Muzzleldrs Continental Europe source of P53 Enfield barrels during ACW?


Jul 13, 2012
Several years ago I started a thread on a P53 Enfield that I own that is something of an odd duck. Here is that thread in its entirety.

To summarize, the Enfield that I have has non-standard proof marks at the breech of the barrel consisting of crowns over crossed-scepters and the date of 1862. This is very odd, but there have been other similarly marked P53's that have turned up.

I have subsequently realized that the crown over crossed scepters is the type of proof markings that were applied to Brown Bess muskets that were made for the commercial market rather than the British military. Why they would be on my P53, at a time when they supposedly were no longer in use, I still don't know.

The same barrel also has unusual markings on the bottom, consisting of the numerals 14.4 and 23. I theorized in the previous thread that perhaps the provisional proof was done in Continental Europe and the final proof in England. Typically, the provisional and final proof sizes would both be in English bore sizes, with 24 and 25 being what is usually seen. My theory seemed to raise more questions than it answered.

14.4 would correspond to a bore size of .567 or 26 gauge.
23 gauge would correspond to .585, which is the same size the bore actually measures.

The previous thread basically ended with the whole thing remaining a mystery. I am bringing it back up because I know there have been some excellent reference works that have been published since this was first posted, and because I have found additional examples with the 14.4 marking.

The first is another P53 that I now own. It is an example made by London gunmaker E.P. Bond and has markings indicating it was imported by the Confederacy. It was subsequently, post-war, modified into a shotgun and is in pretty rough shape. It has the typical London barrel proofs at the breech. However, it also has the exact same 14.4 marking on the bottom of the barrel, along with the number 25, several other markings, and the names Bond and Barnett.

When I first took this apart I was very surprised to once again see the 14.4 marking, thinking what are the odds I would come across two of these oddities?

Well, very recently, I came across yet another one at an auction. I didn't win this one, so I can only include the auction catalog photo and some photos I took with my phone while I was there. It is another example that was converted into a shotgun, but this one had the stock cut back. Once again, on the bottom of the barrel that is now exposed due to the stock being cut back is the number 14.4. This example also has odd breech markings that I have not seen before. I'm hoping maybe someone else knows what these are?






I thought I would share all of this just because I think it is kind of interesting, and in the hopes that perhaps more is now known about the 14.4 marking than was the case previously.

Don Dixon

Oct 24, 2008
Fairfax, VA, USA
I can't comment about the "14.4" marking. However, I can give you some indications of the extensive availability of "Enfield" parts in Continental Europe during the Civil War.

In 1854, during the Crimean War, the British War Office contracted with the "Societe pour les armes de guerre [Society for Weapons of War]," the name of an alliance formed between Auguste Francotte, Ancion & Cie, Pirlot Frères, and Renkin Frères, to manufacture 20,000 Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle muskets. The association was commonly referred to as the "Society" or the "Societe des Anglais [Society of the English]." The War Office demanded that all parts of the weapons be interchangeable, a requirement that was difficult for the Liege gun makers to meet because of their artisanal production methods. While the British supplied a small percentage of machine made parts, the majority were manufactured by local craftsmen and were marked with the particular mark of each worker. The Enfield rifle muskets manufactured in Liege proved to be only slightly inferior to those produced in England, and they had the advantage of being eight to 20 percent less expensive. Consequently the War Office continued to contract with the Society until April 1863, with the Liege gunmakers providing in excess of 150,000 Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle muskets, 25,000 artillery carbines, and 30,000 naval rifles, various weapons for support troops, and rifles for volunteer rifle regiments. Thus, supplies of Enfield pattern spare parts were commonly available from individual craftsmen in Liege.

In 1862 Alphons Polain, the director of the Liege proof house, discovered that large numbers of rough gun barrels were being exported to England as gas pipes without any proof. The British consul in Liege assumed that they had been finished in England and had then made their way to America in finished [Enfield pattern] arms. Gun runners would sell potentially defective arms to combatants? --- perish the thought.

Samuel Colt contracted with Pierre-Joseph Lemille of Liege to manufacture 10,000 rifle musket barrels to be mounted on contract weapons in the United States, as well as for locks and other parts. When the Ordnance Office objected to the use of the foreign parts in his contract arms, Colt put them back on the market.

Henry S. Sanford, the Federal Minister Resident [ambassador] in Liege recruited Francotte as an intelligence source by giving him an order for unmounted Enfield pattern rifle musket barrels. The arrangement with Francotte produced immediate results when Francotte advised him that 1,600 Liege manufactured Enfield pattern rifles had been delivered to Le Harve for shipment to the South. Sanford also proposed to purchase 15,000 unmounted Enfield pattern rifle musket barrels in Liege for 7 Francs each from an American speculator named J. Henderson, who was also speculating in the Enfield market in England.

Don Dixon
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Craig L Barry

Sergeant Major
Jan 5, 2010
Murfreesboro, TN
A bit off topic but to add to the confusion with Belgian made gun barrels, the Liege proof house had a reciprocal agreement with the Birmingham proof facility in England. However, as you might imagine it was a one way trade because B'ham gunmakers rarely if ever sent their barrels to Liege for proofing, but conversely the Belgians sent many barrels to Birmingham for proof because once the barrel had passed proof and had Birmingham proof marks it was easier to then fob off a Belgian P53 as one made by the commerical gunmakers in Birmingham. As Don points out the Belgians paid less in labor so there was a significant cost advantage.

Wm Greener and Isaac Hollis brought a lawsuit against a fellow commercial gunmaker who was selling Belgian Enfields as English made and recovered damages. The English gunmakers felt the Belgian made P53 had inferior lock components (specifically the springs) and the "counterfeits" would reflect poor on the English gun trade.
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Jeff in Ohio

Oct 17, 2015
I never took my 1861 Tower Model 1853 apart and so don't know what marks are on the bottom of the barrel, but here is a photo of the proof area - you can barely see the (upside down) 1862 date in this area, and a photo of the lock - it looks like a standard Birmingham product to me.

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