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MODEL 1855 SPRINGFIELD PISTOL CARBINE w/ ORIGINAL SHOULDER STOCK – EXCELLENT SPECIMEN:  One of the most iconic of all US Military Arms, the unique design and brass mountings incorporated in the Model 1855 Springfield Pistol Carbine has elevated it through the years to one of the most sought after cavalry arms.  The short period of manufacture – 1855-1857 – coupled with a fairly limited reported production of 4,021, and the hard use to which they were subjected on the antebellum frontier and in the early years of the Civil War, resulted in a relatively low survival rate – particularly in the condition of this specimen.   

Introduced with the other shoulder arms of the same model year designation, and like the others, fitted with the innovative Maynard Tape Priming System, the Model 1855 Pistol Carbine shares a small stage as one of only three general issue pistols produced by the National Armory at Springfield (the Model 1817 and Model 1911 being the other two.)   

Intended to provide the mounted soldier with a pistol to deploy from the saddle, and a shoulder mounted carbine when he dismounted, the pistol and the butt stock were carried in a specially designed set of holsters which draped over the pommel of his saddle.  It is also known that these pistol carbines were issued in conjunction with the Colt Walker and/or Dragoon Revolvers, as sets of combination pommel holsters have been documented that provided a holster for each pistol and a third pocket for the shoulder stock.   

Issued on the pre-Civil War frontier to elements of the 1ST and 2ND Cavalry Regiments, the Pistol Carbine continued in service with the onset of the Civil War.  As reported in the Ordnance Department Return submitted by units in the Quarter ending December 31st, 1862, almost 400 of the Pistol Carbines were present in the inventories of such cavalry regiments as the 9TH Illinois, 1ST Indiana, 2ND Kansas, 5TH Kansas, 6TH Kansas, 4TH Missouri, 11Th New York, 1ST West Virginia, and the 2ND West Virginia.  As surviving examples typically exhibit evidence of moderate to heavy service use with  commensurate wear and aging, it is generally believed that nearly all of the Model 1855 Pistol Carbines were issued to soldiers on active service.   

While the muzzle loaded, single-shot feature of the Pistol Carbine would cause it to be eclipsed by the breech loading and repeating carbines that would emerge during the War, it has been suggested that the design was the inspiration for the detachable shoulder stock Samuel Colt introduced for the Model 1860 Army Pistol.   

A real pleasure to offer, this Model 1855 Percussion Pistol-Carbine has survived the passage of years in very good to excellent condition, and presents as a beautiful specimen.  The barrel is overall excellent with a bright smooth finish, no pitting at the breech as is normally found, and only a very few points of darkening – almost to the point of passing unnoticed.  The barrel date, 1855, is strong and legible as are the eagle and VP proof stamps.  The proper two leaf rear sight is present and complete, with all of the range indicators legible and the original bright armory blued finish intact.  The rifling in the bore is very strong throughout with only minor scattered darkened patches, and no significant pitting.  The lock is complete with a fully functional Maynard Tape Priming mechanism with all of the internal workings present and intact.  The lock plate is legibly dated 1856 – I have researched examples of these Pistol Carbines which have been offered in the last eight years or so to determine what frequency the barrel and lock dates did, or did not, match.  Of those sets I examined, fifty percent were dated as this one is – 1855 on the barrel and 1856 on the lock – so apparently this combination of dates was not unusual.  Both the eagle on the primer door and the “U.S. SPRINGFIELD” on the forward face of the lock are likewise very strongly struck and legible.   The lock action is crisp with no play and as noted above, the priming system functions properly with the draw of the hammer to full cock.  The original captured ramrod is full length and like the balance of the pistol, has a clear bright finish.

The pistol stock has aged very nicely, retaining a beautiful, rich color and showing very little evidence of use save for the normal handling marks.  The stock is full form with no significant damage.  The left flat of the stock has the vestiges of what appears to be a “US” stamp immediately behind the forward lock screw head and centered on the flat is stamped “20”, a unit inventory stamp.  The barrel and ramrod channels retain their full profile with no splits or chips along the edges.  There is a very small age check in the left side of the stock leading from the top lock screw washer to the edge of the barrel channel – a common result of aging and completely stable in this case.  There is a small chip at the bottom edge of the left side of the grip where the edge of the wood meets the butt cap.

Model 1855 Pistol-Carbine butt caps and shoulder stocks are known to have been stamped with assembly numbers from 1-20, although in reality the numbers rarely match on surviving sets, and matching sets likely did not survive their initial issue to the soldiers.  The butt cap on this pistol is stamped “2” and the underside of the brass yoke on the butt stock is stamped “6”.   The top tang of the butt plate is legibly stamped "U.S.".  All of the brass furniture on both the pistol and the butt plate has a very pleasant unpolished patina. 

The butt stock is in excellent condition with only the expected minor handling marks with no cracks, splits or other significant damage.  The pistol stock and detachable stock have a matching color and patina, appearing to have been a mated set for some time.  The two pieces fit together well, the clamping device engaging the mortise on the pistol’s back strap properly, and the set tightens up with no more than the normally encountered play.  The edges of the butt stock’s brass yoke have marked the pistol stock on either side of the backstrap and these marks mate perfectly to the edges of the yoke – again evidence that this is a matched set. 

This is truly an exceptional example of the distinctive and very desirable Model 1855 Pistol Carbine, complete with all the original components and fully functional.  A remarkable piece in that it was able to survive the years in this condition and the sort of investment grade product of the Springfield Armory that will be a key addition to any collection.  SOLD



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