Mc Pheeters Antique Militaria
Home Page About Us Ordering Information Links



INDIAN USED MODEL 1877 .45/70 SPRINGFIELD TRAPDOOR CARBINE – TACKED WITH A CLASSIC APPEARANCE - PUBLISHED WITH LONG TERM PROVENANCE – EXCELLENT SPECIMEN OF AN INDIAN USED CARBINE:  This Model 1877 Springfield Trapdoor Carbine presents with a great appearance, and exhibits strong evidence of having been carried by a Native American warrior.  Featured in Guns of the Western Indian Wars, by R. Stephen Dorsey, and obtained directly from the author’s permanent research collection after his passing, this is the very epitome of an Indian used gun which conjures up images of desperate close quarter clashes, thundering buffalo chased by mounted hunters, and the endless horizons of the yet untamed Western Frontier. 

No doubt exposed to heavy use, and exhibiting the effects of having been subjected to a fire, this carbine was obviously carried during the active and violent years of the Indian Wars era.  The stock is charred over the majority of the butt stock and the area around and in front of the lock area, and to a lesser degree around the wrist.  How this carbine came to suffer the fire damage is lost to history, however the characteristics of the burned surfaces do provide some suggestions as to where in the chronology of the carbine’s life it occurred. 

The burned surfaces are polished smooth, with no soot or charring rubbing off when the carbine is handled, indicating that this carbine was carried and handled for a considerable amount of time after it was exposed to the fire.  The areas of the stock which would have received the most handling such as the forearm, the wrist, and the flats of the butt are polished to the point of appearing as black glass, with even the open ends of the exposed grain being worn down. 

It’s hard to imagine that a soldier, frontiersman, or even an outlaw or border ruffian would have carried such a heavily damaged firearm when they could have replaced the stock or acquired a long gun in better condition.  Only someone with no alternative to turn to and no access to a replacement would have considered using this carbine after it was damaged to this extent – such as an Indian striving to survive while he and his family were enveloped in a state of war. 

The stock is decorated with a small number of cast brass square shanked tacks, applied sparingly to areas and in the manner seen on honest, period decorated tacked guns – not the excessive and impractical application of handfuls of tacks that modern “gun sweeteners” are prone to add.  Interestingly, the tacks appear to have been applied after the carbine was burned, suggesting two points of consideration – that the Indian who tacked this carbine regarded even this burned stock highly enough to warrant decorating it, and secondly, that he intended to continue to use the carbine “as is”, worthy of the cost and the effort to apply the tacks.  This was not a temporary possession until something better came along – he valued this carbine, perhaps as a trophy of battle that he captured and of more meaningful value to him than one with a complete stock. 

While no original documentation survived with this carbine, the trail of its ownership in collections has been documented back to the period of the 1960’s, with a letter of provenance from the last owner.  Dorsey recorded in a letter which will accompany this sale that he purchased this carbine in the 1980’s from the previous owner’s estate.  Prior to his death in 1984, that owner had related that he had purchased the carbine many years before from the Ft. Sill, Oklahoma museum collection.  I have spoken to older collectors since and they recalled a sale of artifacts from the Ft. Sill museum sometime in the 1960’s or 1970’s.   

Such a sale of museum artifacts is almost unimaginable in today’s world, however I encountered a similar situation in the early 1970’s while attending one of the large gun shows in Salt Lake City, Utah.  While wandering the show, I came across a cluster of tables some five or six tables in length, stacked like cord wood with old, heavily used long guns, all in heavily used condition and many of them with primitive repairs and decorated with brass tacks.  The memory of what was stacked on those tables haunts me still, as I was in college at the time and had virtually no money to spend on such “foolishness” as old guns.  Standing behind the table was a young man, dressed in the standard khaki and green National Parks Service uniform and his expression left no doubt he regarded his assignment as a punishment detail.  When I asked about the guns, he related with some frustration that he’d been given a vehicle, a trailer full of these guns which had been cleaned out of the storage area at the Little Big Horn monument, some expense money, and a schedule of gun shows, and told to hit the road and don’t come back until all the guns were sold.  He had been provided with no guidance as to pricing, so suffice it to say I could have cleaned off those tables for a few hundred dollars – seriously, most were priced in the $20-50 range.  So before you dismiss the origin of this carbine from the Ft. Sill museum collection, rest assured I can attest to the fact that such sales could – and most certainly did – happen.    

This carbine has retained all of the correct Model 1877 features (with the 1879 improvements applied by the Springfield Armory) to include: the V/P/Eagle/p proof marks on the barrel at the breech, the third style hammer, the undated lock plate fitted with the three position tumbler, the smooth trigger, the barrel band without the stacking swivel and stamped with the large “U”, the short wristed stock, and the three holes in the butt stock for storing the sectioned cleaning rod and the ruptured case extractor.  The square “SWP” dated cartouche applied to the left side of the stock is still visible; however the individual characters are not distinct, the result of constant wear and heavy use.  With some study and imagination, one can make out a portion of the date numerals and it appears to be dated 1881, consistent with the above itemized features.  The area of the stock where the circled P proof stamp would have been applied below the rear tang of the trigger guard was lost when the stock was burned.  Both the original front and rear sights are present.  The rear sight is the 1st Pattern Model 1879 Rear Sight, made without the sighting notch in the sight leaf base, and the sight is mounted with slotless screws.  From all appearances, this carbine has retained all of its original fittings (except for the butt plate) and other than the naturally occurring wear and the effects of the fire, has not been modified or changed in any way since it left the Springfield Armory, was shipped west, and eventually fell into the hands of the Indian who carried it. 

The mechanical lock and trigger function is very crisp, the breech block locks up tight, and the firing pin is still functional – fairly remarkable considering the use to which this carbine was subjected to.  Obviously the Indian who carried it depended on it to function properly and he took measures to maintain the mechanics.  The bore is again, fairly remarkable in its condition.  It is overall dark, with some scattered spots of light pitting which is more concentrated at the muzzle; however the rifling is still present throughout the length of the bore and surprisingly distinct.  Certainly the rifling is strong enough for accuracy with the soft lead bullets of the period in which this carbine was used.  The metal surfaces are as one expects to see on an Indian-used gun, with scattered pitting worn mostly smooth with the constant handling, and an even undisturbed overall brown finish which attests to the years of exposure, wear and rough handling it was subjected to in a harsh environment and violent era. 

The stock obviously shows the most dramatic degree of wear, having been burned to the point of losing a considerable amount of wood, however the stock is not weakened and it is still serviceable – the carbine obviously used to good affect long after the stock was burned.  The wood shows no signs of having been sanded, refinished, or subjected to any repairs or alterations since the period of its historical use, and it has a pleasing patina, with a nice even rich color.    

This carbine presents as it has survived for many years with no effort to improve or enhance it beyond what it is – a heavily used Model 1877 Springfield Carbine which was certainly carried by a Native American warrior while he was still free on the plains and in the mountains of the American West.  If you hesitate on this one, trust me – it will be one that haunts you as the one that got away for years to come.  (0924) $8550 



Ordering Instructions

Identified Items  


Edged Weapons

Saddles and Horse Equipment


Collectors Ammunition

Uniforms, Insignia, Hats

Canteens and Mess Gear

Gun tools, Bullet molds and Parts

Field Equipment and Artillery

Original Ordnance Manuals, and Photos 

US Army Medical

Reference Books and Reprints