Reproduction Martial Arms: Model 1842 and Model 1861
July 4th. Weather cloudy. We went out and picked up Springfields and left our Enfields. Nearly everyone did so.
The arms and ammunition which you forwarded for my regiment on the 12th Sept. having been returned to Washington, I do not care to have them sent on again unless we can have the Springfield Rifled Musket.
Among the more frequently asked questions the Watchdog "relief guard" gets are recommendations for "out of the box" reproduction firearms. In all honesty before writing this article I had little knowledge of commercially made reproductions. Oh, Iíve made a Model 1855 from a Navy Arms Model 1863. Iíve turned some reproduction barrels down and shaved about a pound of wood off some Euroarms Enfields, but mostly I have dealt with restoring originals, or making guns from exact copies of original parts that are interchangeable with original parts.
Not having a selection of weapons to take home and disassemble, I did the next best thing. I called Bill Osborne of Lodgewood Manufacturing for help. Bill is an excellent gunsmith and is very familiar with the reproduction firearms market. He agreed to sit down with me at an event (while he was between pulling out stuck cleaning jags and drilling out powder fouling from bolsters for enactorsÖyou know who you are). We took stock of some of the more popular reproduction guns on the market for this article.
First off, letís deal with some common problems affecting most all of the mass-produced reproduction arms. The biggest complaint by far is excessive weight. This is due to someoneís attempt at "idiot-proofing" a gun by adding more metal to the barrel. These Ďlawyerís" barrels, if you will, make it supposedly necessary to add more wood to the stock. This produces a bulky looking and heavier weight weapon than an original of the same model.
Another problem at least for Springfields is the European walnut stocks. This wood has a varied color through it. American walnut has an even, dark brown color throughout. There is a solution. Wood can be shaped to correct dimensions. After that you can darken the stock using a water-base stain that will actually dye the wood as dark as you want to go. Stay away from the reddish hues. Most American military longarms have an even, brown color. Finish your stock with linseed oil and a final coat of beeswax rubbed on it.
Model 1861 Springfield
OK, that being said, letís start with the Model 1861 weapons. The Euroarms 1861 Springfield is probably the best of the Ď61s with overall dimensions closest to an original. The lock will take original parts. That is a definite plus. You can replace all the cast parts with machined and hardened originals or high quality reproductions. This will give years of use with no lock failure. It should also fit an original lock plate with a little filing.
The band springs are not bad. They should be slightly flatter, but are definitely not the rounded profile of the Model 1863 type. Sling swivels are held in place with screws. Bill tells me this is being remedied and will be riveted on new versions. On the negative side the butt plate (as with most reproductions with a curved shoulder profile) is stamped not cast. This means the top of the plate is flat instead of slightly curved. This gives the comb of the stock a very flat, square appearance instead of a correct rounded one.
Overall, the workmanship and fit is pretty good. The same quality has been maintained so far in the production run based on samples Bill and I have seen.
The other Model 1861 we looked at was the Armi-Sport. The only thing better than the Euroarms version was the price. The barrel is far too wide at the breech, giving the stock a wide, clunky look. They have made the drop of the wrist too deep. Compare it to an original and you will see how misshapen it really is. The lock plate is much too thin. If not tightened down properly, it will bind up the lock. It will not take original parts.
Model 1842 Springfield
Now, the Armi Sport Model 1842 Springfield is a different story. This is a very nice musket or rifled-musket depending on the model you get. The level of workmanship is higher than on the Model 1861 version. The barrel is close to the original dimensions and the stock looks nice and thin, especially through the wrist. Original parts will fit in this lock with the exception of the mainspring. This spring has been improved on the new guns and conforms better to the original spring shape. It is not cast but forged. That is good news for the durability of the spring. The band springs have also been improved. An original mainspring will fit the lock plate, but will take minor fitting to the bolster. They have a flatter profile as per an original.
The one negative change appears to be in the ramrod. The old version from Armi Sport had a small well-shaped trumpet head like the original (the only problem was that the end was dished out to fit the conical bullet as per the rifle-musket version). This could be easily filled with appropriately colored brazing rod to be correct for the smoothbore. The new version of the ramrod has a large ungainly head that reminds me of the ramrod from the old Navy Arms Charleville muskets. Letís hope Armi Sport sees the light and switches back.
