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Model 1871 WardBurton Bolt-Action Rifle & Carbine
WARD BURTON SADDLE RING CARBINE.
22" rnd bbl. Marked "eagle / U.S. / SPRINGFIELD / 1871" on the left side of the receiver,
"WARD.BURTON.PATENT. / DEC.20.1859.FEB.21.1871" on top of the bolt. "JWK" cartouche in banner on left side of stock. .
Only 316 of these carbines were made for trails. The generally saw hard service.
Another Single Shot Rifle by Burton
almost a half-century, the bolt-action rifle reigned supreme in America's
military small-arms arsenal. The long-lived use of the bolt-action
was, by no means, unique to the United States. Almost without exception,
bolt-action military rifle was a staple in the arsenals of most industrialized
nations from the late 1800s through the Second World War.
The United States' first standardized bolt-action Service rifle was the .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson, adopted in 1892 and put into production at the Springfield Armory two years later. The Krag was followed by the legendary Model of 1903 Springfield, which saw widespread service in both World Wars. The '03 was augmented during World War I by another bolt-action rifle, the U.S. Model of 1917 "American Enfield." Even after adoption of the semi-automatic M1 Garand rifle in 1936, the US. military relied heavily on bolt-action rifles throughout World War II. And today, bolt-action rifles remain in use by the American military as sniping arms in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the Krag was America's first standardized bolt-action service rifle, it was not the first bolt-action utilized by our armed forces. From the late 1870s through the late 1880s, several types of bolt-action rifles were procured for testing, evaluation and limited issue by the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps. These arms were the Hotchkiss, Remington-Lee, RemingtonKeene and Chaffee-Reese, which were chambered for the same blackpowder.45-70 Gov't cartridge used by the Model of 1873 "Trapdoor" Springfield. The Model of 1895 Winchester 6 mm US. Navy (Lee-Navy) rifle, which featured an unusual straight-pull bolt and clip-loading capability, was adopted in 1895. It was employed during the Spanish-American War and for a couple of years afterward.
Although these early repeating, bolt-action American military rifles may not be extremely well-known today, they were preceded by an even lesser-known bolt-action, the Model of 1871 Ward-Burton.
The genesis of the Ward-Burton occurred during the first few years following the conclusion of the War Between the States. After Appomattox, the US. Army had a large number of serviceable, but obsolete, muzzleloading rifle-muskets in its inventory. Since funds were tight in the immediate post-war period, the Ordnance Department chose to convert some of these surplus muzzleloaders into breechloaders. A conversion devised by Springfield Armory Master Armorer Erskine S. Allin was used to convert the leftover riflemuskets. This was accomplished by milling out the top rear portion of the muzzleloader's barrel and attaching a hinged breechblock. The altered arms were dubbed "Allin Conversions."
Although a quantum leap forward as compared to the ponderous muzzleloaders, the Allin-designed Trapdoor was intended to be an interim arm until an improved breechloading system could be developed. The period of 1870 to 1872 was a time of experimentation and uncertainty for the US. Army Ordnance Department. It was clear that the muzzleloader was woefully out-of-date and that the breechloader was the future of military rifles. It was not certain, however, exactly what would be the optimum breechloading mechanism with which to arm the US. military.
this end, the Ordnance Department encouraged submission of various designs
so that the most promising could be field tested and evaluated for possible
adoption as an improved breechloading service rifle. Four basic breechloading
mechanisms were eventually selected for limited production and evaluation.
Funds were appropriated by Congress for these designs to be manufactured
by the Springfield Armory for trial and field testing. All were chambered
for the standard .50-70 rifle cartridge (or its carbine equivalent), while
the barrels and most of the furniture were finished in "National Armory
Bright." These arms were:
The above arms were each entirely different breechloading designs that enabled the Ordnance Department to evaluate the attributes--positive and negative--of the various mechanisms. The Trapdoor Springfield, Sharps and Rolling Block were, in varying degrees, familiar due to their prior U.S. military and civilian use. On the other hand, the bolt-action Ward-Burton was something of an unknown to the soldiers charged with its testing.
For the record, there were two "quasi bolt-action" US. military arms that predated the Ward-Burton.
was invented and patented by two Americans, Gen. W G. Ward and Bethel Burton.
The Ward-Burton rifle was a singleshot design that featured a bolt
with two sets of threads on either side of the body that locked into corresponding
threads machined into the inside of the receiver. The stubby bolt handle
rotated downward to lock the action and rotated upward to disengage.
When the bolt was drawn to the rear, the empty cartridge case was automatically ejected, and the rifle was ready for a fresh cartridge to be inserted. It was cocked when the bolt was pushed forward. There was a small, spring-loaded bolt lock on the right rear of the receiver that functioned as a safety.
