Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Winchester Model 1866 Infantry Rifle
























The iconic Winchester Model 1866 went into production in 1867 and over the next 30+ years some 160,000 M-1866s would be produced, in rifle, carbine and musket variants. While most images of the M-1866 center on the American “Old West”, and involve the saddle ring carbine or the rifle, the musket was an important part of the Winchester product line because Oliver Winchester was always hoping to secure military contracts for his arms.

Winchester actually termed these Model 1866s as "Infantry Rifles" because the term "Musket" evoked visions of the unwieldy long barrel, large bore rifles that were produced during the Civil War era.

Even though the musket variant of the M-1866 did not go into production until late 1869 or early 1870, in the series known to collectors as “Third Model” 1866s, they had a major influence on military rifle design, especially in Europe. A large number of M-1866 muskets and a smaller number of carbines were acquired by the Turkish military and used to great effect during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, where their rapid-fire capability decimated the Russian forces during the Siege of Plevna. Although the Turks eventually lost the war, the firepower of the repeating Winchester resulted in many European countries developing tubular magazine fed repeating rifles.

The military musket had a 27” round barrel, with the 24” magazine tube allowing the rifle to have a full 17 round capacity.

It had 3 barrel bands, sling swivels and could mount either a socket bayonet (standard) or a saber bayonet, 1,000 or less, were equipped to accept a saber bayonet. Today 1866 muskets that are equipped for the saber bayonet are highly sought after by Winchester collectors.

Most estimates place the production of 1866 Muskets at somewhere around 14,000 units.



A limited number of the rifles were nickle plated, possibility for naval use? 










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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Over 30,000 Smith Carbines saw service during the American Civil War.





















The Smith Carbine was patented by Dr. Gilbert Smith on June 23, 1857 and successfully completed the Military Trials of the late 1850s. The carbines were built by Massachusetts Arms Company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts; the American Machine Works in Springfield, Massachusetts; or the American Arms Company in Chicopee Falls. The name of the distributor for the manufacturer, Poultney & Trimble of Baltimore, Maryland, is often stamped on the carbine's receivers. 



The carbine was the first breech-loading firearm that was compact enough for cavalry use and available in significant numbers at the onset of the Civil War. Though it remained in service throughout the conflict and was the fourth most-purchased firearm of its kind, the arrival of easier-loading, better-performing Spencer and Sharps carbines caused the Smith's production to cease in 1865. 



Over 30,000 plus carbines were consumed by U.S. government contracts, with limited numbers going to the civilian market. It was second to the Sharps as the most issued carbine during the Civil War.



Early versions are often known to modern collectors as Artillery models, but all Smiths were issued to cavalry units.


The carbines were considered to be accurate and reliable weapons. It was unique in that it used rubber cartridges which sealed the gases in the breech. The downside was that these cartridges were sometimes difficult to remove.














The .50 caliber carbine was loaded by opening the breech with a depression latch located forward of the trigger inside the trigger guard. Pressing the latch released the breech lock causing the barrel and forend to drop forward, exposing the breech.



Latch extension


It measures 39½” long overall and weighs seven pounds and eight ounces. Two-piece black walnut stock is made up of a 9” forearm held by a single barrel band. 


Units known to have received the Smith carbine include:
3rd West Virginia Volunteer Regiment, 7th Illinois, 11th Illinois, 1st Connecticut, 7th Pennsylvania, 17th Pennsylvania, 6th Ohio, 9th Ohio, 1st Massachusetts and 10th New York Volunteer. 

Reproductions are made by Pietta and sold by Dixie Gun Works.



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Sunday, July 16, 2017

One of the rarest and most sophisticated of small arms to be imported by the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
























The Wilson Patent Breech Loading Rifle.
Thomas Wilson was an engineer and inventor and held no less than 25 British firearms patents, which he registered between 1855 and 1868.
For a percussion ignition, breech-loading rifle, it was ingeniously simple and extremely sturdy. 

A simple “bolt” was located at the breech end of the barrel, which was secured by a transverse wedge, similar to an extremely oversized Colt pistol wedge. To load the gun, the wedge was drawn outward, away from the lock plate. When pulled out sufficiently, the wedge freed the simple bolt to be drawn backwards and exposed the chamber for loading. The bolt had a pivoting, fishtail shaped, checkered piece at its rear that gave the operator a firm grasping area for opening the bolt and a large target to slam the bolt closed with, when using the palm of his hand. A combustible cartridge was inserted in the chamber and the bolt slammed home to seat the cartridge. A greased felt wad in the bottom of the cartridge insured the chamber sealed completely and did not leak gas. The locking wedge was then pushed back into the bolt, securing it. At this point the hammer could be placed on half cock, and a percussion cap placed upon the cone (nipple). The rifle was then fired like any traditional cap lock. The placement and design of the wedge insured safety, as the hammer had to be in the fired position for the wedge to be moved. When the wedge was withdrawn (or not completely seated into the bolt), the hammer could not be moved at all and was blocked into fired position. This eliminated the potential for an accidental discharge while loading the rifle, or the firing of the gun without having the bolt completely in battery.

























