The Enfield in the Civil War
"Authenticizing Your Reproduction Enfield"
The British Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-musket is a favorite of Civil War arms enthusiasts and reenactors alike. Its popularity among period soldiers of both sides is undoubted, having been variously called "the North's second rifle" (Note 1) and a "regulation Confederate weapon" (Note 2). Indeed, some 1,078,200 Enfields of all types were imported by both sides during the period 1861-1864 (Note 3). At first neglected in the reproduction market, the Enfield is now being reproduced and imported by three major companies: Navy Arms/Gibbs Rifle Co. (using the old Parker-Hale tooling, but now made/exported by Euroarms in Italy), Euroarms (made by Armi San Paolo), and Armi Sport (trademark of the Armi Chiappa company). Although the original Parker-Hale Enfield reproductions were made in England, these are now made in Italy, along with those from Euroarms and Armi Sport. The Parker-Hale tooling was based on the original parts gauges of the Royal Small Arms Factory, so its parts are closer in overall dimensions to those of original Enfields. (Note: When I speak of Parker-Hale reproductions in this monograph, I am referring to those true Parker-Hales that were made in England. I have not had the opportunity to examine one of the newer "Parker-Hales" made in Italy.)
Although the reenactor is fortunate to have a variety of reproduction Enfields from which to choose, none of these modern guns is a truly accurate recreation of the P1853 rifle-musket carried by Johnny Reb and Billy Yank. The reasons for this are many, the most important being that the gauges used by Parker-Hale in tooling up the first reproductions were those used to make the Fourth Model P53 at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield Lock from 1861-1865, which type was not in general issue as a muzzleloader, but held in store until converted and issued as Snider breechloaders, starting in 1866. Since the Italian companies evidently copied freely from Parker-Hale in making their own versions, the reproductions found today are basically copies of the Fourth Model P53, which was not in common use in the Civil War (only in very limited numbers - London Armoury Co. Ltd. guns made after mid-1861).
The Enfield most commonly (almost universally) used in the Civil War was the Pattern 1853, Third Model, made by various commercial firms in Birmingham and London (Note 4). A small percentage of Second Model P53s, the type with solid barrel bands retained by springs, was also used, but these were comparatively rare and more difficult to reproduce than the Third Model, so they will not be considered here. (For those who are interested, click here to see a listing of period images showing Civil War soldiers with Second Model P53s.) The British military gun manufacturing process in the 1850s and early 1860s was based on a trade of civilian makers furnishing arms to the Crown government on contract. These firms were often a family business handed down from father to son. Guns were not made by machinery as they are today; rather, each piece was forged/cast, fitted, and finished by hand, resulting in a truly handmade gun. This also resulted in a lack of interchangeability of parts between guns, which was the major complaint against Enfields by Civil War soldiers.
Original 3rd Model P1853 Enfield, made in Birmingham
Beginning in the late 1850s the government-operated Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF), together with the London Armoury Company Ltd. (L.A.Co.) of Bermondsey, just south of London, showed that the process of mass-producing firearms by machinery, which ensured their interchangeability, was by far the best method of military manufacture, thus spelling the eventual doom of the centuries-old gun trade. Indeed, the Civil War purchases by agents of both sides were the last major business deals enjoyed by many companies of the gun trade, and the sudden termination of Northern purchasing in late 1863 (when the US factory at Springfield could finally meet the Federal demand) put a number of the smaller firms out of business.
Factory of the London Armoury Co. Ltd., Henry Street, Bermondsey
It was this gun trade of private commercial firms that supplied the vast majority of Enfields used in the Civil War. It can be said with about 99% certainty that no RSAF-manufactured P53 saw use in the Civil War. A few guns with British government proofs and acceptance marks appear to have seen Civil War use, mainly earlier obsolete British guns that had been sold out of store and guns made up by the L.A.Co. from parts left over from an earlier government contract, but these are rare and will not be considered here. Indeed, although years of research have shown that there is no "all" or "none" when it comes to period Enfields, there are definite patterns to the types that were commonly imported into America. In keeping with the sound principle of portraying what was common during the War Between the States, the directions contained in this monograph pertain to these common types, not to the out-of-the-ordinary, low production, or one-of-a-kind guns that might be found.
The remainder of this monograph details all the significant changes you need to make in order to turn your reproduction gun into a near-mirror image of the Civil War Third Model P53 Enfield. Note that these instructions are specifically for the P53 3-band model, since this type was numerically far more important both during the Civil War (and also today). However, many of the changes apply equally to the P56/58 2-band models, and those wishing to authenticize this model are encouraged to delve into the references for complete descriptions of the 2-band models. Other changes, that I don't consider really significant or absolutely necessary, can be made, and these will be covered in "Notes for Purists," throughout the narrative.
If you do not already own a reproduction Enfield, your choice depends on a number of factors. If you wish to shoot live rounds, the earlier Parker-Hale is generally considered the most accurate in an as-issued condition, especially with Enfield-style Pritchett bullets, since it accurately reproduced the original Enfield-style rifling. However, this make is the most expensive, and it can be harder and costlier to authenticize, depending on the type of Enfield you choose to reproduce. The Italian guns are generally somewhat easier to authenticize and are definitely cheaper. Of these, the Armi Sport has a jump on the Euroarms, because it has more authentic barrel bands, but it has other faults which are not shared by the Euroarms model. Of course, if you already own an Enfield, just authenticize what you have.
