Percussion rifle

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The percussion rifle is a rifle that uses a percussion cap instead of older flintlock or matchlock variants. Faster reloading and fewer moving parts made this rifle more versatile and rugged compared to other single-shot rifles. The other advantage was that percussion caps were more reliable in bad weather, flintlocks and or matchlocks rifles did not work well in rain.[1][2]

The U.S. adopted the percussion system in 1841 and produced the M1841 Mississippi rifle that same year, made by Harpers Ferry Armory, E. Whitney. This was a .54 caliber, 33-inch-barrel percussion rifle. The new arm was very popular, since it was accurate and easy to handle, and its browned barrel finish contrasting with the bright brass furniture gave it a pleasing appearance. It won fame in the Mexican-American War with Jefferson Davis’ regiment of Mississippi riflemen at the battle of Buena Vista, and its continuing popularity was such that most Confederate rifle manufacturers later copied its overall style. Some were later converted to .58 caliber and fitted with long-range rear sights, but those used at Mill Springs seem to have been the original .54 caliber variety, which had simple notch rear sights. Many early percussion rifles were converted flintlock muskets. Percussion rifles were not made for very long, as percussion rifles were replaced in the 1860s by breechloading rifles, like trapdoor Springfields and the Snider-Enfield. The Dreyse needle gun that used a firing pin, not a percussion cap, showed that rate of fire of breechloading firing pin rifles was much higher.[3] [4] [5] [6]

Springfield Model 1842 Musket, first U.S. musket to be produced with a percussion lock
M1819 Hall rifle, First American breech-loading rifle
R. Johnson made Model 1814 common rifle converted to percussion cap.
A typical caplock
Percussion cap nipples, the ignition flame travels though the hole.
Percussion caps

Notable Percussion rifles[edit]

The notable percussion rifles/muskets include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fadala, Sam (17 November 2006). The Complete Blackpowder Handbook. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. pp. 159–161. ISBN 0-89689-390-1. 
  2. ^ *Winant, L. (1956). Early percussion firearms. Bonanza Books
  3. ^, Smithsonian, 1861 percussion rifle
  4. ^, Important Dates in Gun History, (Based on A History of Firearms by Major H.B.C. Pollard)
  5. ^, Rifle History
  6. ^, How Do Caplock [Percussion Firearms Work?, May 29th, 2014, by Mark3smle]