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 Posted: Thu Jan 11th, 2007 02:52 am
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Johan Steele
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Sharps Carbine Model 1863


 

                The Sharps New Model 1863 Carbine came from a long line of well known and well thought of weapons.  Christian Sharps patented his action in 1851 and the model 1852, 1853, 1855, 1859 and finally 1863 all of which improved upon a strong and reliable action.  It was first issued to the US Army in 1854 and was used to good effect on the frontier.  In .52 Caliber with six grooved rifling it was justifiably famous for its accuracy and reliability.  The sites were graduated to eight hundred yards and the bullet was still quite dangerous at a third again that range.  It utilized a combustible linen or paper cartridge which eliminated the problem of removing spent casings.  By the time of the Civil War Sharps Carbines in various models had already seen battle with at least three different armies on five continents.

                Another unique feature to the Sharps was the existence of the Lawrence Pellet Primer built into the action, a system which eliminated the need for a percussion cap thus allowing a considerably greater rate of fire.  It was the Model 1859 Sharps Carbine upon which all other carbines were judged and few compared favorably.  The Model 1863 was a minor improvement over the Model 1859 utilizing simpler and less expensive manufacturing techniques and minor functional improvements.

                It was primarily the Sharps Carbine at Gettysburg that allowed the Regiments under General Buford to delay the Confederate advance long enough for the western men of the famed Iron Brigade to come up.  Some have gone so far as to say that the Sharps Carbine enabled the Union to Win on that epic field.

                Both Union and Confederate cavalry regiments would only add to the reputation of the Sharps Carbine as they used them to great effect for the duration of the War.

Last edited on Thu Jan 11th, 2007 02:53 am by Johan Steele



 Posted: Thu Jan 11th, 2007 02:55 am
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Johan Steele
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Smith Carbine


 

                The Smith Carbine was the fourth most common Carbine in Federal service during the Civil War with more than thirty thousand issued.  The Smith was a simple and reliable weapon similar in operation to modern break open single shot rifles and shotguns.  The .50 caliber bullet pushed through three grooves was very effective.  It was originally intended to utilize a reusable hard rubber cased cartridge; though they also used a brass cartridge.  The most common complaint was that after rapid firing the cartridge became quite difficult to extract.  Regardless the men who carried them thought the cost of $24 per Carbine as money well spent.

                When it comes to Civil War Carbines the Smith and Sharps are usually compared; with the Sharps usually edging over the Smith in popularity due to the reliability of the Sharps.  Though the Smith had a reputation for better accuracy... this is arguable.



 Posted: Thu Jan 11th, 2007 02:58 am
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Johan Steele
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Starr Army Revolver


 

                The Starr Army Revolver was made by the Starr Arms Company of Yonkers, New York.  It has the distinction of being the only government purchased pistol available in either single or double action.  The single action model was more popular because it was slightly less expensive and more suited to the habits of those who wished to purchase them.

                The Starr was easy to clean and maintain and had a reputation for dependability.  While overshadowed by the Remington & Colt it served well and was well liked by those that carried it.  The Starr was chambered in .44 caliber with six grooves.  The six rounds available in the cylinder in hard hitting .44 were rarely complained about.  After the men mustered out the majority were taken home by the men carried them throughout the war.  After the war many were converted to use a cartridge and weathered on until worn out.

The Starr Revolver made up about twelve percent of the revolver purchased for the Union Army.  Units such as the 4th Iowa Cavalry carried their Starr Revolvers throughout most of the War with few if any complaints.



 Posted: Thu Jan 11th, 2007 03:02 am
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Johan Steele
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The M1861/M1863 Springfield


 

                The Model 1861 and subsequent M1863 were the last percussion arms designed and issued to the United States Army.  The M1861 was among the finest long arms in the world when it was introduced.  It was rivaled in accuracy only by the 1853 Enfield and it surpassed that venerable arm in reliability and quality of manufacture.

                Simple sites and surprising accuracy along with unheard of dependability created a weapon rarely rivaled and at all times preferred to its contemporaries.  The .58 caliber minnie ball combined with a 1 in 66" twist gave the reason for the astounding accuracy.  This was the American military arm that took the minnie bullet to it's natural conclusion.  The M1861 was astoundingly accurate to better than four hundred yards.  At 56" overall length it was still a long weapon but no more so than any contemporary.  The one piece American walnut stock and spring retained barrel bands gave a robustness that would become legendary and a fixture in later American arms.  The well made interchangeable parts made it the realization of a dream for ordinance men.  It was a simple and inexpensive arm that influenced small arms development well into the 20th century.

                More than a dozen contractors to include famous arsenals such as Colt and Savage Arms as well as the Federal Arsenal at Springfield manufactured well in excess of one million M1861 and M1863 arms. It was the most common small arm carried by the Union soldier and came to represent the arms of the US Army.  The M1861/1863 armed the Union Army on all fronts; this excellent small arm saw service on every battlefield from 1862 onward.  It was justifiably a favorite arm of those that carried it and when captured it was quickly put into Confederate service.



 Posted: Thu Jan 11th, 2007 03:08 am
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Johan Steele
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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 feature… 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.



 Posted: Sat Feb 3rd, 2007 02:37 am
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Johan Steele
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M1841 Rifle


 

                The M1841 was the last muzzle loading percussion rifle issued to US troops and arguably one of the finest looking.  With large patch box, trigger guard and barrel bands all of brass and a rust browned barrel on an American walnut stock it was indeed a fine looking firearm.   It was as outstanding a weapon as it looked.  When it was introduced the men of the First Mississippi would begin to make it famous at the battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War and lent it a nickname that would stay with it forever.  The “Mississippi” Rifle was manufactured at Harpers Ferry, Palmetto Armory in Columbia SC, Remington, Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence (Windsor), Tryon and also by Eli Whitney.  The total manufacture run of the M1841 numbered approximately 74,000 with the majority seeing action in the Civil War.  Originally manufactured in .54 caliber large numbers were rebored to .58 caliber prior to and during the war.

                There were at least eight different variations of the M1841 from 1846-1862.  The M1841 has the distinction of being a weapon not originally designed to use a bayonet.  Ironically it also holds the distinction of having the longest bayonet (30 3/8”) ever issued to a US martial arm.  There were more sight modifications and bayonet adaptations than any other US military arm.  In many ways the M1841 was a test bed arm on which a variety of bayonet styles and rear sights were tested.

                Originally designed with seven groove rifling in .54 caliber they were astoundingly accurate out to three hundred yards and still brutally lethal out to four hundred.  When converted to .58 caliber they were rifled in either three or seven groove and when coupled with the appropriate rear sight were lethal out to nine hundred yards.

The M1841 was justifiably well liked and respected by the men who carried them.  The Union men who carried them preferred them to all but the M1855 & 61 series arms.  Confederate soldiers, in particularly cavalry, thought highly of them.



 Posted: Wed Feb 7th, 2007 05:34 pm
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TimHoffman01
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Johan, can you recommend a good source of technical information regarding the Spencer rifles and carbines?

I was also wondering about more detailed technical information than I've so far found on the LaMat pistols and how widely they were actually available and used.

Thank you.



 Posted: Thu Feb 8th, 2007 01:12 am
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Johan Steele
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Sword, Wiley, Firepower from Abroad The Confederate Enfield and the LeMat Revolver, Andrew Mowbray Inc., 1986.  Will give you some excellent info on the LeMat... wasn't all that common nor very popular.

 

As to the Spencer... There are several books out there w/ specifics on the Spencer but I don't know those titles... not really a Spencer junkie.

 

I can suggest: 

Reilly, Robert M., United States Military Small Arms 1816-1865, Eagle Press, 1970.  It's pretty much the holy grail for anything made in the US issued to US troops and has many details.  There are 3-4 books specifically on the Spencer which you should be able to find at some place like Dixie gunworks.

 

Good Luck



 Posted: Thu Feb 8th, 2007 01:24 am
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Johan Steele
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These are some good titles; they are what I have in my personal library.  Smith's book has some minor glaring errors but for visual reference it is priceless... and for $15 it's useful.

