Trapdoor Springfield mixed parts common?

Discussion in 'Curio & Relics Forum' started by Buffalochip, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. Buffalochip

    Buffalochip Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2008
    I stopped by the Navy Yard museum in Washington DC and they had what appeared to be a model 1888 Trapdoor Springfield (with ramrod bayonet mechanism)labeled as a Model 1884. The way it was displayed, I couldn't see the top of the trapdoor to see what model year was stamped on it.

    Then I saw a K98 displayed with a stated muzzle velocity of about 800fps--about 2000 fps less than what is correct. I brought this to the attention of the curator along with my doubts about their description of the Springfield.

    But since then I've seen two other Trapdoors with the bayonet mechanism that were NOT 1888s, one was a Model 1884. Did Springfield use left over Model 1884 parts when making the Model 1888? If yes, was this practice common from model to model throughout production? And, if they did use Model 1884 stamped trapdoors on the Model 1888s, what model is it? A Model 1884 or 1888?
  2. jim brady

    jim brady Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2009
    Simla, Colorado
    A lot of U.S. (and others) military arms were rebuilt in Arsenals. U.S. rebuilds often do not contain the original parts. European armorers were more careful to keep numbered parts together on the correct weapon. Most are up-dated with what is - or was - current modifications. It is pretty common to find a Springfield Model 1873 with an 1884 Buffington rear sight as an example.

    As far as seeing a mis-matched rifle, or data posted with a display that is incorrect, that happens a lot. Went to the Buffalo Bill Museum outside of Denver, Colorado, and they have some of his rifles on display. One of these, also a Trapdoor, had the lower sling swivel installed backwards. The swivel is supposed to be on the FRONT side of the triggerguard, and this one was on the rear, or butt end of the triggerguard. Maybe the rifle was completely dis-assembled for cleaning and someone just put it back together wrong? I pointed it out to the person in charge, and they just gave me a blank stare.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2011

  3. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    After a visit to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, I wrote them about a German aircraft gun they had labeled as "9mm". It was, of course, 8mm. They replied with a nice letter and said they made the change. So sometimes museum folks do listen.

    In general, trapdoors are very often "frankenguns" built from surplus and scrapped parts by various arms dealers throughout the service life of the rifles and long after. So mixed parts are very common, as are models that "never were."

    As to the trapdoor mentioned by Buffalochip, it could have been a Model 1884, as 1003 were made with the rod bayonet for field testing. The Model 1884 rod bayonet and its catch differ only in minor ways from the Model 1888 type later adopted.

    There were no breechblocks marked 1888 except for the experimental positive cam type. All regular Model 1888 rifles had breechblocks marked 1884.

    One interesting item is the reason for going to a rod bayonet. For almost 20 years, the bayonets for the trapdoor rifles had been made from leftover Civil War bayonets, with the ring cold swaged down for the smaller barrel. By the mid-1880's, 20 years later, they were finally running out of those bayonets (just an inkling of the vast quantity of arms produced in the CW era). The rod bayonet grew out of a desire to keep the soldier's equipment weight down and reduce the items he had to carry. Combining the bayonet with the cleaning rod saved the cost and weight of both a separate bayonet and its scabbard and also meant one less piece of equipment to be hung on the belt.

    The idea is not a bad one; the failure of the later M1903 rod bayonet was partly due to its smaller size (for a .30 bore) and resultant lower strength, but permanently attached bayonets have been used by other countries since.

    One more point; the Model 1888 and Model 1884 with the rod bayonet are often pictured with the screw-on type front sight cover. This was a part of the Model 1884 rod bayonet attachment, and contained the front sight. On the Model 1888, it was simply slipped on and held by a screw; it was later replaced with a snap-on cover. Many Model 1888 rifles have neither.

  4. Buffalochip

    Buffalochip Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2008
    Thanks, Jim. I suspect the curator simply saw the Model 1884 on the breechblock and never considered that it might be incorrect--why would he? Anyway, I'll shoot him an email, but I suspect they will leave it as is.

