Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Simeon North, “the first official pistol maker of the U.S.”




Following the Revolutionary War the United States decided to standardize its own military arms. The first U.S. pistol was the Model 1799 North & Cheney. It was an ungainly-looking flintlock that was modeled on the equally unprepossessing French Model 1777. Manufactured between 1799 and 1802, only about 2,000 of the unique, brass-framed smoothbores were made.


M-1799 North & Cheney

Simeon North would end up manufacturing over 50,000 flintlock pistols for the United States Ordinance Department in the coming years. 

M-1808 Navy


In June 30, 1808, North received a contract for boarding pistols. He showed his inventive genius by proposing changes to the government pattern pistol and producing all parts of all pistols with mostly interchangeable parts.


M-1811 Army


M-1811 Transitional 

Some historians credit North with inventing the milling machine. Although I have not seen that documented. One thing for sure was that he did incorporate interchangeable parts early on using machinery of his own design.


M-1813 Navy

As part of the North's successful effort to make truly interchangeable parts, the filing gig was invented by Simeon’s son, Selah, as was the first milling machine to be used in his factory. 


M-1816

The M-1816 would be the last North pistol to use a wooden  ram rod and the first to be produced with case-hardened locks.

M-1819

The M-1819 introduced the captured swivel ramrods which would become a standard on following militia pistols. 


M-1826

The M-1826 would be the last model pistol produced by North and production was halted around 1828-1829. The M-1826 would be the basic pattern for all following martial pistols until revolvers replaced the design.

North was instrumental in helping John H. Hall, superintendent at Harpers Ferry Armory, to introduce his methods of achieving interchangeability to the Armory.
In 1828, North received his first contract to produce Hall rifles with parts interchangeable with those produced at Harpers Ferry. He would go on to produce over 30,000 Hall rifles and carbines.

Simeon North had a 53-year contractual relationship with the US government.


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Monday, November 28, 2016

Savage Springfield M-1861








This rifled musket is a U.S. Model 1861 Pattern Rifled Musket manufactured by Savage Revolving Fire Arms Company of Middletown, Connecticut in 1863.
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). 

Firearms historians feel it is unlikely that any of the M-1861s 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 1,000,000 Model 1861 rifles were produced, with the Springfield Armory increasing its production during the war by contracting out to twenty other firms in the Union.  

According to "United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines" by Colonel Arcadi Gluckman,   published 1949.  
"In 1863 Savage entered into two contracts with the U.S. Ordnance Department for rifle musket production. (Savage also did business during the war as the Middleton Manufacturing Company) 
The first contract was entered into on September 9, 1862, for 25,000 rifle muskets at a cost of $18.00 each. The second contract was entered into on February 25, 1864, for 12,000 rifle muskets at a cost of $18.00 each. Despite the total contract award for 37,000 rifle muskets, Savage only delivered 25,500 rifle muskets to the Ordnance Department from 1862 to 1864.
1,000 delivered in 1862.
8,000 delivered in 1863.  
16,500 delivered in 1864.
The rest of Savage’s production is believed to have been condemned by federal inspectors with many just passing inspection (with several discrepancies being overlooked in the process)".




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Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Maynard Carbine






The Maynard Carbine was the brainchild of Dr. Edward Maynard.
Dr. Maynard is probably best known for his invention of the Maynard Tape Priming System which patented in 1845. The system was used on several weapons including the US M-1855 service rifle.

In 1853 Maynard paid the Springfield Armory $116.37 to produce a full scale model of his carbine, and this model was subsequently tested by the Ordnance Department in 1856 with very positive results. 

The successful trials resulted in Maynard's quest to produce his rifles. He had already been working with Massachusetts Arms as they used his priming system on their revolvers so it was only natural that he contracted with them to produce his breech loading long arm. 

The guns were produced in both carbine and rifle lengths, with 20” and 26” barrels respectively, and were offered in both .35 and .50 caliber.

About 5,000, 1st Models, were manufactured between 1858 and 1859. Author and historian James D McAulay feels that at least 3,200 of those went to Southern states and militia companies. He has documented purchases by five southern states and feels a substantial number of Confederate regiments were at least partially armed with 1st Model Maynard rifles and carbines during the Civil War.



Young Confederate soldier with a Maynard.


Production of the 1st Model Maynard was brought to an end by a fire at the Massachusetts Arms Company factory in January of 1861. 

