M1857/67, M1857/59/67 & M1859/67 Spanish Berdan

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The above photo is of a M1859/67 Spanish Berdan Infantry Rifle (Fusil Berdan Modelo 1867 para Infanteria), a former muzzleloader which has been converted to breech-loading using the Berdan system, but retaining its original 15mm caliber.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

   As a result of Spain’s participation in a series of European conflicts during the 18th and 19th centuries, including Spain’s conquest and occupation by France, ruination from the Napoleonic wars and loss of colonies, Spain went through extensive political turmoil during the second half of the 19th century.  But after the “Glorious Revolution” of 1868 and a brief First Spanish Republic, the subsequent Bourbon Restoration (1874) eventually resulted in a somewhat stable period of monarchy which took Spain all the way into the early 20th century.   (See M1868 & M1870 Spanish Remingtons for additional Historical Context).

DEVELOPMENT

  Despite the political turmoil referenced above, and further in spite of very limited industrialization in this period when compared to the British, French, Dutch and even Belgians,

as an empire with remaining overseas colonies the Spanish army had to keep pace with the rest of Europe. Throughout the latter part of the 18th and first half of the 19th century, Spain was very much enamored of the long arms of the British, both acquiring British arms for their own use, and copying many features of British muskets and later rifles into their own designs. Overall, Spanish rifles loosely followed the design of British long arms of the era.  During this period the Spanish adopted the M1857, M1858 and later M1857/59 capping breechloader of 14.8mm, essentially copies of  the .58 calibre British Pattern 1853 rifle. Initially these were fitted only with a fixed rear sight that facilitated aiming at a distance of 400 meters, but beginning in 1860 a slide and bridge sight was approved which allowed aiming up to a distance of 1,000 meters.  One of the instantly recognizable features of this rear sight, unique to this series of Spanish rifles and short rifles, is the screwed tight hinged band mechanism of fixing the rear sight to the barrel.  While perhaps not intentional, this feature did allow for later minute range adjustment of the rear sight in the event that the rifle was not initially sighted exactly perfectly.

  Production of the original rifles was carried out in the Oviedo national armory, in the Euscalduna factory in Placencia as well as in England and Belgium, contracting its manufacture to the firms Glukman, of Birmingham, and Falisse & Trapmann of Liege.

 

  In 1866, following the shocking outcomes of both The Second Schleswig War (Dano-Prussian War of 1864) and the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, both of which had been closely followed by all of Europe, which concluded that the defeats of both Denmark and of Austria could not have been due to the poor leadership of their armies’ commanding nobilities, but must have been on account of the Prussians “fast-firing” Dreyse breechloaders, a committee was set up to study the adoption of breech loading firearms. 

 

  Like virtually every major European power, Spain had a very large store of relatively “modern” muzzleloaders, upwards of 100,000 stand.  It is unsurprising that, much like the pattern that was followed by the much admired British in how they selected their M1866 Snider conversions while awaiting a dedicated breechloader (later to become the Martini-Henry), the Spanish Junta Superior Facultativa de Artillería (the Superior Optional Board of Ordnance) reviewed a great diversity of breechloading systems offered by different designers.  The Board began by sorting the proffered designs into two categories, those requiring new manufacture and those requiring only conversion of Spain’s preexisting rifles.  For expediency the focus was on systems in the second group, since that allowed rapid upgrading to breechloaders, still preserving the original caliber, while providing time to organize the adoption and manufacture of whatever rifle(s) was selected from the first category (which of course eventually became the M1871 & M1871/89 Spanish Remington).

 

  The priority focus of the committee was on systems that offered a rapid conversion of the existing M1857 series of percussion rifles.  In December of 1867, after an extensive review of various competing systems, including seven proposals from Hiram Berdan alone, one of his lifting block conversions was selected.  This was the Berdan No. 3, which was actually the fifth modification of the lifting breech block designed by Berdan and was a further development of the system he patented in 1866, which bore an amazing similarity to that which was copied by US Chief armorer at Springfield, Erskine Allin and adopted by the United States for conversion of its Model 1863 Springfield to the M1863/66 Springfield Trapdoor (known in the US simply as the M1866 Springfield).  Berdan found additional success with this conversion system a year later when the Russian government adopted the purpose-built M1868 Russian Berdan I.

