The Springfield Model 1863 was a rifled musket, and the last in the line of muzzle loaded arms produced by the Springfield Armory. The Model 1863 is a development of the earlier Springfield Model 1861.
The standard Model 1863 saw the changes made by Colt on the Model 1861 (which became known as the 'Colt Special' Model 1861) applied to the Springfield built Model 1863. These changes included redesigned barrel bands, hammer and bolster. However the barrel itself retained the 40in (1.01m) length with 3 1:72 twists inside it.
The barrel bands were changed (like the Colt Special's), from the usual band springs to flat barrel bands which were combined with oval shaped clamping bands. Likewise the bolster (percussion chamber) and hammer mechanism were both redesigned and based on the Colt design.
The major change that originated from Springfield was the inclusion of a three leaf sight (adding another leaf to the original two leaf sight of the Model 1861) which increased the sight range of the Model 1863 to include distances up to 800 yards. Other changes made by Springfield were to the ramrod and a case-hardened lock, which gave the Model 1863 a weight of 9lb (4.1kg), 1lb lower than the Model 1861.
The Model 1863 would use the .58in (14.7mm) Minie Ball, the standard calibre since the release of the Minie Rifle in 1851. The rate of fire of the Model 1863 was expected to exceed 3 shots per minute by any user, and was one of the last of the Springfields to use percussion caps.
The Model 1863 appeared in two variants. The Type I (the original Model 1863) and the Type II (also called the Model 1864).
Model 1863 Type IEdit
As stated earlier, the Type I was the standard edition of the Model 1863. The Type I features all of the design details mentioned above. A total of 273,265 Model 1863 Type Is were produced.
Model 1863 Type II (Model 1864)Edit
The Model 1863 Type II (sometimes referred to as the Model 1864) removed some of the features that were seen on the Type I. The band springs were reintroduced, with the oval clamps changed to oval bands. The sights were changed to a single leaf, a cheaper alternative to the three leaf sight of the original. The production count of the Model 1863 Type IIs reached 255,040.
The Model 1863 is notable as the last muzzle loaded firearm produced by the Springfield Armory. Nonetheless the Model 1863, like its predecessor the Model 1861, was very popular costing less than $20. This meant that when the era of the muzzle loaded rifle ended (for Springfield) the Model 1863 remained in use. The conversion to the breech loading 'Trapdoor Springfields' cost $5, whereas a new breech loading rifle cost slightly more than $20.
The Model 1863 was released during the mid-point of the American Civil War. It would not see as much use in the conflict as the Model 1861 , but its influence meant that the recognition that Springfield Firearms were accurate and reliable. The Model 1863 is not as popular among war-reinactors than its predecessor, as the Model 1861 became a symbol of the Civil War.
The Model 1863 would effectively be the last of the Model 1795 line, with subsequent Springfields (although using the same base as the Model 1861) being developed into rifles. The Model 1863 was one of the last firearms to be officially recognised as both a rifle and a musket.