American Rifleman - August 2017 - 100
I HAVE THIS OLD GUN ...
BRITISH BRUNSWICK RIFLE
GUN: FIRST MODEL BRUNSWICK RIFLE
MANUFACTURER: ROYAL MANUFACTORY, ENFIELD
MANUFACTURED: C. 1839
CONDITION: NRA VERY GOOD (ANTIQUE GUN STANDARDS)
ollowing its experiences facing Yankee
riflemen during the American War of
Independence, the British military, though
having experimented with rifles previously, decided
it was finally time to get serious. Consequently,
King George III officially established rifle units at
the end of the 19th century, arming them with a
fine Germanic-looking flintlock rifle, the famed
Baker ("I Have This Old Gun," March 2017, p. 96).
The Baker became a star performer during the
Napoleonic Wars, popular with both Crown troops
and Britain's allies, and it remained principal
issue for a couple of decades following the Treaty
of Paris (1814). As good as it was though, authorities realized by the 1830s that the Baker was
getting a bit long in the tooth. They decided to
establish a program to replace the old warhorse
with an improved, more modern, percussion arm.
After extensive testing, what finally emerged,
though looking much like its short, brassmounted, jaeger-style predecessor-cosmetics
aside-was a considerably different animal.
The new rifle, dubbed "Brunswick" after a
similar arm used by the Duke of Brunswick's
troops in Germany, was built around an unusual
rifling system featuring two, deep, rounded
grooves pitched at one turn in the 3½-ft.-long,
twist-steel barrel. The bullet was round, cast
with a belt around its circumference and tied up
in a lubricated calico patch. As this particular
arrangement was not conducive to being used in
the normal all-in-one paper cartridge issued to
line troops, bullets and paper-wrapped powder
charges were issued separately.
Loading the rifle was simple. The rifleman
simply bit off the rear of the powder's wrapper
and poured the charge down the barrel, followed by the bullet, its belt fitting mechanically
into the rifling grooves. To enable a soldier to
properly align the belt with the rifling, notches
were cut at the muzzle and the position of the
belt was marked out in black on the calico.
Despite some harping to the contrary by
some older officers who decried the loss
of their beloved flintlock, the Brunswick
loaded more easily and fouled less than the
Baker, allowing more shots between cleanings.
Experience showed the Brunswick could be
loaded and fired 10 times in 7½ minutes.
The rifle used percussion caps for ignition and
possessed a back-action-style lock. Furniture, to
include a generous butt box with a hinged lid
intended to store implements with which to service
the rifle, was of brass. The stock was full-length
English walnut. In keeping with tradition, riflemen
were also given a sword-style bayonet with a 22"
leaf-shaped blade that snapped onto a long bar on
the right side of the barrel near the muzzle.
The Brunswick's rear sight had a fixed notch
marked to 50 yds. and a single flip-up leaf with
graduations to 300 yds. In 1841, a Second Model
Brunswick was authorized incorporating several
modifications-the most noticeable of which was
the replacement of the back-action lock for a more
robust side-action style. Still, the two versions continued to be used side-by-side for a period of time.
Larger-caliber "heavy" Brunswicks were also
made in small numbers for the Royal Navy, and
sporting versions were popular with hunters for
years. As well, the arm was copied by others, the
most notable being those produced in both rifled
and smoothbore versions in Nepal, and a Russian
variant that fired a pointed, double-flanged projectile. Brunswicks were replaced in Britain by the
Minié Rifle in 1851, and numbers were sold out of
stores, some finding their way to the Confederacy
during the Civil War.
The rifle shown here is a nice First Model
Brunswick in complete, unaltered condition. These
rifles, while not common, do turn up from time-totime and are popular with collectors. One in this
shape is worth a solid $4,250.
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Photos by Jill Marlow