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Common Guns in the Civil War

Smith Carbine

Smith carbine

The Smith carbine was the fourth most popular carbine during the Civil War but was surpassed by the development of the Sharps and the Spencer

The Smith was the fourth most purchased carbine during the Civil War. It was only made during the Civil War from 1861 into 1865. Almost the entire production of 30,000+ was bought by the Federal Government.

The Smith carbine was fifty caliber. It opened by depressing the latch ahead of the trigger to release the barrel. The barrel pivots downward on the frame to a right angle and far beyond the opening angle of the typical break open shotgun.

The Smith carbine was purchased in quantity because it was available at the onset of the Civil War. 7,000 Smith carbines were delivered during the year 1862. It had been invented just before the creation of self-contained metallic ammunition by Smith & Wesson and Henry. Constrained by its ammunition, the Smith carbine was surpassed by other developments, principally the Sharps and the Spencer.

Special ammunition in an india rubber tube was issued for the Smith carbine. It could also be loaded with loose powder and bullet and was so used when captured by the Confederates. Loaded and fired without a seal the leakage is significant to the shooter's hand and arm and can be frightening to the face and eyes.

Alternate attempts to make ammunition were made with a rubber sealing ring, rolled paper, gutta percha, or rolled metal. Many different bullet weights and powder charges were used as arsenals and suppliers struggled with the task of making suitable ammunition. The bullet and powder weights and energies cited below are a composite to estimate typically issued ammunition.

The Smith Carbine was produced under three company names. All were made in the same general area in Massachusetts around Chicopee Falls and Springfield.

The Smith carbine is available as a modern made replica with modern components making better ammunition for it.

Technical Information

Barrel Length 21-5/8 inches
Overall Length 42 inches
Weight 7-1/2 pounds
Caliber 50
Bullet Weight 360 grains
Power Charge 50 grains
Muzzle Velocity 1200 feet per second
Muzzle Energy 1150 foot pounds

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