Author Topic: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?  (Read 218 times)

Offline ArtyMan

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M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« on: June 29, 2020, 05:21:13 pm »
Hey guys,

I'll start this by saying that I know the only way to really determine if something is safe to shoot is by having it inspected by a proper gunsmith. Given that they aren't exactly common, I figure posting a few pictures here to determine if it's even worth going to and paying a gunsmith for an inspection, or should I not even bother.

I just picked up a really nice antique M1865 Spencer carbine in .56-50. This carbine has a nice action and I was able to pick up 50 pieces of expensive Starline brass online. I have a center fire breech block conversion on the way, along with dies and planned to shoot this carbine, even if only a few times a year on occasion.

Upon trying to fit a piece of empty brass into the carbine, I realized it wouldn't seat all the way easily (and I didn't want to force it). I realize some guys have issues with Starline brass, but I also shoot a .50-70 and may go that route if these don't work. A closer inspection however showed that the left side of the chamber area has a burr in it, and what potentially appears to be a dent or deformation? There is a vertical cut on the left side of the chamber where the extractor blade sits, which is all good, but the burr and potential deformation on the left side of the chamber likely isn't good...   

Basically what I am wondering is - is there a point in taking this to a gunsmith or is this a wall hangar? Those of you who own an antique Spencer - does this look consistent with your breech area or is this a lost cause for shooting?

Thanks,
Matt

Offline ArtyMan

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2020, 05:21:48 pm »
More pictures

Offline DJ

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2020, 10:21:40 pm »
Congrats on your new acquisition.  It appears you have some bulging in the right side (3 o'clock) of the chamber from dry-firing too much over the last 1.5+ centuries.  That will need to be cleaned up to allow your case to chamber.  You could do it with a chamber reamer ($$$) or VERY CAREFUL file work with a rounded file.  There also seem to various dings in the chamber at 6 and 8 o'clock which also may need to be smoothed out.

The chip out of the chamber on the left side is fairly common and, in part because of the low pressure of the cartridge, should not pose a problem, although I would recommend that you always have the extractor installed when firing, as that provides some support to the remaining thin metal.  However, your chamber ahead of the chip looks a little rough--perhaps some metal folded over--and may also need some cleaning up.

The scratches in the chamber (at least they look like scratches) could perhaps use a little sanding/smoothing.

With all the little chamber issues, it might be worthwhile to take it to a gunsmith, because all of these clean-ups will require careful work.  I know you were hoping to avoid this, but if you found a smith with Spencer experience or, better yet, a chamber reamer, it should be a fairly simple job.  But again, it calls for care and patience if you do it with files and abrasives.  If you don't have experience with gunsmithing or fine metalwork, I would encourage you to team up with someone who does.  Remember, any metal you file away was originally put there for a purpose, and once you cut it away, it cannot easily be added back.

The Starline cases can be hit-or-miss with original Spencers.  The rim is a little undersize for the blade extractors--some seem to work and some don't, which is probably a function of manufacturing tolerances.  They're not dangerous to shoot, but you might have something of a single-shot if the extractor can't get a bite on the rim.

Show us some more photos, and good luck with your new piece of history.

--DJ
(modified 29 JUN to correct typo)

Offline ArtyMan

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2020, 12:52:08 pm »
DJ,

Thank you very much for your insight! You’ve given me some hope that this old girl may still be capable of a round or two occasionally. I’ll likely end up taking it to a gunsmith as I don’t trust myself with a file on 155 year old metal!

Offline Trailrider

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2020, 05:16:30 pm »
DJ's points are excellent! The problem you may have is in finding a gunsmith who is an expert on Spencers.  If the chamber won't clean up readily, you may want to think about lining the barrel.  Don't worry about the left side of the chamber adjacent to the extractor cut. Virtually, every well-used Spencer I've seen over the years had a similar problem.  With modern solid-head brass and low-pressure loads you won't have any problem. The rest of the chamber could present some difficulties in extraction. I would recommend using .50-70 brass. Make up a few rounds and see if you have extraction problems after firing. Best of luck and stay well!
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,
Bvt. Lt. Col. Commanding,
Southern District
Dept. of the Platte, GAF

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #5 on: Today at 02:40:09 pm »

Offline El Supremo

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2020, 06:15:16 am »
Hello:

Based on my first-hand experience with seven Spencers, I suggest that you consider contacting Larry Romano of ROMANO RIFLE COMPANY in Pennellville, NY. Email best as he's usually in shop. He WILL respond, but might take a while. 

Larry has been working on, lining and rebarreling original and repro Spencers since 1995. His shop is complete and he can do anything you want. I trust him with irreplacable items.

Respectfully,
Kevin Tinny
Pay attention to that soft voice in your head.

Offline Major 2

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Re: M1865 Spencer Chamber Issues - Safe to shoot?
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2020, 07:00:27 am »
You might try Mark Novak

https://candrsenal.com/gunsmithing/
when planets align...do the deal !

 

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