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MODEL 1874 HAZEN LOOPS – VERY RARE “CUT LOOP” MODIFICATION FOR CARRYING .45 CALIBER PISTOL CARTRIDGES ON THE MODEL 1876 1ST PATTERN “NARROW” PRAIRIE BELT:  The  Model 1874 Hazen Loops were introduced as part of the Model 1874 Cavalry Sabre Belt Set to carry the .45-70 carbine cartridges as described in Ordnance Memoranda No. 18.  Consisting of twenty cartridge loops supported by three belt loops, each trooper was to be issued two of these Hazen Loops for his leather sabre belt.  With the defeat on the Little Big Horn focusing so much attention on the manner in which the soldiers carried their cartridges, these sets of leather cartridge loops, approved only two years before, would soon be replaced with canvas and woven cartridge belts.  However, those Hazen Loops that had been issued remained in the inventories of the regiments on the frontier, which may explain how this set came to be modified and put to the apparent use that it was.  

Like so many other pieces of equipment, the First Pattern Prairie Belt was developed and issued to answer one specific problem – that of efficiently carrying a sufficient number of carbine or rifle cartridges into the field in such a manner that would protect the soft copper cartridges from being deformed or fouled with the green waxy verdigris which occurred when the cartridges came in prolonged direct contact with leather.  It was a cartridge belt for the .45-70 cartridge – period.  No provision was made for this belt to carry a holster, a pistol cartridge carrier, a sabre, or for the infantry, the ubiquitous bayonet.  The Ordnance Department fully expected the soldiers to continue to wear their leather sabre and waist belts to support all of their other appendages and the Prairie Belt was to be worn in addition to the leather belts.  It was not only a short sighted plan, but it completely ignored the soldiers’ preferences and ingenuities they had demonstrated with the soldier-made “Fair Weather Christian” leather cartridge belts which dated from the 1860’s – some of which were made to carry both pistol and carbine cartridges in the same belt.   

Once they received the Prairie Belts, the soldiers set right to work to modify the accoutrements on hand in order that they could carry all of their necessary equipment on the one belt.  In the cavalry regiments, belt loops on holsters were enlarged, or cut and tied over the belt with leather thongs as were pistol and carbine cartridge pouches, and in some cases sabre straps were added to the belts.  Although far from common, enough of these modified accoutrements survive in collections today as evidence of the soldiers’ efforts.  Certainly this concept must have appealed to the infantryman as well, and in fact, there exists at least one known example of a cut-loop McKeever Cartridge Box mounted on a First Pattern Prairie Belt which was dyed dark blue – an obvious infantry belt.   

When I initially acquired this set of Hazen Loops, my attention was immediately drawn to the cut belt loops - obviously fashioned as they were on other accoutrements - so the set could be worn on a Prairie Belt.  While the effort seemed unnecessarily redundant – a set of carbine or rifle cartridge loops to carry on a looped cartridge belt – there were Dyer and McKeever Pouches which were so modified and intended for wear on the Prairie Belts for the same reason.  No combat soldier, regardless of the era in which he served, ever thought he had too much ammunition when entering the field against his enemy.  

Upon closer examination of this set, I noted that in addition to the cut loops and the obvious evidence of prolonged use in the field, one edge of the cartridge loops showed considerable wear, to the point that there was a loss of leather along that edge.  When these loops were loaded with .45-70 cartridges, the cartridge protruded from both the top and the bottom of the loop, protecting the edges of the loop from wearing against another surface which would eventually result in the loss of leather.  Also, when worn as intended, these Hazen loops were to be worn on the sides or the back of the soldier’s sabre belt, and even when he was mounted in the saddle, the loops would not normally come into contact with his body or the saddle.  Even on sets that show field use, this loss of leather along the edges is not normally seen, as they have been protected by the length of the cartridge. 

After considering the wear pattern, it occurred to me that if a .45 caliber pistol round was carried in the loops, and this set were worn on the front of the belt where the soldiers normally carried the pistol cartridge pouches, the shorter cartridges would not extend below the edge of the loops, leaving the raw edge of the loops to wear against the soldier’s leg or lap when he was seated in the saddle. 

The combination of characteristics - this set having been modified to wear on a looped cartridge belt, the obvious evidence of use, and the wear pattern along the edges of the loops – leads me to the conclusion that this set was fashioned by a soldier to carry his pistol cartridges.  This is the only set of these Hazen Loops I have seen which feature the cut belt loops, and while I am fairly certain this soldier was not the only one who had such a set, no others have been noted in any of the available references. 

That so few of these modified accoutrements survive today can be easily explained when viewed through the Ordnance Department’s process of issue and return.  When the units received new issues of current equipment and returned the obsolete accoutrements and equipment to the Ordnance Depots, those pieces that had been modified were looked upon by the Ordnance Department personnel as damaged beyond repair, or the necessary repairs to return the item to its original configuration were not cost effective – especially if it was obsolete equipment.  It is very likely the modified pieces were condemned and destroyed with the other unserviceable equipment, and they simply did not survive to be funneled into the surplus sales that would eventually lead to the collectors’ market. 

The small number of surviving modified accoutrements serves as quiet testimony of the efforts of the soldiers and the Ordnance Department to adapt stocks of surplus or current material to suit the needs encountered on the Frontier.  In spite of the number of accoutrements that must have been modified during the period, surviving examples such as these are scarce and they are a fascinating field of collecting in their own right.   

In spite of the obvious signs of use, this set is still intact and all of the loops are present.  Some of the loops are worn along the edges as noted above, and one loop has a split that runs 2/3 of its length, but as the set displays, this split is not visible.  The belt loops are still tightly attached to the body and they have been fitted with native (brain) tanned buckskin thongs for mounting the set on your Prairie Belt.   

This heretofore unknown modification of a fairly scarce accoutrement in its own right, this set is a very special soldier modified Indian War accoutrement to display with your 1ST Pattern Prairie Belt and would be a notable piece to display with a Model 1873 Colt or a Model 1875 Schofield revolver.  (1011)  $850

NOTE:  Unfortunately, this has to be said – the belt pictured is not included with the sale of this Hazen Loop. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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