US Civil War 4th 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. The Fourth Model was the first with the
hinged center section of the breech block, which made loading the cartridge easier.
Originally only four models of the Burnside were catalogued and most of those were
actually Fifth Model Burnsides with the frame screw and breech block channel to regulate
the movement of the breech block. This example is a true Fourth Model with the center
breech block hinge, but lacking the frame screw and breech block channel of the later Fifth
Model. It appears to be an early Fourth Model with it’s 21″ round barrel marked “CAST
STEEL 1862″. Top of case-hardened frame stamped “BURNSIDE’S PATENT/MARCH
25th 1856″ (worn) with matching serial number “11153″; lockplate marked “BURNSIDE
RIFLE CO./PROVIDENCE=R.I.” Barrel with front blade sight and folding three-position
rear sight. Walnut butt stock with sling swivel and two faint inspector’s cartouches on left
side just behind the frame. Separate fore end stock attached to the barrel with a single
screw and barrel band with spring. Saddle ring and bar on left side of frame. The loading
lever pin release lever is broken, as often found, though complete, and a reproduction pin
is provided. Condition very good with minor wear and dings to stock; bore is good and
most of the case-hardening colors remain on the frame. Overall length 39 ½”. Most of the
Burnsides offered for sale as Fourth Model are actually the later and much more common
Fifth Model.