"There are persons who say that Rifle-shooting is a gift, and that a man, to become noted in the art, must be born a shot. I must be allowed, however, to say that I do not agree with them; for I believe that any man, with good health and sight, may by steady perseverance become the best shot..." - Captain Heaton, 1864.
The family of British Service Rifles and Carbines introduced during the 1850's and 1860's in 0.577 calibre marked the culmination of the soldiers' muzzle loading firearm. This article does not attempt to deal with the historical aspects of these arms but merely to cover their modern use by enthusiasts. Their history has been almost completely covered by Dr. Christopher Roads in his excellent The British Soldier's Firearm 1850 -1864, which having been out of print for many years is now again available in a new edition. Pictured right are: Enfield rifles - Long, Short, and Artillery.
It has to be assumed that the person wishing to shoot these arms can show that he is a competent shot with rifles that are already established as being accurate. The techniques of target shooting will not, therefore, be discussed here. Many times over the past forty five years, the author has come across people who can only be summed up in the words of the immortal John Jorrocks as "good shooters but bad hitters". It is only too apparent that to suggest that a person is not a good shot is tantamount to saying that he is not a good driver and grave offence can result. Nevertheless, the point has to made that the most accurate rifle in the world cannot be made to shoot a good group by anyone who is not already a good shot. Those who come to muzzle loading without having served an apprenticeship with more modern arms have nothing to measure themselves against and when their muzzle loading accuracy is bad, they tend to blame the arm or the load.
There is also the type who is convinced that somewhere there is the perfect load which will enable him to put every shot in the same hole at 100 metres. This chap, often an amateur engineer, will design and make endless series of bullet moulds, searching for that ultimate Holy Grail which he knows can be achieved if only he puts his mind to it. He is completely unimpressed by the marksman alongside him who puts in a score in the high nineties, using nothing but bullets from the standard Lyman #575213 mould, while he is treating his target to what seems like a load of buckshot.
The author hopes that these notes intended for the guidance of the newcomer to that superb rifle, the Enfield, will prove of assistance and that, perhaps, there may even be a useful hint to the more experienced.
Note: W.S. Curtis is a past Vice President of the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain and was the holder of the World Record in the Minié Rifle Class from 1972 to 1980.
The first, and most obvious, requirement is a rifle. The original Pattern 1853 Rifle had a three grooved barrel 39 inches long with a spiral of one turn in 78 inches. It was decided that the length should remain that of the Pattern 1851 Minié and the earlier muskets, as it was thought necessary to retain the long arm with its bayonet for the Line Infantry. In order to avoid confusion with the traditionally short barrelled arms of the Rifle Regiments, the new rifle was to be designated a Rifle-Musket. This arm ran through four basic variations between 1853 and 1861, although all retained the three grooves and 78 inch twist. Huge numbers of the Pattern 1853 were made for the Government by the Enfield factory, the London Armoury Company, the English Gun Trade, and the factories of Liège, St.Etienne and in Windsor, Vermont. In addition to these well over a million (no one knows how many) were made privately for the Volunteers and for export. About half a million were purchased by the Federals in the American Civil War as well as a vast number by the Confederates.
The later arms were made to much more precise tolerances than the earlier ones and had the added advantage of progressive depth grooving. They are therefore the best for the modern shooter. The products of the London Armoury Company and the Enfield factory can usually be guaranteed to give almost certain satisfaction. Unfortunately Government owned rifles made by L.A.Co. and Enfield were very nearly all withdrawn and converted to Snider breech loaders between 1866 and 1870. However, the London Armoury Company also made, in addition to its War Office contracts, many thousands of Pattern 1853 Rifles for private sale, principally to the Volunteers. As these were not government property and yet were made to full ordnance specifications, they have not only survived well but also shoot well. As an aside, it ought to be mentioned that the story that the L.A.Co. supplied large numbers of rifles to the American Civil War has no foundation. Their production was swallowed up by the War Office and the Volunteer Movement. Parker-Hale Limited have produced an excellent reproduction of this model and other companies have also provided replica models but these do not compare with the Parker-Hale for authentic feel. Unfortunately, this Company is no more.
