Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket

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2015-06-26 10:56:31

The Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket is an antique firearm originally used during the 19th century by the British military.

 

Background and history of production

The Enfield Rifle-Musket was a 577 calibre Minié-type muzzle-loading weapon, produced by the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) in London and first introduced to the British Army in 1853 as a replacement for the 1842 pattern smoothbore musket.

It was initially used by British forces during the Crimean War, and played a large role in numerous other conflicts including the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the New Zealand Land wars and the American Civil War.

The gun itself is considered one of the factors behind the Indian Mutiny, as Indian Sepoys in the British East India Company armies rebelled. Army drills required soldiers to bite open cartridges and pour the gunpowder into the barrels – but when a rumour arose that the cartridges for the Enfield Musket-Rifle were greased with animal fat from pigs and cows, many Muslim and Hindu soldiers refused.

This act of rebellion led to the relationship between the British officers and Indian soldiers deteriorating and helped to create the volatile atmosphere from which the mutiny was born.

The rifle was also used extensively during the U.S Civil War, by both Union and Confederate soldiers, and were (along with the Springfield Musket) one of the most widely-used weapons of the entire war.

They were popular due to their quality of construction and accuracy, along with the fact that the .58 calibre bullets used by both sides could easily be used in the .577 European rifles. The Unions Army purchased approximately 500,000 rifles, with a large number also acquired by the Confederates through the black market.

Collecting guide

The Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket is highly popular with antique firearms collectors and U.S Civil War re-enactors, and reproduction models are numerous. Modern manufacturers of reproduction models include Euroarms, Armi Chiappa and Parker hale.

Original manufacturers, other than the RSAF, include:

Cooper & Goodman, Pryse & Redman, Joseph Wilson, J. Bourne, E & G Hackett, T Turner, W L Sargant, W Scott, Bentley & Playfair, Joseph Smith, King & Phillips, R & W Aston, Swinburn, J. Bourne

These smaller manufacturers were mainly based in Birmingham, U.K and produced the guns as part of a booming cottage firearms industry. Those manufactured for use by the British military will be marked with a crown and ‘VR’, and the earlier models will also be marked with the word ‘Tower’ denoting the fact that they were originally delivered to the armoury at the Tower of London.

However, later models sold to both armies during the U.S Civil War may also have similar markings, as many manufacturers used them as a marketing tool to insinuate the rifles had originally been produced for the British Army.

Price guide and notable auction sales

Models can sell at auction for prices from $500 up to more than $2,000 depending on the age, manufacturer and condition.

Earlier rifles produced specifically for the British army generally command the highest prices, as the quality and craftsmanship is often higher than unmarked rifles produced for use during the U.S Civil War.

Notable auction sales include:

  • A New Jersey surcharged Enfield Pattern 1853 percussion rifle musket sold at Bonhams in December 20120 for $1,989
  • A Pattern 1853 .577 Caliber Enfield Percussion Rifled Musket (circa 1861) sold at Heritage Auctions in November 2008 for $3,585
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