By 1855, the National Armory at Springfield, Mass., had received renown for manufacturing thousands of muskets and musketoons, but shorter shoulder arms, like carbines, had not been part of that impressive production line.
To rectify this oversight while meeting the unique needs of dragoons and other mounted units, Springfield Armory elected to produce a hybrid percussion arm-half-pistol and half-carbine. The Model 1855 Pistol-Carbine was one of the first Springfield arms to possess the .58-caliber bore that would be standardized for later legions of rifle-muskets turned out during the American Civil War.
Capable of being fired with or without its shoulder stock, the single-shot pistol-carbine could be wielded as a pistol on horseback and deployed as a carbine on foot. To aid in continuity of fire, the novel arm employed a Maynard self-priming mechanism in its lock plate, while a flip leaf rear sight offered quick sighting for ranges out to 400 yards. While just over 4,000 pistol-carbines were made at Springfield Armory, the desirability of a crossover handgun/carbine was not lost on nearby inventor Samuel Colt. Marketing variations of his six-shot Army, Navy and Dragoon revolvers fitted with similar shoulder stocks, Colt quickly eclipsed government pistol production with his repeating arms.
Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, February 2007