A History of Drill and Training Rifles Part 2

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EARLY DRILL RIFLES


Trap Door Springfield

This drill rifle came from a military school that had used it for many years in parades. The rear sight had been removed a hole drilled through the barrel at the rear sight screw location. The firing pin was removed. It is unknown whether it was purchased from the supplier that way or whether it was modified by the school. It shows the typical surface abuse so often found on drill rifles.

Unidentified Percussion Drill Rifle
The photographs in this section are of an accurate replica of a Percussion era drill rifle. This replica was produced from a poor photograph of the original. The original was 41 ½” long, unmarked and had no moving parts. It had a 3/4″ diameter wooden barrel and a lock assembly and trigger guard made of cast iron. The lock assembly, nipple and drum were cast as one piece. The barrel sleeve and front barrel band are made of sheet metal. The overall construction of this piece would indicate that it was designed as a drill rifle as none of the parts are typical of a functional muzzle loading firearm of that period. To my knowledge there were no full size drill rifles produced during the percussion era. This was primarily due to the fact that most adult males had their own personal muzzle loader and were familiar in its use. Any drill activities could have been conducted using these arms. Also, the cost and effort to produce a drill rifle is nearly as great as it is to make a functional rifle. Due to the cast iron parts it is probable that this gun was not one of a kind. Someone went to considerable trouble to make the foundry patterns for the lock parts and trigger guard. It would have been necessary to produce several of these drill rifles to make it practical. It is difficult to estimate with any certainty when this drill rifle was made but it was undoubtedly some time between 1850 and 1890. Due to the short length and light weight, it is highly probable that a small quantity of these drill rifles were produced for a boys military school.

Musket Drill Rifle
This drill rifle is somewhat of an anomaly. It started as an 1863 Spingfield musket. It must be noted that the barrel has been changed by cutting off the breech of the original barrel and adding a portion of an earlier musket barrel. If you look at the photograph of the lock you can see the joint in the barrel. The replacement barrel was probably from an 1851 musket as it has a bayonet lug on the bottom of the barrel rather than using the front sight base as the lug. The barrel length has been shorted and the barrel bands are from an earlier period. I suspect that the front band is foreign and that it came from a musketoon. This is based upon the fact that the sling swivel is mounted on this front band. The original barrel was cut off behind the rear sight and the replacement barrel has not sights. This and similar guns were made up by Francis Bannerman and other similar surplus merchants during the late 1800’s and sold for drill purposes. They uses combinations of available musket parts that were salvaged from their supply of old guns. The barrels may have been replaced with different barrels, wooden dowel or pieces of pipe. There was never any standard design for these drill rifles. They were never intended to be fired but were inexpensive and adequate for drill purposes by youth organizations and military schools.

The next installation: The Francis Bannerman History

From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson

 

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