View Full Version : question about springfield 1873

March 22, 2005, 12:29 PM
I recently became the proud owner of a U.S. Springfeild model 1873 rifle in 45-70 calibre.
This peice is in beautiful condition and I have no reservations about firing it however I am curious wether or not new 45-70 cartridges can be fired in this rifle without worry as I assume new cartridges will be loaded with smokless powder while in its origional design the rounds were black powder.
Can anyone give me a little insight on this?

Cap n ball
March 22, 2005, 01:40 PM
I've shot both types of powder in my trapdoor with no problems. Just to be safe I would take the gun to your gunsmith and have him check the breech, mechanism and to test fire it before hunting with it or target practicing. Enjoy your rifle. The trapdoor is one of my favorite guns.

March 22, 2005, 03:11 PM
When you used smokless did you roll your own or did you use factory and, if I might ask, what brand?
If you reloaded did you load by the book for current 45-70 gvnt or did you modify your load.
I reload but do not have 45-70 dies and did not really want to outfit for this as it will most likely be an occasional shooter.
Thank you for your reply.

Cap n ball
March 22, 2005, 04:14 PM
The smokeless was Winchester hollow points. I can usually buy a box at gun shows for around 17 to 18 dollars. A Lyman or Lee reloader for 45 70 is a good investment and they arn't all that expensive. I always go by the book when reloading. I shoot mine only occasionally as well so I keep maybe 100 or so rounds in bandoliers or belt loops. It's a great deer rifle and if you make a bad shot you can alway's fix bayonet to finish the job. :rolleyes:

March 24, 2005, 12:06 AM
Might also consider using lead rather than jacketed bullets. For it's period the Springfield used fairly shallow rifling, and adding some 100 years of wear, they can have a hard time with the jacketed bullets. Also, these might be, in a small way, harder on the fairly mild steel used in these barrels.
Also the original load came in two forms...45/70 (about 55 loaded)/425-50 for the carbines, and 45/70/500 for some of the rifle varients. The infantry used to think it was a great joke to slip the rifle loads into the cav's cartridge boxes.
Other stuff...
Watch the condition of the spring under the firing pin. At times it'll break. And although the modern solid head cases don't give the extraction trouble of the old balloon headed cases...if there's any reluctance to extract..don't force the ejector, it breaks easily. Better to use the cleaning rod if you have to...
And might carefully remove the buttplate...a common practice during the period this weapon was in common use, was for the soldiers to put a slip of paper there with a name, or other information.
if it has the Buffington sight, watch it when putting it in and out of cases and the like...that sight is delicate and moves out of adjustment easily.
Congratulations on your new acquisition...always have regretted that mine was stolen. On loads used to use a 500 gr roundnose or picket bullet and about 60-65 grns of 2f. (didn't use pyrodex much as it seemed to be less accurate)

March 24, 2005, 09:53 AM
Thank you for all the input. I intend to remove that buttplate immediatly.
When you refer to the spring under the firing pin I am concerned.
My firing pin is loose in the trapdoor. There is no spring that holds it out. Is this normal or am I missing somthing. If there is somthing missing, is it serviceable without having it smithed.
My extractor is in great visual condition and does not seem to have any wear or does it look as though it is bent.
I intend to do as cap n ball suggested and have the breach measured befor I try to load anything live into it.
I have inspected the bore very carefully and the rifling is very clean, has very sharp edges throughout and I cannot see a single blemish in the steel itself.
I ran a dry patch and a solvent patch through it and both came out spotless. I believe this rifle was either used very little or was extremely well taken care of.
Thanks again for all the valuable info.

Jim Watson
March 24, 2005, 10:54 AM
A real '73 trapdoor Springfield in good condition is a treasure. It is worth a good sum of money if it has not been bubbaized and is worth a Large sum of money if it is in original '73 configuration without upgrades by the Army.

The best reference on loading and shooting the Trapdoor is the book "Loading Cartridges For The Original .45-70 Springfield Rifle and Carbineā€ by J. S. and Pat Wolf" Pat Wolf sells the book and loading dies made to suit the Trapdoor.

