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Original U.S. Civil War Greene's Patent Under Hammer Bolt Action Percussion Rifle - c.1860

Item Description

 Original Item: Only One Available. This is something you don't see every day, and this is indeed the only example we have had of a Greene Under Hammer Rifle. The system was invented and patented by LT. COLONEL J. DURRELL GREENE, as indicated on the barrel tang markings, which are mostly faded:

NOV. 17. 1857

This is the rifle that introduced the bolt action system to the U.S. Army, probably somewhat copying the German 1841 Dreyse Needle fire Rifle. However, it proved somewhat premature, and it was decades before the U.S. would explore another bolt action design.

The rifle features an "UNDER HAMMER" placed in front of the trigger guard that has a "ring" machined into it for ease of cocking the weapon. It also has a somewhat unique loading system, in that it required the loading of two bullets, one of which served as a gas seal. In the initial loading sequence, a bullet was inserted, followed by a powder charge, then a second bullet. The first bullet actually left the muzzle when the rifle was discharged, while the second remained in the breech to prevent propellant gasses from escaping. When the rifle was re-loaded, this bullet was advanced into the bore, followed by a powder charge and a new "gas seal" bullet. The process would be continually repeated; thus each bullet saw dual use - first as a breech gas seal, and next as a projectile on the subsequent shot.

Another interesting feature was the "oval" bore the rifle featured. Greene purchased the machinery for producing his oval-rifled barrels from the Charles Lancaster firm of London, England, the originator of this easy-to-clean style of rifling. These rifles were manufactured by A. H. Waters of Millbury, Massachusetts. 

One Thousand Five hundred were produced for the American market, however the U.S.Military only purchased 900 of these. A further 3,000 were produced for an Export contract to Imperial Russia. Consequently this has become now only a true milestone in U.S. Arms development but indeed one of the rarest Civil War Rifles produced.

Interestingly its downfall was that on several occasions it was reported that the Percussion Cap had a tendency to "fall off" the inverted nipple under combat conditions. This resulted in no further Military Contracts being issued for the GREENE Rifle.

The rifle is mechanically complete and functions fine, though the bolt action works nothing like modern designs. The bolt can be removed from the rifle easily, and is marked with serial number 4532 on the bottom. Appearance wise, this rifle has been completely cleaned and turned into quite the showpiece. The metal work is all polished bright steel now, and really is quite lovely. The stock was varnished to keep it clean, making this a truly attractive showpiece. There really aren't any deficiencies to note, as can seen from the pictures.

The bore is quite nice, mostly bright with rifling. The "oval bore" rifling system almost looks like a smooth bore, but close examination with a light will show the subtle variations in the surface. It really doesn't look anything like modern rifling designs.

Extremely rare, as only 1,500 were ever made. We've had a few of these, and this is by far the best. Most interesting and ready to display.


Year of Manufacture: circa 1860
Caliber: Approx .50" - oval shape
Cartridge Type: Cap and ball
Barrel Length: 35 Inches

Overall Length: 53 Inches
Action type: Bolt Loading.
Feed System: Single Shot

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    New Jersey

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