The factory was rebuilt and by 1863 the factory was back in business, producing the 2nd Model Maynard Carbine for the US Ordnance Department until wars end. Over 20,000 were made. 
The Second Model or Model 1863 lacked the tape primer and stock patchbox.






 





The second model were Union issue, with some going to the 9th and 11th Indiana cavalry regiments and 11th Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry. 

Operation of the gun was by depressing the lever, the barrel rose, opening the breech for loading. Afterwards the lever was raised to close the gun's breech. Once cocked, the loaded weapon could be primed by either placing a percussion cap directly on its nipple or by using Maynard's priming system to advance a primer to the nipple.

The brass Maynard cartridge did not have an integral percussion cap; a small hole in the middle of its base fired it when the external cap was detonated. The cartridge, which had a wide rim permitting swift extraction, was reloadable up to 100 times. This proved to be a significant feature for the Confederate troops equipped with it. Another significant feature was that the use of a metallic cartridge prevented gas escape at the breech, a serious concern for early externally primed breechloaders.
The Maynard had a good reputation for long-range accuracy, and it was highly praised by the soldiers on both sides.


Prewar as well as post war Maynard produced a wide variety of sporting rifles. The Model 1873, below, was the first Maynard with standard chambering for centerfire metallic cartridges.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

U.S. Springfield M-1875 Type III Officer's Rifle







An an original, U.S. Springfield Armory Model 1875 Type III, "Officer's Model" trapdoor Rifle. 

This series of rifle was manufactured circa 1877 to 1885 and were considered as a true badge of rank and distinction held only by U.S. Calvary Officer's. These were a private purchase weapon, procured directly from Springfield Armory on a special order basis only. 

There were three different types of "Officer's Model" rifles with a total of 477 Officer's Models made for all three types; with only 125 Type III Models made. 

The receiver, breechblock, lock plate, hammer, barrel tang, and barrel band were all highly embellished with a decorative fine scroll engraving and it was fitted with a hand selected American walnut stock. They all have a blued barrel/receiver with color casehardened breech block, lock and hammer assembly, trigger guard/trigger plate and buttplate.








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Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Sharps & Hankins Model 1862






The action was patented by Christian Sharps, July 9, 1861, and the rifles were manufactured by the Sharps & Hankins, established in Philadelphia in 1863. 
The United States Ordnance Department purchased about 8,000 variations of the M-1862 Sharps & Hankins from 1862-1865. 

There were 700 rifles, like the one on the left, manufactured; all but 100 were purchased for use by the Navy.  
Most of the rifles were used to arm Marine guards aboard ships and some were used on gunboats on the Mississippi River. 
It is believed about 7,200 carbine were manufactured and vary some in detail and barrel size. Most of them finished blue, but some were tinned. Some of the carbines made for naval use have leather barrel covers, secured by two screws at the breech, for protection against sea-spray and salt air. 

Army carbines had saddle rings and no leather cover.

These rifles/carbines vary some in detail and barrel size. Naval carbines measured 35 5/8 inches overall with a 23 5/8 inch barrel, cavalry carbines had 20 inch barrels.

They were all .52 caliber weapons that fired the .56-52 Spencer rimfire cartridge.

Operation was by pressing a release behind the trigger and pulling the trigger guard lever downwards, this slides the barrel along the forward extension of the frame. 

Sharps & Hankins Navy Carbine pictured below.















Sharps & Hankins Short Cavalry Style Carbine pictured below.










This variation is also known as the 11th New York Volunteer Cavalry Model given the 11th Cavalry was equipped with Sharps & Hankins carbines. Only an estimated 1,000 Short Cavalry carbines were manufactured, and many had a tinned finish. 

Below is yet another S&H that I have yet to find out just what variation it might be. Possibly another Navy model.








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Monday, November 7, 2016

The Lee Enfield “Dial Sight”



The iconic Lee Enfield rifle was introduced in the 1888 British Military rifle trials. It went on to become the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957.

Interestingly, the paperwork regarding the 1888 rifle trials specifies the use of a “Dial Sight”.

At the time the feelings were that any future European war would follow gallant civilized notions and would be fought like past Napoleonic style struggles between massive troop formations in the open fields of Europe. The Lee Enfield “Dial Sight” was designed as an additional sight for use against those large formations of troops.

The dial sight was standard on all .303 rifles until 1915 (including the Long Lee Enfields).
The front sight, or dial, is located on the left side of the stock about half way along.


The rear is a flip up aperture sight that is nestled in behind the safety catch on the left side of the action at the rear. It pivots on the safety catch pin and uses the same external spring to provide tension. When flipped up, the lugs engage notches in the spring and keep the aperture sight erected with a slight forward angle.


