At the beginning of the American Civil War, both the North and the South relied heavily on imported Enfield rifles from Britain. It was not until the North adopted the .58 Caliber Springfield musket that the common infantryman would evolve into a shaped marksman and effectively turn the tide of any battle. Some 700,000 Model 1861 rifled muskets were produced and the type served as the standard musket of the entire war.
The Springfield musket was a muzzle-loading .58 caliber weapon, muzzle-loading in that the propellant and the round (a .58 caliber "Minie Ball" shot) was entered via the muzzle end of the barrel and rammed down by way of a ramrod. The Minie Ball itself, being of French invention, was a potent man stopper. It worked well to break bones at nearly any range and could be lobbed a great distance with a propensity to bounce after landing - sometimes inflicting more damage. The Model 1861 did away with the Maynard primer system action - a major improvement for the weapon.
Ammunition was supplied as a paper cartridge containing both round and propellant. A percussion cap would be issued separately and all three elements were combined in a practiced action before the weapon could be fired. The development of the Springfield Musket (produced by the Springfield Armory among others) greatly increased the accuracy - though not to the extent that today's rifles offer - of the standard marksman. So much so in fact that artillery formations were now required to fire from positions further back to compensate for the rifles increased range.
The musket featured, for the first time in any arms market, static iron sights capable of engaging targets at a distance of 600 yards. The sights consisted of two folding leaves (marked simply with a "3" and "5"). When the weapon was fired with both leaves down, the weapon was set for a base "100-yard" targeting range. With the 3-leaf raised, the weapon was then set for 300-yard targeting. Consequently, with the second leaf raised along with the first, the weapon was ready to target enemy elements upwards of 500 yards. Naturally, the South was not in possession of capabilities for the developing and production of large quantities of new weaponry, thusly they relied on captured or abandoned .58 Caliber Springfield muskets to arm their ranks while still relying on their British Enfields or whatever other arms could be imported from Europe.
Almost immediately after the war, the US military switched from the old muzzle-loading type weapons to the newer breech-loading rifles, signifying the end of muskets as standard frontline firearms in American history.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Old style of weapon loaded from the muzzle; completely manual action located at the rear of the frame; poor accuracy forced masses of soldiers to fire at once for best results.
1,422 mm 55.98 in
9.63 lb 4.37 kg
Folding Leaf Iron Sights.
Utilizes the percussion cap system of operation to actuate ignition of propellant; much like a child's cap gun, small explosive caps are set upon nipples and these are actuated by a falling hammer previously cocked.
(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)
.58 Minie Ball
Rounds / Feed
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources. **Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
850 ft (259 m | 283 yd)
.58 Caliber Springfield - Base Series Designation
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.
The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com.
Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft, and SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane.