UNSAFE FIREARMS

Reproduction Muskets Manufactured in India

Steve Blancard

Ordnance Sergeant

3rd Regiment, ANV

 

Beginning in 2014, reproduction muskets manufactured in India will be prohibited from taking the field or being fired at any 3rd Regiment, ANV sanctioned event.

The vast majority of Civil War reenactors use muskets made in Italy by companies such as Armisport, Euroarms or Pedersoli.  They vary in quality from good to excellent.  There are some reproduction muskets made by Miroku in Japan that are excellent, but are out of production now.  However, there are a small number of muskets that are manufactured in India that have been infiltrating our ranks in the last few years.  These muskets are of inferior quality compared to their Italian, Japanese and original counterparts.  These are the subject of this discussion.

These Indian made muskets are somewhat hand-made with parts that are not necessarily interchangeable and sometimes crude in appearance.  The metal work is often polished mirror bright, the stocks are made of teak wood and are often over sized and bulky looking.  But these are primarily cosmetic issues.  As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But musket appearance is not the most significant concern of 3rd Regiment leadership – safety is.   We expect all members of the regiment to do provide an accurate and authentic impression of a Confederate soldier, honoring our forefathers deserves nothing less.  But we balance our impression with the requirements of today’s modern world.  We want each and every one of you to have a fun and safe experience at every event we participate in. 

There are ANV and 3rd Regiment Standard Operating Procedures and Safety regulations we are obligated to follow for the good of the hobby and he safety of all who participate.  This is where the Indian made muskets have come to the attention of both the ANV and Regimental leadership.  In recent years there have been a number of incidents where Indian made musket barrels have burst while firing, with both live and blank ammunition.  An examination of these barrels has shown that they are not made of the same quality barrel steel as the Italian, Japanese or original musket barrels.  The Indian made barrels are often made of steel tubing.  In at least some cases, barrels exhibit a seam along their length where they have been welded together.  

Civil War era Indian made muskets include the following models: Model 1842 Springfield or Harpers Ferry smoothbore, Model 1842 Palmetto variant with brass bands, Pattern 1853 Enfield and the 1854 Lorenz.  There are many earlier style flintlock models as well, so this is not a complete list, but includes muskets appropriate for our time period.  So - How do you identify these muskets?  There are several telltale features:

·        Metal Parts are Highly Polished – These usually come with all metal parts polished mirror bright, not the “Armory Bright” produced by Springfield and Harpers Ferry.  The metal work on Indian made muskets is typically polished on a buffing wheel to almost resemble chrome plating.

·        Teak Wood Stocks – Yes, Teak; the same wood used on boats.  The wood used on original Springfield and Harpers Ferry muskets was American Walnut.  The Italian muskets typically use European walnut for the most part, but a few are made with American Walnut.

·        Crude Markings – The lock and barrel markings are often crude looking and sometimes oversized compared to that seen on original muskets.

·        Rifle Musket Has a Smoothbore Barrel – Some Indian made Enfields and perhaps other models are sold with smoothbore barrels, rather than being rifled as originals were. 

·        No Legitimate Proof Marks – Most of these muskets are not proof tested to ensure the barrels are safe.  There may be reproduction proof marks for display purposes such as the VP and eagle proof marks originally used by Springfield and Harpers Ferry Armories.  But these are only reproduction markings, not an authentic indication of a successful and safe proofing.  Italian and Japanese muskets have authentic proof stamps of their own design.  One Indian musket importer used to proof barrels upon request, but now states on their web site that “we have had to discontinue the proofing of each weapon because of the excessive time and labor involved”. 

·        Less Expensive Than Italian Muskets – Indian made muskets are often billed as “affordable” muskets suitable for those on a tight budget and sell for about 1/3 less than there Italian counterparts.  So they are enticing to fresh fish that my not know any better.

So you may be wondering who sells these muskets.  There are at least a few companies selling these online and sometimes you might see them being sold at events through Sutlers, so be aware when you or a new member may be looking to purchase a Civil War musket.

Here are three examples.  First is an Indian made Enfield.  The barrel is split from just in front of the rear sight to a point just ahead of the middle band - Right where your hand would be

Next is an Indian made Brown Bess flintlock musket.  While not of the Civil War era, it is made using the same methods and materials as the above Enfield.  Note how this one split right along the side, perhaps on a weld seam of the barrel.

The last example is an Indian made Austrian Lorenz.  This one burst this year at Gettysburg.

This is just three examples of muskets that have burst.  There are others.  We do not know all the circumstances surrounding these burst barrels.  But regardless of the circumstances, it is clear that these examples did not stand up to the use reenactors can give them and present an unacceptable safety risk.  I have not seen or heard of a burst barrel like these on an Italian or Japanese made musket.  Not only have some barrels burst, but the critical safety related parts of the lock may be of inferior quality as well.  The sear and tumbler of any lock must be properly heat treated and hardened to work properly and safely.  The half cock notch, full cock notch and sear must be precisely cut and ground to be safe. 

Now I will come clean and admit to owning an Indian made musket myself in the past.  I bought it new from one of the online purveyors who specialize in these.  When it arrived, the hammer was loose on the tumbler and the sear would not fully engage the half cock notch.  I sent the lock back to the importer for repairs.  It came back repaired, but it had an extremely heavy mainspring.  I had to make a number of small repairs and changes in order to make the musket acceptable from an appearance and functional standpoint.  Overall, I was not impressed with it and eventually sold it as a display piece.  So I have first-hand experience with these muskets, this is not just hearsay.  There are people out there who own an Indian made musket and will tell you “I’ve been using it for years and never had a problem”.  I’m sure that is a true statement.  I’ve heard these comments myself and seen this type of comment many times on internet forums - and that is just the point.  These muskets may look and work ok for years, likely forever.  But then again, they may not.  But ask yourself this question: “Do I want to be in a battle line with someone next to me firing an Indian made musket?” 

So where is this all leading?  For the safety of 3rd Regiment, beginning in 2014 reproduction muskets manufactured in India will be prohibited from taking the field or being fired at any 3rd Regiment, ANV sanctioned event.  They can be used for display purposes in camp or at local unit events.  Please understand that this decision was not taken lightly.  Your safety is the highest concern to 3rd Regiment staff.  For the safety off all concerned, this decision was made. 

The 3rd Regiment Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) will be updated to reflect this safety related change.