Extremely Rare Belgian Made Spanish Contract Percussion Rifle: Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga
- Product Code: FLA-3773-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
In 1857 the Spanish military took a major step towards the standardization of small arms with the adoption of the Modelo 1857 series of rifled percussion long arms. The guns were based upon the English Pattern 1853 Enfield series of arms and strongly resembled them, with a few minor and distinctly Spanish differences. The adoption of arms based upon the English Enfield was appropriate, as English arms had been in general use with the Spanish military from the end of the first decade of the 19th century.
Spain had initially been a French ally during the first half of the series of Napoleonic Wars that tore through Europe from 1803 to 1815. However, in 1807 Spain become a vassal state of France with Napoleon’s brother Joseph serving as a puppet king on the throne of Spain. This led to general unrest throughout the country. In May of 1808, a nationalist uprising took place in Spain and a war for independence started to oust the French regime. This resulted in the Peninsular War campaign of the Napoleonic Wars and an alliance between the Spanish Nationalists and Great Britain. As Great Britain did with many of their allies throughout the Napoleonic Wars including the Portuguese and Prussians, a large number of English made small arms were provided to supply the Nationalist Spanish armies in the field. From that point on, for nearly half a century and even after the return of independent Spanish rule, the small arms of Spain were a mixture of Spanish and English models.
Prior to the first influx of English military arms during the latter part of 1808, the Spanish military’s arms were primarily produced within the country and utilized the Miquelet pattern flintlock ignition system. After at least a decade of English influence, more conventional flintlock designs started to be adopted by the Spanish, but the Miquelet lock remained in use by the Spanish military on at least some patterns of small arms through the end of the flintlock period. In 1831, the Spanish first adopted the percussion ignition system experimentally and the alteration of some previously flintlock ignition arms to percussion began on a limited basis. In 1839, the first percussion musket was adopted by the Spanish, the Modelo 1839. Despite the introduction of a new pattern of percussion musket, flintlock designs continued to be adopted for use as late 1843. As the Spanish moved through the 1840s and early 1850s more and more flintlock arms were altered to percussion.
During this period a variety of European countries influenced not only the alteration process of the arms but also the newly adopted percussion arms. The long, reinforced bolster area added to the breech section of many of the percussion altered muskets was similar to bolsters that appear on some French, Dutch and Swiss percussion altered guns. For the newly designed percussion arms, the guns often blended a variety of European and English features. Some muskets had a distinctly Germanic appearance, while others shows French influence. The Modelo 1846 cavalry carbine was a strange blend of a Germanic style musket from the buttplate to the single barrel band but forward of that point was decidedly English in appearance. For roughly a decade from the mid-1840s to the mid-1850s, the newly designed percussion arms received a very Germanic style percussion lock with a hammer block safety system that was popular on some Prussian small arms during the late 1830s and during the 1840s. During this period the small arms of the Spanish were very much of the “design by committee” system incorporating features from diverse sources and resulting is a fairly large number of models seeing use simultaneously without any significant amount of standardization.
Part of the trouble in standardizing of arms was the fact that the Spanish were involved with a series of “civil wars” known as the Carlist Wars during the mid-19th century. The First Carlist War (1833-39) and the Second Carlist War (1846-49) certainly impacted the ability of the government to standardize small arms and expend a significant amount of money on the acquisition of standardized arms.
As the Spanish moved into the 1850s, they started to experiment with rifled bores of a smaller caliber. Prior to this period, the 18mm (nominally .708” caliber) smoothbore was the standard for most Spanish long arms, with some special purpose guns in smaller calibers. Rifles were utilized based on English doctrine as specialty weapons for specialty troops and were not generally issued to the rank and file. In fact, prior to the percussion period, the majority of military rifles in Spanish service were English made flintlock Brunswick Rifles. However, in the early 1850s some smaller bore rifled arms began to see service with Spanish specialty troops, such as the artillery and cavalry branches. Many of these arms had 14.8mm bores (nominally .58” caliber) and seemed to foreshadow the adoption of the Modelo 1857 Rifle.
