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Snider Family Portrait


From the bottom to top - Brit Snider II* Two-band "Sergeant's Pattern" rifle, from the Nepal cache. Germany-Belgian trade gun of the 1870's, made to the same pattern (but different in details and not interchangeable). Lastly, the Belgian-Dutch, a Cadillac of a Snider. Jacob Snider, an American, designed a way to convert muzzle-loading muskets to breech-loading cartridge rifles. Not adopted by the US, the British Ordnance Board loved 'em. We went with the Springfield "Trapdoor" conversion, which was not as good. But it was invented in-house, an attitude that was to plague US rifle design for almost a century to follow, until the US Ordnance Board finally managed to piss off McNamara sufficiently that he dis-established Springfield Armory.


"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."

That's the AK-47 of the 19th century...
 Not up on Kipling, but that just reminds how great he was. Can you tell us what it's from? A beautifly constructed stanza. 
 It's from "The Grave of the Hundred Head."

A form of counter-insurgency manual.

 I was schooled 50's to 60's. Can still recite "The midnight ride of.", "The charge of the Light Brigade", pounded into me, under protest in my small mind. Kipling, stirred something that wouldn't go away, tho' covered briefly in 1969's Cape Cod. On the first submarine I was on, my soar chief quoted him often. Made the first runs most interesting. Thanks again.
The myth that the Ordnance Department had a "not invented here" phobia is not factual, although they can be criticized for many of their decisions.

The Krag Jorgensen adopted in 1892 was definitely NOT a Springfield, or even U.S. product, nor was the Swiss style bayonet adopted at the same time.  True, political wrangling delayed production for two years as politicians tried to get something that was invented here adopted instead, but the Army held fast.  (Similar to the fight over the M9 pistol about 90 years later.)

The M1903 Springfield was an adaptation of the Mauser brothers' basic designs, so much so that we ended up paying royalties for doing so.  Certainly not invented here, although redesigned after several iterations.  The "rod bayonet" reinvented for the orignal M1903 and condemened by President Teddy Roosevelt, was strictly and American invention.  This failed notion chronically reappeared from 1833, 1880, 1884, 1888 and 1903 but thankfully seems to have finally been eradicated.

The dmoestically designed Gatling was our first machine gun (more or less) but while Saint John Moses Browning was finishing his inspired creations, we adopted the French Benet-Mercie and the Vickers.  (Although the Vickers was merely a Maxim with a British accent, and Maxim himself was an American.) 

The diminutive Hotchkiss field guns in 37mm and 1.65 inch calibers were a French design, as was the Hotchkiss 37mm rapid fire "Gatling on steroids" that we used.

One can debate the relative merits of the Snider vs. Erskine Allin's trapdoor designs, but Allin admittedly had the inside track being the Master Armorer at Springfield.  However, in a time when the army had shrunk from a million men to 25,000 in less than a year (no, sequester was not involved in that...) and a war-weary nation wished to eliminate as much military spending as possible, a difference of even a few pennies in cost to convert the mountains of muskets to breechloaders was a major consideration, probably as much as actual effectiveness in a close race.

Still, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Army did conduct serious trials of all designs submitted, some with great merit, many marginally useful, and some totally worthless.  Some of the best were even made in limited numbers for field trials. 

Trial production included the Remington Rolling blocks; Ward Burton and Chaffee-Reese bolt actions; the Lee vertical action; the Remington-Lee, Winchester-Hotchkiss (not the same Hotchkiss fellow, either) bolt actions, also conversions of the Sharps and Spencer carbines to infantry rifles.

In the 1870s-1880s the response from the units scattered around the west was usually in favor of the trapdoor. Familiarity probably helped it a lot.

The M1 Garand WAS invented here, and adopting it was a very smart decision, giving us a better battle rifle than anyone else at a critical time in military history.

The M14 was not one of the Ordnance Department's best programs, nor was the refusal to adopt the Mattel varmint rifle, AKA M16, although it has proven to be pretty durable, albeit the direct impingement gas system is vastly inferior, and we have rejected most of the proposed improvements.  Right now, the M16 has a service life exceeding any other U.S. military long arm, except possibly the .69 caliber smoothbore flintlocks, so it must be doing okay, if not perfect for every purpose.

Criticisms of the Ordnance Department in the Civil War for trying to buy .58 muskets instead of new fangled repeating or breechloading arms ignore the reality that not even simple muskets could be built fast enough to meet demands during the first 18-24 months of thwar, forsing us to import huge numbers of foreign surplus arms of varying quality.  And, many of the breechloaders and repeaters WERE bought in considerable numbers. Of course, the burdens placed upon Ordnance officers charged with supplying ammo and parts to this polyglot assortment of armament  can only be imagined.

One book that promotes the negative stereotype of Ordnance Department obstructionism and reluctance to change is an execrable screed called "Misfire" which I wish I had never read.  It is good advocacy journalist fiction, but very poor history. 

Full disclosure- I made my annual pilgrimage to worship at Springfield Armory last week, and do not claim to be totally non-partisan.

Let's not forget Subadar Prag Tewarri and Jemadar Hira Lal, who bid them load with ball

Snerk. While I don't make the gun-haj annually, I have circled the Musket Organ. This is not something to respond to using a Kindle... It will have to wait until I am at a keyboard. We are closer than you might think. 
 John (NTA) I'm not sure you mean that refusal to adopt Stoner's brilliant design was not one of Odnance Corps better moves. I think it was one of its better moves, but McNamara thought he knew it all because of his WW2 service, and he proved, over and over, he didn't. Given the way he treated LeMay, about whom he a lot of good of good to say during WW2, he showed he really learned very little. That's not all, or even close to all, but the country would have been far better served if McNamara had stayed at Ford.

OTOH, it was LeMay that ordered adoption of the original AR-15 by the AF. LeMay knew a lot more about weapons than he showed with that one. Stoner's design would work well, but only with IMR powders. IMR powders are murder on the barrels of high cyclic rate weapons, however. They do burn clean, but they also burn quite hot. That's why the military uses ball or flake powders instead.

Alas, however, the Army gas rejected most of teh fixes that would make the M16 a first rate weapon. A closed gas system will solve most of teh problems of the piece, and the Koreans did just that with the K-1 and K-2. I have a semi only version of the K-2 that was sold by Daewoo and was imported by Kimber for awhile. It's a first rate weapon that easy to maintain, and is far cleaner than Stoner's abortion. It uses a hybrid of the AK gas system and the AR-15 rotary bolt for lock up and functions very well.  Stoner got it right with the AR-180. The original Costa Mesa version was also a first rate piece.
QM-  Agreed, McNamara was a disaster on many levels.  Perhaps without his meddling and absurd mission requirements for small arms the Ordnance Corps would have ended up with  better answers. 
I have a Portugese contract Snider Carbine. Neat firearm, but have to wonder how srtrong the breech is compared to the "Trapdoor" system. I also have a French bayonet for the Chassepot which is a dead ringer for the bayonet pictured.
 I don't see why the Snider breech would be weaker than the trapdoor.  What I do remember is that primary extraction on the Snider was better - though in truth, many of the extraction issues on both weapons were more driven by weakness in cartridge design and manufacture, rather than leverage.
How about the Lewis Gun debacle.  A U.S. Army colonel is willing to give the gun to the Army and it is rejected.  Our soldiers buy them from the Brits for gold.  Those who couldn't were stuck with a French piece of crap.  The armory system at work.

John, why the ramrods on the Snider's -- easier or do they have a function in clearing jams?
That, and cleaning.