The Civil War was a period in history that coincided with great changes in small arms technology. It is a well known fact that the tactics of the day did not keep up to pace with those changes, this trend continues through modern history. Up through the world wars this is evident. Firearms technology was moving forward at a rate that society found difficult to keep pace with.
This section is dedicated to the study of those very arms; any help or submision of articles, information, pictures, anecdotes, anything smallarms related will be MUCH appreciated!Thanks!
Early Flintlocks and Conversions-
Made by Harpers Ferry Armory and Springfield Armory; c. 1844-1855. Total produced about 275,000
(Harpers Ferry Armory; 103,000) (Springfield Armory; 172,000). The 1842 was the standard arm of US infantry prior to 1855, many of these arms were still in use or in state arsenals at the beginning of the war and they saw extensive usage. 42" round 69 caliber smoothbore barrel.
Bayonet lug on bottom of muzzle of barrel. Blade front sight mounted on front barrel band, no rear sight. Three
barrel bands retained with barrel band retaining springs. Steel ramrod with trumpet shaped head. Iron mountings.
Metal parts finished bright. Walnut stock with a comb. First regulation musket made in the percussion ignition
system at the national armories. Last smoothbore U.S. arm made in 69 caliber. First U.S. weapon made at the
Harpers Ferry and Springfield Armories with fully interchangeable parts.
Made by Harpers Ferry Armory and Springfield Armory; c. 1857-1861. Total produced about 59,273
(Harpers Ferry Armory; 12,158) (Springfield Armory; 47,115). 40" round 58 caliber rifled barrel with cleanout
screw on bolster. Front sight doubles as lug for angular bayonet. Early models have long range rear sight, later
models have two leaf rear sight. Three barrel bands retained with barrel band retaining springs. Steel ramrod with
tulip shaped end and swelled shank at forend cap. Iron mountings, with brass forend cap (in 1859, the forend
cap was changed to iron). Metal parts finished bright. Lock contains a Maynard primer system. Walnut stock
without patchbox (in 1859, a patchbox was added on right side of butt). Staple arm of the Civil War. First U.S.
martial arm firing the Minie bullet in 58 caliber.
Model 1855 U.S. Percussion Rifle.
Made by Harpers Ferry Armory; c. 1857-1861. Total produced about 7,317. 33" round 58 caliber rifled barrel
with cleanout screw on bolster. Lug on right side of muzzle for saber bayonet. Standard front sight of fixed type
(early specimens offered an attachable sight). Long range (500 yard and 400 yard) and two leaf rear sights were
found. Steel ramrod with tulip shaped end and swelled shank at forend cap. Two barrel bands retained with
barrel band retaining springs. Brass mountings prior to 1860 and iron mountings after 1860. Browned barrel
standard on brass mounted arms. Blued barrel bands occasionally found on iron mounted arms. Metal parts
finished bright. Lock contains a Maynard primer system. Walnut stock with patchbox on right side of butt. Primarily an arm of the regular US infantry though some elite state militias had recieved them, production in Smringfield ceased in 1861 in favor of the simplified 1861 musket. Harpers Ferry production ceased at the same time when Rebel force took the machinery to Richmond and started production of the Richmond musket.
1861 Rifled Musket-
Made by Springfield Armory and other contractors; c. 1861-1865. Total produced about 265,129. 40" round .58 caliber rifled barrel
with cleanout screw on bolster. Front sight doubles as lug for angular bayonet. Two leaf rear sight. Three barrel
bands retained with barrel band retaining springs. Steel ramrod with tulip shaped end and swelled shank at
forend cap. Iron mountings. Metal parts finished bright (rear sight sometimes blued). Walnut stock. The Model
1861 was the standard musket in use during the civil war. A major improvement over the Model 1855 was the
elimination of the Maynard primer system. This model served as the pattern for most arms made for war use.
Approximately 700,000 were manufactured by the Springfield Armory and private contractors. Some continued to make this pattern until the end of the war, never changing to the 1863 model.
