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The Early Rifles from Enfield

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The Early Rifles from Enfield

The "Enfield" in Lee-Enfield refers to the town of Enfield on the northern outskirts of London, where a government arms works was established in 1804 to assemble "Brown Bess" flintlock muskets. The first rifle to bear the Enfield name, however, was the Enfield Rifle of 1853.
Similar in appearance to earlier muskets and rifled muskets manufactured at the London Tower armoury, the Pattern 1853 Enfield is a single-shot muzzle-loading percussion firearm with a rifled bore. Several variations were made, including the three-band infantry model with 39-inch barrel, the two-band "Navy" model with 33-inch barrel, and the artillery carbine or musketoon with 24-inch barrel. Various commercial, or "trade," rifles are also encountered.

The British wanted a breech-loading firearm, so in 1866 the Snider Enfield was adopted as an interim measure. Early Sniders are conversions of Pattern 1853 Enfields with a hinged breech block and barrel designed to accept the a .577 cartridge. Later Sniders were newly manufactured.

In 1871, the British adopted the Martini-Henry rifle, a falling-block single-shot breech-loader actuated by a lever under the wrist of the buttstock. The Martini-Henry rifles went through several model variations, and carbines were introduced as well. The Martini-Henry was the standard British service rifle for nearly two decades.

For further information on the early rifles from Enfield, see the appropriate entries on the "Enfield-Related Web Sites" page.
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