Smith Carbine
Smith Carbine
Country of origin

United States


Springfield Armory (Massachusetts), American Machine Works


Gilbert Smith

Year(s) designed


Production began


Weapon type



.50 Smith


Break action

Overall length

39.5in (1.00m)

Barrel length

21.6in (0.55m)


7.5lb (3.4kg)

Magazine/Cylinder capacity


Used by

Confederate States of America, United States of America

The Smith Carbine was an American Civil War era carbine, which used a breechloading mechanism. With 30,000 examples produced, the Smith has generated a large following, unlike other breechloading firearms of that era (such as the Maynard Carbine of Triplett & Scott Carbine) which were largely forgotten to history.

Design DetailsEdit

The Smith carbine was rather unique in terms of its operation, particularly as it used a break-action mechanism. Much like the mechanism found on the famed double-barrel shotgun, the barrel would be pulled downwards, allowing the spent cartridge to be removed and the new one loaded. The barrel would be locked and unlocked (to allow it to be pulled down) via a lever, located underneath the fore of the stock

Early examples of the Smith utilised the percussion lock mechanism, which required a percussion cap to be placed on the nipple (located at the rear of the receiver) to ignite the paper cartridge. This mechanism was modified when the .50 Smith cartridge became available (which was often made of rubber). Military examples of the Smith were also given an inspection hole, drilled on the left side (opposite to the percussion lock) of the receiver. 

The Smith was also given fairly similar fixtures and fittings to the majority of other firearms of the era. Parts such as the buttplate, barrel bands, saddle ring (and bar) barrel latch were all manufactured from iron. Likewise the barrel itself was manufactured from iron, while also having been cut with six grooves that formed the rifling pattern. The plate around the receiver was engraved with details about the Smith's manufacture and sale locations.


As mentioned previously, early Smith carbines were fitted with percussion lock mechanisms, and hence used paper cartridges. Although this mechanism was later modified to allow the Smith to use the .50 Smith cartridge, the calibre remained the same at .50in. Interestingly the .50 Smith cartridge was often made from rubber. 


The Smith carbine was one of the many breechloading carbines that were used during the American Civil War. Like its counterparts, the Maynard, Merrill, Triplett & Scott and Tarpley carbines (as well as many others), the Smith was overshadowed in the conflict by the mass produced Springfield Model 1861 rifled musket. As such these carbines largely fell to history, each of them having only ever been produced in numbers rarely exceeding 20,000.

The Smith, on the otherhand, has gained a following, particularly in recent years. The Navy Arms Smith Carbines are a series of replica/reproduction Smith carbines which have reignited the popularity in the Smith. In the American Civil War, the Smith had been wielded by members of both the Union and Confederacy, and hence many people across America see the Smith as part of their history. 

ResourcesEdit - Image Origin

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