A major highlight of this past Nationals was meeting Greg Edington, who is bringing the Austrian Lorenz rifle-musket back to life. Greg has all the parts of his Model 1854 Austrian Lorenz rifle-musket kit ready to go save breeched barrels which have been delayed due to a foul-up at the foundry. Without a barrel as a model, his stock maker cannot complete the inletting process, so the project is stalled. The problem may be solved by the time you read this. All other parts, usable for repair or restoration of existing originals, are available at this time. Tom Kelley and I took a series of photographs of Greg's Lorenz parts but, unfortunately, my film failed to develop properly. If there are any pictures with this column, you will have Tom to thank.
Greg's US Model 1817 percussion conversion rifle kit is further along in the development process, with all parts just about ready for shipping. The 1817, which Greg puts out in its original .54 caliber, is a beautifully balanced rifle which was often issued to militia units in the early part of the Civil War. (See page 80 of my book Civil War Firearms.)
Colerain barrel company, one of the best muzzle loading barrel makers in the country, is making barrels for both the Lorenz and the 1817 kits in .54 caliber. Greg has also designed a mold to cast the Wilkinson style bullet used by the Austrians in the Lorenz. The Wilkinson slug, originally invented by an English officer, has a solid, slightly convex base and very deep grooves. The grooves are not, as one would think, designed to hold lubricant, for Austrian bullets were paper patched. They are intended to collapse on firing, expanding the slug into the rifling. This should be a very interesting projectile to shoot. For more information on the status of the Lorenz or Model 1817 projects, contact Greg Edington's Bridesburg Armoury at 4244 Green Meadows Drive, Enon, Ohio, 45323. (Tel: 937-525-0012, email email@example.com; web site: http://members.aol.com/Andrew4244/index.html.
According to Bill Adams, who has made a thorough study of the Lorenz, "unfired .537, .540 and .568 diameter Wilkinson bullets have been recovered from American battlefields." These were no doubt intended for Lorenz rifle- muskets in .54 and .58 caliber, and make Greg's Wilkinson design a historically accurate one. Adams gave me a copy of his monograph on the Lorenz at the Nationals. It is chock-full of great information and I hope we will see it in print in the near future.
Delving into rare original sources, Bill punctures a lot of Lorenz myths in his work, including some of the self-puffery of Confederate arms purchasing agent Caleb Huse. Long after the war, Huse wrote that he had cornered the market on brand new Austrian guns because the Austrians were rearming with a new type of weapon using guncotton as a propellant. In fact the Austrians weren't really rearming, but updating the Lorenz with a variant model. The guns Huse bought and shipped off to Bermuda and, eventually, the Confederacy were well-used Austrian army surplus weapons. Most Confederate Lorenzes were in the original .54 caliber, although Huse may have purchased some .58 caliber guns made under contract for the Federals after those contracts were cancelled at the end of 1863.
Adams believes that Union Lorenzes were all newly made guns acquired from a variety of contractors located in the old Hapsburg empire, and that many of the .58 caliber ones were purpose built in an approximation of the standard US .58 caliber, rather than being rebored .54s. The fact that these guns were made the "old fashioned" hand built way would explain the varying dimensions and quality of the arms, which caused some troops to praise them and others to curse them. Lorenzes manufactured for the American market were threaded to take standard US nipples.
Many Lorenzes currently in the country were imported long after the Civil War, and some, which were converted to breech loaders in the late 1860s, then reconverted to muzzle loaders with cast iron breech sections for the African trade early in this century, may actually be dangerous to shoot.
One very interesting point to me, considering the forever simmering "blue vs. bright" Enfield feud, was Bill's revelation that some US contracts stipulated that Lorenz rifles be delivered "colored as the Enfield rifle." This would seem a strange request if the army intended to remove the "colored" finish!
While at the Nationals I stopped by gunsmith John Zimmerman's booth on sutler's row. John has an interesting new product, an 1855 rifle musket with fully operational Maynard tape primer magazine. The 1855, which is patterned after the last guns of that Model produced at Harper's Ferry Armory in 1861, prior to the armory's destruction, is a conversion of a Euroarms Model 1861 Springfield pattern rifle-musket and features an iron nose cap, two-leaf rear sight and no patchbox.
Zimmerman modifies the Euroarms rear sight with the correct Model 1855 two-leaf type, removes the modern barrel markings, restamps the serial number on the underside of the barrel and inlets the stock for a new Model 1855 lock. The lock, marked "Harper's Ferry 1861" uses the Euroarms sear, sear spring, bridle, tumbler, modified hammer and modified mainspring. The lock plate, primer magazine door and all other added parts are American made. Price for the gun, which includes a reprint of The Rules for Management and Cleaning of the Rifle Musket, Model 1855, is $850 plus $15 shipping and handling. For further information, contact John Zimmerman, 1195 Washington St., PO Box 1351, Harper's Ferry, WV 25425. (304-535-258; web site: http://www.edsmart.com/jz
I took a picture of John and his new rifle-musket, and, as with Greg Edington's Lorenz and Model 1817 parts sets, I screwed up the photos. Sorry guys! Those of you with computers can surf on over to both websites to see the new guns, however.
The Enfield series of guns, rifle musket, rifle and musketoon/carbine were, of course, important arms to both North and South during the American Civil War. The Enfield P53 and family was also a ubiquitous gun around the world - the AK47 of its day. You can access a lot of primary source information on the Enfield and other mid-19th century British firearms on Davis Minshall's web site, "Research & Reference Notes," including manufacturing and ballistics data, as well as a photograph of the famed British School of Musketry at Hythe. The web site may be found at http://www.btinternet.com/~rrnotes.
David has also advised me of he publication of a new publication of interest to Enfield enthusiasts, entitled The Royal Small Arms Factory and its Workers, by David Pam. The book is a history of the Enfield works from founding to dissolution, and is available from W. S. Curtis Publishers Ltd. PO Box 493, Rhyl, LL18, 5XG, UK (Tel: 01745 584 981). The UK price is 17 pounds plus 3 pounds postage. Obviously, postage would be higher if shipped to the US.
return to homepage
go to Tony Beck index
go to Joe Bilby index
go to Tom Kelley index