What is a fair price for an original 1853 Enfield Rifle ?

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Greasy_Jesus

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Recently I started working for a new client in PA, I have been working on his beat to hell farm equipment and we got on the topic of rifles. He told me his father passed a few years ago and left him with a handful of muzzleloaders which he doesnt want. 3 are H&R the kind you can't talk about here and the last two are a T/C Penn Hunter flint he is keeping and an original 1853 Enfield Rifle. This rifle was made in 1863 and the bore is between .579"~.582" in my different measurements made with a pair of calipers (could be a me issue on the wide measurement range). The rifle is in good shape for its age and the barrel still retains a good deal of bluing. It still has its original bayonet as well. It was issued to the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia and was most likely at the 1st Day of Gettysburg (cant say for sure though). Its a real looker but the price is high. The owner asked for $2,400 cash if I wanted to make it mine. Is this a reasonable price for an Enfield Rifle ? I would like to make it a deer hunting rifle as my DGW Tennesee Flintlock Rifle is very unreliable and I dont want to sink any more money into fixing its many many issues. I figured I would ask here as I am assuming there are some guys here with some civil war knowledge. I have looked online and have only seen prices of repros and the Nepalese/Khyber Pass copies. Thanks to all who reply.
 
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I think that is a good price for the rifle + bayonet . The bayonets are not as common as the rifles , especially if it has a scabbard , is it numbered to the rifle? who made the rifle ? I have sold bayonets (without scabbard) for these rifles and in fair condition , staining no rust for $800 + . If it is marked to the 26 Pen it has a nice providence , this increases the value . If you use the rifle in the field and damage it in any way you could depreciate its value considerably .
 

Greasy_Jesus

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I think that is a good price for the rifle + bayonet . The bayonets are not as common as the rifles , especially if it has a scabbard , is it numbered to the rifle? who made the rifle ? I have sold bayonets (without scabbard) for these rifles and in fair condition , staining no rust for $800 + . If it is marked to the 26 Pen it has a nice providence , this increases the value . If you use the rifle in the field and damage it in any way you could depreciate its value considerably .
There are no markings anywhere on the rifle that give 100% proof of its service. The owner said his father bought it out of a local GAR hall in 1961 when it was closing. The hall said it was a 26th PAEM service rifle so that is all the proof that is in circulation I guess you can say. The bayonet has markings but are very very faded and I doubt it is the 100% original bayonet but its not a reproduction as it has the BSAF (Birmingham Small Arms Firm) proof marks which from what I can tell are not used on the repro bayonets. I have a Snider Conversion 1857 dated Enfield 3 band that I picked up in 2019 for $400 so I didnt know what was a fair price for the Muzzle loaded original. My snider does look about 70% better than this rifle does though. I wish I has some pictures to share but I didnt think to take any.
 
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No provenance of original issue or use ,cuts the collector value considerably . Did you get a bore light down the barrel ? . In light of no provenance and a non original bayonet , I think you are better off following Pathfinder's advice , Get him to make a more suitable hunting rifle for you .Those long clunky 1853 rifles are no fun to carry through the woods, or any where for that matter . The Germans often had bayonets for hunting rifles hidden a butt trap , I suppose that was for defense against enraged European Boar when the hunters rifle was unloaded . .
 
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Condition is everything, that would be an OK price for one in really good original condition. If there are condition issues or if it was refinished that would be very high. I wouldn't put too much faith in the provenance, according to any information I can find, the 26th emergency militia was issued Springfields, not Enfields.
 

SirFrancis

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I saw a ratty p53 sell on Gunbroker last year for less than $500, missing the rear sight.

I saw a nicer one sell for a thousand.

$2400 is very high unless it has ironclad proof of provenance.
 

maillemaker

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Without pictures nobody can really help you online.

There is a saying, "Buy the gun, not the story." Unless there is paperwork backing up the provenance, or there are markings on the gun that can suggest provenance, then it's just another gun.

You can pick up "shootable" Enfield muskets for around $2000. In my opinion, it seems to me like if you want on in very good condition they are $3000+, and really fine condition they can be $5000 or more.

When I got into black powder a decade ago I went on Gunbroker and bought what I thought was a nice Enfield. Turns out it was a British model (War Department stampings) and unshootable. I then bought a Euroarms reproduction to be a "shooter" and it turned out also to be unshootable! :) (bore was worn out at .584 and would not shoot well even with properly-sized bullets).

My advice would be if you are looking for an Enfield you can actually shoot to check with N-SSA folks (it is hard to get on their forum, you have to email them to have them make you an account) and buy one that is known to be shootable. Many N-SSA folks have had their original barrels stretched and lined by Robert Hoyt making them as good as new or better.