1853 also saw the introduction of the Artillery Carbine, also designated as a Short Rifle, which had a 24 inch barrel with the same three grooves and 78 inch spiral. Although a fine short range off-hand rifle, it cannot compare with the long rifle for accuracy. This arm had three variations. The first two (1853 and 1858) were only marginally different but the third model of 1861 had a heavier 24 inch barrel with five grooves and a spiral of 48 inches. Its sight was also made like a short version of the long rifle sight, but up to 600 yards, instead of the 300 yard leaf sights of the first two versions. This model is almost non existent in its original muzzle loading form as it was never issued and all stocks were subsequently converted to Snider breech loaders. It is mentioned as Parker-Hale produced the third model in replica form as the first of their excellent series of Enfield Rifles. There was also a 21 inch barrelled Cavalry Carbine but this is not considered as a contender for serious shooting.
The demand for shorter rifles for Rifle Corps, Volunteers and for Sergeants led to a series of 33 inch barrelled Short Rifles, the first of which was the Pattern 1856. This had a light barrel of three grooves with the same 78 inch spiral as the long rifle. Its bayonet was a heavy Yataghan Sword. It was supplemented by two other models with the same rifling which are so rare that they are unlikely to be encountered in Issue form by the average shooter. The first of these was the Pattern 1857 for Sergeants of Native Infantry, a brass mounted arm taking the same socket bayonet as the Pattern 1853. The second was the Pattern 1858 "Bar on Band" which was designed to take some of the strain of the heavy bayonet away from the light barrel by transferring the sword bar to the front barrel band. Quite a large number of arms conforming more or less to the Pattern 1856 design were privately made for the Volunteers and these are the most likely to be encountered today. With their light barrels and slow twist they do not prove to be the best for target shooting.
The shortcomings of the 1856 model led to the introduction of a heavy barrel with five groove rifling and a twist of 48 inches, the sword bar reverting to its original place on the stronger barrels. The first of these was the Pattern 1858 Naval Rifle. This is the model which has been introduced in replica form by Parker-Hale as their 1858 Naval Rifle. It is the opinion of this writer that this is certainly the best of the Parker-Hale Enfield series and is the one that the aspiring shot, who cannot find an original, should make every effort to secure. In 1861, the Army also adopted the heavy, progressive depth, five grooved barrel with its 48 inch spiral and these two models are recognised as the best for serious target shooting. Once again, both these models are extremely scarce in their original form of Government owned rifles although, as with the long rifles, a great many were privately made for the Volunteers.
The last rifle to be considered in this series is the Lancaster Oval Bored Engineers’ Short Rifle with its 31½ inch barrel to Lancaster’s unusual design. These are also very rare and hardly ever encountered on the shooting range. They have a reputation for never fouling, which the writer can confirm, but, at the same time, they are notorious for throwing sudden wild shots.
The Patterns of 1853, 1857, 1858 Naval, Artillery and Lancaster were all brass mounted and the Army Short Rifles were iron mounted.
Before turning to shooting techniques, a summary of the rifles most likely to be available for the shooter are the Volunteer Pattern 1853 Long "Three Band" Rifles, Parker-Hale’s version of the same, Short Volunteer "Two Band" Rifles in three and five groove formats with Parker-Hale’s Naval Rifle and a variety of Volunteer Rifles which do not exactly conform to any Pattern. An example of one of these is a heavy five groove Bar on Band which is perfectly acceptable on the range.
The most important consideration for all competition shooting to MLAGB, HARC, and MLAIC Rules is that the sights must conform to Issue Pattern. The writer owns a fine Volunteer version of a Pattern 1856 but with Lancaster’s Oval Bore. This is ineligible for Military Rifle competition because the front sight is an undercut bead instead of an inversed "V" although it is not ruled out by the rifling variation. When seeking an original the one to go for, if at all possible, is a Volunteer London Armoury Co. Pattern 1853. These make a great deal of money today because of their justly earned reputation on the range but their survival rate is good and they can be found, for a price, at most Arms Fairs. Although two to three times the price of a Parker-Hale, they are still worth buying, if possible, because not only will the buyer obtain a fine shooting rifle but he will also be making an excellent investment.
There is one point which should be born in mind. If your eyes are not what they were, there is a distinct advantage in going for the Short Rifle with its 33 inch barrel, rather than the Long Rifle, because the backsight is placed four inches further away from the eye. This improvement was dropped for some reason in the newly made Snider Mark III Short Rifle which placed the sight in the same position, just ahead of the breech, as the Long Enfield and Long Snider. However, the earlier converted Snider Short Rifles retained their original sights.
