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At the outset of the American Civil War, the Union Army's sharpshooters were initially equipped with the M1855 Colt revolving rifle, but it was prone to malfunction. Instead, the North's sharpshooters preferred the Sharps rifle, an innovative breech-loading weapon capable of firing up to ten shots per minute – more than three times the rate of fire offered by the standard-issue Springfield .58-caliber rifled musket. Other Union sharpshooters were equipped with the standard-issue Springfield rifled musket or the .56-56-caliber Spencer Repeating Rifle.
Conversely, the Confederacy favoured the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifled musket for its sharpshooters and also imported from Britain the Whitworth Rifle, a .45-caliber, single-shot, muzzle-loading weapon distinguished by its use of a twisted hexagonal barrel. Featuring specially commissioned artwork, this is the engrossing story of the innovative rifles that saw combat in the hands of sharpshooters on both sides during the Civil War.