Guns of the India Mutiny
by Garry James
The Baker had first come into service during the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars and had served with distinction on the Peninsula Campaign and in America. It was later issued worldwide, and continued in regular service for almost 40 years. The design of this sturdy weapon hearkened back to its Germanic Jager forebears. Its .625 barrel was rifled with seven grooves, and featured a bar at the muzzle to which a brass-hilted, 17-inch-bladed sword bayonet could be affixed. The Baker had all-brass furniture, including a buttbox on the right side of the stock where a soldier could carry tools or spare patches. It was loaded with loose powder and a patched ball in the manner of the American and German arms it emulated, although the soldiers were issued paper cartridges so the rifle could be fired rapildy with "running ball," should the need arise.
In 1837 the Baker rifle was replaced with the Brunswick. While this percussions cap rifle resembled its flintlock ancestor externally, the rifling system was totally different. The brunswick employed a.704 belted ball which fit mechanically into two deep spiral grooves in the barrel.
Brunswick bullets were issued to the troops sewn into greased calico patches. Powder was contained in separate packets. Like the Baker, musket type cartridges were given to the soldiers for emergency use. The Brunswick took a wide-bladed sword bayonet, somewhat similar to that of the Baker.
Both Bakers and Brunswicks were on hand in some numbers during the mutiny, though it is likely they saw more use with the sepoys than with the English. The Bakers were old and in questionable condition, and because of their heavy recoil and indifferent accuracy, the Brunswicks had never been particularly popular with British riflemen.
European civilians rapidly joined existing Crown or Company regiments and some formed their own irregular cavalry or infantry units. A good number of these clerks-turned-warrior carried high-quality sporting rifles or shotguns brought from home, although when available, they would opt for military muskets or carbines.
Mutineers were known to brandish matchlocks, but they too preferred the modern percussion arms. Many Indian princes (and at least one princess--the Rani of Jhansi) even rode to battle wearing traditional gold- and silver-ornamented Indo-Persian helmets, breastplates and chain mail.
Handguns were widely used during the Mutiny, and we find many references to them in British dispatches, letters, and reminiscences.
Colt revolvers were well known to the British. In 1851 Samuel Colt had exhibited his wares at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, and had made repeated attempts to interest the Board of Ordnance in adopting them for the military.
Large .44 caliber 1st, 2nd and 3rd Model Dragoons, as well as the widely popular .36 caliber 1851 Navy revolver, were imported into England and were eagerly snapped up by officers and civilians headed for the Crimea, Africa, India and any number of other colonial outposts throughout the world. The initial acceptance was so good that Colt was promoted to open a London factory in 1853.
The Colt's main rival in England was the self-cocking (double-action) five-shooter of Robert
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