Breechldrs Maynard Tape in Battle

StraboSE

Cadet
Joined
Apr 10, 2021
Location
Washington, D.C.
In researching the Battle of Lexington, I learned that the 23rd IL was issued the 1855 Springfield. These were the rifles equipped with the infamous Maynard tape primers, that I have read misfired almost half the time. So, did units issued with these guns ever actually use the tape in battle, or were they exclusively used with traditional percussion caps, ignoring the tape system entirely?
 

Craig L Barry

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
Location
Murfreesboro, TN
As I understand it, the US 1855 would work fine with conventional percussion caps just like the US 1861 which replaced it. The US 1855s were used with percussion caps. This is not only for reliability but also if you consider the logistics of ammunition supply. I am not aware of a separate arsenal pack for issuance of .58 rounds for the US 1855 which included tape primers vs percussion caps. Hence, conventional wisdom is that most US 1855s that were used during the Civil War were fired with individual percussion caps which were provided with the ammunition as issued.
 

ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
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May 7, 2016
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Unless you can find any referances in say a regimental history of the 23rd to there use, I have to agree with Craig. Even with the high hump of the Maynard system making a little more difficult to get the cap on it would have been the primer of choice.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
As I understand it, the US 1855 would work fine with conventional percussion caps just like the US 1861 which replaced it. The US 1855s were used with percussion caps. This is not only for reliability but also if you consider the logistics of ammunition supply. I am not aware of a separate arsenal pack for issuance of .58 rounds for the US 1855 which included tape primers vs percussion caps. Hence, conventional wisdom is that most US 1855s that were used during the Civil War were fired with individual percussion caps which were provided with the ammunition as issued.
Craig you know more about this kind of thing than any ten people I know. We’re they even manufacturing the tape primers during the war? We always shot off our rolls of caps as fast as we could go, so I haven’t any idea how well it would have held up past an hour or so.
 

Craig L Barry

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
Location
Murfreesboro, TN
Craig you know more about this kind of thing than any ten people I know. We’re they even manufacturing the tape primers during the war? We always shot off our rolls of caps as fast as we could go, so I haven’t any idea how well it would have held up past an hour or so.
I don't know, but there are no records for the rolls of Maynard tape primers being made or issued with any US or CS ammunition of which I am aware at least not from any of the government armories. I know some rolls of tape primer caps survive to this day from the time period so that should tell you something... they did not get used.

Also, the hump part of the lock plate served as a fine flash guard for the percussion caps. The US 1861 and later rifle muskets had a flash guard behind the bolster which the US 1855 did not need. A fine point that the reproduction US 1855s do not get right.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I don't know, but there are no records for the rolls of Maynard tape primers being made or issued with any US or CS ammunition of which I am aware at least not from any of the government armories. I know some rolls of tape primer caps survive to this day from the time period so that should tell you something... they did not get used.

Also, the hump part of the lock plate served as a fine flash guard for the percussion caps. The US 1861 and later rifle muskets had a flash guard behind the bolster which the US 1855 did not need. A fine point that the reproduction US 1855s do not get right.
Thanks Craig.
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
The tape primers were still at least being requested as late as late 1862 as some US units went into Antietam with Remington Maynard conversions. Unlike the M1855 the Remington Maynard cannot use standard Percussion caps. Over the years I’ve found a couple references to units requesting paper or tape primers but it’s difficult to tell if they’re needed for the M1855 or the Remington Maynard.

IIRC the tape primers were issued in a small tin that held one roll and there was another tubular tin that held ten (?) of those tins. I’ve seen pictures of those tins but never actually seen one.

I believe, don’t quote me, that the tape primers were no longer produced after the adoption of the M1861. That said there were number of the Remington Maynard conversion and they weapon is useless without the paper primer.

I’ve read of some regular army units keeping their tape primers in reserve for when the situation dictates a higher rate of fire. But like Craig I have not seen too much period references to their use. After the Remington Maynard conversions were replaced with more modern arms there would be little need. Whereas the M1855 series arm saw hard use through the duration. I would say the majority of M1855 used in combat utilized standard percussion caps
 

Lanyard Puller

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 29, 2017
Location
South Carolina
Here's some photos of 2 different size tins for Maynard primers. The smaller one was in a CS made cartridge box {could have been put there anytime in the last 160 years} and the longer tube is from a cased Maynard carbine.
20210706_082137_resized (2).jpg

20210706_081907_resized (2).jpg

20210706_081953_resized (2).jpg
 

LouG.

Private
Joined
Jun 27, 2021
Great input here from Craig, Johan and the Lanyard Puller. It's interesting to note that the moisture problem became apparent even in the early 1850s, when the Nippes-made Maynard-primer muskets were issued for field trials. Company A of the 8th Infantry, then stationed in Texas, reported that the priming strips "...will not stand the dampness of a single night's exposure on guard." And this in the dry climate of Texas. But when the primers were kept dry, they did the job intended. Another report from Texas praised "...the rapidity with which they can be fired---at least three shots to two of any other musket---besides they can be fired with caps if necessary."

Basically, a very good idea that failed because of inadequate materials.
 

major146

Cadet
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
I was once told that the nipple used for the tape primers had to be changed to use regular musket caps. Anyone know if this is true?
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
I was once told that the nipple used for the tape primers had to be changed to use regular musket caps. Anyone know if this is true?
No. The issue with tape primers and the Remington Maynard is the there is no room to put a standard cap on the nipple. This issue was eliminated with the M1855 series arm.
 
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