1861 Colt Navy Revolver

Colt's Manufacturing Company produced the Colt Model 1861 Navy revolver from 1861 until 1873. This 36-caliber Colt Model was a six-shot, single-action percussion weapon. It was with built with a cap&ball, also known as a percussion lock or caplock firing mechanism, which set off the main charge by striking a percussion cap with a hammer. Similarly to the .44-caliber 1860 Colt Army Model, the 1861 Colt Model featured a "creeping" or ratchet loading lever and barrel. Unlike its predecessor, though, this model's barrel was 7.4 inches, one half inch shorter. It also had a lighter recoil, which was why cavalry soldiers preferred it during the Civil War and on the frontier. Over the course of twelve years, Colt's Manufacturing produced 38,000 1861 Colt Navy Revolvers. Its main competitors were the Adams self-cocking revolver and the 1858 Remington Model.

In 1879, the "Army and Navy" law was passed in Tennessee to prohibit the sale of any firearms that were not the significantly more expensive army or navy pistols. This caused the 1861 Colt Navy revolver to be one of the few rifles that could be legally bought. After the passing of the 14th amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which ensured equal rights for African Americans, this law was created so that black freedmen and poor whites would not be able to afford firearms.

Colt Revolvers
video
Colt Revolvers
Colt Revolvers
Amendment XIV

Enfield Rifle

The Royal Small Arms Factory, a rifle factory owned and operated by the British government, designed the Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket, which was used in both America and Britain between 1853 and 1867. It was described as a "Rifle-Musket" because the rifle was the same length as a musket and, therefore, was long enough for a bayonet fight. Originally, this rifle was produced for the British Army's use in such wars as the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, and New Zealand Land Wars. During the Civil War, though, over 900,000 Enfield Rifle-Muskets were imported and used by both the Union and the Confederate armies. While the American-made Springfield 1861 Rifled Musket was the most widely used during the war, this Enfield rifle was the second most popular infantry weapon. The Confederate Army, in particular, imported more Enfield rifles than any other small firearms, but the British government stopped selling to them when it appeared the Confederates would lose the war. Then, the Confederates had to buy their Enfields through private contractors and gunrunners.

The Enfield 1853 Rifle-Musket was document as being used at every major battle of the Civil War, including the Battle of Shiloh, Siege of Vicksburg, and Battle of Gettysburg. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Union Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry even famously attached bayonets to their Enfield Rifle-Muskets to defeat the Confederates attempting to destroy the Union's left flank on Little Round Top.

Enfield video
video

Henry Rifle

The Henry rifle was a popular and iconic weapon of the Civil War, although designed prior to it by Benjamin Tyler Henry in the late 1850's. It was at the time the amended version of the Volcanic Repeating Rifle, and simultaneously a precursor to the esteemed Winchester rifles. Manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company, the rifle was never formally adopted by the US Army, so that its production was capped at 14,000 in 1866. For this reason it was mostly used by scouts, flank guards, skirmishes and raiding parties, rather than regular infantry formations. It was often a point of pride for soldiers carrying them because they would have had to use their own funds to purchase them, often in the hopes that its quick shooting would save their lives. Confederate troops would often acquire the rifles through captures, but even then they were of little use without access to the proper ammunition. For this reason, Southerners often referred to the weapon as "that damned Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week."

The Southerners had nothing like this weapon, which could shoot a stifling 28 rounds per minute. The rifle held the first practical and completed self-contained metal 44-caliber cartridge, which held 26-28 grains of black powder. This was less muzzle velocity and energy than competing rifles from the time (like the Spencer), which was part of the reason the Army refused to adopt it. Additionally, the black powder ammunition was very heavy and consequently difficult to transport. The fourteen-inch rifle loaded by means of a loading gate on the right side of the receiver, and fed into a system of 16 round tube magazine.

Henry Rifle
video

LeMat Pinfire Revolver

The LeMat Pinfire Revolver was one of the most menacing handguns employed during the Civil War. Its inventor, Dr. Jean Alexander Francis LeMat secured its patent in New Orleans in October of 1856, which put them in use between 1861-1865. Although the guns were invented for Confederate use in America, they were constructed in Belgium, and then smuggled into the South past the blockade. Although over 5,000 of these revolvers were manufactured, it is estimated that only about 2,500 actually made it into the US.

As for the gun's engineering, LeMat enhanced the firepower of the 13-inch weapon so that it would work best in close-combat situations. LeMat built a 9-shot cylinder, meaning that this revolver had three more shots than the standard Colt revolver. Additionally, the revolver was built to 40 caliber, which granted it more clout than the Colt's .36 bullet. Although this is in theory a great advantage, the distinction often caused great trouble for soldiers who were limited to whatever supplies they could find in the arsenals, forcing them to manufacture their own bullets.

Nevertheless, this gun is most remembered for its tenth shot, which was hidden in the middle of the pistol and was saved as a desperation shot. LeMat put a second barrel under the normal 44 caliber, and made it so that the cylinder revolved around that barrel. The second barrel, however, was a single shot .65 caliber 18 gauge shotgun which gave very little range, but was highly effective. The soldier could choose to flip a lever with his thumb and fire this tenth shot instead of the cylinder primer. It is this special characteristic that accounts for its nickname as the "grapeshot revolver".

LeMat Pinfire
video