Civil War Springfield Model 1863


October 15, 2012, 05:29 PM
My uncle called me recently saying that his wife's family had passed them down a couple of rifles and he wanted to know if I was interested before he sold them.

He has sent me some rough pictures printed on paper, so Maybe I can scan them and add to this post after. I have a few Mil-Surp rifles from WWII that I love to shoot. I have 2 Mosins (91/30 and an M44) and an M48 Mauser as well as a CMP Garand I recently picked up.

From the photos and his notes it appears he has the following:

#1: Springfield Model 1878
#2: Springfield Model 1863

They look like they have a bit of rust from his pics. No telling how/where they were stored. I think the 1863 looks in nicer shape. I guess my question is if I could expect to buy one or both from him and get them shooting? Or, would I need to have to find one that has been restored, or a replica for that?

Here are my scanned photos of my uncles printed on paper - photos he sent me!

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October 15, 2012, 05:31 PM
I hit send before finishing up!

I'm wondering how to value these. If he can sell them for a lot, I want to help him sell them, or if they are in the right price range, I may want to purchase (at a family discount!) possibly.

Thanks for any input...

October 15, 2012, 05:57 PM
Nice ones! Those both look like Trapdoor Springfields to me. They're post-war rifles that fire cartridges. I've seen them in .50-70 and .45-70. I suspect that 63 conversion is in .50-70 and the later one is in .45-70. But you should have a chamber cast to be sure.

You should encourage him to find out the backstory on them, if it's still possible. So much of the potential value lies in provenance, and it's typically all lost forever with a sale. In this case it's likely they were bought surplus. Maybe used on a farm? That in itself is an interesting provenance, if it can be verified and established by some first person account.

There are quite a few trapdoors on the market even today. Yours look uncut, which is good, and unrestored, which is also very good. Value depends a lot on the rarity of subtypes, and I'm no expert on that. The first step will be determining exactly what types you have. There's a "For Collectors" book on these that has a lot of good info. Runs about $20.

Pure guestimation is under $800 each unless one is something unusual. And yes indeed folks do still shoot them. But you'd need to do a pretty careful inspection to make sure that breech plug isn't going to flip up on you during firing. And the rounds would be strictly limited to lead over BP or substitute, mild "carbine" level loads only. You'd need to do a pretty careful inspection of the bore and chamber as well. Any sign of metal fatigue would make it a wall hanger. And the hitch is you really can't spot metal fatigue with the naked eye! So personally, given the inherent limitations of that design, I stick to what I do use which is a replica H&R Trapdoor Springfield made of nice modern steel.

4v50 Gary
October 15, 2012, 08:03 PM
What Cosmoline suggested. Learn the family history and if possible, get a photo of the ancestors who carried them. You can get their service record from the National Archives.

October 15, 2012, 10:04 PM
Wow! I'd love to own em. buy em if ya can.

October 15, 2012, 11:10 PM
If they are family guns, I'd try to keep them in the family. Get some apraisals, or comparisons, like from Dixie Guns Works antique arms catalog, maybe Goodman guns, and some other places that handle antique arms, get an average idea on price for the models and conditions, and talk it over with the family. Hope you can make an agreeable deal. If you choose not to buy them, I doubt they'd have any problem selling them. They are classified as antiques because of the date they were made (pre 1898), so dont have the same laws and restrictions as modern firearms do regarding sale and shipping. Check your state to be sure, but thats the federal viewpoint.

The gun that has 1870 (that is the correct model number, not 1863) on top should be a 50-70 caliber, I dont know if it was common to use earlier (1863) lock plates on them, but an 1870 wasn't a conversion, it was built originally as the gun its seen as. The first 1866s in 50-70 cal were converted from percussion guns, and had the hinge piece screwed to the top of the barrel, and a 50 cal barrel liner brazed in. They were called "Allin Conversions". After that, they had dedicated receivers, like yours, and all parts were new made parts as far as I know. Yours may simply have had lock plates swapped at some point since the day it was made. I don't know if that would affect the value if it wasnt original to that model to have that lock plate.

I wouldn't be afraid to shoot them, so long as they weren't rattly loose in the breech block and block lock, and all the locking parts (there arent very many parts) are present. The rust can be easily dealt with, it doesn't look like a real problem. Even if the bore is somewhat rough, they often shoot well. Safe loads aren't hard to make. I'd avoid jacketed bullets, as they would wear the barrel. Many trapdoor Springfields have oversize bores, but appropriate bullets can be had, made just for them.

I've shot several old trapdoors, they are a lot of fun to shoot. I regret not buying the last one I looked at, the price was right, the condition good, I just didnt have the extra money. I should have found it somewhere,....

October 15, 2012, 11:19 PM
I have an original Trapdoor, and an H&R replica. Both shoot really well, and are in fact what led me into the world of re-loading back in the day! Keep them, if you can....

October 16, 2012, 11:07 AM
A whole lot of information can be found on this site.

The Model 1868 was built through June of 1870 when the Model 1870 was introduced, so you could have a late production 1868. Lots of details need to be compared to determine what you have.

Same thing for your 1873 (there is no Model 1878, the die was damaged and makes it look like an 8 instead of a 3). Your serial number dates it to 1880. Better photos would help but look over the Springfield site and that should clear up some questions. Let us know what you find.

October 16, 2012, 06:26 PM
Thanks for the feedback. I'm going to have to get my uncle to learn to take a better picture! Also, he's going to have to learn to email and not mail me printed photos!

I will try to get more photos and do some research and see what other questions come up.

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