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1855 Rifle Musket by Springfield - Very Fine

1855 Rifle Musket by Springfield - Very Fine

  • Product Code: FLA-3324-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a VERY FINE condition example of the US M-1855 Rifle Musket, as produced at the US national armory at Springfield, MA. The adoption of the Model 1855 by the US Ordnance Department was significant for a number of reasons. It was the first reduced caliber infantry long arm to be adopted for universal issue, being only .58 caliber, while all previous issue muskets had been .69 caliber. It was also the first rifled arm intended for widespread issue to all branches of the military. Prior to the M-1855, smoothbore muskets were the standard infantry arm, and rifled arms were reserved for specialty troops and were not issued in significant numbers. It was also the first US military arm specifically designed for use with the Burton Ball (the American modified version of the expanding base French Mini” ball). Finally, the M-1855 incorporated the automatic tape priming mechanism of Dr. Edward Maynard. This mechanical priming system used a varnished paper roll of priming pellets, much like a modern roll of caps used in a child’s cap gun. The system advanced the roll every time the hammer was cocked, placing a fresh primer pellet over the cone (nipple). A sharp cutting edge on the bottom face of the hammer cut off the spent piece of priming tape when the hammer fell. The M-1855 was officially adopted in 1855, but production did not get under way at the Springfield Armory until 1857, and at Harpers Ferry until 1858. Springfield produced a total of 47,115 M-1855 rifle muskets from 1857 to 1861 and Harper’s Ferry produced another 23,139 between 1858 and 1861. Although most collectors do not know this, the US Ordnance Department did let some contracts for the production of the M-1855 rifle muskets. These contracts went to A.M. Burt, J.D. Mowry, J.F. Hodge, J. Mulholland and A. Jenks & Son. However, the complicated tape priming mechanism slowed tooling and pre-production work, and none of these contractors ever delivered a single M-1855 rifle musket. However, all of them did deliver the simplified M-1861 rifle musket (which eliminated the tape primer system) after the Civil War broke out in 1861. The only contractor known to have completed any M-1855 rifle muskets with a functional Maynard tape primer was Eli Whitney Jr., but these were never part of any official Ordnance Department contract. The guns utilized condemned US arsenal produced Maynard priming locks, and it is believed the 350 arms of this pattern that he built were all sold to the state of Connecticut. The M-1855 went through a couple cosmetic and functional changes during its production run at the National Armories. Initially, it was produced with a long base, long-leaf adjustable rear sight, similar to the ones found on rifled and sighted US M-1842 muskets. It was also originally produced with a brass forend cap. In 1858, a new pattern rear sight was adopted. This sight featured a short base with an L-shaped leaf for 100 and 300-yard shooting and a longer 500-yard leaf. While Springfield started installing the new pattern of 1858 back sights in that year, Harpers Ferry did not start the installation of the new sight until 1859. In 1859, the nose cap was changed from brass to malleable iron and an iron patch box was authorized for installation in the obverse of the buttstock. As with any change in specifications for assembly line produced items, the changes went into effect as stores of older parts were used up. This resulted in a variety of rear sight and stock forend combinations, as well as a number of older stocks being used on 1859 dated specimens that do not have the patch box cut out. The US M-1855 Rifle Musket was produced with a 40” round barrel that rifled with three broad grooves. The front sight served as a stud for an angular socket bayonet. The stock was of walnut, and the overall length of the musket was 56”, and it weighed in at 9 pounds, 3 ounces without the bayonet. The US M-1855 Rifle Musket saw significant use during the American Civil War, as it was the most advanced US made rifle musket in production when the hostilities broke out. The M-1855 initially saw service with most of the US Regular Infantry regiments, but eventually saw issue alongside US M-1861 rifle muskets to a large number of regular and volunteer infantry regiments. Although the gun incorporated the Maynard priming system, the majority of Civil War issued M-1855s were fired with traditional percussion caps. This was due to issues with the fragility and reliability issues of the tape primers.