 

  After approval of the conversion system, Berdan worked with Remington for the firm to supply 30,000 Berdan breech conversion systems to Spain.  These were unmarked as to origin except for serial numbers in various places, principally on the bottom of the breech block.   The rifles were converted to breechloaders at the Euscalduna de Placencia and the Ignacio Ibarzábal Armories. Some work was also done at the arms factory of the Orbea Brothors, in Eibar.  The Spanish Armories also necessarily produced upwards of 70,000 of their own Berdan M1867 breech conversion assemblies, for example at Orbea Hermanos and at Oviedo

  The Berdan M1867 conversions were only to have been applied to the M1859 rifles and the M1857 and M1858 carabina (short rifles) para Cazadores (i.e., hunter or jäger), but some small numbers of conversions were applied to navy short rifles Carabina Para Infanteria de Marina, Mo. 1867  and Berdan Artillery & Engineer Short Rifles Mo.1861/67 (Carabina para Artilleria e Ingenieros Mo. 1867) which are discussed below.

 

  The original rear sight was repositioned and remarked for elevation. A fascinating feature of the rear sight ladder slider is the peep sight aiming hole in the slider, which appears on all models of the Spanish Mo. 1867.
 

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  The stock, the ramrod, and the bayonet were retained, unaltered, except for a new ramrod spring and stop

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  Between 1867 and 1870 more than 100,000 Spanish rifles were converted to the Berdan system.  As late as the Cuban-American war of 1898 Berdan converted rifles were still in use by Spanish second line auxiliary troops.

DESCRIPTION

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Note the significant difference in trigger guard bow.  Top:  Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/67 para Cazadores.   Bottom:  Other Carabina and the M1859/67 Infantry rifle.

  Adopted in late 1867, this rifle is a conversion of the 1857 short rifles and 1859 rifled muskets of Spanish manufacture, without changing the barrels or reducing their bores.

 

  The Berdan lifting block conversion was painfully simple involving only a very little machining of the underlying rifle and the re-use of virtually the entire original rifle.  Therefore this Description will focus on the conversion mechanism.  Descriptions of the rest of the details of the Spanish Berdan rifles and short rifles will be undertaken in their respective sections below.

 

   This early conversion system by Berdan involves no separate receiver.  Rather, the top half of breech portion of the original barrel is cut away so that a chamber is cut into the remaining barrel section and the original nipple area and breech plug face are machined to accept a new breech block/hinge assembly, which is the only new part involved in the entire conversion, aside from two tandem-mounted hooked lugs soldered to the top of the “new” chamber portion of the pre-existing barrel and an ejection ramp in the bottom of the receiver area. The front of the original breech plug is slightly hollowed to accept the lever-cam built into the new breech block which helps to lock the breech closed.

 

  The breech mechanism itself consists of the aforementioned new breech block and a new dedicated mounting base with a hinge connecting the two via a transverse pin. The mechanism is mounted to the original barrel via a large cam screw in the base which sits between the mounting lugs such that when the screw is rotated half a turn its lower portion cams into the rear mounting lug locking the entire mechanism firmly in place.  Removal of the entire breech block/mounting base is accomplished simply by counter-rotating the cam screw half a turn and lifting off.  It is an amazingly simple, yet effective system for a fast and cheap conversion of muzzleloader to breachloader.

 

  In 1859 the new-made rifles and some of the M1857 short rifles were fitted with cleaning rods with improved brass collars in their heads, a feature shared with the M1854/67 & M1862/67 Austrian Wanzl but perhaps no other breechloader.

 

OPERATING MECHANISM

  The breech is opened for loading by retracting the hammer to full cock allowing the breech lever to be lifted.  This lever is mounted in the breech block and spring-loaded, having a lower portion that is rounded outwardly (convex) such that when closed it fits into the rounded inwardly (concave) portion of the breech plug mentioned above.  Lifting the lever retracts the convex portion against its spring, allowing the breech block to lift clear of the breech area of the barrel.  The lever is lifted up and over the hinge and a cartridge is thumb-pressed into the chamber.  After chambering a cartridge the breech block can simply be closed down and the cam of the lever will snap into position and lock the block into battery.  When fired, the hammer striking over the lever adds additional locking to the breech in a manner not dissimilar to the aforementioned M1866 Allin Springfield and likewise the Swiss Millbank-Amsler series rifles.

