I Have This Old Gun: U.S. Model 1855 Rifle-Musket

posted on September 15, 2022

By the mid-19th century, the standard long guns used by world militaries began to grow from the smoothbore, flintlock-fired muskets that had been the norm for a century by that point. This included the addition of rifled barrels, which, while still fed through the muzzle, offered greater accuracy when paired with the new-for-the-time Minie ball bullet designs. There was also the incorporation of external primer caps as a more reliable source of ignition over the flintlock.

For the U.S., these design elements were blended into a domestically designed and produced rifle, which became known as the U.S. Model 1855 rifle-musket. At 56" long overall and with a weight over 9 lbs., the Model 1855 was similar in size and profile to the flintlock rifles that came before, with a long, single-piece wood stock and fore-end. Fed from a paper cartridge, it had a similar loading process to prior muzzleloading service arms, minus the need to fill the flash pan.

However, the design also incorporated a unique Maynard tape timer system. Similar in concept to a modern-day cap gun, the Maynard system incorporated an internal tape primer holder on the right side of the receiver. The primers were interconnected on a strip of paper and coiled around a rotating spindle that would advance a new primer with every cock of the hammer. Once the hammer was fully cocked, a primer would rise out of the hopper and index just behind the opening of the nipple, allowing the hammer to strike and channel the energy of the charge down the flash hole. 

The nipple and hammer of the Model 1855 were also compatible with standard, manually placed, primer caps, allowing the rifles to be used even without the proprietary Maynard strips. The Model 1855 was used extensively through the U.S. Civil War and American Indian Wars. Collectable and shootable examples of these rifles can still be found today as well.

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST.


Creedmoor Sports Multi-Caliber Bullet Comparator
Creedmoor Sports Multi-Caliber Bullet Comparator

Preview: Creedmoor Sports Multi-Caliber Bullet Comparator

When loading rounds tailored for a precision rifle, ensuring the bullet is loaded until it sits just off the lands is a crucial component of accuracy. Measuring this distance involves the use of a bullet comparator tool.

Mike Fuljenz Wins Highest Numismatic Honor

Prominent rare-coin and precious-metals dealer Michael Fuljenz of Beaumont, Texas, an NRA Golden Ring of Freedom member, is the 2023 recipient of the Chester L. Krause Distinguished Service Award—the highest honor bestowed by the congressionally chartered American Numismatic Ass’n, the largest organization of coin-collecting enthusiasts in the United States.

Colt's Rarest Clandestine Pistol?

According to advanced Colt collectors, only about 35 or so of the original 400 factory Colt 1911s chambered for .38 Super have surfaced in the United States postwar, with only about a dozen of those remaining in their issued condition with their original finish, and given that the war officially ended on August 14, 1945, and since the OSS was dissolved on October 1, 1945, it isn’t likely any of them were issued before the Armistice. 

New For 2023: Taurus 917C

Taurus is re-introducing a Beretta 92 clone in the form of its 917C, and this compact variant provides a "Commander-sized" option for fans of the DA/SA semi-automatic pistol.

Preview: Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro 17-Round Magazine

Springfield Armory’s Hellcat Pro is a slightly larger, yet still easily carried, version of its micro-compact Hellcat for personal defense, and the gun’s flush-fit magazine capacity was also increased to 15 rounds.

Gun Of The Week: Browning X-Bolt Target Max

Watch American Rifleman staff on the range this week to get a close look at an improved X-Bolt rifle from Browning. The Target Max is the latest iteration of the famed X-Bolt action, and it’s designed for long-range work, thanks to its Target Max customizable stock, adjustable trigger, bull barrel and more.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.