A carbine from French carabine, is a long gun firearm but with a shorter barrel than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full-length rifles, shooting the same ammunition, while others fire lower-powered ammunition, including types designed for pistols.
The smaller size and lighter weight of carbines make them easier to handle. They are typically issued to high-mobility troops such as special-operations soldiers and paratroopers, as well as to mounted, artillery, logistics, or other non-infantry personnel whose roles do not require full-sized rifles, although there is a growing tendency for carbines to be issued to front-line soldiers to offset the increasing weight of other issued equipment. An example of this is the US Army's M4 carbine, which is standard-issue.
The carbine was originally a lighter, shortened weapon developed for the cavalry. Carbines were short enough to be loaded and fired from horseback, but this was rarely done – a moving horse is a very unsteady platform, and once halted, a soldier can load and fire more easily if dismounted, which also makes him a smaller target (Napoleonic-era and earlier cavalry did fight from horseback, but they fought with sabers and large muzzle-loading horse pistols, so called because their large size meant they were most easily carried in a saddle holster, much like the later Colt-Walker revolver). After the Napoleonic Wars, cavalry began fighting dismounted, using the horses only for greater mobility, an early form of what is today known as mechanized infantry. By the American Civil War, dismounted cavalry were mostly the rule. The principal advantage of the carbine was that its length made it very portable. Troops could carry full-length muskets comfortably enough on horseback if just riding from A to B (the practice of the original dragoons and other mounted infantry). Cavalry proper (a "Regiment of Horse") had to ride with some agility and engage in sword-wielding mel?es with opposing cavalry or pursue running infantry, so carrying anything long would be a dangerous encumbrance. A carbine was typically no longer than a sheathed sabre, and like a sheathed sabre was carried arranged to hang clear of the rider's elbows and horse's legs.
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