Loading and Firing the British Snider Enfield, 1867
Edited by Robert Henderson
Following the American Civil War, a movement sprang up in the United
States called the Fenian Brotherhood. Made up of those of Irish decent including
large numbers of Civil War veterans, the Fenian Brotherhood's goal was the free Ireland
from Great Britain. To do this, the Fenians devised a loose plan to in essence
capture Canada and trade it for Ireland's freedom. In 1866 the Fenians made a number
of raids along the border whcih sent the Canadian colonial government into to state of
alarm. Canada immediately petitioned Britain for Enfields converted to breech
loaders: the Snider Enfield. More specifically the Snider conversion was developed
for the muzzle loading Pattern 1858 Enfield Long Rifle. However this
massive conversion took time and it was not until late 1867 that the first shipment of
30,000 rifles arrived in North America. Once in North America the Snider Enfield saw
extensive service in the Fenian Raids of 1870, the Red River Rebellion, and the North West
Rebellion of 1885. Militia continue to favour the rifle into the 1890s.
Outside North America the Snider Enfield was distributing throughout the British Empire.
With the new model came a new manual for
drill. The following Platoon exercise for the Snider Enfield is taken from Extracts
from Field Exercise and Evolutions of Infantry, as Revised by Her Majesty's Command.
(Pall Mall, 1867).
"The Platoon Exercise for the
Long and Short Snider Breech-Loading Rifle.
The recruit, having acquired a
thorough knowledge of the several motions of the rifle as detailed in the MANUAL EXERCISE,
will next be taught the PLATOON EXERCISE. The squad to fall in at "The
Order" Muzzle-stoppers to be removed.
The recruit will be instructed:
1stly. To load and fire standing.
2ndly. To fire and load kneeling.
Each of these exercises will taught:
1stly. By Numbers
2ndly. In Quick Time.
The motions of the long and of the
short rifle, and as a front and rear rank being, with few exceptions, alike, it has only
been considered necessary to describe separately the parts where any difference exists.
Squads are not to be instructed in the Platoon Exercise by
Numbers, either standing or kneeling, otherwise than in single rank.
1. To Load and Fire
standing, by Numbers, from "The Order,"
Caution - Platoon Exercise by Numbers, as a Front (or Rear) Rank standing.
||Turn on both heels to the
right-half face, carrying the rifle round with the body; and, with the long rifle, place
the thumb of the right hand behind the barrel to seize it. The right foot to point to the
right, the left to the front, eyes to look to the front.
||Advance the left foot, moving
the body with it, ten inches to the left front (viz. six to the front, and eight to the
left), toes to point to the front; at thesame time, bring the rifle to a horizontal
position at the right side, with the small of the butt just in front of the right hip,
grasping the stock with the left hand between the lo~er band and the projection in front
of the lock plate, thumb between stock and barrel, and half-cock with the thumb of the
right hand, fingers behind the trigger-guard. The left elbow to be kept close to the body
as a support for the rifle, - the right hand to hold the small of the butt lightly, with
the elbow to the rear, thumb resting on the comb of the hammer. As a rear rank, the left
foot to be advanced six inches, the body moving with it, and the butt to be four
inches above the hip.
||Open the breech by a sharp
turn of the right hand from left to right, then carry the hand to the pouch and take hold
of a cartridge at the rim with the forefinger and Thumb.
To open the breech, place the thumb on the thumb-piece of the breech-lock, and the
forefinger along the nipple-lump the remaining fingers to be closed in the hand.
||Put the cartridge into the
barrel, pressing it well home with the thumb, and close the breech firmly by canting the
breech-block to the left with the fingers; then carry the hand to the small of the butt,
and hold it lightly with the fingers behind the trigger-guard, thumb pointing to the
When the feet are at right
angles, as detailed in the 2nd motion, care must be taken not to increase the angle by
turning the toes of the right foot to the rear, which would tend to alter the proper
position of the right shoulder in firing.
