This is a mint condition and very scarce Springfield Armory Model 1873 Trapdoor Rifle in .45-70 caliber that was made in mid-1876, which is one of the last Model 1873’s with the original 1873 configuration before changes began to made in 1877. This rifle is also interesting in that it was probably manufactured around the same time that General Custer and his battalion from the 7th Cavalry were being wiped out at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
The serial number on this rifle is 68756, which places the date of manufacture of the receiver to mid-1876. Springfield Armory only produced 11,396 rifles that year. The Model 1873 was the first model of the .45-70 trapdoor service rifles and was manufactured at Springfield Armory from 1873-1886.
The Barrel on this Rifle is in very fine condition. The barrel is 32.60” long with a 0.730” barrel diameter at the muzzle. The barrel still retains the vast majority of its original blued finish with a slight plum patina in areas on the top, exposed portion. The barrel has the correct flat tenon on the upper right, rear of the barrel, which was changed to a rounded tenon around serial number 92,000. The left, rear side of the barrel has the serif “V” view proof stamp over the serif “P” firing proof stamp over the eagle head over the second, small serif “P” proof stamp, indicating proof firing with a special 80 grain cartridge of the assembled barrel, receiver and breech block. (The first, or top “V” stamp was a firing proof verification of the unrifled barrel blank). The right, rear of the barrel has a witness line that aligns with the corresponding line on the front of the receiver but it has no letter inspection stamp as this was not done at Springfield until approximately serial number 92,000. The bottom of the barrel has two serif “P” proof stamps as well, which was introduced around serial number 65,000. The bore of the rifle is in excellent condition with a mirror finish and strong rifling with only minor frosting in the grooves.
The chamber is in excellent condition and retains most of its original dark oil finish. The Breech Plug and Tang both retain generous traces of the original color case-hardened finish. The Tang Screw is the correct single-slot type and is unmarred and it retains the majority of its original blued finish.
The Front Sight remains tightly brazed to the barrel and it generally exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina. The Front Sight is the correct two-piece type with the front sight blade attached to the base with the pin. This type front sight, a change from the initial one-piece type front sight, occurred in 1877 around the time this rifle was manufactured.
The Rear Sight is a fine condition and scarce Model 1873 Rifle Rear Sight. The Model 1873 Rear Sight is graduated to 400 yards with steps on the right side of the base. The base exhibits an even plum patina throughout with evidence of the old bluing still present. The base is also secured with the two original headless screws, which were used to prevent unauthorized removal of the rear sight. The Leaf is graduated to 1,100 yards and the slides still moves freely. The Model 1873 Rear Sight was used up until around serial number 78,000 when it was replaced by the Model 1879 rear sight in January 1879. There were no “R” or “C” marks on Model 1873 Rear Sights and these sights are scarce today because many were field replaced or changed during upgrades to the Model 1879 Rear Sight.
The Lower Band is the correct Model 1873 Lower Rifle Band with rounded top. The Band is correctly marked with the serif “U” stamp and it retains considerable original blued finish with areas of plum and pewter patina on the sides and sharp edges. The Lower Band Spring retains 75% of its original blue finish.
The Upper Band is the correct Model 1873 Rifle Upper Barrel Band with the smaller “U” stamp, which was changed to a larger “U” in 1877. The band contains the boss for both sling and stacking swivels, which was introduced in 1875. The Band, swivel and swivel screw retains considerable original blue finish. The sling swivel has the crisp “PAT.MAR.31.74” stamp. The Front Band Spring retains traces of its original blued finish and both bands remain solidly on the stock.
The Breech Block is the original, very fine condition, and scarce Second Type that is crisply marked “MODEL/1873/ eagle head/crossed arrows/US,” adjacent to the hinge point. The Second Type was introduced around serial number 35,000 and was used until around serial number 70,000 and has the high arch and thick wall firing pin housing. Afterwards, the breech block had a reduced arch. The official reason for the change from the high arch to the reduced arch is unclear, but it may be that the increase in the size of the gas ports on the receiver meant there was no longer a need for a large expansion space within the chamber. There are generous traces of the original oil hardened finish on the bottom, protected sides as well on the top. Color case-hardened breech blocks did not appear until around serial number 84,000. The breech face is very clean.
The Cam Latch is the correct Second Type with the ground and polished rivet, which was introduced around serial number 67,000. The Cam Latch retains the majority of its original blue finish. The Cam Latch works perfectly. The original firing pin is present with a still sharp, pronounced striker end and exhibits very minor operational wear.
