“Trapdoor” Springfield

The Trapdoor Springfields were a common surplus weapon found on the civilian market at stores like Sears. Many lead tipped bullets have been found at Blair Mountain suggesting that these sorts of weapons saw usage in the ranks of the miners.

The Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield was the first standard-issued breech-loading rifle adopted by the United States Army (although the Model 1866 trapdoor had seen limited issue to troops along the Bozeman Trail in 1867). The gun, in both full-length and carbine versions, was widely used in the Black Hills War and in subsequent battles against the American Indians.

The rifle was originally issued with a copper cartridge and used in the American West during the second half of the 19th century, but the soldiers soon discovered that the copper expanded excessively in the breech upon firing. This sometimes jammed the rifle by preventing extraction of the fired cartridge case. A jam required manual extraction with a knife blade or similar tool, and could render the carbine version of the weapon, which had no ramrod to remove stuck cases, useless in combat except as a club or bayonet.

After the annihilation of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s battalion at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876, investigations revealed that jamming of their carbines may have played a factor. The cartridge was subsequently redesigned with a brass case, since that material did not expand as much as copper. This proved to be a major improvement, and brass became the primary material used in United States military cartridges from then to the present.

The Model 1884 incorporated a significant number of improvements that had been made between 1878 and 1879. It also featured a serrated trigger that had been incorporated into the Springfield rifle design in 1883.
The most dramatic change to the rifle design, which is often considered to be the identifying feature of the model 1884, was a new rear sight which had been designed by Lieutenant Colonel R. A. Buffington of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department. This sight however was not perfected until 1885.

The principle feature of this new sight was a rack and pinion style windage adjustment. Unlike previous sights, the base was not used for any position other than point blank. The raised leaf had graduations from 200 to 1400 yards. A new barrel band was also designed to accommodate this new sight so that it could lay flat in the point black position.

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Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm  Comments Off on “Trapdoor” Springfield  
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