Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle

The Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle and many of its attributes were so radically different from what had preceded it that it marks a major turning point in British military technology and outlook. However, rifle technology already had a long history by the time the Pattern 1853 was introduced. The concept first appeared in the era of the wheellock. This is not surprising since the wheellock itself was a major innovation in firearms technology, its mechanism providing the first self-contained powder-ignition system. In the wheellock, a hardened serrated steel wheel was wound up against a powerful spring. When loaded, a piece of pyrites held in the jaws of a 'dog' was held against the edge of this wheel, protruding through a slot in the bottom of the priming pan adjacent to the vent in the barrel and containing a small quantity of gunpowder. Pulling the trigger released the wheel which, driven by the spring, rotated rapidly, throwing off a shower of sparks from the pyrites and igniting the powder in the pan. The flame from the burning priming powder passed through the vent and ignited the main charge in the barrel. The wheellock combined features of the technology of locks and clocks and its origin is credited to Nuremberg, a town with a European reputation for lock and clock making at that time.