 

  Thus the hammer helps secure the breech block into battery and the pressures of firing are taken up by the rear of the breech block abutting the front of the original barrel breech plug, with very little stress communicated to the base or mounting lugs.  Note that the original hammer is retained but has been heated and slightly bent in order to squarely strike the firing pin.

 

  The extractor is likewise surprisingly simple consisting of a small finger which pivots on the same transverse hinge pin previously mentioned.  Extraction is accomplished by the small finger extractor mounted on the left side of the chamber and activated by the breech block as it pivots open, not dissimilar to the aforementioned M1866 Springfield

 

   Ejection is assisted by a small sloped ramp welded to the bottom of the receiver section of the barrel so that as the empty case is forced rearward by the extractor the case is lifted and guided out of the receiver area.  Like the M1866 Allin Springfield.

 

  If you notice the similarities to the M1866 Allin Springfield, you can be certain that it is no coincidence, as Allin had been instructed by the U.S. government to borrow freely from whatever systems he found in order to adopt a feasible conversion rifle for the U.S. army.  It took until 1895 but Col. Berdan’s patent infringement suit against a strenuously reluctant US government ultimately resulted in a $95,000 judgment.  Perhaps not equal to the value of his system, but also not insubstantial for the time. 

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MARKINGS

  Markings will differ depending on where the underlying rifle was originally built as well as where it was converted.  For example, Leige-built examples will show Liege proof markings on the barrel and possibly elsewhere but are unlikely to exhibit other builder or armory markings.

 

   For Spanish-built rifles, markings on the forward section of the lock plate may include, for example, Ybarzabal of Eiber, Orbea Hermanos y Cie of Eibar, and Euscalduna of Placencia denoting where manufactured.  For rifles originally manufactured at the Oviedo armory, the lockplate will be marked with a monogram or cypher Crown over styalized  “AR.” over “O.” over a year.  This might indicate either year of manufacture or year of conversion, but the “O” indicates that it was undertaken at the Oviedo Armory. If the breech block is also stamped with AR.O. this would indicates that the rifle returned to the Armory to be converted and that the conversion was accomplished with Spanish-manufactured parts.  Unmarked breech systems are most likely to have been Remington-manufactured under contract to Berdan.

 

  Serial numbers may be found on the tail of the lockplate, left side of the barrel and trigger guard tang. Breech blocks are likely to carry either a serial number or production number on the underside of the block.

 

  Serial numbers also appear on the lower buttstock.  On some versions serial numbers are found on the barrel bands as well.

 

 

A Special Note regarding the Crown over “AR.” over “O.” marking:

  

  It has been asserted, including previously here on this site, that the “AR.” markings on the lockplate (as well as being prominently featured on Oviedo-manufactured M1871 & M1871/89 Spanish Remington and the M1891 Spanish Remington rifles right receiver flats)  initially signified Amadeo Rey, for King Amadeo I who reigned from 1870-1873 and was coincidentally followed by King Alfonso XII, the Spanish king who reigned from 1874-1888 (thus Alfonso Rey), and further coincidentally was followed by his son, King Alfonso XIII who reigned from 1888 until 1902 (still Alfonso Rey).  We say “coincidentally” because all three of these monarchs’ first names began with “A” so a change in monarch would not have necessitated altering the receiver markings throughout the whole of the production run of the Spanish-built rolling blocks.

  

   But Layman asserts that the AR markings indicate “Armeria.” so that “AR. O.” would be Armeria Oviedo (Oviedo Arsenal).   Juan L. Calvó, a noted Spanish collector and researcher whose work is followed by Spanish authors, has indicated that the markings reference Artillería Oviedo, which, while Artillería can translate directly to "Artillery," in Spanish which would not likely make sense, it also translates to "Ordnance" which would also be a legitimate fit. 

 

   And why an Oviedo marking would be stylized so we have no idea but in support of Mr. Calvó, we note that in this period very many manufacturers adopted crowns as a part of their manufacturing “House.”  (examples can be found at:   https://www.nramuseum.org/media/940944/proofmarks.pdf and others.) 

