Original U.S. Civil War Fifth Model 1864 Burnside Saddle Ring Cavalry Carbine - Matching Serial 17842

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This Burnside Cavalry Carbine in .54 caliber is offered in very good service used condition, having been lightly cleaned and wiped down by our antique gunsmiths. It is marked on the frame, breech block, loading lever, and under the barrel with serial number 17842, which is about halfway through of wartime production. Many internal components also have this number or shortened versions. Springfield Research records indicate serial numbers in this range were being delivered in mid 1864, however there are no blocks of serial numbers we can find that would indicate which unit it was sent to.

This example, known as the "Fifth Model" or model of 1864, is in very good service used condition, with very nice "broken in" wood stocks and an intact saddle ring, showing an overall oxidized patina on the metalwork. It does not show any real signs of major cleaning or restoration, so it is a nice honest used example, and the markings are still well preserved. The Burnside was one of several "capping breech loader" designs utilized by the Union Army during the war. The top of the frame is correctly marked:


The marking on the lock plate is also still legible with a magnifier:


The CAST-STEEL 1864 marking in front of the sight still mostly legible, a real rarity on these guns, as they were often mis-struck at the factory. The metalwork shows an overall oxidized patina, with some areas of light peppering, looking to have probably been stored in an attic without regular oiling for a period of time. The front and rear sights are both present and functional.

The stocks show wear and tear consistent with service during a war, but no major damage that we can see. There are small dents and dings as well as some small chunks missing, especially around the butt plate. The fore stock is in better shape, showing some scratches but no missing wood or cracks. The original stock cartouches are unfortunately worn away. The saddle bar and ring are in good shape, with no cracks or major damage visible. The fitting for the sling swivel on the butt stock is present, but the swivel itself has been removed, with the hole filled with a screw.

The bore is in good condition, still showing clear 5 groove rifling, but also overall fouling and oxidation, particularly in the grooves. It does not look like it was properly cleaned after the last firing, though we have not attempted to use any harsh solvents or cleaners on the bore. This condition is fairly typical for a "capping" breech loader from the days of black powder. The action cycles correctly, with a fully functional lock and tight mechanics. The small "guide screw" on the right side of the frame that allows the breech block more easily stay in place for reloading is still present on this example as well. There is even some of the original blued finish on the sides of the breech block mechanism, so it was well protected by being inside the receiver.

A very nice example of a Fifth Model Burnside Carbine with a lovely patina, ready to research and 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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