Author Topic: 1873 Springfield carbine questions  (Read 12808 times)

Offline hatman

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1873 Springfield carbine questions
« on: April 25, 2013, 01:32:27 pm »
Hi all,
I posted elsewhere in the forum last night about my newly acquired Springfield carbine.
I received a couple of helpful responses and was invited to come on down to the barracks for more help.
Let me reiterate and expand (based on some questions presented) on what I have and my concern.

I recently purchased a consignment piece from BuffArms where I've received excellent service in the past.
This is my first purchase of an antique firearm, not too mention over the internet so I knew I was taking a chance.  However I trusted BA to sell a "safe" weapon to the best of their ability.

Particulars:
22" barrel carbine (purportedly all original)
Serial number 412XXX which I understand puts it around 1888.
Breechblock is marked U.S. Model 1873 and is the low flattened type.
Buffington rear site
No cartouche  (re-stock perhaps)
V over P marking on barrel
Buttstock has cleaning rod storage (and 3 rods)
Bore was really dirty but cleaned up really well.  Strong rifling. No discernible pits.

My concern:
The issue is that the trapdoor, when the hammer is cocked, has a little bit of side to side movement, maybe 1/32nd to 1/16th of an inch.  Also the wiggle is a bit more when the trapdoor is fully opened.  It's tight trying to push forward/backward.  When the hammer is fully down the trapdoor is tight to any attempt of movement.

I want to be really sure I can safely shoot this.  I took it to a gunsmith yesterday and he thought it would "probably be OK, but I'm not guaranteeing it".  He admitted however he didn't have much experience with trapdoors.  

So, I thought I'd come here and solicit a little wisdom/experience from you folks.
My plan all along has been to shoot only black powder carbine loads (45-55) which I'm waiting for Black Dawge to get in stock.

Any advice on safety,etc. would be greatly appreciated.  I'm getting ready to retire after 35 years and the last thing I want is to have a chunk of metal blown into my face.

I've always been fascinated with the Little BigHorn ever since I visited the battlefield as a kid in 1964.  Although it's not an exact copy of the Custer-era carbines it's close enough that I have a tangible piece of history.
I would really like to shoot it, but only if it's safe.
Thanks for listening.  :)
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 01:58:20 pm by hatman »

Online pony express

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2013, 03:22:46 pm »
Looking at my mod 1884 rifle, when the breechblock is RAISED, there is similar play to what you report on yours. Buy when the breechblock is locked down, no noticable play, at least not more than maybe 1 or 2 thousanths. When the breechblock is down, but the locking lever raised, it does have some side to side play, but dissapears when the thumb lever locks down. Maybe yours has some kind of issue with the lever/latch spring?

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2013, 03:48:25 pm »
Looking at my mod 1884 rifle, when the breechblock is RAISED, there is similar play to what you report on yours. Buy when the breechblock is locked down, no noticable play, at least not more than maybe 1 or 2 thousanths. When the breechblock is down, but the locking lever raised, it does have some side to side play, but dissapears when the thumb lever locks down. Maybe yours has some kind of issue with the lever/latch spring?

Thanks pony.
Mine seems to have about the same amount of side-to-side play whether the thumb lever is locked down or raised.
I can't tell if it's the latch spring or just metal wear.

Offline Trailrider

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2013, 03:56:06 pm »
Have you had the headspace checked? A set of .45-70 headspace gages shouldn't cost that much. You might see if you can get just a FIELD gage. If the latch lever does NOT go fully down on the gage then the headspace is acceptable, though it would be better if it would NOT close on a NO-GO gage. A modern brass cartridge case rim should help take some of the play out of the block. I would also check the hinges for cracks. First check for cracks visually, with a magnifying glass. If you don't see any, but are still concerned, you might also have the hinges checked by MagParticle non-destructive testing. (I doubt it is necessary, but it is an option.)  Keep you loads within the range of those published for Trapdoor Springfields.
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Offline Drydock

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2013, 06:21:45 pm »
That amount of Play is pretty normal, and not to be worried about.  There are some tighter, but you are well within range.  THe hinge itself takes no load, that is born by the camlatch and the ears of the block beneath the hinge.  I will PM you a test you can do to verify good headspace, but I 've never had a TD, even a parts gun, fail head space.  Nature of the beast, these were very well machined arms, and not at all the hand grenades some folks (none here!) can make them out to be.  

