Special Production US Civil War 5th Model Burnside Carbine


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The Burnside was America’s first metallic cartridge rifle and was produced in 5 models from
1857 through the end of the Civil War in 1865. It was designed initially by Ambrose
Burnside, who later became a famous Civil War general, Rhode Island governor, and US
senator. They used a unique tapered brass cartridge with .54 caliber bullet, with a small
hole at the rear of the case and no internal primer. It would use a separate percussion cap
mounted on a typical nipple for ignition. The First Model was primarily a prototype and
Burnside provided an initial contract of 200 to the US Army. While the trials were
successful, the time it took to produce the guns and the fact that nearly all of Burnside’s
money had been used up caused him to sell the patent rights to Charles Jackson in 1859
who struggled with the company until the outbreak of the Civil War, which greatly increased
the demand for the carbines. First, Second, and Third models are relatively scarce with
only a few thousand produced in total, with production increasing to about 7,000 in the
Fourth Model and 43,000 in the Fifth Model. Originally only four models of the Burnside
were catalogued and most were actually Fifth Model Burnsides with the frame screw and
breech block channel to regulate the movement of the breech block. The Fourth Model was
the first with the hinged center section of the breech block, which made loading the
cartridge easier, but lacked the frame guide screw and breech block channel of the Fifth
Model. This example has the frame screw and breech block channel of the Fifth Model and
features a 21″ round barrel marked “CAST STEEL 186-” (Probably 1863). Frame with no
visible markings; the lockplate marked “BURNSIDE RIFLE CO./PROVIDENCE=R.I.” Barrel
with front blade sight and folding three-position rear sight. Figured walnut butt stock without
sling swivel. Separate fore-end stock attached to the barrel with a single screw and barrel
band with spring. No saddle ring or bar on left side of frame, though the mounting holes
were originally machined, but plugged. Typically, these featured blued barrels and case
hardened frames, though this example appears to have featured an entirely blued finish.
The lack of saddle ring and sling swivel, plus the figured butt stock likely indicate this was
made as either a civilian or officer’s model, and Flayderman writes that as many as 50
variations existed. Condition very good with minor wear and dings to stock; bore is good
and much of the bluing remains on the barrel and frame. Overall length 39 ½”.