Imperial Russian Brunswick Rifle
Like most countries in the 1840s, Russia also modernized military by adopting percussion firearms for the first time. These weapons would see extensive service during the Crimean War where the faced off against their much more well-known British and French counterparts. Perhaps ironically, the arms that the Russian army fielded in the Crimean War were essentially copies of the allied weaponry.
Generally Russian arms were patterned after French weapons, at least in the case of their muskets. However, for the new percussion rifle adopted by Russia in 1843, they would turn to the British for inspiration. Essentially, the Model 1843 Luttich Carbine is a copy of the British Pattern 1839 Brunswick Rifle. The rifles have a 30 3/16ths inch barrel with a nominally .70 caliber bore rifled with two groove rifling that makes one turn in the barrel’s length. The rear sight is of a unique pattern, though identical to the sights used on the US muskets percussion altered and rifled by Samuel Colt for the Russian Government. The sights are graduated out to 1,200 paces. They are fitted with a back-action lock baring the name of the Belgian firm, J.P. Malherbe, the Belgian firm that produced them. The rifles are also equipped with a brass patchbox of the same style as the original British rifle, and a large iron saber bayonet lug on the right side of the muzzle. The buttplate tang is engraved with the Russian Imperial eagle as well as a three-digit serial number. A brass thumb piece is inlayed into the wrist of the stock that is engraved with the cypher of Czar Nicholas I.
Though the Russians adopted a new rifled musket in 1856, the Model 1843 Luttich Carbine was the only rifled weapon to see any sizeable use by Russian troops during the Crimean War. The experiences of the generally smoothbore-armed Russian forces against the British which were generally issued rifled arms no doubt prodded the Russian Ordnance Board to adopt the new 6 line Model 1856 Rifle-Musket. No doubt, the Russian riflemen who were fortunate enough to be issued these Carbines were glad to have them.
Our rifle is a nice, basically untouched, example of the Model 1843 Luttich Carbine. The rifle shows signs of fairly hard use and the iron parts show some pitting, especially the Damascus barrel, which shows a fair amount of the original twist pattern. The rifle also retains its original rear sight, though a chip has been broken off of the right-hand side of the leaf. The buttplate is engraved with the Imperial Russian eagle as well as the serial number 906. That number is repeated on the side of the bolster. The inside of the patchbox has the number 9784 stamped on it, which may actually be a serial number. All of the examples I have seen have been numbered on the buttplate no higher than 9xx, so presumably that number may be a Regimental gun number. The bayonet lug appears to be marked 7Z, however, the matching bayonet would be numbered 906. As is proper, the wrist is inlayed with the Imperial cypher of Czar Nicholas I. The sling swivels are missing.
The stock has a number of handling marks and dings, as well as a number of cracks. The most notable of these are a grain split on the left side of the buttstock about 2 inches long, as well as a number of cracks running down the left side of the forearm, the longest of which is approximately 18 inches in length. Some of these have been stabilized with glue some time ago. None of them appear to be in danger of expanding.
Russian firearms of the 19th century are quite scarce on the collectors' market today, even in their home country. Hard use during their working lives, followed by the immense scrap drives of both World Wars no doubt contributes to their rarity today. Though most European countries took advantage of the need for arms in America during our Civil War, Russia did not sell off any old pattern arms and consequently these weapons are among the rarest of European muzzleloading arms in the United States today. Though this rifle has a few condition issues it is still an excellent example of an essentially untouched Luttich carbine. I am sure that it will be quite a while before another example comes available.