Warner Carbine


The Warner carbine was another of the weapons used in small numbers by the Union cavalry during the Civil War. It is a pivoting breechblock action built on a brass frame. These carbines were made in two batches, known as the Greene and Springfield. The first guns were chambered for a proprietary .50 Warner cartridge, which was replaced with .56 Spencer in the later versions (for compatibility with other cavalry arms).

This particular Warner shows some interesting modification to its breechblock, which has been converted to use either rimfire or centerfire ammunition. This was not an uncommon modification for .56 Spencer weapons, as the centerfire type of Spencer ammunition could be reloaded (unlike the rimfire cartridges). With this modification, the firing pin can be switched from rimfire to centerfire position fairly easily.

[ Warner Carbine ] Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian, I am here again today at the Rock Island Auction House. I’m taking a look at some of the guns in their … September of 2015 Premier Auction. One of the ones I wanted to take a look at today is a Warner Springfield carbine. Now this is yet another of the seemingly endless variety of breech-loading carbines That were used by the US Cavalry during the Civil War. The infantry guys were for the most part stuck with old fashioned muzzleloading muskets. The Cavalry actually wound up adopting and using kind of a staggering variety Of brand-new high-tech breech-loading carbines, and the Warner here is one of them. Now this one’s a little bit unusual, compared to some others, In that there were two different versions of them made. The first one was the Warner Greene, which was made in Worcester. And these were made in a .50 calibre Warner cartridge. Warner, by the way, was a lifelong gun inventor, And dabbled with this sort of thing for many, many years. In 1864 he patented this basic design. And he managed to convince the Army to purchase 1,000 of them in early 1864. He followed that up with a second contract for another 500 of the guns. All of those early ones were made in Worcester, they’re marked Warner Greene, And they were chambered for the .50 calibre Warner cartridge. Which was pretty typical of the day, it was about like a 0.85 inch long, .50 calibre, rimfire cartridge. Nothing necessarily wrong with it, except that by the end of the war The Union was kind of trying to standardise on the Spencer cartridge. They had a lot of those guns, And a lot of the other small carbine manufacturers were starting to use it as well. So after that first 1,500 guns, the follow up production in 1865, Warner actually … built the new guns in .56 Spencer. Now when he made that change to the .56 Spencer cartridge, He changed a number of other elements in the design at the same time For the better, made a bunch of improvements to the gun. And the manufacturing location moved from Worcester to Springfield. So I want to bring the camera back here, and let’s take a look at some of the … design elements of this second pattern Warner Springfield carbine.

And I can tell you how they compared to the first one. So this is a second pattern gun, a Springfield manufactured one, as I mentioned. And if you look up the history, you’ll find that apparently these were eventually surplused By the military, and then resold by a commercial reseller to France. Now if we look up close on this one, you’ll see it actually has Belgian proof marks Here on the barrel and the breech block. That’s pretty cool, that suggests that this gun actually went over to Europe, And it was proofed as is legally required there. And then at some point it managed to find its way back into the United States. Now mechanically what we have here is a single-shot breech-loading carbine. So to open the action, we put the hammer at half-cock (where I already have it actually), We push down this lever, which … unlocks the breech. The breech simply pivots open, and you drop a cartridge right down into the barrel. … You then snap this shut. There is a little bevelled surface right here, So you don’t have to push the lever, you just smack that down. You would then bring the hammer back to full cock. Fire the gun, and then to empty it … Sorry, fire it. Then to unload, you pull the hammer back to half-cock again, Push the lever, pop this open. Now to extract the cartridge we have this spring-loaded extractor here. Which allows you to pop the empty case out. Flip it out of the gun, reload, and you’re ready to continue shooting. So a couple of the differences between this and the first model of the gun. The first model, the lock didn’t actually have this little lever, The lock on the breech was actually done by the hammer. So when the gun was ready to fire the breech block was locked by the hammer. That’s not necessarily an optimal situation, Because it means if you’ve got the hammer, say, at half-cock … the breech can simply flop open if you’re not careful, which can present some problems. The first model guns had a smaller extractor, It was enlarged to make it more effective at extracting. … Now these were all cavalry guns, so they all had sling rings on them.

The first model guns actually had a sling bar, across here, that this ring could travel on. And it was positioned such that it was possible To get the ring stuck underneath the handle of the breech block, and kind of lock it up. So they went to just a plain stud to prevent that from happening. Now lastly, and this is kind of interesting, It’s backward of what we would normally think of as an improvement. The first model guns had firing pin springs. In the second model they got rid of that, And put in a screw to control the forward travel of the firing pin. Now this particular example is somewhat unusual, in that it actually does have a firing pin spring. You can see it’s spring-loaded there. In addition this gun appears to have at some point been converted to centre fire. You can see someone has extended this firing pin slot Down into the centre of the breech block. But then it’s also been kind of patched back up, And the firing pin is in the proper location for a rimfire gun. So I suspect, like many breech loaders at the time, As centrefire cartridges became more easily available (and of course you can reload a centrefire cartridge), Many guns were converted so that you could actually interchange the firing pin, And use them with either rimfire or centrefire cartridges. I suspect at some point, probably during its time in Europe, this rifle was converted in that way. The rear sight here has a standard battle notch, And then it has three long range settings for 300, 500 and 800 yards. Those flip up like so. Some general statistics, Like most of the single-shot carbines these were very light and very handy guns. They are a total of just 6.75 pounds, with a 20 inch barrel, And a 37.5 inch overall length. So really handy guns to carry around, that’s for sure. Overall, these guns were frankly not well-liked by troops who used them. But this appears to be largely a case of having bad ammunition supplied. Huge numbers of problems with ammunition in these guns, problems extracting. Reportedly the guns were quite accurate when they shot reliably, But the cases would very often stick, you’d have to butt stroke the gun on the ground,

Or on a log in order to pop the empty case out. We would call that today mortar clearing. But it doesn’t appear to have been a problem with the gun, It seems to have been a problem with the ammunition, Which was manufactured by a less than totally reputable company. So interestingly, … the Springfield models like this one, When these were eventually surplused by the military, They were resold commercially to France where they were going to be used in the Franco-Prussian War. And the guns were ordered with ammunition. So about 2,400 were sold, and they were the later .56 Spencer calibre guns. The million rounds of ammunition that were sold with them were actually .50 Warner cartridges, Which were kind of useless, and … didn’t work in the .56 calibre chambers. So not sure if the retailer knew that, Certainly the French buyers didn’t realise that when they were placing the order. When they discovered it, I’m sure there were some unpleasant conversations. Ultimately the French ended up just kind of leaving them lying around Because they weren’t of much use, and eventually surplusing them. Again with a whole bunch of unusable .50 Warner ammunition. Thanks for watching guys, I hope you enjoyed the video. As always, this gun is coming up for sale here at Rock Island. So if you’d like to add it to your own collection, Maybe you don’t have a brass-framed .56 Spencer breech-loading carbine, And I don’t know how you could survive without one. At any rate, if you take a look at the link in the description text below, That’ll take you to Rock Island’s catalogue page for this carbine. Take a look at their pictures, their description, and if you decide you like what you see, You can create an account, place a bid online. Or come down here to the auction house and participate in person. Thanks for watching.


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