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These little carbines are Civil War vintage, made in Worcester MA. Invented by Charles Ballard, they were manufactured by Ball and Williams. These rifles are very popular with the North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) for their carbine matches. The internals are high quality, well fitted and very functional. Easy to clean and maintain. This action was one of the most successful Civil War era breechloaders.

Originally chambered for .42 rimfire, these guns cannot be used until converted to a more modern cartridge. These are a natural for the .44-40, an old blackpowder centerfire shell, as it is a low pressure cartridge, and bullets and brass are readily available.


This is the substance of my conversion design: a firing pin, a return spring and a retaining screw. A special screwdriver bit is needed to span the firing pin. The breechblock is shown with the parts in sequence of assembly.


Two receivers of different manufacture, but of the same Ballard design. Note the pin under the forestock… a manual extractor.


The breech is opened by the lever, which makes the block drop, and slide backwards. I’d call this a ‘wedging style action’. You can only operate the extractor while the block is down. Pretty neat.


I will only perform this on safe and reliable actions in good condition. This conversion removes very little metal, so the breechblock strength is not compromised.


  1. This is a 4 year old post, I was wondering if you still did this kind of work on old ballards.

    • Mickey, I do this kind of work on occasion, but it’s rare that a Ballard suitable for conversion is found.

      The reasons why a Ballard isn’t suitable:
      1) frame is cracked at the rear of the breechblock recess- pretty common
      2) too early of a version with dual ignition
      3) an existing centerfire conversion where the block has had a lot of supporting metal removed.

      If your Ballard passes, it may be worth doing.

  2. If the rifle is suitable for conversion, in a kind of ball park guess how might this cost. I know you won’t tell me for sure how much. Just an estimate. Thank You

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