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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Spencer Shooting Society (Moderator: Two Flints)  |  Topic: Info on Spencer 3-Band Rifle 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Info on Spencer 3-Band Rifle  (Read 583 times)
Che'
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« on: November 07, 2013, 10:50:50 pm »


Any help with this rifle would be appreciated:
         1.  1860 3-band Rifle
         2.  Spencer rifle Boston address (Model 1860)
         3   2 Cartouches on left stock; both are illegible. They are perpendicular to each other.
         4.  Hand stamped "56.52" on left side and top of barrel. (Done by hand with single punches)
         5.  Rifling is clearly 6-groove with no sign of a barrel liner.
         6.  Chamber appears to be straight-walled, although I'm not familiar with how obvious a true 56-52 would be bottle-necked.
         7.  Serial is "9141"
         8.  Cursory micrometer check yields .5180 groove to groove at muzzle.

      I consider it to be NRA Fine with 85% barrel finish turned plum; receiver retains 50-60% of a thinning original blue with no evidence of a refinish.Bore is VG plus with strong rifling. Stock would also be fine, but appears to have been "boned" or sanded lightly at some time. Internal rotating block and locking block both retain traces of rainbow case color    

      I would be interested in comments on the caliber and my strong assumption that the added "56-52" is not correct. It appears to me to be an original .56-.56. Possibly it was marked in error. I would also appreciate any archive info that might show it issued during the war or after.

     Pictures are provided to the best of my ability.

    Che'


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David L. Wrikeman LTC, USAR (ret.)
436 Pamela Ct
Poland, OH 44514
DJ
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2013, 12:55:08 am »

The receiver appears to be in original 1860 configuration--can't see if the hammer is beveled ala 1865 updates.  The caliber markings on the barrel do not look government/military, and the bore measurement seems to be for 56-50 rather than 56-56.  I suspect it was converted to the .50 cartridge ether by relining or rebarreling and so marked by the converter.  Does the barrel serial number match the receiver?
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Che'
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2013, 06:35:49 am »


DJ - Thanks for your input. Barrel is original and matches (#9141). Hammer is not beveled. I should mention that I am familiar with conversions and barrel sleeving, having collected US infantry long arms for nigh on to 50 years. This barrel is definitely not sleeved.
I claim no expertise in Spencers; however, every sleeved barrel I ever saw in US arsenal rebuilt long arms utilized a three groove sleeve.

I have always thought that when we set aside the myriad of designations used for Spencer cartridges in the military models that there are only bore diameters (groove to groove) of a nominal .52 or a nominal .50. What have SSS members found when they slug these two calibers? I haven't slugged mine because I'm not sure whether I'm going to shoot this one or look for a more common and better worn example. 
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David L. Wrikeman LTC, USAR (ret.)
436 Pamela Ct
Poland, OH 44514
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2013, 11:35:35 am »

The ".56-52" marks indicate a civilian application. The military had no designation of ".56-52". It was either a #56 for the 1860's (.56-.56 ... the measurement of the exterior of the cartridge just ahead of the rim and at the mouth of the case), or .50 caliber (.56-50 ...again designating the nominal dimensions of the case). The .56-52 cartridge was a creation of Spencer himself, who felt the government cartridge had too much crimp on the bullet. So he bottlenecked the cartridge. Thing is, the .56-52 will fire interchangeably with the .56-50 round in the .50 caliber chambers. So if the gun is stamped ".56-52" it would indicate someone had a preference for the commercial version. That leaves an open question. You say the barrel is "original", yet has six lands and grooves, with a groove-groove dia. of .518 at the muzzle. That is puzzling. I think it would be worthwhile to make a chamber casting (using CerroSafe low-melting point bizmuth alloy...Dixie Gun Works or Brownell's sells it) to see if the chamber is straight or bottlenecked. If the latter, then I would say the gun was rebarreled a long time ago (probably just after the CW when these arms were being surplused out by the Army), possibly by an outfit like E.C. Meacham of St. Louis, or some individual gunsmith.
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2013, 07:18:32 pm »

Unfortunately 9141 doesn't show up in the SRS books. Spencer was doing development work all the time. As Trailrider points out, Spencer didn't like the inside lubricated Springfield 56-50, so he developed the outside lubricated 56-52 as an interchangeable alternative. If the barrel is numbered with armory stamps, my guess is that this rifle is a turn-in from the field that was rebarreled at the armory for cartridge work, or for development of the "new" M-1865. It seems odd that it would be marked 56-52 otherwise. The government never bought it, so that cartridge never became real popular. 56-50 was way more common. This one is a real head scratcher.
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Snakeeater
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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2013, 08:38:43 pm »