Positions of the short and long Enfield rifle
The final point about the rifle is that the nipple must be in good condition and original nipples should ALWAYS be changed for the modern type based on the "reversed cone" principle. These use a small hole at the bottom of the nipple with a large opening at the top. This concentrates the flash down into the charge while, at the same time, reducing the amount of back blast. Original nipples were the other way round and this allowed a great deal of flame and fouling to escape as well as causing problems with weak caps. The damage to the woodwork ahead of the nipple lump on some original rifles shows as a groove burnt quite deeply into the wood and the fouling that has been driven under the barrel at that point is often the cause of quite severe corrosion. New Enfield nipples are freely available from muzzle loading dealers and from the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain. It is quite possible that an original rifle will have its nipple so firmly locked in by age and rust that it will have to be taken to a specialist gun smith to be freed. See the remarks under CLEANING for the use of PTFE Tape to prevent future problems of this nature.
|Improved "reverse cone" nipples -
(a) & (b) top and bottom views
of the improved nipple.
(c) Phosphor bronze model.
(d) Steel model with PTFE tape
on the threads.
Given a good Enfield, the practised shooter can enjoy competitive target work at all ranges out to 600 yards. At the longer ranges, wind judgement becomes very important especially given the absence any adjustment for wind on the sights.
The choice of appropriate equipment to accompany your Enfield can be split between the essential and the optional.
Essentials are a bullet mould, a "Combination Tool", and a means of measuring out powder charges accurately and safely. The usual moulds in use today are those designed for the American Burton style, cannelured, hollow based bullet which is lubricated with an appropriate grease (of which more later) and loaded straight on top of the powder charge without any wadding or paper wrapping. This is not the original bullet for the Enfield which was a paper patched smooth cylindro-conoidal projectile designed by Metford and Pritchett and subsequently modified by Boxer with an expanding plug in the base. These are far harder to make and commercially made modern moulds for them are not obtainable. The Burton bullet was designed for the American Springfield rifles which are substantially the same as the Enfields in the bore and rifling. Given the large United States market for muzzle loading shooters it is hardly surprising that the modern commercially made moulds should originate there. There are two basic mould models which vary only in the depth of the base cavity. A single mould with alternative base plugs will suffice for both Long and Short Rifles. The deep cavity gives a lighter bullet with characteristics which suit the rifling spiral of 78 inches. The shallow cavity and heavier weight of the alternative are best suited to the 48 inch spiral of the Naval and later Army Short Rifles. The ballistic reasoning behind this choice must be taken for granted. The original modern mould best known to all is the Lyman 575213 but similar ones are also made by Ohaus and others. The finished and greased bullets need a clean container which will prevent dust or grit contaminating the grease.
A Combination Tool is an essential requirement. Original examples can still be found and new working copies are made and can be bought from specialist dealers. These gadgets incorporate into one tool a nipple key, a pricker, an oil bottle, a screwdriver, a double pronged worm for cleaning, and tools for extracting jammed bullets. Those items intended to be passed down the bore will fit on to the end of the standard modern cleaning rod which, by great good fortune, has retained the original Enfield screw thread in use since the 1840’s or perhaps even earlier. They also include fixed jaws intended to allow removal of the mainspring of the lock when stripping it. This last fitting was limited on original tools to those for the use of Sergeants.
|Combination tools - sergeant's and private's models|
|Sergeant's combination tool dismantled showing, large and small blade screwdriver, pointed piercer and screw for drawing jammed bullets and double worm for cleaning. The body incorporates a nipple key and pricker with a main spring clamp on the side, and internally is an oil bottle.|
Measuring the powder requires either a good quality flask with a measuring top or a set of powder scales and a number of small containers with lids to hold the individual charges.
High quality powder flask by Marsh to the Hawksley Bissel design
The full list of other equipment must be left to the pocket and taste of the shooter and will in most cases be applicable to other styles or classes of shooting. But, for those who are seeking inspiration, here is a list of the items which the writer considers to be fairly normal. For the rifle itself — a sling, a flash shield to fit under the nipple, sight blacking (paint on, spray or carbide lamp), spare nipple and, should the butt plate be found to slip on contact with the shoulder, some self adhesive bandage of the Elastoplast type to provide a non slip surface. To be applied to the person of the shooter — a decent shooting jacket, a shooting glove for the forward hand, ear and eye protection, a hat, and a shooting mat to lie on. For use during the shoot — a telescope, a target record book with the appropriate target diagram, a pen or waterproof pencil, a small table to hold the loading equipment, with a notch to rest the barrel of the rifle in. For loading — a standard modern cleaning rod with a tip made in the form of the head of a ramrod; this can also be used as the cleaning rod although it is better to have two (the original fitted rod should be left in place and not moved), a plastic funnel to be inserted in the muzzle when pouring in the powder ( the long loading tube gives no advantage and takes up valuable space), and something in which to keep the percussion caps which should be left on the firing point as the act of capping can only be made when in the firing position. There is a useful accessory for this which keeps the caps in a brass container and delivers them one at a time straight onto the nipple.