If you are really interested in your friend's Enfield I would take it to a gunsmith to verify it is safe to shoot, and then get permission to actually shoot it. If you can't shoot it, at least verify that it's safe and get a bore scope to verify that the rifling is good and strong.

You might also consider a reproduction Enfield. Pedersoli makes a good replica. Armisport makes one also but I have no opinions on them. Pedersoli makes decent locks and springs and the rear sight is a quality machined version (the one I had was anyway). A reproduction won't be exactly like an original but you can be relatively certain it will be a shooter.
 
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Unless it is in exceptional condition , that price is high. The bayonet adds value though.

A decent "survivor" grade, unsanded, uncleaned, original and unaltered P53 is a $1500 rifle. Few people care about the bayonet. The collector market is pretty low for Civil War weapons right now, I've seen the same overpriced stuff on GB for years now.

Bear in mind the barrel is made of Iron, and iron gets brittle with age. I'd use caution shooting an original. I have a P53 that was bored smooth , and I have not and won't even try to shoot it. Just no need to risk bursting an original piece.
 
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I have never heard this before. Now metal will fatigue due to stress over time, but I have never heard of age affecting iron. Do you have a source for this?
I don't have a source, but I have read and heard many times over the years that firearms from this period were made with basically Ordnance Grade Iron, not "steel" as we think of it.

Which is why you can find many reports of people shooting original percussion revolvers and nipples blowing out and cylinders rupturing. Or the occasional barrel bursting or nipple blowing out in an original English target rifle at a match.

Age combined with the barrel expanding and flexing over many 1000s of rounds will render it unsafe. I do believe some N-SSA events or reenactments stopped allowing original weapons to be live fired?

There has to be logic behind this.
 

maillemaker

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I don't have a source, but I have read and heard many times over the years that firearms from this period were made with basically Ordnance Grade Iron, not "steel" as we think of it.

Which is why you can find many reports of people shooting original percussion revolvers and nipples blowing out and cylinders rupturing. Or the occasional barrel bursting or nipple blowing out in an original English target rifle at a match.

Age combined with the barrel expanding and flexing over many 1000s of rounds will render it unsafe. I do believe some N-SSA events or reenactments stopped allowing original weapons to be live fired?

There has to be logic behind this.
The N-SSA allows original firearms to be used. I'm not aware on any restrictions in their use - other than the N-SSA does not condone radical modifications of original arms. For example, you can't take an original smoothbore musket and add a rear sight to it if it did not come with one in its original configuration.

Iron in the 1860s was largely made using bloomery steel made in bloomery furnaces. Our regional N-SSA shoot, in fact, is held at Brierfield Ironworks State Park, which is the ruins of a Civil-War era bloomery furnace that provided iron for the Confederacy. Tannehill is nearby and in better condition.

Bloomery iron was produced in this manner for a thousand or more years. Essentially, you make a tall chimney and start a fire in it. Then you dump iron ore in on top. The impurities in the ore (silicates) liquefy, but the iron itself never gets hot enough to melt. If it did/does, the molten iron rapidly uptakes carbon and you end up with cast iron, which is brittle and generally unsuitable for musket barrel use.


Once the silicates are melted, a cork is pulled out of the bottom of the furnace and the molten silicates and slag runs out of the furnace. It makes a black glass (pieces of it can be found all over the park). Surface tension causes the iron particles to coalesce into a lump inside the furnace - a "bloom". This bloom is removed from the furnace and hammered while still glowing bright hot. The hammering causes any trapped inclusions of slag to be ejected out of the bloom, squirting molten slag everywhere.



The result is iron, with more or less slag inclusions in it depending on how well/long it was "wrought" to to remove and fold/blend the inclusions to make a homogeneous piece of material. In fact the reason why Japanese swords were folded as many times as they were was to make a more homogeneous piece of metal.

If steel was desired, the way this was achieved was through carburizing. This was known since at least 1200 or so as documented by the monk Theophilus in his work, "On Divers Arts", where he documented the efforts of various tradesmen. One of the processes he documented was the making of files, where he describes packing in carbon-rich material, heating in a forge, quenching, and then tempering. All of the things we know today as carburizing and heat treating.

I believe gun barrels of the era (and earlier) were pretty much just wrought iron. Just post Civil War you started to see gun barrels made of steel and so stamped.

Sorry for the rambling; just a brief history of iron and steel.

Anyway, I have never heard of wrought iron growing brittle from age alone. Metals generally fatigue from stress - repeated flexing. This is why you can take a paper clip and bend it back and forth and eventually it will snap in two.

