Special Model 1861

At the beginning of the War the US found itself quite short of small arms. They initially solved this by purchasing anything and everything they could from the Continent. England, France, Austria and Belgium were all quick to sell off their old surplus arms. There were many a complaint to the quality and effectiveness of those arms. Some were valid complaints as most had seen hard use; though the reality is that most had served the premier armies of Europe less than twenty years prior. If men were honest then they would admit that they wanted the latest US made Springfields. While the Springfield was as good as they came there were just not enough of them.

The US resorted to contracting out the manufacture of the M1861 and by the middle of 1863 they were pouring into the US Army in sufficient numbers. One of the contractors for the M1861 was Colt. In an way to make a little extra coin Colt arranged to use existing machinery to make rifle muskets. They had bought machinery from Windsor Arms. Windsor had made excellent P53 Enfields for the British but when the Crimea War ended the British cancelled the contract leaving Windsor in a lurch. Bankruptcy followed.

The resulting Colt Special Model M1861 was a very good arm in which I had only one complaint; it lacked barrel band springs. While it may have been slightly less expensive I don’t consider it quite the equal of the Springfield. I did consider it the equal to the P53.

The demand was so great that Colt worked with LG&Y and later Amoskeag Mfg. Amoskeag Mfg was better known for making fire fighting equipment than firearms but they pitched in and provided 27,000 rifle muskets in about a year and a half. Between Colt, LG&Y and Amoskeag something less than 175,000 Special model M1861 were sold to the US Army. They would see hard use and gave good service. Generally they were thought as good as the Springfield by those who were issued them, there was certainly nothing wrong with those I dealt with. The fit and finish was excellent and they were interchangeable with other Special Model but not with the M1861.

This one was left in the corner of my tavern. I have no idea who left it or why but I have no complaint. The ramrod was broken and the nipple badly worn but those were easily repaired.