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Smith Carbine

Breech-Loaded Cavalry Carbine

The Smith Carbine appeared in 30,000 units from the period spanning 1861 to 1865 and participated in the American Civil War.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 10/10/2017
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Year: 1857
Manufacturer(s): American Machine Works / American Arms Company / Massachusetts Arms Company - USA
Roles: Close Quarters Battle (CQB)/Personal Security;
Action: Break-Action Breech; Single-Shot
Caliber(s): .50 Smith
Sights: Iron Front and Rear
Overall Length: 1,000 mm (39.37 in)
Barrel Length: 550 mm (21.65 in)
Weight (Unloaded): 7.50 lb (3.40 kg)
Rate-of-Fire: 6 rounds-per-minute
Operators: United States (retired)
The American Civil War (1861-1865) brought to the forefront the need for modernization of existing flintlock weapons and the requirement for all-new long guns and carbines by both sides. As such, many gun makers attempted to secure government orders and this resulted in a plethora of designs appearing during that time. The Smith Carbine became an example of this, designed in the years leading up to the grand conflict and produced in considerable numbers throughout its duration. The design stems from patented work completed by one Gilbert Smith.

Design on the Smith Carbine happened in 1857 and successful official U.S. Army trials then followed. It was developed as a carbine weapon so it was purposely shorter in length and lighter in weight than the typical service rifle of the period. As such, the gun (and others like it) became an asset to mounted troops who required compact weapons to wield about in a timely manner, engaging troops either mounted or dismounted.

The resulting weapon weighed 7.5lb and featured a length of 39.5 inches with a barrel measuring 21.6 inches. It fired the .50 Smith cartridge through a break-action, breech-loaded arrangement located at the end of the receiver. Sighting was through a block / single leaf rear sight coupled with a blade front. The shoulder stock, grip handle and forend were all completed in wood while the action used higher tolerance metal. The barrel was exposed along the length of the forend and protruded beyond it. At the action, the hammer sat to the right side and the trigger was fitted under the action in the usual way.

During management of the gun, the operated need only to release a catch assembly located at the front of the trigger (found within the diameter trigger loop). The receiver was hinged so that the barrel end could be pivoted downward to expose the breech for loading / reloading. The cartridges relied on a rubber casing so as to help seal the expanding gasses during firing though this had the side effect of making cartridge extraction somewhat difficult and slow under combat conditions.

Production of this carbine spanned from 1861 to 1865 and amounted to 30,062 units. Manufacture was out of three locations: American Machine Works of Springfield, Massachusetts, the American Arms Company and the Massachusetts Arms Company, the latter two located in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.

Variants / Models

• Smith Carbine - Base Series Name
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