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Updated on January 19, 2010
British No.5 MKI Lee-Enfield
      "Jungle Carbine"

The Carbine, or carabine, is a military firearm, similar to the rifle but shorter.

Early carbines were carried from a shoulder sling by a sliding ring and bar which allowed them to be aimed and fired without the danger of their being dropped.

The carbine came into use toward the end of the 16th century as a short musket designed principally for use by cavalry. Originally, a short-barreled musket or rifle used by cavalrymen for dismounted action. The last carbine of this type used by U.S. Army cavalry was the Krag-Jorgensen, used in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection.

It remained so until World War II and the Korean War, when carbine-type weapons were used as an infantry arm. A new type of carbine was introduced into the U.S. Army to provide a light, easily handled weapon with greater range than the pistol. This carbine served as an individual arm for officers, sergeants, crewmen of team-operated weapons, tankers, and paratroops.

Originally semiautomatic or self loading, later models were capable of either semiautomatic or fully automatic fire. Carbines were also used by British, German, Russian, and other troops in World War II.

The M-2 carbine weighed 5.2 pounds (2.4 kg) and was 35.6 inches (90 cm) long, and its effective range was 275 yards (251 meters). In the early 1960's the M-14 rifle replaced the carbine and several other types of U.S. Army infantry firearms.

It is fired from the shoulder. A cartridge of standard rifle caliber (diameter) but with a smaller propelling charge is used, resulting in lower muzzle velocity.

No carbines currently are standard in the U.S. armed forces. The design of military rifles is tending toward the short barrel of carbines, but the firepower of the rifle is kept by firing smaller bullets at high velocity. Hunting rifles of carbine size are generally used in country with heavy brush or by hunters on horseback.

Today the term carbine refers to shortened versions of military rifles.


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    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Another fine article about weapons, this time it is the carbine. I tried to relate the article to the museum pieces I have seen, that were used in the war that Chile fought against Bolivia and Peru, over the nitrates in the desert regions. This was about 1879. They are called by a similar word "carabina", but seem heavy and rather long. I know that in the national parades, there is always a troup dressed in the uniform and carrying the weapons of those days, and they say they can barely support the weight. The soldiers of then, marched across the desert, fully loaded! Naturally, the present army has modern weapons! Voted up and interesting