Frank Wesson’s Rimfire Carbine (Video)

First patented in 1859 and sold as a sporting rifle before the Civil War (in calibers 32, 38, and 41 rimfire), Frank Wesson added a military model with a 24 inch barrel and chambered for .44 Rimfire. His carbine was simple and efficient – although too simple and efficient for most troops to like. Distinctive for its dual triggers, the Frank Wesson carbine was a single shot rifle with a barrel that tipped up for loading when the front trigger was pressed (the rear trigger fired the weapon).

The carbine’s major shortcoming was its lack of an extractor – meaning that removing a fired case required prying with fingernail or a knife in the best case, and using a cleaning rod down the bore in the worst case. Despite this, Wesson did succeed in selling 4-5000 of his military pattern carbines to state militias including Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky (and a paltry 150  to the Federal government). They did see use through the Civil War, and Wesson continued to improve the design (by adding an extractor, among other changes) and selling it commercially until 1888. The carbines found their way out West, and were used by Indians and settlers alike, thanks to their rugged simplicity.


    • Correct, no initial extraction. There was a relief on the side of the barrel, which helped grab the rim with the fingernails a little bit. But the sliding extractor on later models was a big improvement. I believe some would lick the side of the cartridge before firing, to allow their saliva to keep the cartridge from sticking as much. don’t know how effective that was.

    • It is a little confusing at first, I have a few times pulled pretty hard on the wrong trigger, waiting for it to fire. However, it was bought by a number of troopers who were at the time using Austrian carbines. The firing rate with the Wesson was significantly better.

  1. I have a couple modern rifles (H&R Handi-Rifles) that are even more simple than the Wesson, and you can easily change barrels on them, so for example for one receiver I have barrels in .223, .357 magnum, and 12 gauge. And they have extractor or extractor/ejector depending on the model.

    • I believe everything pre-war was Type 1, and lacked the extractor. The Type 2’s and following had the extractor on the right hand side, and the sliding link (which had been on the right) moved to the left side.

  2. I recently inherited a type 2 Wesson but it is missing the slide link,extractor ,and front sight. Does anyone know where or who can help me complete this piece of history?

  3. A couple thoughts on how to complete that rifle. It depends a little on how much you want to spend. There is nowhere I am aware of that sells or makes replacement parts. You can buy a beat up rifle, and swap the parts, probably. But I can’t guarantee that those parts will fit. How well they maintained consistency is a question that people can only guess at.

    If you want to go this route, for the extractor, you probably want to get the extractor for the correct caliber. Otherwise, it won’t be shaped to extract the right size shell. A gunsmith, and possibly a machinist could correct that for you. But it’s best if you just can buy the right part.

    For the front site, I assume this would be a simple blade, that fits in a dovetail. But if your rear site is a peep site, you can use the blade, or you can use one with a a bead front site that is hooded. Unless you are lucky, that hooded front site will be expensive. My rifle has the rear peep site, and the front blade, and that’s good enough for my eyes. If I’d got the hooded site, I might be a little happier, easier to site one circle inside the other.

    There are Frank Wesson rifles for sale somewhat frequently, but for some reason, right now the price seems to be high.

    Places that frequently have these are:
    Has four right now (all with 0 bids, so the price may go down)
    These are scheduled frequently, some are premier, some are more standard. When Frank Wesson’s are on the premier auction, they’ll be very nice and pricy. When they are on the standard auction, they’ll be more reasonable, and sometimes are almost ‘parts guns’
    Both of the above list items from multiple auction sites, so when a Frank Wesson is available somewhere, it also shows up here often. Might save some time.

    Good luck getting this rifle back to it’s near original. You didn’t mention serial number or caliber, but if you mention that, it might help with others comments. And by the way, you said you inherited it. Any idea how far back in your family or whatever it goes? Wish like mad I had one of Dad’s old guns.

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