The 19th Century was a busy one for firearms development. At its beginning armies used .75 cal. smoothbore muskets like the Brown Bess, and by its end they were using the fully modern .30 cal. box magazine repeater with smokeless powder. One of the big technological jumps happened during the US Civil War with the transition first from the smoothbore musket to the rifle, and then to the breechloader and repeater.
American Rifleman has a very interesting article comparing two post-CW rifles: the Trapdoor Springfield (which became standard Army issue), and the 1866 Winchester. Which was better for general combat use? The author, a Marine officer, tries them out.
Over across the pond, the British were also converting their existing Enfield rifles to breechloaders using the Snider conversion. How much better was it than the standard muzzleloader? Here’s a head to head comparison.
No question that the Federals would have adopted the Allin “Trapdoor” breechloading conversion for the US Springfield, which became standard in 1866. Would the Confederacy have been able to do the same with the Snider for their stock of Enfields if the war had lasted another year?
And finally, a comparison of the P53 Enfield Rifle Musket and the P61 Short rifle. the P56/58/60/61 Short rifle, also called the “two bander” was favored by Confederate sharpshooters because it was lighter and handier—something you will clearly see in the video. Did it shoot as well as its longer brother? Take a look and find out.
UPDATE: This short video shows graphically how difficult it was to shoot even a short rifle while lying down, and by extension why a breechloader was so much better for that kind of work. Having a Sharps rifle really did give Berdan’s men a solid advantage.
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