Help with a Springfield 1873 45/70 Carbine


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cpirtle
March 14, 2009, 10:15 PM
Today I picked up a great US Springfield 1873 carbine. I have been wanting one for a long time and I could not pass on the price.

The gun is incredible condition IMO, the barrel is a nice glossy brown and everything else has a dark mottled look you may expect from aged case hardening.

I am not sure about the stock although its condition matches the rest of the gun. The thing that's throwing me is that most of the 1873's I have seen all have the barrel band almost right up against the rear sight. My barrel band is about 4" in rear of the sight.

All of the markings look correct and the barrel band is stamped US as well as the butt plate.

The serial number on this one is very high and 6 digits - 501xxx

Can anyone tell me what I may have here?

I'd like to shoot the gun and I already reload 45/70 for my Guide Gun, is this going to be safe for similar max loads or should I keep them light?

I can try and get some pictures soon.

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Jim Watson
March 15, 2009, 12:13 AM
I'd like to shoot the gun and I already reload 45/70 for my Guide Gun, is this going to be safe for similar max loads or should I keep them light?

NOOOO!
The Trapdoor Springfield is no way strong enough for Marlin loads. Most manuals have specific Trapdoor load listings, down around 18,000 psi. Black powder equivalent velocities, maybe 1200 fps with well chosen smokeless loads is about what they are good for.

I don't know all the variations of the Trapdoor and cannot comment on sight vs barrel band placement. Flayderman says a serial number of 501000 would be an early 1888 or maybe a very late 1884.

Jim Watson
March 15, 2009, 12:17 AM
Double tap with a single shot, wow.

doubs43
March 15, 2009, 12:42 AM
The best way to determine what you have is to take CLEAR and detailed pictures so we can see the rifle. There were many models of the Trapdoor made and it could be any of them.

buttrap
March 15, 2009, 12:54 AM
Pictures and more pictures!!

Kentucky-roughrider
March 15, 2009, 02:49 AM
If it is an orginal trapdoor carbine, it may be to valueable to use as a shooter, much unless modified with anything.

Speedo66
March 15, 2009, 09:41 AM
The Trapdoor action is the weakest of the three types:

Trapdoors

Modern Lever Actions

Single shot modern rifles

Unless you feel you have extra fingers or don't mind having the trapdoor itself create a new orifice in your face, load WAY down from what you're loading now.

I've got one and they're fun to shoot, although even with mild loads they tend to kick hard because of the buttplate shape.

Enjoy yours.

cpirtle
March 15, 2009, 01:43 PM
Thanks for the info thus far.

I have some really light loads I make for 100 yard matches from Trail Boss, I will have to check the manual and see iff they are okay. Not planning to do any heavy shooting just the occasional side match or plinking.


Here are 2 picture but I loaded a bunch more on my web site. (http://www.pirtleranch.com/images/Guns/Spingfield_73/1873.htm)



http://www.pirtleranch.com/images/Guns/Spingfield_73/IMG_0182.JPG

http://www.pirtleranch.com/images/Guns/Spingfield_73/IMG_0181.JPG

rcmodel
March 15, 2009, 01:49 PM
Look at the front of the stocks forearm, just under the barrel.
See if there is a wood patch visable there where the ram-rod hole was patched on a cut-off rifle. A real carbine would not have had a ram-rod cut in the stock, patched or otherwise.

Your gun appears to have been very throughly re-built / refinished, and is not orginial condition by any means. I'd almost bet it is a cut-down rifle.

rc

doubs43
March 15, 2009, 02:00 PM
IMO it's a cut-down Model 1873 rifle and not an original Saddle-Ring Carbine. At one time, hundreds - if not thousands - of rifles were cut down to carbine length.

One quick way to tell is to insert a 500 grain cartridge into the chamber. If it goes in all the way, it's definitely a rifle. The carbines have a chamber cut for a 405 grain cartridge and will not accept the 500 grain load. (I've looked for my reference to verify this info but can't find it at the moment so please consider it to be rumor at this time.)

