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Ezekiel Myers
Ezekiel Myers

Rifles Drill Manual


Reverse arms and the related rest on arms reversed are military drill commands used as a mark of respect at funerals and on occasions of mourning, especially in the armed forces of Commonwealth nations. When marching in reverse arms the soldier's weapon is held pointing behind them and grasped behind their back. When resting on reversed arms the weapon points towards the ground and the eyes are lowered.




Rifles Drill Manual



Reverse arms is a marching movement in which the weapon is held reversed (pointing backwards) as a mark of respect or mourning.[1] Rest on arms is a similar position for use when halted in which the weapon is rested pointed to the ground (as opposed to upwards as when stood at attention for example). The practice is said to have originated in Ancient Greece, though the earliest documented cases are from descriptions of 16th-century military funerals.[1] It is known that a New Model Army soldier carried out the movement at the execution of Charles I and was later punished for rendering such an honour to the king. A unique reverse arms drill was devised as a special sign of respect for the 1722 funeral of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough at Westminster Abbey.[2] This drill became the basis for the modern-day movements.[3] The drill was known in former times as "club arms" (for reverse arms) and "mourn arms" (for rest on arms reversed).[4]


The movement was used in the US Army by the time of the American Civil War and one veteran of the time noted that the movement was tiring to perform.[5] An 1889 article in the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association opined that "reverse arms and rest on arms are bits of fancy drill that never were of any use, and should have been eliminated from the tactics long ago". The article also stated that the movement was not used in the German military, which marched in the conventional manner at the funeral of Emperor Frederick III.[6] The movement was dropped from US Army practice some time before the First World War.[7] A 1886 article in the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution suggested that the movements could be dropped from British practice without affecting the solemnity of funerals.[8] The movements do not seem to have been commonly practiced and there was some confusion at the 1901 funeral of Queen Victoria among soldiers who had not been taught the drill.[9][10] The move was performed successfully at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth on the 19th September 2022.


In the Canadian Armed Forces drill manual the movement for reverse arms is carried out before stepping off. The same movement is used for rifles, carbines and swords. The soldier is ordered to shoulder arms, the butt of the rifle is brought upwards, the muzzle is turned underneath the right arm and grasped with the left hand from behind the back.[11] There is also a movement prescribed to switch the rifle from the right arm to the left.[12] If parades are halted for a long period the drill manual specifies that soldiers should be ordered to return to the shoulder arms position. Arms are then to be reversed again before stepping off once more.[11]


In the British Army drill manual reverse arms is ordered from the shoulder arms position and is carried out before stepping off.[14][15] The soldier's right hand reaches across to take hold of the butt of the rifle. The rifle is switched to the right side and the left hand grabs the rifle stock.[16] The rifle is then swung downwards and turned under the right armpit to a 45 degree angle to the ground whilst the left arm reaches behind the back to grasp the barrel.[17]


In the British Army drill manual rest on arms reversed is known as "lower on your arms reversed".[22] The rifle is brought upwards, with the left hand on the stock and the right hand taking hold of the pistol grip. The rifle is then rotated downwards to point down the right side of the body while the left hand moves from the stock to the butt.[23] The head is then lowered to look at the ground in a movement lasting four seconds; the entire command takes ten seconds. In this position the rifle, being shorter than that used historically and being held by the pistol grip and not the butt, does not touch the ground.[24]


The "NORTHWEST DRILL & RIFLE CONFERENCE MANUAL" (the manual) is designed to provide the policies and procedures for the conduct of the NWDRC. The policies and procedures will be made by majority vote of the members present at a conference meeting called by the conference commissioner. Any situation that occurs at a NWDRC meet that is not specifically covered by the manual will be resolved by the division coordinator at the time unless it can be postponed until it can be referred to the conference commissioner or a conference meeting.


The Daisy Model 1903 Drill Rifle is a near-exact replica of the 1903-A1 Springfield. This non-functioning Drill Rifle features a solid barrel and a working bolt. Used by Military JROTC programs and other organizations throughout the country for training and performance. The design and durable steel components and synthetic stock make this drill rifle capable of withstanding the abuse inherent in drill team use.


