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Identified British Volunteer Rifle

Identified British Volunteer Rifle

  • Product Code: FLA-3330-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

During the mid-19th century a new phenomenon in British nationalism and concern for the defense of the country had manifested itself with the Volunteer Movement. The British military had become somewhat complacent during the long period of European peace in the post-Waterloo era, and had retained the rather outdated, flintlock ignition, India Pattern “Brown Bess’ well into the percussion era. Even after the British military adopted percussion ignition they retained the large caliber smoothbore musket as the standard line infantry weapon, while the rest of Europe was adopting rifled arms for general issue, and in the case of the Prussians, breechloading rifled arms. The French revolution of 1848 which made Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I) the president of France unsettled European relations and for the first time since Waterloo, the likelihood of a French war with England, as well as an invasion by the French, seemed to be real possibilities. With hysteria ginned up by a burgeoning English press, a sense of nationalism and somewhat a somewhat unrealistic fear of a new war with France, many young Englishmen who followed the advice of some of the pamphlets of the day and sought to join Volunteer Rifle organizations. These groups were based upon target shooting clubs that had existed previously, but instead of using specialized sporting rifles, the groups armed themselves with military pattern arms, although they were often enhanced, had special features and did not exactly conform to official military patterns. These organizations, much like pre-Civil War American militia companies usually armed, equipped and uniformed themselves as they saw best, buying what they could afford. The groups were sometimes sponsored communally, sometimes individually and sometimes at the expense of a wealthy citizen or group of citizens who underwrote the expense. With the coming of the Crimean War and the alliance of France and England during that conflict the Volunteer movement lost some momentum, but not for long. By the latter part of the 1850s, with the war over and the possibility for French expansionism renewed, the Volunteers again took up their arms and fever spread throughout England. With the adoption of the Pattern 1853 Enfield and its .577 (25 gauge) bore, the War Department started to set out some rules and regulations for these Volunteer Rifle groups, which were in fact budding militia companies. The first major rule was that all arms utilized would have to accept the standard government issued .577 cartridges. This still left a lot of latitude in the type of “military style” rifle that the volunteers acquired, but the guns were at least all to be of uniform caliber. While Whitworth, Kerr and Alexander Henry .451 small bore rifles are often lumped into the “Volunteer Rifle” category, their caliber excludes them from being true “Volunteer Rifles”, and rather they were military style target rifles that could only be used in “small bore” or “any rifle” matches. The wide variety of variation in the .577 military style rifles acquired by the volunteers was amazing, with some guns being almost exact military pattern arms and some only vaguely resembling them. In an effort to standardize the arms of the volunteers, and because so many older (Type I & Type II) Pattern 1853 Enfields were available for refurbishment and issue to volunteer groups, by 1862 most volunteer organizations were being issued Pimlico refurbished P-1853s dating back to the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. The variety of volunteer pattern arms that were available for sale in the gun shops of London and Birmingham circa 1861-1862 is well documented among the many patterns of short rifles that were purchased by the Confederacy and exist today bearing Confederate inspection and inventory numbers. These guns range from checkered P-1856 pattern rifles with extended bayonet lugs and engraved furniture to brass mounted P-1856 Type II “Bar on Band” rifles, both of which outwardly resemble official British military pattern long arms, but do not conform to those patterns. The interest in shooting and the shooting sports was not necessarily restricted to these volunteer companies, and the top shooters of the mid to late 19th century were in many ways the sports icons of the era. Huge shooting matches were held at Wimbledon in London, with the National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom inaugurating the Wimbledon Cup in 1866, as the grand prize for the winning shooting team. In 1875 that prize was won by the American team and the cup was taken back to America where it resided at the National Rifle Association Creedmoor Rifle Range on Long Island, which is now Queen’s Village, Queens, New York. Today the cup is still awarded on an annual basis after the annual National Rifle and Pistol matches at Camp Perry. Numerous smaller matches were held in England and America, with a variety of prizes offered for the best team shooters as well as individual shooters. The modern descendants of these shooting competitions live on with the support of both the American NRA and the British NRA, with competitions like those hosted at Camp Perry, OH and by the North-South Skirmish Association in Virginia being direct descendants of the popularity of 19th century target shooting.

