|Springfield Model 1855 from Wikipedia
The Model 1855 Springfield was a rifled musket used in
the mid 19th century. It was produced by the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts.
Earlier muskets had mostly been smooth bore flintlocks.
In the 1840's, the unreliable flintlocks had been replaced by much more
reliable and weather resistant percussion cap systems. The smooth barrel
and inaccurate round ball were also being replaced by rifled barrels and
the newly invented minie ball. This increased the typical effective range
of a musket from about 50 yards to several hundred yards. The Model 1855
had an effective range of 300 yards and was deadly to 800 yards.
The barrel on the Model 1855 was .58 caliber, which was
smaller than previous muskets. The Model 1816 Musket and all of its derivatives
up through the Model 1842 Musket had been .69 caliber, but tests conducted
by the U.S. Army showed that the smaller .58 caliber was more accurate
when used with a minie ball.
The Model 1855 also used the Maynard tape primer, which
was an attempt at improving the percussion cap system that had been previously
developed. Instead of using individual caps which had to be placed for
every shot, the Maynard system used a tape which was automatically fed
every time the hammer was cocked, similar to the way a modern child's cap
gun works. While the powder and minie ball still had to be loaded conventionally,
the tape system was designed to automate the placing of the percussion
cap and therefore speed up the overall rate of fire of the weapon. The
Maynard tape system gave the Model 1855 a unique hump under the musket's
The Maynard tape worked well under controlled conditions,
but proved to be unreliable in the field. The mechanism proved to be delicate
and fouled easily with mud and debris. The tape had been advertised as
waterproof, and ironically, moisture tended to be its worst problem. The
paper strips were susceptible to adverse weather and even humidity. For
later muskets like the Model 1861, the Ordinance Department abandoned the
Maynard system and went back to the earlier percussion lock.
Approximately 60,000 Model 1855 muskets were produced.
The Model 1855 had been condemned as unreliable and had
mostly been retired by 1860. The need for weapons in the American Civil
War quickly brought the Model 1855 out of retirement.
The Model 1855 got its first test in September of 1858
in the Pacific Northwest at the Battle of Four Lakes (Spokane Plains) where
the Northern tribes greatly outnumbered US troops. The attacking savages
were dispatched by US troops armed with the Model 1855 rifle-musket before
they could get in range with their smoothbores. Lt. Lawrence Kip noted
"Strange to say, not one of our men was injured...This was owing to the
long range rifles now first used by our troops... Had these men been armed
with those formerly used, the result of the fight, as to the loss on our
side, would have been far different, for the enemy outnumbered us, and
had all of the courage that we are accustomed to ascribe to Indian savages.
But they were panic-struck by the effect of our fire at such great distances."
The Model 1855 is generally referred to as rifle-musket,
since it was the same length as the muskets that it replaced. It had a
40 inch long barrel, and an overall length of 56 inches. Three rifle bands
held the barrel to the stock. A shorter two band version, generally referred
to as the Model 1855 rifle, was also produced. This shorter rifle had a
33 inch barrel and an overall length of 49 inches.
The Model 1855 musket was modified in 1858 to include
a long range rear sight, a patchbox on the side of the buttstock, and a
|Springfield Model 1861 from Wikipedia
The Springfield Model 1861 was a rifled musket shoulder
arm used by the United States Army and Marine Corps during the American
Civil War. Commonly referred to as the "Springfield" (after its original
place of production, Springfield, Massachusetts), it was the most widely
used U.S. Army weapon during the Civil War, favored for its range, accuracy,
The barrel was 40 inches long, firing a .58 caliber Minié
ball, and the total weight was approximately 9 pounds. The Springfield
had an effective range of 200 to 300 yards, and used percussion caps to
fire (rather than the flintlocks of the 1700s, the last U.S. flintlock
musket was the Model 1840). Trained troops were able to fire at a rate
of three rounds per minute while maintaining accuracy up to 500 yards,
though firing distances in the war were often much shorter.
The most notable difference between the Model 1861 and
the earlier Model 1855 was the elimination of the Maynard tape primer for
the Model 1861. (The Maynard primer, a self-feeding primer system, was
unreliable in damp weather, and the priming mechanism was expensive and
time-consuming to produce.) Further, unlike the Model 1855, the Model 1861
was never produced in a two-banded "rifle" configuration.
The Springfield was aimed using flip-up leaf sights, which
were set to 300 and 500 yards. By contrast, the British Pattern 1853 Enfield,
favored by the Confederates, utilized a ladder-sight system. The Springfield
Rifle cost $20 each at the Springfield Armory where they were officially
made. Overwhelmed by the demand, the armory opened its weapons patterns
up to twenty private contractors. The most notable producer of contract
Model 1861 Springfields was Colt, who made several minor design changes
in their version, the "Colt Special" rifled musket. These changes included
redesigned barrel bands, a new hammer, and a redesigned bolster. Several
of these changes were eventually adopted by the Ordnance Department and
incorporated into the model 1863 rifled musket.
