Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Gibbs Carbine

The Gibbs Carbine had its genesis as the invention of Lucius H. Gibbs, who was an inventor and gunsmith living in Oberlin, OH. 

Gibbs’ patent that applied to his Civil War carbine was #14057 and was issued on January 8, 1856. The patent was for a single shot, percussion breech loading arm.

Gibbs’ design was not particularly revolutionary, in the greater sense of “invention”, but was more of an “improvement” upon existing designs and was patented as such. The Gibbs system used a lever under the breech to push the barrel open from the breech face of the carbine and tilt it down for loading. The system is in fact very similar to that of the Gallager Carbine (which was patented in 1860), and the Gallager was likely heavily influenced by the existing Gibbs design. The Gibbs patent, was probably influenced by the patent for the Maynard Carbine (May 1851), where an under lever design unlaced the barrel from the breech face and tilted down for loading and unloading.
Gibbs contracted no fewer than four times before it went into production, he experienced major delays in manufacturing and finally in 1863 the Gibbs Carbine went into production by Marston’s Phoenix Armory of New York City.
Only 1,052 Gibbs carbines were manufactured prior to the destruction of the Phoenix Armory by fire during the New York draft riots of 1863.
All of these events combined to make the Gibbs one of the scarcest of the US contract Civil War carbines to see issue.
The government had contracted for a total of 10,000, but only the 1,052 were completed.
Gibbs carbines have been documented as being issued to the 13th and 16th New York Cavalry (who were issued 95 and 111 carbines respectively) and the 10th Missouri Cavalry (426), for a total confirmed issuance of 632. Others were likely issued as well, although the carbine was ill thought off in service, especially when compared to the Sharps and Spencer.