Your carbine was built in the 2nd quarter of 1888, one of 1,639 produced in that 3 month period.  It is possible that it is a cut down rifle however.  Does the sight have a "C" at the top right of the ladder, or an "R"?  Barrel diameter at the Muzzle should be 0.73".  Greater than that indicates a Cut Down.

THat is very late for an 1873 marked breechblock, though possible.  Pictures would help a great deal!  
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 07:26:25 pm by Drydock »
Civilize them with a Krag . . .

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2013, 06:56:13 pm »
Have you had the headspace checked? A set of .45-70 headspace gages shouldn't cost that much. You might see if you can get just a FIELD gage. If the latch lever does NOT go fully down on the gage then the headspace is acceptable, though it would be better if it would NOT close on a NO-GO gage. A modern brass cartridge case rim should help take some of the play out of the block. I would also check the hinges for cracks. First check for cracks visually, with a magnifying glass. If you don't see any, but are still concerned, you might also have the hinges checked by MagParticle non-destructive testing. (I doubt it is necessary, but it is an option.)  Keep you loads within the range of those published for Trapdoor Springfields.

Thanks for that, Trailrider
While setting up an appt via email, my local gunsmith said hedidn't have 45-70 headspace gages, but he could rent them.
I told him let's just start with a basic 'visual' and go from there.
After inspection he didn't suggest a headspace check at all.  I left with the impression he just didn't have much experience with trapdoors.

I just looked for cracks on the hinges with a magnifying glass and didn't see any cracks.
Just based on what I've stated in this thread, do you have a go/no go recommendation as to whether it would be safe, or is there just not enough to make one?

Another thought on headspace; don't shoot me for it (pun intended)  :) ---
Would it be helpful if I chambered a round, safely, to see if that reduces the looseness?

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2013, 07:20:36 pm »
That amount of Play is pretty normal, and not to be worried about.  There are some tighter, but you are well within range.  THe hinge itself takes no load, that is born by the camlatch and the ears of the block beneath the hinge.  I will PM you a test you can do to verify good headspace, but I 've never had a TD, even a parts gun, fail head space.  Nature of the beast, these were very well machined arms, and not at all the hand grenades some folks (none here!) can make them out to be.  

Your carbine was built in the 2nd quarter of 1888, one of 1,639 produced in that 2 month period.  It is possible that it is a cut down rifle however.  Does the sight have a "C" at the top right of the ladder, or an "R"?  Barrel diameter at the Muzzle should be 0.73".  Greater than that indicates a Cut Down.

THat is very late for an 1873 marked breechblock, though possible.  Pictures would help a great deal!  

Thanks again Drydock.  I was feeling better after your post in the other thread last night and again here.

And yes, the rear sight has a clear C at the top right above the numbers.

Sorry I would love to show pictures (I think it's totally cool to have this little bit of history and she looks much better than many I've looked at on gunbroker), but I don't have the capability at the moment.

But I've added a very reasonable facsimile from google images that has the same front and rear sight.
Oh, and I forget to mention it had the saddle ring bar and ring.

« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 07:30:11 pm by hatman »

Offline Drydock

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2013, 07:28:56 pm »
An excellent sign! A "C" marked Buffington is quite valuable in its own right, and virtualy never found on a cut down.  And yes, chambering a round should eliminate most of the play, though perhaps not all. 
Civilize them with a Krag . . .