A note on some other types of reproduction Enfields that have come onto the market recently. These guns are apparently made in India or Pakistan, and priced considerably cheaper than most reproductions. DO NOT BUY THIS TYPE! One is basically a reproduction of the P59 Native Infantry Musket, which was a smoothbore Enfield copy made for use only by colonial native troops, following the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The chances of a musket of this type having seen use in the American Civil War are astronomically remote. This reproduction can be told by its fixed block rear sight, bolster clean-out screw (even though the originals did not have this feature), ENFIELD markings on the lockplate, and general shoddy construction. Another is marketed as a reproduction of the First Model P53, but this gun also has serious faults.
So what type of Enfield do you choose to reproduce? A lot of personal preference comes into play here. The majority of Civil War Enfields were the common "Tower" type made in Birmingham, but quite a few London guns also appear (the totals were approximately 733,400 Birmingham and 344,800 London -- Note 5). L.A.Co. guns were somewhat scarce (probably no more than 43,000 total were imported -- Note 6), but they definitely saw use, and they are slightly easier to reproduce than any other type, due to their similarities with the RSAF-built gun. Do not be misled by the popular conception that Southerners used only London guns, while all Birmingham guns went North. This premise cannot be defended by contemporary records or modern evidence. The members of the gun trade were, first and foremost, good businessmen, and they saw no reason not to sell indiscriminately to both sides (whichever offered the most money). The Confederacy obtained somewhat of a monopoly over the purchase of L.A.Co. P53 Enfields from early 1863 to early 1865 (at least as far as sale to Americans went), but some 7700 were bought by Northern agents early in the war, and many intended for Southern hands were doubtless captured in the blockade and used by Federals (Note 7).
The best (and most authentic) choice is to reproduce a specific gun in a private or museum collection, provided it is not a rare type and you have access to it in order to photograph or draw all its pertinent markings. If this is not possible and you have no overwhelming personal preference, my recommendation is to copy the Birmingham "Tower" type, dated 1861 or 1862, as this is the most commonly encountered specimen today. Keep in mind that whatever type you choose, all its characteristics must match. If you choose to do a Birmingham gun, it must have Birmingham lock markings, Birmingham proofs, Birmingham stock markings, and Birmingham type furniture, and vice versa for London guns.
Figure 1 illustrates common types of Enfield locks. Three routes exist to reproducing an authentic lockplate: you can use an original of your choice; you can have your present plate ground off and reengraved with the proper markings; or you can purchase a replacement reproduction plate with the correct markings. The latter is generally the best choice today, if you are reproducing an Enfield with the most common markings. The original lockplate can be the cheaper route, but it is the most difficult. You must first find a fairly cheap one in above average shape (you do not want your lockplate to look 140-plus years old). This is pretty hard to do these days. If you do find a good one, you are faced with the task of fitting your lock parts to it and fitting it to your stock, which can involve some fairly major gunsmithing (no interchangeability of parts, remember). This method does produce the best look, provided you get a good plate that fits your gun well. NOTE: The gunsmithing required in matching internal parts to the original plate and to each other should be left to a qualified gunsmith, who can make the converted lock safe for use.
Another method, although probably somewhat more expensive, is to have a professional gun engraver grind off your present lockplate and reengrave it. If you wish to reproduce any but the most common type of Enfield, you will probably have to choose this route. A good engraver can make the markings resemble period styles, and he should be able to do the job by looking at the illustrations in this monograph. Of course, if you can show him the real thing to copy, so much the better. Make sure when he grinds off the present markings that he leaves the large crown at the rear of the plate, so it won't have to be reengraved. This method is easiest with a Euroarms lockplate, since it has no modern initials below the crown to be ground off, and it lacks the incorrect deep single edge line of the Armi Sport lockplate.
Fig. 1 - Enfield Locks
The Birmingham lockplate had a large crown behind the hammer, and a date (most commonly 1862, 1861, or 1863, in order of frequency) over TOWER forward of the hammer. The lockplate had a double line of decorative engraving around the edge, as found on the hammers of modern Enfields. An Armi Sport lockplate is harder to fix in this regard, because it already has one border line cast into the metal, but it needs two, and it is difficult to match an engraved line to the cast-in line (which is too deep anyway). Better to grind off the cast-in line and do both lines by engraving, or use one of the properly marked reproduction lockplates.
Fig. 2 - Birmingham Lock Details
The London commercial lockplate generally had the maker's name over LONDON forward of the hammer. Some had a crown behind the hammer, while some added TOWER below the crown. Many, but not all, had the double-line edge engraving. Note that if you leave the edge engraving off your lockplate, it should be ground off your hammer so the two will match. The letters of the maker's name and LONDON were sometimes straight, sometimes slanted to the right. Due to the variations in style, it is best to use an original plate or copy an original example if one chooses to do a London gun. The following table lists the most commonly encountered makers whose names appear on London lockplates.
London Commercial Firms
London Armoury Co. Ltd. (marking of date / L.A.Co.)
