The P-1856 Enfield Project

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Author: Øyvind Flatnes
Category: Muzzleloading
Published: 11.24. 2007
Edited: Saturday 24 Nov. 2007, at 12:59 (GMT +1)
Views: 20952

P-56 Enfield

Pattern 1856 Army Short Rifle with the issue sabre bayonet.

It's about time to start up a new project page. The "Longrifle Project" has not been updated much the past few years, mainly because the rifle shoots very well and I have found the proper loads for her. It's time for something completely new! My new challenge is an original Enfield two-band rifle musket .577 calibre. The proper model designation is "Pattern 1856 Army Short Rifle" (also called "Sergeant's Rifle"), and it's made in 1858. Well, it's about to get started. First some background information.

Find out more!
You can learn more about the history and use of British and American rifle muskets and the Pritchett and Minié balls in the brand new book From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms.

Background: The P-1856 Short Rifle

Lås

Fixed bayonet.

The P-1856 was the first short rifle in the new .577 calibre family of muskets made by the Enfield factory in England for the British Army. The long three band rifle musket which was used by the regular line infantry was introduced in 1853 and the model is known as the P-1853. The P-1856 was issued to all sergeants of Line Regiments, the Rifle Brigade and the 60th Regiment, the Cape Mounted Rifles and the Royal Canadian Rifles. Unlike the P-53 that was called a "rifle musket" the P-56 was called a "short rifle" or just a "rifle" to separate them from the long three band P-53 with a 39" barrel and the short carbine with 24" barrel. The P-56 had a 33" barrel. The P-56 replaced the old Baker and Brunswick rifles which was used in the British Army prior to the adoption of the minié system in 1851.

Snap cap

The snap cap».

The P-1856 resembles the P-1858 Naval Rifle that's very common in replica form, but the barrel configuration is different. The Army Short Rifle has case hardened iron furniture while the Naval Rifle has brass. Another difference is that the Army's rifle has the rear sling swivel behind the trigger guard while the Naval Rifle has the sling swivel in front of the trigger guard. The P-56 has the same rifling twist, rifling depth and number of rifles as the P-53, i.e. three broad rifles that makes one turn in 78". Starting in 1858 both the P-53 and the P-56 was rifled with progressive depth rifles. That means the rifling is deeper at the breech (.015") and diminishes evenly towards the muzzle (.005").

Background: My P-1856 Short Rifle

My rifle bears the marks of the British government, but is marked "TOWER" and 1858 on the lock plate. That means it wasn't made at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock but by some of the civilian contractors that made rifles for the Government. It has the following markings that can tell about the origin:

  • Lock (inside): W. Corbett
  • Barrel (underside): J. Turner & Sons
  • Stock (barrel channel): T. Turner, A. Davis and Cooper & Goodman

Merkinger Merkinger

Unit and Broad Arrow markings.

All of these are independent contractors that delivered parts for the Government. Corbet made the lock, J. Turner & Sons made the barrel and Thomas Turner & Co stocked it. After that it has gone through the strict Government control and finally it is marked with the broad arrows, which are the Government acceptance marks.

Otherwise it has Birmingham proof marks and the "broad arrow" markings that make it a service rifle with Government ownership. The proof marks seem to have been defaced on being sold out of the service and then commercially re-proofed at the Birmingham Proof House. On the right side of the stock there is also a very faint W. D. mark which stands for "War Department".

On the butt plate tang the musket is marked:

LI
9
PO


According to the experts this can either mean that it was issued to the Linlithgow Volunteers or Milita, or the 51st Regiment. This particular marking is a bit strange, and the experts can't seem to figure it out properly. E-mail me if you know what it is!

Getting Ready for Shooting

Munning Internal view of the lock

Muzzle and lock.

The musket is in near mint condition with a mirror bright bore and sharp rifling. Because it is made in 1858 it is rifled with progressive depth rifling. Before it could be fired I had to perform the usual "strip down to the smallest screw" check. The weapon showed itself in perfect condition. The lock seemed brand new on the inside. The only thing I did was to replace the original nipple with a replica nipple because I didn't want to wear out the original. Nipples for original Enfields can be bought from most sutlers. I bought mine from Track of the Wolf. Remember that it has to have 5/16-18 threads.

A useful test to check whether your rifle musket will be a shooter is to remove the barrel bands and tighten the tang screw with the barrel in the stock. If the stock lifts up while you tighten the screw it is a bad sign. If it stays in the stock, well, then you have a good chance of getting your musket to shoot.

Pistonger Pistonger

The original nipple to the left and the replica to the right.

The musket was assembled again and the bore was wiped to get rid of any traces of grease or oils. After that I snapped a few caps to dry up the any oils in the nipple. I blew down the barrel to check if there was clearance through the flash hole and nipple, and it seemed ok. The musket was loaded with 30 grains of Wano FFg black powder followed by a 400 grain minié ball. When I tried firing it the first time the main charge didn't go off. I unscrewed the nipple and found traces of old storage grease in the flash channel. I removed it and tried again. This time the shot got off and the gun didn't blow up. I loaded it again with 60 grains of the same powder fired into the backstop. The rifle was declared a functional weapon and was ready to be put to the test on a target.

Shooting

11.26.04: The P-56 is ready for the first test shots on the target. Since the rifling twist is incredibly slow for a 33" barrel it means it will have trouble stabilizing the heavier and long minié bullets. It is not a coincidence that when the P-56 was replaced by a new model Short Rifle in 1860 the twist was the P-58 Naval Rifle's 1 in 48" and it also had five grooves and a heavier barrel.

Blink

Lymans Old Style.

I have access to four minié bullets. For starters I only had available bullets from two of my moulds: the RCBS/Hodgdon Match Minié and the RCBS 58-500 Minié. This is the two bullets I don't think will be the best in this musket, but I had to give them a try. The Hodgdon is a semi wadcutter and is not allowed in MLAIC competitions, while the other is a bit heavy (526 grains). Originally the P-56 used the same ammunition as the P-53 i. e. a paper patched 530 grain Pritchett ball with a load of about 70 grains of black powder.

I tried the semi wadcutter first, and my expectations weren't high as this bullet is a bit touchy in progressive depth bores. I used my favourite 1861 Armi Sport Springfield replica load: 58 grains of Wano FFg and put up the target at 55 yards.

Blink Blink

Groups.

09.11.05: The best load so far has been as follows: 70 grains Wano PP, Lyman Old Style cast of pure lead weighing 491 grains lubricated with a bee's wax, coconut fat and olive oil mix. The bullet is dip lubed and sized to .5775".

One thing that's smart is to write a journal when you train. Here is a sample of my journal from this summers training.

Blinker Blinker Blinker

The pictures shows some of the best scores I shot
during the summer of 2005 .

In July this year I brought the P-56 to the Nordic Championship and shot it in the Minié original class. There's was as usual not much time to train, but despite that I finished with a score that was about 20 points below my training results. I shot 61 points and secured a 5th. place.



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