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Snider Springfield Armory.jpg
TypeBreech-loading rifle
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1866–1901
Used by
Production history
DesignerRSAF Enfield
ManufacturerRSAF Enfield
No. built~870,000
VariantsLong Rifle, Short Rifle, Engineer's Carbine, Cavalry Carbine, Artillery Carbine, Yeomanry Carbine, Naval Rifle, Royal Irish Constabulary Carbine
Mass8 lb 9 oz (3.8 kg) (unloaded)
Length49.25 in (1,250 mm)

Cartridge.577 Snider
Calibre0.577 in (14.7 mm)
ActionSide-hinged breechblock
Rate of fire10 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity1250 ft/s (381 m/s) (original black powder load)
Effective firing range600 yd (550 m)[7][8]
Maximum firing range2,000 yd (1,800 m)
Feed systemSingle shot
SightsSliding ramp rear sights, Fixed-post front sights

The British .577 Snider–Enfield was a breech-loading rifle. The American Jacob Snider invented this firearm action, and the Snider–Enfield was one of the most widely used of the Snider varieties. The British Army adopted it in 1866 as a conversion system for its ubiquitous Pattern 1853 Enfield muzzle-loading rifles, and used it until 1874 when the Martini–Henry rifle began to supersede it. The British Indian Army used the Snider–Enfield until the end of the nineteenth century.

Design and manufacture[edit]

(From Left to Right): A .577 Snider cartridge, a Zulu War–era rolled brass foil .577/450 Martini–Henry Cartridge, a later drawn brass .577/450 Martini–Henry cartridge, and a .303 British Mk VII SAA Ball cartridge.

In trials, the Snider Pattern 1853 conversions proved both more accurate than the original Pattern 1853s and much faster firing; a trained soldier could fire ten aimed rounds per minute with the breech-loader, compared with only three rounds per minute with the muzzle-loading weapon. From 1866 onwards, the Enfield rifles were converted in large numbers at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) Enfield beginning with the initial pattern, the Mark I. The converted rifles received a new breechblock/receiver assembly, but retained the original iron barrel, furniture, lock, and hammer.

The Mark III rifles were newly made. They featured steel barrels which were so marked, flat nosed hammers, and a latch-locking breech block instead of the simple integral block lifting tang.

The Snider–Enfield used a new type of metal-cased cartridge called a Boxer cartridge after its designer. The breech block housed a diagonally downward sloping firing pin struck with a front-action lock mounted hammer. To operate the weapon, the rifleman cocked the hammer, flipped the block out of the receiver to the right by grasping the left mounted breech block lever, and then pulled the block back to extract the spent case. There was no ejector, so the firer turned the rifle to the right and upside-down to allow the case to drop out.


Snider breech-loading mechanism.

The Snider first saw action with the British/Indian Army at the battle of Magdala (Aroghee) in Ethiopia on 10 April 1868, against the forces of Tewodros II of Ethiopia; during the battle the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot alone fired 10,200 rounds.[9] The Snider–Enfield served throughout the British Empire, including Cape Colony, India, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, until its gradual phaseout by the Martini–Henry, beginning in 1874. Volunteer and militia forces continued to use it until the late 1880s. It stayed in service with the Indian Army until the mid-1890s, because between the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and 1905 the British kept the Indian Army one weapon generation behind British units. The Hunza Scouts may have been the last to use it in action (in the carbine version), in the Chitral campaign of 1895.[10] The Indian units received the Martini–Henry when the British adopted the Lee–Metford. The Ijeshas used large numbers of Snider–Enfields against Ibadan during the 16-year-long Yoruba Civil War (1877 to 1893).

Frank Richards, who served on the Northwest Frontier between 1902 and 1908, records in Old Soldier Sahib that the British army still used Sniders during that period. Sentries on night duty in camps and cantonments would carry a Snider and buckshot cartridges. Should tribesmen try to get into the camp to steal rifles, the buckshot would give the sentries a better chance of hitting the thief, and unlike a .303 round, would be less likely to wound or kill a comrade should the sentry miss.