These are the most common of the London makers encountered. These names generally appear on the lockplate, not the stock. The names are printed here just as they appear on the lockplate, forward of the hammer, over the name LONDON, except for the L.A.Co. mark, which was stamped as shown. Note, however, that some firms made the letters slant slightly, and some varied their markings from gun to gun. London Armoury Co. and Barnett guns are by far the most common, comprising about 72% of the original London-made guns examined.
Fig. 3 - London Locks
The L.A.Co. lockplate is perhaps the easiest to reproduce. It had a crown over the royal cypher V.R (for Victoria Regina - Queen Victoria) behind the hammer, and a date (most commonly 1862 or 1863) over L.A.Co. in front of the hammer. No L.A.Co. P53 was marked "London Armoury Co." like the reproductions. Euroarms Ltd. has marketed a reproduction plate marked 1862 over L.A.Co., which makes an acceptable plate (for a Federal L.A.Co. gun), even though the lettering style is not quite right. These plates are occasionally available from Euroarms. The L.A.Co. lockplate lacked the edge engraving, so your hammer should be similarly unadorned. The L.A.Co. hammer was the later "heavy" type, but you will probably have to be content with the reproductions lighter hammer (which is correct for most other commercial Enfields), since original "heavy" hammers are difficult to find (see the Potts & Hunt lock in the photo on the right just above for a view of a "heavy" hammer).
Fig. 4 - London Armoury Co. Ltd. Lock Details
(Note for purists -- When Parker-Hale made the first repros, they must not have used the original manufacturing gauges for the hammer, because no repro hammer is really shaped exactly right. An original hammer that fits well is an excellent addition. As noted above, make sure the edge engraving on the hammer and lockplate match. In addition, the purist will want better "flame" engraving along the nose of the hammer - this decoration on the reproductions is poorly done - an original hammer will fix this as well.)
Fig. 5 - Comparison of Hammers
Another decision is required here: whether to leave your gun in its original finish (almost all Enfields were issued from the maker with blued barrels and casehardened locks), or to polish the metal bright. This matter has generated a great deal of debate in the reenacting community, particularly regarding barrel bluing, but research indicates the choice is largely a matter of personal preference. There is certainly no period evidence to support some reenactors claims that all Enfields in American use were struck bright, and period photographic evidence graphically debunks this myth. For an in-depth look at this debate, including references to period images and original weapons, click here. Do not be misled by common reenactor claims that your Enfield has to be bright to be authentic.
Retaining the original finish is the more expensive choice. You must have all the parts that have been ground off recasehardened or reblued. In the case of rebluing, you can do this yourself with commercial gun blue. But you must do a very good job, or the reblued parts will eventually age faster than the original finish, becoming obvious in time. Rebluing will be discussed in more detail in the section on the barrel, below. Recasehardening the lockplate can be expensive, and you probably cannot do it correctly at home. There are two methods currently in use to color caseharden ferrous metal: the modern way and the period method. The modern way involves an artificial chemical (cyanide) process that produces the mottled colors (this is the method used on the Italian reproductions), while the authentic period way is by the original bone charcoal method (which was used by Parker-Hale). Both methods can be pretty expensive or somewhat cheap, depending on what kind of deal you can get. If yours is the only part being processed in an order, you will definitely pay extra for it. You can save a lot of money if you can get your parts put in with a local gunsmith's larger volume order, so he absorbs most of the cost.
The modern method can be done by most metal treatment companies in larger cities. Be sure to specify mottled color casehardening, or you may get plain gray casehardening, which you could do at home. The purpose of all this is not primarily to reharden the metal, but rather to put the resulting color pattern back on. The bone charcoal method will probably have to be done by mail order, since very few people still do this. It is possible for the very advanced craftsman to do this at home, but it requires equipment and skill that is available to very few. Your choice of which method to use will probably depend mainly on cost and convenience. However, the difference in the final products is noticeable, and the 100% authentic choice is the bone charcoal method. If you cannot get recasehardening done for some reason but do not wish to have a bright gun, you can let your lockplate and hammer turn age brown through light rusting, since bone charcoal color casehardening is a fragile finish and rusts easily anyway, as many Parker-Hale owners can attest. Civil War Enfields on active service undoubtedly rusted and lost their color patterns fairly quickly.
Having your gun struck bright costs nothing but time and effort. You must remove the casehardening and bluing from all iron and steel parts (do not leave the blued finish on parts such as the rear sight or trigger, like some current "de-farbers" do). This takes a lot of elbow grease with steel wool or fine emery paper. The process can be accelerated somewhat by using a commercial blue and rust remover, but this will cloud the surface somewhat and make it harder to bring the metal back to a polish. And remember, bare ferrous metal usually requires a great deal of care to keep it from rusting. Nobody relishes waking up at a reenactment to find their trusty Enfield has turned orange in the bivouac overnight.