|Enfield P'61 short rifle showing the flash shield, known in the 1860s as a "Flash Pan"|
Opinions vary on the subject of the choice of gunpowder. It is the writer’s opinion that the best results are obtained with fine grain or fast powders in the Enfield. There are many who would dispute this but on one point all are agreed. The powder should be clean burning. TPPH is regarded as a good powder by most although in the writer’s opinion the best that has been available in modern times was TS20 which was produced by ICI over twenty years ago and is now, sadly, no more. This was in essence a pre-war quality Diamond Grain No.2. and may well have been just that, long lost in some vault and resuscitated in response to urgent demands for something better than the "Nutty Slack" we were cursed with in the 1970’s. Today the powder question has become very confused with a variety of new brands appearing although the Swiss is said to be by far the best. The amount to use will be covered in the section on loading. The Rules of the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain and of the International Governing Body forbid the use of anything other than factory made black powder. This rules out Pyrodex and like compositions. The writer does not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of these other compositions and will content himself with saying he will use nothing but black powder.
There is only one sort of lead for the Enfield bullet. It has to be purest that can be found. The real refined 99.9% pure can now be bought in ingot form and is recommended although the writer has found that, in general, old lead water pipe is sufficiently pure and, if you have been re-plumbing your house, cheap as well. Remember to ensure that any soldered joints are removed before melting it down. The techniques of casting will not be gone into in any depth. It is sufficient to remember that the mould must be clean and hot and the lead hot. The cast bullet should be clean and without wrinkles but not presenting a frosty appearance which comes from excessive heat. The complete casting tyro is recommended to one of the works on this subject such as the R.C.B.S. CAST BULLET MANUAL.
The lubrication for the Enfield cannelured bullet can be performed with proprietary mixtures such as Mini Lube or Bore Butter but these are very soft and messy to apply because their soft nature requires them to be applied on the spot with the fingers. This is also time wasting. The traditional mixture is a combination of plumber’s tallow and beeswax, usually in the proportions of about 80% tallow to 20% beeswax, although for hot weather the beeswax proportion can be increased. An old saucepan containing this mixture can be heated up, used and allowed to cool down indefinitely, merely topping up the supply as necessary. It is recommended to carry out this operation in a well ventilated place as the smell can cause the average wife to ban the perpetrator from the kitchen for ever. To lubricate the bullets, it is sufficient to hold them near the point with a pair of long nosed pliers or adjustable grips and dip them up to the top groove into the hot mixture for two or three seconds. Lift them out, pausing for a few moments to allow any surplus grease to drip back into the pan and place them base down on a piece of kitchen paper towel. Enough grease will remain in the grooves to lubricate them perfectly. When the grease has set, the lubricated bullets should be packed carefully into a suitable container. It is advisable not to grease more than you will need for immediate use as prolonged storage causes the grease to harden and crack as well as encouraging oxidation on the surface of the lead. Clean new bullets without grease can be made in bulk and kept ready for greasing when required.
Having established yourself on the firing point with your loading table and kit set out ready, the time has come to fit the sling and blacken the sights. The sling should be attached to the original sling swivels and, ideally, will consist of one of those broad canvas affairs with leather tabs secured by brass buttons. Single point slings or those involving altering the rifle in any way are not permitted under the "Spirit of the Original Rules".
There are two methods of using the sling without breaching the "Rules". The conventional way is for the sling to pass round the back of the upper arm and from thence to the right side of the left wrist (right handedness presumed), then under the back of the left hand to the forward sling swivel. This is the system most commonly used but there is another one which is superior in the eyes of very experienced shooters. With this method, known as the Two Point Cross Over, the sling is lengthened by an amount which will allow it to pass from the rear sling swivel to the FRONT of the left upper arm, then round the arm in a complete loop crossing over ABOVE itself before going, as before, to the left wrist. It should be tried and fitted at home to ensure that the length is adjusted correctly. This gives greater stability and is proven in practice.
|Method of using the "two point cross over sling" - making the loop|
|Method of using the "two point cross over sling" - arranging the sling on the arm|
Sight blackening should be applied to the foresight and to those parts of the rear sight likely to reflect light. The deadest and most intense black of all comes from the carbide lamp with its sooty acetylene flame. Although this is more complicated than the spray can or brush, it has the advantage of not running out or drying out as all that is needed is carbide and water.