The front band is well done and is close to original but does not have the brass sight blade. This is easily fixed by grinding off the old one and soldering on a brass blade. The rifled version (original) sometimes had an iron blade on a platform. This sight had a pin that went through the band. It fit into a keyway that was cut into the barrel. And was used to help hold the band in the same position every time for better accuracy. This sight is not offered on the reproduction. I have seen original rifled Model 1842s with the plain brass front sights without the keyway cut in the barrel. This means the front band was not just a replacement.
The rear sight on the rifle-musket is a long range or ladder type. The reproduction does this justice with a high quality blued part.
The butt plate is nicely made and probably is a cast part. It does not have a stamped look to it. Overall, this is a nice gun. It is just the thing for that early to mid-war Federal or Confederate impression.
When it is all said and done with a minimum amount of labor and a little homework examining and measuring original weapons you can come up with a pair of nice weapons.
In the future when I do some more homework, I hope to review the Model 1855 Springfield, Enfield rifled-muskets and some of the obscure reproduction arms on the market. [Editorís note: see next article by Greg Hagge that will fill the gap until Mr. Simmonsí review is ready for publication.]
I would like to thank Bill Osborn of Lodgewood Mfg. for taking the time to bring me up to speed in regard to the reproduction firearms market.
 Diary excerpt of William L. Livermore, member of the Color Guard, 20th Maine Infantry, an article entitled, "From a Veteranís Diary," from the Lincoln County News, June 1883.
 Letter from Colonel William H. Withington, 17th Michigan Infantry, to Captain G. Ely, Washington Arsenal, DC, 9 October 1862. Withington states in another letter to his brigade commander, Colonel William Fenton, dated 4 November 1862, asking for 450 rifles, "They should be Springfield Rifle MusketÖ" National Archives, RG 84-S 781: regimental book 17th Michigan Infantry, Civil War, 4 volumes.
GLOSSARY (note underlining):
Rifled Musket Ė a smoothbore musket that has been rifled, i.e., the Model 1816 and Model 1842 muskets that beginning in 1855 were converted from smoothbores at Harpers Ferry and Springfield Arsenals.
Rifle-Musket Ė a .58 caliber shoulder arm designed to use the cylindro-conoidal bullet (Minié ball): i.e., having a manufactured with rifling. The Model 1855, 1861 and 1863 Springfields
REFERENCE FOR CIVIL WAR FIREARMS INFORMATION:
Robert M. Reilly, United States Military Small Arms 1816-1865, The Gun Room Press, Highland Park, NJ, 1970.
Contacts for parts and gunsmiths:
large selection of original parts
PO Box 611
Whitewater, WI 53190
high quality new parts,
many made by Nick
607 Eversole Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45230
John G. Zimmerman
PO Box 1351
1195 Washington St.
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
Euroarms of America
PO Box 3277
Winchester, VA 22601
Dixie Gun Works
PO Box 130
Union City, TN 38261
74-11C Myrtle Ave.
Glendale, NY 1100
Armi Sport - Taylorís & Co.
Sue Hawkins or Tammy Loy
304 Lenoir Dr.
Winchester, VA 22603
Reproduction Model 1855 Rifle-muskets Currently on the Market
Recently the Fort Lewis Museum purchased a reproduction Model 1855 Rifle-musket from S&S Firearms and the new Model 1855 offered Taylorís & Co. (Armi Sport). S &S Firearms, of Glendale, N.Y. have offered the Model 1855 Rifle-musket, for several years. Until recently this has been the only out-of-the-box Model 1855 on the market. There are now Model 1855 type guns offered by Dixie Gun Works (DGW), S&S Firearms, Taylorís & Co. and John Zimmerman. Some comment on these recent developments may be of interest to the readers.
