The late Arthur Hare gives an illustrated history of this interesting rifle.
This curious arm with its two-groove bore and belted bullet remained in the hands of Regulars, Militia and Native troops for almost half a century, despite complaints of the guns inaccuracy and difficult loading system. The weapon replaced the seven-groove quarter-turn Baker rifle that had been in use for almost 25 years. The Baker in turn replaced the old smooth-bore Brown Bess.
As well as an obvious requirement for improved long-ranged accuracy, there was also a need for a new ignition system to replace the old style flint action that had been rendered obsolete by the introduction of the percussion cap. George Lovell an Employee and later Inspector for Enfield dedicated himself to bringing the percussion system to the British military, and as early as 1831 began experimenting with various systems. On February 5th 1836, 2,000 new rifles were ordered by the Board, and George Lovell was instructed to provide a pattern similar to the Baker.
It was obvious that the Hanoverian oval bored rifle failed to impress Lovell, for the first model Brunswick he produced was rifled in the usual way, but with eleven grooves instead of seven. The twist of this rifling was increased to a three-quarter turn in the thirty inches of barrel. This, as he put it, was to give more rotation but less friction. The stock was not as straight as the Baker, in order to give a better aim, and the furniture was of iron, blued or case hardened to avoid the glitter of brass. Other features were a back-action percussion lock, and a fixed back-sight for 200 yards with a folding leaf for 300 yards (pictured).
The sword bayonet had a similar grip to the Baker hand bayonet, with a wide double-edged blade 17-in. long and was attached to a round lug near the muzzle.
The rifle was quickly put to the test. Officers of the Rifle Brigade were then invited to comment, but they seemed mainly concerned with the bayonet controversy. Lt.-Col. Eeles agreed that the new rifle should have a sword attached to the barrel “in the same manner that the swords were fixed during the time of the War.” In May 1836, Lovell was, in fact, instructed to prepare an experimental rifle with a sword bayonet. This bayonet has a blade 25-in. long and a knuckle bar. On the other hand another Rifle Brigade officer, Lt.-Col. Brown, advised a long light bayonet instead of the short sword formerly supplied to the Rifle Corps.
In the meantime, Mr. Seabright, acting on behalf of the Duke of Brunswick, had submitted a rifle, which was stated to have been developed by his Field Adjutant, Capt. Berners then in use by the Duke of Brunswicks forces. It had a barrel 3 ft. 3 ½ in. long with two wide grooves making a complete turn. Lovell tried it out against his eleven groove rifle and, although it was very similar to the Hanoverian rifle of 1835, he was immediately impressed. "Certain it is", he reported, "that the shooting of this Rifle in my hands has been very excellent and I would therefore propose to make further inquiries into the principle upon which it is constructed." The only objection he found was the difficulty of placing the belted ball in its proper position on the muzzle in loading.
Maj. Dundas and the Woolwich Committee were not so enthusiastic. They agreed the “it shot as well after 50 rounds had been fired from it as at the commencement of the day’s practice without having been once wiped out”. But they pointed out that a cartridge could not be used, and concluded: “This rifle is infinitely more correct in its firing at long ranges than the common rifle, but from the ball having less initial velocity, it requires a complication of sights which together with its great weight (10 lb. 7 oz.) and less facility in loading would render it very unmanageable for the use of troops in the field”.
On Boxing Day, 1836, Millar reported that the rifle had four great advantages over its rivals:
It was as accurate as the others at short distances, and superior at long distances. There was no difficulty in handling or loading it.It shot correctly for a longer period without cleaning.The greater smoothness of the barrel made it less likely to wear away than those with projecting bearings or lands.
In 1837 the decision was made to adopt the Brunswick system. The weapon was of .704 caliber with a 33 1/16 inch browned barrel incorporating a hooked breech The .704 caliber was chosen so that standard infantry musket balls could be used if necessary. The furniture which included a butt-box cover, ramrod pipes, trigger-guard, buttplate and fore-end cap were of brass.
The back-action was case hardened and the ramrod was polished bright. Lovell told the Board that he had second thoughts about the rifling of his new pattern rifle. One he had made with the two grooves in the style of the Brunswick had proved superior to the eleven-grooved model.
Unmarked Back-Action Lock of 1st Pattern
As the general design of the rifle had been agreed with the Rifle Brigade and orders had been placed for materials, the question of rifling was now urgent. During November and December, six of Lovell’s first model two groove rifles were given a searching test by a Committee of Officers under Maj.-Gen. Millar, Director of Artillery.
The rifle was similar in appearance to the original eleven-grooved model but it now incorporated the Brunswick rifling made to a caliber of .654 in. with the twist increased to a complete turn. Two of the faults to which the Committee had objected in the Brunswick specimen had been removed. Where the rifling left the muzzle, Lovell made two semi-circular notches into which the belt of the ball fitted a considerable help to loading.
