Ending the era of the military muzzle loader.
Changes from the Model 1863 consisted of — a reversion to band springs and flat bands; change in the shape of the head of the ramrod; change in the means of securing the rear swivel; improved type of rear sight. Otherwise like the Model 1863.
After the battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1 to 3, 1863, there were gathered from the battlefield something like twenty thousand guns, muzzle loaders mostly, the majority of which were loaded with from two to ten charges rammed one on top of the other by soldiers too excited or too ignorant of arms to know enough to fire each charge after loading. Allowing that as many more such useless arms were taken away by their owners and not thrown away, military statisticians figured that about 35 per cent of all the forces engaged on both sides might as well have carried pikes. Also they realized that only half the fault lay with the soldiers; the other half was due to the fact that the weapon gave no evidence of whether it was loaded or empty. It was evident, too, that a breech loading system of the right type would cause the soldier to fire before reloading was possible; and the subject of muzzle versus breech loading was for the first time taken seriously by the War Department.
To make the change from the manufacture of muzzle loading to breech loading arms during the continuance of the war was of course inexpedient, hence the Model 1864 rifle musket was, like previous models, a muzzle loader; but it was the last one and it marked the end of the old era in our military small arms.
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