Offered here is a GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD example of a commercial production British Pattern 1856 Enfield “Short Rifle” of the classic “Volunteer” pattern. The P-1856 had been the second longarm of the P-1853 Enfield rifle musket family of small arms to be adopted by the British. While the P-1853 rifle musket had a 39” barrel and accepted a socket bayonet, the P-1856 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” P-1853. As adopted by the British Board of Ordnance, the P-1856 rifle was iron mounted, with an iron buttplate, triggerguard and nose cap. Commercial versions of the P-1856 rifle were sometimes produced with brass furniture instead of iron. The rifle was designed with a rear sight that was calibrated to 1100 yards instead of 900 or 1000 yards like the rifle musket. The rifle was .577 caliber and was rifled with 3-groove 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 P-1853 Rifle Musket. The very first variant of the P-1856 Rifle had a keyed bayonet lug, with a small guide extension forward of the main lug. This was quickly eliminated as unnecessary, but the feature is sometimes found on Volunteer pattern arms produced well after the feature had been eliminated by the British military. Volunteer pattern guns were often enhanced cosmetically with engraved locks and furniture, as well as checkered stocks (often of walnut with fancy grain). Often, they also incorporated mechanical improvements like higher quality locks, which were regularly highly tuned and polished for a smooth action and light trigger pull.

This Iron Mounted P-1856 Enfield Short Volunteer Rifle is a classic example of this pattern of arm. The gun is a standard Pattern 1856 Rifle conforms to the usual P-1856 specifications, but has been slightly enhanced. The rifle has a 33” barrel, is .577 caliber, is rifled with 3-groove progressive depth rifling with the standard 1:72” slow twist, and is mounted with a lug to accept a saber bayonet. The usual 1,100-yard rifle rear sight is utilized and the lower sling swivel is screwed into the toe of the stock, instead of being installed on the triggerguard; all standard features for a P-1856 rifle. The gun was clearly intended for “commercial sale” and bears the usual Birmingham commercial proofs on the left breech of the barrel, interspersed by a pair of 25 gauge marks, to indicate .577 caliber. The only obvious external “improvements’ are that the bayonet lug is the early Type I style with the guide key, and that the lock and furniture are all enhanced with simple foliate scroll engraving. Additionally, the lock is not marked with the usual British (CROWN) to the rear of the hammer or with a common “Tower & Date” mark forward of the hammer as would be expected on a commercial gun. Instead the lock is marked in two lines, forward of the hammer: JOHN DICKSON & SON / EDINBURGH 1859. John Dickson was listed as a Gun & Rifle Maker in Edinburgh Scotland, with the business established at 63 Princes Street in 1830. The firm became John Dickson & Son in 1840 and relocated to 60 Princes Street. In 1849, the firm moved again, this time to 32 Hanover Square where it remained until 1936. The firm remained in business as John Dickson & Son LTD until 1997. The other enhancement that indicates this is a Volunteer rifle is found on the interior of the lock. the lock maker was Joseph Brazier and his name is found stamped around the mainspring boss. Brazier was one of the finest gunlock makers of the period, and his locks were highly prized by competition shooters in the mid-19th century. The other mark of interest inside the lock is the name Fine which is found stamped over the mainspring. Normally a name found stamped in this location would represent the master contractor who assembled the gun. However, in this case the gun appears to of been assembled and delivered by W & C Scott & Son of Birmingham. A small W&CS is found stamped of the toe of the stock along with the number 936. The stamping in the toe of the stock always represents the master contractor who delivered the gun. I can find no reference to a gunmaker named Fine in any of my sources, so I must assume that Fine was a very small maker or possibly a setter-up employed by Scott & Son. The name Fine appear stamped on the bottom of the barrel as well. The top edge of the lock is marked with the assembly mating mark X | | |. The bottom of the barrel is marked with the matching assembly mating mark X | | |, and the matching mating numbers 65 are found on both the breech and the breech plug, which are simply mating marks for those two parts. The bottom of the barrels additionally stamped W & CS (just like found in the toll the stock), and with the initials JT and the number 416. The initials likely represent the barrel maker and the number is probably an inventory number to keep track of the number of barrels made or delivered. The ramrod spoon is marked T&CG indicating it was made by the Birmingham small work makers Thomas and Charles Gilbert. The ramrod channel shows the same assembly mating mark X | | | as is found on the balance of the gun. The same mating markets found on the next of the lock screws the tang screw and both barrel bands. The ramrod channel is also stamped with the name WHITEHOUSE. Edward White House was listed as a stock maker on Weaman Street in Birmingham during the mid-19th century. The bayonet lug is marked with the large Arabic numeral 5, as well as with the smaller number 916. Another indication of the use of this rifle in volunteer shooting matches is the German silver plaque inlet into the obverse of the stock. The rectangular plaque with clipped edges measures 1 7/8 inches wide by 7/8 inches tall, and reads in three lines:

