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Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Associated History

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In the mid 1860's a fortunate event occurred, the vast majority of the activities of the Ordnance Department of the British Empire was captured on paper. That is to say that an immense amount of information in the form of written descriptions, original drawings, official printed reports, circulars, proformas & tables etc were bound together in the shape of 5 handsome leather covered volumes.

  • Notes On Small Arms 1866. G.C. Holden, Assistant Superintendent of Stores.
  • Notes On Laboratory Course Section A. 1865. G.C. Holden, Assistant Superintendent of Stores.
  • Notes On Laboratory Course Section B.C.D. 1865. G.C. Holden, Assistant Superintendent of Stores.
  • Notes On Royal Carriage Department. 1866. G.C. Holden, Assistant Superintendent of Stores.
  • Notes On Ordnance. G.C. Holden, Assistant Superintendent of Stores.

This mine of information is largely unknown though some of it is to be found in the unpublished papers of the Ordnance Select Committee. Each volume is in handwritten copperplate, which, though legible to someone familiar with it, is a challenge to the ordinary reader. It appears that only one set of these volumes was produced. The detail in the volumes is quite incredible. In the "Small Arms" volume the complete fabrication of a "Snider" is but one fascinating section. In the "Laboratory" volumes there are descriptions of what was painted in which colour, the formulas for the paints & with the cartridge paper details it even includes samples of all actual original cartridge papers pasted to the page. The "Carriage" volume even goes into detail of leather harness's & which part of what hide each strap is cut from! Also the timbers used, when to log, how to cure, when to cut & which carriage parts they are used for. It is hard to even pick the most interesting sections as all are quite fascinating, unique & very thorough.

The following samples from 'War Department Notes' appear courtesy of Adrian Roads.

The Muzzle Stopper consists of 3 parts -
1st Head or Cap.
2nd Pin or Shank.
3rd The Cork.

The Head or Cap is made of iron or brass according to the mountings of the arm for which they are intended, it having been decided by order of 26 August 1865 81/B/156 No 7. New Series, paragraph 1134, that brass headed stoppers are to be issued with brass mounted arms, and iron headed stopper with iron mounted arms irrespective of service.

The iron cap or head is 1st forged.
2nd Annealed and pickled.
3rd Recess for Cork bored.
4th Turned on the outside.
5th Screw hole for the shank drilled & tapped.
6th Case hardened.

The shank is made out of square iron.
1st Wire clipped to length.
2nd Washer punched out of sheet iron.
3rd Washer riveted on wire and cupped.
4th Washer brazed on wire.
5th Shank milled & threaded.
6th Head polished.
7th Blued.

The Cork is sawn into strips, then milled to diameter & afterwards a hole is drilled through the centre from end to end, for the Shank.

This consists in passing the Shank up the cork, screwing on the head & riveting it.

The Muzzle Stopper is marked on the head with the usual view mark.

NOTE- The Cork for a Muzzle Stopper should last 2 years after which they may be condemned for "wear & tear".

By: G.C. Holden

Snap Cap

Snap Cap

The snap cap for all arms with guard swivels consists of 4 parts. For those not having guard swivels 5 parts.

The 4 parts are -
1st Snap Cap head of iron, 2nd Chain of brass, 3rd Split ring of steel wire and 4th Pad of leather.

The Head is manufactured on the same principle as the other parts of iron furniture, and when finished polished & blued.

The Chain is made of thick brass, pieces being punched out sufficient to form each link.

The Steel Split Ring, is supplied by contract.

The Pad consists of two bits of leather fastened together by fish glue. The under piece of leather has a hole in it for the nipple, & at the bottom of which there is a small thin disc of brass punched out of sheet brass & pressed into the bottom of the hole to protect the leather which is expected to last 1 year. The leather is pressed into the head by a vice at such an angle as to receive the hammer fair on the surface of the leather.

When all the parts are manufactured the Snap Cap is assembled by fastening the chain on to the head & putting in the leather pad & attaching the ring.