The barrel requires the least modification of all. Of course, the modern makers marks and proofs are an anachronism; these could be removed at home with a file or grinder. (Note this caution: it is illegal by US law to remove the serial number and maker's name from a firearm, and you should check your state and local laws to see if this applies to black powder guns in your area ... nothing herein should be construed as any sort of legal advice or advice to perform illegal modifications.) After the modern marks have been removed (those that show above the stock, anyway), the proper proof marks must be applied. Naturally, a Birmingham gun should have the proof marks of the Birmingham Proof House, while a London Enfield should display the proofs of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers. Figures 6 and 7 show the Birmingham and London proof marks in enlarged detail. While Birmingham proofs are uniform in appearance, London proofs often exhibit subtle differences from gun to gun, chiefly in the style of crown and GP marks. Not all London proofs had the 25 gauge mark, but all commercial L.A.Co. guns seem to have had it. L.A.Co. Enfields also had one or more small L.A.C marks (note no final period after the C) above or to the side of the proofs. The only variation in Birmingham proofs is that a few guns are marked 24 instead of 25 gauge; however, these are decidedly in the minority, and a hypothetical reproduction should be marked 25 gauge, since this was far more common.
Fig. 6 - Birmingham Proof House Proof Marks
Fig. 7 - London Proof Marks
The authentic proof marks can be engraved by a good gun engraver. Make sure he understands exactly what size they are to be and where they go on the barrel. It is also a good idea to deeply stamp or engrave the word REPRODUCTION on the bottom of the barrel, interior of the lockplate, and barrel channel in the stock, to preclude any possible confusion or faking many years from now, when your gun becomes an antique. At the same time, you should engrave or stamp the modern makers name and serial number on the bottom of the barrel.
Note that the most authentic choice for reproducing the proof marks is to have them stamped into the metal, as were the originals. Some gun workers who do musket "de-farbing" have these stamps, but you must be careful to select stamps that are the right size and shape -- I have seen some stamps that are much larger than the period marks. Bear in mind that the markings were different for Birmingham and London guns, and the proof mark types cannot be mixed. Also, as noted above, the proof marks and lock markings should match, and not be mixed between London and Birmingham styles (an unfortunately common mistake by some who do Enfield "de-farbing" on a commercial basis).
If your gun is to retain its finish, you must reblue all the ground off areas on the barrel. Make sure the areas to be reblued are well polished and completely free from oil and fingerprints, and use a good commercial gun blue such as PermaBlue. This is the cheapest solution, but the only cure for the eventual difference in aging is to have the entire barrel reblued by a gunsmith. As with the lockplate, rebluing can also be done by the proper period method, or by the modern method. The most authentic method of rebluing is the same as that used in the 1860s -- a cold rust blue. This method (when done correctly) produces a durable, deep blue-black finish, just like on original Enfields. Several modern gun workers do a good rust bluing (check the ad pages in "Shotgun News"). Or you can have your barrel hot-blued, which is the method generally used today, and relatively inexpensive. Make sure you have all your ferrous parts hot-blued in one order, to keep the cost down. Of course, you need not worry about any of this is your Enfield is to be struck bright.
(Note for purists -- The breech snail on the repros is not shaped exactly like the originals: there is too much metal along the curved surface. This could be corrected by very careful grinding, but I would only recommend doing this if you have an original to go by.)
Fig. 8 - Breech Snail Details
The stock requires little more modification than a new finish and a few markings. The finish on all the Mass-market reproductions is incorrect. Original Enfields were normally finished with boiled linseed oil, and most original stocks had a uniform color, contrasting with the mixed wood colors of many reproductions.
Begin your stock authenticizing by removing the modern finish. It is best to remove all the furniture except the rammer spoon for this procedure. Take care in driving out the pin that holds the front of the trigger guard (drive it out from the lock mortise side with a pin punch), and do not lose the small metal rammer stop that resides in a recess above the trigger plate. Use any good wood finish remover, available in paint and hardware stores (I use Zip-Strip), and follow its directions. Make sure you do not gouge the wood when using a putty knife, and take care not to round off any of the corners around the lock mortise or furniture pieces. The Parker-Hale is at a disadvantage here because you must sand off the Parker-Hale cartouche that is stamped into the right side of the butt. Overly stubborn finishes and stains can sometimes be helped along by applying heat from a hair dryer or carefully controlled heat lamp.
When the finish is off you will probably have to restain the stock, using a medium to dark walnut stain. Use as many coats as you need to produce an even color. However, bear in mind that some original stocks are fairly light, and your choice must be based on personal preference. After the stain has dried completely, finish the stock with boiled linseed oil (not plain linseed oil), also from the paint or hardware store. Use light coats, letting each dry completely and using fine steel wool between each. Two or three coats should be enough; you are not looking for a shiny satin finish, just a protective coating. Let the final coat dry 24 hours before further handling.
The stock bears few external marks. Most London guns are unmarked. If you are copying an original that is marked, by all means faithfully reproduce it. Most L.A.Co. guns had that firm's cartouche (see Figure 9) stamped into the right side of the butt, usually centered vertically and about two inches forward of the buttplate, although variations in the position are noted. This mark is difficult and expensive to reproduce. Each letter and number can be very carefully stamped separately using the appropriate style letters from a metal or leather stamping set, or a printing company can have a master made up (the method used to make signature stamps).
Fig. 9 - Stock Cartouches
Most Birmingham guns had only the name of the production firm stamped along the bottom of the stock, usually around four inches forward of the buttplate (see Figure 10). The table below shows the most commonly encountered makers' markings. These marks can be reproduced by having a piece of linotype made in Roman Uncial pica type (letters with serifs, all capitals, 3/32 inch high). Shop around on this item; single pieces of linotype can be made for as little as $1.00 or as much as $25.00 each. Check with small local newspapers or printing companies. Carefully stamp the stock with the linotype, making sure not to blur or double-stamp the mark. The name should be read from the right side of the stock. (Note - linotype is a fairly soft metal, and stamps made from it can only be used a few times before the letters become flattened.)