Pte. G. Appleby
“H” Company

The rifle is in about GOOD to NEAR VERY GOOD condition. The rifle appears original and correct in all respects. The metal surfaces of the gun are a mottled brownish-gray patina with scattered surface oxidation, light to moderate pinpricking, and some light potting present. There is also some light surface corrosion scattered along the length of the barrel. The bore of the rifle rates about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD.The rifling remains strong and crisp along the entire length of the bore. The bore is partly bright with some darker patches present, and shows light pitting scattered along its entire length. There is also a dark ring present a few inches from the muzzle that might be pitting of might just be old debris that could be removed with a good cleaning. The biggest condition issue worth noting is that the barrel has been trimmed approximately ““ at the muzzle, possibly due to a ding or damage in that area. The lock of the rifle is mechanically excellent and functions well on all positions, with a strong mainspring and crisp engagement between the sear and tumbler, as would be expected on a competition quality rifle. The trigger is also very smooth and crisp; much nicer than typically encountered on an Enfield rifle. The lock retains none of its casehardened finish, and has a patina similar to that found on the barrel of the rifle, with scattered surface oxidation in a mottled appearance. The rifle retains its correct and original long-range rear sight that is graduated to 1,100 yards, and the original front sight. The original saber bayonet lug is in place on the barrel and is numbered 5 to match it to saber bayonet that fit the rifle. Both sling swivels remain in place as well. The upper swivel is attached to the upper barrel band and the lower one is screwed into the toe of the stock. An original snap cap is even in place on its brass chain, secured to the stock with the original iron split ring. These metal and leather “nipple protectors’ allowed the solider to “dry fire” his weapon without damaging the cone (nipple). These little accessories were included with every rifle and musket, but are rarely found with the guns today. This one is in good condition, with only part of the leather padding worn away. An original brass topped cork tompion is also present with the gun. An original and correct Enfield Short Rifle ramrod is in place in the ramrod channel under the barrel. The iron mountings have mostly faded pewter gray, and all show some lightly scattered surface oxidation and some minor surface roughness. The stock of the rifle is in about VERY GOOD condition. The stock is full length and free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The stock retains very crisp edges and shows no indication of having been sanded. As would be expected the stock shows a number of bumps, dings and minor impact marks, all likely the result of actual use in the field.

The rifle is accompanied by a silver-plated award cup. The bottom of the cup is marked ELKINGTON & Co, a well-known English producer electro plated silver during the 19th century. The bottom is additionally numbered 14648 and shows several small inspection and trademark stampings. The reverse rim of the cup is stamped to the left of the handle PINT and to the right of the handle with a British military inspection consisting of a (CROWN) / VR / 6. The front of the cup is engraved with an eight-line presentation that reads as follows:

With the
Goban Challenge Cup.
16th Sept 1882.
Won by
Col. Sergt Appleby
H Compy80 POINTS

I have not been able to find any information regarding the “Goban Cup”, but I have to assume it was a locally awarded shooting prize, possibly in Scotland. Additionally, I have not been able to concretely identify Color Sgt. Appleby, however, he managed to rise through the ranks from private to Color Sgt. between 1871 and 1882 suggesting that he had some modicum of ability as a soldier. I did, however, locate a color Sgt. Appleby of the 1st Royal Scots Regiment, which was stationed as the county regiment in Edinburgh area during the period that this gun is marked to. As the gun was sold by an Edinburgh retailer, I have a feeling that is who God belonged to. Some additional research into the first Royal Scots and Sgt. Appleby may prove fruitful.

overall this is a nice solid example of a British pattern 1856 Iron Mounted volunteer rifle. The rifle is identified and more research should be able to confirm that Sgt. Appleby was in fact a member of the storied 1st Royal Scots Regiment. It is quite possible that Sgt. Appleby saw service during the Second Opium War, and may even have still been in service to fight during the second Boer War. It seems unlikely, based upon the dates on the gun and cup, that he would've been in service during the Crimean War or would have lived long enough to serve during the Great War. Identified volunteer rifles are always a nice addition to any collection of 19th century British military pattern longarms, and the fact that this gun is accompanied by a presentation cup makes it that much more desirable. While the God is not in the finest of condition it shows real-world use and some significant amount of care or it would most assuredly be in much worse shape than it is now. The new owner would certainly profit from some diligent research regarding Color Sgt. Appleby and his British military service.


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Tags: Identified, British, Volunteer, Rifle