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British P1842 Rifled & Sighted Musket

British P1842 Rifled & Sighted Musket

  • Product Code: FLA-3291-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $4,995.00

The British military in the first part of the 19th century was nothing if not traditional, and quite conservative. Change, especially regarding infantry muskets, was certainly not at the forefront of thought for the high command. The late 1830s saw the British line infantry still armed with the India Pattern (aka 3rd Model) Brown Bess flintlock musket that had been adopted in 1797, and which was in essence little changed from the flintlock muskets carried by the line infantry nearly one hundred years earlier. The guns were nominally .75 caliber, smoothbore, with pin-retained barrels and a flint battery. While minor improvements occurred in the overall system from the 1740s through the end of the 18th century, there had certainly been no great strides made in firearms technology for the British infantryman. This can in some part be attributed to the huge stores of flintlock muskets in inventory at the close of the Napoleonic Wars, and as Great Britain settled into nearly four decades of peace in the post-Waterloo era it is understandable that a country that had spent some twenty years on a war footing would take advantage of the opportunity to relax, enjoy the peace in Europe and be satisfied to arm their military with the hundreds of thousands of muskets that were already on hand. The fact that few muskets were set up after 1815 (the battle of Waterloo was June 18, 1815) makes it clear infantry arms were a low priority at the time. However, the rest of Europe was certainly moving forward, particularly the Prussians, and technological advancements around the world in small arms design could not be ignored.

The modernization of the British infantry musket can be mostly attributed to George Lovell, who was appointed Inspector of Small Arms in 1840. His influence began in the years preceding this appointment, and by 1831 Lovell had developed what would become the first British Military percussion infantry musket, the Pattern 1838. The resistance to change at the highest levels of the military, and the desire to rely upon the huge number of arms in storage, kept the Lovell design from being officially adopted until 1838. Even then, only a small number of the new arms were ordered to be set up. The new gun retained the 39” (actually 39.25”), .75 caliber smoothbore pinned barrel of its predecessors, but added a new back action percussion lock and a rudimentary backsight. Another innovation included the use of a break-off or hooked breech system. At about the same time the Board of Ordnance decided to have 30,000 new flintlock muskets assembled to start replacing some of the guns that had been in service for several decades. These were to be assembled from the large stocks of parts on hand. However, the clear advantage of the percussion system resulted in the decision that instead of assembling these muskets as flintlocks, they would instead be assembled as percussion muskets. Thus, the Pattern 1839 Musket was born. For all practical purposes these guns were nothing more than a percussion version of the flintlock Indian Pattern musket. They were mostly assembled from the same India Pattern parts then on hand, but were built as percussion guns, rather than converted to percussion. The use of the older pattern locks, often pre-drilled for the flintlock battery, can provide the illusion that these were percussion alterations, but they were not. Although Lovell’s Pattern 1838 musket was technologically superior, the expediency of relying upon parts on hand conspired to make the Pattern 1839 musket the standard British infantry musket. By late 1841, a new pattern of percussion infantry musket was on the verge of being approved. This gun was designed to take advantage of improvements in manufacturing techniques, and incorporated some basic improvements over the Pattern 1839. The musket that would be officially adopted as the Pattern 1842 remained a .75 smoothbore gun with the same nominally 39” round barrel that had been in use since the adoption of the India Pattern Brown Bess in 1797. However, it incorporated a greatly improved lock, a rudimentary backsight and changed the barrel retention system from pins to wedges. The flintlock style, New Land Pattern, brass sideplate was eliminated and new, square-eared brass escutcheons (known as Lovell’s Sidenail Cups) were adopted to reinforce the stock where the lock screws entered. From a manufacturing stand point the two most important changes were adoption of standard sized screws with standardized threads and the welding (rather than brazing) of the percussion bolster onto the barrel. The new Pattern 1842 was officially adopted on October 27, 1841 and three days later, the need to produce the new musket was greatly increased as the Armories and Ordnance workshops of the Tower of London were destroyed by a fire. In the process, nearly 300,000 small arms were destroyed, including older India Pattern flintlock muskets and many of the newly produced Pattern 1839 muskets. Stores of older parts were also destroyed, thus the motivation to keep building guns based upon available older pattern parts on hands was somewhat reduced. Production of the new Pattern 1842 went forward at full speed, and it was soon the standard British infantry musket, with the Pattern 1839 filling the roll of “substitute standard”. The Pattern 1842 would hold the distinction of the being the last Ordnance Pattern smoothbore musket for issue to the British infantry, much as the US Model 1842 musket was in America. Like the American Model 1842, the British pattern would be superseded by the adoption of a rifled arm of reduced caliber. For the British military, this would be the Pattern 1851 Mini” Rifle, with a slightly reduced bore diameter of .702” instead of .75”. The P1851 still retained the wedge secured barrel and general appearance of the Pattern 1842, but included an adjustable backsight to take advantage of the rifled bore. The P1851 would remain in production a relatively short time (1851-1855), with only about 35,000 manufactured before it was officially replaced by the thoroughly modern Pattern 1853 Enfield in .577 caliber. The overlap in production between the Patterns 1842, 1851 and 1853 can primarily be attributed to two factors: the Tower of London fire, which left the British short of infantry arms, and the Crimean War, which erupted in October of 1853 and found the British military woefully unprepared to field and equip a large expeditionary force. As a result, the line infantry regiments went off to war carrying a mixture of older Pattern 1839, more newly produced Pattern 1842 and the newest Pattern 1851 muskets. By the end of the war, in March of 1856 most of the regiments were no longer armed with smoothbore muskets and were primarily carrying Pattern 1851 and new Pattern 1853 muskets, as well as some rifled and sighted Pattern 1842 muskets.

