30 August 2012   |   by Colin Smith   |   Library

Breechblock System

American Firearms and the Breechblock Mechanism


A breechblock is the component of the firearm action responsible for closing the breech of a gun at the instant of firing. There are a number of different variations for how this is accomplished, including rotating bolt breech-loading firearms, sliding block designs, side-hinged and trapdoor breechblocks, tilting and rolling blocks, in-line breech loaders, and Peabody-Martini breechblocks.


Many fine and interesting examples of firearms with breechblock designs abound in both sport and recreational guns and military weaponry. A breechblock action is seen in break-action, double-barrel shotguns, side-hinged firearms such as the Snider-Enfield and Warner carbine action, and in rolling block breechblocks such as the Spencer repeating rifle, to name only a few of a vast array of breechblock models.

2023 Standard Catalog of Firearms
2023 Standard Catalog of Firearms
Some other historically important examples of firearms that employ breechblock design include:
  • - Springfield Model 1888
  • - Mauser 98
  • - Browning BLR rotating bolt
  • - Martini Henry
  • - Martini-Enfield
  • - Krag Peterson rifle
  • - M1895 Lee Navy
  • - M1911 pistol
  • - Ferguson rifle
  • - Welin breechblock 16-inch Mk 6 (Used on the USS Alabama)
  • - Ordnance QF 25-pounder


The history of breechblock firearms is a rich and varied one. As can easily be seen in its use over time in so many different weapons, it is a virtually impossible to speak about the development of modern firearms without the impact of breechblock design and how it informed the practical function and capabilities of guns over time. It is clear that the innovation of breechblock technology is one that made it possible for the ongoing development of many other advances in weaponry. Breechblock action is used in a wide range of firearms, from those used for sporting and recreational purposes, to heavy industrial, military use. Researching one part of a firearm’s design components is a great way to take a deep dive into the many different kinds of weapons that employ their concept. Researching breechblock opens the door to discovering the many different applications and interesting uses of some very interesting and innovative firearms over the past century plus.

John Moses Browning's 1911 pistol uses the breechblock system. That says it all right there.
signature Colin Smith GUNCC Guest Writer
breechblock pistol