The late Arthur Hare gives an illustrated history of this interesting rifle.
This curious arm with its two-groove bore and belted bullet remained in the hands of Regulars, Militia and Native troops for almost half a century, despite complaints of the guns inaccuracy and difficult loading system. The weapon replaced the seven-groove quarter-turn Baker rifle that had been in use for almost 25 years. The Baker in turn replaced the old smooth-bore Brown Bess.
The rifle was quickly put to the test. Officers of the Rifle Brigade were then invited to comment, but they seemed mainly concerned with the bayonet controversy. Lt.-Col. Eeles agreed that the new rifle should have a sword attached to the barrel “in the same manner that the swords were fixed during the time of the War.” In May 1836, Lovell was, in fact, instructed to prepare an experimental rifle with a sword bayonet. This bayonet has a blade 25-in. long and a knuckle bar. On the other hand another Rifle Brigade officer, Lt.-Col. Brown, advised a long light bayonet instead of the short sword formerly supplied to the Rifle Corps.
Maj. Dundas and the Woolwich Committee were not so enthusiastic. They agreed the “it shot as well after 50 rounds had been fired from it as at the commencement of the day’s practice without having been once wiped out”. But they pointed out that a cartridge could not be used, and concluded: “This rifle is infinitely more correct in its firing at long ranges than the common rifle, but from the ball having less initial velocity, it requires a complication of sights which together with its great weight (10 lb. 7 oz.) and less facility in loading would render it very unmanageable for the use of troops in the field”.
On Boxing Day, 1836, Millar reported that the rifle had four great advantages over its rivals:
It was as accurate as the others at short distances, and superior at long distances. There was no difficulty in handling or loading it.It shot correctly for a longer period without cleaning.The greater smoothness of the barrel made it less likely to wear away than those with projecting bearings or lands.In 1837 the decision was made to adopt the Brunswick system. The weapon was of .704 caliber with a 33 1/16 inch browned barrel incorporating a hooked breech The .704 caliber was chosen so that standard infantry musket balls could be used if necessary. The furniture which included a butt-box cover, ramrod pipes, trigger-guard, buttplate and fore-end cap were of brass.
The back-action was case hardened and the ramrod was polished bright. Lovell told the Board that he had second thoughts about the rifling of his new pattern rifle. One he had made with the two grooves in the style of the Brunswick had proved superior to the eleven-grooved model.
|Unmarked Back-Action Lock of 1st Pattern|
The rifle was similar in appearance to the original eleven-grooved model but it now incorporated the Brunswick rifling made to a caliber of .654 in. with the twist increased to a complete turn. Two of the faults to which the Committee had objected in the Brunswick specimen had been removed. Where the rifling left the muzzle, Lovell made two semi-circular notches into which the belt of the ball fitted a considerable help to loading.
The total weight was also reduced to approximately 9 lb. The bayonet had a more substantial handle and the blade was lengthened to 22 in.
The round lug on the barrel was replaced by the old flat bar (pictured below right) with its notch towards the muzzle. It should be noted that Lovell moved this bayonet bar back from the muzzle so that when the bayonet was fixed, its guard was not in front of the muzzle - the main fault of the Baker.
Left: First & Second Pattern Bayonets
Barnett & Co.
Reynolds & Son
Lacy & Reynolds
Yeoman’s & Son
E. J. Baker
W. Mills & Son
R. E. Pritchett
W. T. Bond
The Brunswick Rifle | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | © A. Hare 2004