Sunday, March 24, 2013

Carbine triviata...

car·bine noun \ˈkär-ˌbēn, -ˌbīn\
1: a short-barreled lightweight firearm originally used by cavalry.
...
French carabine, from Middle French carabin carabineer First Known Use: 1592
From the earliest days of general-issue shoulder-fired firearms, it was quickly apparent that regular infantry arms were a little bulky to be lugged around on horseback by the cavalry, while pistols, although eminently portable and useful from horseback, had a hard time hitting targets much smaller than the proverbial broad side of a barn at any kind of distance, and thus was born the carbine.

By the late 19th Century,, the specialized bolt-action carbine was reaching something of a zenith, actually spawning several sub-variants.

Broadly, cavalry carbines tended to have sling hardware on the opposite side of the stock from the bolt handle, allowing the carbine to be slung securely diagonally across the back so it wouldn't be as likely to bounce off at a gallop. Since cavalry were still equipped with sabers and/or lances, cavalry carbines often had no bayonet lugs. Their bolt handles were almost always turned downwards, so as to make them less likely to snag on something while slung behind.

Carbines for engineers, mountain troops, artillery, bicyclists, and others tended to be much more like shortened infantry rifles (and sometimes were.) Sling loops tended to be in the regular place, and these carbines generally had a lug to take the standard bayonet and sometimes had a straight bolt handle like the longer infantry rifles.

The top carbine in the picture below is an Italian Moschetto Mo.91 per Truppe Speciali, made at the Brescia arsenal in 1917: It is a carbine version of the M1891 Carcano intended for special troops like artillery, engineers, and others. It has a tangent rear sight graduated from 600 to 1500 meters that folds forward into a recess cut in the wood handguard to expose a 300m fixed battle sight. If you look toward the toe of the stock, you can see a repair in the wood where the original bottom-mounted sling swivel was moved to the side during an arsenal refit at some time. The bayonet lug on the nose cap is also interesting, since it is oreinted side-to-side rather than fore-and-aft; the hole in the bayonet crossguard would be slipped over the muzzle, and then the bayonet would be rotated onto the lug until it latched. Note also that the 91 T.S. carbine has a cleaning rod threaded into the forend like the larger rifles do.

A pair of Carcano carbines.
The bottom carbine is a wartime Terni-manufactured Moschetto Mo.91/38 Cavalleria: A 1938 revision of the original Carcano cavalry carbine. These came from the factory with side-mounted sling loops and a rather flimsy folding bayonet that was about as confidence-inspiring as having a coat-hanger shank taped to the muzzle of your carbine when you were standing watch in a dark Libyan foxhole and there were Gurkhas in the wire. The '38 revision did away with adjustable rear sights entirely, substituting a fixed 200m notch.

Both carbines here fire the Italian 6.5x52mm Carcano round from 6-shot Mannlicher-style clips, the Carcano action being heavily cribbed from the German Gew.88. The 6.5 fired a heavy-for-caliber round-nosed projectile that had a disturbing tendency to travel in one side of an enemy and out the other without doing much damage in the middle, since its cylindrical dimensions made it extremely stable and not prone to yaw. Interestingly, the Carcano fired this bullet through a barrel with gain-twist rifling, which twisted progressively faster as it went toward the muzzle, at least until WWII production exigencies made them do away with this feature.

These handy little carbines are short and compact, even by modern standards.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

'Carbine' also originally meant a shoulder arm of smaller bore, not just a shorter barrel - a concept that still applies in terms of weapons like the M1 Carbine and today's pistol-calibre carbines.

Tam said...

"'Carbine' also originally meant a shoulder arm of smaller bore, not just a shorter barrel - a concept that still applies in terms of weapons like the M1 Carbine and today's pistol-calibre carbines."

Never heard it used that way nor read it defined that way.

And the "bore size" argument makes no sense with either the M1 or pistol-caliber carbines, both of which sport bore diameters equal to or larger than contemporary service arms.

Kristophr said...

I like the two-tone AR.

Does it come in White and Aquamarine? Yes, Aquamarine ...

That would match the Chevy Nomad I have yet to buy.

( Dammit ... I missed the Reagan and Bush years surplus rifle gravy train ... now I just get to drool )

Kristophr said...

Strange, Anon. My Trapdoor Springfield carbine in a full .45-70, would like to talk to you.