Before loading the rifle, two or three caps should be snapped with the muzzle pointing (in a safe direction) at a piece of grass which will react to the puff of air from the muzzle showing that the communication is clear of oil. The experienced ear will also be able to distinguish the difference in sound between a blocked and unblocked communication.
The practice of "blowing off" a small blank charge to check if the communication is clear is not to be encouraged. This fouls the barrel and subsequent shots will not necessarily clean out the fouling which will continue to accumulate until a stoppage occurs.
Select a suitable grade and charge of powder, from 60 to 70 grains of TPPH is recommended, but this must depend on the availability of a suitable selection of powders. Do not use anything coarser than TPPH. The use of scales is recommended for precision but if a flask is being used, this should be set for the desired amount by "throwing" charges and weighing them until the right setting is achieved. A flask should always be used in exactly the same way. The writer inverts it, shakes it three times and then taps the head of the flask three times against the wood of the table before releasing the shutter. Experience has shown that an accuracy of half a grain can be maintained this way. Tapped four times the charge will show an increase of two or three grains, so it can be seen how essential is regularity.
The first powder charge should now be loaded by way of the small funnel inserted into the muzzle. Keep the barrel as vertical as possible to allow the powder to drop straight down. Then insert into the muzzle one of your greased bullets. No wadding or any other material needs to be inserted between the powder and the bullet. Using your cleaning rod with its ramming tip, if you have one, or a length of plain half inch wooden doweling, ram down the bullet onto the powder finishing with two light taps on the bullet nose. This procedure was recommended in antiquity and seems to work perfectly. The light blows ensure that the bullet is seated firmly on the powder without either damaging the bullet’s nose or crushing the powder. It also serves to very slightly upset the bullet so that it remains firmly in place and is very unlikely to move forward if the rifle is pointed downwards when loaded, although this should always be avoided.
Always fire at least one and ideally two or three warming or fouling shots before commencing a competition. International rules stipulate one only but MLAGB allow unlimited warmers provided they are not directed at the target. Sometimes the first one will have a slight but noticeable delay or "hang fire" if there is some oil remaining in the communication. If the rifle fails to fire with the first cap, keep it firmly in position, wait a few moments and try a new cap. If this fails, put a few grains of powder into the opening in the top of the nipple and try again. This usually works. If it does not, there are two possibilities. The first is quite simply forgetting to have put any powder in. The remedy for this will be discussed later. Assuming that powder has indeed been loaded, there is clearly too much muck in the nipple bolster and, still keeping the rifle pointed in a safe direction, turn out the nipple and put a small quantity of fine powder into the bottom of the bolster and return the nipple. If there is powder in the chamber it will surely fire. Before loading again it will be worth checking to see if there was some obstruction down in the bottom of the breech. To do this, take the double pronged worm, screw it to the end of your cleaning rod and scour the face of the breech. There might have been a piece of cleaning material there and, if there was, it could now be a smouldering trap waiting for a nice new charge of powder to be fed to it. Hands and eyes have been lost like this.
There is another method for clearing a jammed barrel but the equipment is not often seen. This is by compressed air or by the use of a CO2 cartridge with a suitable adapter. The writer has used both and they are highly effective.
However, it is highly unlikely that the unfortunate circumstances detailed above will happen so blow away that warming shot, get up and, half cocking your rifle, remove the fired cap. Then reload the rifle and note that the loading rod should take the bullet down to the charge with exactly the same level of smoothness that you experienced with the clean bore. Do not lower the cock onto the nipple as the free passage of air will allow the bullet do go down freely and it will also help to drive the powder right up to the base of the nipple. There is no danger of powder leaking from the nipple provided the hole is as small as it should be. If during the course of a shoot you find that loading is becoming difficult because the bullet is tending to stick in the bore, something is not right. The last shot should load as easily as the first. However, if that is happening, as soon as the shot has been fired, give the bore a good brushing out with the phosphor bronze brush on your cleaning rod. A smaller load, softer grease, or a change of powder are indicated. Ignoring the problem will probably result in a bullet stuck half way down and this can be very difficult to move. On no account try to move it by shooting it out unless the bullet is right down on the powder. The barrel will burst, or at the very least be badly bulged.