The S&S Model 1855 Rifle-musket is made by Euroarms of America (EOA). It is basically the standard Model 1861 reproduction with the addition of a brass stock tip; a modified lock plate with a dummy door for the tape priming system, and the early Enfield style long range rear sight (a.k.a.: 1855 type; side wall type or long range sight.). It is my understanding that the rear sight and additional proof marks are added by S&S in New York. It is dated 1858 on the lock plate and barrel along with correct proof and inspectors marks on the breech and stock. This rear sight configuration is correct for Model 1855 guns dated between 1856 and 1858 with a brass stock tip. Overall the appearance is good and very much typical of the Euro Arms product. The high quality Italian-made Model 1855 bayonet needed considerable grinding of the socket tube to fit properly. Apparently the Euro Arms barrel is a bit thicker than most reproductions. This gun weighs in at 10 pounds, 15 ounces with sling attached.
A more detailed critical look yields several comments. The major difference between this arm and the Model 1861 is the Maynard tape lock plate. Although the door is nicely applied to the lock the eagle marking is the same one used for the other products of EOA. The style is not similar to the historically correct eagle, but it will do in a pinch. The example in hand has some defects in the profile of the "hump" on the lock that would normally accommodate the tape priming system. This appears to be hand ground and likely varies with each gun. The result is a slightly odd proportion compared to the primer door and the lower surface of the hammer. This problem can be fixed with some welding and grinding to build up the offending surfaces, but this may be more than the average person would want to do. The next item is the stock tip or nose cap. The part is rather Enfield-like in shape and needs to be ground and polished to the correct tapered profile of the Springfield nose cap. This is a relatively minor job for the skilled hand. There are also some details in the stock that need to be added such as the bevel on the upper edge of the left cheek; remove some bulk around the wrest and fore stock as well as smooth out the transition between metal and wood where ever they meet.
In addition to fine-tuning the profiles of the wood, refinish the stock with red mahogany stain and complete with a hand rubbed linseed oil finish. This is the same process that should be done to any reproduction musket stock.
The example in hand has a ramrod retaining spoon recess inlet and is drilled for the spoon-retaining pin. The pin was in fact installed in the hole. This is a feature of the Model 1863 musket and should not be present on the Model 1855 gun. (No doubt the stock for the Model 1863 and Model 1864 types made by EOA have been used to feed the Model 1855 production line with little regard for such small details. I recently saw an add for a true Model 1863, with NO band springs and an 1864 dated true Model 1864 with band springs and bands WITHOUT clamping screws. More on these EOA developments when I have seen them!) Among the final cosmetic touches are bluing the screws, trigger, band springs and small lock parts. Generally reproduction guns could use a lock tune up to make them function smoother and gain a more crisp trigger pull. Taking the metal work a step further, the front sight should be replaced with a correctly shaped one, also properly rivet and finish the swivel pins in place. The hammer contours are somewhat chubby but can be cleaned up. The butt plate tang also needs some work to get it properly shaped (This should not be flat but slightly domed ). As a finishing touch the tulip recess of the ramrod should be drilled through the center about 1/8 inch deep. This is a centering hole for turning and grinding in the manufacturing process. The removal of the modern manufacturer markings from the barrel is also a must.
Dose this seem like a lot of work? It is! But this is true of all reproduction arms. When these details have been attended to the result is surprising. The few replacement parts needed are available from a number of sources. Being able to accomplish the wood and metal work myself, there is no particular fear of this kind of project. Requiring a third party to overhaul your gun may prevent some from making these improvements. It seems that every group has an amateur gunsmith who would be capable of the majority of this work given the knowledge of what needs fixing.
The Model 1855 marketed by Dixie Gun Works is also made by EOA and most of the above applies. The difference between this gun and the S&S version is the rear sight. The DGW guns use the early stepped up style three-leaf rear sight, (a.k.a.: 1858 type; 1859 type or the new type; or long range sight). The CS Richmond variation of the Model 1861 Rifle-musket uses this same rear sight. This rear sight configuration is appropriate for guns dated 1858-1861. Keep in mind that guns made beginning in 1859-1861 should have an iron stock tip and an iron patch box in the stock to be correct. At this time none of the manufactures install the patch box. However, the patch box can be purchased for about $20.00 from a number of sources.
Yet another Model 1855 is available to the discriminating enactor. Yes, it is a fully functional Maynard tape priming system lock also built on the EOA gun. I saw this example at the 135th Gettysburg merchantís row along with others. Master Gunsmith John G. Zimmerman, of Harpers Ferry modified this gun. Other than the Enfield style rear sight and the reworked functioning lock there seemed to be no material changes in the off-the-shelf Euro Arms product. There were several of these guns on display.
