Frank Wesson’s Rimfire Carbine

First patented in 1859 and sold as a sporting rifle before the Civil War (in calibers 32, 38, and 41 rimfire), Frank Wesson added a military model with a 24 inch barrel and chambered for .44 Rimfire. His carbine was simple and efficient – although too simple and efficient for most troops to like. Distinctive for its dual triggers, the Frank Wesson carbine was a single shot rifle with a barrel that tipped up for loading when the front trigger was pressed (the rear trigger fired the weapon).

The carbine’s major shortcoming was its lack of an extractor – meaning that removing a fired case required prying with fingernail or a knife in the best case, and using a cleaning rod down the bore in the worst case. Despite this, Wesson did succeed in selling 4-5000 of his military pattern carbines to state militias including Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky (and a paltry 150  to the Federal government). They did see use through the Civil War, and Wesson continued to improve the design (by adding an extractor, among other changes) and selling it commercially until 1888. The carbines found their way out West, and were used by Indians and settlers alike, thanks to their rugged simplicity. 

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Hi guys thanks for tuning in to another Video on Forgotten weapons comm I’m Ian I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction company taking a look at some of The guns that they’re going to be Selling in their upcoming February of 2017 regional auction today we’re taking A look at a Civil War carbine made by Frank Wesson sorry uh Wesson yeah I’m Sure that’s the same as Smith and Wesson Right I mean we all know Smith and Wesson that this yeah that says Wesson Well it’s actually kind of how some of The success of this carbine came about This is actually a first type Frank Wesson carbine now Frank Wesson was in Fact the younger son of Daniel Wesson of The Smith & Wesson Company and even at This early date u.s. Civil War Smith & Wesson was a reasonably well recognized Name in firearms and they were Respectable and so when people heard About a Frank Wesson carbine a lot of People just kind of assumed oh well That’s Smith and Wesson and then assume That it’s probably pretty good because Smith & Wesson was pretty good in Reality well this wasn’t a bad gun but It certainly benefited from the Inadvertent mistaken identity with Smith & Wesson which was helped by the fact That Smith & Wesson did in fact make Ammunition for this gun so you could Have this carbine and have someone hand

You the carbine and then hand you a box Of shells and the box has this big clear Smith & Wesson legitimate Smith & Wesson Logo on it and kind of a natural Assumption that oh well it must be a Smith & Wesson carbine right now Frank Wesson actually patented this rifle in 1859 before the war and a second patent In 1862 and what he basically was Patenting was this you know he’s got These two trigger assemblies here and The front trigger actually opens the Barrel unlocks the gun the barrel pivots Open in fact we can just demonstrate That barrel breaks open for loading and Unloading close the barrel [ __ ] the Hammer all the way and then the rear Trigger drops the hammer now he had Manufactured these as sporting guns Before the war and he made them in what 30 to 38 and 41 caliber rimfire And seeing an opportunity for a Potential military contract he made this Version the military version a little Bit shorter barrel a 24 inch barrel in 44 rimfire which I should point out was Actually a 42 caliber cartridge a lot of Ammunition around this period and these Names often follow through to today the The brass case was the bore diameter and Then the bullet was actually seated Inside the case so the bullet was a Little bit smaller than the case leading To things like 32 caliber actually being

Point 3-1 44 caliber actually being Point four to that sort of Differentiation the ammunition for this Is actually the same as for the Ballard Carbines in 44 rimfire not the same as 44 Henry rimfire so he managed to sort Of get a military contract he sold all Of 150 of them to the United States Government but he also managed to sell Four to five thousand to a couple of Different state militias so these were Purchased and used by Kansas Missouri Kentucky and I believe Illinois who Purchased them and liked them and it’s Interesting that while in the United States Civil War the War Department was Really good about sticking to its proven Old-style infantry muzzle loader there Was a lot of experimentation with Breech-loading cavalry carbines the Cavalry service was able to get a lot of New designs of course during the Civil War every inventor who had any idea Which end the bullets came out of was Tinkering with gun designs to try and Get military contracts and while that Worked for a fair number of guys with Cavalry guns it never worked for pretty Much anyone for the infantry well it’s a Single-shot rimfire so it’s not going to Be all that difficult to operate we have A half [ __ ] notch front trigger pops the Barrel open this thing right here is Just a little nub on the side of the

