Carbine Advancements


The U.S. Army adopted rifling in 1855.1 However, smoothbores, where the inside of the barrel was smooth without any grooves, were used in the beginning of the war before the Ordnance Department could obtain rifles or rifled muskets in sufficient quantities. Because of the “windage" in muskets the projectile bounced around both inside and outside the barrel after the shot was fired.  The course of the bullet was often inaccurate, especially when shot at a target over 50 yards away, and was “virtually useless over 100 yards.”2



A gun with rifling, like most of the carbines in the Civil War, had barrels with spiraling grooves carved into them. The number of grooves usually ranged from three to six per gun. For a rifling system, there should be no windage, allowing for more control over the bullet.2 The ball was also changed to fit into the grooves, in order to prevent any windage.


 

Rifles allowed the marksmen to have a more accurate and longer-range gun than smooth bores. Rifled barrels gave a gun more firepower than smoothbores. The rifles were seen as such an improvement that the men in the Ordnance Department saw rifles as an incentive for recruits. Chief of Ordnance James Ripley attempted, and ultimately failed, to implement a policy that the rifled guns would go to men who signed up for three years of service.3 That potentially would have inspired men to join and, at the same time, supplied those who eventually would have more experience with better and more accurate guns than those with limited experience.



1 Major C. E. Dutton, “The Ordnance Department,” in Theo F. Rodenbough and William L. Haskin, eds., The Army of the United States Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief (New York: Maynard, Merrill Co., 1896), 131.

2 Dean S. Thomas, Round Ball to Rimfire:  A History of Civil War Small Arms Ammunition, Part One (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Thomas Publications, 1997), 1.

3 Carl L. Davis, Arming the Union:  Small Arms in the Civil War (Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, Inc., 1973), 167.

All photos on this page: ARTIFACT: NATIONAL FIREARMS MUSEUM | PHOTO: ALLISON AND BRITTANY VENTURELLA

Rifling

Windage

The air that works against the spin of the bullet as it ravels through the rifling.  In order to fit balls inside smoothbores, windage was required. For rifles, it was just the opposite. Also, the space between the bullet and the inside of the barrel

New Model 1865
Sharps Carbine

1865 Spencer Carbine

5th Model Burnside Carbine

5th Model Burnside Carbine

New Model 1865
Sharps Carbine

5th Model Burnside Carbine