 

   In support of the original thesis, note that the Spanish have not only bought British-produced arms since the late 1700’s but also closely followed British design all the way until adoption of the M1871 Remington.  In that regard, British royal arms have long been produced with the then reigning monarch’s cypher as far back as the Brown Bess, examples of which the Spanish purchased.  The Brown Bess’s cypher, a Crown over “G.R.” (Georgius Rex or King George), was later followed by the nearly as famous British Pattern 1853 (P53) musket with the cypher of Queen Victoria, a Crown over “V.R.”  The Spanish precursors to the M1867 conversions were the Modelos 1854, 1857 & 1858 which were all close copies of the British P53 short rifles  It is in nowise a stretch to consider that the Crown over AR. might be the Spanish following the British pattern.  Any confirmation of what the Crown over AR.O. via pre-contemporary sources would be greatly appreciated.

 

At this point we are simply uncertain and have not been able to independently verify any of these suggestions regarding the “AR” portion of the receiver markings.

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CARTOUCHE

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DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

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  This particular rifle is a later build, which features an upgrade to its lock mechanism. Its  Anckermann lock is evidenced by the sequence of three screws on the left side of the lockplate, where others have only one screw.   Unrelated, this rifle is unmarked except for the manufacturing markings of Oviedo 1869, which tells us that the breech block and attached mounting plate were Berdan (Remington) supplied and that the conversion was carried out at the national armory in Oviedo.

  The key to distinguishing this version is its modified Anckermann lock system, as evidenced by the sequence of three screws on the left side of the lockplate. This rifle is unmarked except for the manufacturing markings of Oviedo 1869, which tells us that the breech block and attached mounting plate were Berdan (Remington) supplied and the conversion carried out by the Oviedo armory.

  However, I confess that it has been particularly difficult to distinguish among the various Spanish Berdan variants due to the several minor and not always consistent changes.  This has been the most difficult challenge of describing these fascinating rifles.  Here is what I have so far.

 

   The rifles were converted from the M1859 rifled muskets manufactured in Spain by Spanish armories.  I believe that all M1859/67 infantry rifles will be substantially the same, principally distinguished by length (54½ inches), three barrel bands with sling swivel below the middle band, and a conventionally mounted rear sight positioned just behind the lower band.

 

  Spanish Berdan short rifles, however, are another matter entirely.  They were converted from two (but arguably three) patterns, the Mo. 1857, and the Mo 1857/59, but these patterns themselves include a bewildering variety of minor but distinct features in including differences in the style of rear sight, placement of rear sight and cleaning rod.  Some of the differences occurred at initial manufacture, some during upgrades as muzzleloaders, some when converted to M1867 breechloaders and it could well be that some were undertaken after conversion.  For multiple reasons they are not easy to tell apart.

 

  More specifics regarding distinguishing these short rifles can be found below under Short rifles, Carbines & Special Versions:

 

   On all models the original hammer was modified and reformed so the face could squarely strike the firing pin of the new Berdan breechblock. Original ramrods were retained, but a ramrod stop was added to work in conjunction with a new retaining spring. The original stocks and the bayonets remained unaltered.

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Specifications, Statistics & Data of the M1859/67 Spanish Berdan Infantry Rifle (Fusil Berdan Modelo 1867 para Infanteria)

This is the rifle version.  THREE barrel bands

Overall Length:   54 ½ in (1386 mm) Marcot   (1379mm) Calvo

Barrel Length:  36 3/8 in (925 mm) Marcot    (1000mm) Calvo*

Empty weight:  9 lbs 5 oz (4¼ kilos)

Rifling:   4 groove

Finish:  in the white

Rear sight: Conventional ramp and leaf marked to 1000 meters

Cartridge:   All versions of these Spanish long arms were chambered for the caliber 14.4mm (.57 in, aka .58 Berdan) cartridge.

*Note that the Berdan conversions is made by cutting out a section of the top of the original barrel, so that barrel length will differ several inches from the bore length.

Bayonet:

  The Model 1857 bayonet, is specific to the 14.4mm rifles including both the muzzleloader m1859 and the M1859/67 Berdan conversion infantry rifle as well as several models of the Short Rifles discussed below.   There are two slightly different versions which vary in the form of socket end of the blade, which had remained unchanged since the 1828.  The inner profile of the bridges of the socket and the ring is simplified becoming more rounded.

