Original U.S. Civil War M1860 Spencer Repeating Rifle with Saddle Ring Serial Number 44590 - late 1864

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is excellent example of a genuine U.S. Civil War era Spencer Repeating Rifle, with a very rare Saddle Ring attached to the left side. This is normally only seen on the carbine version of this repeater. All parts completely correct with lots of the original finish present, including lots of case hardening on the action, which is almost always completely gone. It also has lovely excellent condition fore and rear stocks. Just a truly excellent example of this legendary repeating firearm.

A very interesting Spencer Model 1860 Civil War Rifle with Serial number of 44590 indicating mid to late 1864 manufacture. 5 times as many carbines as rifles were produced during the civil war, so any Spencer rifle is somewhat rare. These were also mostly produced in 1862-3, with only special order rifles made after that.

Complete with its original 7-Shot tube magazine stored in the butt, this was the gun that advertised, "Load on Sunday and Shoot all week". Maker’s markings and patent information still mostly legible on top of the receiver, which read:

PAT'D MARCH 6 1860

This particular rifle is equipped with the "Stabler Cut-off" in front of the trigger, which enabled the rifle to be make a single shot and eject the cartridge without reloading the chamber. This was developed at the end of the war, but many Spencer rifles and carbines were reworked post war at Springfield Armory. 

The stocks are in truly excellent condition, with a great color and just a few dents, probably from storage. We've never seen stocks this good.  There is even a crisp A.W.M. cartouche on the butt stock. The metalwork is equally great. There are a few areas of pitting, but we have left them completely untouched to avoid marring the lovely case-hardened finish. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, though it also has a lot of fouling and oxidation, which we have not been able to clean off. Probably rates a 5 out of 10.

The horizontal shot tower, as some affectionately referred to the Spencer Rifle, was in essence the original assault rifle. While the Henry Rifle offered more shots in the magazine, the .44RF Henry round was essentially the ballistic equal to a pistol cartridge. The .52 caliber 56-56 RF Spencer round was much more comparable to a real service rifle load and delivered far greater downrange stopping power. The Spencer was also very fast to reload, with a 7 round tubular magazine that fed through the buttstock, soldiers could carry pre-loaded magazine tubes and changes magazines almost as quickly as today's shooter exchanges them on a modern magazine fed rifle or pistol. While the Spencer shooter did have to manually cock the hammer for each shot (the Henry had a speed advantage here, since the toggle action that operated the bolt to eject and load a new round also cocked the hammer), the robust design and powerful cartridge combined to make it the most prized and most feared long arm of the American Civil War.

Overall a great example of an iconic civil war weapon. Perfect for any collection, and ready to display!

History and overview of the Spencer repeating rifle and carbine-

The Spencer repeating rifle was a manually operated lever-action, repeating rifle fed from a tube magazine with cartridges. It was adopted by the Union Army, especially by the cavalry, during the American Civil War, but did not replace the standard issue muzzle-loading rifled muskets in use at the time. The Spencer carbine was a shorter and lighter version.

The design was completed by Christopher Spencer in 1860, and was for a magazine-fed, lever-operated rifle chambered for the 56-56 Spencer rimfire cartridge. Unlike later cartridge designations, the first number referred to the diameter of the case ahead of the rim, while the second number referred to the diameter at the mouth; the actual bullet diameter was .52 inches. Cartridges were loaded with 45 grains (2.9 g) of black powder.

To use the Spencer, a lever had to be worked to extract the used shell and feed a new cartridge from the tube. Like the Springfield Model 1873 Trapdoor Rifle, the hammer had to be manually cocked in a separate action. The weapon used rimfire cartridges stored in a seven-round tube magazine, enabling the rounds to be fired one after another. When empty, the tube could be rapidly loaded either by dropping in fresh cartridges or from a device called the Blakeslee Cartridge Box, which contained up to thirteen (also six and ten) tubes with seven cartridges each, which could be emptied into the magazine tube in the buttstock.

There were also 56–52, 56–50, and even a few 56–46 versions of the cartridge created, which were necked down versions of the original 56–56. Cartridge length was limited by the action size to about 1.75 inches, and the later calibers used a smaller diameter, lighter bullet and larger powder charge to increase the power and range over the original 56–56 cartridge, which, while about as powerful as the .58 caliber rifled musket of the time, was underpowered by the standards of other early cartridges such as the .50–70 and .45-70.

At first, conservatism from the Department of War delayed its introduction to service. However, Christopher Spencer was eventually able to gain an audience with President Abraham Lincoln, who subsequently invited him to a shooting match and demonstration of the weapon. Lincoln was impressed with the weapon, and ordered that it be adopted for production.

The Spencer repeating rifle was first adopted by the United States Navy, and subsequently adopted by the United States Army and used during the American Civil War where it was popular. The South occasionally captured some of these weapons and ammunition, but, as they were unable to manufacture the cartridges because of shortages of copper, their ability to take advantage of the weapons was limited. Notable early instances of use included the Battle of Hoover's Gap (where Col. John T. Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" effectively demonstrated the firepower of repeaters), and the Gettysburg Campaign, where two regiments of the Michigan Brigade (under Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer) carried them at the Battle of Hanover and at East Cavalry Field. As the war progressed, Spencers were carried by a number of Union cavalry and mounted infantry regiments and provided the Union army with additional firepower versus their Confederate counterparts. President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth was armed with a Spencer carbine at the time he was captured and killed.

The Spencer showed itself to be very reliable under combat conditions, with a sustainable rate-of-fire in excess of 20 rounds per minute. Compared to standard muzzle-loaders, with a rate of fire of 2-3 rounds per minute, this represented a significant tactical advantage. However, effective tactics had yet to be developed to take advantage of the higher rate of fire. Similarly, the supply chain was not equipped to carry the extra ammunition. Detractors would also complain that the smoke and haze produced was such that it was hard to see the enemy.

In the late 1860s, the Spencer company was sold to the Fogerty Rifle Company and ultimately to Winchester. With almost 200,000 rifles and carbines made, it marked the first adoption of a removable magazine-fed infantry rifle by any country. Many Spencer carbines were later sold as surplus to France where they were used during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

Despite the fact that the Spencer company went out of business in 1869, ammunition was sold in the United States up to about the 1920s. Later, many rifles and carbines were converted to centerfire, which could fire cartridges made from the centerfire .50–70 brass.


Years of Manufacture: mid/late 1864
Caliber:  .56-56 Spencer rimfire / .52 cal
Ammunition Type: Rimfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 29 inches
Overall Length: 47 inches
Action: Lever Action with Manual Hammer
Feed System: 7 Round Tube Magazine

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