A close look at the stock will likely show a plug used to close the ramrod hole when the stock was cut down to carbine length. Some were extremely well done and the stock must be removed to see the inset wood. Some have had the fore end cut at the barrel band joining point and replaced with solid wood to conceal the fact that there used to be a ramrod slot.

The stock has been refinished and the tang sight was added. You don't show the front sight but it's likely not the original style. (The one my father had came from E. C. Bannerman with a shotgun style post front sight. Otherwise the work was beautifully done. His was an 1884 Model and in new condition when received. My grandfather put a much nicer front sight on it that looked to be a professional job.)

What you have is a very nice shooter. Although not a collector's gun, it's still worth a fair price. Try to shoot only soft lead bullets in it as the steel isn't nearly as good as today's material and jacketed bullets will wear the bore much more quickly.

Speedo66
March 15, 2009, 02:02 PM
I don't think carbines came with the sling swivel in the front of the trigger guard.

Also see if the rear sight has an "R" stamped in it on top in the front right corner. The R would be for rifle.

Lots of info at www.trapdoorcollector.com

doubs43
March 15, 2009, 02:06 PM
Also see if the rear sight has an "R" stamped in it on top in the front right corner. The R would be for rifle.

The later Buffington rear sights were marked "R" and "C" for rifle and carbine but I wasn't certain about the 1873 rifles/carbines - and was too lazy to look it up :) - so I didn't comment on that. The 1884 sight on my father's cut-down carbine was marked with an "R".

alemonkey
March 15, 2009, 02:07 PM
That's funny, one of the local gun shops here has a cut down trap door just like that. Years ago you could buy these dirt cheap as surplus from the government. I think an awful lot of them got cut down like that.

My advice is to shoot it with black powder or Pyrodex RS and a cast lead bullet. That's what it was designed for, and it's a lot more fun that way. Don't let the horror stories about cleanup frighten you, just clean the bore with soapy water. I shoot my Sharps that way and it's a blast, much more fun that smokeless. If you're interested PM me and I can give you some pointers.

Onmilo
March 15, 2009, 05:00 PM
It too looks to be a cut down rifle, not an actual carbine.
I too am in the opinion that you would be best served to stick with blackpowder or a substitute verses smokeless though I will offer up one
smokeless powder to look into for making uip loads using 400 grain lead bullets.
SR4759.

Kentucky-roughrider
March 15, 2009, 05:43 PM
IMO it's a cut-down Model 1873 rifle and not an original Saddle-Ring Carbine. At one time, hundreds - if not thousands - of rifles were cut down to carbine length. One quick way to tell is to insert a 500 grain cartridge into the chamber. If it goes in all the way, it's definitely a rifle. The carbines have a chamber cut for a 405 grain cartridge and will not accept the 500 grain load.


That is the first i ever heard of that. I have heard it was fairly common as a pank to put a long tom (rifle round) round in the carbine and give it to a young trooper to hard up his shoulder.
I want to say it was 45-70-405 vs 45-55-405 but I am nit sure.

Jim Watson
March 15, 2009, 07:09 PM
With that high serial number it is not only cut down, it may well be a parts gun with assorted pieces-parts. Looks nice and should be a good shooter with the tang sight.

Stick to lead bullets.
It will do ok with appropriate smokeless powder if you don't want to fool with black. I don't care for Pyrodex and you cannot reach even real Trapdoor performance with Trail Boss. The .45-70 Government has real differences from the .45-70 Winchester and the .45x2.1" Sharps and benefits from the right treatment. There is a lot of good information in the Wolf book specifically devoted to the Springfield:
http://www.the45-70book.com/

alemonkey
March 15, 2009, 07:49 PM
Definitely go with lead bullets, no jackets. While I much prefer black powder in the caliber, if you do go with smokeless I have had good luck with Accurate 5744 and a 405 grain cast lead bullet. Before I started using black, I used 28 grains of 5744 and a 405 grain bullet in my Sharps, and it was extremely accurate. That's probably hotter than you would want in a trap door - here's some load data for trap doors:

http://www.accuratepowder.com/data/PerPowder2Guide/Rifle/AA8700/StandardloadsRifle/45%2070%20Govermnent%20All%20data%20pages%20335%20to%20338.pdf

doubs43
March 15, 2009, 08:30 PM
That is the first i ever heard of that. I have heard it was fairly common as a pank to put a long tom (rifle round) round in the carbine and give it to a young trooper to hard up his shoulder.
I want to say it was 45-70-405 vs 45-55-405 but I am nit sure.

