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Japanese Boshin War Meiji Registered 1858 2 Band 33" .577 Enfield Short Rifle Dated 1867

Boshin War 1858 Enfield
Boshin War 1858 Enfield

The Boshin War

The mounting civil war in Japan and the opposition of various feudal lords against the bakufu during the Late Tokugawa shogunate led to serious rearming until the 1867 Boshin War. At the same time, technological progress was extremely fast in the West, with the introduction of the rifle, breech-loading and even repeating firearms, so that Japanese armies were equipped with composite technologies, with weapons imported from countries as varied as France, Germany, the Indians, Britain and the United States, and coexisting with traditional Tanegashima guns.

During the Boshin War, most shogunate vassal troops used "geweer"-style smoothbore guns. These guns were rather ancient and had limited capabilities, with an effective lethal range of about 50 meters, and a firing rate of about two rounds per minute. Much more effective Minié rifles were also used by the armies directly under the command of the shōgun, the bakufu troops. The Daimyō of Nagaoka, an ally of the shōgun, possessed two Gatling guns and several thousand modern rifles. The shogunate is known to have placed an order for 30,000 modern Dreyse needle guns in 1866. In 1867, orders were placed for 40,000 state-of-the-art French Chassepot rifles, a part of which reached Edo by year's end. Antiquated Tanegashima matchlock guns are also known to have been used by the bakufu however.

Satsuma purchased arms from Britain and Belgium is return for licenses to develop mineral resources for trading rights , and brokered similar deals for Choshu. Imperial troops mainly used Minié rifles, which were much more accurate, lethal, and had a much longer range than the smoothbore "geweer"-style guns, although, being also muzzle-loading, they were similarly limited to two shots per minute. Improved breech-loading mechanisms, such as the Snider, developing a rate of about ten shots a minute, are known to have been used by troops of the Tosa Domain against the shogunate's Shōgitai, at the Battle of Ueno in July 1868. In the second half of the conflict, in the northeast theater, Tosa Province troops are known to have used American-made Spencer repeating rifles. American-made handguns were also popular, such as the 1863 Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 Army, which was imported to Japan by the Scottish trader Thomas Blake Glover and used by the Satsuma forces.

Item Description:

Enfield 1858 2 Band 33" .577 Minié short rifle made in 1867 by a contractor in Belgium. This has the crown but no initials so it was meant for export and not for the British military. It is missing barrel band that would of had a bayonet lug. Instead it has a standard barrel band which may have been the way it was made. Meiji registered in 1872 indicated by the Japanese stamped on the barrel (see below). Being manufactured in 1867 it was most likely imported into Japan at the beginning of the Boshin War. This pattern 1858 is a brass mounted short rifle with a heavier 33” barrel, rifled with 5-grooves and a much faster rate of twist; twice as fast as the rifle musket.

Meiji Registered:

The Japanese on the barrel is translated to - (Jinshin Bango) Jinshin 1872 - (Registration Number) 1431, Chikuma Prefecture

What does Meiji registered mean?

Interestingly one of the primary goals of the sonnō jōi movement had been to “expel the barbarians”, but the new Imperial administration sought to modernize the country of Japan and developed numerous international relationships that certainly chafed at the supporters who had returned the Emperor to power. Possibly in response to what the new Imperial administration expected to be a backlash, on July 8, 1869  the Imperial government established the Bukoshi, or Arsenal Administration. This organization was charged with the collection, registration and “control” of all firearms in Japan. These included, but were not limited to handguns, rifles and even cannon. The new administration understood that these imported weapons, that had been cached around the country under the control of various daimyōs had been instrumental in the success of the pro-Imperial forces during the Boshin War, but could be equally effective at over throwing the new Imperial government; if such an uprising could occur before the government had fully centralized power and built up a strong Imperial Army. By 1872, it was decreed that all breechloading firearms be transferred to Imperial government control in Tokyo and soon thereafter all Enfield pattern rifles be forwarded to Imperial arsenals for alteration to breechloader by the Albini system. The Enfield that we have, shown above, is rare since it escaped the process of being altered.

The first and largest registration of weapons in post Tokugawa Japan was in the year of 1872, Meiji 5. Usually the first or both of these Kanji was struck too, along with an indication of the name of one of the fledgling prefectures. The brands are found either on the wood stock or into the iron of the barrel.

Research tells us this Chikuma prefecture only existed from 1871-1876. Originally, it had been part of the Shinano Province until the 1871 Meiji restoration, when it was administratively separated into Nagano and Chikuma prefectures. These two tentative governmental and territorial units were reconfigured together again in 1876 into the current Nagano Prefecture.


Boshin War Soldier

Samurai w. rifle & sword by Ueno Hikoma late 1860s (Katchushi Koubou UK)

Samurai and Enfield Rifle

A Stylized period photo portrait of a Japanese samurai sitting w daishō (a samurai’s two traditional matching swords), his fan (an important samurai accessory) and a two-band Enfield percussion rifle.  This photo is also featured on the cover of the Banzai Project’s excellent book:  Japanese Imported Arms of the Early Meiji Era

Photo credit:  Japanese Imported Arms of the Early Meiji Era, Joseph P. Koss, Jr., Ed.

Boshin War 1858 Enfield
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