Author Topic: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine  (Read 666 times)

Offline DarkLord

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Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« on: May 05, 2022, 10:33:42 AM »
I'm always interested in the "why's" of history where guns are concerned.  100+ years ago, we didn't have the gun press we have today, so researching such stuff isn't easy...so I have a question?

I'm wondering why 2 our of every 3 lever action rifles from back in the day were rifle configuration rather than the carbine that everyone seems to prefer today (and since WW2)

I seem to recall from my youth the old timers felt a longer barrel gave you enough of a velocity increase to actually make a difference, making for a perceived longer range gun..  In the black powder era barrel length had a lot more effect on velocity than today's guns, so that makes sense...at least perception wise. 

The advantages of a 24" rifle over a 20" or shorter carbine are:
- Longer barrel would give higher velocities with black powder, probably more than 100fps from a .44 or .38 WCF
- Greater magazine capacity
- Longer sight radius which is nice for longer range shots. 
So this all adds up to a rifle that could have a perceived advantage in range, and firepower.

Was this the reason rifles like the 92 sold 3x as many 24" rifles than 20" carbines?  IIRC the numbers are about the same for the '66 & '73's.  Seems to me non-cowboys just felt the longer barrel and higher magazine capacity actually brought something to the table...or at least that was the perception.   

I always recall my grandfather told me that was the reason he bought a Winchester 94 rifle vs. the carbine in 1927.  So I wonder if his thinking was typical.  He was a gun owner, but not a gun nut like us, so I don't know how much he researched the issue, if at all. 

Offline DeaconKC

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2022, 10:55:28 AM »
I wonder if the advances in powders could have something to do with the barrel lengths as well. More efficient powders could give the same velocities in a handier length. Also, the extra ammo capacity could be a literal lifesaver on the frontier if under attack.
Also, I would venture that a good portion of today's guns are based on a 10 round capacity for Cowboy Action Shooting.
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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2022, 12:26:56 PM »
I'm thinking the advantages of the carbine over the rifle would be most important for the men who mainly carried them in saddle-scabbards on long rides.  The carbines are lighter so they won't tire the horses as much, and they are shorter so they will clear leather in a hurry faster.
I'm thinking "The Winchester Warriors" aka. the Texas Rangers, and other lawmen (and badmen).
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Offline Coffinmaker

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2022, 07:46:24 AM »

 :)  Actually  ;)

I don't have a clue.  WAG (Military Acronym for Wild Ass'd Guess) would be long guns of the era had traditionally been of longer barrels.

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Offline Sir Charles deMouton-Black

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2022, 01:31:11 PM »
Years ago, when I thought about buying an 1873, I heard that carbines were more numerous in the US and rifles in Canada. I eventually found a rifle, locally near Victoria BC, a rifle cut down by the original owner to 20 inches. After rebarreling it became my CAS long gun. fast, accurate and could carry a LOT of cartridges in the mag. I suspect the rule is as was set out above, carbines for riders and rifles for walkers.
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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #5 on: Today at 02:56:47 PM »

Offline DarkLord

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2022, 05:54:14 PM »
Seems to me that most of the buying public weren't cowboys, so the rifle made more sense.  They did "hit a little harder" and they held more rounds.  The perception that you could milk a little more range out of it was probably a big factor whether it makes any sense or not.  Back in the 1880's on into the depression, people did a good deal of hunting.  And 12-15 rounds of 44-40 or 38-40 was some serious firepower. 

Of course, the the cowboy and the lawman, handiness was more important than some perceived extra range "advantage". 

Offline Galloway

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2022, 11:59:04 PM »
Ever wonder if msgs just made what they wanted back in those days? Supply and demand is a lot more interactive today than it was 30 years ago i cant imagine back then. Look at the fixed sighted bisley numbers makes you go huh?

Offline Davem

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2022, 12:34:30 PM »
I have seldom if ever read of any period writings where anyone was much aware of foot pounds of energy, etc.  Word of mouth would say that the 44/40 will kill a whitetail deer, etc. but you needed a 45/70 for buffalo.  Off hand I would say that the longer barrel meant the magazine held more rounds and it helped you aim more accurately.

