good question. The m-16 with a 20" barrel is called a rifle so why not your M-94? Don't know. Tradition I guess. I think the M-94 may be cataloged as a "carbine." Some things are hard to define precisely ("I can't define obscenity, but I know it when I see it.")
In the days of lever actions, a carbine was for horseback use. They usually had 20 inch or less barrels and a saddle ring to tie a lanyard to in case you dropped it. A Rifle had, often (Military) a bayonet lug and stacking swivels. Civilians rifles had less handy takedown of the forend and no barrel bands, were longer and heavier, and had better sights. Yes you have to jack all the rounds through the chamber and out to empty it..The Uberti "Short Rifle" is not an authentic repro, but gives a nicer stock and buttplate to the shorter gun..
Carbines have barrel bands and rifles do not; barrel length has nothing to do with it. This is the definition I have always heard and read when dealing with Winchester collectors and lever action rifles.
Another definition I read years ago is that a carbine is a short rifle, meaning it must be a rifle caliber, a "Tanker Garand" would be a Carbine, the USM1 Carbine is NOT. It is really a 30 cal pistol cartridge, in power class. When the Winchester 73 was produced, the 44WCF (44-40) was considered a rifle cartridge, though it was low pressured enough to chamber in the Colt SAA. The Trapdoor Springfield Carbine IS a true carbine under that definition, as a 45-70 is surely a rifle class cartridge.
The story I've always heard was that cavalry needed a short rifle to use from horseback. Another requirement of the rifle was so that if the soldier (avg height I'm assuming) stood and held the rifle in one hand with the muzzle pointed at the ground, he could easily carry it without damaging the muzzle. This requirement was what dictated the barrel length.
With all the different opinions posted so far, I thought it might help to actually look up "carbine" in good old Webster's Dictionary. The ninth collegiate edition says that a carbine is "a rifle of shorter length and lighter ammunition than the standard rifle." This could explain why we have so many different definitions; it depends on what the "standard rifle" is for the make and model of firearm. The term originated in Middle French @ 1605 from the word "carabineer".
Lever action carbines, regardless of manufacturer, were typically offered with round barrels that were shorter than the rifles standard length. As previously stated bands were used to hold the forend and front magazine tube to the barrel.The exception was the 32-20 model 1873, and the 25-20 and 32-20 caliber model 1892 Winchesters.These guns had a forend retaining band with a dovetailed foreward magazine clamp. This was due to the smaller calibers' slimmer magazine tube. Marlin, Winchester, Savage, and others made carbines; they are commonly called saddle ring carbines. The ring on the receiver was intended to be used with a sling to assist in control of the gun while horseback. Carbines were available in the same calibers as rifles of the same manufacturers. My model 1886 Winchester 45-90 SRC is definitely not a smaller caliber gun. There are many variations in lengths, but, most carbines had 22" or shorter barrels. I hope that all this abbreviated info makes sense.
A rifle never becomes a carbine, no matter how short the barrel gets! There is a difference between a "short rifle" and a carbine.
A rifle usually has the forearm secured by a screw, and most lever action rifles also have a forearm cap.
A carbine never has a forearm cap, and is secured by one or more bands around the barrel and forearm, and the barrel-mag tube. Sporting carbines are similar to regular carbines, but only have one band around the barrel-forearm, and have a half magazine.
Hope this helps.
Caliber also has nothing to do with the definition a "carbine."
1865 Spencer Carbine; caliber .56-50 Spencer Rimfire; 20" barrel
1866 Winchester "Yellowboy" Carbine; caliber .44 Henry Flat Rimfire; 22" barrel
1873 Winchester Saddle Ring Carbine; caliber 32 WCF, 38 WCF, 44 WCF; 20" barrel(standard) could be special ordered to any length
1873 Springfield Cavalry Carbine; caliber 45-70 Government; 22" barrel
1874 Sharps Cavalry Carbine; caliber 45-70 Government; 22" barrel
1892 Winchester SRC; caliber 25-20 WCF, 32-20 WCF, 38-40 WCF, 44-40 WCF; 20" Barrel(standard) could be special ordered to any length
1894 Winchester SRC; caliber 25-20 Winchester, 32 Win. Special, 30-30 Winchester, 32-40 Winchester, 38-55 Winchester; 20" barrel(standard) could be special ordered to any length
M1 Carbine; caliber .30 Carbine; 18" barrel
The actions are also different. There were lever actions, single shots, bolt actions and semi-auto. I did not bother going back any further in time. There were many blackpowder carbines. So the actions, barrel lengths, and calibers are all different.
Does this put more mud in the water? This definition also muddies the water. :?
http://www.people.virginia.edu/~fke2d/firearms/ Carbine: Short shoulder arm, muzzle loading or breech loading; bolt action, lever action, or autoloading. Usually uses a light cartridge, smaller than a full size rifle cartridge. However, that differentiation blurs nowadays and some use quite heavy cartridges. Originally full wooden stock, but in some instances a folding metal butt stock: an example would be the M1 carbine with the paratroop butt stock. The carbine, more quickly cleared from a saddle holster, was developed as a horseman's weapon, a cavalry weapon, while the longer rifle was used by the infantry.
Putting together the good knowledge shared here, I'm beginning to think the term carbine is relative both to the type of rifle and the historical period--In the late 19th century when infantry rifles had barrels out to 28" and longer (lots of troops went into WWI with +50" overall rifles), a 22" barrel might easily classify as a carbine. Nowadays when a standard hunting bolt gun has a 24" barrel, then a carbine tends to have a barrel more like 18" or shorter. To me, the M-16 was obviously a carbine length compared to the M14, but now even the M-16 has a CAR "carbine" version. Doesn't make the original M-16 a "rifle" necissarily but continues the trend toward shorter rifles and carbines.
Well, I would say since this a lever action forum. The carbine was designed to quickly clear a saddle holster/scabbard. Since it was developed as a horseman's weapon, a cavalry weapon, a saddle ring was installed. The manufactures at that time were trying to win a military contract. So they developed their weapons to fill the need of the military. But they also new their was a market in the civilian world. Back then the horse was the main form of transportation.
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