Military Wiki
Type Service rifle
Place of origin United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1867–1901
Used by United Kingdom United Kingdom & Colonies,
 Empire of Japan,
 Ottoman Empire,
PortugalKingdom of Portugal,
Egypt Khedivate of Egypt,
North-West Mounted Police,
Royal Irish Constabulary
Wars British colonial wars, New Zealand land wars, Red River Rebellion, North-West Rebellion, Fenian Raids, 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia, Anglo-Ashanti wars, Anglo-Zulu War, First Boer War, Boshin war, Russo-Turkish War (1877–78)
Production history
Designer RSAF Enfield
Designed 1860
Manufacturer RSAF Enfield
Produced 1866–1880s
Number built ~870,000
Variants Long Rifle, Short Rifle, Engineer's Carbine, Cavalry Carbine, Artillery Carbine, Yeomanry Carbine, Naval Rifle, Royal Irish Constabulary Carbine
Weight 8 lb 9 oz (3.8 kg) (unloaded)
Length 49.25 in (1,250 mm)

Cartridge .577 Snider
Calibre 0.577 in (14.7 mm)
Action Side-hinged breechblock
Rate of fire 10 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity 1250ft/s (Original black powder load)
Effective range 600 yd (550 m)[1][2]
Maximum range 2,000 yd (1,800 m)
Feed system Single shot
Sights Sliding ramp rear sights, Fixed-post front sights

The British .577 Snider-Enfield was a breech loading rifle. The firearm action was invented by the American Jacob Snider, and the Snider-Enfield was one of the most widely used of the Snider varieties. It was adopted by British Army as a conversion system for its ubiquitous Pattern 1853 Enfield muzzle-loading rifles. It was introduced in 1866, and was used by the British Army until it was superseded by the Martini-Henry rifle in 1871. The Snider-Enfield was used by the British Indian Army almost to the end of the nineteenth century.

Design and manufacture

(From Left to Right): A .577 Snider cartridge, a Zulu War-era rolled brass foil .577/450 Martini-Henry Cartridge, a later drawn brass .577/450 Martini-Henry cartridge, and a .303 British Mk VII SAA Ball cartridge.

In trials, the Snider Pattern 1853 conversions proved both more accurate than original Pattern 1853s and much faster firing; a trained soldier could fire ten aimed rounds per minute with the breech-loader, compared with only three rounds per minute with the muzzle-loading weapon. From 1866 onwards, the Enfield rifles were converted in large numbers at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) Enfield beginning with the initial pattern, the Mark I. The converted rifles received a new breechblock / receiver assembly, but retained the original iron barrel, furniture, lock and hammer.

The Mark III rifles were newly made, with steel barrels which were so marked, flat nosed hammers, and featured a latch-locking breech block instead of the simple integral block lifting tang.

The Snider-Enfield used a new type of metal cased cartridge called a Boxer cartridge after its designer. The breech block housed a diagonally downward sloping firing pin struck with a front-action lock mounted hammer. To operate the weapon, the rifleman cocked the hammer, flipped the block out of the receiver to the right by grasping the left mounted breech block lever, and then pulled the block back to extract the spent case. There was no ejector, so the case was lifted out by hand or, more usually, the rifle was turned upside-down to allow the case to drop out. (Perhaps even more usually, the weapon was then shaken vigorously to dislodge hot cartridges or those fouled by dust or grime.)


Snider breech-loading mechanism.

The Snider first saw action with the British/Indian Army at the battle of Aroghee in Ethiopia on 10 April 1868, against the forces of Tewodros II of Ethiopia; during which 10,200 rounds were fired by the 4th R. O. Regiment.[3] It served throughout the British Empire, including Cape Colony, India, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, until its gradual phase out by the Martini-Henry, beginning in 1874 but still being used by volunteer and militia forces until the late 1880s. It stayed in service with the Indian Army until the mid-1890s, because Indian troops between the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and 1905 were kept one weapon generation behind the British. They were issued with the Martini-Henry when the British introduced the Lee-Metford. Large numbers were used by the Ijesas against the Ibadans during the 16 years Yoruba Civil War of 1877 to 1893.

Frank Richards, who served on the Northwest Frontier between 1902 and 1908, records in Old Soldier Sahib that Sniders were still in use by the British army during that period. Night sentries on duty in camps and cantonments would be issued with a Snider and buckshot cartridges. Should tribesmen try to get into the camp to steal rifles, the sentries would have a better chance of hitting the thief, and unlike a .303 round, there would be less danger of wounding or killing a comrade if they missed.

The weapon was notably powerful. Rudyard Kipling recorded in his poem, "The Grave of the Hundred Head":

A Snider squibbed in the jungle -
Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
And the back blown out of his head.


A Snider rifle used in Japan during the Boshin war (1868-69).

The Snider-Enfield was produced in several variants. The most commonly encountered variants were the Rifled Musket or Long Rifle, the Short Rifle, and the Cavalry and Artillery Carbines. The Long Rifle has a 36 inches (91 cm) barrel and three barrel bands. Its total length (without bayonet) is 54.25 inches (137.8 cm) in length, longer than most rifles of the time. It was issued to line infantry and has three groove rifling with 1 turn in 72 inches (180 cm). The Short Rifle has a 33 inch barrel and two barrel bands with iron furniture. This variant was issued to sergeants of line infantry and rifle units. It has five groove rifling with 1 turn in 48 inches (120 cm). The Cavalry Carbine is half stocked and has only one barrel band. It has a 19.5 inches (50 cm) barrel, with the same rifling as the Short Rifle. The Artillery Carbine has a 21.25 inches (54.0 cm) barrel with a full stock and two barrel bands, and the same rifling as the Short Rifle and Cavalry Carbine.

The Snider was the subject of substantial imitation, in both approved and questionable forms, including the Nepalese Snider, which was a nearly exact copy, the Dutch Snider, Danish Naval Snider, and the "unauthorised" adaptations of the French Tabatière and Russian Krnka.

There were also "Trade Pattern" Snider-Enfields, being Snider-Enfields made for private purchase by various English gun-makers. These were often intended for sale to members of volunteer military units, or simply to anyone who might wish to purchase a rifle.

Use today

Enthusiasts still use these rifles today, with the number in circulation boosted by the acquisition by Atlanta Cutlery and International Military Antiques of a vast quantity of antique weapons held in the Royal Nepalese Armory in the Lagan Silekhana Palace for over a century. Ammunition is reloaded into either modern production .577 Snider cases, or reformed 24 gauge brass shotgun shells. Black powder or modern black powder substitutes are used.[4]

See also

File:Enfield Snider Adamsguns.jpg

Snider Mk II*


  1. The Army quarterly and defence journal Vol 104. West of England Press. 1973. p. 91. "...Snider-Enfield, which had an effective range of 600 yd." 
  2. Macdonald, John Hay Athole (1909). Fifty years of it: the experiences and struggles of a volunteer of 1859. W. Blackwood and Sons. p. 232. "The Snider-Enfield even at 600 yards, which was the limit of the really effective range of the rifle for accurate shooting." 
  3. Markham, Clements R (1869); A History of the Abyssinian Expedition; Macmillan & Co; p. 325
  4. Holt Bodinson (March 2006). "Britain's big .577 Snider". Guns Magazine. 

External links

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