Model of 1871 Ward-Burton rifles and carbines were issued to a number of
US. Army units for field testing, along with the other .50-70 breechloading
trial designs. The U.S. Army's 13th Infantry was one of the units that
tested Ward-Burton rifles. While made in very limited numbers, Ward-Burton
carbines saw a surprising amount of use by several Army units, including
the It', 3rd 4th 5th 6th and 9th' US. Cavalry companies. Most of these
cavalry units were also concurrently issued Model of 1870 Trapdoor Springfield,
Model of 1870 Rolling Block and Model of 1870 Sharps trial carbines.
and this caused problems for troops accustomed to guns so equipped.
Many accidental discharges occurred, and one infantry officer stated
"the men are afraid of it" in a report.
The various trial arms, including the Ward-Burton, were subjected to grueling and rigorous use. In the majority of the subsequent test reports, the Ward-Burton did not fare well in the estimation of the reporting officers. For example, an officer of the 6th US. Cavalry succinctly stated that the Ward-Burton carbine was " ... unfit for cavalry service ... :' The Ward-Burton rifle did not perform any better than the carbine. As an illustration, an officer of the 13th Infantry opined that the WardBurton rifle had caused too many accidents, and " ... the men are afraid of it ... ." Another officer of the same unit initially found favor with the arm in his early reports in the summer of 1872, but by the winter of the same year, his opinion had totally changed. He proclaimed the Ward-Burton rifle as " ... a dangerous and inferior musket." Ultimately, not one of the 95 final reports of field testing recommended the WardBurton for adoption.
There were several reasons for the near universal dislike of the Ward-Burton. Undoubtedly, the unusual (for its day) bolt-action was distrusted by many of its users. Unlike the Trapdoor Springfield, Sharps and Rolling Blocks, all of which had large outside hammers that could be readily observed, it was difficult to ascertain whether the Ward-Burton's action was cocked and/or loaded. A number of accidents occurred because troops unfamiliar with the design discharged guns they assumed were unloaded. Several design flaws contributed to the Ward-Burton's problems, including a screw that could shear off during recoil. Improper heat treatment of the bolt also caused some failures, which led to further distrust.
As the results of the field trials were reviewed and evaluated, it became apparent that the WardBurton was not suitable for continued production or widespread issue, and it was dropped from further consideration. Ward and Burton developed a repeating, magazine-fed version, but the design didn't even get into the trial stage due, in large measure, to the negative reputation of the Model of 1871 rifle and carbine.
The Model of 1870 Trapdoor Springfield was eventually selected as the best trial breechloader. A slightly modified version, the Model of 1873 chambered for the new.45-70 Gov't cartridge, became the Army's standardized shoulder arm. The .45-70 Trapdoor remained in production until shortly after adoption of the Krag in 1892.
its shortcomings in the field trials and subsequent rejection by the Army,
the Model of 1871 Ward-Burton rifle and carbine are popular with collectors
today. A Ward-Burton rifle or carbine in excellent condition is among the
most attractive U.S. martial arms of the Indian War period. When compared
to its contemporaries, the Ward-Burton has a surprisingly modern appearance.
Many saw hard use during the infantry and cavalry field trials, and most
surviving specimens are well-worn. The Ward-Burton is significant as the
first true bolt-action produced for the U.S. military. It is an example
of an interesting--if ultimately unsuccessful--martial arm. Surviving examples,
particularly carbines, are increasingly harder to find on the collector
market today, especially in excellent condition.
Description: Aside from the obvious differences in contours, the minor variations in dimensions and the lack of markings, it is obvious that this is a Ward-Burton design. Bethel Burton originally patented his bolt action breech loading rifle 20 December, 1859 as a percussion rifle. William Ward was at Springfield Armory developing ideas on breech loading guns. Together they developed one of the finalists in the 1868 Trials and 1300 guns were made at Springfield for field trials. Both received patents on bolt action magazine rifles on the same day, 29 June, 1869. Both had pivoting cartridge carriers operated by the bolt. Bethel Burtonâ€ôs patent, #92,018, was obviously issued before William Wardâ€ôs, #92,129, so legally it would have had precedence. It is not known why they did not get a joint patent, but then they never did. The magazine tube was mounted under the barrel. It can be loaded from the bottom when the bolt is at the rear. The magazine causes other differences from the single shot Ward Burton. The size of the magazine causes the ramrod to be far below the centerline of the barrel and also increases the size of the stock and barrel bands. This rifle is something of an enigma. The buttplate trigger guard, barrel bands, forearm tip and ramrod tip are all made of brass. The brass mountings would seem to indicate that the rifle was intended for the British market while the American cartridge for which it is chambered would suggest that it was made for local sale. The sights are typically military with a stepped single leaf type at the rear and a block type at the front. The bayonet lug is placed on top of the barrel to the rear of the front sight for a Burton pattern bayonet. There are sling swivels on the front barrel band/forearm cap and the trigger plate in front of the loading port/lifter.