View Full Version : Model 1855 .58 Cal

October 1, 1999, 04:58 PM
Dear Harley & All,
I moderate a message board for Antiques and Collectibles and received this question, "Model 1855 Pistol-Carbine 58 Cal. With attachable stock to be used as a pistol or rifle. 4021 made by 1862 only 400 on record in the field. How many in circulation now and potential value???"
The writer is a bit tacit but I find myself wondering about this weapon. Can someone help me answer this guys question and satisfy my curiousity?
Thank you in advance.

Harley Nolden
October 1, 1999, 06:12 PM
Who is the mfg'r


October 1, 1999, 10:06 PM
sorry about that hjn, not alot of sleep lately. The question was posted under U.S. Springfield. I hope that helps.

Yours, blake7

Harley Nolden
October 2, 1999, 07:30 AM
I don't have it. Sorry


James K
October 2, 1999, 11:44 AM
Hi, Blake7,

The Model 1855 pistol-carbine was made by Springfield Armory in 1855-1857. It had long been discontinued by 1862. The 4021 number is correct. Like the Model 1855 Rifle Musket, it had the Maynard tape primer, although it could be (and usually was) used with standard musket caps. It was intended for "dragoon" troops who rode horses to battle but, unlike cavalry, fought on foot. It was to be used as a pistol when the user was mounted, as a carbine when he was on foot. It, the Model 1817, and the Model 1911 were the only pistols ever made at Springfield. The original finish was "armory bright", again like the 1855 rifle musket.

There was a special cartridge issued which had (I think) a 40 grain charge instead of the musket's 60 grain. Even with 40 grains the recoil is significant, and even with the stock and the 12" barrel, the muzzle is not far enough from the face to avoid muzzle blast. (Yes, I have fired one, but not a lot, for the reasons given.)

In spite of the small number made, many survive in good condition as they were rarely issued in the Civil War and mostly escaped both heavy use and war damage. Flayderman gives a good condition price of $1200 and a fine condition price of $3700 for the gun alone. The separate prices for the shoulder stock alone are about the same.

Warning: These have been reproduced and shoulder stocks alone have been reproduced. Any would-be purchaser should examine an offered gun or stock very carefully.


James K
October 2, 1999, 12:04 PM
Hi folks, again.

Just a short note for fal308 and others.

Civil war era photos can't be trusted to provide a true picture of combat use. Most photos of soldiers were taken to be sent "home to the folks" to show them what a big bad soldier their little boy had become. Photographers set up shop near army posts for this purpose. Since soldiers (officers sometimes excepted) were prohibited from taking their actual issue arms off post, the photographers obliged by having an assortment of pistols, swords, muskets, and wicked-looking bowie knives on hand to give the young troop a suitably ferocious military appearance. Matthew Brady even carried around a couple of bright rifle muskets to place on dead bodies (some of them posed, and quite live, assistants) in his post-battle photos. The actual guns, of course, had long since been scrouged by the army that held the ground.


October 2, 1999, 12:05 PM
Sorry I can't directly answer your questions either but I did manage to come up with a little information on the weapon in question. From "An Introduction To Civil War Small Arms" by Earl J. Coates and Dean S. Thomas.
'Model 1855 Pistol-Carbine
Length: 28.2"
Weight: about 5 lbs
Caliber: .58
Bayonet: none
The model 1855 pistol-carbine was a single-shot, muzzleloading percussion handgun which was equipped with a separate shoulder stock. The stock, when attached by the soldier to the handgrip of the pistol, effectively converted the pistol to a carbine. By this means the arm could be fired from the shoulder, increasing its stability and accuracy. The pistol-carbine fired virtually the same ammunition as the 1855 rifle musket. Like the rifle musket, it achieved ignition by the new Maynard tape primer. a total 4021 of these arms were produced by the Springfield Armory in 1855 and 1856.
The pistol-carbine was a well made weapon, but it had one serious flaw. It was obsolete from the time of its first production. The six-shot revolver manufactured by Colt Firearms spelled the doom of the single-shot pistol.
Most of the pistol-carbines were still in various arsenals in 1861. The arms shortage brought on by the war meant actual combat use of this weapon. An unknown quantity, but probably most of those manufactured, were used to arm early volunteers.'
There is also a photo of a pistol-carbine, and derrougatype (sp) of a soldier holding one in his hands (he also has two percussion repeating pistols in his belt) and a drawing of the bullet that is captioned 'the 450-grain bullet adopted in 1855 for the new pistol-carbine'
I can see this being given to early volunteers as no one would have wanted it after having been in battle. Scavenged repeaters would have been picked up while this would have been thrown down at the first opportunity.
Sorry I can't help with valuation though.

October 3, 1999, 08:16 AM
I know about the fallacy of Civil War photography. Just wanted to let them know of a couple of photos of the weapon in question. :)

James K
October 4, 1999, 04:13 PM
Hi, fal308,

Thought you might, as you sound like someone who has had some experience, but lot of people do jump to conclusions based on those studio portraits. There are, nonetheless, some real photos of combat troops with their weapons, but it is pretty easy to tell these from the "dear Mom" photos.