The Joslyn Firearms Company of Stonington, Connecticut managed something of a love-hate relationship with the U.S. government prior to, and during, the American Civil War (1861-1865). Its claim to fame became the "Joslyn Rifle" which was a single-shot, breech-loading percussion-based weapon available in .54 and .58 calibers and eventually developed into a shortened carbine form as well. It became the first breech-loader to be produced in large quantity by the famous Springfield Armory and saw action in the Civil War as well as the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) that followed.
The series debuted as the Model 1855 (appropriately in 1855) and, in this form, the weapon was evaluated by the United States Army which led to a federal order for fifty of the type in .54 caliber. Another 500 examples were contracted for in the following year, though in .58 caliber, and fewer than two-hundred were ultimately delivered prior to the Civil War.
The Joslyn Rifle sported three-barrel bands along its length and had a near-full-length wooden stock. Sights were fitted fore and aft over the gun and the lockplate featured the hammer, breech/action and percussion cap nipple. The shoulder stock was angled downward and cut-out for some ergonomic comfort. The trigger unit was ringed and sat under the action in the usual way.
The Joslyn Carbine was shorter by design, intended as a handier alternative to the full-length model. This variant had just a single barrel band and a shortened wooden stock to promote a smaller profile. All other functions of the gun remained faithful to its larger cousin.
Government interest in the gun rose to an all-time high with the conflict in full swing and the government ordered 860 more Joslyns in the Model 1861 carbine form in 1862, the gun now relying on a metal rimfire cartridge as opposed to the original combustible paper cartridge. A further 20,000 carbines were ordered before the end of the year and these deliveries began in 1863. The improved Model 1862 was chambered for the .56-52 Spencer cartridge (rimfire) and early models did away with the percussion cap nipple in favor of a more modern firing pin. The company continued to interest the government in the type which, by this time, was being offered in the revised Model 1864 form (this variant made up a large portion of total Joslyn gun production). An order for 5,000 units was had and more than half of this total came from the Springfield Armory.
Springfield also produced a model based in the Joslyn Model 1865 which was essentially the Springfield Model 1863 rifled musket featuring the Joslyn action. These are sometimes referred to as "Springfield Joslyn Rifles".
The end of the war in 1865, and the arms drawdown that followed, signaled the end of wide scale federal procurement of the Joslyn series guns. However, its circulation meant that it was available in some number heading into the 1870s and about 8,200 of the guns (both rifle and carbine models) were converted to .50-70 centerfire sold off to France in 1870 where they were promptly fielded in the war against Prussia and its allies. Stocks eventually fell to the Germans and these then ended in the hands of the Belgians before finding their way to various forces on the African continent.
Some 4,500 Joslyn guns were purchased privately during its production run.