Birmingham Commercial Firms
COOPER & GOODMAN (*)
This list comprises the most common Birmingham makers I have encountered in examining original P53 Enfields. The first four firms together comprise about 40% of the guns examined, so they are by far the most common. The next six firms together make up about 39%, while the remainder are somewhat uncommon. If you are reproducing a hypothetical Birmingham gun, go with an 1861, 1862 or 1863 Tower made by one of the first four firms. The names are printed just as they were stamped along the bottom of the stock (so have your linotype stamp duplicate whichever name you choose from this list). Asterisks indicate members of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade who marked their products with the BSAT stock cartouche; however, none of these firms (with the possible exceptions of Pryse & Redman and Joseph Bourne) stamped ALL of their Enfields thusly. The BSAT stock cartouche began to appear profusely in 1863, and many of these firms apparently did not use it before that date.
Fig. 10 - Gun Maker's Name on Birmingham Stock
Same Birmingham guns made by members of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade (BSAT) had that cooperative's cartouche stamped on the right side of the butt, similar to the L.A.Co. mark (see Figure 9). This mark is even harder to reproduce than the L.A.Co. cartouche, and should be avoided unless you can have a printing master made, or have your gun stamped by one of the commercial "de-farbers," several of whom can now reproduce this marking and other cartouches. In any case, the majority of original Enfields seen today do NOT have a BSAT cartouche. (NOTE: all stock markings should be stamped into the wood, not inked on, so rubber stamps won't do.)
(Note for purists -- The reproduction stocks have noticeably more wood in them than original stocks -- they are thicker in most dimensions. This same situation exists in the repro barrels, which are thicker than originals (these two conditions add up to make some repros almost two pounds heavier than originals). I can supply a listing of the proper dimensions of an original Birmingham stock, for those wishing to make their repro stock even more authentic.)
Factory building of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade, from a
photo taken probably in the
late 1860s or 1870s.
Many of the furniture pieces can be used as they are, but some require modification. Excepting the Armi Sport, the barrel bands on all the reproduction Enfields are incorrect for the Third Model P53 as used in the Civil War. The reproductions (except Armi Sport) use the Baddeley Patent band, which was a distinguishing feature of the Fourth Model P53 and a few specialized target rifles. Enfields used in the Civil War had the earlier style (Palmer) band shown in Figure 11. The Parker-Hale enjoys a distinct advantage over older Italian guns due to its steel barrel bands. You can grind the Italian brass bands to the correct shape, but you cannot use them on a gun that is to be struck bright, since original P53s did not have brass bands. If your gun will remain blue, you will have to have the brass bands professionally reblacked, and the finish will eventually rub thin, allowing the brass to show through. Nothing ruins a good authentic Enfield impression more than brass showing through on the barrel bands. Italian guns made since 1985 have steel bands, so replace the older brass bands with a steel set, available from parts dealers. If you are replacing brass bands on an old Euroarms gun, I would recommend getting a set of Armi Sport bands, even though these will likely require some grinding to fit (see below).
The Armi Sport Enfield has barrel bands that represent the common type used on the Third Model P53, and are more correct than the repro Baddeley type bands. However, even the Armi Sport bands are not quite the correct shape, and they can benefit from some dressing up with a Moto-Tool (or similar hand grinder) to make their edge lines a little sharper.
Fig. 11 - Barrel Bands
If you choose to use your existing steel bands, grind them to match the shape of the original shown in Figure 11. A Dremel Moto-Tool or other similar hand grinder is indispensable for this. Take care not to grind off too much, since metal can't easily be put back on. It is best to do the rough grinding with a power tool and finish the job with a file. The Parker-Hale band screws must be replaced with originals or suitable modern types (Ml Garand band screws will fit and are almost the right shape). NOTE: Original Enfield screws will sometimes fit Parker-Hale parts, and vice versa. Original US musket screw threads were different, so US screws will rarely fit. Parker-Hale screws and Italian screws use different threads. Use care not to strip threads when mixing and matching parts. Original band screws often had screw stops, which can be reproduced by threading small circular washers onto the end of the screw, after it has been put into the band. Finish the bands to match the rest of your gun. Bands were often marked, some with numbers and/or crowns, some with initials or names. It is best to copy an original or leave them unmarked (but avoid RSAF government markings - see Figure 15). Note when reassembling the gun that the barrel band screw heads always go on the gun's left, the same side as the lock screw heads.
Another choice is to use original bands, which can sometimes be found at gun shows, sutlers row, or in relics lists (see also the suppliers listing). If you order them by mail, be sure to specify exactly which style you want, bearing in mind that most dealers have no idea what "Baddeley Patent" means. Your best bet is to send an exact drawing of what you want and let the dealer match it. Original bands will probably require some grinding or filing to fit your gun, but they are the best choice if you can find them in good shape. Note that the upper band was never changed to the Baddeley style, so your reproduction band is acceptable (provided it is steel - but see the Note for Purists below).