I've looked for my reference but can't find it so I can't swear that it's correct. However, the carbine was lighter and had sights set for the 405 grain bullet while the rifle had sights set for a 500 grain bullet. I know I've read that the carbine and rifles had different chamber lengths but until I can find it, consider what I've said as rumor only. I think the 1884 carbine would accept the 500 grain cartridge but consider that rumor too. :)

I've amended my original post to keep from misleading anyone.

JWF III
March 16, 2009, 12:29 AM
I don't know about the later versions (and not totally sure what version mine is, 1878?), but my Trapdoor Saddle Ring has a rather large hooded front sight that would be plainly visable in the second pic. I agree with the others, cut down rifle.

Wyman

ETA-After further inspection (of the pics at your link), the rear sight is more consistent with carbine rear sights I've seen. My carbine rear sight is very similar to yours.

The rear sight on my rifle is nothing like your rear sight. It is more of the standard ladder type, but has the windage adjustment knobs on each side, towards the front. But there again, I can't remember (without looking) if it is a 1873 or possibly a later variation.

The Deer Hunter
March 16, 2009, 12:35 AM
That is an absolutely gorgeous rifle. It must be a really cool feeling, knowing that you have a rifle that is over 100 years old and still functions. Good luck man.

cpirtle
March 16, 2009, 12:38 AM
This all great info and has been a great learning experience.

After reading and looking the gun over again I condur that this is a cut down rifle. Main reasons are the R is on the rear sight, there is a bit of solder visible on the front sight, the crown is not quite as perfect as I would expect and the barrel seems slightly long depending on where it should be measured from. Oh yeah, and the sling swivel.

There is not a plug in the stock from the ramrod hole though, interesting.

Anyway, I am still very happy with my purchase because this is a great piece of history and even though I own about 15 cowboy era guns the closest I have come to an actual is my 1903 Winchester 97. I'm still amazed at the condition.

Anyone care to venture a guess as to what they would expect to pay for this gun in today's market? I am happy to say what I got this one for but I'd like to hear what you all think as you obviously pay closer attention to these than I have.


you cannot reach even real Trapdoor performance with Trail Boss

Jim, can you clarify this for me? Do you mean that a full load of Trail Boss will still not be too powerful for this gun?

Here is my current Trail Boss load:

260 grain LSWC
14.5 grain Trail Boss
2.550 OAL
CCI Primer

I will dabble in some black powder loads in the off season. I have some left over pyrodex from my Ruger Old Army..

cpirtle
March 16, 2009, 12:39 AM
That is an absolutely gorgeous rifle.

Thanks! Can't wait to shoot it.

doubs43
March 16, 2009, 02:48 AM
There is not a plug in the stock from the ramrod hole though, interesting.

According to Flayderman, some cut down rifles had the stock spliced with a solid piece of wood to hide the fact that it was previously a rifle. The splice should be visible under the barrel band which hides it when in place.

Jim Watson
March 16, 2009, 09:52 AM
Jim, can you clarify this for me? Do you mean that a full load of Trail Boss will still not be too powerful for this gun?

Here is my current Trail Boss load:

260 grain LSWC
14.5 grain Trail Boss
2.550 OAL
CCI Primer

What I meant was that a full load of Trail Boss will not equal black powder ballistics.
A top load of 405 gr cast and 13 gr Trail Boss is only rated at 1007 fps.
Lyman says a starting load of 34 gr IMR 3031 will get 1161 fps with a 420 gr bullet.

I never heard of a 260 grain .45-70 bullet, that would have been considered suitable for gallery practice at 50 feet to 50 yards in the day.

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