The reason for antique guns failing in period was likely due to impurities in the iron causing weak spots in them. Or of course, under-engineered parts to begin with. Colt Walker cylinders were notorious for fragmenting under use. It's one of the reasons later designs shortened the cylinder so that less powder could be put in them.
 
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The N-SSA allows original firearms to be used. I'm not aware on any restrictions in their use - other than the N-SSA does not condone radical modifications of original arms. For example, you can't take an original smoothbore musket and add a rear sight to it if it did not come with one in its original configuration.

Iron in the 1860s was largely made using bloomery steel made in bloomery furnaces. Our regional N-SSA shoot, in fact, is held at Brierfield Ironworks State Park, which is the ruins of a Civil-War era bloomery furnace that provided iron for the Confederacy. Tannehill is nearby and in better condition.

Bloomery iron was produced in this manner for a thousand or more years. Essentially, you make a tall chimney and start a fire in it. Then you dump iron ore in on top. The impurities in the ore (silicates) liquefy, but the iron itself never gets hot enough to melt. If it did/does, the molten iron rapidly uptakes carbon and you end up with cast iron, which is brittle and generally unsuitable for musket barrel use.


Once the silicates are melted, a cork is pulled out of the bottom of the furnace and the molten silicates and slag runs out of the furnace. It makes a black glass (pieces of it can be found all over the park). Surface tension causes the iron particles to coalesce into a lump inside the furnace - a "bloom". This bloom is removed from the furnace and hammered while still glowing bright hot. The hammering causes any trapped inclusions of slag to be ejected out of the bloom, squirting molten slag everywhere.



The result is iron, with more or less slag inclusions in it depending on how well/long it was "wrought" to to remove and fold/blend the inclusions to make a homogeneous piece of material. In fact the reason why Japanese swords were folded as many times as they were was to make a more homogeneous piece of metal.

If steel was desired, the way this was achieved was through carburizing. This was known since at least 1200 or so as documented by the monk Theophilus in his work, "On Divers Arts", where he documented the efforts of various tradesmen. One of the processes he documented was the making of files, where he describes packing in carbon-rich material, heating in a forge, quenching, and then tempering. All of the things we know today as carburizing and heat treating.

I believe gun barrels of the era (and earlier) were pretty much just wrought iron. Just post Civil War you started to see gun barrels made of steel and so stamped.

Sorry for the rambling; just a brief history of iron and steel.

Anyway, I have never heard of wrought iron growing brittle from age alone. Metals generally fatigue from stress - repeated flexing. This is why you can take a paper clip and bend it back and forth and eventually it will snap in two.

The reason for antique guns failing in period was likely due to impurities in the iron causing weak spots in them. Or of course, under-engineered parts to begin with. Colt Walker cylinders were notorious for fragmenting under use. It's one of the reasons later designs shortened the cylinder so that less powder could be put in them.



It may be gun show lore, or an urban legend but I'm just glad reproductions exist , because I really don't want to put 40-50 rounds a week through stuff like my original '61 Springfield that's history is unknown to me and I'm more comfortable shooting once in a while just to experience it, and keep it as a piece of history. I have no idea if the last owner used 200gr of Pyrodex in it or some weird home brew load and weakened the iron.
 

TFoley

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There are no markings anywhere on the rifle that give 100% proof of its service. The owner said his father bought it out of a local GAR hall in 1961 when it was closing. The hall said it was a 26th PAEM service rifle so that is all the proof that is in circulation I guess you can say. The bayonet has markings but are very very faded and I doubt it is the 100% original bayonet but its not a reproduction as it has the BSAF (Birmingham Small Arms Firm) proof marks which from what I can tell are not used on the repro bayonets. I have a Snider Conversion 1857 dated Enfield 3 band that I picked up in 2019 for $400 so I didnt know what was a fair price for the Muzzle loaded original. My snider does look about 70% better than this rifle does though. I wish I has some pictures to share but I didnt think to take any.
Factory.
 

dave951

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It may be gun show lore, or an urban legend but I'm just glad reproductions exist , because I really don't want to put 40-50 rounds a week through stuff like my original '61 Springfield that's history is unknown to me and I'm more comfortable shooting once in a while just to experience it, and keep it as a piece of history. I have no idea if the last owner used 200gr of Pyrodex in it or some weird home brew load and weakened the iron.

There's lots of "lore" and downright wrong misinformation out there. There are a very few people I trust on Civil War arms and they are all in the N-SSA. As for provenance, that can be dicey because of ignorance, hearsay, deceit on the part of the seller, and inadvertent deceit (a "defarbed" gun with no identification as such).

If you're just wanting a good hunting gun, consider a musketoon. They're short, handy and can be extremely accurate. There are several repops out there to choose from.
 
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