To cheap out and not handload for that gun is false economy. A .45-70 Springfield is not a .45-70 Winchester nor a .45 x 2 1/10" Sharps and will not do its best with ammo made for those and other sporting rifles. Not that common commercial low end .45-70 ammo isn't safe, it is, but it isn't Right and will not do what the gun is really capable of.

There are some good references and even some loading and shooting information at

Congratulations on your find.

March 24, 2005, 01:57 PM
I was able to tour Winchester-Western in Alton, Ill. back in the mid 70s. They had an armory full of original firearms they use to fire sample lots of newly manufactured ammunition through. Near the door of that room were racks full of trapdoor Springfields. It's my understanding they still manufacture 45-70 ammo loaded to pressures which are safe in the old guns, if the gun is in good condition.

March 24, 2005, 02:28 PM
I am very fortunate. I was given this rifle by a freind along with an excellent condition belgian "sweet 16", a winchester 94 heavy hex barrel 30-30 buffalo bill coty commerative [has never even been loaded] and a cap and ball navy revolver which I have yet to identify.
Value means nothing as I could never part with such "gifts" but it is interesting to find out what history and time does to these beautiful pieces.
Again thank you all for your info. I think I will look into dies and play with this trapdoor a little [I cant wait to touch er off]

March 24, 2005, 07:00 PM
The spring was a kind of field expedient, they'll work without them. Might check, but if I remember right the firing pins on a Springfield are made of a 19th century ordinance bronze.
As for the condition..often the rifles are in better shape. In part because many of these were given to state militia units, who did little with them.
The 45-70 winchester, in its own way a weaker design. The earlier lever actions couldn't handle the heavier bullets as well as the springfield design.
The extractor, originally a problem, partially due to the balloon head cases. The extractor would rip into the case head, and then the soldiers would break the extractor trying to pry the mess loose with a knife. The US eventually did issue a broken case extractor, but it took a while.
For its time the Springfield was a pretty good rifle, and the rifle version was much more highly regarded than the carbine.

James K
March 25, 2005, 07:02 PM
Hi, faraway,

You are confusing balloon head cases with folded head and cup primer cases. Balloon head cases are drawn brass, and like modern cases except that the primer pocket area sticks up inside, leaving the area around it with a sunken look. Modern solid head cases are solid brass around the flashhole.

The early ammo was thin drawn brass, either Martin primed or Benet (cup) primed. It was the cup primer ammo that gave problems in the .45-70 trapdoors, but the Martin primed had earlier given problems in the .50-70.

Here are a couple of pics. In the first, the Martin primed case is to the left, the Benet cup primed one on the right. The other shows the way Martin cases were made.


March 25, 2005, 07:38 PM
AA5744 is a great smokeless powder to use in these old guns. I load a 405 grain cast lead bullet over 25.5 grains for use in my original '73 .45-70 Trapdoor.

March 25, 2005, 09:14 PM
No doubt, forgot the correct terminology.
Eventually they did correct the cartridge case problems. Never did entirely correct for the training issues...some of these units did little target practice.
But considering the springfield started as an adaptation to upgrade the RM's...they spent a fair amount of effort trying to improve it.
Have never seen one of the stocks which was adapted for the cartridge carrying block...often wondered if it really helped that much.

March 25, 2005, 09:18 PM
A Lee loader , $14, a Lee 340 or 405 mold, $15, a pound of IMR 4198, $22 and 100 large rifle primers,$2 with a few empty cases and some scrounged wheel weights and you are set up to go, need a lube, Johnson's paste wax you can snitch when your wife is not watching will do for case lube and bullet lube, less than 2 boxes of factory loads[ $27 for 20 here], and you are good to go.
Don :)

April 9, 2005, 11:36 AM
If you want to use smokeless in an original Springfield, I would still recommend nothing but AA5744. These old low pressure, high capacity cases are exactly what it was formulated for.

AA5744 Info (http://accuratearms.com/data/5744.htm)