Antique Springfield muskets



2015-06-26 11:17:54

Antique Springfield muskets are a type of firearm manufactured at the Springfield Armoury in Springfield, Massachusetts for the United States armed forces, during the first half of the 19th century.


Background & history of production

The Springfield Armoury first manufactured a longarm in 1795, a smoothbore musket known simply as the Model 1795 Musket. This was the first musket to be produced in the United States, a .69 caliber flintlock musket. It was based on the French Charleville musket, Model 1763/66, which had been imported during the American Revolution. The Model 1795 was used in the War of 1812.

Realising the deficiencies of the 1795 model, the Springfield Armoury went on to produce the 1812 musket, and kept refining the model, producing new .69 caliber flintlock models in 1816, 1822, 1835, 1840 and 1842.

The Model 1842 was the last U.S. smoothbore musket. It was the first to be produced with a percussion cap instead of a flintlock – a superior system being more weather resistant.

By this point, many smoothbore rifles were having their barrels rifled after production. The inaccurate round ball used in these smoothbores was also being replaced, by the new Minié ball, an elongated conical bullet.

The Springfield Model 1855 was the move to rifled muskets, as well as experimenting with the smaller .58 caliber, which thenceforth became standard. It also replaced the percussion lock with a Maynard tape primer, which proved to be unreliable.

The Model 1861 reverted to the percussion lock, and the Model 1863 kept in the same vein.

After the American Civil War, a lot of Model 1861s and 1863s were converted to breech-loading weapons. This created the Model 1865 rifle that the Springfield Armoury would go on to produce many models of throughout the rest of the 19th century and into the 20th. This introduction of breech loading rather than muzzle loading lead to the weapons being referred to as merely ‘rifles’ rather than rifled muskets.

Collecting guide

The model of Springfield musket is referred to by the date it was designed, i.e. the Model 1795 Springfield musket. At the time, the U.S. Ordnance Department documentation did not use the word ‘Springfield’ in the name, simply calling them Rifle Musket, Model 1855 for example.

They are sometimes incorrectly termed ‘Springfield rifles’. Rifles have grooves on the inside of their barrels, whereas muskets do not. Springfield smoothbore muskets and rifled muskets, meaning smooth bore muskets that later has their barrels rifled, only became rifles after the introduction of breech loading in the mid 1860s.

Springfield muskets are much more valuable if they were owned and used by a notable figure or have an interesting history, particularly during the American Civil War.

Price guide and notable auction sales

Prices for Springfield Muskets can vary from a few hundred, to several thousand pounds, depending on their condition, their history, and their previous ownership.

  • Model 1816 Type III Springfield ‘National Armory Bright’ Flintlock Musket, sold for $4,095 at Bonhams in December 2011.
  • Model 1842 .69 Caliber Smoothbore Percussion Springfield Musket, sold for $7,000 at Rock Island Auction Company in April 2012.
  • Model 1842 .69 Caliber Smoothbore Percussion Springfield Musket, sold for $7,767.50 at Heritage Auctions in June 2011.
  • Model 1855 .58 Caliber Percussion Rifled Springfield Musket, captured and used by the Confederates in the Civil War, sold for $8,365 at Heritage Auctions in June 2011.
  • Model 1861 Springfield .58 Caliber Percussion Musket, with Civil War era engraving, sold for $8,962 at Heritage in June 2008.
  • Model 1863 Type III .58 Caliber Springfield Percussion Rifled Musket, with silver plaque stating the gun belonged to Congressional Medal of Honour winner Abraham Greenawalt, sold for $21,510 at Heritage Auctions in June 2010.
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