One of the breech loading carbines used in the Indian Mutiny by a British unit is the Westley Richards Monkey Tail Carbine of 1858. It was used by the 8th Hussars. It is concievable that some officers purchased them for private use. It was not oficially adopted by the Britsh army until 1861 as the rifle of the Cavalry. Certainly there could be other brands of breech loading carbines that could have been used. When the Napalese cach of Victorian guns and accessories was "discovered" at the Lagan Silekhana palace in Katmandu and nearby arsenals earlier this century, there was many Sharps breechloading rifles among the huge supply of Martinis, Sniders, Enfields and other British arms that dated from the early 19th century to the early 20th century. It was quite a surprise to find them as they were inventoried as Enfields. These Sharps were copies of the American gun by the Napalese gun making industry in the 1860's. Where the Napalese got the idea to produce a home grown sharps is a good question. They had to have an example to copy. The Sharps was a fine rifle, and private purchase for English officers is certainly possible, as has been stated in a web site posted in this topic, the Sharps was used by the British Cavalry in India on an experimental basis.
The Westley Richards Monkey Tail Carbine was short by the gun lengths of the day. With a twenty inch barrel on the early models and a projectile diamiter of .465 it was quite a different gun of its day. It fired a combustable cartridge like the Sharps. It has a 'pull bar' or lever behind the top of the breech that had a cord attached to a hole in the pull bar or lever. A soldier would pull the cord (or 'monkey tail') to open the breech and insert the combustible, probably paper cartridge containing both propellent and projectile. The breech was closed and a percussion cap was placed on the nipple and the gun was ready to fire. It was manufactured untill 1881 in different variants. That is a surprise in itself considering it was an old obsolete sytem with the adoption of the Snider in 1866. Twenty thousand of the rifles were produced for military use but i don't know if all were purchased by England.
For a great image of a Westley Richards Carbine, go to http://www.gregmartinauctions.com/aucti ... otID=33517
The example is an early model with a serial number of 84 and is probably a good representation of the gun used in india. If any private purchase carbins were used by officers, it would be this one. Westly Richards was a class act gun maker of sporting arms of good quality and fit and finish. It was and still is a premier gun and ammo supplier to the world. Certainly any Englishman with an interest in guns would know of Westley Richards and probably that strange new breechloader with the Monkey Tail cord at the top behind the lockplate. This was really a great British entry into the "Modern Era", (mid 1850's) of gun making achievment. I absolutly want one for my collection.
"Weapons of The Victorian Soldier"-Donald Featherstone
"Treasure Is Where You Find It"-Christian Cranmer
".577 Snider Enfield Rifles And Carbines"-Ian Skennerton
"The Westley Richards Web site" which is easy to find. It's not hiding from you.