Barrel that runs in this track that Prevents it from going any farther open And this load a cartridge close it pull The hammer back to full [ __ ] and then The rear trigger fire The gun that’s all there is to it There’s this interesting hook on the Back which seems to be for your small Finger I can’t imagine that being all That comfortable that’s a it’s kind of a Weird thing to me but hey there it is Small stock a pretty narrow buck light 44 rimfire wasn’t all that powerful of a Cartridge though so I’m sure that worked Adequately we have a rear sight here That can be flipped up or down The standard battle sight 0 there is 100 Yards and then we have 250 at the bottom Of this shield shaped opening and 500 at The top that’s used with this windage Adjustable front sight the markings on Here are bit worn but we have F wesson Patent He’s got the 1859 patent date on there And then the first batch of 2,000 of These were made in Worcester Massachusetts the second batch of about 3,000 were made for the Kittredge Company of Cincinnati and this is a Kitteridge gun Kittredge is the company That sold a lot of the militia purchased Rifles to the various states by the way It’s Indiana not Illinois I said Illinois accidentally earlier the

States that used these in the Civil War Were Indiana Kentucky Kansas and Missouri so it would really seem like a Gun that’s this handy this light this Simple would probably be pretty popular With the troops as a matter of fact it Was not this was a remarkably unpopular Gun with most troops and for one main Reason let’s put that there and pop the Barrel open take a look at the extractor Okay I guess it is in fact a trick Question There is no extractor once you fire this You would have to pry the case out if You’re really lucky you could just pull It out with a fingernail more likely You’d need to use a knife under the rim Of the case to pry it out of the chamber And if you got a particularly sticky one You’d have to find a cleaning rod Because there isn’t one Match to the carbine and knock the empty Case out from the muzzle so that was Really the killer for this in terms of Field use guys and clearly Understandably why guys did not like Having a gun that was that difficult to Reload so there are a lot of reports of Guys getting fed up and ditching these Things being happy to go to a Muzzleloader or anything else they could Get their hands on because even a muzzle Loader you could fire faster than a Rimfire carbine that you had to knock

The case out with a cleaning rod every Time so the this hollow section right Here is how the barrel actually locks in Place you can see a latch right down in There and when I pull the front trigger What I’m doing is pulling that latch Back that latch is what locks the barrel In the downward position and I should Point out when the hammer is down so When you’re firing or have fired the Hammer actually blocks that wedge from Opening so you can’t open the barrel When the Hammers down this means that it Can’t accidentally come open as a result Of recoil or pressure from the firing Process so an important relevant safety Feature there but no amount of safety Features is going to overcome the lack Of an extractor I should point out that The lack of an extractor was there not Because Frank Wesson was too dumb to Understand that extractors were useful But presumably as a way to reduce cost Of the guns during the war cost profit Margin and whether or not you could make The gun appealing to the military were All very relevant points when these were Sold to the US military they were sold At twenty three dollars apiece which is About the going rate for most other Carbines at the time Wesson probably had A pretty good profit margin on these Guns at that price now in subsequent Versions of this carbine developed for

The civilian market after the work he Did in fact add extractors so that made Them a lot more Lot more usable and popular at that Point in retrospect I find it really Interesting to look at just how light And handy a lot These Civil War cavalry carbines really Were this is a 5 and 3/4 pound rifle 24 Inch barrel but less than 6 pounds this Is pretty much lighter than any ar-15 You can make the lightest ARS short of Really ludicrous things come in at about 6 pounds and here we are in the Civil War granted it’s a single-shot rimfire Gun but same weight so very very handy Things to be running around on horseback With especially compared to the long and Rather heavy infantry rifles of the day Now and of course it’s also interesting To compare those huge menagerie of Different carbines from the period so if You would like to have this particular One maybe you’re really interested in in Obscure rimfires yourself or Civil War Firearms this is a civil war period Example these were manufactured actually Until all the way until 1888 when Frank Wesson’s company finally went out of Business and made funny made five Different variants of them this is one Of the first if you’d like to have it Take a look at the description text Below you’ll find a link there to the

Rock Island catalog page for this rifle Unlike many of the guns in this auction This is a rifle being sold just by Itself so you can take a look at rock Island’s pictures and price estimate and Description they’re on the website if You decide you’d like to place a bid on It you can do that right through their Website thanks for watching You

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