We will now look at the cleaning methods which should be adopted for all full stocked military and military match rifles. These comments apply equally to smoothbore muskets and to originals as well as to reproduction arms. In the case of originals the bedding is almost always satisfactory as our forefathers knew what they were doing but attention should be paid to the comments which appear later in this article on the subject of bedding, and in particular the use of Water Pump Grease to seal the barrel channel, as the less these pieces are taken apart the better. The protection of original wood with linseed oil and wax polish is even more important for originals, as old dry wood can soak up rain water in the most amazing way and with unpredictable and sometimes very damaging results.
When we come to cleaning rifles after a shoot a rethink of cleaning methods needs to be made. The first thing to remember is that all those so-called "Complete Guides" and articles in the popular shooting Press about black powder nearly all make a fundamental error. They state "Black Powder fouling residues are HIGHLY CORROSIVE and must be quickly and thoroughly cleaned out as soon as possible after use." This is just not true and repeatedly stating the fact will not make it so.
What we have here is the lingering ghost of a folk memory about the effect of corrosive PRIMERS, and in particular, those that contained Chlorates. Sufficient of their residues remained in the powder fouling to make it dangerous. Today we have NON CORROSIVE PRIMERS (unless, of course, you are still using some you got hold of donkey’s years ago).
Black powder fouling, in itself, is harmless. The danger comes when its hygroscopic (takes up moisture) nature causes it to become moist when it will change into a different and rust provoking series of chemical compounds. Our forefathers, when they adopted the early percussion mixtures, found out to their cost that they had better do a quick and thorough cleaning job or their new detonating fouling pieces would rust away before their very eyes. This was such a change from the comparative lack of problems experienced with the flintlocks that they spoke about it in print at some length. But today, as we have already said, the non-corrosive primer returns us to the simpler days of the flintlock.
Because of this the old timers were under the strict necessity to thoroughly wash out their barrels and the sporting guns that were in the commonest use were cleaned by taking the barrel or barrels out of the stock and immersing the breech ends in a bucket of hot water so that the pumping action of the cleaning rod could force large quantities of water through the breechings. The hook breech and transverse barrel key were designed to allow simple dismounting of the barrel and the use of this system does not detract from the accuracy of these pieces. However, taking out barrels has been adopted by far too many people as the way to clean fully stocked rifles. As this involves taking the barrel out of the bedding it is bad and should be discouraged. At the same time a positive obsession to remove every last trace of fouling from every part of the rifle leads to over cleaning and probably far more wear to the rifling than will ever be obtained by merely firing it.
Being an idle fellow, the writer, often does not clean his rifles on the same day he uses them. Indeed, a week has been known to slip by (what terrible bad habits) but without any ill effects. The secret is WD40, the well known proprietary de-watering oil in the spray can. A few squirts of this up the barrel and round the outside will completely prevent that atmospheric moisture from seeking out the benign fouling and transforming it into the evil rust inducing bore ruiner we all fear.
Now, having secured our rifle from the immediate effects of neglect, or if preferred, soon after shooting, we can look to cleaning it effectively, but not excessively, and without disturbing that excellent bedding job that has just won you the best score of the day. The time has come and we cannot put off the evil day any longer and must get on with cleaning properly. If you remember we have already ensured that there is no dirt or fouling between the barrel and the wood which is now hermetically sealed in a layer of water-pump grease. There is no fouling on top of the barrel or around the nipple lump (or bolster) because we have used that useful little brass cup called a flash guard (or as it was known in the 1860s, a flash-pan). The only external muck is around the nipple, the inside of the flash guard and the head of the hammer.
Have ready a good quality cleaning rod by A. J. Parker or Parker-Hale, a small piece of leather, a .577 wire brush, and old .30 or .45 wire brush, a woolly mop for the rod, absorbent kitchen roll, a funnel, a kettle of boiling water, some Black Powder or Young’s Oil, Hoppe’s Black Powder Cleaner (optional), nipple key and a double prong worm (comes on the Parker-Hale Combination Tool) in case you get some paper stuck in the breech.
Step 1. Place a small piece of thickish leather on top of the nipple and lower the hammer onto it to make it water tight. Don’t snap the hammer onto it or you will find that you have made a tiny little leather wad and also blocked up your nipple.