The adoption of the Pattern 1851 Mini” Rifle meant the end of the smoothbore era in the British military. At the suggestion of Lieutenant Colonel Sandham of the Royal Engineers it was undertaken to upgrade some of the existing stocks of Pattern 1842 muskets by rifling and sighting them. A total of 26,400 of the muskets were modified between April of 1852 and April of 1855, allowing the newly improved guns to be issued simultaneously with the new production Pattern 1851 Mini” Rifles. The initial supply of rifled and sighted Pattern 1842 muskets were issued to the Royal Marines, but it appears that as the war in the Crimea erupted that additional rifled and sighted Pattern 1842 muskets were issued to line infantry regiments as well. The improvements were simply to rifle the bore, which slightly increased the nominally .75 bore (actually .753”) to about .758” with four grooves and to add a Pattern 1851 adjustable backsight. After the adoption of the Pattern 1853 Enfield with three groove rifling, this pattern of rifling was adopted. Thus, earlier upgraded P1842s have four groove bores and later ones have three groove bores. Although the Rifled & Sighted Pattern 1842 was produced in very small numbers for a rather brief period of time it was an important stop-gap weapon at time when Great Britain was in desperate need for modern rifled infantry arms. Even though the small-bore P1853 made it nearly anachronistic by the end of the Crimean War, the gun filled an important role and saw service during one of the toughest campaigns that the British military would endure until the Great War a half-century later.

