Sunday, August 6, 2017

Experimental Springfield Armory 1873 Trapdoor, chambered in 30-40.



In the early 1880s, several countries were developing a new, high velocity cartridges with lighter bullets fueled with the new improved "smokeless powders". Not to be left behind, the Chief of the U.S. Ordnance, charged Frankfort Arsenal and Springfield Armory for the development of a new magazine rifle using a cartridge with this new smokeless powder.

While waiting for the new rifle to be created they chose the standard U.S. Model 1873 Trapdoor rifle as a cartridge test bed, 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. These tests ran from 1890 to as late as 1895, with most work being done in the 1891/92 time frame.


Some of the unique features of these rifles are as follows: 1) .30 caliber barrel, 2) 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, 4) unmarked, reinforced, breechblock with the positive cam/locking latch, small tip firing pin, 5) a redesigned extractor intended for the new cartridge, 6) reinforced straight sided receiver that measures 1 1/8 inch across the width of the receiver, 7) redesigned one-piece trigger guard 8) redesigned stock for the smaller diameter barrel.

Most of these rifles and barrels were either consumed in testing or cannibalized after the initial work was completed, or just destroyed. 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.

The 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.
These rifles were extensively written up on pages 199-212, in the excellent book "The 45-70 Springfield" by Frasca & Hill. 








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