Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifled Musket: Introduction

Custom builds, Imperial Era, Muskets and muzzle loaders, P53, Weapons

For nearly 150 years, the British Army’s main arm had been the smoothbore musket referred to generically as the Brown Bess. This name covers a number of patterns that were used through this time and includes both the original flint-locks and the percussion cap conversions.


The Rifled Musket was the next major step for field armies. Unfortunately, the necessity of having a snug fitting projectile meant that the rate of fire that could be achieved with a smoothbore couldn’t be managed with a rifle. As a result they were not widely used (although some were adopted prior to this, usually for specialist units).

The invention that changed this was the Minié ball (Minnie ball in British slang). In the late 1830s-1840s a series of expanding bullets were designed that were smaller than the barrel (so could be loaded as quickly as a round ball) but when fired spread and engaged with the rifling.

This all happened at much the same time as everything was kicking off in the Crimea between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire. As a result this war was fought with a mixture of rifled and smoothbore muskets, with the Pattern 1853 making its debut there the following year.

This rifle served in a number of other actions, most famously the Indian Mutiny, the US Civil War (on both sides) and the Second Schleswig War.

Eventually, the P53 was replaced with… itself. Well, the Snider conversion allowed the P53 to take cartridges through an inexpensive breech conversion, but the story of the Snider-Enfield is for another day.

I’ll be building a P53 Enfield over the next few months for American Civil War airsoft, eventually I hope to upgrade it to the Snider pattern for a slightly more skirmish-able gun.


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