MODEL 1876 PRAIRIE BELT – .50 CALIBER - A VERY
RARE INDIAN WARS CARTRIDGE BELT - EXCELLENT CONDITION:
One of only 200 produced at
the Watervliet Arsenal, this very rare variant of the
Model 1876 Prairie Belt was produced to carry the .50
In 1878 Captain O. E. Michaelis, commander of the
Ordnance Depot at Fort Abraham Lincoln, requested
Watervliet manufacture 300 of the current pattern of
Prairie Belt in .50 caliber, and it is generally
believed that only 200 were eventually produced.
Remarkable in that these belts were specifically
requested in a caliber other than the standard .45
caliber then in use by the army, it is accepted that
these belts were intended for issue to scouts,
teamsters, packers and other civilian employees and
auxiliaries attached to the regular army columns, who
were armed with any of the .50 caliber Sharps and
Springfield carbines and rifles which are known to have
been retained in the inventories of the units serving on
the frontier. This rare .50 caliber Prairie Belt is
well documented in several reference works, with a very
detailed treatment provided on pages 254-55 of
American Military and Naval Belts, 1812-1902 by R.
This Model 1876 (Second Pattern) Prairie Belt has
survived in excellent condition, with a full length
leather billet that has not been cut or shortened. The
belt body is very strong with no tears in the canvas on
the outside or inside surfaces, and the seam along the
bottom is fully intact.
All 46 of the cartridge
loops are present and show no fraying or loss of shape.
The third loop in from the billet – shown below in the
photographs – has a small split on the lower end that
has been reinforced in such a way that it is not readily
noticeable nor is it weakened.
The billet retains legible
stamps for both the arsenal and the Ordnance Department
inspector - “WATERVLIET ARSENAL”, and “A. R. SMITH”.
The outer leather surface of the billet shows some
flexing, but is overall bright with a shiny surface.
The reverse surface of the billet shows some effects of
aging and storage, but overall the leather is strong,
supple and shows no loss of integrity.
These .50 caliber Prairie Belts are an important example
of the efforts of the officers on the frontier to
properly equip not only the soldiers, but the civilians
who supported the army and to meet the needs of the
columns on campaign. The very limited original
production, and the hard use to which those .50 caliber
belts that were issued were subjected – likely used to
destruction – has resulted in very few of these special
belts surviving today and they almost never appear on
the open market. This particularly nice specimen would
be a significant addition to a collection of early
Indian War accoutrements and arms. (0313) $3500
NOTE: Included with this belt is
the .50-70 Winchester Repeating Arms Co. Cartridge shown
in the photographs, a nice example of the early
externally primed cartridges provided by Winchester
under contract to the Indian Wars army.