Original U.S. Civil War Fifth Model 1864 Burnside Saddle Ring Carbine - Matching Serial 37236

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This Burnside Cavalry "Saddle-Ring" Carbine in .54 caliber is offered in excellent condition, and is most likely the best example that we have ever seen! It is marked on the frame, breech block, loading lever, and under the barrel with serial number 37236, which is in the middle of wartime production. Springfield Research records indicate serial number 37233 was delivered July 1864, and 37406 in August, so this was likely delivered around that time as well, with plenty of time to see service during the war.

This example, known as the "Fifth Model" or model of 1864, definitely looks to have seen extensive service during the war, and possibly afterwards. The saddle ring and bar are missing, looking to have been removed long ago, and the metalwork definitely shows sign of past oxidation and wear from cleaning. The stocks have been worn down from cleaning, removing all cartouches that would have been present.

The top of the frame is still faintly marked:

MARCH 25TH 1856.

The marking on the lock plate is also still fully legible, a rarity:


The "CAST STEEL 1862" marking in front of the sight is almost completely worn away, but traces can definitely still be seen. The metalwork has an overall peppered patina, which shows some of the "grain pattern" of the steel due to differential oxidation. It has been cleaned multiple times, showing past pitting scars in many areas, especially the butt plate.

The stocks have a lovely color, but are definitely worn down from use and cleaning, particularly near the butt plate, where the wood is far below the level of the plate. There are also some repairs on the fore stock, and the butt stock looks to have had a sling swivel installed on the bottom at one point, but that has been filled in with a wood graft.

In contrast to the exterior, the bore is actually in very good condition, with crisp lands and groove and a mostly bright finish. There are just a few areas of light oxidation visible in the grooves, making this one of the best bores we have ever seen on a Civil War carbine. The action cycles correctly, with a functional lock and tight mechanics. However, the small bolt on the right side of the receiver that prevents the breech block from swiveling incorrectly when open is missing, so sometimes it can get hung up.

A very nice service worn example of a Burnside Carbine, with a patina that is impossible to duplicate. Ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: c.1864
Caliber: .54"
Cartridge Type: Copper Casing or Tapered Foil Cartridge with Cap
Barrel Length: 21 Inches
Overall Length: 39 Inches
Action type: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Breech Loading Falling Hinged Block

History of the Burnside Carbine

The Burnside, one of the best carbines of the Civil War, was designed by one of its worst generals. Actually, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Everett Burnside had sold the interest in his breechloader well before the war started, so he was unencumbered with the need to further its development or, sadly, to reap the proceeds that would have resulted from its success as the conflict’s third most widely produced Federal carbine, after the Sharps and Spencer.

Burnside’s invention employed a rotating block, released by a loading lever that was activated by a hinged, clamping catch. It chambered a unique .54-cal. cone-shaped brass cartridge with a thick, rounded belt (there were also some earlier, coiled cases, sans belt) at its mouth and a small hole in the base that allowed ignition from a separate percussion cap. The round was loaded, base down, into the chamber. Next, the lever was closed and the block locked in place with the belt halfway between the chamber and barrel, providing an excellent seal.

After the carbine was fired, the lever was again lowered and the spent case easily removed from the block with one’s fingers. If extraction became difficult, it was possible to pull it out with the base of the next cartridge. After the soldier got the hang of it, a Burnside could easily be fired in excess of a dozen rounds a minute.

The Burnside Carbine (there were rifles, too) went through a considerable evolutionary process and provides a fertile area for the collector. About 300 First Models were produced by the Bristol Firearm Co. in Bristol, R.I., a manufacturer founded by Burnside himself. It was a .54 caliber with an overall length of 40 inches. First Models had no fore-stock and incorporated a unique side lever, which operated a tape primer and also locked the breech block in the open position. The carbine’s frame was case-hardened, and the barrel was blued.

Second Models did away with the side lever and tape primer, though they still had no fore-stock. Premier Second Models were made by the Bristol Firearm Co., though later ones were produced by the reorganized Burnside Rifle Co., in Providence, R.I. The Third Model, fitted with a fore-stock, was introduced in 1861 at the request of the U.S. Ordnance Dept.

A Fourth, and final, variant appeared toward the end of the Civil War. It had a double pivoting breech block to make the gun easier to open and close. Later on, a second type of Fourth Model (sometimes called “Fifth Model”) appeared with a screw in the right side of the action to prevent the block from dropping out of the action, thus speeding up loading. These guns will be seen with both blued and case-hardened frames. Markings on most Fourth Models are, “BURNSIDE’S PATENT/MODEL OF 1864,” though there are some examples with the earlier 1856 date. Also, deliveries of this model started in 1863, even though they had the 1864 markings.

Because they were made in large quantities and appeared toward the end of the Civil War, Fourth/Fifth Model Burnside Carbines are the least valuable of the various versions. Not too steep a price for one of the most important cavalry arms of one of America’s most important conflicts.

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