Major William Gilham's Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia has been used by the ACWS Confederate's since the late 1980's. Gilham was Instructor of Tactics, and Commandant of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, and published his manual in 1861. It was intended to expand on the existing manuals used by the regular army, and provide more explanation and clarification for the Volunteers and Militia, which the Regular Army took for granted. However, it was probably only used by militia and units originating from the VMI and Virginia State. It is a documented fact that many Confederate units, including the First Tennessee, used Hardee's Drill Manual from 1861-1865.So why do we continue to use Gilham's Manual in the ACWS? It was adopted following a re-enacting trip to the States where our host unit used this drill and the position of Shoulder Arms on the left was viewed as more natural and comfortable than on the right. Also the Hardee's Drill Manual we had at the time just did not work for 3-band rifle-muskets. So we have kept Gilham's Drill Manual mostly for the sake of convenience, custom, and familiarity. Gilham's has many sections, which are effectively identical to other drill manuals of the period. There are, however, two Manuals of Arms, one for the short 2-band Rifle and one for the long 3-band rifle-musket. It has always been assumed that we should be using the Manual for the rifle-musket, but there is no documentary evidence for which one to use. When we look at Hardee's Manuals of 1855-1861, we will see that his drill was solely for the short 2-band Rifle and had to be modified in 1861 for the more common 3-bander.Now for the history lesson. By the early 1850s, weapons technology had advanced enormously. Whereas the Mexican War of 1846-48 had been fought mostly with flintlock smoothbore muskets, the Crimean War saw large-scale use of percussion rifle-muskets. Usage of rifle-muskets goes back to the late 18th Century, but this was limited to specialised Rifle units. The introduction of the Model 1841 "Mississippi" rifle in the Mexican War, and the mass production manufacturing techniques available in the 1850's, led the United States to adopt a 33-inch barrel rifle in 1855 (a 40-inch barrel rifle-musket was adopted concurrently).To accompany this new rifle, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis wanted a revised system of infantry tactics. The current system had been written by Winfield Scott in the 1830s, based on French tactics dating ultimately from the 18th century, and had survived virtually unchanged. Scott's tactics emphasised masses of men concentrated on the march and on the battlefield, to reap the greatest benefit from their relatively inaccurate firepower. By the 1850s, these movements were slow and outdated. However, masses of troops moving at common time found themselves at a severe disadvantage under rifle fire. Revisions were necessary to bring U.S. infantry tactics in line with the new long-range rifle. For this he chose Brevet Lt. Col. William Joseph Hardee, Second Dragoons. Hardee drew extensively on his knowledge of the French military and their 1841 drill manual, as well as his own experiences on the Texas Frontier (1849-41) and the Mexican War, to accomplish his task. His brief was to thoroughly modernise the U.S. infantry into a faster, lighter force, capable of taking advantage of the new rifle. Hardee's Tactics was finished in 1854; it was tested, approved, then published in June 1855. This new manual thoroughly modernised the U.S. infantry into a faster, lighter force, capable of taking advantage of the new rifle, where quick time (110 steps per minute) was the norm, and double quick time (165 steps per minute) was common.Everyone seemed to assume the M1855 rifle would become the dominant infantry arm in late 1850's and beyond, and the manual of arms in Hardee's "Tactics" was naturally written for the 2-band rifle with sword bayonet. However, the rifle never was issued in the numbers envisioned. The militia, and indeed most of the army, were left with 42-inch barrel muskets or 40-inch barrel rifle-muskets, both having socket bayonets. Not only was Hardee's "Tactics" difficult for militia units trying to learn the new evolutions, his manual of arms proved awkward, and even sometimes impractical for the longer muskets (e.g. in fixing bayonets and stacking arms).Consequently, "improved" manual of arms, based on Hardee's "Tactics," but suited to the 3-bander musket and rifle-musket, began to emerge. This included Ellsworth's Zouave Manual, the Kentucky State Guard Manual, as well as Gilham's. The latter included an extra Arms Manual for the longer rifle-musket, which was actually very similar to Scott's manual of the 1830's.When the American Civil War broke out, it was only natural that the Confederates would adopt Hardee's manual. He was after all well known and was now a Confederate Officer. Many editions were printed without Hardee's approval, as he failed to obtain copyright until 1864, which was too late for him to profit from its success. Most of these other editions were simple copies of his 1855 edition and did not include the