The total weight was also reduced to approximately 9 lb. The bayonet had a more substantial handle and the blade was lengthened to 22 in.
The round lug on the barrel was replaced by the old flat bar (pictured below right) with its notch towards the muzzle. It should be noted that Lovell moved this bayonet bar back from the muzzle so that when the bayonet was fixed, its guard was not in front of the muzzle - the main fault of the Baker.
Left: First & Second Pattern Bayonets
The first bulk order for the setting up of 1000 rifles at Enfield was given on 25th October 1837. In January of the following year, it became apparent that 600 of these would be required urgently for Col. Brown’s Battalion of the Rifle Brigade and that the Enfield factory would not be able to supply them in time. The whole of the order was, therefore, put out to the trade in London at a charge of 38s per rifle. The first Brunswick rifles to be made were set up by the following gunmakers.
Barnett & Co.
Reynolds & Son
Lacy & Reynolds
Yeoman’s & Son
E. J. Baker
W. Mills & Son
R. E. Pritchett
W. T. Bond
It was ironical that these gunmakers should at the same time be fulfilling the last orders for the old flintlock rifles.
In January 1837, the Adjutant General Maj.-gen. Sir John MacDonald, approved of the suggestions made, and the 2000 rifles in course of preparation were ordered to be made accordingly. Lovell had already made one slight alteration before this by changing the furniture from iron to brass. On 3rd February however, he put forward his plea for the standardizing of the ball for military use. Under these proposals, the bore of the rifle would be increased to .704 in. The Board in conjunction with the Commander-in-Chief formally agreed to this policy on 4th August. Several of these musket bore rifles were set up right away as patterns.
Troops were issued with the bullets tied up within greased calico patches and marked with a black band to show the location of the belt to aid in loading.
The best effect was obtained by using a loose ball in a greased calico patch, and it was suggested that two thirds of the ammunition should consist of this kind, with the powder charge of 2 ¼ drams contained in blank cartridges.
The remainder should be normal cartridges with balls of 17 to the lb. for use in the line when rapid firing was necessary. Under ideal conditions high rates of fire - for a rifle - had been recorded; with the belted ball, 10 rounds in 7 ½ minutes, and with the cartridge, 10 rounds in 4 ½ minutes. This compared with 10 rounds in 3 ½ minutes, the average with a smoothbore musket.
The powder charge of 2 ½ drams of coarse musket powder was sealed within blank paper cartridges Soldiers were also supplied with with standard infantry cartridges containing powder and smooth ball so the weapon could be fired rapidly should the need become necessary.
In 1841 a second model Brunswick was introduced. It was similar but substituted a conventional sidelock for the back-action version. Comparing this to the third pattern lock you will note that the plate that helps contain the mainspring is fixed from the interior with a screw, a factor which was eliminated in the third pattern where the plate was brazed. The second pattern lock on the left also shows the early style 'Hook mainspring as compared to the later lock on the right with the 'Stirrup-fastened mainspring.
Interior of Second Pattern Lock
Interior of Third Pattern Lock
Second Pattern Action
The screw head protruding into the sideplate is visible below the hammer face
Barrel proofs Second Pattern
The hook breech was eliminated and the sword bar was modified by moving the catch notch to the center for more stability. The first pattern bar had the bayonet fixed to the front end which was changed later and also adopted by the Second pattern.
The forend and both bars are shown here.
The Buttplate of the early Brunswick had the brass plate fixed to the stock with pins that went through the stock aligning with the mounting brackets of the stock interior.
Later the plates were mounted with screws and you will also note a difference in the length of the buttplate tang.
Pictured (below left) are plates from the second pattern Brunswick rifle and the weapons were dated 1844 and 1847 respectfully.
The barrel was fastened
Barrel Tampion (Stopper)
The Brunswick Rifle Barrel "JAG"
As per example shown in the book:
British Military Firearms 1650 - 1850
(Plate 74, pg.242)
[Hamilton May Collection]
With the pattern of the rifle settled, there came next the question of accessories. Lovell submitted a set of implements in September, but Charles Manton won a minor triumph by getting his Rifle Brigade officers to approve a set of his own design. This consisted of a ball drawer, a brass jag and a combination lever and a pricker. It should be explained that the ramrod had a flat pommel and a hole for the lever at one end, and a brass tip with female thread for the jag at the other. Lovell also introduced the muzzle tampion (stopper) in 1843.
The Brunswick sling was of one piece leather 1 & 3/8 inches wide and 32 inches long. It was tied to the lower swivel by a leather thong. The latter part went throught the upper swivel, came down and fastened to a leather button.
The example here was made to conform to the original pattern by the late Victor Zubatiuk.
The method of carrying these implements and also the linen patches had now to be decided. When Lovell designated the butt box, he apparently intended it for greased patches and a piece of rag for wiping the barrel. In January 1839, however, Maj. Boileau submitted a design for a large rectangular cavity with a turn catch or button to hold the implements, and a smaller round one for the patches or grease. Although Lovell objected, this large trap, six inches long was adopted. The butt box involved two compartments, one to hold loose patches and the other set up to secure a three armed combination tool.
