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The 1855 Springfield rifle musket was the first long gun developed for the U.S. military with a rifled barrel designed to fire the innovative minie ball projectile. Unlike its predecessor, the 1842 Springfield musket, which had a smoothbore barrel that was later rifled to fire a .69-caliber minie ball, the 1855 model was designed to have a rifled barrel.
This firearm marked a departure from older models in two significant ways. It was a .58-caliber firearm, considerably smaller than the larger-caliber muskets that were prevalent in combat from the late 1700s through the mid-1800s. Tests showed the .58-caliber minie ball was more accurate than larger projectiles and also increased the gun's effective range.
The 1855 Springfield also incorporated the innovative Maynard tape priming system, which was intended to increase the rifle's rate of fire by automatically positioning a primer in the firing position when the shooter cocked the weapon. Primer charges were stored in a roll of tape inside a containment system mounted to the side of the percussion lock. When the hammer was drawn back, the tape advanced to position the next primer charge over the nipple automatically. The process was similar to that used in a child's cap gun to advance caps between shots. This system eliminated the manual- priming step of the reloading process, allowing a shorter period between shots. The firearm could also still be primed manually. One of the biggest supporters of the Maynard tape system was U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who later became president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The Maynard tape system combined with the .58-caliber minie ball made the 1855 Springfield a formidable firearm capable of shooting up to three rounds per minute. Though its consistent effective range was about 300 yds., targets could be hit up to 1,000 yds. away by a skilled marksman. In combat, however, the Maynard tape priming system was ineffective.
Prone to fouling, unreliable feeding and susceptible to misfires caused by high humidity, exposure to water and dirty battlefield conditions, the Maynard priming system was abandoned by the Ordnance Department in 1861 after tests uncovered a failure rate of approximately 50%. Attempts to replace the treated paper tape with foil tape did improve the system's performance, but not enough to keep military authorities from returning to manual priming in subsequent military arms.
The 1855 Springfield rifle musket was manufactured at Springfield Armory in Massachusetts from 1855-1860. Approximately 60,000 were made, and it was the most widely used standard-issue regular army long gun when the Civil War began. Soldiers on both sides used it.
Cabela's offers an authentic reproduction of the .58-caliber 1855 Springfield rifle musket complete with a nonfunctional Maynard tape priming system box (the rifle can be fired by manually priming with percussion caps). It sports an adjustable rear sight, oiled-walnut stock and three bands that secure the 40" barrel to the stock. Overall length: 56". Weight: 10.1 lbs.