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Enfield Pattern 1853 - United Kingdom (1853)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket Long Gun.

 Entry last updated on 9/12/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Enfield Pattern 1853  
Picture of Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket Long Gun
Picture of Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket Long Gun Picture of Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket Long Gun

The Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket a long and healthy service career for the British Empire and others.

The Enfield Pattern 1853 (or .577 Enfield) rifle-musket was the standard-issue musket of the British Empire beginning in 1853 (hence its designation). The type served in several notable conflicts of the period including the Crimean War (1853-1856), the United States Civil War (1861-1865) and the New Zealand Land Wars (1845-1872). It was favorably regarded for its accuracy at range and some 1,500,000 were in circulation with production spanning 1853 to 1867 from the Royal Small Arms Factory. The Pattern 1853 was in service from 1853 to 1871 before technology superseded the outgoing muzzle-loading long gun.

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.

Picture of the Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket Long Gun
Picture of the Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket Long Gun

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.

The Enfield Pattern 1856 were nothing more than shortened (by six inches) versions of the full-length Pattern 1853 guns. Two bands were used along their length (as opposed to three in the Pattern 1853).

Enfield Pattern 1853

Service Year: 1853
Type: Rifle-Musket Long Gun
National Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer(s): Royal Small Arms Factory / Enfield Lock - UK

Internal Design, Weight and Dimensions

Firing Action: Percussion Lock; Single-Shot
Available Caliber(s): .577 Minie ball paper cartidge
Ammunition Count / Feed: Single-Shot
Weight (Empty): 9.50 lb (4.31 kg)
Overall Length: 1,422 mm (55.98 inches)
Barrel Length: 863 mm (33.98 inches)
Sighting Assist: Adjustable Rear; Fixed Front

Operating Performance

Muzzle Velocity: 850 feet/sec (259 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire (RoF): 3 rounds-per-minute (rpm)
Typical Range: 3,000 feet (914 meters; 1,000 yards)

Global Operators

Brazil; Confederate States; Japan; United Kingdom; United States

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

Pattern 1853 - Base Production Model; three-banded design.
Pattern 1856 - 6" length reduction for improved transportability and use; noted for two-banded design.

Enfield Pattern 1853 Images