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Military Rifles in the Age of Transition
(Non-U.S.) Black Powder, Metallic Cartidge, Military Rifles
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M1867(68?) Turkish Snider
Photos of this rifle appearing on this page were kindly provided by Jos van Helden <vhelden@email@example.com>, a reputable dealer in fine historic firearms
GENERALLY: The Turks, who were without appropriate manufacturing capabilities during the period of the adoption and development of the cartridge breechloader, bought large quantities of arms from England and abroad, most notably the Post Civil War United States. Most of these were percussion cap muzzleloaders, and many were converted to breechloaders, including British P1860 short rifles and US Springfield, M1861 and M1863 rifles. When Britain adopted the M1866 Snider to convert their huge stocks of muzzleloaders, Turkey attempted to purchase Snider rifles as well, but Britain refused to supply Turkey's request as she was unable to supply her own front line troops adequetely, and so Turkey began converting its rifles using the Snider system itself.
(The following materials were kindly provided to me by Mr. Ali Kozanogly a knowledgable Turkish correspondent, who can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
After the Crimean War, 40,000 Enfields were purchased from England in the beginning of 1860's. Among my sources (or the bibliography of "the book") is an old publication in Turkish, written by two Turkish gentlemen (and scholars) titled "The First Hundred Tears of Turkey-United States Arms Trade, 1829-1929.
SANDER, Oral – FÝÞEK, Kurthan: “Türk-ABD Silah Ticaretinin Ýlk Yüzyýlý, 1829-1929” published by a Turkish company (Çaðdaþ Yayýnlarý, Ýstanbul, 1977 ). I found a copy in the National Library and made a few discoveries. Among which are; "... Following the American Civil War many muskets used by the armies of both the North and the South were on hand as war surplus. 114,000 English Enfields and 125,000 US Springfields were purchased at $4 and $7 each, respectively, in 1869." Also, I think I read this in the internet someplace; "... some of the war surplus Springfields were purchased by France, then captured by Germany and later, given (or sold) to Turkey."
Since yesterday, I am also in touch with someone from England, who has interesting things to say about the Turkish Enfields and Sniders. I'll pass them on to you after my return from Kusadasi around the first of September. (I have to send him some detail pics of the markings on my Enfield).
This is an excerpt:
This is a very interesting rifle. As you may know, the main Turkish contract in 1863 for 20,000 Enfield short rifles was the first major contract for a new consortium, Birmingham Small Arms Limited, which had been set up by eleven of the major gunmakers in Birmingham to take advantage of the American market during their Civil War-just too late.
The Turkish contract was for fully interchangeable parts 'state of the art' 1861 Short Rifles, that is fitted with Baddeley pattern lower band and a rear sight graduated to 1,250 yards rather than the 1,100 of the heavy barrelled fast twist five-groove rifling 1860 Short Rifle. According to Dr De Witt Bailey, the authority on muzzle loading British Military long arms, BSA ran into manufacturing problems and had to 'borrow' short rifles from British Government store to make up the numbers on the Turkish contract and avoid a financial penalty. Yours appears to be one of the latter, which are significantly more scarce. They were presumably re-worked with apropriate markings.
PHOTO: The Photo above, belonging to Jos van Helden, is a British made P1860 Short Rifle which has been converted by Turkey to a Snider system breechloader, but with an apparently Belgian-designed breech block locking mechanism (see pics below)
Jos van Helden <vhelden@email@example.com> writes: I have a Turkish short rifle in my collection. At the end of the 1860's the British sold a lot of P-1853 muzzle loaders to the Turks. They converted them to Sniders MK-III (so called Polivache). To open their action you have to lift the button not to push like the British. The British also sold converted Sniders to Turkey. My rifle is Tower marked 1864 and have several Turkish crests. I never shoot it but as far as I know it's the same .577 cartrigde as the British ones.
DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS: The Ottoman Sultan's Thughra or Royal Cypher is generally prominent on the lockplate just ahead of the hammer on all varieties of Turkish Sniders, whether converted from British Enfields or from US Springfields. Depending on where and when the conversion to Snider was carried out, the breech block may also carry a locking mechanism which rotates, upward from it's front edge to release the block allowing it to then pivot out of the receiver to the right as all Sniders do (see photos below). Otherwise the rifles converted from British arms are identical to their M1866 British Snider counterparts.
Mr. van Helden was kind enough to write:
The following information I found in several books and magazines.
In the middle of the 19 century the Turkish army was armed with British percussion rifles pattern M1853 and 1860 also Springfield M1855 where used. These rifles where converted to breech loaders with the British Snider MKIII and the Belgium Snider-Poilvache System. And in England they bought new Sniders MKIII. These systems are almost identical, just the locking mechanism is different. At the British system you have to push the button to open the action, at the Poilvache system you lift the small lever to open the action. The conversions with both systems took place in the Tophane factory in Zeitin-Burun.
For the cartridges they bought machinery in the US and in their factory in Kirk-Agatsch they could made up to 150.000 primers, 100.000 piece of brass and 250.000 bullets a day!
At the beginning of the Russian - Turkish war (1877-78) the Turks had about 325.000 new made and converted Sniders and they stay in service till the end of World War I. At April 1e 1872 the Peabody-Martini came in service, made at the Providence Tool Company, till 1879, 630737 pieces were delivered to the Turkish Army.
The Snider-Poilvache on the pictures was a British M1860 Pattern short rifle, marked Tower 1864, Caliber .577.
On the picture you can see the Turkish "Tura" (crest) on the lock plate and the breechblock, the graduation on the rear sight is in Arab.
Above is a Turkish Snider converted from a British P1853 rifle. Behind the hammer, above the trigger, is the marking "Tower 1861" denoting a rifle manufactured by the civilian trade for British military use (in other words, manufactured other than by the British Royal Armory at Enfield) indicating that this rifle was definitely British. Forward of the hammer appears the Royal Cypher of Ottoman Turkish Sultan Abdulaziz who reigned 1861-1876, indicating that this rifle definitely saw official Turkish military service.
(Note that the firing pin protector chain on this short rifle was attached to the dedicated nipple forward of the trigger guard bow, as the sling swivel on this rifle, unlike on the infantry rifle, is mounted on the buttstock. See the unconverted rifle pic directly below) Below is an identical British P53 capping muzzleloader built by the British and later sold off to the Turks, which was NOT converted.
The unique indiginous Snider breech block locking mechanism.
The interesting Turkish variant on the Snider breech block locking concept. Compare with the M1865 Danish Snider, the M1867 Dutch Snider, the and the later Mark III British Snider.
The two pictures below are of a British manufactured M1853 rifle which appears to have been British converted to an early M1866 Snider, which was later sold to Turkey, as the lower photo shows Sultan Abdulaziz's Royal Thughra on the lockplate.
Thughra on the lockplate of this originally British Turkish Snider.
Not easy to tell, but like the later M1874 Peabody-Martini, the rear sight is graduated in Turkish numerals!
Page Built August 29, 2003
Updated: Nov 12, 2021