|AT__ YARDS READY
back-sight-full-cock with the thumb of the right hand, fingers behind the trigger-guard
and fix the eyes steadfastly on some object in front. Thumb to point to the muzzle after
The back-sight will be adjusted as
follows:- With the forefinger and thumb of the right hand, move the sliding bar until the
top is even with the line, or at the place on the flanges showing the distance named;
then, if necessary, raise the flap carefully, prevemting it from springing up with a jerk,
and afterwards carry the hani back to the small of the butt.
||Bring the rifle smartly to the
shoulder, pointing the muzzle a few inches below the object on which the right eye is
fixed, and place the forefinger round the trigger like a hook, but without pressing it~
that part between the first and second joint to rest on it. The centre of the butt
to be pressed firmly to theshoulder with the left hand, - the top of the butt to be even
with the top of the shoulder, - the left elbow to be under the rifle as a support-the
right elbow to be raised nearly square with (but not too high), and well in front of, the
right shoulder; to form a bed for the butt,-the right hand to bold the small of the butt
lightly, thumb pointing to the muzzle-the left eye to be closed. This motion is to be
performed without moving the left hand from its grasp, or bending the body, or raising the
||Raise the muzzle steadily,
until the top of the fore-sight is brought in a line with the object through the notch of
the back-sight, pressing the trigger at the same time without the least motion of the
hand, eye, or arm, until the hammer falls, still keeping the eye fixed on the object.
||Bring the rifle to a
horizontal position at the right side, - shut down the flap of the back-sight, if raised,
without moving the sliding bar, - half-cock,- open the breech and, holding the
breech-block firmly with the forefinger and thumb, by means of the thumb~piece and
nipple-lump, draw it back as far as possible by a jerk, raising the muzzle of the rifle
slightly in doing so, to remove the empty cartridge-case,-let the breech-block go back,
and at the same time cast the rifle sharply over to the right by a turn of the wrist, to
allow the case to fall out, bringing the rifle again to the horizontal position,-then
carry the right hand to the pouch, and take hold of a cartridge at the rim with the
forefinger and thumb.
the hth motion of the "Load" (No.1.) as before detailed.
As the first motion of the
"Present" will not be learned without practice and much care, the
instructor will frequently give the command As you were, ~hen the recruit will bring the
rifle to the right side without moving any part of his body but his arms, or his eyes from
the object to be aimed at. The instructor will then point out the defects observed. By
this means the recruit will soon be accustomed to get into the position readily, and will
acquire a full command of his rifle with the left hand.
The squad will also be brought back
to the "Ready" by the command As you were after the 1st and 2nd
motions of the "Present," for the instructor to explain that which
follows next in order; the recruits maintaining the erect position of the body, and
keeping the eyes fixed on the object they are to aim at.
Particular attention is to be given to the
following points in the "Present." The body is to be firm and upright, the butt
to be pressed firmly into the hollow of the shoulder, so as to avoid the kick which will
otherwise take place from the recoil on the explosion of the powder, the rifle to rest
solidly on the left hand, and to be firmly grasped, but without rigidity of muscle, the
back-sight to be upright. Tn aiming, and pressing the trigger, the breathing to be
restrained. The right eye to continue fixed on the object after snapping, to ascertain if
the aim has been deranged by the movement of the trigger or body. The position of the head
with reference to the butt, when taking aim, must depend entirely on the elevation used.
With small elevation, the butt must be brought to the head by raising the shoulder, or
the cheek must be so placed on the butt, by
bending the head a little forward ( not sideways), as to get the eye fixed on the object
through the notch of the back-sight; as the distances increase, thehandmust be raised or
the shoulder lowered.
When giving the command Ready, some
distance should always be named; if, however, the distance be omitted, the soldier must
judge it for himself, and adjust his sight accordingly.
Too much pains cannot be taken to ensure
that the soldier takes a deliberate aim at some object whenever he brings the rifle to the
"Present" for this purpose, small bulls-eyes are to be marked on the barrack
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