(Note for purists -- You cannot grind the reproduction Baddeley bands to the really correct shape to represent 3rd Model bands - there isn't enough metal in the screw boss. Only an original set will look really right. Also, only L.A.Co. and RSAF guns used the style of upper band found on the reproductions; most London guns and all Birmingham guns used an older style (see the lower photo in Figure 11). However, it is impossible to modify the reproduction bands to resemble this older style, and originals are very difficult to find. There are, however, modern reproductions being made of this style and other original Enfield barrel bands - these are supplied unfinished, and will require grinding and finishing. See http://www.peterdyson.co.uk/acatalog/ENFIELD_RIFLE_parts.html.)
The lock screws and wood screws are different on some models. L.A.Co. guns and some other London guns used the same type screws as found on the reproductions All Birmingham guns and most London guns had the triggerguard and buttplate wood screw heads filed to the shape of the piece, either flat (on the buttplate) or tapered (on the triggerguard tang). This is easily accomplished with a grinder or file. Assemble each screw in place, then carefully go over the head until it matches the contour of the piece. The lock screws on nearly all Birmingham guns and most London guns were flat-headed, with the edge slightly rounded, and were blued instead of casehardened. The reproduction screws can be corrected by grinding or filing flat the convex head and slightly rounding off the resulting edge, and finishing to match the rest of the gun.
The sling swivels must be changed on all guns. No P1853 Enfield used an offset upper sling swivel, as on the reproduction guns. Original upper sling swivels can occasionally be found at gun shows, or an Ml Garand swivel will fit, although it is slightly too thick (some suppliers also carry an acceptable modern-made reproduction swivel). US rifle sling swivels of the period 1870-1890, the type of the correct shape but with a split screw boss, will do if nothing else can be found. The reproduction lower sling swivel is correct only for L.A.Co. guns and a few other London guns. All Birmingham guns and the majority of London guns used the earlier style shown in Figure 12. Originals and correctly-shaped reproductions are available from various parts dealers (see suppliers listing). Finish your sling swivels to match the rest of your gun (either blued or bright).
Fig. 12 - Sling Swivels
Only L.A.Co. and RSAF guns used the type of lock screw escutcheon (brass washer) found on the reproductions. Other Enfields used a type with squared ears (see Figure 13). Originals produce the best look, and while scarce, can occasionally be found in boxes of dug "junk" at relic shows or from parts dealers. Lodgewood and some sutlers carry originals and reproductions (see suppliers listing). To fit the square-ear version to your gun, carefully remove just enough wood to accept the squared ears, using an X-Acto or other sharp knife.
Fig. 13 - Lock Screw Escutcheons
The rear sight can be left as is or modified slightly for a truly authentic look. The reproduction leaf and slide should be replaced with original parts (making sure the leaf is graduated to 900 yards) for the best look (see Figure 14). Some sights were marked with the maker's initials in small letters on the right side, by far the most common being W&S for P. Webley and Sons, or J&EP for Job and Enoch Partridge, both Birmingham makers of sights, locks, and other small parts. NOTE: most London companies used small parts and even barrels and locks made in Birmingham; therefore many barrel bands, sights, rammers, etc., used on London guns exhibit markings of Birmingham makers.
Fig. 14 - Rear Sight Leaf
The rammers in the reproductions are quite good as far as appearance goes, a far cry from the old straight shaft reproductions. Some rammers were marked with the maker's name or initials in small letters, about three inches from the tip of the head. Common marks were T&CG (Thomas and Charles Gilbert) and R&WA (Richard and William Aston) on Birmingham guns, and PRESTON on London guns. These small marks can be done with a good quality metal stamping set, which can be rented or perhaps borrowed. (Note that the rammer should be left bright, not finished by bluing or browning.)
Before we leave the section on the gun itself, a few words are in order concerning the use of original parts. Arms collectors and historians frown on the stripping of original guns for spare parts, especially for the use we are describing. Original parts should be obtained from parts dealers, not by removing them from original guns. No historical value or continuity is lost by using already dissociated parts to modify a reproduction gun.
Most Enfields were originally issued with some or all of the following accessories: socket bayonet, sling, snapcap, muzzle tompion, and combination tool. Some of these are readily available today and add a great deal to an authentic Enfield impression.
Original and reproduction bayonets are readily available. The reproductions are OK for field duty, but their shape is not quite right and most are rather poorly made and finished. An original is by far the best choice if you can find one that fits your gun. Note that some original bayonets sold today are for the P58/59 Native Infantry musket, and would not have been used in the Civil War. This type has a larger diameter socket, and fits both original P53s and reproductions very loosely. This type should be avoided. Also avoid bayonets with British government markings - a Broad Arrow over WD and an Enfield inspector's mark (Crown/E/number). These were issued only with RSAF guns and almost certainly would not have seen Civil War use. Other markings, of which there are a great variety (crowns, numbers, names, initials, etc.), are fine, but avoid bayonets with arabic or sanskrit markings. These saw long, hard use in the British colonies, but not in our Civil War, no matter what the label at the gun show may say. As is evident, you will have to examine any bayonet carefully before you buy it. British government bayonets from all over the world have been imported into America regularly for a number of years. Just because the label says it is a Civil War bayonet does not make it so; in fact, the opposite is more often true (as is evident from the number of .577- 450 Martini-Henry bayonets sold as Civil War Enfield bayonets).
