Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Ballard Carbine

The Civil War era Ballard Carbine was invented by Charles H Ballard of Worchester, Massachusetts. His invention was issued US Patent #33631 in November of 1861. 
As Ballard was an inventor and not a manufacturer, he sought a way to market and sell his invention with an eye towards collecting patent royalties, instead of investing in a manufacturing facility to produce his guns. This lead to a partnership with New York sales agents Merwin & Bray, who represented Ballard’s invention, received contracts for his guns, and then subcontracted the production of the guns to other established arms makers. 
With the Civil War well under way in the winter of 1861-1862, Merwin & Bray found a ready market for the well designed, single shot rimfire carbines and rifles covered under Ballard’s patent. One of the negotiated manufacturing contracts was with Ball & Williams of Worchester, Massachusetts.

In its primary Civil War configuration, the Ballard was a single shot, breech loading, .44 RF (.44-33-250) carbine with a 22” half-octagon, half-round barrel. The gun used a simple dropping block action that was actuated by a combination trigger guard/under lever. The fired cartridges were ejected with a manually operated extractor. A short stud, under the forend was drawn backwards when the action was open, extracting the cartridge. The extractor was tensioned by a coil spring, which returned the extractor to its resting position when the stud was released. 
While most cavalry carbines of the era were produced with a sling bar and ring, the Ballard was manufactured with a pair of sling swivels, one on the single barrel band and one in the toe of the butt stock.
Some 6,600 .44 rimfire carbines were purchased for military service by the states of Kentucky and New York, with some also seeing service with Iowa cavalry regiments. An additional 1,500 military carbines were delivered to the US Ordnance Department.
The Dwight, Chapin & Company also produced an additional 1,000 Ballard carbines in .56-56 Spencer (.52 RF) plus a limited number of carbines with a unique Dual Ignition system that allowed them to be used as percussion arms if the rimfire ammunition was not available. These “dual ignition” carbines are very rare.

The US Ordnance Department started to sell off obsolete carbines within months of the end of the war. The first of the Federally purchased Ballard carbines were offered at public auction with a reserve price of $3.00 each, and did not sell. However, more than 400 Ballards were sold from the St. Louis Arsenal for between .75¢ and $3.00 each. Likely most of these saw usage during the post Civil War westward expansion. 
In October of 1871, Kentucky sent many of their state owned Ballard carbines to the New York Agency, where they were categorized as “100 New, 996 Cleaned & Repaired and 645 Unserviceable.” 
In 1901, there were still some 495 Ballard .44 carbines in inventory at the New York Agency, and in June of that year they were sold to Marcus Hartley & Co. for .86¢ each. Hartley owned a large chain of sporting goods stores as well as the Remington Arms Company.