Some of the locks appeared to be the high quality reproduction Model 1855 lock plates and others appeared to be the standard EOA made lock. All were milled out and rebuilt to functioning standard. There seemed to be a variety of lock dates present and details such as the patch box were not installed on the post-1859 dated example. I noted that the primer door was the usual cast replacement part for original guns rather than a modification of the door that is attached to the dummy door locks. (Mr. Zimmerman modified several dummy door locks for me some years ago. The dummy doors on my locks were reworked to have a functioning hinge). Although this has to be the catís meow of Model 1855s currently available I feel the price of $850.00 is quite steep.
Donít get me wrong. This is certainly the shortest route to a fully functional Model 1855 Rifle musket if that is what you are after. I have carried my Model 1855 with a Zimmerman modified fully functional lock plate for about seven years. I just feel the price is high for an off-the-shelf reproduction with none of the improvements to go with the functioning lock.
Hold your horses! There is one more Model 1855 on the market! This one is offered by Taylorís and Co. Inc. and is based on the Armi Sport Model 1861 Rifle-musket. The barrel and lock plate are dated 1857 and it is marked for the Springfield Armory.
The stock tip is nicely shaped brass and an Enfield style early rear sight is mounted. Unfortunately this is the same sight used on the Model 1842 .69 cal. Rifled Musket. The sight for the .69 cal. gun is much longer and taller than the same sight for the .58 cal. weapon. If this sight is replaced with the correct type, the mounting screw hole remains about half exposed. This can be filled, ground and polished leaving little to distract the eye if desired.
The non-functioning Maynard tape lock does have a functional opening primer door. The eagle stamped on the door is quite similar to the proper style used on the Model 1855 locks. There is a slight cutout under the door in the approximate shape of the primer tape recess. One example viewed had the initials "AS" (for Armi Sport) stamped in the recess.
One small defect is that like the EOA lock plate this one also has a somewhat irregular profile to the hump on the upper rear surface. The rear of the hump curves concave rather than convex. This could be improved but is likely best to leave it alone as the cut away wood would be exposed behind the lock. The thickness of the lock plate at the hump is also not correct. The hump should be about 1/8 inch thicker to accommodate the primer mechanism. If you know what a Maynard tape lock looks like, this thin hump is very noticeable. As with other ills this can be solved with cosmetic techniques.
Unlike the Armi Sport Model 1861 butt plates this example has the "US" stamped in the proper location above the upper screw rather than below it. The butt plate "US" and the "U" stamped on the bands are small but acceptable. The comments above relating to tuning up the stock, bluing small parts, etc also apply to the Armi Sport product. The wood was nice and the fit of the metal parts was good on the examples viewed. It weighs in at 10 pounds, 11 ounces with the sling installed. The high quality Model 1855 bayonet fits this gun well and is a nice touch if you want to afford it.
In my own opinion the Armi Sport Model 1855 Rifle-musket is the off-the-shelf gun I would consider for several reasons. First, the Armi Sport product has the most desirable features with the least things that need to be modified or fixed. Second, leaving out the option of a fully functional working Maynard tape lock the cost is most reasonable across the board. Third, it is also the lightest weight of the group. Fourth, you donít want to actually use Maynard tape primers any way. Do you?
Greg Hagge is a Museum Specialist for the Fort Lewis Military Museum (Fort Lewis, Washington) where he has worked for ten years. He is a member of Company F, 20th Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry. He restores and rebuilds muskets and does leatherwork. He is also keenly interested in all aspects of the Harbor Defenses of the United States.
These two articles appeared in the FALL 1998 issue of The Watchdog. They appear here with permission of the Publisher, Bill Christen. The Watchdog. (ISSN 1067-2729) is published quarterly by The Watchdog Quarterly, Inc., a non-profit corporation in the State of Michigan. Subscriptions are $15.00 annually, $13.00 for each additional year. Foreign subscribers are $20 (US). Back issues are $2.00 each (Volume 1-6) and $4 each (Volume 7-8) .An index is available upon request. Send subscription requests, inquiries, and submissions to:
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