This is a VERY GOOD+ condition example of the US M-1855 Pistol Carbine. The Pistol Carbine was a classic example of the pre-Civil War US Ordnance Department’s inability to be forward thinkers and look at current and emerging technology when it came to firearms design. Even though much more advanced breech loading carbines and revolvers were already in use by the US military, like the Jenks Naval Carbine, the Sharps carbine and Colt’s patent revolvers, the Ordnance Department chose a design that was clearly a step backwards “ a single shot, muzzle loading pistol carbine with a detachable shoulder stock. The end result was a weapon that was neither fish nor fowl “ an oversized and ungainly pistol or an overly short-barreled carbine with a shaky attachable stock. The Ordnance Department planned for the weapon to be issued to the cavalry and used as a pistol when mounted and a carbine when dismounted. The gun was carried in the typical pommel holsters of the day, with the pistol in one and the butt stock in the other. US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis approved the gun on July 5, 1855, along with the rest of the M-1855 family of firearms. Since the Federal Government operated on a fiscal year system, the gun was actually adopted 5 days into fiscal year 1856. This explains why Ordnance Department records show no deliveries in to store of M-1855 pistol carbines in 1855. The armories also maintained their records and booking keeping on a fiscal year basis, but dated their manufacturing (locks, barrels, etc) on a calendar year basis. The Springfield Armory delivered a total of 4,021 of the pistol carbines. In fiscal year 1856 a total of 2,710 were delivered into store and in fiscal year 1857 an additional 1,311 were delivered. The guns were far from successful in the field, and no further pistol-carbines were manufactured after fiscal year 1857. The Ordnance Department finally saw a glimpse of the future and proceeded to issue revolving pistols to the cavalry, and undertook additional trials of breech loading carbines.
The US M-1855 Pistol Carbine was just under 18” in overall length with a 12” .58 caliber barrel, rifled with three grooves. The gun used a reduced sized version of the Maynard automated “tape primer” lock that was also used on both the M-1855 Rifle and Rifle Musket. Like most arms produced at the National Armories during that time frame, the gun was polished to “National Armory Bright” and was mounted with brass furniture and a walnut stock. The butt of the pistol carbine had a large swivel ring, allowing either a lanyard or carbine sling to be attached. A sling swivel was also mounted on the bottom of the single brass barrel band. The pistol featured a captive ramrod that was retained by a swinging link system, similar to the pattern used on the US M-1842 pistol. A large iron front sight was installed very close to the muzzle and a multi-leaf rear sight was graduated for use at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. The 300-yard graduation was provided via a small peephole in the 400-yard leaf. The iron backstrap was cut to allow the attachment of a removable shoulder stock, which was typically numbered to the gun. The guns and stock were batch numbered from 1-20, with the number stamped into the top rear of the brass butt cap.
This particular US M-1855 Pistol Carbine is in VERY GOOD+ condition. The gun is 100% complete and correct, with the exception of the sling swivel on the brass barrel band, which is a more recent replacement. The gun has a medium pewter patina, and the metal of the barrel is mostly smooth, with only some scattered light patches of light peppering and pinpricking, mostly confined to the area around the breech of the pistol carbine. The top of the barrel tang is clearly dated 1855 and the left breech flat is marked with very crisp V / P / (EAGLE HED) proof and inspection marks. The lock has a slightly darker gray color than the barrel, and shows more pinpricking and peppering, as well as some minor pitting. The lock is dated 1856 in a single horizontal line behind the hammer, and forward of the tape primer door it is marked in two horizontal lines: U. S. / SPRINGFIELD. The tape primer door is marked with the usual spread-winged Springfield Eagle, with 5 arrows in one talon and olive branches in the other. The tape primer lock mechanism is complete and fully functional. The lock of the pistol carbine remains mechanically excellent and functions crisply on all positions. The original multi-leaf rear site is in place on the barrel tang, the original swivel ring is in place on the butt cap and the original captive ramrod is in place under the barrel. The bore of the pistol carbine is in VERY GOOD condition and is mostly bright, with strong rifling and scattered light pitting along its entire length. The brass furniture has a lovely medium mustard patina and is very attractive. The brass butt cap is marked with the batch number 7, indicating that it was intended to mate with butt stock number 7The walnut stock is in VERY GOOD condition as well. The stock is full-length and without any breaks or repairs. This is unusual for these carbines, as they are often found with broken or damaged stocks. There is one tiny stress crack running from the rear most lock mounting screw to the barrel channel, the result of the screw being over-tightened. The stock flat, opposite the lock, is marked with a script cartouche that is partially legible, and appears to read FL, although I’m not sure and I can find no record of an inspector with those initials, so I may be wrong in my interpretation. The stock retains decent edges, with some minor rounding at the stock flat. The stock shows the normal bumps and dings from use and handling, but no significant wear or issues.
Overall this is a much nicer example of the US M-1855 Pistol Carbine than is normally encountered on the market. Typically, when these relatively scarce guns are found for sale they are in fairly rough condition, or really fantastic condition. The rough guns normally have enough issues that most collectors avoid them and the very fine guns are normally priced in excess of $5,000, placing them out of reach of many collectors. This example really has no issues and is a nice, complete example, which displays very well. These unique guns fit into both the Civil War martial handgun and carbine collectors categories. They are also only the second handgun to be produced in any significant quantity at the Springfield Armory, with the earlier pistol being the M-1817 flintlock pistol. The US M-1855 Pistol Carbine was made in fairly limited quantities, making them relatively scarce on the collector market. This is a very nice example and it is priced in a very fair manner, making it accessible to most collectors.SOLD