1863 Rifled Musket-
Made by Springfield Armory, c. 1863 (Type I) and 1864-1865 (Type II). Total produced was about 273,265
for Type I and 255,040 for Type II. 40" round 58 caliber rifled barrel. Front sight doubles as lug for angular
bayonet. Two leaf rear sight on Type I and single leaf rear sight on Type II. Three split type barrel bands secured
with screws on Type I and three solid barrel bands secured by flat springs mounted in the stock on Type II..
Steel ramrod with tulip shaped end, straight shank on Type I and either tulip head type or knurled and slotted
head type on Type II.. Iron mountings. Metal parts finished bright excepting case hardened lock. Rear sights are
sometimes blued on Type I. Barrel bands and some other parts are occasionally blued on Type I.. The addition
of finishes such as case hardening and blueing on the Type I is a departure from previous U.S. martial longarm
production. Bluing eliminated on some parts of the Type II. The Type II is the last regulation U.S. martial arm of
Note:there was also a similar but not identical musket, the Special Model 1861 Rifle Musket. This musket had no clean-out screw on the bolster, redesigned lockplate and the barrel bands were screw clamped as on the Enfield. This musket was produced by Amoskeag Mfg. Co., Colt, and I believe Yale.
1853 Enfield-Rifle and Rifle Musket
Made by Enfield (British) Armory, other British armories and licencees. Total imported ~900,000. 39" tapered, round .577 caliber rifled, blued barrel.
Blued front sight doubles as lug for angular bayonet. Blued long range (800 yard) rear sight. Three split type
blued barrel bands secured with screws. Steel ramrod with slotted type head. Brass furniture finished bright.
Casehardened lock and hammer. Walnut stock. This longarm was purchased and frequently used by both
Federal and Confederate armies. Most imported were made expressly for the US market and do not have any British Army acceptance stamps (broad arrow and "WD") They were made by a multitude of contractors in England and vary in quality among them. Interchangeability was also at times a problem between contractors. All were apparently imported with blued and casehardened hardware and any alteration from this norm happened while in the US.
Enfield Percussion Rifle
Total imported unknown. 33" tapered round 577 caliber rifled blued barrel.
Lug on right side of muzzle for saber bayonet. Blued steel base and blade front sight. Blued long range (800
yards) rear sight. Two split type blued barrel bands secured with screws. Steel ramrod with slotted type head.
Brass furniture finished bright. Casehardened lock and hammer. This longarm was preferred by Confederate
armies and also used by the Federal armies during the civil war.
A note about Enfield barrel proof marks:"The markings on the barrel breech are as follows: the provisional mark followed by a number for gauge mark,then definitive
view mark and another number for gauge mark;ex. those numbers that are the gauge marks, or bore size. 25=.577 and 24=.58" Thanks to Robert L.Brock III and Richard Hill and all the others on the N-SSA Bulletin Board who helped me out with this info.
A recent email from a web site visitor had this interesting information on CW era muskets:
Saw your intersting website today on Civil War long arms & a call for
contributed copy. So, from a former CW re-enactor, North-South Skirmisher,
past president of a Civil War Round Table, British arms collector and
professional metallurgist, here are a few comments on the METALLURGY &
METAL-WORKING PROCESSES used to manufacture Springfield & Enfield
Rifle-Muskets. The process comments & descriptions of available materials
for arms production ca. 1860 are based on historical documents. The
metallurgical comments are based on my personal research and scientific
examination of derelict rifle-musket components.
All US Springfiled Model 1855-1864 rifle-muskests (from Springfield &
Harper's Ferry National Armories & all private contractors) were products
of the "American System" of interchangeable parts manufacture. Each
component was hot worked to near net shape in special closed dies, then all
surfaces & contours were milled to tight tolerances with dedicated special
cutters. The parts were then heat treated as required, polished &
assembled WITHOUT HAND-FITTING. Ditto the Colt Special Model 1861 (with
the proviso that lock components were dimensionally & metallurgically
interchangeable with ENFIELD lock parts). Heavily supervided unskilled
labor was utilized.
