Jenks Naval Carbine

Texas Johnny

Jan 29, 2019
I was fortunate enough to acquire a Jenks carbine. William Jenks of South Carolina was one of the early developers of breech loading firearms and his design and patents led to several different carbines, some of which were used during the Civil War. Jenks’ first patent was in 1835 for .64 caliber smoothbore flintlock carbine. In 1841 Jenks switch the firing system from flintlock to a percussion system. Jenks’ carbine design was a bit different when compared to other breech loading firearms, having a sideways mounted percussion hammer mechanism. It was nicknamed the “Mule Ear” carbine because the percussion nipple is mounted on the right side of the gun as is the hammer and when fired the hammer swings sideways to strike the nipple. It was said to resemble a mule’s ear.

Jenks was able to secure a U.S. Navy contract in the summer of 1841 for 1,000 carbines. He contracted with the N. P. Ames Company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts to manufacture his carbines. A total of approximately 4,250 Jenks carbines were made by Ames from 1841 to 1846. The approximate six pound “Mule Ear” carbine was a single shot .54 caliber breech loading side hammered percussion firing carbine. It was loaded from the top of the breech which was opened by pulling up and back on a hooked handle. As the breech block was opened an internal bolt would be pulled back. It was originally designed to be loaded with loose powder and a ball.

My Jenks is marked “N. P. AMES” / “SPRINGFIELD” / “MASS” and “W JENKS” on the lock plate along with “W JENKS” (barely readable) / “USN”/ “R C” (stands for inspector Rufus Chandler) / “P” (Not sure what it stands for other than perhaps passed) / “1845” on the top of the breech. It also has a “R” stamped below the trigger guard. My Jenks has a 24½ inch rifled octagonal barrel with brass furniture, including two barrel bands. It has a round sling ring at the rear of the trigger guard.

For you Jenks carbine experts, I am interest in knowing more about William Jenks, but I can find very little on his life. He had another patent for a cotton hulling device, and he was living in Columbia, SC when both patents were issued. I also learned he eventually moved to New York state and worked for Remington Firearms. Any information on him would be welcomed, even his year of birth and date of death.

Another question is the “P” stamping on the barrel, I assume it is for passed, but I can’t seem to confirm that. I am also unsure of the meaning of the stamped “R”. One final question is the barrel, all of my resources state that the Jenks had a round barrel, but mine is octogonal. Any thoughts on that?








May 1, 2015
Upstate N.Y.
Some Info sources: American Rifleman April, 1969 // American Society of Arms Collectors on line " William Jenks and the Revenue Marine Service Contracts" // "Gun Reports" July, 1964, Aug., 1964, Sept., 1964, Oct., 1964, Nov., 1964, Dec., 1964. These are all on the Carbine. Dates of his birth and death are unknown as stated by Andrew Lustyin the writer of the Gun Reports article series.
Here is mine
Jenks Carbine 1843 (161)  #6.JPG


Jan 27, 2015
San Antonio, Texas
Awesome. Thank you for the pictures!

The earlier version of the Jenks that used a pre-measurement spout on a powder flask designed for the breech mechanism was used by the Texas Lone Star Republic. Always amazing that in the brief 9-year period of the Texas Republic's existence things military went from mostly single-shot muzzle-loading flintlock-ignition weapons to multi-shot weapons like Colt Paterson revolvers and carbines and breech-loaders like the Jenks and so on... Within 40 years of the Battle of the Alamo and the start of the cowboy cattle drives north to Kansas and elsewhere things had progressed to metallic cartridge breech-loaders and repeaters.

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