Offered here is a VERY FINE example of a scarce British Pattern 1842 Rifled & Sighted Musket. The gun remains in wonderful condition and is 100% complete and correct in every way and is even accompanied by an original Pattern 1842 socket bayonet. The lock is clearly marked with the British Crown over V.R. over TOWER 1847 as well as with a small Crown/Broad Arrow ordnance acceptance mark. The interior of the lock has a Crown/12 viewers mark and the top edge of the lock is marked 37 and with the assembly mating mark \ \ | | |. This same mark, \ \ | | | is found on the bottom of the barrel and as two separate marks \ \ and | | | in the ramrod channel. The bottom of the barrel is additionally marked DEAKIN for the barrel maker William Deakin (Birmingham c1807-1848) and ENFIELD and KEEN. The toe of the stock is marked J KEEN for the master contractor that produced the gun. This is the mark of gunmaker Job Keen who had entered the gun trade in London c1813 as a walnut dealer and gunstock maker. By 1841 he was working as a gunmaker at 61 GlO’ster Street. The top of the barrel at the breech is marked with a variety of British military inspection and proof marks. The gun was likely inspected twice, once at the time of original manufacture and once after the upgrading and rifling of the bore. The barrel also shows the opposed broad arrows and large S mark indicating the gun was eventually surplus and “sold out of service”. The reverse buttstock is clearly stamped with the British Board of Ordnance ownership and inspection mark of a (Broad Arrow) / BO. The obverse buttstock is also clearly stamped with the classification mark I.C.R, or “1st Class Reserve”, indicating that the gun was of an obsolete pattern held in reserve. This marking would have been applied in the post P1853 era, when the large bore guns were being downgraded and removed from active service. The lack of additional 2nd, 3rd or 4th class markings indicate no major repairs or damage and that the gun was never downgraded to drill purpose. The stock flat, opposite the lock is marked J. CROCKETT, likely the mark of the “setter-up”, the man who actually assembled this particular musket. The base of the rear sight bears the maker’s mark WH&Co, as well as a viewer’s mark. The ramrod channel is marked T RIDLEY as well as with several viewers marks and the assembly marks previously mentioned. Thomas Ridley was a gunstock maker who had worked at the Tower of London and who produced gunstocks in Birmingham and later London from the early to mid 19th century. The ramrod is marked T & C G for the Birmingham small-work firm of Thomas & Charles Gilbert, and bears a military viewer’s mark and the rack mark M / 68. The accompanying bayonet is made by Makin and is so marked on the ricasso.

As previously noted the gun is in VERY FINE condition. The gun is one of the last of the British military muskets to be browned, as the transition to bluing was officially approved c1844 and the final transition took place c1846-1847. The barrel retains about 80% of the period browned finish (possibly applied during the refurbishment and rifling of the gun), and shows some thinning and fading, especially around the muzzle and at high edges and contact points. The barrel is free of any notable pitting, but does show scattered areas of minor surface oxidation and some scattered pinpricking. The color case hardened lock retains about 50% of the vivid color with fading and dulling. The most noticeable loss is at the rear of the lock where it has dulled to a tobacco brown color. All the markings on the lock and barrel remain quite crisp and legible. The lock remains mechanically excellent and functions perfectly on all positions. The bore of the musket remains in VERY FINE condition and is mostly bright with crisp, three-groove rifling, suggesting this gun was modified circa 1854-55 (after production of the P1853 Enfield had begun), likely for Crimean War issue. The original backsight is present and remains in fine, fully functional condition. The original Lovell’s bayonet catch is present under the barrel at the tip of the stock and functions correctly as well. Both sling swivels are present as well. An original “snap cap” (nipple protector) is present, suspended from the correct pattern brass chain and iron split ring. The iron base is in very good condition and part of the leather pad remains in tact, with moderate leather loss. The original ramrod remains in VERY GOOD condition and is full-length with good threads at the end and remains well marked. The correctly modified button head is slightly concave for use with elongated ball ammunition. The rod shows some scattered pitting and age discoloration which keep it from rating “fine”. The stock remains in VERY FINE, and shows on signs of ever being sanded. It retains crisp edges and fine lines and all markings remain very clear. The stock remains solid, full-length and is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The stock does show some scattered handling marks and minor bumps and dings, as well as a few bruises and scrapes on the butt. All of these appear to be from handling, storage and use, and there is no apparent abuse or excessive wear. The accompanying Pattern 1842 bayonet by Makin remains in about VERY GOOD condition. It has a nice, even brown patina that matches the musket well. The bayonet shows scattered even light pitting, but remains full length and quite sharp and all markings remain clear and legible.

Overall this is a really fantastic example of a very scarce British Pattern 1842 Rifled & Sighted Musket. As noted the gun is complete and correct in all ways, and with only 26,400 so modified, these are very scarce guns today. This would be an outstanding addition to any advanced collection of 19th century British military long arms, particularly one that focused on the Crimean War or the Royal Marines. These guns are even harder to find than the Pattern 1851 Mini” Rifle and any advanced collector of 19th century British infantry arms knows how difficult those guns are to find. I doubt you will have another chance to obtain such a fine example of this scarce gun any time in the near future.


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Tags: British, P1842, Rifled, Sighted, Musket