A Look at Some Period Guns

by Fred Ray on June 20, 2015 · 0 comments

Just a quick look at some period firearms.

Cap and Ball, whom we have met before, shoots an original .58 cal. Springfield rifle-musket. He shows it can shoot quite accurately at a distance, but OTOH he’s an experienced shot and has fiddled with it a bit.

Then, a look at the Needham postwar conversion to breech loading. Also pics of the Snider-Enfield conversion and the Trapdoor Springfield. Three solutions to the problem of what to do with all those muzzle loaders that fill your arsenals.

The Dreyse Needle Gun, one of the first service breech loaders and the prototype for the bolt action rifle. Adopted in 1843 it was contemporary with the Late Unpleasantness.

The French answer to the Needle Gun was the Chassepot, which was considerably more advanced and had much superior long range performance, although it still used a paper cartridge much like that of the Sharps. The French were not able to produce enough of them for the Franco-Prussian War and ended up importing substantial number of American rifles, including Rolling Blocks, Henrys, and Spencers.

The last of the service black powder guns was the British Lee-Metford, which was a modern bolt action magazine repeater that still used a black powder cartridge. It worked well enough against the dervishes at the Omdurman, but not so well against the Boers.

And finally, if you’re able to get CSPAN3 they are having a wealth of Civil War programs that have included the re-enactment of Lee’s surrender, the Grand Review in Washington, and much more. tonight I listened to part of a program by Harold Holzer on his new book about Lincoln and the press.

UPDATE: Couple of more to add to the collection.

The mitrailleuse was an early attempt at a machinegun. Actually it was more of a volley gun but had some unique features of its own. The French, who fielded it in the Franco-Prussian War, intended it to be used as artillery as sort of a long range canister. It was not very successful but is a fascinating piece of machinery. Nice article with videos and animation.

The Palmer breech-loading carbine, which was issued to Federal cavalry in small numbers. It’s another weapon that few (myself included) have heard of.


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