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2013, 07:32:58 pm »
An excellent sign! A "C" marked Buffington is quite valuable in its own right, and virtualy never found on a cut down.  And yes, chambering a round should eliminate most of the play, though perhaps not all. 

Oh wow, very interesting.
I just added to my previous post that I forgot to mention it has the saddle ring bar and ring.
Mostly brown patina and a couple of very small spots that look like rust.

Would you think $1200 is about in the ballpark?

Offline Drydock

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2013, 08:00:38 pm »
Well, I would have to see it to be sure, but I'd say, if it is indeed an authentic M1884 Carbine, you will have done very well.  The lack of Cartouche and the 1873 breechblock are problematic, but not deal breakers if the rest of the weapon checks out.  And it should be a fine shooter.  A GAF membership is free, by the way!
Civilize them with a Krag . . .

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2013, 08:39:02 pm »
Well, I would have to see it to be sure, but I'd say, if it is indeed an authentic M1884 Carbine, you will have done very well.  The lack of Cartouche and the 1873 breechblock are problematic, but not deal breakers if the rest of the weapon checks out.  And it should be a fine shooter.  A GAF membership is free, by the way!

Thank you sir.
I REALLY appreciate your shared wisdom and experience.  I feel much more comfortable (and jazzed) to shoot this piece of history.
It isn't really that important to me if it isn't an 'authentic' anything.  It was made in the 19th century around the time of my grandfathers' births, less than 20 years after LBH.  It's a piece of our history in its own right.  That's enough for me and I have no intention of ever selling it.

But you've certainly piqued my curiosity.
Is there something specific not available in the 'generic' picture I posted that would help ascertain the rarity/value?
Or is it just a closeup evaluation of the wood and metal condition that is needed?

I don't know what GAF is.  A quick google didn't get me there.

oof, figured it out.  i'll look into it.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 10:17:20 pm by hatman »

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2013, 10:51:45 pm »
One more issue:

Tonight, with the hammer on safety, I chambered a live round.
It seated/loaded fine, but I noticed the following---
The part of the firing pin mechanism that comes out of the back of the trapdoor/breech block only was a VERY small amount above flush.  Hardly discernible at all.
In fact, as I try it again, the firing ping mechanism is essentially flush.
Is that enough to engage the pin to the primer?

Without a round, it is below flush by maybe a 16th of an inch.

Do I have a defective firing pin?

One other clarification on what I have:  The hammer has a 3 click tumbler.
One more note:  The hammer has a serration.  And on the backside of the hammer, someone tried to scratch in what appears to be a name.  It sort of looks like "DIEHL", but it's really hard to tell.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 11:01:28 pm by hatman »

Offline Pitspitr

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2013, 09:06:35 am »
Is the serration like checkered inside a shield shape or does it look like someone cut a series of crossed cuts with a hack saw?

Hatman, where are you from? Are you close enough to Nebraska to consider a trip to the center of Nebraska in the middle of July? We'd love for you to attend our Department of Missouri Muster. You'd get to play with your new toy and we might be able to answer a few more of your questions.
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Offline St. George

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2013, 09:27:48 am »
An 1888 receiver build date with an 1873 breech block and no cartouches from an Inspector makes it sound like a parts gun built up after the Trapdoor system was retired in favor of the bolt-action Krag.

Many, many Trapdoors were assembled long after their Service for civilian sales - correct sights didn't matter, as there were plenty available to the builders back then, and they were pretty indiscriminate - making no real attempt to get things right, since that just wasn't important at that time.

That said - a correct 1884 breech block is fairly readily available - as are the properly-marked Buffington rear sights, if you're patient - the Buffingtons aren't as popular as the Model 1879s are, since the weapons so equipped were the ones that actually saw active campaigning during the Indian Wars, and more collectors seek those out.

Good Luck!

