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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  The Longbranch (Moderators: Marshal Halloway, Silver Creek Slim, Camille Eonich)  |  Topic: Shut the Trapdoor! 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Shut the Trapdoor!  (Read 978 times)
Bruce W Sims
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« on: May 24, 2016, 01:22:13 pm »

Hi Folks:

I want to introduce this subject here because its not so much about the Type of
firearm as the subject of having a Gunsmith inspect an item.

I was over on GB ( accounting for taste...) and saw two or three
Model 1873 Springfield Trapdoors for sale. The price point was right around
$300USD and both pieces had a disclaimer that the seller strongly advised
that the piece be checked by a gunsmith before firing. So...two questions.

1.) Generally what would a decent assessment by a gunsmith entail?

2.) Absent obvious abuse what sort of conditions might naturally occur with an old piece
such as I am interested in that would make it unsafe?

Thanks in advance.

Best Wishes,

pony express
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2016, 01:41:30 pm »

I'm not really a Trapdoor expert, soooo....

I would just look for damaged or missing parts, make sure the hinge isn't cracked, etc.

I haunt Gunbroker quite often, and many sellers that have antique guns have the same disclaimer. "I am not a gun dealer, I sell antiques" etc.
CAS-L Ghost Rider
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2016, 12:50:52 pm »

The recommendation to have any used firearm checked by someone qualified to do so, usually a gunsmith is always sound advice.
There are a number of things to look for in any antique gun, but especially those which have been fired with black powder ammo.
1) Check the headspace.  If you are into acquiring more than one arm of the same caliber, in this case .45-70 Gov't, it would pay to buy your own set of headspace gages, if your gunsmith doesn't have a set of his own. A complete set of GO, NO-GO and FIELD gages isn't all that expensive. Clymer Mfg or Brownells should have them.

Headspace checking isn't difficult, but has to be done right.  The trapdoor is opened just far enough that the ejector does NOT flick to the open position. (Best, of course, would be to disassemble the gun and remove the ejector, but it really isn't necessary.)  I have no doubt that the GO gage will go in and the breechblock can be closed so that the thumbpiece drops completely into its locked position. Note where that is, so you will be able to observe the following.

Remove the GO gage, and insert the NO GO gage.  Gently lower the breechblock with the thumbpiece raised to the open position. When the block is down mostly to the closed position, release the thumbpiece and allow it to drop.  Note the position of the thumbpiece.  It should NOT go completely to the position of the GO or when the chamber is completely empty. If it does, open the breech and remove the NO-GO gage, and repeat the procedure with the FIELD gage.

If the thumbpiece goes to the completely down position with the FIELD gage in place, THE GUN IS NOT SAFE TO SHOOT! OTOH, closing completely on the NO-GO gage, but not the FIELD gage indicates the gun probably safe to shoot with BP or equivalent loads. The reason for this is that the NO-GO gage is really used to check the headspace when fitting a new barrel to a gun.  The FIELD gage is the real indication that the headspacing is beyond a safe limit!

Next, as was posted, check the hinge for cracks.  If you aren't sure whether there is a crack or a hairline scratch, best have the hinge magnetic particle tested. Look at the bore.  If it appears badly pitted, or has a bulge ("walnut") it should not be shot.  However, if it just appears mildly pitted, you may want to thoroughly clean the barrel to be sure those are pits and not lead deposits.

Check that the ejector flips open when the breechblock is fully opened, and does so with authority. If it doesn't, it may need de-gunking or the ejector spring is week or broken.

Check the lockwork to see its condition.  Pull the hammer to full cock and, holding tight to the hammer spur to keep from snapping down, squeeze the trigger and see how much pull there is.  A trigger spring is helpful here. Most of these sidelock actions require a pull of not less than six or seven pounds or more, so don't be surprised.  With the hammer fully forward, and your finger OFF the trigger, bring it to the first notch.  Most Trapdoor Springfields have a 3-notch, half-cock (for loading), and full cock. With the hammer on the "safety" notch GENTLY squeeze the trigger.  The hammer should NOT fall.  Push forward on the back of the hammer to see if it will stay on the safety notch.  If not, the tumbler inside the lock will need work or replacement.  Pull the hammer to the half-cock and repeat the tests.  Pull to full cock and press forward on the back of the hammer....GENTLY.  It should not fall off full cock.

Open the breech and look at the firing pin.  Earlier models had a spring-loaded firing pin. If so, press on the rear of the pin and observe the tip of the firing pin as it protrudes from the face of the block. The pin should be nice and rounded. If broken it will need replacement.  Later models simply had free firing pins. Tip the breechblock up and check the firing pin for protrusion.  Tip the gun muzzle up, with the block open and see if the pin falls back so it doesn't protrude from the face of the block.  If the pin does NOT retract by its own weight, it may be frozen in the block and will need to be freed up and the block channel cleaned.  A FROZEN FIRING PIN COULD RESULT IN AN OUT-OF-BATTERY DISCHARGE if the block is closed on a live primer.

Otherwise, look at the overall condition of the gun.

Hope this helps.  Best of luck!

Ride to the sound of the guns, but watch out for bushwhackers! Godspeed to all in harm's way in the defense of Freedom! God Bless America!

Your obedient servant,
Bvt. Lt. Col. Commanding,
Southern District
Dept. of the Platte, GAF
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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  The Longbranch (Moderators: Marshal Halloway, Silver Creek Slim, Camille Eonich)  |  Topic: Shut the Trapdoor! « previous next »
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