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A Guide to American Civil War Weapons

A Guide to American Civil War Weapons

It had been 80 years since the last war on American soil. During the time between the Revolutionary and Civil War, weapon technology had advanced. The rapid industrialization of the nation and the outbreak of war became big business, and 1862 saw nearly 250 weapons patents issued. Muskets had fallen out of favor for the more accurate and reliable rifle. Revolvers replaced flintlock pistols, and swords had become ceremonial rather than for self-defense. Here are a few of the more popular American Civil war weapons.

Civil War Rifles

The standard rifle of the Civil war was the .58 caliber Model 1861 Springfield rifle. This rifle was a single-shot muzzleloading rifle, detonated with a percussion cap. Manufactured at the U.S. Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harper’s Ferry Armory, the "Springfield'' quickly rose in popularity with troops on both sides of the conflict. When the Confederates captured the Federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, they produced more than 64,000 copies of this iconic rifle. The Civil war saw the production of nearly 1.5 million Springfield rifles.
The British 1853 Enfield rifle was the best of the foreign-made weapons imported during the war. This single-shot rifle was also muzzle loading and detonated with a percussion cap like the Springfield. Both the North and South imported over 800,000 of this .577 caliber rifle. They could shoot the same distance as the Springfield, and the ammunition was interchangeable between the two.
While infantry troops used either the Springfield or Enfield rifle, the breech-loading Sharps rifle was popular with cavalry units. First introduced by U.S. Army Marksmen, this rifle successfully used metallic cartridges and had a unique falling-block design. It also possessed a pellet feeding system which eliminated the use of percussion caps. This rifle is famously known as the rifle that fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Civil War Pistols

During the Civil War, the most prolific manufacturer of handguns was Samuel Colt. He manufactured nearly 150,000 .44 Caliber six-shot Model 1860 Army percussion revolvers. This cap and ball revolver was the successor to the Dragoon pistol and the most widely used sidearm during the Civil War.
The most successful Confederate revolver was a brass-framed copy of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver manufactured by Griswold and Gunnison. The Griswold was a six-shot black powder, .36 caliber revolver produced in an old cotton gin factory in Georgia converted to manufacture weapons for the Confederate Army. This revolver was nearly identical to the Colt Navy but had brass parts due to a supply shortage and an octagonal barrel.
Another popular percussion revolver on the Confederate side was the Le Mat pistol developed in New Orleans, Louisiana. This pistol, designed by Dr. Alexander Le Mat, was unique in that it could fire both .24 caliber bullets and a .63 caliber shotgun charge.

Civil War Swords and Knives

By the Civil War era, swords and sabers took a lesser role in physical combat than in earlier periods. On the noisy battlefield, Officers used their swords to issue orders. These swords gave visual cues to soldiers at the back of the formation, rather than trying to compete with background noises. The 1860 Light Cavalry saber is one example of a favored sword of the time. It was a perfect size and design for mounted soldiers, and cavalry troops on both sides used it in battle.
The most common utility knife carried by civil war troops was the Bowie knife. While both sides used this knife, it was a particular favorite of the Confederate. These knives were versatile on the battlefield for self-defense, hunting, skinning, and even could be used as a small hatchet.

Purchase Replica American Civil War Weapons at Armory

Armory has an extensive collection of replica Civil War weapons. Our high-quality replicas are perfect for filmmaking, theatre, reenactments, and cosplay.
Browse our selection of Civil War replicas today.