The Pattern 1853 Enfields were products of two distinct manufacturing
systems in England. Those made at Enfield Lock & London Small Arms were
fully interchangeable arms, made as above & intended ONLY for British
Regular Army issue ... even the Brits termed this "The American System".
Locks of these arms were marked "Enfield" or "LSA", accordingly. ALL
CONTRACT P53's, as sold to North & South in the Civil War were
NON-INTERCHANGEABLE arms, made under the old "Ordnance System" (a variant
of the 18th century CRAFT SYSTEM). Individual skilled workers made entire
sub-assemblies of arms components ... "lock, stock & barrel". In the
British case, separate contractors in shops in the British mid-lands made
these sub-assemblies and the components were received into Ordnance (later
War Dept.) stores. Separate contracts were then let to other contractors
along London's Tower Wharf to "set-up" requisitioned sub-assemblies & small
parts into finshed arms. Locks made in the Wharf shops were engraved
TOWER. Locks from other contractors bore their name -- Potts & Hunt, etc.
Parts were typically made by open die hot forging & hand-filing to hardened
jigs, resulting in loose tolerances & NO INTERCHANGEABILITY.
Sub-assemblies were hand-fitted, then disassembled, heat treated, polished
Note: there were no "blue prints". Contractors visited the War Dept.
PATTERN ROOM, where individual hand-made approved arms were on display,
each with a formal wax seal on the stock ("sealed pattern" arms). Parts
were sketched & dimensions were transfered by caliper from the sealed
pattern arm so that functionally similar, but non-interchangeable, copies
could be produced. Today, the Ministry of Defense Pattern Room is part of
the Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds. All of the original seal pattern
18th-19th Centural arms are displayed, as well as the "go-no go" inspection
gauges for the P53 Rifle-Musket. I had a personal VIP tour some years ago
when the collection was in Nottingham -- great fun to take down & closely
inspect each pattern arm & to handle the gauges.
Side note: a collector or re-enactor attempting to mount an original
British army-issue socket bayonet (WD & broad arrow markings) to an
antique P53 CONTRACT rifle-musket will likely find that it will not fit
... the socket bore is too small for the OD of the contract barrel.
Original contract socket bayonets lack the broad arrow markings, have a
larger bore & should fit. On the other hand, the replica P53 socket
bayonets coming out of India today are a perfect fit to original
contract P53's, including those coming out of Nepal.
The array of metallic materials for arms design & manufacture, ca. 1860,
Wrought Iron (pure iron matrix with < 0.06 wt% C, laden with stringers
of Fe-silicate slag) ... used for barrels, bands, hammers, lock plates,
other iron furniture & front sight blades (except Enfields, which were
low carbon steel for "enhanced wear resistance"). Produced by heating
cast (pig) iron to a pasty semi-solid mass & burning off the carbon,
plus hammering out much of the slag.
"Shear" (or Blister) Steel (solid wrought iron, re-heated in
carbonaceous matter to diffuse carbon back into the matrix to a desired
C content -- a non-liquid steel-making process) ... screws, possibly
ramrods, & some small pins.
Crucible (or "Cast") Steel (shear steel melted in a furnace & poured,
molten, into ingot ladles, then hot worked to bar, sheet, plate, etc.).
Melting floated out most of the slag stringers, leaving a much "cleaned"
matrix. Increasingly used in mid-19th C. for critical springs and lock
"Damask" Steel (alternate layers of shear steel & wrought iron, forge
welded, folded & re-forged many times) ... when etched in acid this
produces a charcateristic swirl pattern of light & dark bands. Used
ONLY IN INTERCHANGEABLE P53 ENFIELD LOCK SWIVELS, where this "tough"
material replaced a more brittle ferrous material that often fractured
during the cold winters of the Crimean War.
