THE PORTUGUESE SNIDER CONTRACTS
The distinctive characteristic of the Portuguese Contract rifles & Carbines are their markings
Historical context: The British and the Portuguese share the oldest military and political alliance in history, an alliance which is still in force today. Their close relationship dates back to the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373. These two nations have remained allies through the War of Spanish Succession, the Seven Years War (Spain invaded Portugal but Britain intervened as Portugal's ally), the Napoleonic Wars, and even through the Portuguese Civil War in the early 1800s.
Portugal had long relied on the industrial capacity of Britain to help supply it with arms and had been supplied with British P53 Enfields as well as with Westley Richards "monkey tail" long arms in the mid 1800s. By the late 1860s it was already becoming obvious that metallic cartridge breach loaders would enter service as the front-line arms of the armies of Europe, including Spain which had just adopted the Remington Rolling Block. Portugal's "Monkey Tails" had become technologically obsolete.
Adoption of the Snider by Portugal:
In the early 1870s the British sold the Portuguese 10,000 British government Snider infantry rifles and bayonets, along with 3000 carbines, which were delivered in 1873 and began to replace Portugal's older arms. These came from British stores and should carry full British markings, although they may also have Portuguese inspection stamps.
The following year, Portugal placed an order with Birmingham Small Arms & Metal Company Ltd., for an additional 10,000 infantry rifles and 1200 cavalry carbines, which were delivered in 1875. All of these latter arms were the MK III latching breech block design and are specially marked on the tail of the lock with the Portuguese Heraldic Royal Crown above initials G.P. The lock plate forward of the hammer is marked BSA & M Co above 1875, the year of manufacture. BSA Co markings also appear on the breech block, and Snider's Patent and Snider Arrow thru S symbol on top of the receiver, along with an a Crown over FA, understood to be the Portuguese inspector's acceptance marking.
GENERALLY: These rifle and carbines are of conventional British Snider design and adoption. The rifles are British pattern as are the carbines. The left side of the barrel is profusely proof marked while the right side is serial-numbered. Carbine serial numbers have a "C" prefix. Most of these arms will be found with unit markings on the brass butt plate tang. Additionally, the carbines will have a butt plate door and recess for storage of it's FA-marked, two-piece cleaning rod.
Furniture of the Infantry rifles is typical for British Infantry Sniders while carbine furniture is typical for British cavalry carbines including screws on either side of the fore stock to mount the leather rear sight cover, and a single lanyard swivel ring at the tail of the trigger guard. Note that the tail of the brass trigger guard is truncated to allow for the iron base of the lanyard ring to be screwed into the stock.
PHOTOS: The rifle photos shown are from several 1874 Portuguese contract carbines with Portuguese and BSA&M Co markings which were built and delivered in 1875. These show the distinctive markings of Portuguese Royal inspection, acceptance and ownership unique to this contract.
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: The Portuguese markings and the BSA&M Co over 1875 as described above. Otherwise, they are as the corresponding British rifles and carbines.
OTHER VARIANTS: I have been advised on good authority (but have not yet been able to confirm) that, in addition to the 24,200 Sniders bought from Britain, the Portuguese also indigenously converted significant numbers of previously acquired P53 Enfields to the Snider pattern infantry rifles as well as a shortened version akin to the British "Sargent's Pattern" as well as the "Artillery" carbine version. This would make a lot of sense, but regrettably I have not yet come across a confirmed example of these. I welcome correspondence from anyone regarding these.
Note the distinctive markings and the Serial number on the right side of the barrel at the receiver.
Another good example
This Crown is the Portuguese Heraldic Crown in use during the 17th & 18th centuries. See: /wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_Portugal
Appearing on the shoe (breech block) of these Sniders.
Better view of the receiver & breech block
Good vies of the left side of the breech block, receiver and profusely marked barrel.
Note: Unlike British service long arms, the Portuguese contract rifles and carbines are serialized.
Good view of the action area from the top.
The carbines did not mount sling swivels but rather lanyard loops, which are fastened directly to the buttstock at the tail of the brass trigger guard.
virtually all examples encountered will have been unit marked on their butt plate tangs.
Not the rifles, but the carbines were fitted with doors in their brass butts to accept dedicated two-piece cleaning rods of a
length commensurate with the short barrels of the carbines.
Page built January 11, 2021
Updated: Nov 6, 2021