Minié rifle

Minié rifle
Minié rifle
Minie rifle.jpg
French Army P1851 Minié rifle.
British Army Pattern 1853 Enfield Minié rifle.
Springfield 1861.jpg
Springfield Model 1861 Minié rifle, the most widely used rifle during the American Civil War.
Prussian Musket.jpg
Württemberg, Baden and Hesse Vereinsgewehr 1857 rifled musket.
Lorenz Musket.jpg
The Austrian Lorenz rifle
Type Service rifle
Place of origin France France
Service history
Used by France, Prussia, Austria, England, United States, Confederate States, Japan, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Wars Crimean War, Indian Rebellion of 1857, Taiping Rebellion, Second Italian War of Independence, Austro-Prussian War, American Civil War, Boshin war, War of the Pacific.
Weight 4 kilograms (8.8 lb)
Barrel length 958 millimetres (37.7 in)

Cartridge 18mm rimmed bullet
Caliber 18 millimetres (0.71 in)
Rate of fire 2-3 shots per minute
Feed system muzzle-loading

The Minié rifle was an important rifle in the 19th century, developed in 1849 following the invention of the Minié ball in 1847 by the French Army captains Claude-Étienne Minié of the Chasseurs d'Orléans and Henri-Gustave Delvigne. The rifle was designed to allow rapid muzzle loading of rifles, an innovation that brought about the widespread use of the rifle as a mass battlefield weapon. It was developed following difficulties encountered by the French army in Northern Africa, who were regularly outranged by the handcrafted but long-barreled weapons of their Algerian opponents. The Minié rifle belonged to the vast category of rifled muskets, which were developed following the invention of the Minié ball.



Various types of Minié balls.
Training with the Minié rifle during the American Civil War, 1863. The caption reads: "Teaching the negro recruits the use of the Minié rifle".
French soldier stand with P1851 Minié rifle
In the Minié rifle a countersunk ramrod was necessary to force the ball without damaging its shape.
The Minié rifle caused huge wounds with its large sized bullets.

The rifle used a conical-cylindrical soft lead bullet, slightly smaller than the barrel bore, with three exterior grease-filled grooves and a conical hollow in its base. When fired, the expanding gas forcibly pushed on the base of the bullet, deforming it to engage the rifling. This provided spin for accuracy, a better seal for consistent velocity and longer range, and cleaning of barrel detritus.

Before this innovation, the smooth-bore gun was the only practical field weapon. A few rifled guns had been in use since the Renaissance, but they required hammering the munition inside the barrel, and created considerable cleaning problems. A short-lived system ("à tige") used a pin at the bottom of the barrel which would deform the bullet against the wall of the barrel when the bullet was pushed to the bottom. This system also was very problematic for cleaning, especially with the black powders of the period.

The Minié rifle had a percussion lock and weighed 10 lb 9 oz (4.8 kg). Having a reasonable accuracy up to 600 yards (550 metres), it was equipped with sights for effective aiming. It could penetrate 4 inches (10 cm) of soft pine at 1,000 yards (918 m). The hollow-based bullet had a .702 inch (17.8 mm) calibre, and weighed 500 grains (32.4 g ).

A test in Vincennes in 1849 demonstrated that at 15 yards the bullet was able to penetrate two boards of poplar wood, each two-thirds of an inch thick and separated by 20 inches. Soldiers of the time spread rumors that at 1,200 yards the bullet could penetrate a soldier and his knapsack and still kill anyone standing behind him, even killing every person in a line of 15.

The rifle saw limited distribution in the Crimean War and was the dominant infantry weapon in the American Civil War. The large caliber with high speed spin of these easily deformed bullets (13-18 mm) created terrible wounds.


The Pattern 1851 Minié rifle was in use by the British Army from 1851 to 1855. The Minié system was also used extensively by various manufacturers, such as Springfield (the Springfield Model 1861, the most widely used rifle of the American Civil War) and Enfield (the Pattern 1853 Enfield).

Minié rifles were also used extensively in the Boshin war (1868-1869) in Japan, where they had an important role in tipping the balance against the Tokugawa forces in encounters such as the Battle of Toba-Fushimi.


The Minié rifle became obsolete in 1866 following the defeat of the Austrians, equipped with this type of rifle, against the Prussians, who were equipped with breech-loading Dreyse rifles. In France, the existing Minié rifles were then retooled to accommodate a breech-loading mechanism reminiscent of a snuff box, and thus became known as Tabatière rifles. Soon after, the breech-loading Chassepot system was then adopted by the French army.

Preceded by
Carabine à tige
French Army rifle
Succeeded by
Tabatière rifle

See also

  • French weapons in the American Civil War


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Minie rifle — Min ie ri fle A rifle adapted to minie balls. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Minié ball — Various types of Minié balls. The four on the right are provided with Tamisier ball grooves for aerodynamic stability …   Wikipedia

  • Minié — Claude Étienne Minié Claude Étienne Minié (13 février 1804 à Paris 14 décembre 1879 à Paris)[1] était un inventeur et un officier de l armée française. Il est célèbre pour avoir conçu, dans les années 1840, le fusil Minié qui permettait un… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • minie ball — kind of rifle bullet, 1853, named for its inventor, French army officer Claude Étienne Minié (1814 1879), who designed it 1847 8 …   Etymology dictionary

  • Minié ball — [min′ē, min′ē ā΄] n. [after C. E. Minié (1814 79), Fr inventor] a cone shaped rifle bullet used in the 19th cent …   English World dictionary

  • Minie ball — Min ie ball [From the inventor, Captain Mini[ e], of France.] A conical rifle bullet, with a cavity in its base plugged with a piece of iron, which, by the explosion of the charge, is driven farther in, expanding the sides to fit closely the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Rifle — A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves ( rifling ) cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called lands, which make contact with the… …   Wikipedia

  • Minié, Claude-Étienne — ▪ French military officer born Feb. 13, 1804, Paris, France died Dec. 14, 1879, Paris       French army officer who solved the problem of designing a bullet for the muzzle loading rifle. The bullet became known as the Minié ball.       After… …   Universalium

  • rifle — rifle1 /ruy feuhl/, n., v., rifled, rifling. n. 1. a shoulder firearm with spiral grooves cut in the inner surface of the gun barrel to give the bullet a rotatory motion and thus a more precise trajectory. 2. one of the grooves. 3. a cannon with… …   Universalium

  • minié ball — noun Etymology: Claude Étienne Minié died 1879 French army officer Date: 1852 a rifle bullet with a conical head used in muzzle loading firearms …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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