Civil War Showdown: The Henry Rifle vs The Spencer Rifle (Watch)

During the American Civil War, lasting from 1861 to 1865, the Henry rifle and the Spencer rifle saw considerable use on the battlefield. Members of both the Confederate and Union armies carried these guns, earning them their place in history.

The Henry repeating rifle was designed in 1860 by a man named Benjamin Tyler Henry. After the New Haven Arms Company began producing his gun, troops on both sides of the Civil War were equipped with them, although they were not as common as some of the other rifles in use at the time. After the conflict, many of the Henry rifles that had been produced during the 1860’s remained in circulation. In fact, they went on in later years to be remembered as an iconic staple of America’s Wild West.

Perhaps its most notable legacy, however, is its role as the inspiration for the classic Winchester rifle. Six years after the Henry was originally conceived of, this new weapon proved so successful that the New Haven Arms Company changed its name to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, naming itself after the rifle.

Produced during the same historical period, the Spencer repeating rifle was popular with cavalry units in the Union Army. At the Battle of Hoover’s Gap, Colonel John T. Wilder and his so-called Lightning Brigade made use of the Spencer rifle, proving its effectiveness on horseback.

As well as enjoying an excellent rate of fire, soldiers equipped with this weapon also found that the Spencer’s ammunition was remarkably durable, even in poor conditions. Relatively waterproof and not easily damaged, it could be transported over long distances without any negative impact.

Here you can see these two iconic rifles go head-to-head in a direct comparison. The hickock45 YouTube channel posts a wide variety of videos on modern and historical firearms, giving some historical background to each gun and putting them into action on a firing range. Shooting both rifles at a number of targets, this is a video both for those interested in the Civil and for weapons enthusiasts in general.

Malcolm Higgins

Malcolm Higgins is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE