Author Topic: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?  (Read 2678 times)

Offline ndnchf

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M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« on: February 21, 2018, 07:03:17 PM »
Spencer
A few years ago I made a determined effort to make suitable and accurate ammunition for a Model 1871 Springfield Spencer 2 band rifle. These rifles were converted from M1865 Spencer carbines using modified M1868 Springfield trapdoor barrels. I found the chamber to be notably longer than that of typical .56-50 barrels. After a lot of careful measuring, I settled on a case length of 1.356” and an overall length of 1.680”. Only later did I realize that this is very close to the case length of the 1867 .50-45 cadet rifle cartridge, also known as the .50 Cadet. This is not to be confused with the Springfield .50-55 carbine load which used the standard .50-70 brass.

The .50-45 case is listed with a length between 1.275” and 1.332”. Before I knew this, I had settled on a brass length of 1.356”, only .024” longer than the referenced .50-45 length of 1.332”.  I settled on the 1.356” because it just covered the bands of the Rapine 350 bullet at the overall length this rifle required to cycle smoothly. But I could easily have trimmed them to the .50-45 length of 1.332” and they would work just fine.

I’ve done a lot of studying and thinking on this, and I think it quite likely that when Springfield armory made up the these rifles (around 1100 of them total), they chambered them for the longer .50-45 cadet cartridge rather than the standard .56-50. These rifles were made up to sell overseas . The Franco-Prussian war was raging and France needed repeating rifles. Perhaps they had a large stock of .50-45 ammunition on hand and realized it offered slightly improved performance over the .56-50.

This is just conjecture on my part, but I’m leaning towards the belief that these Model 1871 Springfield Spencer conversion rifles were in fact chambered for the .50-45 cartridge rather than the commonly believed .56-50. It sure shoots like it was designed for it.

Here are a couple photos. One shows a .56-50 case with the bullet set to the overall length this rifle needs, next to one with my brass made to work in this rifle. Quite a difference. Also a photo  found on the net of various original .50-45 cartridges.

Thanks for reading, I’d appreciate your thoughts.
Steve
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2018, 07:06:42 PM »
Here is the rifle.
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline dusty texian

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2018, 07:00:00 AM »
A fine job getting that old rifle shooting again ,  and shoot she does .  What are the specs. on that bullet ? Great to see you post again ndnchf ,,,,Amigo " ,,,,DT

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2018, 04:35:19 PM »
Hi DT, good to be back. I've actually been around, just off pursuing other interests as well. I worked up this load about 4 years ago, but only recently did I start thinking about the similarity to the .50-45 cadet. Here is the old thread where my load development was chronicled.

http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,49533.0.html
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline DJ

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2018, 10:40:51 PM »
I don't doubt that Springfield Armory could have used a .50-45 reamer when chambering the barrels, but were the cadet cartridges loaded as rimfires?  I thought they were all centerfire, although some could have been internally primed with Benet primers.

Also, is there some alteration to the breechblock to use a longer cartridge?  Or are you keeping to Spencer-length loads with a longer case and less bullet exposed?

Pretty rifle, by the way.  Hope to find one someday.

--DJ

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #5 on: Today at 02:28:28 AM »

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2018, 04:53:33 PM »
DJ - very good point about the .50-45 being centerfire. I'm so used to mine having a centerfire conversion block, that I kind of forgot about that difference - doh!

That being said, it's still a bit baffling. Mine are loaded to around 1.683" plus or minus .002". An original cartridge I have measures 1.620". That makes mine .063" longer overall. I found mine to be VERY finicky about overall length. It will not tolerate a cartridge length variaton of more than .005" from what I use. So there is no way it will function with a cartridge anywhere near original length. Granted, the bullets are very different.

Looking at the original block, I see no evidence of modification to work with a longer cartridge. Perhaps you are right, the just used the longer reamers because they were on hand. By 1871 the original .56-50 reamers were worn out or scrapped. We'll probably never know the full story of these oddball rifles. But I do know that it shoot surprisingly well.
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2020, 03:17:08 PM »
I'm resurrecting this 2 year old thread for an update. As a reminder, I had noticed the similarity between my m1871 Springfield Spencer cartridges and the Remington Rolling block .50-45 navy cadet cartridge.

Fast forward to today - I just picked up one of these .50-45 navy carbines. I was only a little surprised that my Spencer cartridges chambered just fine in the carbine. But I was more surprised how well they shot - about 1.5" at 25 yards. It shows that this little carbine has potential.

I cannot help but wonder about the similar chamber sizes between these two guns. Clearly Springfield put longer chambers in these 1871 Spencer rifles, than previous Spencers. I don't know why, but it is consistent with what Remington did for the navy carbines.

"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline fsrmg1

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2021, 11:48:06 AM »
Fantastic bit of information you have here!  I also have a Springfield M1871 Spencer Rifle pictured below.  I wanted to add to your posting, so I slugged the bore and did a chamber cast of it.  I also looked up the .50 Carbine in the 1897 Winchester Repeating Arms Catalog.  This is what I discovered. 

Winchester listed the following:
Cartridge: .50 Carbine; 400 grain projectile, 50 grains powder, 1 7/20" (1.35") case length (note that their cartridge illustration indicates only 45 grains powder, but all other references mention 50 grains).

Barrel measurements:
Length: 32 1//2"
Rifling: 1:42", three groove
Bore: 0.500"
Groove: 0.514"

Chamber cast:
Rim dia: 0.670"
Base: 0.568"
Neck: 0.552"
Rim thickness: 0.065"
Case body Length: 1.300"
Chamber OAL: 1.365"

Based upon this, it looks like the chamber may very well have been cut with a .50 Carbine reamer.  To make up for chamber slop and rim rim variation, I would say the OAL for the case would be 1.35" with a trim to length of 1.34". I have also come across references that Springfield Armory had developed both rimfire and centerfire versions of the .50 Carbine and .50-70 Gov't while experimenting what would be best for general issue. 

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2021, 05:54:05 PM »
Another M1871!  Not many of us shooting these. I found mine to be very finicky about overall cartridge length. Plus or minus .005" and it won't feed. But when they are right, it works well. I was quite surprised how accurate it is too!
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline fsrmg1

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2021, 08:48:46 AM »
Thanks Steve,

A good bit of information for when I start shopping for a bullet mould, I'll try to pick one without a crimping groove, so I can vary the length.  As I develop loads, I plan to chronograph my results to add to our Spencer resources and see how it compares with historical data.

Rich

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #10 on: Today at 02:28:28 AM »

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2021, 08:55:43 AM »
FWIW - my load of 43.0gr Goex 2F and a Rapine 350 bullet averaged 1083 fps.
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2021, 12:34:13 PM »
It's been a while since my model 1871 Springfield Spencer rifle got some range time. So today I took it out and made a short video. Check it out, and other antique firearms related videos on my YouTube channel.


"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

Offline matt45

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2021, 09:30:58 AM »
VERY COOL!

Offline treebeard

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2021, 12:11:47 PM »
Really interesting rifles. Of the 1100 manufactured must not be that many around the country.

Offline ndnchf

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Re: M1871 Springfield Spencer - chambered in .50-45 Cadet?
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2021, 12:33:49 PM »
I see them show up on the usual internet sites occasionally. But there seems to be little interest in them. Everyone wants a Civil War Spencer, not these post war oddities. But me - I like the odd and unusual  ;D
"We're all travelers in this world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities"  Prentiss Ritter, Broken Trail

 

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