The Springfield Model 1861 was equipped with a triangular
The Model 1861 was relatively scarce in the early years
of the Civil War (many troops were still using Model 1842 smoothbored muskets
and Model 1816/1822 muskets converted to percussion cap primers, both in
.69 caliber). It is unlikely that any of these were available for use in
the First Battle of Bull Run. However, over time, more and more regiments
began receiving Model 1861 rifled muskets, though this upgrade appeared
somewhat quicker in the Eastern Theater of Operations. Over 700,000 Model
1861 rifles were produced, with the Springfield Armory increasing its production
during the way by contracting out to twenty other firms in the Union.
The Model 1861 was certainly a step forward in U.S. small
arms design, being the first rifled shoulder weapon to be produced on such
a large scale (relatively few Model 1855 rifled muskets were produced before
the Civil War began, 1841 "Mississippi" rifles were produced in some numbers,
and the 1803 Harper's Ferry rifle was, and is, genuinely rare). However,
some argue that its impact on the Civil war has been overstated. While
more accurate in the hands of an experienced marksman, the rifled musket's
accuracy was often lost in the hands of recruits who received only limited
marksmanship training (the emphasis was on rate of fire). Further, most
Civil War firefights were waged at a relatively close range using massed-fire
tactics, minimizing the effect of the new rifle's long-range accuracy.
Lastly, the .58 caliber bullet, when fired, followed a rainbow-like trajectory.
As a result, many inexperienced soldiers who did not adjust their sights
would shoot over their enemies' heads in combat. There are numerous accounts
of this happening in the war's earlier battles. With this in mind, soldiers
were often instructed to aim low.
The Springfield Model 1861 is very popular today among
Civil War reenactors and collectors alike for its accuracy, reliability
and historical background. Actual antique Springfields are extremely rare
and expensive so companies such as Pedersoli, Armi Sport and Euro Arms
make modern reproductions at a much more affordable price.
|Springfield Model 1865 from Wikipedia
The Springfield Model 1865 was an early breech-loading
modification of the Springfield rifle musket design.
During the U.S. Civil War, the advantage of breech loading
rifles became obvious. The rifled muskets used during the war had a rate
of fire of 3 or 4 rounds per minute. Breech loading rifles increased the
rate of fire to 8 to 10 rounds per minute. As the Civil War drew to a close,
the U.S. Ordinance Department requested prototypes of breech loading weapons
from arms manufacturers all over the world.
After considerable testing, the prototype developed by
Erskine S. Allin of the government-operated Springfield Armory was chosen
for its simplicity, and the fact that it could be produced by the modification
of existing Springfield Model 1863 muskets. These modifications cost about
$5 per rifle, which was a significant savings at a time when new rifles
cost about $20 each. Patent No. 49,959 was issued to Erskine S. Allin on
September 19, 1865, describing the design.
The conversion from musket to breechloader was done by
milling open the breech section of the barrel and inserting a hinged bolt
fastened to the top of the barrel. A thumb-operated cam latch at the rear
of the breechblock held it shut when in closed position. The rack-type
system extractor was withdrawn automatically as the breechblock was opened
and snapped back at the end of its stroke. The firing pin was housed within
the breechblock. The hammer nose was flattened to accommodate the firing
The breech mechanism employed a hinged breechblock that
rotated up and forward, resembling the movement of a trapdoor, to open
the breech of the rifle and permit insertion of a cartridge. The hinged
breech block caused these rifles to be named "Trapdoor Springfields".
Approximately five thousand civil war Model 1861 rifled
muskets were converted at the Springfield Armory in 1866. It soon became
apparent that many of the small working parts in the breech system were
not going to have a long service life, and the action was too complicated
for normal service use. Therefore, before the Model 1865 production order
was completed, a less complex rifle was already being tested. This caused
the Model 1865 to be called the "First Allin", and the following revised
model, the Springfield Model 1866, to be called the "Second Allin".
The Springfield model 1865 fired a rimfire .58-60-500
cartridge (.58 inch 500-grain (32 g) bullet, 60 grains (3.9 g) of black
powder), the caliber matching that of the civil war minie ball, which was
originally used in these rifles.