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PRINCIPAL ADOPTION AND USE

   The Spanish Berdans were adopted for use only by Spain, both used both domestically and by the Ejército Ultramar (the Spanish Colonial Overseas Army), principally in Cuba.   However several thousand Mo. 1867 Berdans were exported to France for use by the provisional government after the fall of Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

 
 

SHORT RIFLES,CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS

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A Note Regarding Nomenclature:

  While only a few models of Spanish muzzle-loaders were converted to the Berdan system before the Remington rolling block began to come online, it is not a simple task to assign nomenclature to these Berdans as every source of information seems to provide different names for the models, and the Spanish were not helpful as they appear to have designated all conversions simply as Modelo 1867 with no reference to the specific underlying donor model.  Depending upon the author, three (Calvo), five (Maarcot), four to six (Walter) and perhaps seven (various authors combined) different major configurations of the Berdan Modelo 1867 were altered in Spain in 1868 and 1869.  Thus our nomenclature is likely to be just that, ours.  Nevertheless, we hope that it helps to distinguish what you are likely to come across in the wild.  [And remember also that in the Romance languages of Europe, “carabina” does not translate to the US “carbine” which is actually “muskatoon.”   Rather, “carabine” or “carabina” more properly translates as “short rifle,” more of an intermediate long arm.]

Berdan Short Rifle M1857/67 for Hunters (Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/67 para Cazadores): The Mo. 1857/67 Fusil Berdan para Cazadores (Berdan Short Rifle for Hunters) is fitted with a rear sight that is mounted very close to and just ahead of the M67 conversion mounting plate, and has a slightly smaller and less full buttplate, although that is only noticeable when looking directly at the buttplate tang.  Also, the trigger guard bow is deeper and rounder than that of the rifle and other short rifles.  NOTE:  Some Mo. 1857/67 Fusil Berdan para Cazadores had had their rear sights upgraded to solder-mounted sights and relocated as that of the Mo. 1857/59/67, so only a reference to the buttplate and trigger guard bow will distinguish the parent muzzleloader. 

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Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/67 para Cazadores

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Left buttplate is of the Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/67 para Cazadores, right buttplate is that of the Berdan rifle M1859/67 and the Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/59/67 para Cazadores.

    The Berdan conversion of the Mo. 1857 differs somewhat from the conversion of the  Mo. 1857/59 (below) due to the required positioning of the Berdan mounting plate on the Model 1857.  To mount the plate it was necessary to reposition the sight about 30 mm forward and in this new position the tightening screw of the rear sight clamp was located in the space originally occupied by the retainer of the ramrod, so it was decided to remove the latter.  The change of position of the rear sight and the adoption of a new cartridge, which varied the ballistic conditions of the barrel, made required adjusting the graduation of the sight ladder, the required changes being outlined in circular of October 1, 1869.

  All other features, including the dimensions, are identical to the M1857/67, including mounting the same bayonet.

Bayonet:  This short rifle above and the version immediately below (Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/59/67 para Cazadores) share the same bayonet, a conventional, triangular socket bayonet of ~21 3/8 inches (543mm) long, ~18 3/4 inche (480mm) blade, and a 3 inch (75mm) socket with locking-ring that locks against the front sight and sits to the right of the rifle when mounted to clear the sight.  This bayonet was utilized on all of the Spanish Short Rifles, including the percussion and the Berdan conversion models, except for the Artillery and engineer model which mounted the machete bayonet discussed below.

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The M1857/67 bayonet is No. 26.  (#24 & 25 are the M1851 & 1856 percussion muzzleloaders respectively)

Berdan Short Rifle M1857/59/67 for Hunters (Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/59/67 para Cazadores):  A second type of Berdan Modelo 1867 Rifle differs only slightly from the one above. It was converted from the Spanish muzzleloading Fusil Carabina para Cazadores Mo. 1857/59. It varies in having a different buttplate, a different, shallower trigger guard bow, and a marked difference in the placement of the rear sight.  The Mo. 1857/59/67  has a rear sight mounted somewhat half-way between the conversion mounting plate and the lower barrel band, and a relatively larger and fuller buttplate as shown in these photos.  All other features, including the dimensions, are identical.

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Note the difference in front sights:  Bottom photo is that of the Berdan Artillery & Engineer Short Rifle M1858/67.  Its front sight is also the bayonet lug of the Machete Bayoneta Mo. 1858, which is depicted below.