"While no official Confederate order for Wilson rifles has yet been discovered, correspondence and other period documents indicate that at least a few of the rifles were purchased and delivered to the Confederacy. According a sworn statement, made by Archibald McLaurin, agent for the firm of J. Scholefield, Sons & Goodman in New Orleans, on July 10, 1862, the blockade runner Bamberg was carrying a sample Wilson’s breechloading rifle, destined for that firm’s showroom.
The Federal Blockading Squadron may well have captured the rifle after it finally left Havana.
Additional documentation comes from an April 23, 1863 letter from CSN Commander James North to G.B. Tennent of Courtney, Tennent & Company of Charleston. In the letter, North complains about the tight fit of the bayonet on sample Wilson rifle that he had examined. North goes on to say “If I have not ordered 200 rounds of ball cartridges to each rifle, you will please do so for me. Get me the form for making them, also the receipt for lubricating the wads.”
This suggests that at least some Wilson rifles were in use by the Confederate Navy as they not only needed ammunition for the rifles, but also the forms for making the cartridges in the south, and the formula for the wad lubricant. It would not make sense for the Confederate Ordnance Department to go to the trouble of obtaining the material to produce patent cartridges that could only be used in Wilson rifles, if there were not a number of the guns in service.

The seminal work“Firearms of the Confederacy” by Fuller & Steuart note that some Wilson rifles saw service in the defenses of Charleston. This seems possible, as Courtney & Tennent of Charleston appear to have delivered at least some of the rifles."

______________

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Peabody action was developed by Henry O. Peabody from Boston, Massachusetts, and was first patented on July 22, 1862 and tested in 1864.






















While the Peabody was not perfected in time for the American Civil War, a few were entered in the trials of 1864 with favorable reports. Peabody carbines and rifles were made by the Providence Tool Company, Providence, Rhode Island from 1866–1871. 



Rifles and carbines entered production after the end of the war. The total production was, 112,000 for all models.

The majority of Peabody's production was for foreign contracts, they were adopted by the militaries of Canada, Switzerland, France, Romania, Mexico and Spain during the later 1860s. In the US some state militia purchased the weapon, Connecticut 2000 rifles, Massachusetts 2,941 rifles and South Carolina 350 carbines

Available calibers were: .45 Peabody rimfire; .45-70 Government; .50 rimfire; 50-70; .433 Spanish; 10.4 mm rimfire Swiss.
Barrel length carbine 20", rifle 33". Finish: Receiver case hardened, barrel blued, iron mountings, walnut stock.

His basic design was based upon a pivoting breechblock, the front of which pivoted down on a transverse pin fixed through both the upper rear of the breechblock and the upper rear of the box-like receiver. As the breechblock was lowered, it exposed the barrel chamber and permitted the insertion of a cartridge. The rifle was fired by means of a musket-style outside hammer whose lockwork was inletted into the buttstock behind the receiver.


In operation, the hammer was set on halfcock, and the loading lever/trigger guard was pulled down to expose the chamber so that a cartridge could be slid down the grooved top of the breechblock into the chamber. As the lever was pulled up, an upward extension of the lever pushed the breechblock into battery and acted as a prop to keep it closed. After firing when the breechblock was lowered, it activated an extractor that pulled the spent cartridge case from the chamber, throwing it clear of the receiver.



All in all, it was a strong, simple, rugged, and foolproof design well suited for military service. 







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Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Colt Model 1855 was the most widely produced revolving rifle of the era. It was available in .36, .44 and .56 caliber and barrel lengths of 15, 18, 21 and 24 inches were available.


























In 1855 Colt introduced a spur-trigger revolver with a top strap that featured a fully enclosed cylinder. These handguns were officially named Sidehammer revolvers, but they also were known as "Root" revolvers after Elisha K. Root, who at that time was employed as Colt's factory superintendent and Chief Engineer.

Based on the Sidehammer design, Colt produced the Sidehammer Model 1855 rifles and carbines for military and sporting use, as well as a revolving shotgun. In 1855 it became the first repeating rifle to be adopted for service by the U.S. Military, but problems with the design prevented its use until 1857. The principal problem was that gunpowder would sometimes leak from the paper cartridges in field conditions, lodging in various recesses around the firing cylinder. Hot gas leaking from the gap between the firing cylinder and the barrel would ignite this powder, which would in turn, ignite all of the powder in the chambers waiting to be fired, known as a chainfire. A distrust in the weapon developed as a result. 

Field Commanders attempted to get around the problem in a number of ways. 
The rifle had to be properly and thoroughly cleaned, since sloppy cleaning would leave residue behind that would increase the risk of a chain fire. 
Some commanders instructed their men to fire the weapon only while supporting it directly in front of the trigger guard or by holding the lowered loading lever, which moved their left hand out of the path of danger during a chainfire. 

Other commanders instructed their men to load only a single chamber, preventing any chain fires from occurring. Loading a single chamber at a time also reduced the weapon to a single shot weapon, and effectively defeated the entire purpose of having a repeating rifle.

The U.S. government had purchased 765 Colt revolving carbines and rifles prior to the Civil War. Many of these were shipped to southern locations and ended up being used by the Confederacy. After the war began, the Union purchased many more rifles and carbines. Sources disagree over the exact number purchased, but approximately 4,400 to 4,800 were purchased in total over the length of the war.

The weapon performed superbly in combat, seeing action with the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The volume of fire from this weapon proved to be so useful that the Confederate forces were convinced that they were attacking an entire division, not just a single regiment, but still, the Ohioans ran out of ammunition, and surrendered. The rifle's faults would prove fatal for the weapon. A board of officers evaluated the evidence and decided to discontinue its use. 













 Colt produced the Sidehammer Model 1855 rifles and carbines for military and sporting use, as well as a revolving shotgun.



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