This is rare London Armoury Enfield Pattern 1853 3 Band Rifled Musket imported during the Civil War. Standard .577 Caliber with 3 groove rifling, 39" barrel, with brass furniture, and sling swivels. In all the years we've bought and sold Enfields, this is only the second London Armoury Musket we've had and the only one that saw actual service here in America during in the Civil War. This was the very best Enfield that money could buy during the Civil War. Unfortunately, they are quite scarce and on rare occasions will see one on display or for sale at a show. This gun is dated "1862" on the lockpate and on London Armoury stock cartouche. The only other LAC rifle we've ever had was about 8 years ago. That particular gun was a prize rifle won by a English Volunteer at Wimbledon in Aug. 1861....(Yes, they play tennis there now...but back in the 1860's it was a shooting range). While there is a great deal of Civil War correspondence about the high quality London Armoury very few of these guns have turned up here in the United States. It seems like there is plenty to read about them, but finding one is another matter.
So what's the big deal about the London Armoury anyway? When the Civil War began in 1861, there was an acute shortage of weapons on both sides. In Wiley Swords book on Enfields, he even mentions that the Confederacy was so desperate for arms, they actually posted want ads to private citizens after the Battle of Bull Run for weapons found on the battlefield. With so many men entering military service in both the Confederacy and the Union, arsenal stores depleted, and domestic production limited, especially in the South, demand had reached critical mass during the first few months of the War. During the Spring and Summer in 1861, Confederate and the Union agents were quickly dispatched to England to purchase large quantities of British military pattern Enfields. Although there were lots of private makers in Great Britain who were fully capable of building the Pattern 1853, 56, and 58 Patterns to satisfy both Confederate and Union demands during the Civil War, the London Armoury was an ideal choice. You had Towers built by mostly by groups of independently contracted gunsmiths working larger contractors around Birmingham and several private makers in London like Barnett, EP Bond, Parker Field, Potts & Hunt, and Greener. Some of those makers were fair to good, others were much better, particularly the London makers in my humble opinion. However, the London Armoury guns stood out not just in quality but more importantly, they were the only private manufacturer in England capable of producing with interchangeable parts. To a military organization, interchangeability of parts was a critical feature that allowed guns to be repaired in the field quickly without need of highly skilled labor. In England, only the British Gov't owned Enfield Manufactory and the privately owned London Armory were capable of producing military rifles with this level of quality.
Logically, given the widely known quality of the LA Co, they were the ideal choice procuring arms. Confederate purchasing agent, Major Caleb Huse was the first to arrive at the London Armory's doorstep in 1861, but to his dismay, he soon found that their production was limited to only 1300 rifles per month. Of that, the firm had a 1200/month delivery quota to fill as they were under contract to the British Government until March 1862. If that wasn't bad enough, what little excess production was available was tied up with a another small contract to the State of Massachusetts. Still, Mr. Huse found did manage to purchase a few London Armouries and more importantly, he found a friend in the LA Co's superintendent, Archibald Hamilton, who knew practically every gun-maker in England. Mr. Hamilton was willing to work for a 2 1/2% commission and its likely that his influences helped procure better quality arms for the Confederacy. In contrast, more often than not, the Union was left purchasing many of the 2nd quality guns coming out of Birmingham. Through is firm Sinclair, Hamilton, & Co., Hamilton was able to tie up nearly all of the London and much of Birmingham's production for the Confederacy for at least the first several months of the War. By the time Huse was able to get a contract with the LA Co, he was having trouble securing lines of credit to place the order. Thus, its seems that while the London Armoury Co. did sell some of its Pattern 53's to the Confederacy, they were in small quantities at best. Its also likely that the Union was able to purchase a few as well during the war.
This particular London Armory Rifle is an attic find in NRA Antique Very Good Condition. Its 100% original down to the smallest screw. Its never been cleaned and even smells old! The metal has turned to a nice smooth brown patina overall with some light to moderate corrosion around the bolster area from ignition sparks. This rifle definitely saw some action. The lockplate is marked "1862" over "L.A.Co." with the English crown at the back of the plate and the letters "V.R...which stands for Queen Victoria Regina. Normally, commercially imported Enfields just have the crown without the monarch's initials...however, LA Co muskets are one of the few exceptions to have these both on military and commercial exports. The barrel has London proofs with a "25" gauge stamp that denotes .577 caliber. If you look very closely, there are two "LAC" proof marks on the barrel to the upper left of the London Proofs. The rear sight ladder is also marked "LAC". The stock has a nice cartouche that reads "LONDON ARMOURY BERMONDSEY" with the date "1862" stamped in the center. The wood is in fine condition with no chips, cracks, or repairs. Only noteworthy flaws are a couple of gouges on the left side of the wrist and some burnout on the wood just behind the bolster from ignition sparks...a right of passage for almost every Enfield used in the American Civil War. Being a London Armoury, these rifles have a few advances and differences than most Enfields of the period. For starters, it has the more advanced Baddely type barrel bands on the middle and rear band placements with recessed tension screws. Since the front band holds the sling swivel, it has the its original and correct standard band with exposed tension screw. Some collectors will argue the Baddely bands were not used on rifles imported during the Civil War...however, this rifle is living proof they were. Given how scarce LAC guns are, its more likely they just have never seen one. A friend of mine who relic hunts has even seen a Baddely band dug up from the Battlefield at Griswoldville, GA from Nov. 1864. There are some other features on this rifle that are unique to LAC guns. For example, note the more compact oval-shaped sling swivel and the rounded edges to the prongs on the brass eyelets mounted on the left side of the stock opposite the lockplate. Even the screw heads are slightly different than most commerical Enfields as they have rounded heads instead instead of flat ones for the brass triggerguard and buttplate furniture. The action on this rifle works beautifully and the bore is in Fine condition with all its original 3 groove rifling intact and in beautiful condition. If you're looking to add a good Civil War Enfield to your collection, here is the very best maker and hardest one of them all to find!