The US M1855 US Springfield Pistol Carbine was the last single-shot percussion handgun issued to the US military at a time when percussion revolvers were the standard of the day and metallic cartridge revolvers were beginning to emerge and 4,021 were manufactured from 1856-1858. The gun was just under 18” in overall length with a 12” .58 caliber barrel, rifled with three grooves. The gun used a reduced sized version of the Maynard automated “tape primer” lock like the M1855 Rifle and Rifle Musket. Although all previous single-shot pistols had utilized a round ball projectile, the new M1855 Pistol Carbine used the expanding base, .58 conical projectile used in the US M1855 Rifle, Rifle Musket and Carbine. The only substantial difference was a reduction in the powder load from 60 grains for the longarms to 40 grains for the pistol carbine. Like most arms produced at the National Armories during that time frame, the gun was polished to “National Armory Bright”. It was mounted with brass furniture and a walnut stock. The butt of the pistol carbine had a large swivel ring, allowing either a lanyard or carbine sling to be attached. A sling swivel was also mounted on the bottom of the single brass barrel band, as well as in the toe line of the detachable buttstock.
The pistol featured a captive ramrod that was retained by a swinging link system, similar to the pattern used on the US M1842 pistol and the earlier M1847 Cavalry Carbine. A large iron front sight was installed very close to the muzzle and a multi-leaf rear sight was graduated for use at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. The 300-yard graduation was provided via a small peephole in the 400-yard leaf. The iron backstrap was cut to allow the attachment of a removable shoulder stock, which was typically numbered to the gun. The guns and stock were batch numbered from 1-20, with the number stamped into the top rear of the brass butt cap and into the lower part of the buttstock’s brass yoke. It is also stamped, on the barrel, “F 15” and on the top of the buttplate, “B 5.” Other than missing the large lanyard ring on the bottom of the buttplate, it is complete, original and functional in all respects. The weapon exhibits normal age, use and storage wear and the wood is devoid of any breaks or chips. The grip area clearly shows a shoulder stock was used with the weapon for a long period of time.
This particular weapon, #9, is mated with stock #3. It bears the manufacturing date of 1856 on the lockplate and breech plug. Both the weapon and the stock are stamped “958” but what that number means is unclear—it could be the way it was put into surplus or storage at a later point in time or it might be an old collection or issue number. As of October 1860, some 3,022 of the M1855 Pistol Carbines were in storage at various arsenals, with only 992 being in the field. They were known issued to both cavalry and artillery troops well into the early Civil War years.
Additionally, the wood opposite the lock is carved “Dalt A”. Research indicates this is very likely the initials of Alexander Dalt who served in Company M and H of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery as a private from 1863-1865. After the Civil War, Dalt served in Utah repairing weapons for the US Indian Service (Goshoot and Weber Ute tribes) in 1866. Records and current research will be included with the weapon.