revisions he had felt necessary to make to incorporate the more common and longer rifle-musket.Hardee was commissioned as a Confederate Colonel, and posted to Fort Morgan, in Mobile, Alabama. It was here in the spring of 1861 that Hardee produced an edition of his "Tactics" that included a revised manual of arms for the 3-band weapons commonly found in the Confederate army. It was published by S. H. Goetzel & Co. and advertised as Hardee's Correct, Complete, Perfect, and Revised and Improved Infantry and Rifle Tactics, suitable for all infantry, no matter how armed or organised. Hardee himself was quoted as calling this edition the "Only Complete, Correct And Revised Edition". Although the text was revised, the corresponding plates did not receive as much attention. The weapon was still shown as a 2-band rifle, with a socket bayonet substituted for the sword bayonet, and the positions of the piece were not changed significantly from the 1855 edition.Hardee's revisions were actually fairly small and confined mostly to those parts of his 1855 manual of arms that had been written specifically for the 2-bander which were adjusted to suit the 3-bander. The main differences lie in the position of the musket during loading, fixing and unfixing the bayonet, and stacking arms. Each of these movements was revised to take into account the greater length of the musket and rifle-musket over the rifle, and the socket bayonet instead of the rifle's sword bayonet. He changed the first position of load and fix bayonet by placing the butt of the rifle-musket outside the left foot, lock to the soldier's left, barrel away from him, and inclined slightly away from his face and to the right - as in Scott's / Gilham's musket manual. Fixing bayonet was to be done with the right hand, as in Scott's / Gilham's musket manual - and unlike that awkward left handed sabre bayonet fix for the 1855 rifle. Also Hardee incorporated the so-called 'Kentucky swing' method of stacking arms. While this is first found in the 1861 Kentucky State Guard manual, there is evidence that it was used pre-war by Ellmer's US Cadet Zouave drill team and at West Point.Hence, in practical terms, the only differences in Hardee's (as revised for the rifle-musket) and Gilham's compiled manual are: the position of shoulder arms; the 'cast about' in loading (Gilham's is 'load in 10 times' - Hardee 'load in 9 times'); and the method of stacking arms (Gilham's uses the 'musket stack', also used in Casey's - while Hardee incorporates the so-called 'Kentucky swing'). And since company and battalion evolutions are exactly the same, the above are the only practical differences one would have to consider in moving from one manual to the other.Hardee's revisions were probably widely adopted, particularly in the western theatre, due to Hardee's early assignments. Following his posting in Mobile, he was promoted to General and sent to join the force that would become the nucleus of the future Army of Tennessee. Wherever he went, Hardee's fame as the author of the Army "Tactics" manual brought demand for his services as a drill instructor. It is unlikely that the manual of arms he taught did not contain his revisions for 3-banders. Hardee's revisions were also taught in the east. North Carolina published an edition, by order of the Governor, for the use of North Carolina troops. This edition was almost an exact copy of Goetzel's version, complete with all the revisions for 3-banders. Original copies of Goetzel's manual have also been identified as being used in the east.In conclusion, it appears that the infantry drill manual of choice in the Confederate army was Hardee's "Tactics." In the almost total absence of period sources specifically naming other manuals, Hardee's was the most likely taught throughout the Southern military. It is probable that Hardee's own revisions were widespread, not only where he served in the western theatre, but also among eastern troops. Evidence points to this being the most common manual of arms throughout the Confederacy. Goetzel published more editions of Hardee's revised work than did any other publisher of any other Southern manual.If custom and convenience are more important, then there can be a case made to keep Gilham's in the ACWS Confederates. It's a lot easier on the Shoulder-Arms position. However, if we wish to accurately portray the drill manual of the overwhelming majority of Confederate infantry, we should seriously consider changing to Hardee's "correct, complete, perfect, and revised and improved" manual of arms.Above article from various sources including the Drill Manuals in questions, but also an invaluable article by Geoff Walden entitled Manual of Arms for Infantry - A Re-examination on the internet at _1.htm and/manualarms_2.htm.If you are interested in a Federal slant to this then the 2nd Wisconsin were usingScott's and Chandler Drill Manuals in 1861, before using the U.S. Infantry & Rifle Tactics. It will be noted that they used a drill manual similar to Gilham's!by Mike Bussey, 1st TennesseeThe above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, August 2002 041b061a72


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