A Spencer Anecdote

In early 1864, Arizona pioneer and Colonel King S. Woolsey borrowed a Spencer repeating rifle from then-Territorial Governor John Goodwin for an expedition against a band of Apaches. On Aril 26, 1864, the Hartford Evening Press published this account from Woolsey:

We rested the next day to arrange details,, fit pack saddles, assort and equalize packs, etc. The note of preparation was heard everywhere, mules being shod, saddles and bridles repaired, balls cast and cartridges made. The citizens were trying their long rifles at a mark at about a hundred yards. It was a small board painted black, with a bit of white paper, about an inch square, in the center. All frontiersmen are curious about new weapons, and at the same time prejudiced against them. The fame of my seven-shooter, the Spencer, had got abroad, and they wanted to see it shoot.

I don’t much like to waste ammunition when no more can be got, and to tell the truth I had no great confidence in my marksmanship to do justice to the weapon. I had never fired a rifle in my life until I left the Missouri, and I never fired anything but the Spencer. This last gave me great advantage, for the weight in the Spencer is very different from any other, and usually annoys a stranger in firing it at first. I advanced into the ring, and at the first shot had the good luck to hit the paper in the center and split the board. I concluded it was best not to try again, and others fired off the other shots.

As a weapon for fighting Indians, the Spencer has no superior. Its seven shots can be loaded in less time than any other rifle can be loaded and capped, it can be fired more rapidly than a revolver, and reloaded in a tenth of the time it would take to reload a Colt, in fact in an Indian fight, in close quarters, I think a revolver was never reloaded. The fixed ammunition has immense advantages, as soon it can be easily obtained say at San Francisco even, for it never wastes, and cannot be injured by transportation.

So completely were the soldiers and civilians convinced of this that I could have sold a dozen on the spot with two or three hundred rounds of ammunition each, at very near a hundred dollars in gold apiece, if I had had them.

From Roy Marcot’s Spencer Repeating Firearms (Northwood Heritage Press, 1993).