine the dubious metallurgy of the original firing pins with the corrosive effects of the powder and primer mixes, and you can imagine why intact original firing pins on used needle guns are not common.

  • Bryan S

    Well, it is hard to walk down to your local store and pick up some needles for an 1850’s rifle. Heck, most dont even know what a needle gun is!

    I would rather shoot the repro needles, than shoot the originals, considering many designs averaged 1 needle per 20 or so shots.