This is a FINE condition example of a scarce variant of the Jenks US Naval Carbine, the Remington-Jenks automatic priming carbine, as produced by the famous Remington arms company. Between 1843 and 1846 the NP Ames Company of Springfield, MA had produced 4,250 of the standard Jenks breechloading percussion carbines for the US Navy. In 1847, an additional 1,000 “improved” Jenks carbines were ordered from E. Remington & Sons of Herkimer, NY, which included the automatic Maynard Patent Tape Priming system. These additional carbines were delivered in 1847 and 1848. The Remington assembled guns were manufactured on the original Ames machinery by Remington, who had purchased the contract for the 1,000 arms, as well as the machinery and all Jenks parts on hand, both finished and unfinished, from Ames. As originally produced, all Jenks carbines were originally manufactured as .54 caliber smoothbore guns, with a round loading aperture in the breech. Both versions of the carbine had 24.5” barrels secured by two screw-retained brass barrel bands, walnut stocks and brass furniture. With the coming of the Civil War, nearly all of the carbines were subsequently altered. The round loading aperture which was designed for loose powder and a round ball was enlarged to an oval opening which allowed the insertion of prepackaged paper cartridges. Many of the carbines were also rifled during the alteration process, to improve their accuracy. Today, it is very difficult to find a smoothbore Jenks carbine and nearly impossible to find an original configuration smoothbore Jenks with the round loading hole. The Jenks carbines manufactured by Remington with the Maynard Tape Primer represented only 19% of all Jenks carbine production for the Navy, and as such are very rare. The Navy preferred this “improved” version of the Jenks carbines and made a concerted effort to issue the tape primer equipped carbines to their small fleet of newly built screw frigates. The Remington-Jenks carbines were issued for service on the US Navy frigates USS Colorado, USS Merrimack, USS Minnesota, USS Niagara, and the USS Wabash. All of these ships were outfitted between 1856 and 1858. According to author and researcher John McAulay, each frigate typically received 70 of the Remington made Jenks carbines. Remington Jenks carbines were also issued to the crews of the USS Congress, USS Cumberland, USS Susquehanna, USS Portsmouth,and USS Saranac during the late 1850s. In December of 1858, it was reported that the Navy had 1,359 of 5,400 total Jenks carbines in service, with the belief that the large majority of these guns were of the tape primer variant, since the Navy showed a strong preference for the issue of that particular small arm.
With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 most of the Jenks carbines were altered by rifling. Arthur Eastman & Simon Stevens contracted to alter 2,800 of the Jenks carbines by rifling their barrels. It is believed that they also enlarged the charging hole to the oval shape on any carbine that had not already had that alteration preformed. Clearly other contractors rifled these carbines as well, as the extant number of smoothbore carbines is quite small, indicating that only a very few of the guns escaped this modification. As most of the Jenks carbines owned by the Navy were in storage at the various Naval Yards when the war began, it can be reasonably assumed that those carbines which escaped alteration were those on station at remote points of the globe during the time frame that the modifications were performed. While the Navy placed more emphasis on the conventional muzzle loading rifled arms that were preferred by the Army during the Civil War, the Jenks carbine continued to be issued and to see significant use throughout the entire conflict. As a result, finding a high condition, tape primer equipped Jenks carbines can be very difficult.
This Remington-Jenks “Tape Primer” Naval Carbine is in about FINE condition and is a lovely example of gun that saw actual service but still retains some nice finish. The gun retains about 80%+ coverage of its original brown finish, but most of that finish has thinned, dulled, and faded significantly. In terms of rich lacquered browned finish on the barrel, it probably only retains about 35%+, most of which is found behind the rear barrel band and in the last few inches closest to the muzzle. The area between the two bands, where the gun would regularly be handled, shows the least bright brown and the most thinning to the finish. The metal is mostly smooth with some evenly distributed oxidized freckling and age discoloration scattered along the barrel, most obviously in the areas of thinner finish. The thinning areas range from a grayish brown patina in the thinnest areas to a medium brown turning plum in the areas with less thinning. There is more moderate scattered oxidized surface roughness at the last few inches of the barrel, nearest the muzzle. The muzzle shows moderate oxidation it its face as well. The .54 caliber rifled bore is in about FINE condition. It partly bright with excellent, crisp rifling and shows only some very lightly scattered pinpricking along the length of the bore, primarily in the grooves. There is also some old fouling in the grooves and a good scrubbing would likely improve the condition of the bore even more. The lock retains about 30%+ of its original vivid case coloring. Much of the finish on the lock has dulled and faded towards a dark, smoky gray patina, with some mottled blues, browns, and purples. All of the metal is smooth and virtually pit free, with only some very tiny, scattered areas of minor pinpricking, most of which is confined to the muzzle and the breech area. The action of the gun is mechanically excellent, and both the mule ear hammer and mechanized tape primer system are complete and function crisply, exactly as they should. The cam action breech lever functions perfectly as well and moves quite smoothly. The breech lever retains about 60%+ of its original dark oil quench blue-gray case coloring, with the loss due to fading, flaking, and handling at the contact points and edges. The lock plate is clearly marked in three horizontal lines:
The breech is clearly marked with the patentee’s name W JENKS in a single horizontal line, reading from the breech to the muzzle. The breech is then marked in four vertical lines:
The interior of the tape primer door is numbered 618, no doubt a Remington assembly number used to count the primer apparatuses and the carbines built and track patent payments to Edward Maynard. The inside of the breech lever is numbered 3 / 81, which is probably an assembly number as well, likely matching similar numbers concealed in the action or stock. The number may also be a means of tracking the number of Jenks actions produced for the purposes of paying patent royalties to William Jenks. All of the brass furniture has an attractive medium golden colored patina. The rear of the triggerguard tang, the buttplate tang, the forward edges of the barrel bands, the rear of the action and left barrel flat are all marked with a tiny version of the P inspectors’ mark found on the breech. The walnut stock rates FINE as well. It is full length, solid and free of any breaks or repairs. This stock remains fairly crisp throughout with strong edges at the barrel to stock junction. The stock shows the expected handling marks, bumps, and dings from service, use and storage. The left flat of the stock, opposite the lock, has nice, clear RP script inspectors’ cartouche. This is the mark of civilian arms inspector Richard Paine, who inspected Naval small arms from 1839 to 1848. Other than the scattered bumps and mars, the stock remains very nice and shows no signs of sanding or any kind of abuse, only legitimate use.
Overall, this is a very nice and quite attractive example of a scarce, Remington-Jenks Naval Carbine. Only 1,000 of these carbines were produced and most saw long term sea service, making it difficult to find fine condition examples. This is a nice, crisp example of a gun that is missing from even some of the most advanced Civil War carbine or Naval collections. This gun is 100% complete and correct and retains much of its original finish. This gun will be very nice addition to a serious Civil War naval or carbine display and is a gun that the new owner will certainly be proud of.