Almost all Union carbines were breech-loading and fired special ammunition peculiar to each weapon, with calibers varying from .36 to .69. While great advances in small arms were made during the war, the lack of standardization created major problems. Most companies manufacturing these arms' ceased to exist after hostilities came to an end. The Sharps carbine (1) was one of a relatively small number of "capping breech loaders," in which a made-up cartridge of powder and bullet was wrapped in some combustible material, loaded into the breech and then fired by either a percussion cap or a tape primer. Most of the others, like the Starr cavalry carbine (2), were conventional, lever-action, breech-loading weapons. The Spencer carbine (13) was designed by Christopher Spencer (1833-1922) who had little formal education but was a very energetic inventor, whose designs included a steam-driven automobile, machinery for silk mills and a screw-cutting
machine. His repeating carbine had a removable tubular magazine in the butt, which housed seven copper rimfire cartridges, which were worked by the lever, which also acted as the trigger guard.
1 Sharps "New Model" 1859 breech-loading carbine with back sight in raised position
2 Siarr carbine
3 Maynard 1st Model carbine 'broken' for reloading
4 Box used to contain cartridges for
Despite considerable success during the war, Spencer's arms factory went out of business in 1869, most of its stock and machinery being purchased by Oliver Winchester.
Union carbines. Loops at rear enabled it to be attached to waist belt
5 Alternative design of carbine cartridge box with waist belt loops
6 Gallager carbine
7 Merrill late model carbine with breech open for reloading
1 Joslyn Model 1864 carbine
2 Gwyn and Campbell early model carbine with back sight in raised position
3 Carbine sling with attachment device
4 Smith carbine "broken" to permit reloading
5 Burnside 4th Model carbine with breech mechanism partly exposed 6 Spencer carbine with breech mechanism partly exposed and back sight raised. Also showing spring-fed tubular magazine extended for reloading
7 Blakeslee cartridge box intended for use with Spencer carbine item 13
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