Preserving a valuable relic


November 26, 2004, 01:32 PM
While visiting my family in the Bay Area this weekend, I discovered that my step-father has a 1873 trapdoor Springfield, of which roughly only 500 were made.

From the limited research I have done so far, this firearm is fairly valuable, and we would like to keep it in the great shape that it is in.

So what should we do to make sure this firearm stays in the same condition that it currently is in?



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November 26, 2004, 01:55 PM
Wrap it in cotton towels and stick it in the closet :what:
Just kidding but thats what my friend did with a beautiful original
Parker 16ga with an extra set of barrells, guess what happened next :(

Jim K
November 26, 2004, 02:07 PM
I am not sure which exact model your stepfather has, and some variations are rare, but the Model 1873 "trapdoor" is pretty common; around 370,000 rifles and carbines were made of that model. Later trapdoor models brought the total to around 417,000 rifles and 60,000 carbines. Many have been altered in various ways and the collector value lost, even though family or sentimental value may remain.

As to preservation, I would strip the gun and clean it thoroughly. If you are not familiar with the gun, find someone who is, or search the web for instructions. More old guns have been ruined by people trying to save them than by the ravages of time alone.

Do not scrape, sand, or use a cleaner on the stock other than mild soap and water to remove dirt, but do not let water soak into the the stock. Use a good bore cleaner to clean the barrel inside and a good penetrant to remove old dirt and grease. I recommend G96 Gun Treatment for this purpose but there are several others. I don't recommend WD-40, but if you do use it wipe it off well before storing the gun.

Use a good gun grease, like RIG, to preserve the gun after you clean it.



November 26, 2004, 02:29 PM
If the gun is in great shape why not keep on doing what has been done.

I have a fairly old shotgun from childhood that stood in a stairwell in a farmhouse for 50 years or so. when I took possession I put it in a protective device guarateed to protect the old gun. In all that time the gun was cleaned and oiled maybe once a year. But after putting in that protective device I accidently discoverd that the finish had started to pit and rust after only after six months. Now all my guns are in the open in the safe and all those protective devices are gone.

If you have and armory near you go ask them how they protect their guns.
More that likely they are cleaned, oiled, on a rolling rack with (Maybe a canvass dust cover) and in an interior dry room. I understand in certain climates adjustments must be made. My old shotgun has withstood the humidity of the midwest, the desert regions, altitudes and the Pacific NW rains and its still good to go.

If I may be so bold That ole gun has only seen a little 3n1 oil and Hoppe's #9. And its still a nice looking good shooting Model 12.

November 26, 2004, 03:07 PM
Here's an interesting article "Rust Preventitives for Firearms", one of the best performers was a pretty common item, Break Free CLP.

Rust Preventitives for Firearms (

November 26, 2004, 03:26 PM
IGB, if your stepfather's gun was made in 1873, it's certainly very valuable. However, if it's the 1873 model, made in later years, its value diminishes greatly, as hundreds of thousands of these were made. Try confirming its date of manufacture to get a better idea of the value.

November 26, 2004, 03:30 PM
Jim, Preacherman,

I think you guys are right. The website that I initially looked at showed the model 1873 as only having 500 made, but it turned out that was only for that year.

I will have to have a closer look at the rifle later on today, and see what year we are looking at, and I will have to take some photos.

I wonder if that old rifle would still shoot?

The reason we want to find a different way to store this is because my stepfather has been storing it in a plastic trash bag under his bed.

He also has a couple other firearms that might be a little rare as well, but I am not sure what they are. Unfortunatly, neither of the other ones are in a very good condition, unlike the trapdoor, which looks in excellent condition.


November 26, 2004, 07:07 PM
If everything looks good it should be in condition to fire ,you could have a gunsmith check it out. If you fire it us e only lead bullets since the barrels are soft , too soft to use jacketed bullets.Use only light loads.

November 26, 2004, 07:22 PM
Clean the firearm up as you would any other rifle . . . as an antique, don't use anything harsh like sandpaper or steel wool. (Don't laugh . . . I've seen this done!)

If you shoot the rifle, be aware that the Trapdoor Springfield is considered to have a "weak" action. Perfectly acceptable with loads that duplicate the original pressures, modern loads intended for guns like the Marlin lever actions or a Ruger #1 are dangerous in a Trapdoor.

Jim K
November 27, 2004, 06:42 PM
The Model 1873 rifles and carbines were not dated on the receiver or lockplate, but they have an inspector's cartouche on the left side just ahead of the grip giving the inspector's initials and (for all but early ones) the year the gun was made. Unfortunately, many of those cartouches have not survived decades of service and civilian "cleaning" so that an intact one adds considerably to the value of the gun. (That is one reason I advise to never sand or excessively clean the stock on an antique gun.)

There are serial number lists based on the known number of rifles and carbines made in a given fiscal year, but those are not entirely accurate.


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