“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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M1903 Springfield

The 1903 Springfield was the preferred weapon of the miners; however, it only saw limited usage by them. It was one of the many small arms used by the Logan defenders on a wide scale and to a limited extent, the guards at mines.

The M1903 Springfield, formally the United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903, is an American clip-loaded, 5-shot, bolt-action service rifle used primarily during the first half of the 20th century. It was officially adopted as a United States military bolt-action rifle on June 21, 1905, and saw service in World War I.

The basic time line is that work began on creating a rifle that could handle higher loads and adopted some of Mauser’s features, began around the turn of the 20th century by Springfield, with a prototype produced in 1900, and going into production in 1903, thus gaining its nomenclature. There was actually an interim rifle that almost entered production, the Model 1901. Springfield was sure enough that the Model 1901 would be accepted that they began making some parts, but it was not accepted and further changes were asked for. The design was further modified and accepted, type classified and entering production in 1903.

The War Department had exhaustively studied and dissected several examples of the Spanish Mauser Model 93 rifle captured during the Spanish-American War, and applied some features of the U.S. Krag rifle to a bolt and magazine system derived from the Mauser Model 93, to produce the new U.S. Springfield Rifle, the Model 1903. Despite Springfield Armory’s use of a two-piece firing pin and other slight design alterations, the 1903 was in fact a Mauser design, and after that company brought suit, the U.S. government was forced to pay royalties to Mauser Werke.

By the time of U.S. entry into World War I, 843,239 of these rifles had been produced at Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal. Pre-war production utilized questionable metallurgy. Some receivers were improperly subjected to excessive temperatures during the forging process. The carbon could be “burnt” out of the steel producing a brittle receiver. Despite documented evidence indicating some early rifles were improperly forged, actual cases of failure were very rare.

Towards the end of the war, Springfield turned out the Model 1903 Mark I. The Mark I has a cut on the left hand side of the receiver meant to act as an ejection port for the Pedersen device, a modified sear and cutoff to operate the Pedersen device; a specialized insert that replaced the bolt and allowed the user to fire .30 caliber pistol cartridges semi-automatically from a detachable magazine. The stock was also slightly cut down on the left side to clear the ejection port. In all other respects, the Mark I is identical to the 1903. Temperature control during forging was improved prior to Mark I production. The receiver alloy was toughened by addition of nickel after Mark I production.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 8:23 pm  Comments Off on M1903 Springfield  
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Don Chafin’s Militia

Most of Don Chafin’s private army was made up of the recently created WV State Police, WV National Guard, hired guns, citizens from Logan, members of the American Legion, strike breakers, and a variety of others. For those that wanted to wear a uniform, khaki was the most common color. Khaki generally meant what we would consider Olive Drab now a days. Like the miners, many of these men were also veterans of the Great War and would have worn their service uniforms. In many pictures, these men are seen wearing the campaign hats, which was a common head gear for the state police and soldiers of the US Army. The other option was to wear a white armband to “counter” the red scarves that the union men would wear. Since these men were armed by the coal companies, they were almost exclusively armed with the M1903 Springfield rifle and to a lesser extent, the M1917 Enfield rifle. In addition, they were also armed with Winchester lever action rifles, Thompson sub-machine guns, Colt and Browning machine guns, and even ex-military light artillery. In the end both sides did minimal damage to each other since both sides were under disciplined and many were not trained in military warfare; over a million rounds were fired in five days resulting in less than 50 dead on both sides.