Fine British Military Pattern 1861 Enfield Short Rifle
- Product Code: FLA-3562-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The Pattern 1856 Enfield “Short Rifle” had been the second long arm of the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle musket family of long arms to be adopted by the British military. While the P1853 rifle musket had a 39” barrel and accepted a socket bayonet, the P1856 short rifle had a 33” barrel and was designed to accept a saber bayonet. The rifle was intended for issue to those troops who would be unnecessarily encumbered by the longer, “musket length” P1853 that was intended for general issue to the infantry. As adopted by the British Board of Ordnance, the P1856 rifle was iron mounted, with an iron buttplate, triggerguard and nose cap. The rifle was designed with a rear sight that was calibrated to 1100 yards instead of 900 or 1000 yards as on the rifle musket. Like the rifle musket, the rifle was .577 caliber and was rifled with 3-grooves with a slow 1:78” rate of twist. Initially the rifles had uniform depth rifling, but progressive depth rifling was adopted in 1858, as used on the P1853 Rifle Musket. Due to the shorter length of the rifles, the lower sling swivel was relocated to the toe of an extended triggerguard tang from its location on the front bow of the rifle musket’s triggerguard.
In November of 1857, the British Navy adopted a brass mounted, heavier barreled version of the P1856 short rifle that was rifled with 5 narrow, progressive depth grooves and a faster 1:48” rate of twist. These rifles went into production in 1858 and were designated the Pattern 1858 Naval Rifle. The new rifling proved substantially superior to the slower 3-groove rifling of the P1856 rifle, and in November of 1860 the Board of Ordnance officially adopted the new Pattern 1860 Short Rifle. This rifle was externally identical to the earlier Pattern 1856 but utilized a heavier barrel, and the P1858 Naval Rifle’s 5-groove, 1:48” progressive depth rifling. These new pattern short rifles were approved in November of 1860 and went into production for British military service in 1861. However, by that summer the guns were officially replaced by the new Pattern 1861 Rifle, which was essentially an upgraded Pattern 1860 with the newly adopted Baddeley Patent barrel band replacing Palmer Patent band in the lower position and a new 1,250-yard rear sight that was necessary to take advantage of the improvements in the powder in use for British military small arms.
Like the earlier Pattern 1856 and Pattern 1860 Rifles, the Pattern 1861 Rifle was iron mounted, with a blued barrel and bands and a color case hardened lock and furniture. The rifles were equipped with a lug that accepted the Pattern 1856 semi-yataghan bladed saber bayonet. While the earlier pattern rifles had seen substantial production from the various Birmingham contractors, the Pattern 1861 was primarily produced at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield Lock with limited contractor production. The Pattern 1861 Rifle was the last of the percussion, muzzleloading British military rifles. It was the most advanced variation to be produced and many of the Pattern 1861s never saw field service as they were the latest production arms and were held for service at the Tower. These rifles formed the core of the rifle supply for the Snider alteration program that began during the latter part of the 1860s.
Offered here is a FINEcondition example of a scarce contractor produced British Pattern 1861 Rifle produced by Thomas Turner. Thomas Turner was one of the premier gun makers in 19thcentury Birmingham. He was born in 1805 and worked from 1834-1890 at several Birmingham addresses. He initially worked as a gun barrel maker, and by 1838 had established himself as a gun, rifle & pistol maker, working at 8 Fisher Street in Birmingham from 1838 until 1890. He held multiple English patents related to gun and barrel making, including patented designs for sights, a breech loading action, “twist” barrels and non-fouling rifling system. He was a principle in the Birmingham Small Arms Trade (BSAT) and eventually became the second largest stockholder in the Birmingham Small Arms Company, LTD, which evolved out of the trade association. Few British arms makers were as well-known during the period and were such an important contract to the British War Department as Turner was.
