Followup w/ Pictures – Smoothbore Trapdoor

The owner of this interesting firearm (who is a regular reader of the site) sent me this information about it:

Smoothbore Trapdoor Springfield

Here are the things I do know about this weapon, which is one if six in my collection. I am satisfied that it is was; a Springfield Model 1873 45-70, and I know it is not and never was a 1881 Forager. However, I am delighted to own such a fine specimen of the 45-70. I have no factual documented information on it. I recently saw a similar trapdoor for sale which was chambered in 28 ga, but was a parts gun, having ejection stud hole still visible, receiver machined, chamber and barrel reamed. I have had several people say “lots of these were done just by reaming out the old barrel, really nothing worth much, rather common”. To me that’s just so much hooey. I have only seen two in 40 years of collecting, (both 20ga). I have found no official write ups or gun magazines articles on 45-70 caliber chambered and barreled as shotgun weapons, though I am sure there must be some. This is what makes collecting worth while, the search.

I certainly would appreciate answers to any of these six basic interrogatives:

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

For me the most important thing about it is; it is in my gun safe no matter what it is.

Known:

  1. Side lock plate is 1873 (IAW, Poyar and Frasca, both recognized published Springfield experts.) All commercial rebuilds have a date under the word “Springfield” on left side where as no Springfield 45-70’s had a date in this location. (also this weapon has U.S. and date on breach block and no eagle, 6th model breach block).

    Trapdoor lock plate

  2. Serial number coincides with 1873 existing Springfield historical records. And as stated by Poyer, the date 1873’s can be mistaken for 1878 as the 3 was often struck incorrectly, but can be seen with a magnifying glass. (this is a 6th model breach .. flat no arch)

  3. Chamber is exact 45-70 specification – length, (base to throat) diameter at head and mouth.

  4. Bore length 2.16 and diameter at throat .451, however at muzzle .560 diameter. Outside muzzle is .851 not normal .730. Barrel wall at muzzle is .275 thick (is a shortened barrel).

    Barrel alignment mark

  5. Barrel is a Springfield proofed barrel (underside of barrel)

  6. Barrel has been tapped for rear sight then plugged. Position and distance of holes from receiver face are correct. (2.4 inch from breach)

  7. Serial number precludes this from being or having ever been a Springfield Model 1881 Forager in 20 gauge

  8. Foragers had their own serial number series (this weapon has normal range serial number)

    Serial number

  9. Forager had “purpose” forged receivers without a ejection stud in bottom of receiver (this weapon has the normal stud)

  10. Foragers did not have a barrel band (this weapon does)

  11. This barrel shows no evidence of ever having lands or groves but is highly finished (purpose built not usual for a “smith quick reaming” job)

  12. Front brass bead sight was standard as used during this 1800 period on shotguns

    Smoothbore Trapdoor muzzle

  13. Winchester did load and produce shot shells (#4 and #6) in 45-70 as I have seen them and I have a wood sabot ed 45-70 containing two 00 buck. These were commercial rounds purchased by US Government.

     .45-70 shell loaded with 2 buckshot .45-70 shot cartridge .45-70 shot cartridge headstamp

  14. The stock is a cut down rifle stock, as the cleaning rod hole patch clearly shows. The National Armory never cut down rifle stocks, this has to be a commercial.(this is as fine a repair as possible, beyond anything Bannerman took time to do)

    Filled cleaning rod slot

  15. The stock is stamp marked several places, comb near butt plate and on sides near butt. One appears to be B 5.

    Stock markings

  16. No issued “Foragers” had a Saddle Ring and Bar (SR) this has a genuine original bar and ring and the stock is perfectly inletted.

Saddle ring

Additional photos:

Stock butt trap

Trapdoor action open

20g shell in the Trapdoor

20g shell in the Trapdoor