Fig. 15 - Government Markings and Items
Besides paying attention to markings, your primary concern is finding a bayonet to fit your gun. As noted earlier in this monograph, the lack of interchangeability of parts makes it often quite difficult to match original bayonets to original guns, to say nothing of finding an original bayonet to fit a reproduction Enfield. Parker-Hales have less difficulty in this matter, since their barrel profiles are truer to the original, while most of the Italian reproductions have barrels slightly larger in diameter. You don't want a bayonet that fits too loosely: besides looking sloppy, it will have the tendency to came flying off in the middle of bayonet drill. If you can't find one that fits just right, look for one that is just a little tight, one that will require a minimum of filing inside the socket to make it fit. Many reproduction bayonets will also require some filing to make them fit.
If your gun is blued, your bayonet will benefit greatly from having its original finish reproduced. The socket should be blued up to the beginning of the blade, right to the step at the end of the shank. This process really dresses up a reproduction bayonet. But rebluing should be done only to original bayonets that no longer have any finish and are in average condition. An original bayonet that retains any of its original finish or is in good or better condition should not be modified in any way (save, perhaps, very light filing inside the socket to make it fit your gun).
Fig. 16 - Bayonets
The sling is entirely a matter of personal preference. You can use a Confederate or Federal sling, and some Enfields were issued with British slings. These were most commonly of the black rough/waxed leather style that ties on one end with a thong (although there were different varieties of slings used in British service, and supplied for export). Do not use the so-called "original" British slings with rivets (these were mainly post-1870), and put the sling on so that the thong tie is at the lower sling swivel. My advice is to avoid repro British markings on your sling - most of these marketed today are bogus (the maker just invented the marking - not based on any original).
The snapcap, or nipple protector, was issued on many Enfields. Period photographs and dug relics show that these were widely used. There are numerous reproductions on the market, but they all leave something to be desired. The closest copy I have seen was from Burgess & Co. sutlers. This type has an authentic chain, but the steel S-link must be replaced with a brass one. The steel or brass "sink stopper" chain found on the reproductions sold by most sutlers is completely wrong. On authentic snapcaps the chain should be six brass teardrop-shape links, and the head should be blued steel topped with leather disks. The Parker-Hale snapcap supplied with their Musketoon had an acceptable chain (although somewhat thinner than most originals), but the brass and plastic (!) head must be replaced. The snapcaps sold with lead heads (commonly seen on Sutlers Row) are not Enfield type. The best choice is, as usual, an original, but also as usual, good originals are getting scarce. Be warned that most snapcaps sold today as originals have improper reproduction chains.
Fig. 17 - Snapcaps
A first-rate repro Enfield muzzle tompion is now being carried by some sutlers. It has a knurled brass head with a cork body, just like the originals (but make sure you pick one without the RSAF Enfield inspector's mark - see Figure 15). Other firms sell a reproduction Enfield muzzle tompion with a wood body, which must be replaced with a body cut from a wine bottle cork or other suitable cork for complete authenticity. Of course, you can also use a standard wood tompion or the brass-headed US type.
Fig. 18 - Tompions
The really advanced Enfield fan may wish to add a combination tool. In the British Army combination tools were issued in two types: one for sergeants and corporals, complete with a built-in spring vise, and a less complicated model for privates. There were different styles for each type, some Y-shaped ("triarm") and others T-shaped. An example of each is shown in Figure 19. Parker-Hale once made a reproduction sergeant's Y-tool, and some other company has made an excellent sergeant's T-tool, but these are hard to find now, and originals can sometimes be found among antique tools, for much less. There is also currently a reproduction T-tool that leaves much to be desired ... the best choice on a reproduction is to know what you're looking for. The best-made repros are coming out of England now (one example I have seen was a private's Y-tool).
Fig. 19 - Enfield Combination Tools
The bottom line is how much is all this authenticizing going to cost, and why do it anyway? As for the latter, why spend all that money and effort on a really authentic uniform and equipment, and be satisfied with a less-than-authentic gun? And you may very well ask what is wrong with carrying an original Enfield? Well, guns that look 140-plus years old really aren't authentic, and you're sure not going to carry an original that looks only a couple of months or years old. And no matter how careful you are, your original is eventually going to get some nicks or scratches, or maybe worse (we've all seen it happen), and that is just destroying a small piece of history. As for the cost, all this authenticizing can be very expensive or surprisingly cheap, depending on what type of gun you reproduce and how much of the work you do yourself. At any rate, the final bill may not seem so much when you compare it to all you have spent on that authentic uniform and equipment.
As is evident from this monograph, the L.A.Co. gun is the cheapest and easiest to reproduce. The only part that must be replaced is the upper sling swivel, the bands must be ground or replaced, and the proper markings must be applied to the lockplate and barrel. If you do all the wood and metal refinishing yourself, the total cost would be around $100, and $70 of this is the cost of engraving the proofmarks and lockplate markings. If you must replace brass bands with steel bands, add $100, for a total cost of around $200, not counting any accessories you may wish to add.
