1853 Enfield Rifled Musket

The Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifled Musket (also known as the Pattern 1853 Enfield, P53 Enfield, and Enfield Rifled Musket) was a .577 calibre muzzle-loading rifled musket, used by the British Empire from 1853 to 1867, after which many Enfield 1853 Rifled Muskets were converted to (and replaced in service by) the cartridge-loaded Snider-Enfield rifle.

The Enfield Rifled Musket was a major contributing cause to the Indian rebellion of 1857- Sepoys in the British East India Company’s armies in India were issued with the new rifle in 1856, and rumours began to spread that the cartridges (referring here to cardboard wrapped powder and shot, not metallic cartridges) were greased with either pig fat or beef tallow – an abhorrent concept to Muslim and Hindu soldiers, respectively, for religious reasons. British military drills of the time required soldiers to bite open the cartridge, pour the gunpowder contained within down the barrel, then ram the cartridge paper down the barrel to act as a wad, before finally ramming a musketball down the barrel, removing the ram-rod, shouldering the rifle, adding a percussion cap, and firing.The idea of having anything which might be tainted with pig or beef fat in their mouths was totally unacceptable to the sepoys, and when they objected it was suggested that they were more than welcome to make up their own batches of cartridges, using a religiously acceptable greasing agent such as beeswax or vegetable oil. But this, of course, seemed to be “proof” that the issued cartridges were, in fact, greased with pig and/or beef fat. A further suggestion that the sepoys tear the cartridges open with their hands (instead of biting them open) was rejected as impractical – many of the sepoys had been undertaking musket drill daily for years, and the practice of biting the cartridge open was second nature to them. The indifference of many British commanding officers only added more fuel to the already volatile situation, and helped spark the Mutiny in 1857.


1 comment so far

  1. W. S. Curtis, Asst. Curator, NRA MUSEUM, BISLEY. on

    The description of the loading procedures for both the smoothbore musket and the Enfield Rifle are erroneous. The procedures are clearly laid down by Kings and Queens Regulations under the heading Platoon Exercise.
    For the smoothbore, the top end of the cartridge (not the end with ball) was torn open with the teeth and with flintlocks some of the powder was used to prime the pan. The remainder of the powder was poured down the barrel at the same moment pushing the entire body of the cartridge into the bore with the ball still in situ. This was then rammed down upon the powder. With the smoothbore percussion musket the priming step was cut out and the powder charge reduced by a quarter. After ramming the musket was capped.
    With the Enfield, there was a radical change as the bullet was loaded inside the cartridge with its nose facing the powder. In loading the cartridge was opened in the same manner and the powder poured in but then there was a big change in procedure as the cartridge was reversed so the base of the bullet was introduced into the muzzle and pressed down until the bulk of the bullet was in the bore. At that point the remaining paper was torn off and discarded before the bullet was rammed. The controversial grease was applied during manufacture to that part of the outer wrapping paper covering the cylindrical part of the bullet.

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