Original U.S. Civil War Springfield Model 1861 Colt Special Short Rifled Musket - dated 1863
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 Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, who produced approximately 100,000 under contract during the civil war.
Colt became the most notable producer of contract Model 1861 Springfield, as they had made several minor design changes in their version, the "Colt Special" rifled musket. Samuel Colt had acquired machinery that had been used to build Pattern 1853 Enfield rifles from the defunct Robbins & Lawrence Machine Shop & Armory, and as a result was able to make a rifled musket that had the "best" of the British and American designs. These changes included redesigned barrel bands, a new hammer, and a redesigned bolster, all derived from the Enfield tooling he had purchased. Several of these changes were eventually adopted by the Ordnance Department and incorporated into the Model 1863 rifled musket.
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 percussion format, though it was reduced in length by about 5 inches sometime after production, making it more of a short rifle. It is dated 1863 on the lock plate tail, and is marked under the bolster with:
COLT'S PT. F. A. MFG Co.
The markings on the lock are clear and overall the lock plate is in very good condition, especially considering the age. The one piece walnut stock has a beautiful dark brown color, and is in good condition, with cartouches still visible behind the lower lock screw. There are also the expected dents, scratches, and so forth expected on a service rifle of this age.
The metalwork overall shows peppering from past pitting, but it has been fullly cleaned and restored go put it in its best light. The area around the cap lock nipple has a lot of powder burn, which also has partly corroded through the nipple. It also has made the barrel markings somewhat hard to read, but under the right light the V / P / Eagle Head proofs can still be seen. The lock functions correctly, with a strong action, and it holds at half cock. This gun has the Colt Special double leaf rear sight, and both 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.
This is a great chance to pick up a nice Civil War Contract Rifled musket, fully cleaned and ready to display!
Year of Manufacture: 1863
Cartridge Type: Minie Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 35 1/2 Inches
Overall Length: 51 1/2 Inches
Action type: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loaded
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