Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Ballard Military Rifle

Invented by Charles H Ballard of Worchester, Massachusetts and was issued US Patent #33631 in November of 1861.
That patent was the basis for his Civil War era military rifles and carbines. The Ballard Military Rifle was said to be one of the best single shot, self-contained cartridge rifles to see use during the course of the American Civil War.

Arms historian and author John McAulay, in his book Rifles of the US Army 1861-1906, referred to Ballard military rifles as “the most advanced single shot rifles to see service in the Civil War.”

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 desire 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. Ball & Williams of Worcester, MA, initially produced the rifles, with production running from 1862 to 1865. In 1863, due to the inability of Ball & Williams to produce enough guns to fill contract orders, Dwight, Chapman & Company of Bridgeport, CT began producing the rifles as well, and did so into 1864. War time production is believed(?) to be in the 20,300 to 22,000 range.
The rifles were all chambered for .46 rimfire, utilized a dropping block action, actuated by an under-lever that doubled as a trigger guard and pistol grip. The action dropped and tilted out of the way to allow the loading and unloading of the chamber.

All of the rifles were produced to use self-contained metallic rimfire cartridges. The fired cartridges were ejected with a manually operated extractor. A short lever, 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 lever was released.
Some of Ballard's military rifles were manufactured with a dual ignition system, like the one pictured, that allowed the guns to fire both rimfire ammunition and allowing the arms to be ignited with percussion caps as well. The theory was that the spent rimfire cartridges, which were not reloadable, could be loaded manually with powder and a bullet, and then have a small hole drilled in the bottom of the casing, allowing ignition with the percussion cap; similar to the cartridges used by 1st and 2nd model Maynard carbines.