Mode of Attaching
The Snap Cap is secured to the Rifle by passing the split ring over the guard swivel. Those pieces which have no guard swivel have an eyelet screwed into the swivel plate of the trigger guard to which the split ring is attached. This is the 5th part previously adverted to.

By: G.C. Holden

 Nipple Wrench

There are two patterns of nipple wrenches issued to Regiments-
Sergts with cramp, and privates without cramps, in proportion of 1 of the former to 7?? of the latter.

The Sergeants Wrench consists of a stem in the centre of which is the oil bottle. On one side of it is the mainspring cramp, and on the opposite side is the pricker, screwed on to the stem. At the bottom of this is a square hole for unscrewing the nipple, and above this is a screw hole into which the ball drawer screws.

At the other end of the stem the punch or drift screws in, and forms the stopper to the oil bottle, there being a small leather washer on the drift to prevent the oil from oozing out.

Across the top of the oil bottle is a cross piece with a large screw driver at one end and a small one at the other, over the latter the worm or charge drawer is screwed.

On the side of the mainspring cramp the stem is made flat and roughened to give it greater purchase in holding the mainspring.

The cross piece is kept on by the punch.

The Ball drawer, drift or punch and Worm or Charge Drawer are all threaded so as to screw on to the point of the ramrod.

The large screw driver passes through the slot at the head of the ramrod which thus forms a kind of handle.

The Privates Nipple Wrench differs from the one just described in having no punch, ball drawer or mainspring cramp, but attached to the stopper of the oil bottle is a pin called the oil pin.

All the parts of the nipple wrench are made of steel hardened and tempered. The same pattern nipple wrench is issued for all Arms, altho varying a little in size with the bore.
Those for the Whitworth rifle have no worm as the bore is too small to admit of the double pronged screw being used.

All the parts of the nipple wrench are separately marked with the view marks.

A jag also is made separate for the Whitworth rifle to screw on to the point of the rammer. This was found necessary as the jag at the head of the rammer weakened it too much.


Wrenches for Cavalry Carbines have a projecting male screw to screw up into the cup of the rammer. There is a male screw on the worm, drift and ball drawer for this purpose. A separate jag is also made for the Cavalry Carbine.

By: G.C. Holden

The Barrel

The 3 parts comprising the barrel are
1st the barrel itself
2nd the front sight
3rd the breech pin

The Barrel of the Enfield Rifle as indeed of any other barrels in the service, with but one exception, is of wrought iron.

The chief points required in the metal of which barrels are made are Toughness, Tenacity and Ductility.

A good tough metal is a very essential point as in the event of a barrel bursting if the metal be tough it will usually rip open without any of the pieces being detached, and then no injury is done to any one.

If on the contrary the metal be brittle and a burst occurs the barrel will fly and several pieces will be scattered about with a possibility of injury to persons near.

Now the best wrought iron has this toughness to a very great degree, and it is difficult to obtain steel which is not more or less brittle.The brittleness however can be partly overcome by annealings, but there again on the other hand steel is a much stronger metal than iron, and therefore a steel barrel will perhaps be able to withstand an explosion which would burst an iron one.

The great objection to using steel for barrels are 1st the great expense of the raw material. 2nd its hardness, and 3rd the great difficulty experienced in welding.

With regard to its hardness, it can readily be understood that this adds materially to the cost of manufacture, as it cannot be cut so quickly as iron, therefore as the time occupied in the manufacture is longer, of course the [sic] the wages must be proportionately higher. Its hardness also necessitates a much greater wear and tear of tools and cutters.

To make these as tough as possible all steel barrels are annealed previously to being worked up. This process takes about 30 hours.

From the difficulty of working steel it is found impossible to weld the lumps for the nipple to the barrel.

The barrel must therefore be rolled with sufficient metal at the breech end for the nipple lump. All these things add greatly to the expense, so that unless the benefit over iron as regards durability & strength is as great as the extra outlay in money, there can be no advantage in adopting steel for the barrels. At present the expense is certainly against the introduction of steel, but as the manufacturers become from experience better acquainted with the best manner of turning out metal possessing the particular qualities required for gun barrels, the cost will be materially reduced.

By: G.C. Holden