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Smith Carbine

Breech-Loaded Cavalry Carbine [ 1857 ]

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 | Last Edited: 10/10/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

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.©MilitaryFactory.com
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.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

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United States


Breech-Loaded Cavalry Carbine

American Machine Works / American Arms Company / Massachusetts Arms Company - USA
(View other Arms-Related Manufacturers)
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(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)

Overall Length
1,000 mm
39.37 in
Barrel Length
550 mm
21.65 in
Empty Wgt
7.50 lb
3.40 kg

Iron Front and Rear


Break-Action Breech; Single-Shot

(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)


.50 Smith

Rounds / Feed

Single-Shot (Cartridge)
Cartridge relative size chart
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources.
**Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.

Smith Carbine - Base Series Name

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