Contract Arms

The entrance to the Contract Arms area of the Civil War period

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

The emergency that confronted the nation with the onset of civil war overwhelmed the productive capability of Springfield Armory. The federal armories simply could not manufacture enough weapons to outfit the thousands of soldiers quickly filling the ranks of Union armies. This situation was worsened with the loss of the armory at Harpers Ferry. Outside help was needed, and the government procured the assistance of private manufacturers. Springfield Armory provided technical assistance so that these contract weapons essentially conformed to the “government model” of the .58 caliber rifle musket. These weapons, as opposed to the numerous pistols and carbines that were purchased on contract, differ basically only in the markings on their lockplates.


Civil War carbines used by federal cavalry

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Contract Carbines Rifle-muskets were not the only weapons in short supply during the Civil War and the government, as well as individuals, sought weapons where they could. One characteristic of these purchased weapons is their inventiveness. In the midst of conflict the government did not have the time to experiment with new weapons, essentially continuing the manufacture of rifle muskets that were the creation of more peaceful times. Private companies on the other hand, sought to expand their markets by improving their product. The result was variety, particularly in carbines.

Cosmopolitan Carbine .52 SPAR 1240

Sharps Carbine New Model 1859 .52 SPAR 7356

Gallager Carbine .50 SPAR 1242

Smith Carbine .50 SPAR 1243

Burnside Carbine 5th Model .54 SPAR 1244



Last updated: February 26, 2015

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