Like many marks found on guns, the difficulty is in knowing precisely when such marks were added. In this instance, the metal distress surrounding the numbers show that these numbers were hand-stamped, likely using a double-digit metal number stamp set "50-59" (similar to those in the link provided below). The font style of the numbers appears to be of a late 19th- or early 20th-century design, so using a set of antique stamps the marks could be of quite recent date. But there are forensic test methods that can determine when the metal fatigue occurred. Those tests unfortunately also employ destuctive methods to do so.  

http://www.hittmarking.com/category.aspx?categoryID=223

I think it is fair to suggest that whoever stamped these numbers was either a novice or simply an inexperienced gunsmith:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BsTAoQonIM&list=UUVYkbbrXEVCGiwOQ3iCC1Gw


Unless you particularly like the distortion in the metal around the numbers, you could sand them flat and finish the marking job yourself?
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2013, 08:52:27 am »

Snakeeater's comments are germane in this matter. Anyone could have stamped this rifle at any time. My guess is that it was done where several rifles were kept in order to differentiate it from the .56-.56's. Recall that in the day .56-.50 and .56-.52 were considered interchangeable.  It could have been a local unit marking the gun so as to avoid ammo confusion. Possible it was done later by a surplus dealer. I've actually seen this done in unit armories when the first rifles were chambered for the new SAR ammo.

I think the issue here is forget the marking - what is the rifle? I think the barrel is original; it's clearly serialed using the same die as the tang. It's a six groove which makes it a Spencer in my experience. Does anyone know if Spencer rebarreled any of these? Or was it made new as a .56-.50 or .56-.52.? It's a late model 1860 (1864), so maybe it was rebarreled at the end of the war in an attempt to squeeze out a few more sales after the government contracts were cancelled.  The  army was generally moving to .50 caliber Spencers after 1865 and would have rearmed the Cavalry and Infantry with them if they had been allowed. No less a personage then US Grant wanted all military rifles to be .50 caliber. He may have believed that all .50 calibers were interchangeable with .50-70 (Christian, pg. 30). Also the government in 1866 was rebarreling Sharps and Springfields to 3 groove .50-70. They had miles of three groove barrels and all the machinery and dies to make more. In a time when they were forced to issue 5 year old hardtack due to money constraints, I don't think they would have manufactured new .50 caliber 6 groove barrels for a few left over Spencers.

I'm fascinated by the history of these old pieces and am hoping someone more experienced can help me fit this rifle where it belongs. I personally think it's an Indian war remake. Remember that in 1866 the Army was reissuing Burnside Spencers in .56-.50 and even converted some brand new carbines to 2-band rifles to arm Infantry on the frontier. Spencer (Providence Tool) was desperate for business due to the catastrophic cancellation of his civil war contracts in 1865.

As you can see, I love to discuss these old war horses! Pardon me if I seem to be pontificating; this all would sound better if we were sitting around a fire.

Che'
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David L. Wrikeman LTC, USAR (ret.)
436 Pamela Ct
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DJ
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2013, 11:46:07 am »

Since it's not relined I'm inclined toward some kind of rebarrel--I don't know how you could shrink the bore diameter otherwise. 

Is there any chance the font of the barrel serial number is different from the numerals used in the receiver serial number?  Any indication they were individually hand stamped?  Any indication of two different barrel index marks?  My guess is that a period non-factory gunsmith would not bother adding a matching serial number or index mark, but if he did, he probably would not have had accesss to the exact same font stamps as the original serial number. 

A factory rebarrel would be more likely to number the barrel to match but might or might not have used the same font and might not have used a jig to get the numbers all stamped straight.  An identical font that looks factory-straight would suggest factory work.  Whether factory or gunsmith, Snakeater's remarks about font style at least suggest a period modification.

A double index mark would strongly suggest a rebarrel, but I believe the tendency would be to make the index mark in the same place, so might be impossible to tell.

I submit that perhaps this is a factory mock-up to either test the 56-52 in house or for a cartridge manufacturer to use in testing 56-52 ammo.  There is at least one account of a 3-band rifle provided by Spencer to a cartridge manufacturer during the war to use for testing of 56-56 wartime production ammo lots, so sending a rifle chambered for Spencer's proprietary 56-52 might not be too far fetched.  It seems pretty clear that the marking was intended to make it easy to distinguish this rifle from a run-of-the-mill 1860 rifle.

As Tony said, a real head-scratcher.
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Snakeeater
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2013, 11:47:41 am »

One way to settle whether the chamber has been re-chambered is to make a casting of the chamber with cerrosafe alloy to determine the correct shell casing>

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgRp3r9VPE0&list=UUVYkbbrXEVCGiwOQ3iCC1Gw
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