The Snider was notably powerful. Rudyard Kipling gave a graphic depiction of its effect in his poem, "The Grave of the Hundred Head":

A Snider squibbed in the jungle—
Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
And the back blown out of his head.


New Zealand Military issue, 1881 Snider Mk II .577 calibre artillery carbine

The Snider–Enfield was produced in several variants. The most commonly encountered variants were the Rifled Musket or Long Rifle, the Short Rifle, and the Cavalry and Artillery Carbines. The Long Rifle has a 36+12-inch (93 cm) barrel and three barrel bands. Its total length (without bayonet) is 54+14 inches (138 cm) in length. It was issued to line infantry and has three-groove rifling with one turn in 78 inches (200 cm). The Short Rifle has a 30.5-inch (77 cm) barrel and two barrel bands with iron furniture. This variant was issued to sergeants of line infantry and rifle units. It has five-groove rifling with one turn in 48 inches (120 cm). The Cavalry Carbine is half stocked and has only one barrel band. It has a 19+12-inch (50 cm) barrel, with the same rifling as the Short Rifle. The Artillery Carbine has a 21+14-inch (54 cm) barrel with a full stock and two barrel bands, and the same rifling as the Short Rifle and Cavalry Carbine.

The Snider was the subject of substantial imitation, in both approved and questionable forms, including the Nepalese Snider, which was a nearly exact copy, the Dutch Snider, Danish Naval Snider, and the "unauthorised" adaptations of the French Tabatière and Russian Krnka.

There were also "Trade Pattern" Snider–Enfields, being Snider–Enfields made for private purchase by various English gun-makers. These were often intended for sale to members of volunteer military units, or simply to anyone who might wish to purchase a rifle.

Modern usage[edit]

Enthusiasts still use these rifles today, with the number in circulation boosted by the acquisition by Atlanta Cutlery and International Military Antiques of a vast quantity of antique weapons held in the Royal Nepalese Armory in the Lagan Silekhana Palace for over a century. Ammunition is reloaded into either modern production .577 Snider cases, or re-formed 24-gauge brass shotgun shells. Black powder or modern black-powder substitutes are used. The Halifax Citadel Regimental Association does live-fire demonstrations in the Halifax Citadel; they have around 60 of these rifles. In addition, the Fort Henry Guard at Fort Henry, Kingston also uses the various variants of this weapon for their re-enactments. [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Esposito, Gabriele, The Paraguayan War 1864–70: Osprey Publishing (2019)
  2. ^ Imperial Chinese Armies 1840–1911 by Philip S. Jowett, pp. 19, 22 (2016)
  3. ^ PANKHURST, RICHARD (1971). "Linguistic and Cultural Data on the Penetration of Fire-Arms into Ethiopia". Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 9 (1): 47–82. ISSN 0304-2243.
  4. ^ Esposito, Gabriele, Armies of the War of the Pacific 1879-83: Osprey Publishing (2016)
  5. ^ McLachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896: The Italian Disaster in Ethiopia. Men-at-Arms 471. Osprey Publishing.p 37. ISBN 9781849084574.
  6. ^ Jowett, Philip (2012). Armies of the Balkan Wars 1912-13 : the priming charge for the Great War. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-299-58155-2. OCLC 842879929.
  7. ^ The Army quarterly and defence journal Vol 104. West of England Press. 1973. p. 91. ...Snider-Enfield, which had an effective range of 600 yd.
  8. ^ Macdonald, John Hay Athole (1909). Fifty years of it: the experiences and struggles of a volunteer of 1859. W. Blackwood and Sons. p. 232. The Snider-Enfield even at 600 yards, which was the limit of the really effective range of the rifle for accurate shooting.
  9. ^ Markham, Clements R (1869) A History of the Abyssinian Expedition (Macmillan & Co); p. 325.
  10. ^ Beynon, L. (1895) With Kelly To Chitral
  11. ^ Holt Bodinson (March 2006), "Britain's big .577 Snider", Guns Magazine

External links[edit]