Berdan Artillery & Engineer Short Rifle M1858/67 (Carabina para Artilleria e Ingenieros Modelo 1867): The one exception (and yes, this subset is full of exceptions) to the difficulty in accurately distinguishing between the versions of Cazadores short rifles is the Mo. 1867 Carabina para Artilleria e Ingenieros (Artillery and Engineers Short Rifle).  This variant was a conversion of the Mo. 1858 rifled engineer short rifle, itself a variant of the Carabina Rayada para Cazadores Mo. 57 (rifled short rifle for Hunters) but with the upper band 9 1/8 inches (232mm) back from the muzzle (as distinct from other Spanish Short Rifles who’s upper band is 6 3/4 inches (172mm) from the muzzle.  This exposes a rather long 7 1/8 inches (181mm) of the muzzle.  This arrangement places the two upper bands closer together than those of other Short Rifles.  It was necessary to expose more of the muzzle so that Artillerymen could mount their sword-like Mo. 1858 machete-bayonet (Machete Bayoneta Mo. 1858), which had a broad falchion-like blade ahead of a heavy brass grip.  Unique among Spanish bayonets, and perhaps unique in the world, this Spanish pattern featured a socket and locking ring mounted on the guard of the bayonet itself.

Bayonet:  Machete Bayoneta Mo. 1858

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 The Machete Bayoneta Mo. 1858 for use with the Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/59/67 para Cazadores immediately above.

Specifications, Statistics & Data for the:

                          Mo. 1857/67 Carabina Berdan Modelo para Cazadores

                     Mo. 1857/59/67 Carabina Berdan Modelo para Cazadores

                     Mo. 1857/59/67 Carabina para Artilleria e Ingenieros.

Two barrel bands

Overall Length: 48 3/8 in (1231 mm)

Barrel Length:  30 1/4 in (764 mm)

Weight, empty:  9 lbs (4.1 kilos)

Rifling: 4-groove

Finish:  in the white

Rear sight:   Ramp and leaf graduated to 900m (985yd)

     A Note regarding rear sights:  All of the model 1857 Hunter short rifles seem to have initially been secured via a sort of strap or band running fully around the barrel and secured to each side of the site base. The sight leaf may be mounted so that it has its up from the rear or equally so that it pivots at the front of the site base. Any of these short rifle models may have had their rear sights upgraded to soldered bases, dispensing with the band/strap.  And of those strapless base sights there are at least two different varieties. Rear sights should not be used to distinguish among the Spanish Berdans, but only their lengths and trigger guard bows should be considered.

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Identification Hints

  It the rifle is a Spanish Berdan with 3 barrel bands, it’s a M1859/67 Spanish Berdan Infantry Rifle (Fusil Berdan Modelo 1867 para Infanteria)

 

  If the Spanish Berdan rifle has 2 barrel bands, is about 48” long and the forestock-muzzle ratio looks “normal” then it’s some version of Mo. 1857/67 Carabina Berdan Modelo para Cazadores, a Spanish Berdan Jager Short rifle.

 

   If the Spanish Berdan rifle has 2 barrel bands, is about 48” long and the forestock seems to be “really far back from the muzzle,” then it’s Mo. 1857/59/67 Carabina para Artilleria e Ingenieros, a Spanish Berdan Engineer Short Rifle.

Berdan Marine Short Rifle M1858/67  (Carabina Para Infanteria de Marina, Mo. 1867): A very small number of navy infantry (marine) rifles were converted from M1858 navy short rifles originally produced by Juan Aldasoro of Eibar in 1860-1. 

  These models were similar to the infantry short rifle (Carabina Berdan Modelo 1857/67 para Cazadores), with the rear sight and buttplate of the M1857 but with a buttplate in brass coupled with the M1859 trigger guard.   The bayonet also had a cast-brass hilt.

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The Spanish inscription substantially reads:  vo:  “An Example of the Md. 1864 Sabre Bayonet.  Hilt and guard as in the 1858 model for the Marine Corps. Double curved blade (437x 27 mm), inscribed: “Template of the original saber bayonet model for Navy approved on January 11, 1864”.

