The Snider-Enfield was a British breech-loading rifle, designed by Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield in 1860. The Snider-Enfield entered service in 1866, replacing the Pattern 1853 Enfield (which would be converted to a breech-loading rifle), and remaining in service until 1901.
The Snider-Enfield used the new Snider action, designed by Jacob Snider, which used a side-hinged breechblock action (the breech (the part of the firearm where the cartridge is loaded) is a seperate chamber mounted on a single side hinge). This mechanism had existed since 1853, and by 1860 Enfield had designed the Snider Enfield. Tests proved the superiority of the breech loading mechanism (compared to the muzzle loading method of the Pattern 1853 Enfield and earlier muskets).
The Mark I of the Snider Enfield was, in essence, a conversion of the Pattern 1853 Enfield. The conversion involved the addition of a breechblock and reciever assembly. However the other parts of the Pattern 1853 Enfield, such as the stock, barrel, hammer mechanism and lock mechanism (percussion lock).
The breech block contained a diagonally sloped firing pin, which was struck by the hammer. The Snider-Enfield lacked an ejector rod, meaning that the cartridge had to be removed by hand or, more likely, the rifle was shaken harshly to allow the cartridge to fall out.
The Snider-Enfield was designed to fire the .577 Snider round. This was marginally smaller than the former .58in (14.7mm) Minie Ball of the Pattern 1853, meaning that the Pattern 1853 did not need to have a barrel change to be converted. This made the replacement/conversion easier and cheaper.
The Boxer-cartridge was also used for the first time in a service rifle, designed with a metal case. This refined design meant that the Snider-Enfield was more than capable of firing 10 rounds per minute, a great improvement on the older muzzle loaded weapons (which were expected to fire around 3 rounds per minute).
The Snider-Enfield was originally based on the Pattern 1853 Enfield, these versions known as the Mark I. The Snider-Enfield would be developed into the Mark III with a steel barrel and a redesigned breech lock mechanism. Other versions were built to make the Snider-Enfield more usable.
Long Rifle (Rifled Musket)EditEffectively the standard Snider-Enfield. The Long Rifle was among the longest early rifles, with a 36in (0.91m) barrel. This was 3in shorter than the Pattern 1853 Enfield, although converted Pattern 1853s retained their 39in barrels. The overall length of the Long Rifle was 54.3in (1.38m), with three barrel bands holding the barrel to the stock and 3 rifle grooves with a 1:72 twist rate.
Short Rifle Edit
This was a shorter version (as the name suggests) with a 33in barrel. However the barrel had two extra grooves and a tighter twist rate of 1:48, increasing the muzzle velocity and compensate for the reduced barrel length. The barrel was fixed to the stock using two barrel bands.
The Short rifle was issued to rifle units and sergents of line infantry.
The Artillery Carbine had a shorter 21.3in (0.54m) barrel with the same rifling pattern as the Short Rifle. The barrel was fitted with two barrel bands
The Cavalry Carbine Snider-Enfield used an even shorter 19.5in (0.5m) barrel fixed by a single barrel band. The Cavalry Carbine was also half-stocked.
It was common practice for Cavalry and Artillery units to be given Carbines or Musketoons which were shorter than the firearms issued to other troops. The increased manuverability allowed them to be used as sidearms as these units were not likely to use them in their normal combat roles. Such examples include the Charleville Musket and Brown Bess which had their own devoted Musketoon versions.
The Snider-Enfield was adopted for service in 1866, replacing the Pattern 1853 Enfield. The first use of the Snider-Enfield would be the battle of Aroghee (Ethiopia) witht the Snider-Enfield being exported to the rest of the British Empire around that time. The Martini-Henry replaced the Snider Enfield from 1874, however the Snider-Enfield would remain the standard firearm in India (as a result of the India Mutiny) as India remained one step behind the British Empire in terms of firearm evolution.
Replicas and reproductions are produced, as per demand, by Euroarms and other companies. However in the Snider-Enfield's era several copies were made, particularly in Japan and Nepal which were near exact copies. The main rivals to the Snider-Enfield at the time was the Tabatiere Rifle (and it's successor the Chassepot rifle) of France and the Springfield Trapdoor Rifles .
The Snider-Enfield is referenced by poet Rudyard Kipling in the poem "The Grave of the Hundred Head":
|“||A Snider squibbed in the jungle, Somebody laughed and fled, And the men of the First Shikaris, Picked up their Subaltern dead, With a blue mark in his forehead, And the back blown out of his head.||”|
–Rudyard Kipling, "The Grave of the Hundred Head"
- Japanese Snider-Enfield.