Original Rare U.S. Civil War Springfield Model 1861 Contract Rifled Musket by Union Arms Co. of New York - Dated 1863

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The Springfield Model 1861 was a Minié-type rifled musket shoulder-arm used by the United States Army and Marine Corps during the American Civil War. Commonly referred to as the "Springfield" (after its original place of production, Springfield, Massachusetts), it was the most widely used U.S. Army weapon during the Civil War, favored for its range, accuracy, and reliability.

The barrel was 40 inches long, firing a .58 caliber Minié ball, and the total weight was approximately 9 pounds. The Springfield had an effective range of 200 to 300 yards, and used percussion caps to fire (rather than the flintlocks of the 18th century, the last U.S. flintlock musket was the Model 1840). Trained troops were able to fire at a rate of three aimed shots per minute while maintaining accuracy up to 500 yards, though firing distances in the war were often much shorter. The most notable difference between the Model 1861 and the earlier Model 1855 was the elimination of the Maynard tape primer for the Model 1861 (the Maynard primer, a self-feeding primer system, was unreliable in damp weather, and the priming mechanism was expensive and time-consuming to produce). Further, unlike the Model 1855, the Model 1861 was never produced in a two-banded "short rifle" configuration.

The Springfield was aimed using flip-up leaf sights. The sight had two leaves, one for 300 yards and the other for 500 yards, and with both leaves down, the sight was set for a range of 100 yards. By contrast, the British Pattern 1853 Enfield, favored by the Confederates, utilized a ladder-sight system with 100 yard increments, using steps from 100 to 400 yards and a flip up ladder for ranges beyond 500 yards. While the Enfield's sights did allow finer range settings, the Springfield's simple leaves were more rugged and were less expensive to produce. The Enfield's sights extended to 900 yards (and further, on later models), compared to the 500 yard maximum range of the Springfield's sights. Realistically, though, hitting anything beyond 600 yards with either weapon was mostly a matter of luck. While the sight designs were very different, the two weapons were otherwise very similar, and had very similar effective ranges.

The Springfield Rifle cost $20 each at the Springfield Armory, where they were officially made. Overwhelmed by the demand, the armory opened its weapons patterns up to twenty private contractors, including the Union Arms Company of New York, N.Y.. The exact history of this company is somewhat hard to trace, as the Civil War market produced such a demand that companies almost sprung up over night. The company is often associated with Thomas Bacon, who had acquired his gunmaker skills in the 1840s working for the Ethan Allen Company. Later on and before founding his own company, he worked for different other makers, such as the Manhattan Company.

The company received a contract for 65,000 muskets, however apparently only ended up delivering 300 or so. Others may have been sent to the State of New York Directly. However as with the company, the exact origin of the muskets is not clear. Did Union Arms manufacture them, or simply procure them from another contractor? There is some believe that they contracted out to Parker, Snow, Brooks & Co. of Meriden, Connecticut, though this has never been conclusively proven. As with many of the contractors, they did not update to the Model 1863, and produced the Model 1861 configuration throughout the war.

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). It is unlikely that any of these 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. The number of Model 1861 muskets produced by the Springfield Armory was 265,129 between January 1, 1861 and December 31, 1863. According to United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines by Arcadi Gluckman Colonel Infantry, United States Army, published 1949.

After the war ended, many model 1861 and 1863 rifled muskets were modified to a breech loading actions with new metallic cartridges. With these modifications, the basic 1861 evolved into the Springfield Model 1873 which served the US until being replaced in the 1890s by modern breech loading rifles chambered for new smokeless powder rounds that were far superior to the Model 1873.

This example however was not converted, and is still in the original configuration. It is dated 1863 on the lock plate tail, and also has an Eagle stamped into the lock in the middle over U. S., with U.A.CO. / NEW YORK to the right. The markings on the lock are fully legible and crisp, and there is no major oxidation on the lock plate, which has a lovely patina. The barrel nocks form bears the standard proof marks of V / P / Eagle's Head, however the date on top has been eroded away by powder burn. There is also a G.E.C. inspector marking on the left side of the barrel, attributed to ordnance sub-inspector George E. Chamberlain, who worked 1862-1879.

The walnut stock has a great look, showing wear from service, as well as some repairs on the butt stock, including some wood filler and a wood graft repair on the right side. There is also a bit of wood filler on the fore stock, and like with the butt stock it is just used to fill in some small dents. There are the expected small dents, chips, and wear from being in service for years. There is also a small crack near the end of the barrel tang, but it does not go very far. The metalwork overall has a lovely oxidized gray patina, just like we love to see on these old service rifles. Both sling swivels are present and move easily.

The lock functions correctly, holding at half cock and firing at full. There is some powder burn on and around the cap nipple cone, which is frozen into the bolster and eroded. The cleanout on the bolster is however still able to easily be removed with a screwdriver. This gun has a correct three leaf sight, which is definitely a bit stiff. All three barrel bands still have their U markings, with a U.S. on the butt plate tang. The ramrod is the correct and original tulip type with an enlarged shank, and has worn threads on the end.

This is a great chance to pick up a Civil War Contract Rifled musket by a VERY rare maker in great display condition! Ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1863
Caliber: .58"
Cartridge Type: Minie Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 40 Inches

Overall Length: 56 Inches
Action type: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loaded

NOTE: International orders of antique firearms MUST be shipped using UPS WW Services (courier). USPS Priority Mail international will not accept these. International customers should always consult their country's antique gun laws prior to ordering.

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