Wesson Carbine


Lloyd Sloan
December 16, 2004, 07:49 PM
Some months back I saw a Civil War era Wesson carbine on the American Rifleman TV show. It was on the too-brief "I Have This Old Gun" segment at the end of the program. The carbine has 2 triggers in tandem, in separate trigger guards, with the front one mounted immediately ahead of and somewhat higher than the rear. As (sadly) often happens in this segment, nothing was really discussed about this gun except it's market value. Questions such as caliber and operation - or even whether it's a muzzle loader or breech loading cartridge gun - were not even mentioned.

I'd like to know a little more about the thing, but my on-line research has revealed almost nothing. I haven't even found a picture of it, so my description is strictly from memory. It is, I believe, a break-open breech loader firing the .44 Spencer rimfire cartridge, but I've found so little info that I'm not even sure of this. Never was the 2-trigger & double trigger guard setup even mentioned, and it's really got my curiosity up. I can think of some possibilities, such as one trigger breaks the action, or maybe cocks the thing (though why this would be needed on an open hammer gun is beyond me), or maybe it's some kind of weird set trigger or even a safety (in the days of half-cock safeties?) None of these make a lot of sense to me, since there are better ways to do all of these things.

Can anybody clear this up? Thanks.

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Jim Watson
December 16, 2004, 08:30 PM
All I know is what is in Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms.

The Frank Wesson two-trigger rifles were made in five confusing variations from 1858 to 1888. Flayderman estimates 35,000+ produced, all types.

It is a tip-up opening single shot, the front "trigger" is the opening latch. Most of the first type were .44 rimfire. There were several different .44 rimfire cartridges in those days, but it would probably shoot the .44 Henry Flat round if in military use. (Spencers were .56, .52, and .50 cal, with a few .46 sporters, not .44)

Kittredge & Co supplied 151 Wesson .44s to the US Army right after Gettysburg in 1863 and more to state militias in and around Ohio. Naturally an authenticated military model would be worth a lot more than a commercial gun.

Sporting models were also made in .22, .32, and .38 rimfire. The third type came out in 1872 with a switchable firing pin to handle centerfire or rimfire.

Lloyd Sloan
December 17, 2004, 12:37 AM
Thanks, Jim, for the info. I don't know where my head was when I wrote ".44 Spencer". I meant to write "Henry", but apparently had my head buried in its usual place. (And I proof read that, too! Sigh.) I did know of the .56 Spencer, but didn't know it was made in other calibers, too.

Glad to have the front trigger function verified. That was really my first guess, but during the program they didn't go into function at all, not even to the extent of telling us whether it loaded from the front end or the back end. That's a really annoying trait of the "I Have This Old Gun" segment. The people are sitting at a table in a gun show, with the action sealed by a nylon strap. And apparently they have only one camera. So you never get a really good look at long guns, never get to see the action opened, and the talk usually just covers provenance (if it belonged to somebody famous, for instance) or fair market value. I'd really like to see them expand this segment a bit and do a better job of telling us about the guns. They really do get some good stuff there, and it deserves better treatment.

OK, I'll get down off my soap box now. Thanks again for the info, and for the prompt response. Both are much appreciated.

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