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MODEL 1865 SPENCER CARBINE – SHOWING STRONG EVIDENCE OF INDIAN USE – A WELL KNOWN AND PUBLISHED HISTORIC INDIAN WARS CARBINE:  Fresh from an old collection, this historic Model 1865 Spencer Carbine exhibits strong evidence of having been used by Indians, and through its appearance speaks volumes of its time on the frontier.   

Secure in an old collection long before Indian used guns began to develop an interest among collectors, this particular Spencer Carbine is featured in Guns of the Western Indian War by R. Stephen Dorsey – both as one of the three guns featured on the cover and discussed in detail on page 15. 

Highlighted with old, square shanked brass tacks, the stock shows the desirable, excellent wear where one would expect to find it on the edges of the barrel channel and at the points on the forestock and buttstock where the carbine would have been handled or rested as it was carried on horseback.  The wood has a wonderful aged feel and very nice coloring, the iron all has the same naturally browned surface – not encrusted with rust, but with a nice even color, and the brass tacks have a consistent mellow patina.  The comb, sides and toe of the butt stock, the top and sides of the wrist, and the right side of the forearm are decorated with brass headed tacks, all appearing to be square shanked.   

That the left side of the forearm is not tacked is worthy of note.  As with any of the long guns carried on the frontier, the exposed hammer on the right side of the receiver dictated that if the firearm was carried across a rider’s lap, the saddle pommel or balanced across the neck of his horse, it would naturally lie with the hammer up, resting on the left side of the forestock where tacks would have rubbed against the warrior’s leg or snagged in the horse’s mane.  With the number of tacks used to decorate this carbine, I strongly believe omitting them from the left side of the forestock was intentional, and not because they ran out of tacks.  Further, the lack of tacks in this area argues for these tacks having been applied during the period of use, rather than by a later collector who was “creating” an Indian gun - a modern “tacker” just could not have resisted doing both sides of the forearm.   

The second tack behind the trigger plate is loose, and having drawn it out I’ve confirmed that these are square shanked tacks.  I have applied a magnet to all of the tacks and found no indication of steel shanks.  The wood is worn appropriately between the edges of some of the tack heads and the heads have the appearance of being imbedded in the wood, evidence that the wood has swollen around the edge of the tack heads with the passage of time - one of the characteristics that knowledgeable collectors look for to determine if the tacks have been recently applied.  The heads of the tacks show wear consistent with the wear of the wood immediately around them – i.e. the heads of the tacks on the forearm show more wear than do others that are in more protected areas.   This is not a recently tacked gun where someone attempted to “sweeten” an old, worn out gun, rather these tacks were certainly applied during the period of this Spencer’s use and show the same wear and character of the balance of the carbine.    

In spite of the obvious use to which this carbine was subject, it has survived in very nice condition.  The metal surfaces are overall very smooth with no significant pitting.  As is expected, none of the original metal finish remains and as noted above, the metal surfaces have a pleasing patina. The bore is surprisingly good, overall bright with clear strong rifling throughout, and only minor patches of very light pitting.  The original rear sight is present with the sight ladder intact, but the elevation bar is missing, and the front sight is present and intact.  The receiver and the breech block are in very good condition and the block functions with a very crisp action.  The Spencer Company marking on the top of the receiver are present and legible, and the serial number on the receiver is legible.  The lock plate and hammer are overall smooth with no pitting, and the hammer and trigger are mechanically crisp.  The butt plate is smooth overall with a nice patina, and the cartridge tube is present and intact in the butt stock.    

The butt stock and forearm with the brass tack decoration really are the stars of this carbine.  As mentioned above, the wood has a rich, aged patina that features a wonderful color.  With all of the expected signs of wear and years of being polished by hard hands and rough animals, the stocks are very solid.  The only notable signs of structural aging are two age checks running with the grain at the butt plate on the right side of the butt stock adjacent to the cartridge tube – from all appearances these are stable and show no sign of opening up, and are mentioned here only in the interest of a full description.  The wood on this carbine simply feels “right” in every way. 

This Model 1865 Spencer Carbine was obviously treasured by the warrior that carried it.  Well decorated and obviously cared for, this carbine was certainly regarded as one of his most prized possessions. 

Occasionally a fine collectable passes through my hands that is more difficult to let go of than others, and such is the case with this carbine, but unfortunately I can’t keep them all.  Pieces such as this Spencer appear briefly every twenty years or so, only to disappear again quietly into another collection where they will reside for another generation.  SOLD


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