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MODEL 1870 SPRINGFIELD RIFLE – MODIFIED FOR USE ON THE EARLY WESTERN PLAINS – EXCELLENT FRONTIER ERA RIFLE:  As one of the arms issued during the 1870 Trials, the Model 1870 Springfield Rifle proved to be reliable and dependable in the hands of the soldiers on the western frontier.  With the selection of the Trapdoor system at the end of the Trials as the design that would be basis for the Model 1873 Rifle and Carbine, it is no surprise that as the new .45 caliber arms were issued and the .50 caliber guns moved into the surplus market, these proven heavy caliber guns saw a ready acceptance among the civilian hunters, settlers and frontiersmen.    

This Model 1870 Springfield Rifle recently emerged from an old local collection where I suspect it had sat unappreciated for what it is.  This rifle shows all the indications of being one of those that passed from the army into the hands of a civilian frontiersman, and it is a unique survivor of the American West.   

Two features identify this rifle as one used by a frontiersman as opposed to a regulation issue to a soldier.  The barrel length has been shortened from the original 32.6” (in bore) to 23”, likely to make the rifle more manageable on horse back, and the forearm was reduced back a further 14” from the muzzle in the style of a carbine.  The muzzle cut  was well executed and the resulting surface was finished with a slight crown.  

The rear and front sights were altered in a manner consistent with other frontier sights of the period.  The original rear sight leaf was cut down and fashioned into a buckhorn-style sight.  The leaf can still be lowered so the shorter sight notch can be employed.  The original front sight was completely removed and replaced with a dovetailed brass base mounting a large silver blade.    

The metal is overall smooth with a pleasant naturally aged plum colored patina.  The lock is dated 1864 and the lock stampings are present and legible, as is the “1870”, “US”, crossed arrows, and the eagle head on the breech block.  The bore is very good to excellent with strong rifling throughout and no significant pitting.  The lock – trigger action is very crisp.  

The stock has a very pleasant aged color and is generally smooth, but does have the marks and dings one expects to see on a rifle of this heritage.  The stock is solid with no cracks, breaks or other structural damage.  The ramrod channel immediately forward of the barrel band and the bottom of the fore stock shows the characteristic wear and polish of having been carried over the pommel of a saddle, again indicative of a frontier used rifle.   

This is a very nice example of an early Indian Wars era rifle that certainly saw use on Western plains, and the features it exhibits cannot be disputed as typical of the earliest rifles used to harvest the buffalo herds and defend the frontier.  That this Springfield Rifle survived in the condition that it presents is remarkable, and it deserves a place in a collection where its historical importance will be appreciated.  $995 



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