This is an antique very good condition, very rare and original Greene Bolt Action, Under Hammer Rifle from the Civil War.
The Green Rifle is considered to be the first bolt action rifle that was fielded by the United States military. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel James Durrell Greene, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, patented the Greene Rifle on November 17, 1857. Greene based his design on Nicholas Dreyse’s needle-fire, bolt action design of 1838.
Greene’s design was unique in that it was loaded by simultaneously placed two bullets in the barrel with powder between the two. When the rifle was fired, the charge propelled the front bullet down the barrel while simultaneously forcing the rear bullet back against the face of the bolt, sealing the breech. When the rifle was reloaded, the bullet left in the breech would be advanced forward with the bolt plunger, followed by a new powder charge and another bullet. The hammer is located underneath the action and has a large ring that acts as a pull ring to cock the hammer. A percussion cap is seated and was fired with ignition coming from the bottom of the chamber.
The Greene rifle is .53 caliber with a 36-inch barrel that is secured by three, blued barrel bands. The Rear Sight is adjustable to 800 yards. The rifle weighted 9 pounds, 14 ounces. The serial number was stamped on the bottom of the bolt.
The barrel is also unique in that, although it appears round and smooth, it actually is oval in shape, which was invented by London gunmaker Charles Lancaster. In 1850, Lancaster developed his oval shaped bore design, in which the bore would be slightly oval shaped and would rotate throughout the length of the barrel and therefore, a tightly fitting projectile would come out spinning, just like a rifle bullet. Unlike a true rifle though, there are no grooves and therefore, no sharp rifling edges, which makes the bore easier to clean. Although it seems counterintuitive to those used to conventional rifled barrels, reports showed that Lancaster’s design, and firing evaluations of the Greene Rifle, was extremely accurate.
Initially, the Greene Rifle saw little interest from the United States when it was introduced in 1859. Not quite 3,000 Green Rifles were actually purchased by the Imperial Russian Government under the name of Green “Dragoon” Rifles, and none of those rifles are known to exist. Shortly after the Civil War began, in December 1861, then Lieutenant Colonel Green of the 17th United States Infantry Regiment, lobbied the Ordnance Department to have his rifle purchased by the Army. Green was eventually successful to a limited extent when he received a contract for 900 Greene Rifles. All 900 rifles were completed by March 1863 and all were manufactured by the A. H. Waters Company of Millbury, Massachusetts.
There are some reports that some Greene Rifles were used by Union forces at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, although no serial numbers have been identified for those Greene Rifles supposedly used at that battle. In any event, most of the 900 Green Rifles ordered by the Ordnance Department were sent to the Washington Arsenal, and they remained in storage there until November 2, 1869, when they were sent to New York along with other surplus arms and these rifles were then issued to New York state militia units. The majority of these Green Rifles were ultimately destroyed or otherwise disposed of and there are few existing examples known in the United States today. Given that nearly 3,000 Greene Rifles were delivered to the Russian government, surviving Greene Rifles that were manufactured and delivered under the Civil War Ordnance Department contract will run from just under serial number 3,000 to around 3,900. As noted, this rifle is serial number 2981, so it is one of the first US Government contract rifles.
As noted, this particular Greene Rifle is in antique very good condition. The original Bolt is in very good condition, retaining considerable original blued finish that now exhibits a plum patina in places and areas of old pitting on the rear of the bolt. The rifle serial number is stamped on the bolt between the two safety lugs and is “2981,” so this was probably within the very first 20-30 rifles manufactured under the Civil War US Government contract. The Bolt Plunger retains the majority of its original blued finish and operates smoothly.
The Receiver exhibits a plum patina with areas of old corrosion, but it still retains the majority of its slightly faded but original blued finish. The original Bolt Release Button is present, and its spring remains strong. The chamber remains in the white and is very clean. The bottom of the receiver where the bolt sits exhibits some old corrosion, but it also remains in the white. The receiver tang retains traces of its original blued finish interspersed with old pitting and is marked “GREENE’S PATENT / NOV. 17 1857.”