 

Barry, Craig L., The Civil War Musket: A Handbook for Historical Accuracy-Lock, Stock and Barrel,  Watchdog Press, 2006.

 

Coates, Earl J. & McAulay, John D., Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles, Thomas Publications, 1996.

 

Coates, Earl J. & Thomas, Dean S., An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms, Thomas Publications, 1990


 


Edwards, William B., Civil War Guns, The Stackpole Company, 1962.

 

Fuller, Claud E., The Rifled Musket, The Stackpole Company, 1958.

 

Fuller, Claud E., Springfield Shoulder Arms 1795-1865, S&S Firearms, 1986.

 

McAulay, John D., Rifles of the U.S. Army 1861-1906, Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 2003.

 

Reilly, Robert M., United States Military Small Arms 1816-1865, Eagle Press, 1970.

 

Smith, Graham, Civil War Weapons, KP Books, 2005.

 

Sword, Wiley, Firepower from Abroad The Confederate Enfield and the LeMat Revolver, Andrew Mowbray Inc., 1986.

 

Sword, Wiley, Sharpshooter: Hiram Berdan, his famous Sharpshooters and their Sharps Rifles, Andrew Mowbray Inc., 1988.

 

Whisker, James A., Hartzler, Daniel D. & Yantz, Larry W., Firearms from Europe, Tom Rowe Books, 2002.

 

 

 



 Posted: Sat Mar 10th, 2007 02:19 am
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Johan Steele
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The M1854 Lorenz Rifle Musket


Shane Christen


 


The M1854 Lorenz was the second most common imported long arm in use during the Civil War; second only to the excellent P53 Enfield.  The Lorenz Rifle Musket is a study in contradictions; some men thought them the finest arm they ever handled while others despised it so much they replaced them, at the first opportunity, with anything they could get their hands on.

Part of the reason for the disparity of opinion was that the Lorenz was not a truly interchangeable arm; it was in fact a hold over from an earlier time with many parts more familiar to a flintlock arm.  Individual gunsmiths from various points of Austria manufactured the Lorenz in great numbers to varying personal standards by hand fitting parts instead of machine making.  Despite this it was a simple and robust design that was generally well thought of.  At 52.75” long and just eight pounds it was shorter and lighter than its contemporaries.  It was the first arm of the Austrian infantry of the line to fire a bullet designed to expand and grip the rifling in a barrel.  Combined with an absolutely brutal four sided bayonet it was a weapon well fitted to the tactics of the mid 19th century.  The front site was unusual in that its base was installed at an angle to match an angled slot on the bayonet.   The Lorenz was originally designed with a simple block rear site for Line Infantry use.  However, many were issued with a high quality flip site with two windows graduated to 900 yards for the use of riflemen.  The M1854 left Austrian arsenals with a variety of finishes: bright, blued or browned.  Most had a raised cheek piece but some are found without.  Originally issued in .54 caliber many that found themselves in North America were rebored to .58 caliber... though as Army ordnance records show them in a variety of calibers from .54 to .61 that project may not have been as effective as intended.  The CS tested a variety of arms and rated the M1854 Lorenz as the equal to the P53 out to 500 yards.  That it was still in the field, both North & South, in 1865 speaks volumes of the quality of the arm.

Several hundred thousand were sold to the US and CS.  The Confederate Army of Tennessee was largely armed with the .54 Lorenz; while not as well liked as the P53 they gave outstanding service until the very end.  Most specimens still in existence show evidence of hard use.  Well over 100,000 M1854 Lorenz’s were imported by the CS.

Those in Union service were as well appreciated as those in CS.  Elements of the Iron Brigade put them to good service at Antietam and Gettysburg and they saw hard use at Shiloh, Iuka and Corinth.  They were not replaced in Union service except with the excellent M1861 Springfield.  The US imported upward to 250,000. 

The M1854 Lorenz is one of the most under appreciated arms of the Civil War.  With only manufacturer of a reproduction for the re-enacting community it is also one of the most under represented arms in the living history community.  Thankfully Loyalist Arms is making great efforts to create a faithful reproduction; and while their initial run had some glaring discrepancies they have promised to correct those errors in the future.



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