Staff Writer (Updated: 2/8/2015):
The Enfield Pattern 1853 was developed specifically to outfit British infantry with a new modern long gun capable of accepting a British-modified version of the French Minie long lead ball developed by Captain Claude Minie. The result was a rather lightweight and reliable long gun in the Pattern 1853 rifle-musket that went on to see several decades of service for the British Empire. The Pattern 1853 utilized a standard 500 grain .577 Burton-Minie or Pritchett ball and paper "cartridge", the former an ammunition type also shared by the American-made .58 Springfield rifle musket (both guns were used by the Confederates and Union forces respectively during the US Civil War). The ball could pierce up to 4 inches of thick wood even at range which gave it good man-stopping qualities. The weapon was of a typical "long gun" design with a three-banded wooden body (the bands intended to fix the barrel to the stock), integrated shoulder stock and pistol grip, percussion lock action and bayonet mountings. The weapon was a "muzzle-loading" long gun, as typified by the period, in which the propellant (powder) and bullet (ball) were loaded and rammed down from the barrel-end of the weapon. A trained user could fire between 1 and 3 rounds at a given target area out to 2,000 yards though accuracy was (accordingly) more effective at ranges around 600 yards according to sources. The Pattern 1853 sported an adjustable ramp rear sight with a fixed post front. The rear sight was adjustable through a rear friction cross bar/standing leaf arrangement. Unloaded weight was a hefty 9.5 pounds while the gun sported a running length of 55 inches.
Already a proven weapon for the British Army, the Pattern 1853 also became a popular long gun in use with US Confederate troops during the American Civil war as it proved a proper counter to the highly-effective Union .58 Springfield Model 1861 series. As the war grew to require a massive outpouring of arms, the respective armies struggled to find the weapons needed to field proper infantry regiments. As such, the forces of both Union and Confederates alike looked to import foreign designs to help supplant their needs - and most of these were obliged from interested European powers. For Confederate forces, the Pattern 1853 had the ability to use the Union Springfield rifle ammunition and its own .577 caliber type, allowing its soldiers to use captured Union ammunition as well as their own issued supply. Since the South held little in the way of heavy industry, this feature proved a key logistical benefit.
Original Enfield Pattern 1853s were received as a muzzle-loading muskets though the advent of new single-piece cartridges led to the development of breech-loading mechanisms which allowed long guns to now be loaded from the receiver near the trigger - considerably reducing reload times. Such breech-loading firearms rendered all muzzle-loading guns obsolete. As such, conversions were offered through various arsenals for many of the existing muzzle-loading guns then in use to become breech-loading firearms, in much the same way earlier flintlock guns became percussion-based guns prior). For the British, this "movement" came in the form of the ".577 Snider-Enfield" - interestingly enough developed by American Jacob Snider - which converted the prized Pattern 1853 Enfields to breech-loaders beginning in 1866. These Enfields fought on throughout the British Empire thereafter, seeing action in the Crimea, India, Africa and the New World until around 1901. A shorter carbine form of the long gun was also produced which intended to make for a more compact long gun, particularly useful when firing from horseback. Other notable operators included Brazil and Japan.
Snider-Enfields themselves were formally replaced by the newer Martini-Henry rifles beginning in 1871.