Vaya,

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Offline Trailrider

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2013, 09:55:06 am »
One more issue:
Tonight, with the hammer on safety, I chambered a live round.
It seated/loaded fine, but I noticed the following---
The part of the firing pin mechanism that comes out of the back of the trapdoor/breech block only was a VERY small amount above flush.  Hardly discernible at all.
In fact, as I try it again, the firing ping mechanism is essentially flush.
Is that enough to engage the pin to the primer?
Without a round, it is below flush by maybe a 16th of an inch.
Do I have a defective firing pin?
One other clarification on what I have:  The hammer has a 3 click tumbler.
One more note:  The hammer has a serration.  And on the backside of the hammer, someone tried to scratch in what appears to be a name.  It sort of looks like "DIEHL", but it's really hard to tell.

Open the breechblock and look at the firing pin projecting from the block face. Does it appear to be rounded? The only real way to tell if the firing pin protrusion is sufficient is to fire some rounds and see if you get any misfires. When the firing pin is fully retracted, there is NOT much protrusion of the rear end of the pin from the rear of the block. It is possible, if this is a "parts gun" that a firing pin with not original to the block may have been installed. But I wouldn't worry about it unless you get a lot of misfires.
The three-noctch (click) tumbler is correct for ALL Trapdoor Carbines. Two notch tumblers were used on early infantry Trapdoors, but were shortly replaced with the 3-notch type.

Names scratched or stamped on government-issue arms from that era MAY indicate issuance or sale to a civilian...sometimes employees of the Quartermaster Dept. But that usually applied to the 1870's period. It may be very difficult to track unless you got extremely lucky, and have other data to make a connection.
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,
Trailrider,
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Offline Drydock

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2013, 05:16:59 pm »
Yep, you just need to go out and shoot it now.  THe pin will probably work, if not:   http://www.trapdoors.com/view.php?area=parts&id=190#a

Civilize them with a Krag . . .

Offline Bull Schmitt

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2013, 06:29:32 pm »
You might want to check to see if the firing pin is broken. I have two trapdoor rifles and both had broken firing pins.
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Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2013, 06:41:24 pm »
Is the serration like checkered inside a shield shape or does it look like someone cut a series of crossed cuts with a hack saw?

Hatman, where are you from? Are you close enough to Nebraska to consider a trip to the center of Nebraska in the middle of July? We'd love for you to attend our Department of Missouri Muster. You'd get to play with your new toy and we might be able to answer a few more of your questions.

Yeah, I didn't state that very well.
The serration is on the front of the hammer inside a shield shape.
The handscratched name is on the back of the hammer.

That's a very nice offer Pit.  Unfortunately I live and work in Seattle.
As you many have heard, the FAA has cleared Boeing to fly 787's again.  We'll be scrambling all summer to get our backlogged planes out of the factory and off the tarmac.  :)
I'd love to come to Nebraska some day.  Perhaps next year after I retire.


Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2013, 07:33:53 pm »
Open the breechblock and look at the firing pin projecting from the block face. Does it appear to be rounded? The only real way to tell if the firing pin protrusion is sufficient is to fire some rounds and see if you get any misfires. When the firing pin is fully retracted, there is NOT much protrusion of the rear end of the pin from the rear of the block. It is possible, if this is a "parts gun" that a firing pin with not original to the block may have been installed. But I wouldn't worry about it unless you get a lot of misfires.
The three-noctch (click) tumbler is correct for ALL Trapdoor Carbines. Two notch tumblers were used on early infantry Trapdoors, but were shortly replaced with the 3-notch type.

Names scratched or stamped on government-issue arms from that era MAY indicate issuance or sale to a civilian...sometimes employees of the Quartermaster Dept. But that usually applied to the 1870's period. It may be very difficult to track unless you got extremely lucky, and have other data to make a connection.


Firing pin does not look rounded. 
I don't believe it's broken.  I can push on both ends and it sure seems like it's one piece.
When I push from the front end it does come up about 1/32nd inch on the back end. 

Sounds like it's time to just try a test fire.
I had planned on only shooting the Black Dawge 45-70 carbine loads (which I assume means 45-55).
I have Buffalo Arms Black Powder 405gr 45-70 cartridges.  Other than recoil, should I be OK using those?  It appears it may be weeks/months before Black Dawge has the 45-55's in stock.

Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2013, 07:57:04 pm »
An 1888 receiver build date with an 1873 breech block and no cartouches from an Inspector makes it sound like a parts gun built up after the Trapdoor system was retired in favor of the bolt-action Krag.

Many, many Trapdoors were assembled long after their Service for civilian sales - correct sights didn't matter, as there were plenty available to the builders back then, and they were pretty indiscriminate - making no real attempt to get things right, since that just wasn't important at that time.

That said - a correct 1884 breech block is fairly readily available - as are the properly-marked Buffington rear sights, if you're patient - the Buffingtons aren't as popular as the Model 1879s are, since the weapons so equipped were the ones that actually saw active campaigning during the Indian Wars, and more collectors seek those out.

Good Luck!

Vaya,

Scouts Out!



Thank you for the additional info.  Very interesting.
I'm OK if it's in actuality a parts gun.  I didn't buy it for an investment.  This was a purchase of my love of history.
A reasonable approximation of an antique trapdoor scratches my itch.  :)

Offline cpt dan blodgett

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2013, 08:29:14 pm »
If you are a reloader a couple of primed empty cases should answer your questions
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Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #21 on: April 26, 2013, 08:46:01 pm »
Yep, you just need to go out and shoot it now.  THe pin will probably work, if not:   http://www.trapdoors.com/view.php?area=parts&id=190#a



Thank you sir.
That's what I'll do.

I had been considering only using Black Dawge 45-70 carbine loads (45-55 I assume). 
They're out of stock but I have plenty of 45-70-405 black powder cartridges from Buffalo Arms (for my Shiloh and C Sharps).
Any reason I should be concerned safety-wise by trying the BA cartridges?

Offline JimBob

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2013, 10:00:04 pm »
If you're unfamiliar with trapdoors or need parts explore Al Frasca's site-

http://trapdoorcollector.com

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2013, 11:51:28 pm »
I cannot comment on Buffalo Arms ammo specifically, but the main reason the Army went to the .45-55-405 cartridge for the carbines instead of the .45-70-405 was the fact that the average cavalry trooper was about 5' 4" and weighed about 135 lbs, and there were concerns about recoil. Given, early on, the troops were allowed only three rounds per man per month (later increased to maybe 5 rds), and marksmanship wasn't emphasized until after Little Big Horn, the carbine load was deemed less punishing. However, some troop commanders requested full-power rifle loads for their troopers' carbines. Since you are probably a bit bigger (most of us are nowadays), and may not really notice the difference, strength-wise there is no reason not to shoot infantry loads in the carbine, presuming the carbine is safe to shoot at all.
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!

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Offline hatman

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Re: 1873 Springfield carbine questions
« Reply #24 on: April 27, 2013, 12:38:51 am »
I cannot comment on Buffalo Arms ammo specifically, but the main reason the Army went to the .45-55-405 cartridge for the carbines instead of the .45-70-405 was the fact that the average cavalry trooper was about 5' 4" and weighed about 135 lbs, and there were concerns about recoil. Given, early on, the troops were allowed only three rounds per man per month (later increased to maybe 5 rds), and marksmanship wasn't emphasized until after Little Big Horn, the carbine load was deemed less punishing. However, some troop commanders requested full-power rifle loads for their troopers' carbines. Since you are probably a bit bigger (most of us are nowadays), and may not really notice the difference, strength-wise there is no reason not to shoot infantry loads in the carbine, presuming the carbine is safe to shoot at all.

Roger that, TR.
I read that cavalry troops tried the 45-70-405 rounds and complained, thus leading to the 45-55.
As for me, I'm 6'3" and haven't weighed 135lb since about the 6th grade.  :))