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INDIAN USED FIRST PATTERN MODEL 1873 TRAPDOOR RIFLE:  There is no provenance that firmly identifies this gun as Indian used, nor are there any tacks or other decorations that many modern collectors have been conditioned to look for in Indian used guns.  That being said, there is no doubt in my mind that this is indeed an Indian used and altered Trapdoor rifle, and likely from the pre-reservation days.  The absence of the front sight; the removal of the rear sight leaf – from all appearances intentional; the hand shaped fore stock; the shortened butt stock with the leather pad; and the extreme pommel wear on the side of the stock all indicate to me that this is not a gun that a European American would have kept and carried with so many other guns in far better condition available to him on the frontier.  Rather, this is a gun that shows characteristics consistent with guns known to have been used by Native Americans and with alterations that would be better suited to close combat or hunting buffalo from horseback.  Further enhancing the value of this particular gun is that all of the components are consistent with the serial number range, and not a gun that was obviously assembled from a collection of parts from different year models.  All of the parts exhibit consistent wear and aging, and all of them belong on a gun with this serial number, and more importantly appear to have always been together on this particular gun.  

This is a First Model Trapdoor M1873 Springfield Rifle, SN 55337, with all of the characteristics consistent with those rifles in this serial number range, to include:  first model lock plate; high arch breech block; first model rear sight mounted with slotless screws that do not show any evidence of removal or replacement; two click tumbler; fine knurl hammer spur; “V/P/Eagle” barrel proof stamp forward of the receiver; and a stock with the short comb/long wrist still bearing the “P” in the ball proof behind the trigger guard tang.   

The butt stock has been shortened by approximately 2”, being cut just forward of the mortise for the butt plate tang.  The butt plate was apparently inletted onto the shortened stock and then subsequently removed, evidenced by a remaining hand cut mortise on the top of the butt stock.  This type of work is consistent with that sort of alterations known to have been executed by the Indians in the field.  The eventual removal of the butt plate all together was either due to a poor fit in the hand cut mortise or more likely, and more characteristic of guns that fell into the Indians’ hands, the plate was modified and put to use as another tool.  The toe of the stock has been hand cut down as well to remove the sharp corner.  A piece of leather was then nailed to the flat of the butt with iron nails.  The leather has been in place for a long time, certainly concurrent with the gun’s contemporary use, indicated by the wear to the leather and the discoloration around the iron nail heads.   

The barrel has been cut to a length of 19 1/8” measured from the front of the receiver.  The muzzle of the barrel has been rounded off by hand, probably with a file at first and then wear and exposure smoothed the crown even further. 

The leaf of the rear sight has been cut away or broken off, leaving the hinge pin swell which was evidently used as the rear sight notch.  There is no front sight, indicating this gun was fired using an “instinct” or “point and shoot” aiming technique at close range – the type of shooting encountered in close combat or in running buffalo from horse back. 

The fore stock has been cut back and whittled down, leaving the stock in the configuration similar to a carbine stock.  The cuts in the wood at this point definitely show hand work and were probably done with a knife.   

While the overall condition of the stock is remarkably good, the left side of the stock, beginning at the forward end of the receiver and running all the way up to where the stock is shaped to meet the barrel, the wood is worn almost down to the barrel channel edge.  This wear is characteristic of what is commonly called by collectors “pommel wear”, that is the wear suffered by a long arm as it was carried across the pommel of a saddle or as in the case of this gun, rested across the neck and mane of an Indian’s horse.  This presence of this type of wear is very desirable evidence of frontier use and is actively sought by collectors who recognize what it represents.  Mile after mile of being rubbed back and forth across the coarse strands of the horse’s mane, further exaggerated by the dirt and grime in the horse’s hair, would buff away the wood.  The wear present on this gun is in the right area and is absolutely correct, showing less wear around the barrel band and the forward lock screw than in the areas unsupported by the iron furniture.   

The bore shows heavy use and no attempt has been made to clean it in keeping with the overall condition of the gun, but the rifling is still visible.  The firing pin is present and stuck in the forward position, the spring apparently having been broken or fouled and unable to retract the pin.   

I am sufficiently confident that this gun was indeed used by Indians, that I have held this gun in my collection of Indian used guns for several years and thoroughly enjoyed it for what it most certainly is.  I am only now offering it for sale as it is a duplicate to several others in my collection.  Guns with this type of honest wear and straightforward modifications, consistent with those known to have been executed on Indian guns, and more importantly ones that have not been sullied or ruined by the addition of upholstery tacks, modern leather wrappings and other enhancements, have never been common and are now becoming increasingly difficult to find on the market as more collectors are recognizing their historic value.  This is a good opportunity to obtain an honest Indian gun that has not suffered any alterations since the day it passed from the Indians into that first collection.  $2750

 

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