Step 2. Wrap some cloth or kitchen roll around the muzzle which will get hot. This will also help to keep water away from the woodwork. Pour a moderate amount of black powder cleaner or Young’s Oil down the muzzle and then with a funnel pour boiling water in until the bore is about two thirds full. Mind the air locks do not throw the water back at you. Keep a space between the funnel and the bore by not fixing the funnel in tightly and the air will escape through this. Then with a .577 bronze brush on your cleaning rod give the bore a good scrubbing. The kitchen rod will catch the drips. Pour away the dirty water from the muzzle. Then again fill the bore with boiling water to rinse it out and to heat it up. Pour away and repeat the process if you think the barrel could be hotter. This helps the barrel to dry out properly after the next step.
An Alternative to Steps 1 and 2. The Washing Tube. Acquire a special nipple resembling that for the Snider but, if possible, with longer cone and threaded sections. The internal hole is much larger and not coned. A small neoprene washer should go on the threaded end and 18 inches of plastic tube should be secured firmly to the cone. This is substituted for the nipple and with a bucket of very hot soapy water and the cleaning rod, the bore can be thoroughly pumped through in the manner of the sporting gun barrel in its bucket of water. Wrap material round the muzzle to prevent dirty water running back on to the outside of the rifle. After this, remove the washing tube and resume with Step 3.
Step 3. With your cleaning rod and a suitable jag (the ideal jag for cloth or paper is an old worn wire brush in .30 or .45) wrap a piece of kitchen roll folded double around the brush and put down the bore and straight out again. Do not be tempted to push the same piece of paper down more than once as the soggy paper will break off and stay firmly in the breech. Repeat the process with a new piece of paper. When the paper has ceased to pick up moisture, rotate the rod with a good head of paper on the face of the breech until it comes out without the ring of fouling which fills the corner of the breech. This will never come out completely as a trace will remain in the corner but provided it is well oiled it will not cause any future trouble. The remaining heat from the boiling water will help the barrel to dry.
Step 4. (If you have not used the washing tube) Now remove the leather from the nipple and with the plastic spout pipe of your WD40 can blow through the nipple. This will force the wet muck out of the inside of the bolster and it can be picked up with the cleaning rod and the paper down the bore.
Step 5. Remove the nipple and flash guard. If you put the nipple in with a winding of PTFE plumbers’ tape on the threads you will find that it will always come out easily and always be completely gas tight. This tip is particularly useful for the beryllium copper nipples which have a regrettable tendency to lock themselves in and break up if too much force is used in trying to shift them.
Step 6. Wash the nipple and flash guard in water and scrape off any solid fouling. Using rag or kitchen roll damped with water or Hoppe’s Black Powder Cleaner wash any fouling off the head of the hammer and anywhere else that it might be visible. Check the head of the ramrod which often picks up muzzle blast. We assume that you (a) do not use the issue rod for loading, and (b) keep it in position to stiffen the stock and add weight to the rifle to help stabilise it in firing.
Step 7. A final check round and a careful clean into the nipple seating before re-assembling the nipple and flash shield and winding a piece of PTFE tape a couple of time around its threads before putting it back, will bring you almost to the end. Then out with oily mop on your rod and give it a good oiling into the bore so that it squirts out of the nipple. Oil the exterior and put the rifle away until next time. Stored muzzle down, surplus oil will run out and not build up in the breech and clog the nipple. Remember to put it on some kitchen roll or other absorbent material to prevent oily stains on the floor. If you have to store it muzzle up then put a wad of kitchen roll between the hammer and the nipple to catch the oil.
Follow these simple rules and do not worry too much. You CAN ruin a rifle by over-cleaning but, of course, you WILL ruin it if you allow rusting to take place, but we have established that this is easy to prevent.
To close this dissertation on the Enfield it will be as well to discuss a point of great importance to owners of Parker-Hale rifles. The Parker-Hale series of muzzle loading rifles, three models of the Enfield, the Whitworth, the Volunteer and the Henry Rifled Volunteer, are excellent value, well made in their parts and undoubtedly form the basic tools of a great proportion of today’s muzzle loading shooters.
The writer has commented that these rifles are well made in their parts, and so they are. Unfortunately they are not always assembled to produce reliable results. The marriage of lock, stock and barrel (to coin a phrase) is not something that can be neglected in any way. In modern Target Rifles, built on the latest bolt actions, there is no lock to worry about, the barrel floats entirely free and only the action has to be bedded. To accomplish this, the modern maker uses one of a variety of epoxy resins which undoubtedly produce excellent results.
