Rare 1 of 250 Starr Carbines issued by British War Office.
This Starr breech loading carbine is an extraordinary find and will interest both collectors of US Civil War weapons and collectors of British weapons.
This is a British Military Starr Arms Co. Percussion Carbine, round blued sighted barrel fitted with rear-sight and stamped STARR ARMS CO YONKERS N.Y. and S.T.B. at the breech, steel action stamped STARRS PATENT SEPT 14TH 1858 steel barrel band and butt-plate, Walnut stock and fore-end, the stock stamped WD and is an extremely rare British military carbine.
The Starr carbine was a breech-loading single-shot rifle used by the United States Army. Designed in 1858, the Starr was primarily used by cavalry soldiers in the American Civil War.
In January 1858, Ebenezer Starr submitted his design for a single-shot, breech-loading rifle to the Washington Armory for evaluation. During testing, the rifle was noted to have no misfires, and its accuracy was considered better than average. Testers commented that if the gas seal could be improved, the weapon would be better than its rival, the Sharps carbine.
Interestingly, before the conclusion of the war, Starr successfully morphed their percussion model into a metallic cartridge carbine by changing out the breechblock, hammer and barrel.
Only five thousand of the new model Starr, chambered for the .56-50 Spencer rimfire cartridge, were ordered by the Ordnance Department, and many were issued to the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry in the spring of 1865.
Although the Starr carbine had proven to be effective during the Civil War, it was not successful during the trials of 1865 by the U.S. Army trials board, and no further rifles were ordered.
During the war, the Starr Arms Company had been the fifth largest supplier of carbines and the third largest supplier of .44 calibre single action pistols. After the war had ended, and
with no further government contracts, Starr could no longer compete with larger manufacturers like Winchester, Sharps, and Colt, and the company closed its doors in 1867.
At the end of the civil war manufacturers were desperate for new markets to maintain their business, some reverted to sporting arms and others to exporting but many failed as did Starr.
Immediately after the Civil War ended there was concerns raised in the USA that Great Britain may declare war on the USA as it had been supplying the Confederate South. Of course, this overlooked the fact that Great Britain had also supplied the Union forces, arms dealers weren’t too particular! Some 250-brand new Starr Carbines were ordered by the British Government and gifted to Canada as it was thought the USA might invade. Some returned to the United Kingdom and were listed in the Tower Stores. It could be speculated that had the British Government found favour with Starr and a number of other manufacturers they may have survived. At the time of this purchase Britain exported 5000 Snider rifles to Canada in clear support of our own industry and designs.
This particular carbine has not been messed with; it has definitely seen use but has not been “improved” in any way. The USA inspector’s cartouches are extant and clear as is the UK War Department broad arrow stamp on the butt. The first thing that disappears when woodwork is cleaned or sanded are the inspector’s cartouches but this rifle has not been touched and is in itself a historical time capsule.
The carbine is mechanically perfect with a good bore and good walnut stocks. Stamping of the company name and address and serial number is as it should be.
For the technically minded:
Year of Production: c.1865
Calibre .54 inches (14 mm)
Ammunition type: .56-50 Spencer Rimfire Cartridge
Length: 37.5 in (950 mm)
Barrel length: 21 in (530 mm)
Three position rear sight of a standing block and two folding leaves.
Weight 7.4 lbs.
Action: Falling block action
Feed system: Single Shot, breech-loading
The survival rate of these UK purchased carbines must be very low and I doubt if I will see another one. There was a plethora of designs of carbines trialled during the Civil War and they make an interesting study and basis for a collection. The extraordinary high prices being reached in the USA auctions for unusual weapons would put this carbine into investment quality.