Joslyn Rifle
Joslyn Rifle
Country of origin

United States


Joslyn Firearms Company, Springfield Armory


Benjamin Franklin Joslyn

Year(s) designed


Production began


Production ended


Weapon type

Service rifle


.54in (13.7mm), .58in (14.7mm), .50-70 Government


Percussion lock

Overall length

45in (1.14m)

Barrel length

30in (0.76m)

Magazine/Cylinder capacity


Used by

United States, France

The Joslyn Rifle, namesake of its designer Benjamin Franklin Joslyn, was an American Civil War era breech loading rifle. The Joslyn was produced for ten years between the Joslyn Firearms Company and the fabled Springfield Armory.

Design DetailsEdit

The Joslyn, in appearance atleast, looked like a fairly typical rifle/rifled musket of the era. It operated using the typical percussion lock mechanism and was manufactured with a rifled barrel which was fitted with a bayonet lug (which some later models of the Joslyn lacked) and held to the stock by three barrel bands. However the loading mechanism was quite different to the more common muzzle loaders of the era.

The Joslyn's breech loading mechanism (which allowed cartridges to be loaded into the rear of the breech rather than the muzzle) was operated via a lever which extended along the wrist of the stock. The lever, when pulled, forced the breech block open (which swung to the left on a hinge) allowing the cartridge to be loaded before the breech was clipped back into place.

Modifications were made to the Joslyn throughout its production life, the majority of these minor. One important change to the design was the introduction of Joslyn's own metallic cartridge in 1861 (replacing the paper cartridge of the original) which meant that the Joslyn was not a true percussion lock design. The cartridge (rimfire in design) was fired via the "cap" (the rear of the breech) which was struck by the hammer.


The Joslyn Rifle, as mention previously, fired two calibre sizes from paper cartrides: .54in (13.7mm) and .58in (14.7mm). From the Model 1861 Joslyn onwards a metallic cartridge was used, meaning that percussion caps were no longer required and hence reduced loading times. 

Following the end of the American Civil War around 8,200 Joslyn rifles and carbines were converted to fire the .50-70 Government cartridge, all of which were sold to France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. 


The Joslyn Rifle had a difficult adoption prior to the American Civil War, the Joslyn Firearm Company being criticised for the quality of its manufacture. This dispute would last beyond the production life of the Joslyn Rifle between the US Government (at the Springfield Armory) and the Joslyn Firearm Comany despite the US Government ordering around 30,000 (in total) Joslyn Rifles during the early 1860's. 

American Civil WarEdit

Joslyn Rifle 2

The breech loading mechanism of the Joslyn Model 1861.

The first instance of use of the Joslyn Rifle was by the U.S. Navy, whom ordered 500 Joslyns in 1858 (chambered in .58in calibre). Issues arose during production, meaning that fewer than 200 of these would be delivered but it did prompt the US Government to reconsider the Joslyn for use.

Following the modifications introduced in 1861 the U.S. Government ordered 20,000 Joslyn Carbines, although again the Joslyn Firearm Company would fail to deliver the full contract with only half of the number constructed by the end of the Civil War. Later in 1865 the US Government ordered a further 5,000 Joslyns (following another set of modifications) although 3,000 of these were produced by the Springfield Armory. 

Franco-Prussian WarEdit

In 1871, following the opening engagements of the Franco-Pussian War, 8,200 Joslyns were converted (in both carbine and rifle from) to fire the .50-70 Government cartridge. This was designed to better suit France's requirements for thier rifles, although the majority of these Joslyns were intercepted by Prussia and sold to Belgium and several African territories.