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Sep 12, 2007

Ask me about Proposition 305

Even during the Civil War, it was clear that the age of the musket had ended. Metallic cartridges were clearly the wave of the future. But the United States was in the midst of a war in of a scale never before seen in American history, now was not the time to completely change everything about the army and how it fights. Despite the intrusion of more modern guns, the basic infantryman would be armed with the rifle-musket until the end of the war.

At the start of the Civil War, the standard infantry arm was the Model 1861 rifle musket.

The Model 1861 was essentially the third revision of the Model 1855, minus the Maynard Tape Primer system. The subsequent Model 1863, approved and adopted in February of that year, was a revamp of the design that deleted the last vestiges of the failed priming mechanism (specifically the hammer and bolster of the rifle). Other revisions occurred: A slight change to the ramrod, redesign of the barrel band springs, and some changes to the finish.

In December of 1863 further revisions to the Model 1863 were approved, resulting in America's last muzzle-loading infantry weapon: The Model 1863 Type II

The most notable changes from the Model 1861 to the Model 1863 are the lockplate, hammer, and bolster. The lockplate and hammer were color case hardened (most 1863s I see are polished bright so I'm happy the case coloring is visible). The bolster was redesigned, deleting the cleanout screw (which created more problems than it solved) and brought the cone closer to the powder charge in the barrel. The hammer was redesigned accordingly.

The Model 1863 Type II has a redesigned rear sight for speed of production: In place of the two rear sight leaves to provide sighting to 100, 300, and 500 yards, only one sight leaf is provided while still providing sighting out to the same distances.

The flat barrel bands of the Model 1861 were replaced with rounded barrel bands which were easier and cheaper to make.

The retention swell at the end of the Model 1861 ramrod and its corresponding stock cutout were deleted in the Model 1863, opting to use a leaf spring inside the stock to secure the ramrod.

It's less apparent as my musket has a reproduction ramrod which is slightly thinner than an original, but if you look closely you can see that the ramrod channel on the Model 1863 (below) is consistent where the Model 1861 widens ahead of the front barrel band.

Further revisions are harder to explain without a Model 1863 Type I on hand for visual comparison. Thankfully I have the next best thing: The Colt Special Model 1861.

Correspondence between Colt and the Ordnance Department rather convincingly suggests that Colt, noting the design compromises in what was essentially the Model 1855 Type III, offered to prototype up a new design to replace the Model 1861. Right off the bat the key differences between the Model 1863 and the Special Model 1861 are apparent: The case hardening of the lockplate and hammer and the design of the hammer itself. Other than that, the Model 1863 was very much identical to the Special Model 1861 and the changes it made to the design: The rounded barrel bands and the swell-less ramrod.

Other than the rear sight leaves, the major change from the Model 1863 to the Model 1863 Type II were the return to using leaf springs to keep the barrel bands in place as it was found that the screw-tension barrel bands would work themselves loose over time and over-tightening could damage the stock.

Finally, the last major change of the Model 1863 Type II was a redesign of the ramrod: The tulip head was replaced with a slotted jag head similar to the British Pattern 1853 Enfield.

This change wasn't immediately made, however, as approximately 9.48 skrabillion tulip-headed ramrods had already been produced, so finding a Model 1863 Type II with either ramrod was correct.

Taking a peek at this specific rifle, the important thing to note is that the stock is definitely original and correct, bearing the inspection cartouche of Robert P. Beals, who worked at Springfield Armory from 1862 to 1879.

Moving on, it's apparent that the barrel has been cleaned up as the tang date and proof markings show wear.

Wait, what the hell is that over the tang date?

Who the gently caress is Thomas? gently caress you, Thomas!

McNally fucked around with this message at 22:44 on Mar 4, 2019


Sep 12, 2007

Ask me about Proposition 305

I've stumbled onto a bit of a mystery on the Model 1863 muskets.

The sling swivels on US muskets had been held on by tapered pins driven in and filed flush since, I think the Model 1816.

On this Model 1863 Type II, the rear sling swivel is held on by a screw.

I can't find any reference to a change being made in how the sling swivels are held on (other than the obvious "we're changing over to screw-tension barrel bands, so obviously the band with the sling swivel gets a screw" thing, along with "no need to change the screw on the barrel band with the sling swivel now that we're changing back to barrel band springs" thing). So I start looking up photos of Model 1863 muskets.

It's a mixture of filed pins and screws.

So I turn to my reference books. One of them has a healthy selection of photographs of Springfield muskets, 1861 to 1863 Type II.

It's an even more confusing mixture of filed pins and screws.

At first I thought maybe it was a late-war production expediency thing, like the simplified rear sight, that they started doing to the Type II. Except no! In the book there are photos of Type Is that DO have a screw and Type IIs that DON'T have a screw!

But also Type IIs that DO have a screw! And Type Is that DON'T have a screw!

And my Google-Fu isn't turning up any relevant collector chatter on the subject.

Screw it.

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