M1861 Watertown Rifle Musket with Snider Conversion


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Mayflower

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Hi.
I have been researching a rifle that I recently bought in France. It is a 1864 dated Watertown M1861 Rifle Musket that has been converted to Breech-loader, by the addition of the Snider system. It has the roughly engraved Roman numerals on both the inside of the breech and the underside of the barrel. The only number I can find is 545, just below the sights. I believe that this is a US conversion, not like the conversions of Springfields that were carried out in Belgium (Poilvache system). Could it be a prototype submitted for trials at the same time as the Trapdoors? I have been able to find one other example. It is in the Museum of New Zealand and was donated by the New Zealand army. You may know of other examples. The reason that it was in France could be that it was sent by the USA when the Franco-Prussian War, in 1870.
Thanks & kind regards
John
 

johan_steele

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This is an interesting piece. You don't see many Snider conversions of Springfield arms and I believe I've only ever seen a couple others. I know I'm looking forward to what some of the experts on the subject have to say.
 

ucvrelics

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This is an interesting piece. You don't see many Snider conversions of Springfield arms and I believe I've only ever seen a couple others. I know I'm looking forward to what some of the experts on the subject have to say.
I'm like you very interesting piece and I have only seen one other with a Snider. Awesome piece.
 

WJC

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Nice, unique piece! Thanks for sharing it with us!
 

thomas aagaard

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Updated the post a bit.

I would not be surprised if close to every single model of rifle musket ever produced in large numbers, was converted with the snider system in limited numbers... as a test.

The danish army converted a total of 9270 Tapriffel M1848 with the snider system in 1866.
(The M1848 was a danish designed and manufactured rifle musket)

Another 1100 Taprifler M1853 was also converted to use by the navy.
(This model was originally used by the rebels in 1848-50 and produced in Liege)

The "Suhler" Tapriffel M1854 was also converted with the snider system in 1868. Not sure about how many.
(Another model of rifle musket that was used by the rebels i 1848-50)

That is 3 different models of rifle muskets, converted by just the danish military.

(all was meant to supplement the 80.000 Remington breechloaderes that was manufactured here in Denmark and imported from 1867)
 
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Mayflower

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Hi.
I originally went down the road of the Springfield conversions that were were made in Belgium and supplied to the Ottoman/Turkish Army. However, that system (referred to as the Poilvache) is different looking, although broadly copying the Snider system. As you say, they also have Belgium inspector's marks and Turkish stamps. They are uncommon, but turn up now and again. Also, the quality of the machining on the Watertown is much better than the Belgian models I have come across and I haven't found any other country marks on the rifle.
The British Snider-Enfield conversions look more similar, although the retaining clasp lock wasn't added till the later models. So, again, I originally thought that the Watertown had been converted after 1866 in Britain. However, if you compare the catch lock, they are quite different to the British examples. Also the ramrod is typically American, unlike the Enfield model. The Snider trademark logo does appear to be different to the British examples, but that doesn't prove it is an earlier version.
Finally, we come to the Roman numerals on the breech block that match the barrel ones. I may be wrong but I read that Roman numerals were used by Civil War period American gun makers to match assembly parts, where interchanging them wasn't possible. Also they were used if a weapon needed refurbishing and alterations. Is this the case?
Kind regards
John
 

Jobe Holiday

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The chisel cuts that you are referring to are bench marks used to keep the same parts together when the muskets were taken apart and reassembled. Since this alteration post dates the ACW they have nothing to do with American gun makers.
J.
 

Mayflower

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Hi J.
Thanks for your input. I was going by a comment on this forum by Grayrock Volunteer (from Feb. 23, 2013) 'Roman Numeral Markings'
'Actual roman numerals encountered on muskets are typically reassembly marks. The majority of arms used in the Civil War were non-interchangeable so component parts were marked to allow them to be identified as belonging to one gun. Arms that were manufactured with interchangeable components are sometimes encountered with reassembly markings as well.'
Kind regards
John
 

Jobe Holiday

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Yulzari, does the Polivache conversion also have "Snider Patent" stamped on top of the breech block? I ask because your example appears to be identical to the one shown in the original post. Or, should I just simply ask is the one shown first a Polivache conversion?
J.
 
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yulzari

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I can't say that I recall if the Polivache above was patent marked. It was not mine but offered to me in a market in France.

As I understand it (FWIW) the Polivache part, apart from being a gun part making village in Belgium, is the rotating lock release not the breech conversion. I don't know what, if any, arrangements the Belgians or Turks had with Snider's patent rights holders but they were made for the Turkish government using ex ACW surplus Enfields and Springfields.

Equally I am no expert upon Jacob Snider's patent history after he passed away and now shares his expensive cemetery with Karl Marx amongst other luminaries. I understand the patent rights may have been bought from the family or in conjunction with the family. The use of the patents were closely monitored to ensure compliance. Hence we see so many Snider patent marks on commercial Sniders. Governments may have paid a lump sum for the right to use it rather than a royalty on sales.

Here is an Enfield with a Polivache lock and a Snider Patent stamping (I will remove this if Rickstl has a problem with it's publication).
b8f36c433845e7c797795fbd255f8ebeb42a2281.jpg

and one without:
62480be2.jpg

My best guess (and that is all it is) is that commercial ones had the stamp to show they had paid royalties and government ones none as they had paid a lump sum for the rights. I think (but do not know for sure) that Turkish conversions bought from Belgium were Polivache and those done in the Turkish factory were Sniders. FWIW Turkish Snider rounds slightly differ from British ones.
 

yulzari

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Just noticed John that you are a Plymothian. Greetings. Plymouth was my home before I emigrated to France. My children still live there.

Re your Springfield: her's a proper job m'luvver. Now I want an oggie. Janners rule!
 
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Mayflower

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Hi.
I haven't seen a Belgian conversion that had Snider stamped on it. I believe that the design of the Poilvache was sufficiently altered to avoid infringing patent laws. The same occurs with the Nepalese Snider conversion. You can also see in this system that not only does the block swivel but it is spring loaded (the hinge rod has a concealed spring). When you open and pull back, it extracts the cartridge. The French Snider system, called Tabatiere, actually has the spring on the outside. The French believed they invented the Snider system before Snider. The Belgian system is similar, hence the lack of Snider trademark.
Kind regards
John
 

yulzari

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The Polivache
sb.jpeg


The Schneider/Snider Tabatiere breech
tb.jpeg

ON1540__21.jpg


The Polivache is a Snider type breech but with the Polivache rotating release lever instead of the Snider MkIII push release lever.

III.jpeg


The 'Tabatiere' Fusil Mlle1867 is a very different looking breech to the Snider type (although it functioned the same) whatever the lever the Snider used. The French patent for the Tabatiere was shared between M. Schneider and Jacob Snider. Allegedly so it could be claimed to be a French invention. Whilst most French pre 1870 War long weapons were subject to the Tabatiere system right back to a few An X muskets I have never seen it applied to any other types. It was optimised for the 18mm bore and short Gevelot M.1868 centre fire cartridge. The spring cover is simply missing on the example Springfield Polivache I showed.
 


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