Offline Abilene

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2022, 01:06:02 PM »
I was not aware that Winchester made a lot more rifles than carbines, but that would help explain why you see a lot more original '92 rifles for sale than carbines.  I had thought that the movie and TV industries of the last century had just "used up" all the carbines, since that is almost all they used in those productions, and that could still be a factor.  My only '92 is a 32wcf carbine, but those would not have been used by TV or movies.

Offline Dave T

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2022, 01:09:50 PM »
When I first got into black powder cartridge shooting and CAS, I acquired an original '73 Winchester with a 28" round barrel. It needed a lot of work to get it functional again but eventually it turned into a fine shooting 44 WCF. I was younger, steadier, and had better eyesight back then but it seemed like I couldn't miss with that thing out to about 200 yards. If I could see it, and had a chance to adjust the elevation on the rear sight, I could hit it.

I now have a '73 Winchester (Miroku) 24" rifle. It's not the original and I ain't what I was back the either. It does seem very easy to hit targets out to at least 100 yards. The limiting factor now seems to be if I can see said target through the sights (LOL).

I may shortly have a Winchester (Miroku) saddle ring carbine in my possession. Having not previously owned a carbine version of the '73 I am curious to see how it shoots compared to it's longer brother - the rifle.

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #10 on: Today at 02:56:47 PM »

Offline greyhawk

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2022, 05:55:33 AM »
Boys I dont know how the old timers did it but many of them would have been familiar with longer heavier barrelled guns from the muzzleloader era - a 20 inch carbine woulda looked like a kids gun I bet.
Standing unsupported I do much better with a rifle length, with a bit of heft to it, if eyes are a bit dodgy that extra six or eight inches sight radius helps a lot also. If I had to make one offhand shot that really counted - I reckon it would be a tossup between my 40 inch barrel flintlock or my 1876 (28" tube).
Different story alltogether if we thrownin lead at twenty feet in the scrub or such.
I have a 92 with a 26 inch barrel - weighs just a tad over 7pound empty, its beautifully balanced for carrying, comes to the shoulder nice, long sight radius, magazine holds a couple extra, how much handier would a carbine be? nothing much in it I reckon unless a feller is stuck in the middle of a briar patch someplace and got the muzzle snagged, a rifle dont have to be heavy nor cumbersome.
just food for thought anyways   

Offline Cowtown

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2022, 09:54:32 AM »
My guess...

Folks "back then" with enough cash/gold/silver to buy a rifle were most likely limited to the availability on hand at their local store of which the selection was most likely very limited. In other words, they bought was was available regardless of barrel length.

Offline Galloway

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2022, 09:59:34 PM »
I second that! I doubt they knew or cared if they were buying a carbine, they just knew they wanted a winchester in 44.

Offline St. George

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2022, 09:42:54 AM »
Likely the big reason was that with a rifle - they could hit things regularly - with a carbine, that could drop off.

Not all were a Louis L'Amour character who could hit things with a Single Action Army at 200 yards in fading light and moving away - but then, no one was.

The rifle was a tool - like the long-barrelled shotgun was - it was depended on to bring home meat.

The carbine was more convenient for a riding man.

By the time the Silver Screen got up and running, more carbines showed up in saddle scabbards - in the movies, rifles were at the home place or in the chuck wagon - so the carbine became the go-to sidearm that folks wanted to believe in because they were what was seen - and 'everybody' knew that Hollywood was an accurate portrayal of the times.

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Offline DarkLord

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Re: Lever rifles back in the day, rifle vs. carbine
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2022, 05:41:18 PM »
I have always wondered why the Winchester 92 sold so well after the release of the '94.  Now clearly the '94 sold a good 6-7 to one, but even then I couldn't quite figure out why the 92 was still such a great seller.  And then I came across some ammunition catalogs from 1905...

The model 92 WCF cartridges sold for 40% less than the cartridges for the '94.  That's a big difference, it also explains why most '92's tend to look about 405 more worn than your average '94.

The .30 WCF just leaves all the old pistol cartridges in the dust...  But those "weak" pistol cartridges had proven themselves as capable of harvesting game at reasonable ranges, and a blue collar man could afford to learn how to shoot his '92 very well.

 

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