Birmingham and other London guns are more expensive. Most prices have increased in the past few years; the following can be used as a guide:
Lockplate and proofmark engraving - $70
The L.A.Co. and BSAT stock cartouches would probably run about $50 to have made as stamps. Using the above prices, you can do a London or Birmingham gun for as much as $500-$600 if you have all the work professionally done and add a bayonet and other accessories, or as little as $125 if you reproduce a simple example with no accessories, and you do all the wood and metal finishing yourself, leaving the metal bright. If you start with a used gun purchased cheaply, you can end up with a truly authentic reproduction, one that will give you great personal pride and satisfaction and will help your impression immensely, for less than a brand new Parker-Hale or Navy Arms Springfield, or even an original. In these dollar-conscious days, that's real economy.
1. William B. Edwards, Civil War Guns (New Jersey: Castle, 1982 ed.), p. 242.
2. Frederick P. Todd, American Military Equipage 1851-1872 (New York: Scribner's, 1980 ed.), p. 449.
3. J. D. Goodman, "The Birmingham Gun Trade," in S. Timmins (ed.), The Resources, Products, and Industrial History of Birmingham and the Midlands Hardware District (London: Robert Hardwicke, 1866), p. 418.
4. The use of model designations such as "Third Model" and "Fourth Model" is a practice by modern collectors, and will not be found in period literature.
5. J. D. Goodman, "The Birmingham Gun Trade," in S. Timmins (ed.), The Resources, Products, and Industrial History of Birmingham and the Midlands Hardware District (London: Robert Hardwicke, 1866), p. 418.
6. Total based on 7700 bought by US in 1862 (see Note 7), plus CS purchases of 27 months worth of production at 1300 per month.
7. See discussion on L.A.Co. exports in Wiley Sword, Firepower from Abroad (Lincoln, RI: Andrew Mobray, 1986), pp. 49-53; also US Govt., "Ordnance Contracts," Executive Document 99, 40th Congress, 2nd Session, Serial 1338, Vol. 12, p. 764 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1868).
The main reference used for this monograph is the experience gained from over thirty years of collecting and studying Enfields. I have personally examined over 300 original P1853s, and most of the conclusions and ideas stated above result from these examinations. I suggest the books listed below for further study of Enfields and gunsmithing techniques.
Howard L. Blackmore, British Military Firearms 1650-1850 (New York: Arco Publishing Co., 1962). Chapter 12 is particularly enlightening on the manufacturing methods used by the gun trade, and the appendices explain many markings.
DeWitt Bailey, British Military Longarms 1815-1865 (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1972; reprinted 1986 by Arms & Armour Press, London). An illustrated catalog of various Enfield models (and other period British arms).
William B. Edwards, Civil War Guns (Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, 1982 ed.). Edwards draws a number of wrong conclusions concerning the meanings of various markings found on Enfields, but his information on Enfield importation and use during the Civil War is useful.
Kit Ravenshear, Metal Treatment (Normans of Framlingham, Ltd., undated). Available from Dixie Gun Works. Contains formulae and directions for home bluing and casehardening.
Christopher H. Roads, The British Soldier's Firearm 1850-1864 (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1964; reprinted 1994 by R&R Books, Livonia, NY). The definitive work on Enfields. Unfortunately, it deals primarily with the government-made guns, not the commercial variety, but the history and background information is indispensable.
Wiley Sword, Firepower from Abroad: the Confederate Enfield and LeMat Revolver (Lincoln, RI: Andrew Mobray Publishers, 1986). Contains quite well-researched information on importation and use of Enfields by the Southerners; the chapter on the London Armoury Co. is particularly enlightening.
Original and reproduction Enfield parts are available from a number of sources. The suggestions shown below are some that I have used.
(Original and repro Enfield parts, repro
lockplates with correct markings)
(Original and repro Enfield parts, reference books)
(Original Enfield parts, reproduction snapcaps)
(Color casehardening by the original bone charcoal process)
Euroarms of America, Inc.
(Repro muzzle tompions and nipple protectors, Enfield accessories)
(Repro muzzle tompions)
NOTE: Several merchants offer Enfield "de-farbing" or supply already "de-farbed" Enfields. Unfortunately, very few of these are truly authentic reproductions, and some of them are unbelievably incorrect. For some reason, some of these merchants do not seem to have consulted even the most common Enfield references, and their products have several glaring errors as a result. Compare their products to the information and photos presented here. Remember, it's your money - caveat emptor!
I would welcome correspondence of any type on this subject. Even though the directions contained herein are a result of the experiences (both good and bad) I gained from authenticizing my own gun, I am sure that others have had different experiences and may be able to suggest easier or cheaper methods, or alternate sources of supply for parts and accessories. Any helpful suggestions will be quite welcome, and I may use them in future revisions of this work.
Please help improve this monograph. My research on original Enfields is an ongoing project -- the more I learn, the better the information presented here will be. If you own an original Enfield or know anyone who does, please contact me for one of my description forms to fill out. I can identify most British markings, and in return for your help, I will gladly tell you all I can about the markings and manufacturing history of your gun.
The original print version of this article was first published and registered in the U.S. Copyright Office in 1985, revised in 1987. This webpage was originally published in January 2006. All text and photos (except where noted) copyright Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.
Copyright © 2000-2007, Geoffrey R. Walden, all rights reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced or transmitted in any way without the author's permission. Permission is granted to transmit the URLs and page titles, with a description of the contents. Permission is granted to print these pages for personal research, as long as the URL and this copyright notice remain on the copies.
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