The Enfield 1853 Rifled Musket (also known as the Pattern 1853 Enfield, P53 Enfield, and Enfield Rifled Musket) was a .577 calibre muzzle-loading rifled musket, used by the British Empire from 1853 to 1867, after which many Enfield 1853 Rifled Muskets were converted to (and replaced in service by) the cartridge-loaded Snider-Enfield rifle.
History & Development: The term “Rifled Musket” meant that the rifle was the same length as the musket it replaced, as a long rifle was thought necessary so that the muzzles of the second rank of soldiers would project beyond the faces of the men in front, ensuring that the weapon would be sufficiently long enough for a bayonet fight, should such an eventuality arise.
The 39" barrel had three grooves, with a 1:78 rifling twist, and was fastened to the stock with three metal bands, so that the rifle was often called a "three band" model.
The rifle`s cartridges contained sixty eight grains of black powder, and the ball was typically a 530-grain Prichett or a Burton-Minié, which would be driven out at about 850-900 feet per second.
The Enfield`s adjustable ladder rear sight had steps for 100 (the default or “battle sight” range), 200, 300, and 400 yards. For distances beyond that an adjustable flip-up blade sight was graduated (depending on the model and date of manufacture) from 900 to 1250 yards. With practice a good marksman could hit a man-sized target at about half that distance.
The 1857 Indian Mutiny: The Enfield Rifled Musket was a major contributing cause to the Indian rebellion of 1857- Sepoys in the British East India Company`s armies in India were issued with the new rifle in 1856, and rumours began to spread that the cartridges (referring here to cardboard wrapped powder and shot, not metallic cartridges) were greased with either pig fat or beef tallow- an abhorrent concept to Muslim and Hindu soldiers, respectively, for religious reasons. British military drills of the time required soldiers to bite open the cartridge, pour the gunpowder contained within down the barrel, then ram the cartridge paper down the barrel to act as a wad, before finally ramming a musketball down the barrel, removing the ram-rod, shouldering the rifle, adding a percussion cap, and firing. The idea of having anything which might be tainted with pig or beef fat in their mouths was totally unacceptable to the sepoys, and when they objected it was suggested that they were more than welcome to make up their own batches of cartridges, using a religiously acceptable greasing agent such as beeswax or vegetable oil. This, of course, served only as "proof" that the issued cartridges were, in fact, greased with pig and/or beef fat, and a further suggestion that the sepoys tear the cartridges open with their hands (instead of biting them open) was also rejected as being impractical- many of the sepoys had been undertaking musket drill daily for years, and the practice of biting the cartridge open was second nature to them. The indifference of many British Commanding Officers to these concerns only added more fuel to the already volatile situation in India, and helped spark the eventual Mutiny in 1857.
New Zealand Land Wars: The Enfield 1853 Rifled Musket was issued to the Royal New Zealand Armed Constabulary, and saw extensive use in the mid and latter stages of the New Zealand Land Wars between 1845 and 1872. Numbers of Enfield muskets were also acquired by the Maori later on in the proceedings, either from the British themselves (who traded them to friendly tribes) or from European traders who were less discriminating about which customers they supplied with firearms, powder, and shot. After the introduction of the Snider-Enfield, many of the Enfield Muskets in the Armed Constabulary`s armouries were sold off to members of the public, and they remained a popular sporting and hunting arm in New Zealand well into the late 20th century, long after the introduction of metallic cartridge-loading firearms.
American Civil War use: The Enfield 1853 Rifled Musket was also used by both the North and the South in the American Civil War, and was the second most widely used infantry weapon in the war, surpassed only by the Springfield Model 1861 Rifled Musket. The Confederates imported more Enfields during the course of the war than any other small arm, buying from private contractors and gun runners when the British government refused to sell them arms after it became obvious that the Confederacy could not win the war. It has been estimated that over 900,000 P53 Enfields were imported to America and saw service in every major engagement from the Battle of Shiloh (April, 1862) and the Siege of Vicksburg (May 1863), to the final battles of 1865. At the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2nd, 1863, the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry, led by Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, were armed with Enfield 1853 Rifled Muskets during their famous bayonet charge against a relentless attack by Confederate Forces attempting to destroy the left flank of the Union Army on Little Round Top. Here is an excerpt from Chamberlain`s Official Battle Report:
"The intervals of the struggle were seized to remove our wounded (and those of the enemy also), to gather ammunition from the cartridge-boxes of disabled friend or foe on the field, and even to secure better muskets than the Enfields, which we found did not stand service well."
The ferocious charge of the 20th Maine, with bayonets fixed to their Enfield Rifled Muskets, was victorious against the stunned Confederates, and Colonel Chamberlain received the Medal of Honor for his day on Little Round Top.
Reproductions The Enfield 1853 Rifled Musket is highly sought after by Black Powder shooters and hunters, US Civil War Re-enactors, and British Military firearms enthusiasts for its quality, accuracy, and reliability. Original Enfield Muskets are obtainable but rather pricey, however the Italian firms of Euroarms and Armi Chiappa (Armi Sport) manufacture a modern reproduction of the Enfield 1853 Rifled Musket, which is readily available on the civilian market.
Weapontype: Rifled Musket
Manufacturer: RSAF Enfield
Operation: Percussion cap, muzzle-loading
Cartridge: .577 Minié ball
Weight: 4.22 kg (9 lb 5 oz.)
Length: 1 346 mm (53 in)
Barrel: 990 mm (39 in)
Rifling: Three grooves, 1:78 rifling twist.
Magazine Capacity: Nil; single-shot weapon
Feed system: Muzzle-loading
In service dates: 1853-1867
Sights: adjustable ramp rear sights, Fixed-post front sights