Original U.S. Civil War M1860 Spencer Repeating Saddle Ring Carbine Serial Number 19143 - circa 1864
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a genuine U.S. Civil War era Spencer Repeating Carbine. All parts are completely correct, and it looks to have been arsenal reconditioned at some point after the war. The metalwork has a lovely aged blue finish, and the stocks show a nice finish with a warm glow.
A very nice Spencer Model 1860 Civil War Carbine with Serial number of 19143, indicating mid-late 1864 manufacture. This number is found on the receiver tang, and on the underside of the barrel. From Spencer's initial order for 7,500 Carbines starting at serial number 11,001, 7,000 were supplied by December 1863 and the balance in early 1864. We checked the Springfield Research Service records, and this serial number does not appear. However, serial number 19135, 19146 and several others in a block nearby went to Company "M" of the 12th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, so it is possible that it may have been part of that shipment! Lots of research potential here.
The carbine comes 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 are still legible on top of the receiver, which read:
RIFLE CO. BOSTON MASS.
PAT'D MARCH 6 1860
Extensively used at Gettysburg, this really is a Civil War Classic!
This particular carbine not equipped with the Stabler cut-off attachment, which was retrofitted in the post-war period by Springfield Armory, to some of these carbines. This means it is still in the original Civil War configuration, complete with the saddle bar and ring.
The stocks are in good condition, with the expected wear of age and long service, as shown. The fore stock is very nice, showing some wear on the rear left side, and some cracking where it rests against the receiver. The butt stock has a great color and some symbols carved under the saddle ring bar. It does however have stress cracks on both sides along the grain that do not show any movement. The hole drilled for the magazine unfortunately causes the butt stock to become somewhat brittle, and over time it can split due to moisture related expansion and contraction.
The metalwork overall has faded to a lovely plum patina, with some areas of light peppering and oxidation. There is not any major oxidation, and this really is in very nice condition compared to a lot of the examples we have seen. The rear sight is still present, however the top cap on the sight leaf is missing, as is the slider.
We checked the bore, and the 6 groove rifling is still clear, with a mostly bright finish. There is only light wear and oxidation, so this carbine does not look to have been used much in service, and was cleaned and well maintained. The carbine functions well, and we did not notice any issues with cycling, though we did not try it with any dummy ammo to see if it could still feed. The magazine looks to be functional, and rotates to unlock.
Overall a very nice example of an iconic civil war weapon, that has passed the test of time with flying colors! Perfect for any collection, and ready to research and display!
Years of Manufacture: early 1864
Caliber: .56-56 Spencer rimfire / .52 cal
Ammunition Type: Rimfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Overall Length: 39 inches
Action: Lever Action with Manual Hammer
Feed System: 7 Round Tube Magazine
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.
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