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Selling: December 8, 2013

Lot 1482: Springfield Armory U.S. - 1892

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Extremely Rare Martially Inspected U.S. Springfield 1892 Dated .30 Caliber Experimental Trapdoor Rifle Number "I"
Estimated Price: $25,000 - $40,000
Serial #Springfield Armory U.S. - 1892 ManufacturerSpringfield Armory U.S. Model1892
TypeCarbine Gauge30 ARMY (30-40) Catalog Page205
Barrel32 1/2 Inch Round FinishBlue Grip
Stockwalnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThis is a fabulous example of a super rare, like new experimental Trapdoor rifle as manufactured by Springfield Armory for the experimental testing and development of a new .30 Caliber (30-40) smokeless powder cartridge. These rifles were extensively written up on pages 199-212, in the excellent book "The 45-70 Springfield" by Frasca & Hill. To understand the world climate, during the early 1880s, several countries were on the verge of developing a new, high velocity cartridge using a small lighter weight bullet with new improved "smokeless powders". Consequently not to be left behind, the Chief of the U.S. Ordnance, charged Frankfurt Arsenal and Springfield Armory for the development of a new magazine rifle using a cartridge with this new smokeless powder. The test rifle that was chosen was the standard U.S. Model 1873 Trapdoor rifle, however it was deemed too weak to handle the pressures generated by a new cartridge. Consequently Springfield embarked on a massive redesign of the receiver to accommodate this development work. It is estimated that only 45 of these rifles were ever produced in total with an additional 20 different barrels manufactured with varying designs and barrel steels. Many or all of these rifles and barrels were either consumed in testing or cannibalized after the initial work was completed, or just destroyed. These tests ran from 1890 to as late as 1895, with most work being done in the 1891/92 time frame. These rifles were all considered as experimental models and went through numerous design and engineering changes to be able to accommodate the new improved high velocity, smokeless powder cartridges, with each rifle in some instances being somewhat different. Since they were all experimental, they were never serial numbered, but instead were tracked by a small capital letter stamped on top of the rear of the barrel. The letters ran from "A through T" which was mentioned in an 1894 report to the Chief of Ordnance. This rifle is numbered letter "I" and is in original condition. Our assumption is that this rifle was set aside for some reason and was never tested. Some of the unique features of this rifle that validate it as original are as follows: 1) original .30 caliber barrel, numbered "I" as noted with the later Krag rifle style front sight, 2) original short top handguard, measuring approximately 5 3/8 inches with the double handguard clips on the underside, 3) short 1884 Buffington rear sight with no markings on top, 4) original unmarked, No-Arch, reinforced, breechblock with the positive cam/locking latch, small tip firing pin, (interestingly the breech block is numbered "A" on the underside with the assembly makings of a letter "G" on the positive cam/ratchet mechanism along with the screws that held this mechanism in the breechblock), 5) it has the new redesigned extractor intended for the new rimmed cartridge, 6) the correct, reinforced straight sided receiver that measures 1 1/8 inch across the width of the receiver, with side walls, that measures approximately 1/4 inch thick on each side, with the matching positive cam/locking latch cutout, 7) completely new/redesigned one-piece trigger guard with the long swivel on the upper front edge of the trigger guard bow and last, 8) it has the new redesigned/manufactured stock intended for the smaller diameter barrel with the short wrist that is stamped with a boxed "SWP/1892" cartouche on the left side with an additional set of Springfield Armory inspector initials of "R.D.R" and the circled script "P" proof behind the trigger guard. This is just a beautiful, all original and unaltered experimental trapdoor rifle circa 1892 chambered in the desirable .30 caliber cartridge. This entire experiment proved to be a futile effort on the part of the Chief of the Ordnance Board, as the old trapdoor design was no match for the new improved "bolt action" rifles. Currently there are only nine rifles still identified in existence with four of them in museums and five in private collections. Truly these rare rifles are a direct link between the old black powder cartridge and the smokeless powder cartridges. This rifle comes with a letter from Springfield Research, dated 1985 that provided copies of a letter from Colonel Buffington to the Chief of Ordnance USA, (dated June 1882), describing the accuracy and shooting attributes of these rifles along with old targeting records. The SRS letter also validates this rifle as one of the original test rifles used for testing with these new bayonets, and to its rarity.

ConditionExcellent with 97% of the original Springfield Armory rust blue finish overall with some areas having an old, light coating of dried grease. The breechblock and breech plug retain 75% of their original case colors mostly in the protected areas with the exposed metal showing a faded/mottled case colors. The stock and short handguard are both in new condition with a nice original deep dark brown oil finish with a sharp cartouche on the left side. The only negative features is that there are a few minor handling marks on the sides with a small old repair on the right lower rear side in front of the buttplate with some old small vise marks towards the rear center section of the buttstock on each side. Notwithstanding these areas it is remarkable that this rifle still even exists.
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