The first of the 1857 pattern arms was the Carabina Rayada Modelo 1857 Para Cazadores: The Model 1857 Rifle for Riflemen. This was an iron mounted rifle largely based upon the British Pattern 1856 Enfield Short Rifle. It was 14.8mm (.58 caliber) with a rifled bore and a nominally 33” barrel, secured by two barrel bands. Two sling swivels were installed, one on the lower barrel band and one in the toe of the rifle’s stock. The distinctively “Spanish” features that help to immediately differentiate the Spanish M1857 from the English P1856 were the unique Spanish system of attaching the rear sight to the barrel by means of a screw-fastened clamping band, the use of a longer breech area than the English rifles with a distinctive octagonal profile, and the use of a ramrod with a brass band around the jag head to protect the rifling from damage. Rather than the saber bayonet used by the British for the majority of their Enfield short rifles, the M1857 utilized a conventional angular socket bayonet, which was also based upon the 1853 Enfield Pattern. In addition to the infantry rifle, the M1857 series included an Artillery Musketoon and a Cavalry carbine, all based upon their English Enfield pattern counterparts. In 1858 a Marine Infantry Rifle was adopted which was essentially the M1857 Rifle with a saber bayonet and a variant of the 1857 Artillery Carbine was adopted as the M1858 with a new rear sight pattern and a new socketed machete type bayonet, reminiscent of the US M1847 Sappers & Miners bayonet. In 1859 an improved version of the percussion lock was adopted, and the new 1858 artillery pattern rear sight was standardized for more general use. This resulted in the newly redesigned M1857/59 Rifle as well as a new, “3-band” full-length infantry rifle the Fusil Rayado Modelo 1859 Para Infanteria which was the Spanish version of the British Pattern 1853 Enfield Infantry Rifle Musket. With a number of newly adopted, standardized smaller bore rifled long arms adopted for all branches of Spanish service, it was soon discovered that the Spanish government arsenals and private arms making industry within the country could not begin to meet the demand.
The demands for small arms by the Spanish government were based upon a number of Spanish colonial conflicts around the globe, the need to rearm and reequip Spanish and colonial troops in other colonies and a desire to take advantage of a respite from the Carlist Wars to finally modernize the small arms arsenal. The Spanish were engaged in south-east Asia (Viet Nam) during the Cochinchina Campaign of 1858-62, were involved in the Hispano-Moroccan War in Morocco from 1859-60 and would be involved in the Dominican Restoration War in the Dominican Republic from 1863-65 and the Franco-Mexican War from 1861-1867. Additionally, they were also trying to reinforce their far flung colonies such as Cuba and the Philippines. This resulted in the usual response of any 19th century European country that found itself in need of small arms in greater numbers than they could produce on their own. They turned to the gunmaking centers of Birmingham (England) and Liège (Belgium). In England the Spanish contracted for variants of the M1859 Infantry Rifle Musket, the M1857/59 Rifle and the M1858/59 Artillery Carbine. Some were produced with the Spanish style breeches and other Spanish features and others were simply commercial versions of the standard Pattern 1853 Rifle Musket, Pattern 1856 Rifle and Pattern 1853 Artillery Carbine.
The Belgian-made arms were more problematic. As hard as the Spanish were trying to standardize their small arms on the Enfield pattern, the Liège-made guns were based upon the current French and Belgian pattern muskets, rifles and carbines of the mid-19th century with back-action percussion locks, flat barrel bands retained by band springs and in standard French/Belgian calibers. The arms procured were the Fusil Modelo Belga, the Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga and the Tercerola Modelo Belga. The Fusil was a full-length, 18mm smoothbore infantry musket that was for all practical purposes a French/Belgian Model 1847 Musket. The Tercerola was also an 18mm smoothbore that was based upon the French Model 1840 Cavalry Carbine. The Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga was a much more interesting and was a truly unique weapon.
The Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga resembled a scaled-down French or Belgian infantry musket of the period. It was 48 ¾” in overall length with a 32 ¾” round barrel secured by three flat brass bands that were retained by springs. The upper band was a combination band and nose cap and resembled the upper band on some Liège-made rifles of the period, like the Brazilian Light Minié Rifle that saw use during the American Civil War. The other furniture was a mixture of an iron buttplate and trigger plate with a brass triggerguard. The overall dimension were quite similar to the French and Belgian pattern infantry rifles from the Model 1840 through the Model 1853 but utilized three barrel bands instead of two and had a 15mm (.59 caliber) rifled bore rather than the larger 18mm bore typical of the French and Belgian rifles. The barrel and iron furniture were browned, with the lock polished bright. The rifle did include some distinctively Spanish features, including the extended hexagonal breech, a rear sight secured to the barrel by a screw-tensioned clamping band and a steel jag head ramrod with a brass wrapping around the head. Like most Spanish-made arms of the period, all of the major components were also “serial numbered”, really assembly numbered. The gun was neither a French or Belgian model per-se, nor was it Spanish but was really a French/Belgian infantry rifle musket that was shrunk to the dimensions of the Spanish M1857/59 Rifle with some “Spanish” style features. This completely non-standard rifle that matched no current production long arm in any country’s arsenal in no way served to help standardize the Spanish small arms arsenal.
Interestingly, the very non-standard configuration of the Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga drew the ire of the Spanish press by the mid-1860s. At that time Spanish agents had been offering for sale and apparently delivering at least some of the Spanish-made Modelo 1857/59 Rifles to Confederate purchasing agents. Thus, the Spanish were actually selling off the very pattern of guns that they wanted to standardize their arsenal to! An article published on July 1, 1864 in the Spanish newspaper La Iberia refers to the use of these Belgian-made Spanish contract rifles by troops in Cuba and the sale of the Spanish-made guns to Confederate buyers. The article reads in part:
“Units of the Spanish Army in Cuba are currently equipped with expensive and inefficient Liège rifles, while La Euscalduna (a Spanish arms contractor) has to sell their precision weapons to the Confederate South Commissioners, eager to buy them.”
As the Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga was the only rifled arm procured in Liège by the Spanish during this period, the article was clearly referencing this pattern of gun.
There is very little in print about Spanish military arms of the 19th century with only the second volume of the three volume Spanish language set by Juan L. Calvo even listing these Belgian-made guns. Volume II, entitled Modelos Portatiles de Avancarga – Armamento de Piston (Portable Muzzleloading Models – Percussion Ignition) covers these guns in the third section Appendice 1839-1873. The author notes in the short section about the Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga that despite the fact that the guns are discussed and listed with great frequency in period Spanish military documents, extant examples are practically unknown. In fact, the author notes that the only example that they could find to illustrate for the book was in the collection of the Museo Militar de Castillo de Montjuich (the Military Museum of Montjuïc Castle) in Barcelona. He further notes that this single example was missing the rear sight, so they could not illustrate that feature of the rifles. Calvo notes that no other examples of these scarce Belgian-made Spanish contract rifles could be located. Unfortunately, the Military Museum of Montjuïc Castle was closed by a Ministirial Order of April 27, 2007 and the disposition of the museum’s collection is unclear. As a result, the Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga offered here may be one of the only surviving examples of these rare rifle and could possibly be the only complete example to survive.
