View single post by Johan Steele
 Posted: Thu Jan 11th, 2007 03:08 am
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Johan Steele
Life NRA,SUVCW # 48,Legion 352


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P53 Enfield

 

 

The 1853 3-Band Enfield Musket saw extensive service by both Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War.  While it was the most common issue weapon of the Confederate Army, it was also the second most common long arm in the Union Army.

  The 1853 Enfield had received its baptism of fire with the elite Highlanders of the British Army during the Crimea War.  It was a tried and proven design, well liked by the men who carried them.  By 1860, the Enfield had become the long arm by which all others were measured.  England had no problem selling them to both sides; so the Confederacy was supplied with large numbers as well the Union.  Nearly a dozen factories were making Enfield clones throughout Europe and they contributed their product to the mix as well.  The P53 3-Band Enfield was the first interchangeable arm in Europe.  The parts were intended to be interchangeable so that a damaged rifle could be salvaged for parts to keep others in serviceable condition.  Though in reality that was only the case with those made at Enfield and by Windsor in the United States.

The sites used on the average Enfield were rugged, well designed and effective, if a bit complicated for an inexperienced rifleman.  The rifle could easily be serviced in the field and was rarely seriously damaged by normal field use.  Its accuracy was world-renowned.  In the Crimea, the Russians had discovered that it was dangerous to large masses of troops well in excess of a thousand yards.  At combat ranges inside of four hundred yards, it was absolutely lethal.

The only real complaints of the weapon were minor but annoying.  The barrel bands had a tendency to work themselves loose after a period of rapid firing. While this was easily remedied it could be rather disconcerting to see a barrel band work its way loose and slide down the barrel during an engagement.  Colt manufactured Enfield arms from parts purchased in England and were as well made as any and those made by Windsor were judged among the best made of the Enfield contract arms.  Windsor produced only the first model P53 which eliminated the problem of loose barrel bands by using a spring, similar to the ones used on the M1861 Springfield, to secure the barrel bands.  Another issue arose during field cleaning, water had a tendency to work its way behind the lock plate rusting the action.  If the soldier was unaware of the situation corrosion could build up and cause a failure at the most inopportune time.  The final complaint about the P53 Enfield was that the stock was often poorly finished and soldiers often found themselves with painful splinters in the from the ramrod channel. 

The 3-band Enfield carried by the majority of Civil War Infantrymen was fifty-five inches long with a one in forty eight twist that gave it its renowned accuracy.  The .577 minnie ball was interchangeable with the .58 minnie ball used by the United States Army thus dramatically simplifying supply.  The blued barrel helped to combat rust and had a habit of making the user slightly less of a target to his opponent though due to a fixation with bright barrels many were struck bright upon entering the US.

All in all the 1853 3-Band Enfield was an excellent tried and proven design that gave good service to the men who carried them, on both sides of the argument.  It was robust, reliable and was welcomed into the arms of many thousands of soldiers, both North and South.  Many Enfields that saw service in the Civil War would see service again as surplus military arms throughout the world, particularly in Asia and Africa.  Its excellence however was not destined to last long after the Civil War; it was superceded in British service by the excellent Martini-Henry breach-loading rifle in 1867.  In Union service, the locally produced 1861 and 1863 Springfield would complement and eventually supercede the Enfield and after the war the "Trap-door" Springfield would replace muzzle loading arms altogether.  Both the "Trap door" Springfield and the Martini-Henry were excellent weapons in there own rite and superior to the Enfield in one distinctive featureā€¦ both were breach loading cartridge firing arms.   Ironically, the Enfield was destined to hold the distinction of being the last, and some would argue the finest, mass produced muzzle-loading arm issued to any European or American Army.

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