The Receiver is the correct and early .45-70 second type with the shorter and shallower gas ports milled into both the left and right sides, which would change around serial number 77,387. An early problem with the Model 1873 Rifles and Carbines was that the cartridge case and head would sometimes separate on firing, which allowed combustion gases to enter the receiver. When this happened the breech block would attempt to open, only being kept closed by the hammer. To reduce the possibility of the breech block opening, the design was changed to allow larger gas ports to discharge combustion gas in the event of a cartridge rupture. This change was authorized in December 1876 and implemented in 1877 at Springfield Armory, but this rifle pre-dates that change. The rear of the Receiver has the full serial number “65743,” with very minor operational wear. The Receiver retains considerable original dark oil finish.
The Lock Plate is the correct First Type with the small shield on the eagle and the “1873” stamp below the “SPRINGFIELD” stamp, which was eliminated shortly after this rifle was manufactured. All stampings remain crisp and clear. The lock plate retains the vast majority of its original oil case-hardened finish.
The Hammer is the Second Type with cross-hatching inside a defined border. There is, correctly, a small, beveled lip on the hammer face, which was introduced in 1875. The Hammer still retains considerable original dark oil finish that exhibits a dark, plum patina in places. The original Hammer Screw, which is the correct single slot type and is unmarred, exhibits a pewter patina.
The interior of the lock is in mint condition. The interior of the lock plate surface retains all of its original dark oil quenched finish. The Main Spring retains all of its original finish. The interior surface contains numerous fitting and assembly stamps. The two-position Tumbler is the correct First Type, and it retains all of its original finish and has a serif “X” stamp. The tumbler changed from the two-position type to the three-position type for Rifles in early 1877, so this is one of the last production rifles manufactured with the two-position tumbler. The carbines were the first to receive the three-position tumbler and, to avoid confusion, the decision was made in late 1876 to provide a standard tumbler for both rifles and carbines. The Sear retains most of its original oil finish. The Sear Spring retains all of its finish as do all three lock screws, which have unmarred slots. The lock mechanism works perfectly. Both original Lock Plate Screws are present and in fine condition, retaining the vast majority of their original blued finish no unmarred slots.
The Trigger Guard is the correct two-piece type used up until the Model 1888 Rifle with the single-piece design was adopted. The Trigger Guard Plate is the correct Model 1863 pattern with rounded pads. Both Model 1863 (rounded pads) and Model 1864 (squared pads) plates were used during Model 1873 production with both being used in approximately equal numbers for rifles manufactured between 1873 and 1888. The Trigger Guard Bow is the correct Model 1863 pattern that uses a single-slot screw to attach the rear sling swivel. The Swivel Screw and Swivel both retain the majority of their original dark finish and are in very fine condition. The Trigger Guard Plate, Bow and Sling Swivel all retain 95% plus of the beautiful original blue finish on both the interior, protected surfaces and the exterior surfaces. The outer surface exhibits minor surface wear and small scratches but is in excellent condition. Both single-slot wood screws are present. The Trigger is the correct First Type with smooth face, and it retains considerable original blued finish. The trigger release is still crisp.
The Stock is the near mint condition and original, early Model 1873 Rifle Stock with shorter comb and longer, thinner wrist, which lasted until shortly after this rifle was manufactured when the wrist was reinforced and the comb lengthened, around serial number 72,000. The lock plate inlet is in fine condition. On the left stock flat is the correct and scarce oval cartouche with script “ESA” stamp of Springfield Armory Master Armorer, Erskine Allin. This was the last year with the “ESA” stamp without a date. The next year, 1877, included cartouches over the year. This particular cartouche is known as the First Style Inspector’s Cartouche and it was used only in calendar years 1873 to 1876. The cartouche is still very crisp and visible. The bottom of the stock wrist has the correct circle, script “P” firing proof stamp. Just forward of the butt plate tang is the matching rack number “36” stamp. The original Friction Retainer is present, and it retains the majority of its original blued finish. Both original lock plate screw washers are present, and both retain considerable original finish. The stock exhibits a few very small dings and scratches, but no cracks are noted. The stock retains its original oil finish.
The Nose Cap is still solidly in place and it still retains most of its original blued finish. The correct Model 1873 Rifle Butt Plate is present, and it still retains considerable traces of its original blued finish in places with wear noted at the shoulder and on the bottom edge. The tang is stamped with the large serif “U.S.” stamp and “36/G,” which is the rack number. Both original convex, single-slot butt plate screws are present.
The stock carries the correct and scarce Model 1873 Rifle Ramrod, First Type, with cupped end and seven cannelures. The ramrod retains considerable original blued finish and is in fine condition and it still attaches securely when stowed. All of the original finger cannelures at the other end of the ramrod remain with a slight bend in this area.
This is a scarce and early Springfield Model 1873 Rifle from 1876. This rifle exhibits all of the characteristics of the first Model 1873 Rifles and was made shortly before substantive changes were made in 1877, so original rifles such as this are quite rare. This rifle still functions perfectly.