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GUNS Magazine Digital May 2011 - Page 28

HOLT BODINSON Civil War carbines typically sport a swivel base and ring (above) for cavalry carry. The receiver of the Fifth Model (below) was color case hardened. This odd breechloader saw widespread use during our Civil War. t’s the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of American I Civil War this year—a war marked by radical innovations in small arms and, in the war’s aftermath, the first great market in military surplus arms. This month we’ll take a look at one of the Civil War’s classic carbines. to Hall breechloaders in the field with their inherent problems of gas leakage between the barrel and breech, Burnside had a design in mind that would seal the barrel/breech joint with a unique cartridge case. He must have been a persuasive lieutenant because by July 1853 the Chief of Ordnance had approved Burnside’s request to have a working prototype of his design made by the Springfield Armory. Burnside was also a bit of an entrepreneur. With prototype in hand (for which he paid Springfield $29.19), he resigned his commission the same year, secured financing from his wife’s family, and with two partners, one of which was a prominent gunsmith, formed a firearms company in Bristol, R.I., soon to be named the Bristol Firearms Co. Fortunately for Burnside, the Ordnance Department had been appropriated $90,000 to buy breechloaders to replace the Hall, and he immediately submitted his design for the government trials. The results written in 1856 by Major Bell GeneraL Burnside’s LittLe CarBine He was a Civil War general, the first president of the National Rifle Association, the Governor and later a US Senator from Rhode Island and a successful businessman; but it was his invention, the .54-caliber Burnside carbine, for which Ambrose Everett Burnside will forever be remembered. By the end of the war, approximately 55,000 Burnside carbines had been placed into service. It was judged by the Union cavalry to be one of the best designs fielded. Yet, with the conclusion of the war and the appearance of the self-contained metallic cartridge, the production of the carbine abruptly ceased, and the Burnside Rifle Co. transformed itself into the Rhode Island Locomotive Works. Graduating from West Point in 1847, Lt. Burnside earned his bars in At 50 yards, the Burnside still can deliver a respectful level of accuracy. the Southwest and returned in 1852 to Fort Adams, R.I. with an Apache arrowhead permanently imbedded in his neck. Having been exposed Short, light and handy, the Burnside was a popular and widely used cavalry carbine. 28 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MAY 2011

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