All steels = CARBON GRADES ONLY. No special "alloy" steels were used
in military small arms of the period.
Wrought iron CANNOT be hardened by quenching & tempering (insufficient
carbon content). Rather, wrought iron barrels were made by forge welding
flat sheet (skelps) into tubes with a single axial weld seam, then hot
working the tubes out along a mandrel to a taper. The method of hot
rolling this taper in multiple-grooved rolling mills was developed in
England & imported to US armories ca. 1860. The finished hot rolled
barrels were simply ANNEALED & used DEAD SOFT. Despite this soft material,
rifle-musket barrels were "robust" enough to withstand multiple charges
with breech walls turned down by 2/3, and to exhibit no wear or corrosion
after being fired many 1000's of rounds without cleaning.
Lock plates & hammers of wrought iron needed surface wear resistance. This
was imparted by CARBURIZING in which the parts were encased in carbonaceous
material & heated to diffuse a layer of carbon several 1/1000's of an inch
deep into the iron surface. Quenching the hot parts in water hardened the
C-enrich surface layer. If air was excluded during the quench (carburizing
box opened underwater) the part surfaces developed the attractive swirly
gray/blue/brown patterns termed "color case hardening".
Screws and other small shear or crucible steel parts in need of moderate
strength but high toughness were NORMALIZED (a 20th C term) -- heated to a
red heat, then air cooled to intermediate hardness.
Springs, ramrods, bayonet blades & other critical lock parts of shear or
crucible steel required high strength. These were QUENCHED & TEMPERED ...
heated to a red heat, rapidly quenched in water, then re-heated at a lower
temperature sufficient to tarnish a polished surface to a straw color to
"temper" the matrix, slightly dropping hardness but greatly increasing
My personal metallographic examination of rifle-musket components revealed
two previously unrecognized instances of SELECTIVE HARDENING in which a
small region of a part was QUENCHED & TEMPERED, while the balance of the
part was left ANNEALED or, at most, NORMALIZED.
One case was the musket nipple or "cone". The impact end (on which the
cap was placed to be struck by the hammer) was QUENCHED & TEMPERED. The
threads were just NORMALIZED. Possibly this was done in lots by
screwing the threads into holes in a fixture, heating the whole to a red
heat, but only quenching the cone tips in water. US inspectors at the
time were directed to "ensure that the END of the cone was properly
The more unexpected case was the tumbler of the INTERCHANGEABLE P53
Enfield lock. This part comprises a semi-circular flange with a curving
rim into which are cut the sear notches for "half-cock" &
"ready-to-fire" hammer positions, and at right angles to this a
cylindrical shaft extending through the lockplate, to which the hammer
is screwed. On interchangeabel P53 tumblers the small arc of the
tumbler flange rim with the sear notches is QUENCHED & TEMPERED, but the
balance is left ANNEALED. The material is a high-carbon tool steel with
massive iron-carbides in the matrix, so even the annealed shaft is
relatively wear-resistant. Period & earlier historical references
mention hardening in SUPERHEATED MOLTEN LEAD ... the heating is
instantaneous & prevents surface de-carburization from oxidation. This
technique was probably used to selectively (i.e., very locally) harden
the small region of the P53 tumbler rim.
This selective hardening, coupled with use of "Damask" steel swivles
is also seen in the dimensionally identical Colt Special Model
tumbler & swivel.
Note: Tumblers & Swivels of CONTRACT P53's are much inferior
metallurgically ... a sample tumbler was simply NORMALIZED high
carbon steel, with no hardening (selective or otherwise), and sample
swivels were similarly NORMALIZED medium carbon steel & not "Damask".
In contrast, all Springfield tumblers & swivels are fully QUENCHED &
TEMPERED medium to high carbon steel, with no "DAMASK" material or
selective thermal treatment.
Hope you can use this information and that your readers find it
John C. Harkness, FASM (Fellow American Society for Metals)