Original U.S. Civil War 1861 Springfield Model 1870 .50-70 Trapdoor Rifle

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This Springfield Model 1870 Rifle is in very fine plus condition and is the earlier of several variations of the Model 1870. The Barrel on this rifle is in simply very fine plus condition. The exterior of the 32 5/8" long barrel retains all of its nearly pristine National Armory Bright finish with serial number 5396 appearing both on the left side of the breech and on the barrel.

There are only a couple tiny blemishes on the barrel from the breech to the muzzle. The original rounded crown is present. The bore is still mirror shiny with strong rifling present and would undoubtedly still make a great shooting rifle.

The right, rear of the barrel has the correct serif "X" sub inspector's mark above the barrel witness line, which lines up with the witness line on the receiver. Most Model 1870 Rifles have a sub inspection mark "X" or "D." The Front Sight is the correct type short Front Sight Blade and Base that is brazed to the barrel.

The receiver retains 75% of its original blackened finish. The term "blackened" as used in 1870 indicated an oil casehardened finish that left a very durable, nearly all black finish. This compares with the color case hardened finish that results in a multi-color pattern on the steel. The breech portion of the receiver is shiny and shows no evidence of pitting - it is nearly as clean as the day it was manufactured.

The Ejector Stud appears to work perfectly and has the majority of its original blackened finish. The Breechblock Cam recess in the breech is also very clean and shiny with no evidence of any corrosion. The Extractor retains the majority of its blackened finish and is intact and the Extractor Spring is still very strong. There is no serial number on the Receiver or Barrel as the Model 1870 Rifle was, uniquely among trapdoor rifles, not serial numbered.

The Breechblock on this Model 1870 Rifle is actually a Model 1868 Rifle Breechblock, which as Richard Hosmer points out in his definitive work on the .50-70 Springfield Rifles, "The .59- and .50-Caliber Rifles & Carbines of the Springfield Armory 1865-1872," by Richard A. Hosmer, North Cape Publications, 2006, some or all of the first 1,000 Model 1870 Rifles used in the field trials may have been provided with Model 1868 breechblocks. This Breechblock is clearly a Model 1868 Model Breechblock because the top edge of the Breechblock, when viewed from the side, aligns almost exactly with the center of the hinge pin. On the Model 1870 Breechblocks, the top of the block aligns with the bottom of the hinge pin. The Model 1868 Breechblock was also shorter than the Model 1870 with the Model 1868 measuring 1 7/8" across the arched cut and the Model 1870 measuring 2 1/4" across the arched cut. The Breechblock markings on top are the correct Model 1868/early 1870 Breechblock markings, "1870/eagle head facing to left/downward pointing crossed arrows/US," and the markings are very crisp. The Breechblock is in very fine plus condition with 95% plus of the original blackened finish, to include the breechblock face.

The Firing Pin Spring is still strong and the Firing Pin face is in great condition as well. The bottom of the Breechblock has a sub inspection, serif "Y" mark. The Cam Latch is the correct rounded outside end type with squared inside end and it works smoothly both to open and close the Breechblock. The Breechblock is very tight both in battery and fully opened.

The Lockplate is the correct Civil War Model 1861 Musket Lockplate that is marked "1861" to the rear of the Hammer and, in front of the Hammer, it has the spread eagle with large shield and "U.S. / SPRINGFIELD," all still sharply stamped. The face of the Lockplate has a nice pewter patina with vivid original color case hardened finish in the Cam Latch recess.

The Hammer is the correct Model 1863/1864 type, modified with the flush nose and the still crisp knurled in a shield pattern on the thumb piece. The Hammer has a nice pewter patina with considerable dark portions of the original color case hardened finish on the central portion and it still works correctly in both the half- and full-cock positions with the original two-position tumbler. The Main Spring is still very strong. The original rounded top, single-slot Hammer Screw is present and the Hammer is secure with no wobble.

The Rear Sight is the Model 1868 Style, which is also most probably correct for one of the early rifle trials weapons. The Rear Sight Base retains considerable original blued finish under the Leaf with the sides of the Base a mixture of bluing that has aged to a brown patina with the balance a pewter patina. The original spanner-head Rear Sight Screw retains 95% of its original browned (blued) finish. The Leaf Spring also retains 95% of its original browned finish. The Rear Sight Leaf retains the majority of its browned (blued) finish with wear along narrow friction lines from the Elevation Slide and the Leaf is graduated on the front up to 900 yards. The Elevation Slide aperture is the Model 1868 "V" without side ledge cuts and it still has enough friction to maintain its position on the Leaf without rattling or moving at all. The Rear Sight Leaf Base is correctly mounted 7/16" forward of the Receiver and the top portion of the Leaf correctly rests on the front edge of the Receiver.

The Stock is the correct early Civil War Springfield US Model 1863 Stock that did not originally have the inletting for the Band Springs. The Model 1868 and Model 1870 Rifles both used the Model 1863 stock slightly modified and it is in very good plus condition with only minor dings and scratches and what appears to be its original oil finish.

