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Smith Carbine

Breech-Loaded Cavalry Carbine

United States | 1857

"The Smith Carbine appeared in 30,000 units from the period spanning 1861 to 1865 and participated in the American Civil War."

Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Smith Carbine. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
The physical qualities of the Smith Carbine. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
1,000 mm
39.37 in
O/A Length
550 mm
21.65 in
Barrel Length
7.50 lb
3.40 kg
Break-Action Breech; Single-Shot
.50 Smith
Single-Shot (Cartridge)
Iron Front and Rear
Notable series variants as part of the Smith Carbine Breech-Loaded Cavalry Carbine family line.
Smith Carbine - Base Series Name

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/10/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

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.

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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.

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Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Smith Carbine. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): American Machine Works / American Arms Company / Massachusetts Arms Company - USA
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Image of the Smith Carbine
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Going Further...
The Smith Carbine Breech-Loaded Cavalry Carbine appears in the following collections:
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