Shooting the Maynard Carbine

The Man Behind the Maynard Carbine

Dr. Edward Maynard was the inventor of the Tape Priming Mechanism that bears his name, and which is found on thousands of U.S. martial arms manufactured in the 1850's. Dr. Maynard was a prolific tinkerer in arms design, and the Maynard Carbine is a result of that inquisitive search. Maynard frequently assigned his patents to industrialists to manufacture, and collected a fee for use of his patent rights, and so it was with the carbine that bears his name.

The Maynard design was so simplistic and easy to manufacture and use that it lingered into the early 20th Century in target and gallery rifles in many popular calibers, and some collectors specialize in collecting just Maynard Rifles.

The Maynard Carbine

There were two models of Maynard Carbines manufactured by the Massachusetts Arms Co., Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts from 1858 until 1865. The First Model carried the famous Maynard Tape Priming device on all of the approximately 5,000 units produced in 35 and 50 caliber. Due to the need for carbines created by the War of Northern Aggression, the manufacturing time requirement was shortened considerably by the introduction of the Second Model Maynard Carbine, which did not incorporate the Maynard tape device. Most Maynards used in competition today are Second Model originals and reproductions. Indeed, in more than a decade of skirmishing experience and in observing more than 100 competitions, I have never witnessed a First Model Maynard Carbine in use on the line.

My own Maynard is a recent creation of a Harpers Ferry Arms Co. Second Model Maynard Carbine. According to skirmishing lore, this arm has a serious history behind it, centering on the arms approval processes in the N-SSA and personal differences between members which can escalate beyond reason, but the purpose of this discussion is to examine the performance of the weapon, not it's sordid past. Suffice it to say that the Harpers Ferry Arms Co. Second Model Maynard Carbine, as tested, has been resurrected from the parts bin of the previous proprietor of that manufactory, and has been available in limited supply since 1997. I procured mine from sutler Jerry Stone, an upstanding example of sutlerhood who frequents many skirmishes at Fort Shenandoah.

It shoots.

Make no doubt about it, this lightweight carbine throws a 515365 Rapine Smith bullet with deadly accuracy when properly feed. I can get two inch groups off the bench with several loads at 50 yards. The barrels for these carbines, I am told, were manufactured by Numrich for the original owner of the company. They are excellent barrels, and well worth the investment.

Most skirmishers that I talked to last year about shooting their Maynards all suggested loads in the 25 to 30 grain neighborhood, and almost all were shooting the Smith 515365 Rapine bullet. They all suggested hard lead as well. And they were right. My standard load for the Maynard, for Skirmishing purposes, is the 515365 flat- based Smith bullet on top of 25 grains of FFF powder in a brass reduced capacity Maynard cartridge, or 28 grains of FFF powder in a plastic Maynard case with the same bullet. These two loads shoot very well, the only adjustment being a slightly higher front sight picture when using the brass 25 grain load. Off a bench, both are delivering two-inch groups at 50 yards. Any problems I'm having with offhand groups is my fault, not the load's fault. The 25 grain FFF brass case load appears to be transportable, working as well in a fellow Carbine teammates Harpers Ferry Maynard as well as it does in mine. Loads with the plastic cases didn't perform equally in both examples. We hypothesized that the reason was headspace, but I'm not certain at this point. All I know is that the plastic case load that shot a two inch group in My Harpers Ferry Maynard shot a six inch group in his.

As much as I love my Burnside Carbines, I am really enjoying shooting the Maynard right now. They are simplistic in design, easy to maintain and clean, simple to operate and produce good results. A Maynard is an excellent choice for a youngster or lady skirmisher because of it's light weight and ease of operation. Supplies are readily available for the Maynard as well. You can get tubes and bullet molds from almost all Sutlers, which can be a concern with some other carbines. The availability of plastic cases, which cost 25% of what a brass tube cost, is also a great innovation. I got my plastic tubes for the Maynard from Larry Gollahon in Alexandria, KY (606-635-1915).

Larry also sells the latest Maynard recreation, a fabulous example of modern manufacturing created by Ramono Rifle Co. Ramono also makes excellent Spencer reproductions, which are museum quality crafted instruments, and the Ramono Maynard is no exception. The Ramono Maynard has exquisite case hardening on the frame, which is hand crafted from a solid chunk of 8620 steel. Ramono also offers a First Model Maynard reproduction, which will be a rare addition to reproduction armament. You can contact Larry Ramono directly at Ramono Rifle Co, 551 Stewarts Corner Road, Pennelville NY 13132. At last check, the Ramano Second Model Maynard Carbine was changing hands for about $1200, but if you saw one in person you would know it is worth it.

The last endorsement I can think of for the Maynard Carbine would be to attend the Carbine Team Medal ceremony at the end of a match. Check out how many of the winning teams are shooting Maynards exclusively!

The 1998 Snowball and Early Bird Skirmishes are history now, and we will be hitting the thick part of the schedule by the time you read this article. I had a great time at both skirmishes, and look forward to a good year in 1998. Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

1998 by Tom Kelley

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