The Minie Rifle (also known in Britain the Pattern 1851 Minie Rifle) as it was called in France was a percussion lock rifle issued in 1851. It was the first purpose built rifle for the Minié Ball, a new type of ammunition that replaced the musket ball. The Minié Rifle is also commonly classed as a Musket.
The Minié Rifle was effectively rifled musket. Therefore, unlike its earlier smoothbore counterparts (such as the Charleville Musket) the Minié Rifle had 4 twists in the barrel, with a twist rate of 1:78 (the same as the later Pattern 1853 Enfield being designed around the time of the Minié Rifle). The barrel was 37.7in (960mm) in length.
The Minié Rifle's major advantage over its predecessors though was its fast loading ability. This was a key feature of the design, as the advantage of a higher rate of fire was seen as a greater advantage than the significant gain in range the the Minié Rifle had. The ramrod in particular was designed to accommodate the soft lead Minié Ball, being specifically shaped to prevent deforming the bullet.
The Minié Rifle used a percussion lock mechanism to fire the Minie ball, and was capeable of firing accurately to 600 yards (550m). Therefore the Minié Rifle was fitted with sights as standard, a relatively novel idea at the time as the smoothbore muskets of old were largely inaccurate at a distance greater than 200 yards.
The Minié Rifle was purpose built to fire the Minie Ball. Specifically a .71in (17.5mm) Minie ball was fired from the Minié Rifle at a muzzle velocity of around 900ft/s (270m/s).
The Minié rifle was muzzle loaded, and expected to fire around 3 shots per minute.
The Minié Rifle is not necessarily a single weapon, more a template for other rifles from other manufacturers. Among these manufacturers RSAF Enfield from Great Britain and the Springfield Armory from the US would develop the Minié Rifle into a more refined design.
Pattern 1853 EnfieldEdit
The Pattern 1853 Enfield was the first British made Minie ball firing rifled musket (the Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle was another name for the original Minie rifle from France). It would also appear as the Pattern 1861 Enfield Musketoon in 1861).
Springfield Model 1855 MusketEdit
The Springfield Model 1855 Musket, constructed by both Springfield and Harpers Ferry in the US, was the first American made musket to feature rifling and to fire the Minie ball (although older American muskets, such as the Model 1842, were converted to fire the Minie ball when it was released, rifling added to their barrels).
An Austrian made Minie Rifle, designed in 1854 and distributed to Austrian troops from 1855. The Lorenz Rifle's design incorporated features of the Pattern 1853 Enfield and the Springfield Model 1855 Musket.
The Vereinsgewehr Rifle 1857 rifled musket that was the successor to the Musket Modele 1777 (of French origin) that was designed and built in the German states before the unification of Germany (by Prussia) in 1871. These rifles used a smaller .54 caliber Minie ball.
Springfield Model 1861 MusketEdit
The Model 1861 Musket from Springfield refined the design of the earlier Model 1855 Musket, heavily reinforced and retained the use of the .58 caliber Minie ball (but with a slightly higher charge improving the muzzle velocity).
The Minié Rifle replaced the Musket (although it was still classed as a musket), being more accurate, more reliable (particularly in wet weather where the flintlock mechanism of old would cause the powder to become damp and fail to fire), and with a greater range and velocity. The Minie Rifle (and rifled muskets in general) became the standard firearms of the majority of armies of the world.
The Minié Rifle would be used in major conflicts such as:
- Crimean War
- India Mutiny
- Austro - Prussian War
- American Civil War
- War of the Pacific
The Minié Rifle would be replaced by the late 1860's and early 1870's as the breech locking mechanism, which resulted in a significantly higher rate of fire as the paper/metallic cartridge could be loaded directly into the breech instead of from the muzzle and forced down the barrel using a ramrod. The higher rate of fire of the breechloading rifles (such as the Dreyse Needle gun) removed the Minie rifle from major service in the 1860s with the introduction of the Tabatiere and Chassepot rifles.
- Lorenz Rifle and Vereinsgewehr Rifle originally posted to Flickr