The muzzle loading rifle presents an entirely different problem. To start with, the use of modern epoxy resin is banned under "The Spirit of the Original Rules". Whilst in the U.K. we do not generally consider it too much of a sin if a certain amount of this substance is used, we have to consider that anyone appearing at an International with it will be banned. It follows that, even if you are not an International contender, it must be preferable to stay within the Spirit, if only for your own self respect.
The bedding corrections often necessary apply equally to all models of the Parker-Hale series. The chief difficulty occurs under the breech where often the barrel channel is too deep. The effect of this is to cause the under side of the nipple bolster to bed down hard on top of the lock plate without proper contact between the wood and metal under the breech. This fault shows itself by the group walking across the target, usually in a diagonal direction.
To check if this fault is present remove the barrel and put in the bottom of the channel two three layers of brown paper. Sometimes more than this might be indicated. Ensure that the paper does not extend more than a little up the side of the channel as you wish to ascertain how much space is free underneath and the sides of the stock channel often fit more tightly than the bottom. Put the barrel back with its bands in position and screw down the tang. If the nipple bolster fails to reach the top of the lock plate, remove the barrel and reduce the paper layers until you have reached the stage where the two surfaces just make contact. The whole point is that the bearing surface should be the underside of the breech and not the bolster. Continue by carefully putting brown paper into the bottom of the tang inlet so that the tang also is not stressed when screwed home. The paper bedding should extend about five inches forward from the rear face of the breech. If it turns out that no paper is needed then you probably do not have a problem. Having established the thickness of bedding necessary, it can now be made permanent as described shortly.
Another way of quickly checking is to remove the lock and see if the tang screw will turn down a further distance. The lock will almost certainly be difficult to remove without first loosening the tang screw in this case.
Attention should then be given to the fit between the barrel and the wood in the vicinity of the bands. A snug fit under each band can be achieved in the same way. Having established the need for the bedding you can now consider whether you would prefer to substitute shims of veneer for a really professional job. These can be glued in (using cabinet maker’s animal glue for authenticity) but do not allow the glue to add to the thickness. The paper shims can be similarly glued in. On some of the later rifles the barrel channel exhibits a fine ridge down the centre line caused by the manner of machining the wood. This should be scraped out. The channel will then be too deep and should be built up from the bottom, but only for the few inches each side of the barrel bands. A full length treatment is possibly an aesthetic improvement but not strictly necessary. Smoking the underside of the barrel and observing the contact points with the wood will help in this operation.
Now to consider waterproofing. The modern Target Rifleman very rarely ever takes his action out of the stock. To do so would wreck the accuracy. There is no reason why the Muzzle Loader should do so either. It is perfectly possible to clean a muzzle loading Enfield type of rifle thoroughly without ever taking the barrel out of the wood. Do this and you will always have the same point of impact with the same load.
What if rain or, even worse, foul cleaning water should get between the stock and the barrel ? We have all seen the horrible rust that can found on some originals there. With this system you will have complete peace of mind. Simply apply a layer of WATER PUMP GREASE to all the concealed metal leaving a good surplus to work into all the crevices such as the edges of the stock and under the fore-end cap. Water cannot get in and even if it does it cannot touch the metal. Do not use any old grease, make sure it is Water Pump Grease which is designed to protect metal in the presence of lots of high pressure hot water. The stock should be well proofed against the weather by the liberal use of linseed oil and wax polish both inside and out which will prevent water soaking into the wood and swelling or distorting it. This comment applies even more especially to original arms. Finally, always use a flash shield under the nipple in order to prevent the escape of hot gases from marring the finish and working fouling down the side of the stock channel forward of the nipple or around the tang.
Using this system on the author’s Naval Enfield meant that only once in the past twenty years has the barrel been out of the wood and that just to check that all was well - it was!
When dealing with original Enfield rifles, it will usually be found that the fit of wood to metal does not need adjustment but there is one tip that should be followed. When finally re-assembling the barrel to the stock, replace the tang screw only loosely. Put the barrel bands into position but before tightening them, bump the butt on the floor to set the barrel firmly back into its place in the wood. Then tighten the bands and finally screw home the tang screw but NOT TOO HARD. Do not swing on the screw driver, the tang screw should be merely "nipped up" to position. Over-tighten it and there will be a stress on the rear end of the barrel. These comments about the tang screw also apply to the Parker-Hales.