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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Cas City Historical Society (Moderators: St. George, Silver Creek Slim)  |  Topic: Question about the trapdoor 50 gov't on the frontier 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Question about the trapdoor 50 gov't on the frontier  (Read 1192 times)
The Trinity Kid
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« on: January 27, 2018, 01:14:51 am »


Good afternoon all.

Some may know that I am working on some novels taking place in the post-bellum west.  I'm trying to maintain as much realism as possible, while still moving the story along.  Ie, period correct foods, terminology and things of that sort, but adding in fast draw duels and more hollywoodized gun-slinging.
So my question today is about the 50-70 Springfield trapdoors and their early proliferation.  The story I'm working on right now is taking place in late 1866 through '67 and possibly into 1868 ( I haven't gotten that far yet,) and I want to give the chief protagonist a Trapdoor 50.  The idea I have at the moment is that he'll get it from a fort commander in Kansas that he scouted for after the war, probably in March to April of 1867. 
What I'm wanting to know is if that's a reasonable timeline, or if the units in Kansas would even plausibly have the rifle at that point.

And while we're on the subject, I'd considered giving one of the villains an 1863 Sharps carbine converted to 50-70.  Where he got the rifle can stay a mystery, I'm just not sure if it's realistic for a corrupt Deputy US Marshal in Arizona territory at that point to have such a rifle.

--TK
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bear tooth billy
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2018, 09:49:19 pm »

The gun you're talking about is a second model Allen conversion, first converted in 1866
along with the new 50/70 caliber. Someone else may know the exact timeline, but I think
it would have been there in 1867. 25,000 were converted between 1866 and 1867

                 BTB
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pony express
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2018, 09:57:26 pm »

It would seem unlikely that many of them would have been in civilian hands as early as 1867.
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St. George
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2018, 11:26:21 pm »

That would have been considered a first line service rifle - new to the troops, and not something handed out to contract employees, when there were older percussion rifles available.

Percussions stayed in general usage for quite some time - ammunition was in proliferation after the War.

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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2018, 12:45:44 pm »

While it is true the 2nd Model Allin conversions would have been issued to frontline troops, there were exceptions. For example, by "Sandy" Forsyth's own account, his scouts had several .50 caliber Springfield rifles at the Beecher Island battle in Sept. 1868. These most likely would have been the Second Model Allin conversions. While the later M1868 were probably produced in limited numbers in that year, the majority of M1868 were produced in 1869 and some in 1870, and were so-marked...as opposed to the true M1870. My photostated copies of the Records of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores in the Hands of the Troops, only go back to March 1870, and I don't currently have access to a film reader where I can go back earlier than that. The 1869 cartridge conversions of the M1859 and M1863 percussion Sharps carbines were in the hands of cavalry units by 1870, but probably not before late 1869. (Ref. the two books by my late acquaintance Frank Sellers.)  It might be possible for a civilian to have ordered a cartridge Sharps directly from the factory, if he could afford one.

As far as any civilian obtaining the 2nd Model Allin from the military is concerned, there were some limited instances of the Army supplying guns to "citizens" (as was the term for civilians back then) to protect themselves from Indian attacks. The other possibility would be if the civilian was an employee of the Army Quartermaster Dept., as a scout, teamster, packer, etc. If, having left employment with the QM Dept., he might have either purchased it outright, or "lost" it, and had its cost deducted from his final pay. In 1876, the value of the then obsolescent Sharps carbine was about $15.56.

Hope this helps with your plotline.
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2018, 11:39:01 am »

I looked up several versions of Buffalo Bill's story. As best as I can figure BBs contract to deliver 12 head of buffalo a day to the railroad was 1867, and he is reputed to have done it with Lucretia Borgia, a .50-70 1866 conversion rifle. As a contractor for the railroad he might have had the pull to get such a rifle.
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LongWalker
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2018, 01:19:19 am »

A third option for early civilian acquisition of a trapdoor would be to buy it from a deserter.  This was a frequent source for all kinds of stuff, in small quantities: rifles, pistols, ammo, etc.  Of course, if you get caught by the army you might have some 'splaining to do. 

I don't know for sure, but years ago I heard Cody got Lucretia as a gift from someone he guided. 
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2018, 11:12:14 am »

Trapdoor 50-70's weren't generally available to civilian hands until well after the 45 cal springfield rifle was the only issue rifle, sometime after 1874 or 5.
 Billy Cody worked for a government contractor building the KP, and would of been issued a rifle to do his meat hunting. How he got ahold of the rifle after his job ended, is up to conjecture.
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2018, 02:42:22 am »

Well TK we know of at least two Civilians in possession of 50/70 Needle guns before 1870. Bill Cody was using his 50/70 as an employee of the Union Pacific Eastern Division (Later renamed the Kansas Pacific Rail Road).  There was also a Needle gun in the possession of a one Eli Zeigler who talked about using his Needle gun to defend himself and John Alverson from an attack by Indians near Lincoln Center, Kansas May 30, 1869. Eli also said that he had 40 rounds of cartridges with him, but when the Indians were close to their wagon he could only grab one 20 round box. We do know, thru the National Park Service, that Fort Larned, Kansas issued early Allen Conversion Springfield's to all the 3rd US Infantry serving in Kansas. According to George Elmore Park Superintendent at Ft. Larned, NHS. We also know that the Kansas Pacific Railroad issued Spencer Carbines to their track crews who were grading the road bed and laying track.  So yes the Government was allowing civilians access to current arms and ammunition.
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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Cas City Historical Society (Moderators: St. George, Silver Creek Slim)  |  Topic: Question about the trapdoor 50 gov't on the frontier « previous next »
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