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Rare Variant British Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle Socket Bayonet by Salter

Rare Variant British Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle Socket Bayonet by Salter

  • Product Code: EWB-2589
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $450.00

The Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle is one of the least often encountered of all general issue British military percussion long arms. The gun was the first rifled percussion arm to be widely issued to the British line infantry, replacing the smoothbore Pattern 1842 percussion musket, and foreshadowing the end of the Napoleonic Era “Rifle Regiment”. The gun was adopted in 1851 and was manufactured from 1852 through 1855, with some 35,000 total rifle muskets being produced. It appears that nearly every one of the P1851s saw service, as arms researcher and author DeWitt Bailey notes that by April of 1855 approximately 34,000 P1851s were issued for service. 


At the beginning of the Crimean War, the P1851 was the most advanced weapon in the British military small arms arsenal. It retained much of the styling of the earlier P1842 musket, with a barrel secured by keys (wedges), and brass pipes to retain the ramrod. Unlike the .75 caliber P1842, the gun had a slightly smaller bore, measuring .708 and a 39” long barrel that was rifled with four broad, fairly deep grooves of uniform depth. An adjustable long-range rear sight was affixed to the upper rear of the barrel, which was graduated to a maximum distance of 900 yards. The balance of the gun was essentially the same as the earlier pattern smoothbore percussion muskets that it was designed to replace. 


The Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles performed fairly well in the Crimea but were quickly supplanted by the newly adopted Pattern 1853 “Enfield” Rifle Musket. This gun was a major advance in infantry long arm design and featured a reduced caliber bore of .577, a more advanced rear sight and a barrel secured by clamping barrel bands, instead of the P1851’s wedges. The P1851 was so quickly replaced by the new technology of the “Enfield” that at the conclusion of the Crimean War the guns were considered completely obsolete. The hierarchy of the British military expected long arms to have a useable service life of 10 years and required even obsolete weapons to be held in reserve for emergency issue for at least that long before being offered for sale. The Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle was held in such low regard after the adoption of the P1853 that the many of the guns were “stored” outside, exposed to the weather in an area adjacent to the Tower of London known simply as “the ditch”. More than likely this “storage area” was in fact the old moat that surrounded the Tower in earlier days, and it appears that due to a poorly managed and somewhat corrupt ordnance supply system, much of the surplus materiel from the war in the Crimea suffered a similar fate. 


With the coming of the American Civil War, and the urgent need for infantry long arms by both sides, a large number of obsolete British arms were sold as surplus, most of which were sold to the Confederacy by S. Isaac, Campbell & Company. According to Confederate purchasing records, some 14,900 British Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles were purchased during the early days of the war. Most of these arms were purchased between August of 1861 and January of 1862, with a handful purchased in the summer of 1862. Records indicate that at least 10,000 of these arms (and probably all of them) were purchased from J.E. Barnett & Sons of London, who had acquired the guns from the British Ordnance Department. Due to the fact that the arms had been left exposed to the elements in the Tower ditch for several years, Barnett refurbished the guns to make them functional. This apparently included the replacement of worn, damaged or missing parts and also involved re-proving the guns at the London Proof House. It is also likely that bayonets had to be contracted for to provide with the guns, as many of the bayonets were no doubt missing, damaged or unserviceable due to exposure to the weather. All known examples of Confederate imported Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles show a set of London commercial proofs, applied during the Barnett refurbishment process, in addition to their original British military proofs, or their remnants. Barnett sold the majority of these arms to S. Isaac & Campbell at a rate of 40 shillings each, including the socket bayonet, and the Confederacy was charged 44 shillings, a simply 10% mark up for handling the sale. The summer of 1862 purchases were sold to the Confederacy at the lower rate of 40 shillings each. The guns were inspected by Messrs. Curtis and Hughes, who had been hired by S. Isaac & Campbell to act as viewers of arms. The P1851s inspected by Curtis & Hughes bear the inspection mark of CH / 1 in a small circle, on the upper comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate tang. Confederate documents refer to the Pattern 1851 rifle muskets by a number of different names, including “Old Army Pattern, rifled,” “Second-Hand Government Rifles,” “Minié Rifles,” “Second-Hand Rifles 1851 Pattern,” “Brown Bess Rifles 1851 Pattern” and “Rifled Brown Bessies.” Pattern 1851 Rifle Muskets were arriving in Confederate ports no later than January of 1862, with deliveries continuing throughout most of that year. According to the McRae Papers, P1851s were included in the cargos of the blockade runners Gladiator, Harriett Pinckney, Southwick,Stephen Hart and Ella Warley. While the guns that were aboard the Ella Warley and Stephen Hart (some 3,520 guns) were lost to capture by the Federal blockading squadron, 11,380 Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles were successfully delivered to Confederate ports and were subsequently issued for service. These guns had already seen hard use in the Crimea and saw additional hard service in Confederate hands. The end result is that the Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle is now a rarely encountered weapon and to my knowledge, only about twenty Confederate marked P1851s are known to exist today.