The US M-1855 Rifle Musket offered here is a VERY FINE condition example that was produced at the Springfield Armory in 1859. During fiscal year 1859, the Springfield Armory produced a total of 11,600 M-1855 rifle muskets. The gun features the July 28, 1858 pattern, short base rear sight and the post-April 21, 1859 iron forend cap. The same April 21, 1859 changes included the addition of an iron patchbox, to be inlet in the obverse buttstock. Due to the need to adapt machinery for the inletting of the patchbox and the need to fabricate the patch box covers, the patchboxes were not incorporated into production at Springfield until July 9, 1859. As this gun does not have the patchbox, this allows us to know that it was produced during the 1859 production cycle, after April 21st and prior to July 9th of that year. Rarely can the time frame that a US arsenal produced long arm be narrowed down to such a specific 10-week period. The gun is clearly and crisply locked on the lock: U.S. / SPRINGFIELD in two horizontal lines forward of the hammer and 1859 in a horizontal line to the rear of the hammer. The matching date 1859 is stamped clearly and crisply on the breech of the barrel. The tape primer door is clearly stamped with the correct, Springfield pattern spread winged eagle, with 5 arrows & 3 olive branches in its talons. The typical V P (EAGLE HEAD) proof and inspection marks are present on the angled left breech flat. The butt plate tang is stamped with the typical US mark. The left stock flat, opposite the lock, is stamped with a crisp, and completely legible “finish inspectors’ cartouche, a script JS within a rectangular box with rounded edges. This is the mark of long time Springfield Armory sub-inspector James Stillman. This is the correct cartouche, and Springfield manufactured M-1855 rifle muskets usually show either an “JS’ or a “HWG” finish cartouche. Interestingly, the gun does not bear the expected script ESA cartouche of Erskin S Allin, the Master Armorer at Springfield Armory. This suggests that for some reason the gun never passed its final inspection by the Master Armorer, and as such was likely sent to one of the states under the Militia Act of 1808, rather than being placed in US Government stores. I have had a couple of M-1855 rifle muskets from Springfield in this exact configuration and dated 1859, and know of a couple of others. I believe that since these were the last of the M-1855s to be produced without the patchbox that would become standard in just a few weeks, the guns were selected for state issue, leaving the most current pattern, “patch box” guns in store at the arsenal for the use of the regular army.

The gun is 100% complete and correct in every way and has absolutely no repairs or replacement parts. The complicated and delicate Maynard lock system is mechanically excellent and works crisply and correctly, exactly as it should; a partial roll of primers is even present in the lock. The gun retains the correct original rear sight, complete with correct swept wing style sight leaves. The rear sight retains much of its original blued finish, which has faded and dulled somewhat with age. The original sling swivels are in place on the triggerguard bow and the middle barrel band, and the original front sight & bayonet lug is in place at the end of the barrel. The original swelled-shank, tulip head ramrod is in place in the ramrod channel and retains good threads on its end. The metal of the gun is very smooth throughout, with only some extremely fine and very lightly scattered oxidized peppering and minute patches of pinpricking present. This is most noticeable near the muzzle of the musket, and around the breech and bolster, but in no way detracts from the overall appearance of this wonderful M-1855. The metal retains much of its “National Armory Bright” appearance, similar to when it originally left the armory, but was probably lightly cleaned at some point in time in order to return the luster to the metal. There are some extremely light and minor flecks of darker surface oxidation scattered here and there on the barrel, with a few of the areas appearing to be the result of some old fingerprints that were not wiped down. All the metal remains crisp, with sharp edges and good lines throughout, and the metal is free of any significant dents, dings or indications of abuse. The bore of the rifle musket rates about FINE and is mostly bright, with excellent, crisp rifling. The bore appears to have some light pinpricking and minor pitting scattered along its length, primarily in the grooves, and shows some light oxidation and possibly some old dirt and dust in the last few inches near the muzzle. A good scrubbing might bring the bore up to “very fine” or better. The iron buttplate shows the same patina as the balance of the musket, along with some lightly oxidized pinpricking and peppering, as is often the case on this piece of hardware that was often in contact with the damp ground. The stock rates about VERY FINE condition as well, and is extremely crisp. It is full length with no breaks or repairs present. There is a tiny surface grain crack to the rear of the lock mortise, but this is quite minor and mentioned only for exactness. The stock retains fine, sharp edges and lines and the wood to metal fit is wonderful. The stock shows no indications of any sanding, but was probably lightly cleaned at some point in time. The stock also shows some lightly added oil, which has left the buttstock in particular with the sheen of a well-worn and handled banister railing. As previously noted the original finish cartouche is present on the flat opposite the lock. The cartouche is only very legible, and remains crisp and sharp with none of the smearing that would be associated with sanding or even heavy cleaning. The stock does show some lightly scattered bumps, dings, and some tiny surface scratches from carry, service and use. There are, however, absolutely no indications of abuse and no repairs are noted.

Overall this is a very crisp and very high condition example of one of the most attractive and innovative patterns of US rifle musket ever produced. The lines and visual appeal of the M-1855 have always been very attractive to me, and the unique tape priming mechanism gives these guns much more character than the cookie-cutter, workman-like appearance of the later M-1861 rifle muskets. The gun is 100% complete and correct in every way and is in a really fantastic state of preservation. The M-1855 was the standard issue rifle musket for the US infantry at the beginning of the American Civil War and the majority of the guns saw hard service during the war, especially with the pre-war Regular Army regiments. All of those factors, along with their relatively limited production numbers, make high condition M-1855s difficult to find for sale. Every Civil War long arm collection needs at least one M-1855 rifle musket in it, and this very really wonderful and attractive example from Springfield Armory would be hard to upgrade without spending significantly more money. It will display wonderfully in your collection and it is certainly a gun that you will be very proud to own.


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Tags: 1855, Rifle, Musket, by, Springfield, Very, Fine