Pictured is six inch patch box introduced 1839
Lovell had brought into production, three entirely new standard weapons, a carbine, a musket, and a rifle. While undertaking a host of other duties, he had been responsible for practically the whole of their design and he was naturally proud of his achievement. Learning that his carbine had been called the Victoria Carbine, but that his musket had been designated Lovell's Pattern, he wrote, in March 1839, to ask that the rifle might be named "Lovell’s two-grooved Percussion Rifle", he went on: "I am satisfied that my system is the best yet … My carbine has been named after the Queen, which gallantry and loyalty will not allow me to find fault with - but I should like to have credit for the Musquet and Rifle". The Master General replied that as the rifle was a modification of one sent by the Duke of Brunswick, it should be called "Lovell’s improved Brunswick Rifle."
This was hardly a generous action especially as, in 1841 when it was suggested in some quarters that a presentation should be made to Capt. Berners, the Master General then stated that the rifle was developed from the Hanoverian model.
In his endeavors to improve the accuracy of his rifle, Lovell found that, with the normal casting of lead ball and particularly the belted shape, there was a perceptible variance in the weight due to faulty casting, impurities and air bubbles. In October 1837 he proposed that the rifle balls be made by the compressing machine of David Napier, an engineer, which produced a smoother finish and a more solid result. Made in this fashion they weighed 559 grams or 12 ½ to the lb. Extensive tests were carried out between cast and compressed balls and in March 1839 a Committee came to the decision that, while compressed balls made little difference in a musket, there was an advantage to their use with rifles. An agreement was reached to purchase Napier’s machine for 1000 British pounds, subject to twelve months maintenance and a further payment of 500 pounds if satisfactory. The latter was duly authorized on 18th April 1842.
A variant of the infantry rifle was introduced in 1840. When the musket bore was adopted, as standard for all arms, Lovell had to design a new Sergeants musket. He proposed a smoothbore musket for Sergeants of the Line regiments and, for Sergeants of the Guards, a gun with the same barrel as the rifle, which could take a common cartridge. He decided this after reading that the French had adopted rifles for the N.C.O.s. The Musket was similar to the infantry rifle except that it had a 2 ft. 9 in barrel for use with a socket bayonet.
To return to the infantry rifle, two more alterations were to be made. In August 1841, Lovell discarded his back-action lock in favor of a lighter lock with a side action, which could be fitted to all the standard firearms. The new lock was fitted to 4,000 rifles ordered on 31st October 1845. Half of the rifles were made at Enfield and the balance by the London gunmakers.
The London gunmakers, Lacy & Reynolds introduced the last change in October 1847, when they submitted a rifle with an improved spring catch for the sword bayonet. The notch on the bayonet bar was half way along, instead of near the muzzle. Conversly, the release button on the bayonet handle is close to the crossguard instead of being in the middle. This stronger fitting was approved for general adoption by the Commander-in-Chief in June 1848. The Brunswick bayonet was after all a heavy weapon weighing nearly two pounds.
Lock Plate Dated 1847
During 1850, a further batch of 4,000 rifles was put under construction but by then a new conception of rifle was under preparation and in May the board agreed the Brunswick would be superseded by the Mini. On October 1852 the stock of Brunswick rifles was reported at 11,530. Of these 1,312 were engaged in the fighting at the Cape and 624 were with the Canadian Rifle Regiment. With the end of the Brunswick in sight it was decided to complete only those rifles for which there were materials in store. In January 1853 the Rifle Corps were told to hand in their Brunswicks in exchange for the Mini, or Pattern 1851 rifled musket.
The Brunswick was revived in 1864 when some were made for the East India Government. They may be identified by the arrow over the letter I on the lock plate. Another noticeable difference was the size of the ramrod, being slightly reduced. Privately made Brunswicks have been noted with dates in the 1870’s. In spite of this apparent popularity, the Brunswick received more unfavorable criticism than any other British arm. During the Enfield trials of 1852 the comment was made: “The loading of this rifle is so difficult that it is wonderful how the regiments can have continued to use it so long. The force required to ram down the ball being so great as to render a man’s hand too unsteady for accurate shooting”. It is all very strange when one considers the careful trials, which led to its adoption.
Brunswicks were issued to rifle regiments in Britain, Canada and other colonies as well as select units of the East India Company. Pictured right is the Third Pattern issued to the Sihk Regiments. Note the letter I below the arrow and the later date of 1865. It was also adopted by several units in several guises.
3rd Pattern Barrel Proofs
Regiment marks to date are only
Regimental marks of the Royal Canadian Rifle have been found on both first and second pattern bayonets. The photo below shows the RCR stamps and the two different Regiment or Companies of H13 and G11.
Right: Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment Cross-guard Regimental Markings