GENERALLY: This action was the forerunner of the highly successful Peabody-Martini, and Peabody-Martini-Henry (Martini-Henry, or Martini for short) family of rifles. This under lever operated dropping block action was invented by Henry Peabody of Boston and patented in 1862. It is a very strong action, transferring the energy of firing to a pivot pin running through upper back corner of the breech block which prohibits premature opening of the action.
PHOTO: The rifle shown is a M1866 Peabody chambered for the .50-60 rimfire. (The .50-60 rimfire, or ".50-60 Peabody" is the same as the .50 Musket cartridge developed for the Springfield-Joslyn rifle, circa 1864.) The buttstock is marked CM (Canadian Militia) though others are reported to have been marked DC (Dominion of Canada).
DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS: The classic Peabody, this rifle was built with a back-action lock mounting an external manually cocked hammer and a very short combination trigger guard-breech operating lever. The essence of Peabody's patent was the operation of the action. Lowering the operating lever (pivoting it down and forward) lowers the front of the breech block as it pivots on a pin located through the upper back of the block. A loading groove in the top of the block allows a cartridge to be slid into the now exposed chamber and once seated, the operating lever is pulled back into position raising the face of the breech block against the back of the cartridge and chamber. Once in position, it is virtually impossible for the breech block to open until it is lowered by the operating lever.
The Canadian rifle is a musket length .50 caliber rimfire with likely a Canadian cartouche on the right buttstock. Left side of the receiver is marked with the Providence Tool Company manufacturing markings and the right side is marked with the Peabody patent markings.
MISC NOTES: Letter from a reader: Keith, (T)here are (at least) two variations of the Canadian Peabody rifle (in .50-60 rimfire). I have one with screw-retained barrel bands and one with spring-retained barrel bands. I have two references with photos of this Peabody--one shows springs and one shows screws. As you know, this was a 5,000-piece production run, of which Canada supposedly only accepted 3,000. I am trying to find out if these are early and late production variations or perhaps contract and non-contract variations. The last seems unlikely, however, as both of mine are CM marked for Canadian Militia use. -- Dave
KeithDoyon Notes: The CM markings are just that, the letters CM, plain and simple. Often, however, especially with Type II Snider-Enfield rifles shipped to Canada for Canadian Regular Army use, their stocks are marked <DC> for Dominion of Canada as such:
"Dominion of Canada" marking; this one An example of the "Canadian Militia" marking
found on a Canadian Snider-Enfield rifle. Found on a Canadian Peabody. It's not clear,
but the above markings are "CM"
I also received this letter...
Am also interested in Peabody and Peabody-Martini rifles. The most definitive work on military Peabodys that I'm aware is a monograph by Edward A. Hull called Providence Tool Co. Military Arms. Mr. Hull has done a fine job of researching the arms produced by the Providence Tool Company of Providence, RI. He describes each of the known Peabody models, including the Canadian, Swiss, Roumanian, and Spanish models. Although these guns were sold to states, countries, and governments other than those named, there are little differences in them that make them "models."
The principal characteristics Canadian model rifle, or musket, were as follows: 50-60 rimfire caliber, overall length of 54-3/4 in., barrel length of 36 in., forestock of 32-1/8 in. retained with three barrel bands, buttstock of 15-3/4 in., blued barrel, and casehardened receiver and furniture. The letters CM were stamped on the right side of the buttstock and the inspector cartouche DWB in and oval on the left wrist of the stock. The left side of the receiver was marked PEABODY'S PAT./JULY.22.1862 and the right side was marked MAN'F'D BY PROVIDENCE TOOL CO./PROV. R.I. Canada had contracted the Providence Tool Co. for 5000 of these arms, but only 3000 were delivered. As the first Peabodys produced, these guns were numbered between 0 and 5500. It seems that the Canadian militia was buying the Peabodys to guard against a possible invasion from the U.S., but they didn't pick up the option for the remaining 2000 and instead purchased Sniders from England.
From this information, it would appear that actually only the first 3000 guns made could actually be termed Canadian in the sense that they were actually shipped to Canada. The remaining Canadian model guns were sold off to other customers, either governments or private parties. Some were converted to sporting rifles and some were later converted to centerfire rifles.
I own a Canadian model Peabody action and close to 2/3 of a barrel. That is, the barrel has had about 13 inches lopped off of it and the Peabody forestock has been replaced with a shortened up Peabody-Martini forestock that's had its ramrod hole and frame extension plate neatly filled in with walnut patches. The stock and lockwork are from an old Enfield rifle of some sort that have been modified to fit the rear of the Peabody frame. I know that it's a Canadian model because it's serial numbered 18xx on both the front of the frame and the barrel and because it has the Peabody designation on the left side of the frame and the Providence Tool Co. marking on the right side, which only occurs on the Canadian model.
Actually, I'd like to restore at least the back half of this rifle to all Peabody. If you are aware of any spare Peabody parts or any parts guns that are reasonably priced, I like some info on them.
Hope that this sheds a little light on Canadian Peabodys for you. If you have any questions, drop me an e-mail. I have an e-mail address where I work also, and can be reached there as well. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Revised Feb 11, 2000