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"JOHN C'S"
Spencer Repeating Rifle
&

IT'S ENGLISH BAYONET

 

LEFT SIDE VIEW OF THE SPENCER REPEATING RIFLE - SN 3981
LEFT SIDE VIEW OF THE SPENCER REPEATING RIFLE - SN 3981

 

JOHN C's MARK
JOHN C's MARK

 

     I have had this Spencer rifle so long that I cannot remember from whence it came. Like most war time issued Spencers, it saw hard usage and exposure to the elements. It went through a war but at least it came out in one piece. However, it didn't survive the years with out any scars. It's missing the front sling swivel and a previous owner liked it so much that he carved his name, "JOHN C",  in the left side of the stock, under the comb.  Whether this was done during or after the war is unknown. But without doubt, this weapon was JOHN C's at one time or another. It also came with a surprise, a perfect fitting bayonet of English origin.  When preparing for this week's posting, I went through various reference books looking for a record of this rifle's serial number - 3981.  It was found that a Spencer rifle with serial number 3980 was issued to Company K, 9th Michigan Cavalry.  It appears from the serial number ranges of the Spencers issued to the 9th Michigan Cavalry that this rifle was very likely to have been utilized by a trooper in the 9th Michigan Cavalry. They twice bested the forces of General John Morgan CSA,  went with Sherman on the march from "Atlanta to the sea" and had the prestige of being the first regiment of Sherman's army to reach the coast.  In a skirmish with General Johnson's forces at Chapel Hill, N.C. just before news came of Lee's surrender and the order to "cease firing", it is asserted that the Ninth fired the last hostile shot of the war east of the Mississippi.  Could this be the rifle used?

 

RIGHT SIDE VIEW OF THE SPENCER REPEATING RIFLE - SN 3981
RIGHT SIDE VIEW OF THE SPENCER REPEATING RIFLE - SN 3981

 

     The introduction of the seven shot repeating Spencer rifle has been called by some the turning point of the Civil War. This rifle is caliber .52 rimfire utilizing the Spencer No. 56 straight copper case which measured .56 at the top and bottom of the casing, hence the oft times used designation of 56/56 cal. when referring to the Spencer cartridge.  It was the most powerful cartridge used in any repeating rifle of the Civil War.  The rifle is 47 inches long and weighs approximately 10 pounds. It has 6 groove rifling and the front sight doubles as a lug for a socket type bayonet.  The Civil War Army model was manufactured by Spencer Repeating Rifle Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 11,471 of these rifles were purchased by the government out of about 20, 000 manufactured.  The government purchased models were in the serial number ranges of approximately 700 to 11000 with another small group in the 28000 range.

 


 

     The faded case-hardened lock is 5-1/4" long. The curved hammer was also case-hardened. The black walnut two-piece stock terminates at a case-hardened fore-end cap 9/16" long that is 3-1/4" from the muzzle. The butt stock measures 14-1/8" with a 9-1/4" comb.  The fore-stock has a length of 25-3/16".  The once blued barrel, now mottled, is 30" long. The front sight, which has a pinned brass insert, doubles as a bayonet lug. It is 3/8" high, 3/8" long and 7/16" wide at the base. It is positioned 1-1/4" from the muzzle.  The single-leaf folding rear sight sits on a curved spring base. The sight is 3-3/8" from the breech.  The iron barrel bands, springs and butt plates were originally blued.  The three 1/2" wide solid oval barrel bands are retained by conventional springs under the stock.  The middle band once held the upper sling swivel which is now missing.  The lower sling swivel, 4" from the butt, is centered on  a 1-5/8" long screw held plate.  The 14" tubular magazine fits into a 7/8" diameter opening through the unmarked slightly curved butt plate. There is an extracting handle on the magazine that covers the opening.  It turns counter clockwise toward the top of the butt plate where it is secured by a button spring.  The only government inspector's marking on this rifle is "S. L." It is on the left barrel flat near the breech. The initials are those of Samuel Leonard - Armory Sub-Inspector, 1862-1875.