Berdan Artillery & Engineer Short Rifle M1861/67 (Carabina para Artilleria e Ingenieros Mo. 1867):   Also converted in very small numbers, the M61/67 short rifle conversion had less of the muzzle exposed than the otherwise similar M1857/59/67.  It is distinguished by its bayonet lug and tenon at the muzzle onto which to mount its bayonet.  Also a machete bayonet, the Mo. 1861 Artillery & Engineer bayonet has a conventional guard and a more conventional spring-and-stud attachment mechanism in the pommel.

Bayonet:  M1861 Artillery & Engineer Machete Bayonet (Machete Bayoneta md. 1861 De Artilleria e Ingenieros)

  A very rugged bayonet/machete with grooved brass handle and hooked steel quillion and furniture.  This bayonet is not very different from the earlier Md. 1858.  It was specifically designed for use as much as a tool as a bayonet for the Artillery and Engineers.

Overall Length    22½ inches (570mm)

Blade Length:  17 3/8 inches (440mm)

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CARTRIDGE

   .58 Berdan Musket; .58 Remington; .58 Centerfire;  14.5x42R Berdan;  14,5x41R Spanish Berdan M1867; sometimes 15mm Berdan, this cartridge has been used extensively in the mid-late 1860s for all manner of conversion military rifles.

 

   All Spanish Berdan Rifles, short rifles and Carbines are chambered for this 14.5x42R Spanish Berdan cartridge also known as .58 Berdan musket in the United States. It can be easily made by simply shortening .577” Snider cases and using bullets also intended for the Snider.

 

   This cartridge was not only used in Spain, but also elsewhere in various descriptions differing in type of bullet and some dimensions. Unsurprisingly, most versions of this cartridge are compatible between rifles as there were relatively large manufacturing tolerances for ammunition of the time.  Thus note also that because of such loose tolerances, the measurements of different samples will likely vary somewhat according to the production facility. There were also several versions of this cartridge with different lengths, like 58 Carbine of 28mm of length, however I do not believe that any significantly different cartridges were ever used with the Spanish Berdan series of arms.

 

   For additional information and photos of examples see:  https://old.municion.org/altres/14_5x41R.htm

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MANUFACTORING DATA

  The Berdan system was adopted exclusively for the transformation of existing stores of muzzleloading rifles and short rifles, and no newly-made rifles were produced to utilize this system.  We do not have production numbers for the underlying rifles and short rifles, but it is known that Berdan supplied Spain with 30,000 conversion mechanisms which were used by Spanish armories to convert longarms, and that it is estimated that approximately 100,000 Spanish arms were eventually converted using the Berdan system.

UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES

   The Berdan conversions of the Spanish muzzleloaders were, relatively speaking, rather crude, hasty expedients adopted at a point in time when European nations felt it absolutely imperative to equip their troops with breech loaders as quickly as possible but without heavy expenditure, since it was obvious to almost everyone that a dedicated, specifically designed breech-loading rifle was going to be needed as quickly as a viable option could be selected.

     Even as Spanish Berdan conversion rifles were being issued, the selection process for a follow-on, designed from the ground up, breech-loading rifle was underway.  Thus Spanish Berdan rifles became quickly obsolete themselves and wound up just a few short years later being issued principally to Colonial troops and rear echelon units.   Surplus rifles do not appear to have ever been sold off, except that several thousand of them did make their way to the Nationalist French intended for use against the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71).  We have found no other utilization of the Spanish Berdan arms.

FOLLOW ON RIFLE

  The Berdan conversion rifle was superseded by the Remington rolling block rifle from 1870.

REFERENCES

In addition to the references linked HERE, these are some Spanish Language sources which might prove useful:

 

  • Armamento Portátil Español 1764-1939. B. Barceló. Madrid

  • Tres Siglos de Armamento Español. B.Barceló. Cala Millor. 2002

  • Armamento Portátil en la 2ª y 3ª Guerras Carlistas. Artículos Juan Luis Calvó. 2016-2017

  • Llaves de Percusión en el Armamento Portátil Español. Artículos Juan Luis Calvó. 2004

  • Bayonetas de cubo españolas, 1715-1808. Artículos Juan Luis Calvó. 2003

  • Álbum de las Armas blancas de fuego portátiles y Artillería de Campaña que actualmente usa el Ejercito Español / Fernando Armaburu y Silva / Madrid 1876

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