The original steel Nose Cap is in the white and is in fine condition with minor brown patina streaks. The original Butt Plate is marked with a "U.S." (faint) on the tang and both Butt Plate Screws are the correct single-slot convex screws in fine condition. The Butt Plate is very clean with considerable original National Armory Bright finish that has faded somewhat to a nice, smooth patina finish.

The original Upper Barrel Band with Split Shank Sling Swivel is in fine condition. It retains 95% of its original National Armory Bright finish with no evidence of corrosion. The correct serif "U" stamp is on the right side. The Swivel is in very good plus condition and the Swivel Screw is in fine condition and the Swivel still rotates freely. The Upper Band Spring retains 90% of its original blued finish. The Lower Barrel Band is in fine condition that retains 95% of its original National Armory Bright finish with no evidence of corrosion. The right side has the correct serif "U" stamp.

The Lower Band Spring retains 95% of its original blued finish. The Ramrod stop is in the white. The Ramrod is the correct and early single-shoulder type that is 35 3/8" long and it has the correct early type cannelures with rectangular cut out through the middle. The Ramrod remains in the white and is in very fine plus condition. The single-shoulder type Ramrod is also consistent with the early 1,000, rifle trials Model 1870 Rifles and it is correctly flush with the end of the Barrel when stowed and it is very tightly secured when stowed in the Stock.

The original Trigger Plate and Trigger Guard is present and it retains considerable original National Armory Bright finish with wear noted on the bottom of the Trigger Guard Bow and the assembly has a nice pewter patina. Both original Trigger Plate single-slot Screws are present and are in fine condition. The original smooth Trigger is present and it retains 95% of its original blackened (blued) finish and it still rotates smoothly on the Trigger Screw and the Trigger still crisply releases the Hammer. The original Lower Sling Swivel is securely attached to the Trigger Guard Bow and retains a generally brown patina and it rotates freely.

This is an exceptional, very rare, and possibly one of the earliest 1,000 rifle trials Springfield Model 1870 .50-70 Caliber Trapdoor Rifle. The condition is simply fantastic and could still shoot as well as it did in 1870. Only 12,000 of these Rifles were ever made and the survivability rate has been relatively low so these rarely come up for sale. This is the perfect addition to the Springfield, Indian Wars or US Military Weapons collector!

While the American Civil War was predominantly an Infantryman's war using muzzle loading, percussion cap ignition rifles, the use of breech loading, cartridge firing weapons (principally carbines) left an indelible mark on both the US Army and weapons designers in the United States. The Army's experience during the Civil War left post-war Army leaders with two distinct impressions. First, the accuracy and long-range of modern infantry rifles made the linear, Napoleonic-style of infantry tactics obsolete. And second, the need for faster firing weapons was a necessity for modern infantry combat. The result was the formation of a special board by the War Department to select a new breech loading rifle. Once the board was formed, it developed a list of requirements for a new breech loading rifle and sent requests for submissions to all known arms manufacturers and to the National Armory at Springfield. The principal requirements of the new arm were straight forward: a breech loading firearm chambered for a self-primed, metallic cartridge.

When Springfield Armory received the request for the board, it assigned the responsibility for developing the Springfield design to Springfield's Master Armorer, Erskine S. Allin. Allin's design was both simple and practical. His design, oddly enough, involved the conversion of the earlier Model 1861 Pattern Rifle Musket that was used during the Civil War instead of the later Model 1863 and 1864 Rifle Muskets. Many thousands of these muzzle loading rifles were on hand at Springfield after having been returned following the demobilization of the Union Army. Allin's design involved cutting a section out of the breech end of the standard Model 1861 .58 caliber barrel and fitting a hinged breech block into the cutout space. This was the "trap door" design that became the standard design for the US rifle for the next 25 plus years. Several foreign and domestic US designs were also submitted to the board in late 1865. The board ultimately chose Allin's Springfield-submitted design. Although many have opined over the years that one of the main reasons for the board's selection of Allin's design was its familiarity to the board's members (it looked very similar to the muzzle loading Model 1861), the real reason probably had more to do with the Army's tiny budget after the end of the Civil War and the relatively low cost of converting existing arms compared to procurement of an entirely new design. The War Department approved the board's recommendation and Springfield was directed to produce 5,000 Model 1865 breech loading rifles, which became known as the "First Allin" Rifle.