Tam said...

Kristophr,

I count five tones.

It will eventually be only one or two, when I get 'round to picking up some Krylon from Home Despot.

I'm not girly-girl enough to worry about whether my AR furniture matches my purse or not. ;)

Kristophr said...

Krylon makes me cry.

An I think I would actually like am aquamarine M-4gery.

My coyote tan Cav-arms is so 2000 and naughts.

Robin said...

I am with you, Tam, until the M1 Carbine came along, carbines in chamberings lighter than the infantry arm were really not found in military arms. And indeed, at the time, "carbine" was more of a compromise nomenclature for the M1 Carbine given the already existing submachine gun class that it more closely resembled but for the (later added) full auto feature.

Drang said...

Lauer Duracoat comes in Teal Blue. Also Goddess Purple, Barney Purple, OSHA Purple, Cavalry Arms Purple...

In a month or two we may have enough saved up that I can start building Mrs. Drang her M4gery, which will be Teal Blue.

Tam said...

Teal & salmon would match my old Suzuki... :D

Keith said...

I think the smaller bore carbines idea dates back to the muzzle loader days and was eventuality ditched in the name of ammunition standardization. Don't have a reference I can recall outside of "Total War: Empire" though.

akornzombie said...

I wonder what would happen if you loaded some spitzers instead of the traditional round nose bullets?

IIRC, the British did that with the .303 when the Hauge made them switch from hollowpoint ammo to solids.

Fred Simons said...

As for the Trapdoor Springfield rifle vice carbine: both could fire the same ammunition -but- the Army usually issued the cavalry a reduced-power cartridge (55 grains powder as opposed to the rifle's 70-grain powder charge)as the full-power cartridge's recoil was rather punishing when firing the lighter carbine.

JFM said...

When I was going to college I stumbled across a multi-volume set on the US cavalry equipment, uniforms & such, from pre colonial days to WWII. What I thought was cool was how the troops carried their carbines. Not on slings, as we know them, but on something more like a sword baldric. A 'D' or rectangular ring moved freely on the baldric and was clipped to the gun. This is supposed to have lasted past the Civil War. The book had illustrations of troops standing on the ground with their carbines at their right hips, but up and forward, muzzle down and to the rear. I was reminded of those charming photos of female IDF soldiers wearing their AR's in almost the same way.

J.R.Shirley said...

Your 1227 anonymous was semi right, he just got his terms wrong. Um, meaning he was entirely incorrect, come to think of it. (Since "bore" describes diameter, not power: PCCs are usually larger bore than rifles.)

"Carbine" can describe an abbreviated rifle and/or a less powerful one. This is why some people describe all AR15/M16-style rifles as "carbines", regardless of their barrel length.

staghounds said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
staghounds said...

Perhaps I can aida here, you're all a bit correct.

Sometimes in earlier days, rustic cavalrymen were armed with a weapon that was BOTH shorter AND smaller caliber than the standard infantry arm. The Brown Bess was give or take .75, while the carbine carried by the rose coated horseman was if I recall correctly .65 and proportionately lighter built.

Later, as bore diameter decreased, carbines were just smaller infantry rifles and often lighter charge paper or metallic cartridges were issued with them, as Mr. Simons points out. The U. S. was not the only country that did this.

My personal favorite special purpose carbines are the French Berthiers for cuirassiers. Different stocks to be fired while wearing armor.

Aggie said...

Tam, thank you for resuming your posts here!

Sigivald said...

What's the weight comparison between the M4gery and the Carcano?

I suspect the Italian Carbine is somewhat heavier...?

Tam said...

Good question. I'll have to find a scale, but if I had to guess, that M4gery, with a 12" rail, Aimpoint PRO, and Surefire Mini Scout light, is... maybe a pound or so heavier? I'm guessing the Carcano's somewhere in the 7#-7.5# range.

Sigivald said...

Pretty light!

I suppose it's even shorter than I'm used to an "old bolt-action carbine" being.

(Like an M44 at 9 pounds or so...)

Tam said...

The M44 is a pretty chunky little carbine, and that bulky bayonet setup doesn't help. ;)

A full-length Carcano M91 infantry rifle weighs a shade under nine pounds, IIRC.

Anonymous said...

Do you pronounce it Car-bean, or Car-bi(eye)ne? I understand this is a point of debate with no consensus.