This is a VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT condition example of the Ball Carbine Combination Tool. The Ball Carbine was designed and patented by Albert Ball of Worchester, MA. Ball spent the 1850’s working for various Massachusetts based gunmakers, including Lucius Pond. Ball secured a patent for a breechloading, metallic cartridge carbine (#38,935) on June 23, 1863. The patent rights were subsequently purchased by E.G. Lamson of Windsor, VT, in order to produce the carbine. Lamson had been a principle of the firm Lamson, Goodnow & Yale (LG&Y), which had been organized in 1861 to produce rifle muskets on contract for the US government. Lamson, Goodnow & Yale had purchased the majority of the assets of the defunct Robbins & Lawrence Company (also of Windsor, VT), and as a result of the old Robbins & Lawrence P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket contract from the Crimean War, had all of the tooling and machinery necessary to produce that model of long arm. L.G.&Y. became one of three firms (including Colt & Amoskeag) to produce the “Special Model” M-1861 rifle musket for the US government, a sort of Enfield / Springfield hybrid that had many Enfield-style features and was easier to produce on the machinery they already had. In 1864 Goodnow & Yale left the firm, and Lamson took sole control. It was at this time that Lamson began to actively seek contracts to produce breechloading metallic cartridge carbines for the US military. In addition to purchasing Ball’s patent rights, Lamson also purchased the patent rights to the Palmer bolt-action carbine. Lamson managed to secure contracts to deliver 1,000 of each of the patent carbines. Although both were originally to be produced in .44RF, the US Ordnance Department changed the specification in mid-stream, requiring the guns to be manufactured in .50 Rim Fire Government. The newly adopted .50RF Gov’t cartridge (in actuality the improved 56-50 Spencer) was an attempt by the Ordnance Department to standardize the caliber of self-contained cartridge arms, and reduce the number of specialized cartridges in service. Two sample Ball carbines were delivered to the Ordnance Department on January 17, 1865. With Ball now working as Lamson’s superintendent, the company proceeded to manufacture 1,000 each of the Palmer and Ball designs. None of which would be delivered before the end of the American Civil War. The 1,000 contracted Ball carbines were all delivered on May 14, 1865, only 6 days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Of the total of 1,002 Ball carbines delivered, only the 2 sample carbines arrived prior to the end of the war. The Palmer carbines were delivered about 1 month later. The end of the Civil War meant that there would be no additional US military contracts for his designs, and that orders for martial arms were going to end abruptly. In 1868 Ball left the E.G. Lamson company (and the firearms industry) and went to work for the Sullivan Machinery Company of Claremont, NH. He lived until 1927 and received 135 design patents during his lifetime. The Ball Carbine represented a sort of “improved” Spencer carbine. The Ball design used a tubular magazine, as did the Spencer, but it was mounted under the barrel of the gun, instead of in the buttstock. The 7-round magazine was loaded through the action, which was opened by lowering the triggerguard. This allowed the insertion of cartridges directly into the magazine tube under the barrel. The magazine was tensioned by a long spring, which had to be compressed and retained to allow loading. This was accomplished by pulling a long rod, which resembled a cleaning rod, out from the forend of the carbine. When the rod was fully extended, the spring was compressed and was captured by a small catch at the end of the forend. Once the magazine was fully loaded, the catch was released and the spring tensioned the magazine to push the cartridges towards the action. Much like a Spencer, lowering the triggerguard opened the action, ejected a fired cartridge casing and allowed a fresh cartridge to be pushed onto the lifter. Closing the action chambered the round. As the action could only be opened when the carbine was cocked, it was now ready to fire. The Ball Carbine had a 20 ½” round barrel and a two piece walnut stock and forend. Like most cavalry carbines of the era, a sling bar and ring were mounted on the left side of the receiver. The barrel was blued and the receiver was case hardened, as were the triggerguard, hammer, and buttplate. The forend of the carbine was secured by a barrel band, about mid-way between the receiver and muzzle, and with a combination barrel band/end cap near the muzzle, which contained the magazine spring catch mechanism. The spring compression rod, which extends below the lower right side of the barrel was left “in the white” and was not finished.
The Ball Carbine Tool combination tool is one of the more interesting of the Civil War era gun tools. It incorporates a total of 5 screwdriver blades into a 2-piece, 4-arm too. The major axis of the tool body is about 3 ½” in length with two conventional screwdriver blades at the opposing ends of the arms. However, the wider blade has a unique, “half-moon” shaped projection on the outer side, near the end. This rounded blade is specially designed to release the front locking screw for the upper barrel band/nose cap of the carbine. This extra blade on the side of the tool is the “fifth” blade on the four bladed tool. A smaller arm, measuring slightly less than 2 ¼” long provides two fine detail screwdrivers. This short arm is secured to the middle of the primary arm with a rivet and can pivot as needed. Like the carbine, the tool is finished in a lovely, high-luster blue, and is very well made. This Ball Carbine Tool is in VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. It retains about 85%+ of its original, gorgeous, high luster blued finish. The primary loss are two spots where the smaller arm rubbed on the larger arm, with the two sides that contacted each other loosing some finish in that area. The edges of the tool remain extremely crisp and sharp with no wear or damage. The tool is completely free of any pitting or even pinpricking and is in fantastic condition. The small arm is securely attached by the rivet and remains somewhat stiff from lack of use. It will pivot, but does require some effort to do so.
Overall this is a really outstanding example of a very scare tool, of which only about 1,000 were manufactured. It will be a wonderful addition to the display of your Ball carbine and will also be a nice addition to any advanced collection of Civil War era gun tools. The price for the tool includes free USPS Priority Mail shipping within the Continental United States.
Please note that the images below are much larger than the actual tool. This allows you to see condition and details easily. The image to the left of this text is approximately the actual size of the tool.