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The Spencer Carbine

First Patent (Number 27,393)
In his first patent, he claimed the rights to his rolling breech system and its varying parts. His 1860 patent included the slide that struck the rimfire cartridge after being hit by the hammer. When the breech opened, a piece of the mechanism called the "tongue" blocked the used cartridge from falling back into the magazine, and a "serrated projection" extracted the used cartridge.

Second Patent (Number 36, 062)
In 1862 he patented the slight rearrangement of a lever, which withdrew the cartridges, and other breech pieces. The lever was attached by a "screw-pivot." He modified the use of the metal tongue patented in 1860. The loaded cartridge pushed against the tongue when the breech was closed and the tongue then moved the lever into its place in a "deep notch." That allowed there to be enough room for the cartridge.  On the original patent, the tongue prevented the used cartridge from going back into the magazine and then also pushed the spent cartridge out of the gun with the help of a “serrated projection.”

Reissued Patent (Number 1,652)
In his reissued patent, he claimed the rights to the compound breech, the arrangement of its components, and the guard lever utilized to extract the used cartridge. For details about that process see, The Spencer Carbine page.

Third Patent (Number 45,952)
His 1865 patent focused on the magazine and the role it played in loading a cartridge. In the 1865 patent , Spencer wrote that the cartridges in the magazine were safe from combustion due to a gas leak, because those cartridges were separated from the ignition/ combustion chamber by the entire compound breech.  In that small paragraph, Spencer addressed one of the main concerns of those who bought and used the Spencer, the safety of the marksman.

Additional Patent (Number 45,469)
Colonel Erastus Blakeslee of the First Connecticut Cavalry invented and patented (patent granted in December 1964) the Blakeslee Cartridge Box that contained a wooden insert with six holes to hold six already loaded magazines, such as those used by the Spencer. His patent also featured metal tubes, acting as magazines, with springs to withdraw the cartridges. Variations of his design may have contained 10 slots where 10 magazines were stored. The box was attached to a strap and was worn on the soldiers back.1

And its Patents


a These two patents were used in explaining the extracting, loading, and magazine mechanisms.

1 William B. Edwards, Civil War Guns: The complete story of Federal and Confederate small arms:  design, manufacture, identification, procurement, issue, employment, effectiveness, and postwar disposal (Secaucus, New Jersey: Castle, 1982), 154.

Christopher Spencer patented the Spencer Carbine on March 6, 1860, and it was numbered 27,393.  The Spencer carbine and rifle received three patents for improvements during the war:  number 36,062 on July 29, 1862; reissue number 1,625 on April 12, 1864 (the reissue of the 1862 patent); and number 45,952 on January 17, 1865.a


This video demonstrates the movement of the Spencer's breech mechanism.

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