View Full Version : Ballard carbine identification help
August 17, 2011, 03:02 PM
My Dad gave me his Grandfathers .44 Henry Ballard Carbine many years ago.Over the years I have tried to nail down it's Mfg date and how it came to be in it's present state. This is a Merwin and Bray,New York. It is Nickled. It has a military tang sight. It has a military but plate and stock sling swivle.No sling swivle on the fore end.It has a globe front sight and a rear flip up leaf sight with a cut out. The barrel is round and the receiver is octogon.I think it a "Kentucky" type, but instead inhanced and sold on the civilian market.What do you think?
August 17, 2011, 06:48 PM
It sounds like a "sporterized" military. AFAIK, there were no military Ballards made with tang sights, they all had "L" sights. They also had swivels on both the foreend and buttstock, so if yours has only the stock swivel, it seems likely the foreend was changed or the swivel removed. Again AFAIK, the nickel plate is not original.
M&B were mainly agents. The CW guns were made by Ball & Williams 1862-1865. Serial numbers ranged from 1 to about 15,600, so with some extrapolation you can probably get a good idea of at least the year yours was made. There is some confusion because the Ballard is one of the few rifles/carbines used in the Civil War which was not only made for the civilian market before the war, but survived afterwards, being made by Marlin in one form or another up to 1891.
Is yours from the Kentucky contract? Unless it is marked "Kentucky", there would be no way to tell; the serial number ranges are known but they are only approximate and not exclusive. Was it a rifle or a carbine? Unless the barrel is original, I don't know how to tell.
For those who have not seen a Ballard, the breech system is unique, with a long and large breechblock that contains the hammer, mainspring and trigger. The extractor is operated by a fingerpiece under the foreend. The later Marlin Ballard has a similar but somewhat simplified breechblock and a more conventional extractor similar to that of the Remington rolling block.
August 18, 2011, 08:00 AM
Thanks for your response.Yes, "Merwin & Bray,Agnts,NewYork". Also,"Ball & Williams". Were the Kentucky's marked "Kentucky" or were they a serial number range? Did the entire run of 15,600 go to the military? Obviously this is a "sporter" version.My G-G-grandfather more that likely purchased this in St. Louis on his way to Calif. in 1868.
August 18, 2011, 01:14 PM
AFAIK, all those guns went to the US military or to Kentucky. There was no major Ballard civilian production until after the war, when the markings were different.
I am willing to be "eddikated" but I think your rifle is a military rifle or carbine that was worked over sometime after the war. There were three deliveries to Kentucky, 1000 in .44, range 7100-8500 in 1864; 3000 in .46, ranges between 9400 and 13100, and 600 assembled rifles from the Dwight, Chapin bankruptcy in 1864, serial numbers unknown. This info is from Flayderman's which has a lot of info on the Ballard (in the Marlin section). I suggest getting hold of that book. The Ballard is also covered in several books on CW arms.
FWIW, the two ordnance inspectors assigned to B&W were Moses Moulton (MM) and George Haines (GH) so those initials (unless removed) would definitely indicate a military carbine or rifle.
August 19, 2011, 10:06 PM
Jim, Ser no. 77XX. I see no "MM" or "GH" on exposed parts. I do see "62" stamped on hammer & lever assy. No Merrimack stamping but I'm leaning towards them.
August 20, 2011, 02:49 PM
I have never seen a Merrimack Ballard, but one should be stamped that way.
I feel that you are trying to read a bit too much into that rifle, trying to fit in into some category that it probably never was in. Consider that it might just have been a war surplus rifle "sporterized" by a gunsmith to make it a more usable hunting rifle.
St. Louis was the "Gateway to the West" and as those pioneers drove under the Gateway Arch ;), they often bought rifles they would need as they passed through "injun country". A number of gunsmiths flourished in St. Louis in those days; some built rifles, others sold new and surplus arms and modified the surplus guns to what they thought was needed. At a remove of 143 years, we can't know exactly and probably never will.
August 31, 2011, 06:26 PM
I beg you pardon! I am only trying to research my G-G-Grandfathers firearm. I am not trying to "read to much into it in any way". The reaserch is interesting. The ser. no. falls in the middle of the "Kentucky" Ballards. In The Ballard book, it is stated the 5000 Ballards were produced for civilian use. I will continue my research dispite your disparaging remarks.By the way there are no Merrimack Arms stampings on this firearm or are there any martial inspection stamping or cartouche.I thought that this forum might give me another piece for this puzzle. Thank you for all the input, I appreciate it.
August 31, 2011, 09:39 PM
My remarks were not intended to be disparaging and I am sorry to have offended you, but it was you who asked for info and what folks "think."
I am puzzled why, since you seem to know all about those rifles, you decided to ask for information at all. I gave you what info I have and told you what I thought. You keep insisting it is a "Kentucky", with apparently no evidence other than it is in a serial number range that is neither exclusive or all-inclusive. And it was you who brought up the Merrimack name, I didn't.
Good luck in your research.
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