The Model 1865 "First Allin" Rifles were finished in 1866 and issued to soldiers in the field. The Model 1865 fired a short, copper-cased, .58 caliber rimfire cartridge with a powder charge of 60 grains and a 500 grain bullet. Reports from these units identified several problems with the new rifles. First, the copper cartridge case had a weak case head that was often torn off during extraction, leaving the rest of the case inside the chamber. Ballistically, the .58 caliber round was also considered underpowered. And the breech system itself was considered too fragile with problematic extraction and ejection components. The problems identified were severe enough that Springfield made the decision to completely redesign the breech action and develop an entirely new round. The new cartridge that was designed was based around a .50 caliber bullet that had a more pointed tip than the earlier .58 caliber round. The case was also significantly different with a longer overall case length and a centerfire ignition system instead of the earlier rimfire design. The new case held 70 grains of black powder, giving the new round a significantly higher muzzle velocity than its predecessor. Springfield also designed a new breech that was stronger and had more robust components. The new design was, unlike the earlier Model 1864 "First Allin" Rifle, based on the later Civil War issued Model 1863 and 1864 Rifles. The concept was the same, however, in that the rear portion of the original barrel was cut away and the new breech block was hinged in the "trap door" style. The smaller diameter of the bullet necessitated a more radical change to the existing Model 1863 barrels. The .58 caliber rifled barrels were reamed out along the entire length to a diameter of .640 inches and then fitted with a .50 caliber liner or barrel insert that was brazed in place at the muzzle and breech. This new rifle was designated the US Model 1866 Rifle, also known as the "Second Allin" Rifle and it performed much better than the Model 1865 First Allin Rifle. The Model 1866 saw active combat service soon after it was issued and was considered instrumental in the Army's defeat of Sioux Indians under Chief Red Cloud at the Wagon Box Fight and Hayfield Fight, both occurring in August 1867 along the Bozeman Trail in the Wyoming and Montana Territories.

While the Springfield Model 1866 Rifle had performed very well in service, Ordnance officials eventually decided that a new arm with a separate, reinforced receiver with a screw-on barrel was needed. This led to the design, production and fielding of the Springfield Model 1868 Rifle. It fired the standard .50-70 caliber centerfire cartridge used on the Model 1866 Second Allin Rifle and used the now-familiar trap door design, albeit with the breech block fitting into standalone receiver. In the past the US Model 1868 was often referred to as the "Third Allin" Rifle but this is an incorrect designation. The Model 1865 and 1866 were true "alterations" based on Erskine Allin's design. The Model 1868, on the other hand, was an entirely new Allin design as opposed to an Allin alteration of an existing model.

Although the Springfield Model 1868 .50-70 Rifle performed satisfactorily in service with the US Army, politicians, private arms manufacturers and even some Army officers still thought a different breech loading design should be adopted. One of the loudest voices espousing this view came from Remington Arms Company, who thought its rolling block design was superior to the trap door design. Since the US Model 1868 Rifle apparently did not settle the matter of which design was going to be the US Army Rifle of the future, the Ordnance Department established in 1869 the Ordnance Board on Tactics, Small-Arms and Accoutrements, which was chaired by Major General John Schofield. The Board met at the St. Louis Arsenal and was charged with selecting the breech loading design that would become the standard for the US Army for the foreseeable future. Despite the industrial expansion in the United States following the Civil War, the stock market crash in 1869 and resulting economic malaise resulted in Congress mandating that one system and only one system would be used for future small arms. The Ordnance Department attempted to thwart the will of Congress by increasing production of the US Model 1868 Rifle while a new design was being considered but Congress discovered the Ordnance Department's plan and killed it by significantly cutting appropriations for Springfield Armory until the Board made its final recommendation.

Schofield's Board received numerous submissions for a new breech loading rifle design and the Board recommended four of them for a one-year long field trial. The four arms selected for testing were, 1) Springfield's Allin designed Model 1870 Prototype; 2) the Remington Rolling Block Rifle Model of 1870; 3) the experimental Sharps Model 1870 Rifle; and 4) the Ward Burton experimental bolt action Model of 1871. Approximately 1000 rifles and 300 carbines of each design were ordered for the trial. Ultimately, Erkine Allin's design, the Springfield Model 1870 Rifle, was chosen. It was, in many ways, a curious choice since it was almost identical to the Springfield Model 1868 Rifle. While there were numerous changes made to the earlier 1868 design, the changes that resulted in the new Model 1870 Rifle were small and, some claim, insignificant - particularly since it was supposed to be an entirely new design for the future long arm of the United States Army. The principal changes in the Model 1870 Rifle was a shorter and stronger receiver and a newly manufactured, purpose built, .50 caliber rifled barrel.

The rifle design of the future did not last very long. Only 12,000 Model 1870 .50-70 caliber Rifles were manufactured at Springfield Armory from 1870 until 1873, and this number includes the 1,000 rifles initially manufactured as part of the rifle trial established by the Schofield Board. In just two years the future of the Army's "rifle of the future" was in doubt when another Ordnance board was established to develop a new more powerful and longer range cartridge. The round that was eventually selected was the .45-70 round and, coupled with support for the Ward Burton bolt action design by some in the Army, a whole new set of recommendations were made to the Secretary of War for a suitable rifle/carbine. Congress then appropriated $150,000 for Fiscal Year 1872-1873 to "manufacture arms at the national armory.. PROVIDED, That no part of this appropriation shall be expended until a breech-loading system for muskets and carbines shall have been adopted for the military service." It was deja vu all over again and the Model 1873 design (also an Allin designed "trap door" rifle and carbine) was selected. The very short duration that the Model 1870 .50-70 caliber rifle was in service, and the very small numbers produced, make the Springfield Model 1870 Rifle very scarce and highly sought after.

  • This product is not available for shipping in US state(s): New Jersey

    This product is available for international shipping.
  • Not eligible for payment with Paypal or Amazon


Cash For Collectibles