The Model 1865 quickly became obsolete, and most of them
were sold in the 1870s to several American arms dealers. At the time, there
was a large demand in the US, for shorter cadet style rifles. To satisfy
this need, these dealers cut the barrels and stocks to make short rifles
with 33" and 36" barrel lengths. Likewise, the stock wrists were often
thinned for cadet use.
|Springfield Model 1866 from Wikipedia
The Springfield Model 1866 was the second iteration of
the Allin-designed trapdoor breech-loading mechanism. Originally developed
as a means of converting rifled muskets to breechloaders, the Allin modification
ultimately became the basis for the definitive Model 1873, the first breech-loading
rifle adopted by the United States War Department for manufacture and widespread
issue to U.S. troops.
The Model 1866 corrected problems encountered with the
prototypical Model 1865, in particular a simplified and improved extractor
and a superior .50 caliber centerfire cartridge (the Model 1865 used a
.58 caliber rimfire cartridge with mediocre ballistics), among many other
less significant changes. It employed a robust version of the "trapdoor"
breechblock design originated by Erskine S. Allin, Master Armorer of the
Approximately 25,000 .58 caliber Springfield Model 1863
rifled muskets were converted by Springfield Armory for use by U.S. troops,
the barrels being relined and rifled to .50 caliber and the trapdoor breech
system affixed. The rifle was chambered for the powerful centerfire .50-70
Government cartridge (.50 caliber 450-grain (29 g) bullet; 70 grains (4.5
g) of black powder). Though a significant improvement over the extractor
of the Model 1865 Springfield Rifle, the Model 1866 extractor was still
excessively complicated and the extractor spring somewhat prone to breakage.
However, it is a misconception that a broken extractor disabled the weapon.
In the official 1867 government user booklet “Description and Rules for
the Management of the Springfield Breech-Loading Rifle Musket, Model 1866”,
the following is stated regarding a broken extractor and/or ejector: “It
should be understood that the ejector and friction springs are convenient
rather than necessary, and that the piece is not necessarily disabled if
one or both of them should break, for the shell can be easily removed by
the fingers after being loosened by the extractor hook.” Furthermore, the
“ramrod” of the rifle can be used quite effectively to remove a stuck case
in an emergency. Thus it is clear that this weapon is not as easily disabled
as is sometimes believed.
The Model 1866 was issued to U.S. troops in 1867, and
was a major factor in the Wagon Box Fight and the Hayfield Fight, along
the Bozeman Trail in 1867. The rapid rate of fire which could be achieved
disrupted the tactics of attacking Sioux and Cheyenne forces, who had faced
muzzle-loading rifles during the Fetterman massacre only a few months before.
The new rifles contributed decisively to the survival and success of severely
outnumbered U.S. troops in these engagements.
| Springfield Model 1873 from
The Model 1873 Trapdoor Springfield was the first standard-issued
breech-loading rifle adopted by the United States Army (although the Model
1866 trapdoor had seen limited issue to troops along the Bozeman Trail
in 1867). The gun, in both full-length and carbine versions, was widely
used in the Black Hills War and in subsequent battles against the American
The Model 1873 was the fifth variation of the Allin trapdoor
design, and was named for its hinged breechblock, which opened like a trapdoor.
The infantry rifle model featured a 32?-inch (829 mm) barrel, while the
cavalry carbine used a 22-inch (560 mm) barrel.
The rifle cartridge was designated as ".45-70-405", indicating
a .45 caliber, 405-grain (26.2 g) bullet propelled by 70 grains (4.5 g)
of black powder. It had a muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet per second (410
m/s), making it a powerful and effective load for the skirmish tactics
of the era. A reduced-power load of 55 grains (3.6 g) of powder (.45-55-405)
was manufactured for use in the carbine to lighten recoil for mounted cavalry
soldiers. This cartridge had a correspondingly reduced muzzle velocity
of 1,100 feet per second (340 m/s) and a somewhat reduced effective range.
The rifle was originally issued with a copper cartridge
and used in the American West during the second half of the 1800s, but
the soldiers soon discovered that the copper expanded excessively in the
breech when heated after firing. This sometimes jammed the rifle by preventing
extraction of the fired cartridge case. A jam required manual extraction
with a knife blade or similar tool, and could render the carbine version
of the weapon, which had no ramrod to remove stuck cases, useless in combat
except as a club.
After the annihilation of General George Armstrong Custer's
battalion (armed with the carbine and .45-55 ammunition) at the Battle
of Little Big Horn in June 1876, investigations revealed that jamming of
their carbines may have played a factor. The cartridge was subsequently
redesigned with a brass case, since that material did not expand as much
as copper. This proved to be a major improvement, and brass became the
primary material used in United States military cartridges from then to
After the Little Big Horn disaster, troops were required
to perform target practice twice a week; some became so proficient that
they began winning the Army's newly created marksmanship awards.
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