What is a "saddle-ring" carbine, exactly?

Actually, I know what they are, I’m just confused about what the ring is for. Web searches aren’t helping me, because I’m getting conflicting results.

A columnist in a certain popular shooting magazine contends that the ring (specifically on the trapdoor Springfield cavalry carbine) is there to allow a cavalry trooper to affix his carbine to his saddle in some unspecified fashion. Somehow, this is supposed to keep the gun in a ready condition for action. At any rate, he claims that that is the basis for the “saddle ring” designation.

I’m not buying that.

Mid- to late- 19th Century U.S. Cavalry troopers rode McClellan saddles with knee scabbards for their weapons, so a saddle hardpoint would seem to be superfluous. I mean, really, is untying a carbine from a hardpoint and loading it any faster than pulling it from a knee scabbard and loading it?

My understanding of the derivation of the term was different.

There are examples of smoothbore wheelock carbines dating to the Thirty Years War with similar rings. They were evidently carried by dragoon formations, along with five or six pistols and a broadsword.

A dragoon would have pistols in holsters on his saddle and body, and at least one tucked in the top of his boot. Then there would be a broadsword hung from a baldric on his left hip, and a carbine hanging from another baldric on his right. So, a “saddle ring” would be something on a gun to be used by a man in a saddle.

It seems to me that, even as dumb as we are, that Americans couldn’t possibly have forgotten something so basic so quickly.

What was the ring really for?

For those interested, here is a good closeup of a saddle ring.

I had always thought that the ring was used to secure the weapon in rough conditions (fording rivers, rough terrain, etc.) when it was not expected to be needed, immediately. I have no citation for this, just an ancient memory that it was used somewhat the way a hammer thong on a holster kept a pistol in place.

Actually Q.E.D. that rifle is missing its saddle ring and just has the reciever stud the ring attaches to. This shows the same rifle, an 1892 Winchester, with the saddle ring intact.


Here’s the saddle ring on the Springfield trapdoor carbine that Exgineer was referring to.


I suspect that it’s to attach a lanyard, in case he drops it. A mounted man will not dive to the ground to retrieve his gun if he must suddenly let go of it. I’ve seen this done on pistols.

Trucido’s suggestion makes the most sense to me.

A lanyard or some other kind of strap for weapon-retention would be useful. But, we’re not getting to the question here.

What is the ring for?

The thing was designed into the carbine for a reason. Cavalry and dragoon equipment was desinged for a purpose. Sabers and broadswords were designed for seperate and distinct specific purposes, for crying out loud.

I don’t believe that for over three hundred years gun makers added a “feature” for a “just in case” scenario. Adding the rings had to have been expensive, especially early on. There must have been a reason for it.

I’d be willing to buy the “tradition” explanation. “We’ve always made 'em this way, why stop now?” It goes against the expense arguement, but there you are.

Is there any formal evidence that even suggests the purpose of these things?

A common thing in firearms. Old habits die hard.

I did a bit of asking around the cowboy action shooting board and found it’s used more like a lanyard on a handgun. Sorry I can’t find a picture but the ring attaches to a shoulder sling by a snap hook. If I can find a printed copy of the Dixie Gun Works catalog I’ll scan it.

I’d wager it was never used with lever action rifles but carbines have always had them by tradition.

:smiley: SASSnet to the rescue. You can’t see detail but it’s obvious how the rifle is hung from the leather shoulder sling.

With one tiny exception Winchester never got government contracts for carbines so the “saddle ring” was mostly an anachronism.

Cavalrymen armed with a carbine–a short musket or rifle that could be more easily used by a mounted trooper that the full sized job that could be five feet long–were also provided with a sling. The sling was a heavy leather belt that went over the left shoulder and draped at the right hip. On the sling was a snap swivel that fastened to a ring or bar on the left side of the carbine. This is the way a mounted soldier kept track of his carbine. Sometimes the saddle had a boot–a leather cylinder fastened to the girth on the right side of the horse-- into which the carbine could be slipped to take the weight off the trooper’s shoulder.

Most people don’t know about carbine slings because they were abandon when cavalry became mounted infantry at about the turn of the !9th-20th Centuries and because Hollywood didn’t issue them to John Wayne.

Winchester type lever action carbines have a ring, too. So did the Red Ryder BB gun. This seems to a matter of tradition although it does allow the carbine to be tied down or a lanyard looped over the saddle horn.

Ah, HAH!

Thanks guys.