This is a nice example of a scarce London Armoury Company Pattern 1853 Enfield Musket in .577 caliber with three groove rifling. Lockplate is dated 1862. Standard 39" barrel secured by three bands with white brass regulation grade furniture. Left side of the barrel is stamped with London Commercial Proofs which is what we find on commercially sold Enfields exported to America during the Civil War by both Union and Confederacy.
LAC P53's are simply the best of the best in terms of fit, finish, design, and most importantly, were made with completely interchangeable parts to within .003" of an inch. All you have to do is look at one to notice the precision. They incorporate a number of features found on first rate British issue Enfields that were not yet in production by private makers. For example, the middle and rear barrel bands use the newly-adopted Baddely Bands with recessed screw heads to prevent soldiers from snagging their clothes or equipment while in combat or in the field. The rear swivel on the LAC's are the smaller oval type instead of the large trapeze bar swivels found on most commercial grade Enfields m'fd during the Civil War by Birmingham and London gunmakers. Another unique feature is the rounded brass escutcheons used for the two lock plate screws. 99% of these have square-shaped cogs located on the sides of the eyelets. Probably in an effort to prevent the stock from cracking, LAC's have cogs with rounded corners. The only other private maker that I'm aware of who used them besides the London Armoury was another London maker named Barnett. The other thing you'll find on LAC's are lots of...well...little "LAC"s stamped on various parts indicating a stringent system of quality control.
Several 1862 dated LAC's we've found over the years have had little round cartouches on the left side stock which I have recently been told were likely purchased by the Union. I have looked pretty closely at this one and can find no evidence of it having received one of these Union cartouches. So this one could have possibly gone South which after all, is believed to have gotten the overall bulk of LAC's commercial production. For the early part of the Civil War, most LAC's were built for the British gov't...about 1,300 per month. The excess production per month which was usually just a few hundred could be sold commercially to either the North and South, both of whom were eager buyers. There just weren't enough LAC's to go meet the demands of two huge armies badly in need of rifled muskets for their troops.
The demand for Enfields was so great that London Armoury's superintendent, Archibald Hamilton did something interesting. While he couldn't supply them with very many LAC P53's due to the production limitations at his factory, he could find them other sources. Utilizing his vast knowledge of the British arms trade, Hamilton offered his services to Confederate agent Caleb Huse to help secure manufacture and purchase of Enfields from other London and Birmingham makers for which he received a 2% commission per weapon. The only problem for Huse was while knowing that he could not get nearly the number of LAC's the CS Ordnance Dept wanted, the ones he could procure would be of lesser quality and no interchangeability. This is where the multitude of Confederate inspector markings comes into play. With various makers building rifles mostly by hand and a labyrinth of suppliers of various sub-components...especially Birmingham-made arms, it was necessary to devise a system of inspection. That said, most of the LAC's I've seen that either went to the Confederacy or could have gone to the Confederacy were never inspected by Confederate viewers. Even the famous early run of of 1861 dated LAC's with blockade numbers do NOT have the JS Anchor inspector markings like all the rest of guns from London and Birmingham makers do. Why is that? My guess is that since the LAC superintendent, Archibald Hamilton, is doing all the purchasing for Caleb Huse and the Confederacy, he doesn't need to inspect the rifles made of interchangeable parts coming from his own factory, the London Armoury. Clearly, a strict standard of quality control already existed. The same could not be said of other makers, many of whom did not manufacture the P53 on a regular basis. Hence, the Confederate viewer markings on non-LAC guns. The irony in all of this is that the Union buyers got to the game a little late and had to settle for many poor second and third rate P53's...mostly out of Birmingham. They appear to have done a very poor job in having them inspected, if at all. When the Union was finally able to secure P53's from the London Armoury sometime in 1862, remember, these are the gold standard for the P53, what did they do? The Union has them inspected. Hence, that little round cartouche we find on the left side of the stock.
Out the nearly 900,000 Enfields shipped to America during the war, there were at best just a few thousand of these LAC's here in America. However, in spite of the small numbers we find today, there has been quite a bit written about them in the ever-evolving ordnance histories of both the Confederacy and United States militaries. Given their level of quality it is little wonder why the first buyers sent to Great Britain for the Confederacy (Caleb Huse) and the Union (Marcellus Hartley) were given specific instructions to go to the London Armory first and secure a contract. At the time, late summer/early fall of 1861, the London Armoury was the only privately owned gun manufactory capable of producing an Enfield Pattern with interchangeable parts. So how did the Confederates and Union Ordnance departments know this? Well, for starters, both Ordnance departments were made up of West Point officers who had many years of experience serving in the US Army prior to the Civil War. The main reason however was that the tooling was manufactured by Robbins and Lawrence of Windsor, VT and the Ames M'fg Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts. After seeing the high standards of production for the 1841 Mississippi Rifle at Robbins and Lawrence in the early 1850's, the British gov't had decided to adopt the American system of arms manufacture which had reached the standard of interchangeability. The British also figured that it wouldn't hurt to have a few Americans around to get them up to speed with the new tooling. The Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was the first to receive the new equipment followed later by a second set of tooling sold to the London Armoury Company. Ames sent over a young machinist named James Burton to RSAF at Enfield who proved to be so competent that he was made superintendent of the entire factory. In spite of his age, Burton had risen through the ranks at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal in Virginia during the 1850's. He also worked at the Springfield Armory, and drew up the plans for the machinery m'fd. by Ames. He was superintendent of Enfield from about 1855 until October, 1860 when he resigned and returned to Virginia. He went on to become the Confederacy's most important asset in the CS Ordnance Dept...supervising the Richmond Arsenal, starting Spiller and Burr, and erecting the Confederate Arsenal at Macon which was extensive but never completed before the Civil War came to an end in 1865. At any rate, given his knowledge and experience in Great Britain as the head of Enfield, it is certain that he communicated to CS Ordnance Chief, Colonel Josiah Gorgas the capabilities of the newly formed London Armoury. After all, it was Burton who drew up the plans for the American-made Ames machinery used in building the LAC's P53. This is undoubtedly why Caleb Huse was dispatched to Great Britain with orders to secure a contract with the London Armoury.
This particular example is in NRA Antique Very Good Condition. The metal has turned to a mostly smooth brown patina with fading original blue in protected areas along the edges of the barrel where it meets the wood. It has clear markings throughout including the lockplate and commercial proofs on the barrel. There is a little bit of pitting around the bolster and top of the barrel from the detonation of percussion caps. Original rear sight has LAC inspection stamps on the rear portion of the ladder...see photo. Wood is in nice shape and shows very little in the way of spark erosion behind the bolster. No chips, cracks, or repairs. Wood is still a nice light reddish brown English walnut. Very Good to Fine bore with strong original three groove rifling that's 100% intact. Lock is in good working order. One tiny chip on the edge of the hammer cone. Various LAC inspection stamps throughout including the stock, internal components of the lockplate, rear of barrel beneath the breech tang, rear sight, barrel band, rear sight, etc. Complete with original ramrod and sling swivels. A very well looked after and solid example of a Civil War production London Armory Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle.