Merrill-Jenks Navy Carbine Conversion

James Merrill was a Baltimore inventor and businessman who patented an improvement to the Jenks pattern carbine in 1858. His idea was for an improved locking lever for the gun, which would also allow the use on paper or linen cartridges instead of loose ball and powder. He demonstrated the improvement at the Washington Navy Yard in 1858, and received a contract to convert 300 of the Navy Jenks carbines to his new system.

He did so, and had his guns almost immediately returned to him, as the springs in the lever latch were apparently too weak. He fixed this problem, but only submitted 240 carbines back to the Navy (the reason for the 60-gun loss is unknown). He received no further orders, but he did produce a new-manufacture carbine using the same patent which he sold to the Army during the Civil War.

Cool Forgotten Weapons merch!

If you enjoy Forgotten Weapons, check out its sister channel, InRangeTV!

Forgotten Weapons
6281 N Oracle #36270
Tucson, AZ 85704

Hi guys thanks for tuning in another Video on forgotten weapons calm I’m here In McCallum and I’m here today at the Action company taking a look at some of They’re going to be selling in their Upcoming April of 2018 premiere firearms Auction and we have a really rare one Today this is a just prior to the Civil War conversion of a Jenks breech-loading Navy carbine now this is a conversion That was done by a gentleman by the name Of James Merrill he lived in Baltimore And he was both an inventor and a Businessman and the Merrill Arms Company Was responsible for a bunch of different Things for one thing he patented an Improvement to the Jencks carbine of Course the Jencks gun is what we looked At yesterday so if you haven’t seen that Video I would encourage you to go back And take a look at it that’s a really Cool carbine on its own but Merrill Thought he could improve on and was Probably right so in addition to that by The way he his business in Baltimore was Also him importer they were agents or Distributors retailers for Colt and Allen and Wheelock and some other Companies apparently he actually spent a Year working at the Russian sestri yet Scarce ’’’l the guy had been there and Done that he was an intelligent skilled And very successful inventor and Businessman anyway he thought he could

Improve on the jinx and so he patented This system in 1858 and that very same Year he presented the conversion to Officials at the Washington Navy Yard General Dahlgren in fact took a look at It Thought this actually has some potential And the Navy placed an order for 300 of The convert of the 300 converted Jenks Guns the Navy had enough of these Jencks Carbines sitting in storage that you Know they’ve handed 300 of them over to Merrill along with some money and he Came back shortly thereafter with Converted guns and the Navy immediately Returned them all because apparently the Spring that holds the locking lever Closed which you’ll see in just a moment Apparently that spring was too weak so He took the 300 guns back Fixed the spring and then ended up Returning 240 carbines which were then Duly accepted by the Navy back into Service and that was it so that can Version was I guess a little more Expensive than they really wanted or Didn’t turn out to be as necessary as They thought it would be or as useful For one thing we apparently nobody knows What happened to those extra 60 guns That were converted and then returned And then the 240 that’s a really small Orders these are really scarce guns Today so I have here in original Jencks

& merrill’s conversion thereof you can See that Merrill’s version of the gun is Really lacks that really felt elegant Style that the original had but he did Make a number of definite improvements To it so let’s take a look at those for One thing the meril carbine now has a Proper rear sight instead of just a kind Of a cut notching the back of the Loading lever and typical of carbines of This period it has three flip up a flip Up notches a 100-yard a 300 yard and a 500-yard The front sight stayed the same as on The original Jencks guns although it Looks like I think he actually made that A little bit narrower which is probably A good idea but it’s still one piece in The the front barrel band there maril Also converted the original sight hammer System to a more traditional top mounted Or vertically swinging hammer I don’t Know exactly why he had to do that but It is certainly more conventional and Then most substantially he changed up The locking system so on the original Gun it was really just pressure and a Little bit of a guard from hammer that Kept this lever down on Merrill’s Version we have a little spring-loaded Cat here that locks under the rear sight Block like that so to open it you pull That back lift up and open the breech The original jinx and Ames markings have

Been scrubbed off of the lock plates and Merrill added his own marking to the top Of the new locking lever JM Merrill Baltimore that would have originally Said and patent July that’s gonna be 1858 what Merrill Did was basically moved the loading Lever backwards in the action he sealed Up the hole in the the original loading Hole and now these were loaded right From the back and then of course he Added this more substantial locking System to the loading lever in fact if We look closely here you can actually See the original markings Jencks USN Right there that proper that proof mark In 1845 date and that is the plug where The original loading hole used to be he Sealed those up so presumably these were These modifications were made before They went in and opened up the loading Gate on the loading port on the Jencks Carbines in fact it may very well be That they ultimately decided that they Didn’t need to do this whole conversion They could just open up that port from a Circle into an oval and get the same Basic effect for a lot less cost however When this was done this had a profound Improvement in that you could now use it You can now use self-contained paper or Linen cartridges with it because you had The physical space to load a cartridge In here where that round loading gate

Didn’t give you enough space with that You were stuck with just drop in a round Ball and then tilt it down and then pour Some powder in and then close the breech Behind it and then of course when you Pull the lever forward it’s going to Press your self-contained cartridge all The way up into the chamber and then This locks nice and securely in place And then you’re ready to fire well he Didn’t get any real substantial order Beyond that first small batch of Conversions for the Navy maril would do A lot of business with the army or with The War Department during the Civil War He developed his own manufactured from The ground up version of this system Using the same basic patent and he would Market that to the army and sell I think Something like 15,000 carbines to the Army during the Civil War so well he Didn’t really hit it big with the Navy On this idea he did make his money Elsewhere Oh the Merrill Arms Company would Eventually survive until 1869 when it Went out of business a lot of gun Companies had trouble after the Civil War because there’s a huge glut of Firearms on the market and not a whole Lot of reason for people to be buying Expensive new guns when they could get Perfectly suitable surplus ones from the US government anyway with only 240 of

These ever actually accepted in the Service they are a quite remarkably rare Gun today if you’d like to add this one To your own collection it is coming up For sale here in the middle of April Take a look at the description text Below the video you’ll find a link there To rock island’s catalog page on this With their value estimate their photos Their description and everything else You might want to know about it thanks For watching

Learn More →