The Dial Sight part is rotated to the desired (or estimated) distance, from 1700 yards to 2700 yards, and the rifleman sights through the aperture and across the top of the lug of the handle on the dial sight. The rifle is canted up at what seems to be an absurd angle from the line of sight, especially with the longer ranges.


You actually sight along a tangent adjacent to the barrel line, rather than along the barrel or at a converging angle as you would with the normal adjustable battle sights.
The Dial Sight was designed to be used with the Magazine Cut Off, a plate that can be pushed across the top of the magazine to prevent the rounds from indexing upwards when the bolt is worked.


The idea was that a body of men could engage tightly packed masses of advancing enemy at extreme ranges by firing 'volleys' and loading single shot each time, under the command of their NCO. The 'dropping' of large numbers of heavy 215 grain weight bullets into a mass of men at extreme ranges would start to falter an advance and hopefully cause 'disquiet' among them at least. As the enemy drew closer, the sights would be adjusted, until the enemy were close enough to disengage the Magazine Cut Off and fire more rapidly using the magazine feed over shorter ranges, and using the standard blade and adjustable leaf sight on the top line of the barrel.

(Keep in mind that WW1 didn't evolve into a trench war until the spring of 1915, once both sides were entrenched, volley fire became essentially useless.)

(Sometimes called a ''Tangential Sight” or 'Long Range Volley Sight 'or 'Long Range Dial Sight'.)
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Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Merrill Carbine



James H. Merrill of the Merrill Patent Fire Arms Company, Baltimore, Maryland, received his initial patent pertaining to this carbine on July 20, 1858, U.S. patent 20,954. This was supplemented in 1861 by several additional patents involving improvements and refinements to the original. The basis for these patents was the copper-faced breech bolt, or plunger, which, being attached to the top-mounted operating lever, drives the combustible cartridge forward into the breech and serves as an effective gas seal. 

"While the U.S. government was lax in their acceptance of Merrill's firearms, the agents of the C.S.A. were more agreeable to beefing up their small supply of weapons for the impending conflict. It is assumed that several hundred went to the Confederacy until the Federal captured Maryland and Baltimore and then held the state and city under force of arms for the duration of the war. 

General Benjamin Butler announced that during his May 13, 1861, seizure and occupation of Baltimore he found 'several manufactories of arms, supplies and munitions meant for the 'rebels.'

"...The nervous Federal Government gave instructions to the United States Marshal's Office to search suspected persons or companies and seize all firearms. In a June 4, 1861 telegraph, Secretary Cameron instructed the U.S. Marshal of the Baltimore District to close a manufacturing facility.

'War Department, Washington, June 4To; Marshal Bonifant, Baltimore

Get possession of the whole thirty five hundred tons. Stop the factory and take all the work they have done and the materials in hand. Don't fail to execute this order instantly.
Simon Cameron
Sec'y of War'
While this order does not identify Merrill, Thomas & Co., a later sworn statement from Bonifant does. In his statement, the above directive is repeated with the following addition:
'I hereby cirtifie (sic) that the above is a true copy of the order sent me by telegraph to stop the factory & seize the goods of Merrill & Thomas (in the) Sun Building.
Washington Bonifant, U.S. Marshall'

On June 5, Bonifant closed the factory and seized the weapons."

The summertime and fall flow of armaments southward was not closed until November of 1861, when Brigadier-General Henry Lockwood's Eastern Shore Campaign cut off the passageway of goods through that peninsula into Virginia.

The Merrill carbines were produced in two versions: The First Type included a brass patchbox in the stock and had the breech lever secured by a flat, knurled latch.

The Second Type was produced without the patchbox and had the breech lever secured with a rounded, button type latch.

Both used the .54 caliber Minie balls with paper cartridges which were loaded by lifting the top of the breech lever.
The barrels were 22 1/8 inches and round with one barrel band.
Total production of type I and II Merrill carbines was just under 14,500.

The Southerners generally reported favorably on the handy carbines.
Federals, on the other hand, seemed to favor them only when no other breech loaders were available. By the fall of 1862 they were rather widely condemned within the ranks of the Army of the Potomac. As more modern weapons became available, Merrills were quickly replaced in eastern federal ranks. Few were still in the Army of the Potomac after the fall of 1863. Less well equipped Confederates and western Federals, however, used them throughout the war.

merrill5.jpg

merrill2.jpg



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