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Original U.S. Civil War Springfield M-1863 Short Rifle Converted to M-1865 Trapdoor using Scarce 1st ALLIN System

Item Description

Original Item: One Only. This is really a Peach! This rifle started out as a Civil War Springfield Model 1863 2-band Short Rifled Musket made by SPRINGFIELD ARMORY, as indicated on the lock plate. This particular rifle is technically a Model 1863, Type II, indicated by the solid bands and band springs and two leaf rear sight. Around 700,000 of all Model 1863 types were produced from 1863 until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

The U.S. Civil war had confirmed the adage of NEED is the Mother of INVENTION. Muzzle Loading Muskets and Rifles were extensively used but new developments continually resulted in a "fresh" breech loading system being adopted on a trial basis. The Union had as many as NINETEEN different systems issued during the war, some of which were extremely complex.

After considerable testing, the prototype developed by Erskine S. Allin of the government-operated Springfield Armory was chosen for its simplicity and the fact that it could be produced by the modification of existing Springfield Model 1863 muskets. These modifications cost about $5 per rifle (around $73 adjusted for inflation), which was a significant savings at a time when new rifles cost about $20 each (around $292 adjusted for inflation). Patent No. 49,959 was issued to Erskine S. Allin on September 19, 1865, describing the design.

The conversion from musket to breech-loader was done by milling open the barrel's breech section and inserting a hinged breechblock fastened to the top of the barrel. A thumb-operated cam latch at the rear of the breechblock held it shut when in closed position. The rack-type system extractor was withdrawn automatically as the breech-block was opened and snapped back at the end of its stroke. The firing pin was housed within the breech-block. The hammer nose was flattened to accommodate the firing pin.

The breech mechanism employed a hinged breechblock that rotated up and forward, resembling the movement of a trapdoor, to open the breech of the rifle and permit insertion of a cartridge. The hinged breechblock caused these rifles to be named "Trapdoor Springfields".

Approximately 5,000 Civil War Model 1861 rifled muskets were converted at the Springfield Armory in 1866. It soon became apparent that many of the small working parts in the breech system were not going to have a long service life, and the action was too complicated for normal service use. Therefore, before the Model 1865 production order was completed, a less complex rifle was already being tested. This caused the Model 1865 to be called the "First Allin", and the following revised model, the Springfield Model 1866, to be called the "Second Allin".

There is an excellent work TRAPDOOR SPRINGFIELD by Waite and Ernst published in 1980 that covered this very subject from 1865 - 1893. The very first Chapter is entitled "The ALLIN Breech-Loading System" which covers the Model Trap door rifle we offer here. The conversion made inventive use of the existing parts of the barrel, such as the cap lock bolster being turned into part of the breech lock system.

In fine condition, the lock is dated 1865 on the tail with an EAGLE next to U.S. / SPRINGFIELD in front of the hammer. This indicates the year of conversion, and this date ensures that it is a First Allin conversion. Like all of the conversions, it took place at the United States Armory and Arsenal at Springfield, located in Springfield, Mass. This is a rare U.S. Military Rifle that led to the the legendary Springfield Trapdoor Model of 1873.

The stock is in excellent condition with only light wear and denting from service. It has the lovely red brown color of oiled aged walnut, which takes decades to develop. There is no major damage that we can see, and like most of these it probably did not see much service. It even still bears a clear ESA cartouche on the left side by the rear lock screw, for Erskine. S. Allin, Master Armorer at Springfield Armory from 1853 until his death in 1879. As the developer of the system, this is the exact cartouche that should be on this rifle.

The rifle functions well, with a fully functional lock, and the complex ejection system still appears to be fully functional. The breech block is however missing the firing pin, as well as the spring for the latch, probably removed long ago or possibly never installed. These rifles did not see much use and were already obsolete by the time they were finished being built.

The Metal components are in good condition, showing a nice brown oxidized patina, which may be an arsenal brown finish. There is no major rust or other damage on the exterior. The bore is very good, with a mostly bright finish and crisp lands and grooves, showing scattered areas of oxidation. The butt plate is marked U.S., and both barrel bands are U marked.

An very example of the M-1865 Converted short rifle, Fully Cleaned and ready to research and display!


Year of Manufacture: circa 1864 - converted 1865
Caliber: Rimfire .58-60-500
Cartridge Type: Rimfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 33 1/2 Inches

Overall Length: 52 Inches
Action type: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Trapdoor Breech Single Shot

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