The original Barrel is present, and it is in very good condition. The exposed portion of the barrel retains the majority of its original, though faded, blued finish with more pronounced wear at the muzzle with evidence of old pitting concentrated at the front and rear portions of the barrel. As noted, the Greene Rifle used an oval bore to impart rotation on the bullet instead of traditional rifling. The bore still has a mirror finish, testimony to the ease of cleaning this type of barrel. The original one-piece Front Sight is still tightly dovetailed to the top of the barrel and it retains the considerable original blued finish.
The original adjustable Rear Sight is present, and it retains traces of its original, though slightly faded, blued finish with the balance exhibiting a plum patina with old pitting throughout. The right side of the rear sight base is graduated to 400 yards. The elevation leaf is graduated to 800 yards and it retains traces of its original blued finish. The elevation leaf slide is adjustable for windage and it and the binding screw retain 98% of their original blued finish. The rear of the elevation leaf has a part number “1000.” The rear sight base spring and screw retain traces of their original blued finish.
The Rear Barrel Band retains traces of its bright blued finish, but the majority of the band now exhibits a plum patina with areas of old pinprick pitting. The rear band has the serif “U” stamp on the right side. The adjacent band spring retains considerable original blued finish. The Middle Barrel Band retains 75% of its bright blued finish and it has a serif “U” stamp on the right side. The original Sling Swivel is present and is riveted to the lug on the bottom side of the band. The adjacent middle band spring exhibits a mixed blued and plum patina. The Upper Barrel Band retains traces of the original blued finish, but it largely now exhibits a plum patina with old pitting on the sides. The upper band spring retains traces of its original blued finish.
The Trigger Guard Plate exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina with old pinprick pitting throughout. The Rear Sling Swivel remains tightly riveted to the stud at the rear of the guard plate and it still rotates freely. The Trigger Guard Bow exhibits a plum and pewter patina and has considerable pitting on the outer surfaces. The original Trigger still retains 60% of its original color case-hardened finish. The Trigger Release is still crisp. The Hammer retains 90% plus of its slightly fading color case-hardened finish. The hammer has a two-position sear, and the release remains crisp. The Hammer Screw still retains the vast majority of its bright blue finish with an unmarred slot. The original square-sided percussion cap nipple is present, and it is clear to the chamber. The large fence around the nipple still retains considerable original blued finish.
The original stock is in fine condition throughout. There are a few small dings and scratches, but no cracks or chips are noted. The stock retains its original oil finish. There is a serif “L” inspection stamp on the bottom of the stock wrist to the rear of the trigger guard plate and an identical “L” stamp forward of the fence on the bottom of the stock.
The original Butt Plate is present, and it exhibits a plum and pewter patina throughout with areas of corrosion staining. The Butt Trap Door is present, and the spring remains strong. Both Butt Plate Screws are present, and both have unmarred slots with the majority of the bright blue finish remaining.
The original Ramrod is present, and it remains correctly in the white with the exception of the front portion, which now exhibits a plum patina with old pitting present. The trumpet head has the transverse hole for attaching cleaning wipes, and it is slightly cupped at the end. Even though Greene Rifles were breech loading, they could still be muzzle loaded in an emergency if the bolt somehow got stuck. There was actually a provision developed by Greene whereby the rifle was to be loaded at the muzzle if the rear bullet somehow got jammed in the breech. The end of the ramrod is threaded for a wiper. The ramrod stows tightly in the stock.
There were only 900 Greene Rifles manufactured for the Union Army during the Civil War and the vast majority of these were destroyed or lost after the Civil War. There are few surviving examples of the Greene Rifle and they are highly desirable as the first example of a service bolt action rifle adopted by the United States, albeit for limited service. This rifle still functions perfectly.