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NAT’L – HUNTING – Shooting the Breeze: The carbine

The idea of a shorter, handier rifle is not a new one. Even in the very early days of muzzleloading firearms, the horse-mounted cavalry discovered early on just how difficult it was to manage the typically longer arms of the day from horseback. Not only were they slower to shoulder and shoot, but reloading from the muzzle end made it that much more problematic. When breechloaders became available, first utilizing paper cartridges and later metallic case cartridges, cavalry units swooned. The military weren’t the only ones to take advantage of the shorter, lighter guns. Cowboys, lawmen, the good, bad and indifferent were also quick to realize the value of a firearm that was easier to carry and wield. The military and sporting carbines, which emerged from the likes of Spencer, Sharps, Springfield and Winchester, became instant favorites due to their portability and increased firepower. Civilians kept their repeaters in a saddle scabbard, which made for a quicker draw at a moment’s notice. Cavalry men carried their Springfields on the end of a sling attached to the saddle ring. The sling was worn across the chest like a bandolier and the gun would hang at waist level, where it could be brought to bear without having to untangle oneself from the sling. And if the trooper’s horse was taken down in a skirmish, he could jump free of the wreck taking his rifle with him while leaving both hands free to break the fall. Fast forward to modern day, that idea still isn’t without merit. Although horses are no longer the primary method of transportation, the close quarters of a vehicle can present compelling arguments in favor of a shorter barrel.  [full article]

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