The Gallager Carbine, designed by Mahlon J. Gallager and patented in 1860, was an American Civil War era breechloading carbine. Produced by Richardson and Overman of Philadelphia (through a Federal contract) the Gallager was one of the rarer firearms used in the conflict, with fewer than 23,000 purchased at the time.
The Gallager Carbine had a rather unusual breechloading design, using a modified version of the more typical lever-action mechanism to open the breech. As was the trend at the time, the lever effectively formed the trigger guard , and when pulled downwards slid the barrel forwards, before tiliting downwards. This then allowed the user to remove the spent cartridge (most commonly with a knife) and insert the new cartridge. The barrel was then pushed back into place, then locked when the lever was put into its upwards position, ready for firing.
Initially the Gallager was manufactured utilising a percussion lock mechanism, largely due to the fact that the quickest (and cheapest) cartridges to produce at the time were made of paper. This mechanism was not modified on later models, despite the use of metallic cartridges. Other features of the Gallager included iron fittings (ie the buttplate of the stock and patchbox) and a lack of a forestock.
The lack of a forestock is not that much of a suprise, however, as the shorter stock meant that the barrel could tilt once it had moved forwards (otherwise the barrel would have to have been allowed to move further to allow the user to load the new cartridge). Furthermore, because there was a lack of a forestock, the Gallager also lacked any form of barrel bands and also lacked the ability to have a bayonet mounted to it. The barrel itself had six grooves forming the rifling pattern and measured 22.25in (0.57m) in length.
As mentioned above, the Gallager Carbine fired both paper and metallic cartridges, both of which contained a .50in (12.7mm) calibre bullet. Despite using a percussion lock mechanism (which on other firearms would have been modified to fire the metallic cartridge as percussion caps wouldn't affect the rear of the cartridge at all), the Gallager design was unmodified.
The reason for this was thus: The cartridges specifically manufactured for the Gallager, while manufactured from brass, had a paper film at the base of cartridge. This gave each Gallager cartridge a distinctive doughnut shaped appearance (when viewed from the rear) and meant that the charge could be ignited via a percussion cap, as the explosion caused by the cap would burn through the paper, launching the bullet.
The Gallager Carbine was conceived in 1860 by Mahlon J. Gallager. Receiving his patent on the 17th of July 1860, Gallager submitted his design to military trials. The design was approved and Federal forces issued a contract for Richardson and Overman of Philadelphia to produce the carbine. This contract resulted in 22,728 Gallagers to be produced before the end of the American Civil War, which was more than some other breechloading rifles (such as the Joslyn Rifle or Starr Carbine) but no where near as many as the Springfield Model 1861 rifled musket (whose production passed over 1,000,000 during the conflict).
In actual use the Gallager was not particularly popular. Despite being well made and rarely had issues with the mechanisms it had been fitted with, shooters were often presented with difficulties with extracting a spent cartridge. As eluded to above, the Gallager lacked an extraction/ejector mechanism, requiring the shooter to remove the cartridge manually. Although this was typically done with a knife it did significantly slow the rate of fire of the Gallager, and made it less preferable for Cavalry to use, as reloading on horseback was difficult enough as it was, without the need to remove a hot cartridge as well.
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