    I did finally get the Smithsonian American Indian museum to replace a Model 1858 New Army .44 Remington with a .36 calibre to match its label--they had two guns displayed--one labeled as a .36 and the other as a .44, but they both were .44s....
  5. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    I'm confused. Either model of round rod bayonet rifle would be correct with an 1884 breechblock. Even though the newer one was officially called the Model 1888, the breechblocks were marked "1884". NO standard breechblocks were marked "1888".

    Are you sure the rifle is a Model 1888? As I said, some round rod bayonet rifles actually were Model 1884's, and a museum may well have one of those. If not sure of the difference, a key point is the front sight. If it is back against the bayonet catch with the sight cover notched into it, the rifle is the Model 1884. If it is sitting on the barrel out an inch or so from the catch assembly, either alone or with a cover, it is the Model 1888.

  6. Buffalochip

    Buffalochip Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2008
    I understood what you were saying--it is a Model 1888 (as you describe). My point is that it is understandable why they would automatically label it a Model 1884--whether it was a Model 1884 with bayonet rod or a Model 1888.
  7. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    Yes, many folks automatically assume that the date on the breechblock is the model date, and probably that is what was originally intended. But Springfield didn't work that way, turning out parts that were put in stock for later use in assembly. That made putting the model number on the breechblock impractical. In any case, there were only ever two dates on production breechblocks, 1873 and 1884.

    Further, they kept turning out variations and slight modifications without changing the model number, and some model numbers were made up by collectors, not used by Springfield. Conversely, for example, the Model 1877 carbine, a term SA did use, is not always used by modern collectors.

    In a modern army, this would drive the logistics people crazy, but in those days almost any rifle or carbine needing major repair work was sent back to Springfield, so parts supply to the field was not the big deal it would be today with troops all over the world.

  8. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Active Member

    Dec 1, 2010
    Ardmore, OK
    Talking about mixed-up trapdoors. As a kid about 1938 I was given a .45-70 trapdoor with all its military trappings including a belt of cartridges. It had belonged to an an uncle who died in 1932. It had been issued to him in WW One when he was in the Oklahoma Home Guard, as he called it. I shot up most of the ammo. In the 1980s I noticed it had no US markings , the eagle, etc on the lockplate. Comparing it with others trapdoors I found other mismatches.

    I found somewhere an article that saying in WW One, states and localities formed home guard units that needed arms. Eager to be patriotic and make a buck some entrepreneurs gathered up parts from wherever they were and assembled guns. There were parts, stocks, barrels, new, arsenal reworks and unfinished gathered up and assembled.

    Disenchanted I gave the gun to a kid who had been a good worker for me.

    My uncle experience was something of a history repeat, in that in the Spanish American war 1898, my Grandfather's militia was issued .50-70 trapdoors. He said it was very accurate. He often shot the head off a quail when they were out on 'maneuvers'.:)
  9. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    Wow! I didn't think the army still had .50-70 rifles (or ammunition) that late. But the assembly of surplus and scrap parts into trapdoor rifles didn't start with the Spanish American war. For years, as Springfield made its various models leading up to the Model 1873, they sold off surplus parts. That continued after the 1873 was adopted as changes were made in those rifles and carbines and parts became obsolete.

    An 1884 catalog shows .45-70 trapdoor rifles ("the same as now used by the U.S. Army") for $10, $12 for "perfectly new" guns, as well as muzzle loading shotguns made from CW muskets ($3.33). The trapdoors were not surplus guns - those came later - but guns assembled from surplus and scrap parts. Those guns now constitute a major part of the trapdoors seen at gun shows and antique shops today, often at fancy prices. Then add the various faked up guns ("see it has Custer's name right on it in electric pencil") and the trapdoor collector needs to really know his stuff before making any significant investments.

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