Offered here is a VERY FINE condition, 100% complete and correct example of the extremely rare Belgian-made Spanish contract Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga. The gun remains extremely crisp throughout and is really in a wonderful state of preservation. The gun is assembly numbered 424, was produced in 1858 and is all matching throughout. The matching assembly number 424 appears on the exterior of the gun on the buttplate tang, the lock, the breech plug tang, the left breech flat and on the reverse of the stock between the tang and the single lock screw escutcheon. The number also appears under the barrel, on the attachment band of the rear sight under the barrel and in pencil in the barrel channel of the stock. The manufacturing date 1858 is found on the lock, on the counterpane of the stock and under the barrel. An oval Belgian maker’s cartouche with the letters FM is stamped on the nocksform on the top of the breech and on the counterpane of the stock. An additional mark, IL is stamped on the nocksform, under the barrel and on the ramrod, suggesting that the this may be a contractor mark of the maker of the barrel and the ramrod. The only other markings on the exterior are a large H stamped on the lock and nocksform that appears to be some sort of inspection mark. All of the markings remain clear and crisp with the exception of the assembly number and tiny makers marks on the counterpane of the stock, which are slightly weak due to age. The gun retains about 70%+ of the original browned finish on the barrel, with nearly all of it still present under the barrel where it has been protected by the stock and showing a large patch of loss between the breech and rear sight on the top of the barrel. When the gun was obtained it had a thick coat of old Cosmoline on the barrel and in bore. While this certainly helped to preserve the gun, it apparently weakened the finish in the breech area and removing the Cosmoline also removed some of the thinned finish in this area. The buttplate and trigger plate retain only some wispy traces of finish and have a mostly smoky gray patina. The lock has a similar pewter gray patina to the furniture with some areas of darker discoloration and some traces of old Cosmoline. The brass barrel bands and triggerguard have an extremely thick, uncleaned ocher patina that is very attractive. The barrel is essentially smooth with some evenly distributed light surface oxidation and some surface crustiness that appears to be more the result of the old Cosmoline crusting with age, rather than from any sort of pitting. The lock remains extremely crisp and functions correctly on all positions. The half-cock notch is in the typical European location, just barely above the percussion cone, where it functions as a true safety. The bore of the musket is in VERY FINE condition and is essentially mirror bright with fine, 4-groove rifling. Only some scattered flecks of surface oxidation are present in the bore, which is almost completely pristine. The original rear sight is present on the barrel, secured by its original fire blued tension band which is assembly numbered to the gun. The rear sight is a folding leaf aperture sight of a pattern that first appears on some Spanish military carbines in the mid-1850s. Both the rear sight leaf and method of attachment to the barrel are distinctly Spanish in pattern. The original combination front sight and socket bayonet lug is in place 7/8” from the muzzle. The rifle retains both of the sling swivels, with the upper swivel mounted on the middle barrel band and the lower swivel on the front bow of the triggerguard. The original brass-banded Spanish pattern ramrod is in place and is full-length with fine threads at the end. The stock remains in FINE condition as well. It is solid, full-length and free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The stock shows no signs of sanding and retains fine lines and some of the wood retains a somewhat feathery texture. The wood still has some old traces of Cosmoline in the protected areas and the nooks and crannies, like the sharp steps behind the barrel bands and in the tighter areas where furniture is inlet to the wood. The stock has an attractive orange tone and a straight but subtle grain that may be beech rather than European walnut. The stock does show some lightly scattered handling marks and minor dings and mars but shows absolutely no abuse or damage and remains as crisp as the balance of the gun.
Overall, this is a really exceptional condition example of an incredibly scarce Carabina Rayada Modelo Belga. These Belgian-made Spanish contract rifles from the end of the late 1850s and early 1860s are so rare that the leading Spanish language three volume set on the subject could only find a single incomplete example in a Barcelona museum to illustrate in the book. While there are almost certainly a few other extant examples floating around in institutional or private collections, this is the only example that I have ever seen anywhere. All mid-19th century Spanish military arms are extremely rare, particularly in the United States. This is a fabulous example of a very rare gun that belongs in an advanced collection of Spanish military arms or a collection that focuses on the mid-19th century military arms of Europe. This is one of those guns that I am quite sure that when you add it to your collection, none of your collector friends will be able to say, “I’ve got one of those…..”