The only item related to the Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle that is scarcer on the market than the gun itself is its accompanying socket bayonet; the Pattern 1851 Socket Bayonet. The standard P1851 bayonet was an adaptation of the British Pattern 1842 Socket Bayonet that had been in use with the British military previously. Only two dimensional changes were made to the new P1851 bayonet when compared to the earlier P1842. First, the muzzle diameter of the new bayonet was reduced to a nominal .87” from .945”. This was a result of the reduced .708” caliber of the P1851 versus the earlier .75” caliber P1842. Secondly, the muzzle to stud distance was reduced on the new P1851 bayonet because the P1851’s front sight was placed closer to the muzzle than the bayonet stud was on the P1842. This new distance was only 1.2”, versus the earlier 1.6”. Otherwise, the bayonets are visually nearly identical with an overall length of 21”, an 18” wide triangular blade similar to those in use since the Napoleonic Era India Pattern Brown Bess and a 3” socket with a three step mortise and no locking ring. The bayonet was secured by an eccentric ridge on the rear edge of the socket that engaged the Lovell bayonet catch under the muzzle of the musket. Like most British socket bayonets of the period the construction was of a combination of iron and steel with the iron socket and neck blued and the steel blade left bright.


The first 18,000 P1851 bayonets were actually modified from existing stocks of P1842 bayonets by having their sockets shrunk by a process of heating and cooling and having the third step of the bayonet’s mortise cut an additional .4” to get the right muzzle to stud distance. Additional bayonets were supplied by the various British Ordnance Department contractors in Birmingham, as none of the bayonets were produced at Enfield. British military examples were inspected, typically with a {CROWN} / B / 7. Those bayonets produced for commercial sale were not inspected. For whatever reason, the survival rate of these bayonets is extremely low, and over the last two decades I have had the opportunity own and sell seven or eight P1851s, but this is only the second P1851 bayonet I have ever had the opportunity to offer for sale.


A few years ago, a second variant of the British Pattern 1851 Socket Bayonet was brought to light by research done by David Noe and Joe Serbaroli Jr. in their book European Bayonets of the American Civil War. This variant of the Pattern 1851 Socket Bayonet was not previously discussed in any published work and is not found in the standard work on English bayonets, British & Commonwealth Bayonets by Ian Skennerton. The unique variant depicted and described on pages 36 and 37 of Noe & Serbaroli’s book appears for all practical purposes to be a standard Pattern 1853 Enfield Socket Bayonet, with a single significant dimensional difference; the bore diameter of the socket is nominally .85”-.87”. This bore measurement is correct for the British Pattern 1851 rifle musket, but no other British long arms. The nominal muzzle diameter of the Pattern 1835 Socket Bayonet is .785” and the only larger bore British long arm to accept a P1853 style socket bayonet is the Pattern 1859 India Service Musket, which was a .65 caliber smoothbore version of the P1853 Enfield for use by the Native Troops in India. The Pattern 1859 Native Troops Socket Bayonet has a nominal bore diameter of .80”, significantly smaller than the .85”-.87” bore diameter on the example noted by Noe & Serbaroli. In their text the authors note five known examples that have been able to examine, with two being War Department marked with a Broad Arrow/WD mark and crowned Enfield inspector marks. One is noted as being without War Department marks but with the contractor name T LAWRENCE on the ricasso. They note that the fourth example is unmarked and make not comment about the fifth example. They also note that four of the five examples were found in the United States and only one was found in Great Britain. The authors appropriately note that the “WD” mark was not used until 1855, so the bayonets bearing those marks are unlikely to have been produced prior to that date.


The authors postulate that as the end of production of Pattern 1851 Rifle Muskets went on at the same time as early Pattern 1853 Rifle Musket production that these P1853 style P1851 bayonets were produced on an experimental or trials basis. They suggest this may have been due to the inadequacies of the Lovell catch, which had not been popular in service. I would argue that this hypothesis is unlikely. As these P1853 style P1851 bayonets were being produced at least two years after the adoption of the P1853 Enfield and its accompanying bayonet, and since the new system replaced the Lovell catch with a conventional French-inspired locking ring, there would be no reason to produce these bayonets on a trials basis. The only system had already been abandoned. Instead, I feel that these are what should be called Pattern 1851 Replacement Bayonets. I take this terminology from the US socket bayonets of the same era that were made with US Model 1855 pattern blades and the earlier M1816 or M1835 pattern socket. These were replacement bayonets for these older pattern arms that were still in service. Rather than produce the older style M1816 and M1835 pattern blades, the US Ordnance Department simply used the current production blade pattern with the older style sockets, allowing the new bayonets to be used on the older muskets. I feel that this is the same concept being used by the British War Department. As Pattern 1853 bayonets were already being produced, and an appropriately larger socket bore diameter would fit the Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle, producing a current pattern bayonet to fit the older gun makes the most sense when new bayonets were needed to replace bayonets that were lost, damaged or unserviceable. The fact that examples are known with both War Department and Enfield inspection marks as well as purely commercial examples shows that the bayonets were produced both for British military use and for commercial sale. The fact that four of the five examples noted in Noe & Serbaroli’s book were located in the US suggests that most of these variant P1851 socket bayonets were delivered to the southern Confederacy with the thousands of P1851 Minié Rifles acquired by that government. While more research is certainly needed, I think the replacement bayonet theory makes the most sense, as it is more than likely that many of the obsolete Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles sold as surplus to the south were missing their bayonets when they were pulled from the Tower of London “ditch.”


Offered here is a VERY GOOD condition example of a scarce Pattern 1851 Variant Minié Rifle Socket Bayonet. The bayonet is Birmingham military inspected example, but does not bear War Department ownership marks and is marked by the contractor who delivered the bayonet, Salter & Co. The face of the bayonet is deeply stamped SALTER & Co about 1.25” from the shank. The mark on this bayonet is deep but not that clear, as it was apparently struck at an angle with the tops of the letters deeply struck and the bottoms of the letters lightly struck. Salter & Co was one of the largest makers and contractors of bayonets during the mid-19th century and they produced thousands of bayonets for both the British War Department and commercial sale during that period, with many of the commercial bayonets seeing service with both sides during the American Civil War. The bayonet blade is additionally stamped with the initials J.T near the shank and with a B/54 Birmingham inspector mark. The initials suggest that bayonet was produced on the Continent, either in Liège or Solingen. English bayonet makers often contracted for bayonets from foreign makers during the Civil War era in order to keep up with the large orders whose deliveries were time sensitive. The lack of a “Crown” over the “B/54” inspection suggests that the bayonet was not inspected for British military service, but rather simply inspected by the Birmingham viewers, who commonly inspected foreign-made bayonets to make sure they were up to the Birmingham Small Arms Trade standards.


The bayonet in all ways conforms to standard Pattern 1853 Enfield Socket Bayonet measurements with an overall length of 20.5 inches, a 3 inch socket and a 1.2-inch stud to muzzle distance. The only measurement that indicates that this is really a Pattern 1851 Replacement Bayonet is the bore diameter of the socket, which measures .85”. Interestingly, these bayonets are designed to fit and lock onto the P1851 Rifle Muskets even with the Lovell catch in place, meaning that these bayonets could be used without necessitating the removal of the catch under the barrel.


As noted, the bayonet is in VERY GOOD condition. The socket and shank retain some minor traces of thinning blue and have a mostly smooth, streaky blue-gray patina over a dull pewter gray base color. Both the socket and shank are in very good condition with no real pitting present, although some scattered pinpricking is present.  Both ends of the socket remain perfectly round and show no damage that would affect the ability of the bayonet to be fixed to a musket. The blade has a dark smoky gray patina and a somewhat mottled appearance with patches of darker surface oxidation and age discoloration. The bayonet blade is full-length and remains quite sharp at the tip. The markings on the blade remain clear and legible. The original locking ring is in place as is the tension screw for the ring, and it operates smoothly. There are eight small dots punched into the top of the socket, the meaning of which is unknown, and which may indicate nothing more than a bored solider marking the socket. A small cross is also scratched into the top of the socket, between the locking ring mortise ridge and the dots. As usual, the bayonet has a few minor scattered dings and light handling marks but shows no abuse and the blade is free of any chips, although a few minor dings can be felt when you run you hand along the edges of the blade.


Overall, this is a nice, solid example of an extremely scarce British Pattern 1851 Variant “Replacement” Minié Rifle Socket Bayonet & Scabbard marked by Salter & Co. It seem quite likely that this bayonet was produced to be imported along with the nearly 15,000 Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles that were purchased by the Confederacy. This would make the seventh example known of this type of scarce socket bayonet and the first example marked “Salter,” based upon the research of Noe & Serbaroli, although other examples likely exist. This is an extremely rare bayonet that is rarely found for sale and it would be a fantastic addition to the display of your Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle.

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Tags: Rare, Variant, British, Pattern, 1851, Minié, Rifle, Socket, Bayonet, by, Salter