The rifle is clearly stamped T TURNER along the toe line of the stock, behind the triggerguard tang. The usual array of British military inspection marks are found in the wood behind the triggerguard as well. The lock is clearly marked in two lines forward of the hammer TOWER / 1864 and with the British royal crown over VR at the tail of the lock. The interior of the lock is marked T TURNER over the mainspring and J DUCEaround the mainspring boss stud. John Taylor Duce was a gunlock maker as well as a maker of revolving pistols and sights located on Church Street in Wednesbury, Staffordshire circa 1854-1880. He was the son of John Duce who was also a gunmaker and contract gunlock maker to the Board of Ordnance (pre-War Department) working circa 1827-1854 at the same location. The right sidewall of the rear sight is also marked DUCE. The top edge of the lock plate is marked with the assembly number 12. This same number is found stamped under the barrel and in the ramrod channel of the stock. The screws have the assembly mating mark XII. The barrel is marked with British military proof marks at the left quadrant of the breech and with the name T TURNER underneath. Additional inspection and contractor initial marks are present under the barrel, and the breech and breech plug are both numbered 985. The barrel channel of the stock is also marked T TURNER. The obverse buttstock is stamped with a British military ownership roundel that consists of a (CROWN) / WO / (BROAD ARROW), surrounded by the words BIRMINGHAM • 1864. The stock is also marked with the rating number 1, indicating a “first class” weapon. The iron buttplate tang is engraved in three lines V / PEI / 117. This indicates the rifle was issued to the Prince Edward Island Volunteers and was gun #117. Prince Edward Island is an island off the Eastern coast of Canada and is now one of the Canadian Maritime Provinces, along with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The island was initially a French possession but was ceded to the British after the end of the Seven Years War (French & Indian War) by the 1763 Treaty of Paris; along with most of modern Canada. Initially called St. John’s Island, the island remained a somewhat autonomous British colony until it joined the Canadian Confederation in 1873. The Prince Edward Island Volunteer Militia was established circa 1780 and although the British government provided arms to the militia, the members were required to supply their own uniforms. After becoming part of Canada, the militia remained in existence in its original configuration for only two more years, as the Canadian Militia Act of 1875 reformed and reorganized the militia throughout the country.
The gun remains in FINE condition and is quite crisp throughout. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original with the only missing piece being the small screw retention washer from the upper barrel band. The barrel retains about 70% of its original blued finish, which shows significant thinning and oxidized toning towards plum brown on the exposed portion and retains most of the deep dark blue underneath where it has been protected by the stock. The lock has a silvery gray patina with no case colors remaining and the furniture has a similar pewter gray color, with some scattered surface oxidation and discoloration. The barrel shows evenly scattered flecks of surface oxidation with some light pitting around the breech and bolster area. The lock is mechanically fine, with the action functioning crisply on all positions. The bore of the rifle is about FINE as well. it is mostly bright with crisp rifling and evenly scattered light surface oxidation and frosting in the grooves along its entire length. The rifle retains the original and correct pattern rear sight that is marked DUCE and is correctly graduated to 1,250 yards; only the Pattern 1861 rifles had 1,250 yard rear sights. The original front sight is in place with traces of some sight brightening paint, suggesting the rifle was being shot at some point in the recent past. The original saber bayonet lug is in place and is marked with the initials TTand with the bayonet mating number 1603. Both sling swivels are in place as well. The original, full-length ramrod is in place under the barrel, with very good threads on the end. The rod is inspected and is engraved with the inventory number 117, matching the buttplate. An original snap cap (nipple protector) remains in place, attached to the stud in front of the triggerguard. It remains in very good condition, with the only obvious wear being the loss of most of the leather pad from the face of the protector. The stock remains in FINE condition as well. The stock remains solid and full-length with no breaks, cracks or repairs. The markings in the wood remain clear and the stock shows no indications of sanding, with strong lines and good edges. The stock shows scattered bumps, dings and mars, as would be expected from a military militia rifle that is more than 150 years old. There are a few minor nicks and scuffs scattered here and there, with the most noticeable at the wrist and behind the rear barrel band.
Overall this is a FINE condition and very attractive example of a British Pattern 1861 Enfield Short Rifle, produced by the famous Birmingham gunmaker Thomas Turner. The gun is very attractive and remains in very crisp condition. It would be a fine addition to any collection of British military long arms, and would no doubt be a fine shooting rifle for a serious black powder shooter as well.