Original U.S. Spencer Model 1865 Saddle Ring Repeating Carbine with Brass Magazine Tube - Serial 6887

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very good condition Spencer Repeating Rifle Company Model 1865 Saddle Ring Carbine. While most M1865 carbines we have seen were made by Burnside Rifle Company, about 40% of the total produced were manufactured by Spencer itself. This is one of the few model 1865s we have had made by Spencer, and it is definitely not an M1860 conversion.

The Spencer factory manufactured nearly 23,000 M1865 Spencer carbines, of which 12,502 were equipped with the Stabler cut-off. In the post-war period, Springfield Armory retrofitted about 12,000 M1860s to incorporate M1865 features. The .56-50-cal. M1865 Spencer carbines manufactured by the Burnside Rifle Co. and the Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces with 20-inch barrels, and they had an overall length of 37 inches.

Understandably this weapon became known as the one you "Loaded on Sunday and shot all week." First produced in 1860 by Christian Spencer of the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company, which remained in business until 1869.

Here we have a nice condition genuine Spencer Repeating Rifle Company Model 1865 Saddle Ring Carbine. At some point during its service life, the carbine was arsenal reconditioned, which included refinishing and possibly restocking it. This has removed most of the original markings on the receiver. It also at this time had a sling swivel fitted to the left side of the butt stock, as well as to the left side of the barrel band.

After these modifications, it saw further service, so the refinished hardware is now itself worn. It is marked under the fore stock with serial number 6887, while the receiver tang marking is mostly removed, with only "7" still visible.

The maker's markings on top of the receiver are faded to just the "R" at the beginning of the second line, but originally it would have read:

PAT'D MARCH 6, 1860

Comparison of the placement of the R confirms that this is definitely not an example made by Burnside. The Model 1865 carbine was made by both Spencer and by Burnside under license. They each had their own serial number sequences. We checked the barrel, and it has not been sleeved, and is the correct 20 inch length for a Model 1865 carbine. It also has the correct 6 groove rifling used by Spencer on the Model 1865, so it is not a converted Model 1860.

The metalwork of this carbine is in good shape, with a lovely worn gray patina. Under the barrel and on the breech mechanism there still is some of the original blued finish visible. The saddle ring bar is still present, with the original saddle ring installed. The original ladder sight has been replaced with a simple two leaf flip sight. The action is a bit stiff, but still functions well, though we have not tested the ability of the magazine to feed.

The stocks are still in great shape, with a lovely light oil finish and a lovely red brown color. They do have some small dents and scratches, but nothing major. We believe that they are arsenal old stock replacements, which explains why they have no markings while still being in such great condition.

The bore is in very good condition, and shows strong lands and grooves, with a mostly bright finish and some areas of light oxidation. Definitely one of the better bores we have seen. The magazine tube removes easily, and is in good condition. Of interest is that it has a brass body, not steel, which we only see on a minority of Spencer carbines. The bottom of the receiver shows no signs of ever having been fit for a Stabler cutoff.

Overall a very nice example of an iconic weapon. Perfect for any collection, and ready to display!


Years of Manufacture: circa 1865
Caliber: .56-52 Spencer Rimfire
Ammunition Type: Rimfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Overall Length: 37 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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