1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket

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1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket.jpg
1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket
Service History
Type Single Shot Muzzle-loading Rifle Musket
Used by U.S. Army, C.S. Army
Service Dates 1861 to 1872
Wars American Civil War
Design & Manufacture
Designer U.S. Ordnance Department
Manufacturer(s) Springfield Armory, Mass, USA

And About 20 Additional Contractors

Manufacture Dates 1861 to 1865
Number Built 660,000
Per Unit Cost $15 to $20 (1861 USD)
Variants 1861 Colt Special Contract Rifle-Musket

1863 Springfield Rifle-Musket

Modern Reproductions Pedersoli, Armi Sport and Euro Arms
Action Percussion lock
Overall Length 58.5 inches
Barrel Length 40 inches
Weight 9.25 pounds
Bore .58 inch Caliber

3 progressive depth rifle grooves

Rifle twist: 1 rotation in 78 inches

Bullet Type 500 grain conical lead minie ball
Std. Powder Charge 65 grains FF Black Powder
Sights 100, 300, 500 yards
Muzzle Velocity 950 feet per second
Rate of Fire 2 to 3 rounds per minute
Effective Range 100 to 400 yards
Max Range 900 to 1,000 yards
Designed to use a 17 inch Triangular Socket Bayonet

The Model 1861 Springfield was used heavily by the Union Army throughout the Civil War, just behind the Enfield and US Model 1842, it was also the 3rd most common weapon used to arm the Confederacy.

The Model 1861 and subsequent Model 1863 (or M1861 and M1863 respectively) were the last percussion arms designed and issued to the United States Army. The M1861 and it's simple variation in the form of the M1863 was a logical step from the M1855 series arms.

Among the finest long arms in the world when it was introduced it was rivaled in accuracy only by the 1853 Enfield and it surpassed that venerable arm in reliability and quality of manufacture.


Studio photo of two soldiers with Springfield Rifle-Muskets.

Simple sites and surprising accuracy along with unheard of dependability created a weapon rarely rivaled and at all times preferred to its contemporaries. The .58 caliber Minnie ball combined with a 1 in 78" twist gave the reason for the astounding accuracy. This was the American military arm that took the Minnie bullet to its natural conclusion. The Springfield Model 1861 Rifle-Musket was astoundingly accurate to better than four hundred yards.

At 56" overall length it was still a long weapon but no more so than any contemporary. The one piece American walnut stock and spring retained barrel bands gave a robustness that would become legendary and a fixture in later American arms. The well made interchangeable parts made it the realization of a dream for ordnance men. It was a simple and inexpensive arm that influenced small arms development well into the 20th century.

As many as twenty contractors to include famous arsenals such as Savage Arms, Bridesburg, as well as the Federal Arsenal at Springfield manufactured well in excess of one million Model 1861 and Model 1863 arms. It was the most common small arm carried by the Union soldier and came to represent the arms of the US Army.

The Springfield Rifle-Musket armed the Union Army on all fronts; this excellent small arm saw service on every battlefield from 1862 onward. It was justifiably a favorite arm of those that carried it and when captured it was quickly put into Confederate service.


Although similar in appearance to the 1855 and 1863 Springfield Rifle-Muskets, Colt Special Contract, and Richmond variants, there are some distinguishing characteristics to each of these models. The hammer and lock plate are the easiest identification parts.

The 1855 Springfield Rifle-Musket and Richmond Rifle-Musket share some common lock plate traits, namely the Maynard Tape Primer hump. The Richmond Rifle-Musket lock plate, made from stolen 1855 Harper's Ferry Armory molds, retains a non-functional version of the tape primer hump.

The 1861 Springfield omits the Tape Primer in favor of a traditional nipple and primer. The distinctive hump of the 1855 lock plate was removed in the redesign. In an effort to save money, 1861 Springfield Rifle-Muskets use the same hammer style as the 1855. When viewing the lock and hammer assembly in an un-cocked position, you can picture the distinctive void where the Maynard Tape Primer once was.

The 1861 Colt Special Contract Rifle-Musket uses an Enfield style hammer and has a distinctive bolster with an Eagle stamped on it, but is otherwise difficult to distinguish from the 1861 Springfield.

In the 1863 Springfield, the hammer design was updated to look similar in design and shape of the 1861 Colt Special Contract Rifle-Musket. This eliminated the tape primer void and strengthened the hammer design.

See also

On the web