 

LOCK PLATE  & HAMMER
LOCK PLATE  & HAMMER

 

FORE-END CAP
FORE-END CAP

 

FRONT SIGHT
FRONT SIGHT

 

REAR SIGHT - SIDE VIEW
REAR SIGHT - SIDE VIEW

 

REAR SIGHT - TOP VIEW
REAR SIGHT - TOP VIEW

 

FRONT SLING SWIVEL BAND
FRONT SLING SWIVEL BAND

 

REAR SLING SWIVEL
REAR SLING SWIVEL

 

BUTT PLATE VIEW 1
BUTT PLATE VIEW 1
(Magazine Tube In Place)

 

BUTT PLATE VIEW2
BUTT PLATE VIEW2
(Magazine Tube Removed)

 

MAGAZINE LOADING TUBE
MAGAZINE LOADING TUBE

 

EXTRACTING HANDLE
EXTRACTING HANDLE

 

"S. L." INSPECTOR'S STAMPING - BARREL
"S. L." INSPECTOR'S STAMPING - BARREL
(Samuel Leonard -Armory Sub Inspector)

 


 

     Between the breech and the barrel, the receiver is marked on the top flat " SPENCER REPEATING - / RIFLE CO.  BOSTON MASS . / PAT'D. MARCH 6 1860." in three lines.  At the rear of the breech, near the back of the hammer is the serial number "3981".  The tubular magazine/loading tube extends the full length of the butt stock. The seven rimfire .52 caliber, 56/56 cartridges are fed into the receiver through the pressure of a helical spring secured to a rounded follower. The breech block is dropped, extracting the fired cartridge cases, by pulling downward and forward on the operating lever/trigger guard. This action also places the next cartridge in the magazine into position.  By lifting the lever back into position the cartridge is driven into the breech chamber for firing. The hammer must be manually cocked before every shot. The action of the lever does not cock the hammer, it only serves to eject the fired cartridge and to ready the next one for firing. An expert marksman could get seven aimed shots off in less than 10 seconds.

 

BREECH STAMPING
BREECH STAMPING
CLOSE UP OF BREECH STAMPING
CLOSE UP OF BREECH STAMPING

SPENCER REPEATING -
RIFLE CO.  BOSTON MASS .
PAT'D. MARCH 6 1860.

 

SERIAL NUMBER STAMPING - "3981"
SERIAL NUMBER STAMPING - "3981"

 

BREECH BLOCK - OPEN
BREECH BLOCK - OPEN

 

RIGHT SIDE VIEW OF BREECH
RIGHT SIDE VIEW OF BREECH

 

LEFT SIDE VIEW OF BREECH
LEFT SIDE VIEW OF BREECH

 


 

     As mentioned, this Spencer rifle came to me with an perfect fitting bayonet. The surprising thing is that it is an English made socket bayonet! It is undoubtedly a bayonet made for a large bore English Enfield. But, it fits the Spencer like a glove. The inside diameter of the bayonet throat is 1-27/32", a fraction under 1-7/8". It mikes out at a little over .81 of an inch. The muzzle length is 1-3/16" and the lug channel is 9/32".  The blade measures 17" from the shoulder to the point with a face flute of 15-1/2". It is 31/32" wide at the shoulder. There is a stamped number of  "107" on the socket. The blade is marked with a "WD" over a crown, over an "E", over a "1". The scabbard throat markings may be a "6" over a "46" - hard to tell.

 

OVERALL VIEW OF BAYONET & SCABBARD
OVER ALL VIEW OF BAYONET & SCABBARD

 

VIEW OF BAYONET FIT VIEW OF BAYONET FIT
TWO VIEWS OF BAYONET FIT

 

BAYONET & SCABBARD NUMBERS
BAYONET & SCABBARD NUMBERS
("107" On Bayonet Socket - "6" Over "46" On Scabbard Throat)

 

BLADE MARKING
BLADE MARKING
("WD" Over Crown Over "E", Over "1")

 

FOR CIVIL WAR HISTORY OF THE SPENCER RIFLE AND CARBINE
CLICK HERE
http://www.civilwarguns.com/01beckpage.html

 


 

     Credits for this week's posting go to FLAYDERMAN'S GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AMERICAN FIREARMS... AND THEIR VALUES, by Norm Flayderman, U.S. MILITARY  SMALL ARMS 1816-1865 by Robert M. Reilly and to SPRINGFIELD RESEARCH SERVICE -SERIAL NUMBERS OF U.S. MARTIAL ARMS - VOLUME 4 - 1999EDITION by Springfield Research Service, Silver Springs, Maryland and, of course, to my son and webmaster, Reed Radcliffe of Sunset Hills, Missouri.

 

     Good night, "John C." wherever you are. I hope to be back to everybody soon.

 

Dave Radcliffe